Getting into the sport: Purchasing your first Mountain Bike

I hit a bit of writer’s block trying launching our partnership with – So I thought we would start at the beginning. is a valuable resource for those looking to get into the sport. takes pride in helping riders of all levels get the most out of each ride. looks forward to a long partnership with bringing tips ranging from purchasing your very first bike to tuning your chassis for pro level racing.  See you on the trails!

Getting into the sport:  Purchasing your first Mountain Bike Racer / Test Pilot Jon Collins @JCyouKnow – a long way from his first bike (a heckler we built!)


It is easy to pigeon hole your future riding if you start with the wrong bike.   The romance of a particular riding style may be fleeting.  Watching the Red Bull Rampage four times in a row may convince you a downhill bike is absolutely right.  A month later you’ve realized your friends aren’t shuttling every weekend.  Now you’re pedaling an oversized and inefficient chassis on rides that an all mountain bike would fit your riding better.  Similarly riders with an eye on XC may be drawn to the lightest, most efficient, and quick handling bikes on the market.  A new rider likely will not have the skill set to confidently ride and enjoy a full XC race rig.   Both of these likely become either “garage art” or sold at a substantial loss.  Neither of those outcomes excites riders to grow in the sport.

Have you heard the “I’m in it only for the climbs” diatribe?  Climbing is a great workout, gets the endorphins up, and can be as technical as you like.  However even our XC endurance racers will tell you they also enjoy the speed and adrenaline of descents.  “I’m in it only for the climbs” is typically because the rider cannot confidently descend.  Confidence isn’t bravery – confidence is understanding your riding ability and your bike’s capacity on the trail.  When each descent feels like cheating death riders will not expand their trail exposure or work to improve skills.  With a capable bike, proper setup and some key technique tips riders are able to practice, improve and enjoy riding up and downhill.  Again beginning with a bike that has a wide range of trail capacity provides efficiency uphill and confidence down.  As your riding progresses you can tailor your setup to highlight your needs.

The Anonymous Purchase Issue

We live in a world where any item can be picked off the shelf and taken to the register (or online shopping cart).   The Anonymous Purchase scenario was created by a lack of quality sales staff able to appropriately assess customer needs and interact with them.   Retailers found clients so irritated by sub-par staff that sales actually increased by having product immediately available for pick up with no sales input.   This trickled down as shops looked at the “success” of the mega-store model.  The Anonymous Purchase created buyers who don’t want to bother anyone or possibly embarrass themselves with “silly” questions.  It also allows customers to purchase the wrong items without being advised otherwise. Sports equipment should not be sold using this business model.  Your golf clubs weren’t picked from an endless aisle of choices based on color.  Mountain bikes shouldn’t be purchased this way either.  You will learn drastically quicker when riding aspirations are discussed with a professional staff.   Don’t be shy – insist that a purchase at this level isn’t a blind buy.  Find a resource you are comfortable working with to answer your questions as you progress in the sport.


We will keep this short and sweet.  If you investigate the used market it is important you learn what to look for on drive train wear, suspension, linkage and cockpit.  If you miss the blown drive train you can be out $400 or more.  Blown suspension may cost you more than the entire used purchase if it’s not a simple repair.  Cockpit setup may be expensive if you have a different riding style or body type than the previous owner.  Be aware and make sure you are a knowledgeable buyer if this is the route you go.  I have seen a $4k used ($9k new) bike need nearly $2,500 in parts and labor – the new owner was far less impressed with his $6,500 “deal”.

So What To Do

In a nutshell it is important to find a resource you can comfortably work with.  Research on your own is great – but if you wait until you understand every aspect on a bike you may never find yourself enjoying the sport.  I have an idea of what my taxes will be like – but my accountant is my resource to insure I maximize my filing.

For first bike buyers:   26” wheel riders benefit from 130-160mm travel frames.  29” riders typically are in the 100-140mm travel (as the larger wheel is approximately an inch of “false” suspension).  These frames are capable of riding XC while still providing a confident platform on the downhill.

Stay in touch with your shop.  Let them know questions you develop as well as general likes and dislikes.  A proper shop will be able to help you fine tune your bike through many options.  Tire selection, Cockpit setup, Brake options and more will all modify bike personality.

Don’t be talked into the “racer setup” – the racer has more miles on the trail than you do.  First bikes’ should feature setups in the middle of rider’s aspirations.  Tires should be efficient uphill while still providing grip downhill.  Since front tires are less loaded while climbing (thus affect efficiency less than rear) typically we feature a more aggressive tire in front to increase confidence downhill.   Rims should be mid weight and relatively high strength.  New riders often have learning mishaps that ding rims.   Drive trains are another area first time buyers should be aware of.  New riders won’t feel an appreciable difference between a $90 vs $500 cassette or $50 vs $100 chain.  Inexperienced riders may have growing pains learning gear selection and how to properly shift.  Bent teeth or a broken chain aren’t out of the question as you learn the sport.

Upgrades to definitely consider:  Adjustable seat posts.  Absolutely they increase your confidence and fun on trail.  Get one.  It’s that simple.  Do your research – they are not all created equal.  Cockpit.  A proper fit is essential to interface you and your new rig.  Grips, bar width, and stem length all make drastic differences in performance.  What are the odds the pre-build bike magically had the perfect size for you?  Saddles.  Find a saddle that fits you.  There is a reason there are so many sizes and shapes in saddles.  Don’t tolerate the wrong one.  A good saddle is one you don’t have to think about.  Technical wear.  Don’t ride in cotton “active” wear.  Technical materials wick moisture off keeping you more comfortable in both hot and cold conditions.  Proper chamois in your shorts will make your ride much more comfortable.


We hope this write up helps new riders prioritize needs on their first bike.  Mountain bike riding is a sport that can literally take you on adventures out your back door or around the world.  Working with a resource to expedite your learning curve will help you get the most out of each ride.

Don’t look back 20 years from now and realize you are riding the same trails, at the same speeds dressed in a kilt with a teddy bear zip-tied to your handlebars to “make it fun”.  Look back as you rip past the kilt guy knowing the right first steps led you on a lifetime adventure.

See you on the trails –

@JCyouKnow & @JoeBinatena testing 650b Ibis Frames


  1. Great info!!

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