My 1st mtb…should I buy this (used) bike?

Forums Mountain Bike Forum My 1st mtb…should I buy this (used) bike?


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    I’m looking to get into mtb, but I’m still not exactly solid on the differences between the different types. Where I live, there are lots of what would be considered "fire roads," lots of single track, and mountains aren’t far. I don’t have any real skills yet, but from what I’ve read, All-Mountain seems to be more my speed–I’m an adrenaline junkie that likes to go fast downhill, but I also like to enjoy a good roller-coaster single track or fast fire road as well. So I figure that this sounds like AM.
    Sooo…that brings me to my question: I found a 2004 Santa Cruz Heckler in my town on Craig’s List selling for under $1200. I just went and looked at it, and it’s in decent shape. The cogs on the rear cassette didn’t seem significantly worn, I didn’t see any signs of fork/shock leakage, and the breaks felt like they were working fine (although there was much more lever pull on the rear brake, don’t know if this is normal). Guy said it was a LBS-built model with non-stock components (marzocchi fork, single front cog with a serious looking chain guide, Deore XT components). Couple of down sides–it’s gonna need new tires soon, the rear derailleur had some noticeable scratches/scuffs, and the rear wheel needs to be trued (perhaps replaced, but I hope not).
    I read up on it, and it’s gotten pretty rave reviews for the last few years, but I couldn’t find anything on a 2004. How much do these bikes change over the years? Is 2004 too old to be buying as a used bike? Any other helpful advice you more seasoned guys can give me would be greatly appreciated.


    Unless you’ve been riding before and you know it’s something you want to get into for years to come, I’m not sure I’d spend anything over $800 on a first bike. I’m pretty sure there was a thread somewhat recently about all the advantages of buying a bike (especially if your new) from your LBS, i.e. trail info, free tune ups etc so that’s something to consider also. As for the Heckler I’m pretty sure a brand new one starts out at $1900 ( so no, I would not buy a 7 year old one for $1400 (even with "upgrades"). The rear brake lever is usually looser on used bikes because it’s the brake that is typically used the most, but it’s usually very simple to fix. All you need to do is loosen the bolt (usually hex head) that holds down the brake cable, pull the cable through a little more and then tighten the bolt back down. As to the differences between all mountain riding and xc riding i thought this link might be helpful especially since you’re buying your first bike … n-MTB.html.


    Thanks for the feedback, and that link definitely helps. The guy is selling it for $1000, and the brakes are hydraulic. No matter, though–I called a LBS today, and asked the guy what he thought, and while he didn’t come right out and say it, the vibe I got from him is that he wouldn’t do it, even if it is a custom build with top shelf parts. That, your advice, and info I’ve gleaned elsewhere have lead me away from this one. I’m gonna head down to my LBS and see what kind of deal they can make me.
    As for price, I’m looking at spending between $1000-$1500. I used to ride a Specialized Rockhopper quite a bit, but that was over 12 years ago, but haven’t mtb’d since then, which is why I consider myself a beginner again. But I mention this b/c I’m pretty sure that I want to get back into the sport regularly. This isn’t just a whim.
    I know it’s a rather generic question that’s probably been asked a few thousand times on these forums, but…any suggestions on bikes for me in that price range? I understand that components are one of the most important factors, and I’m willing to pay a little more for top shelf parts. I’m thinking Shimano Deore XT or better (or SRAM X7 or X9). Speaking of that, I’m still a bit hazy on the heirarchy of the Shimano line–can someone please tell me how that falls out, from lowest end to highest end component sets?


    Oh, and what is the current consensus of 26" vs 29" for a newbie? It seems that MBA tends to thing 29ers are the way to go for newbs, and that the mtb world is going to be mostly 29ers anyways in a few years, but a LBS guy I talked to yesterday said that’s really not the case.
    Should I spring for a 29er, or will I do just as well with an equivalent (component-wise) 26er?


    There are some die hard 29er guys out there who might disagree but I don’t think that 29ers are neccasarily the "future", they’re just a different riding experience. There are advantages and disadvantages to a bigger tire. It’s easier to get more speed on a 29er and obviously the bigger tire makes it easier to roll over bigger obstacles but you get a lot more balance on a 26 and there’s also a small weight advantage with a smaller tire. Also, and this is something that has started to become less of a problem as 29ers become more common place, if you ever decide to make upgrades, you might run into compatability issues with a 29er.

    Most bike companies (ie Trek, Giant, Gary Fisher, Specialized) all have great entry level bikes and for the most part the differences between them boil down to the components and geometry (geometry determines how they handle when they climb, descend and ride on flat terrain). Determining which frames geometry is better is largely a matter of preference and the best way and really the only way to determine which is best for you is to test ride them. Most of the components (derailleurs, cranksets, shifters) are either shimano or sram and from my experience, the quality between the two brands is very comparable although certain people tend to perfer one brand over the other (again personal preference/past experience). For example, the Yeti 575 has two models for the exact same price, one with SRAM components and one with Shimano.

    Since personal preference plays such a big role in determining which bike would be best it’s hard for me to give you a good reccomendation. Most of my friends who ride ride bikes that they have spent atleast $800 on and I’ve never ridden one and thought, "this bike is garbage" or that I couldn’t a have a great time owning it. Obviously there were some that I preferred over others but it all depends on your height, weight, the shape your in and the way you ride. I ride a Trek Fuel Ex 6 (if I remember correctly MSRP around $1500 but I bought it from a coworker for $600) and I absolutely love it, but just because I love it doesn’t neccasarily mean that you would love it too. The best advice I can give you is to test ride 3-5 bikes in your price range and then make a decision based on which one felt better.

    I could be wrong but I believe the Shimano hierarchy (from the bottom up) goes Deore, Deore XT and then XTR. I know those aren’t the only components Shimano makes but those are the ones I’ve seen the most on MTBs. If someone doesn’t give you a different answer here on the site the guy at your LBS might be able to give you a more accurate answer. That being said, another factor you should consider too (if you have more than one LBS) is customer service. Make sure the people who work there know what they’re talking about.

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