I am in the market for a new set of wheels for my wife…Her current “ride” is a rigid bike (yes she’s long overdue). The rigid has been sufficient for the type of riding she does (gravel, carriage roads, & very easy XC trails). Needless to say she wants to step up her game, and get a bike that is capable of a taking on more on the trails…however probably never progressing beyond beginner/intermediate level with still lots of riding on gravel/old wood roads. My priorities are finding a ride that is fun easy to ride, and more importantly something that is stable & instills confidence on the trail as she begins to explore more trail riding. No need to ask, “What’s your budget?”…..IMO price shouldn’t be a deciding factor in choosing the “style” of bike, but rather a factor in deciding “how much” bike, which is just a function of components, brand, new vs used, and suspension.
I should disclose that any trail riding would be in New England, so almost any “trail” has at least some form of technical challenge in the form of slick rocks/roots/mud, which is why stability & confidence is key in my situation.
There are sooooo many good trail bikes out there today. I have two thoughts. First, look at the Bible of Bikes done annually by Bike Magazine. If you look back over the past few years, you will get a feel for some of the better bikes out there currently. They always do a trail bike section. Second, look at women specific models that are becoming more readily available through a few companies.
With your description of “however probably never progressing beyond beginner/intermediate level with still lots of riding on gravel/old wood roads” I’d suggest a standard 29 or 27.5 hardtail, depending upon what size fits her properly. Those thresholds do not seem to require either a full suspension or plus bike, though I’d go with full suspension before the voodoo marketing of plus bikes
One thing I feel doesn’t get mentioned much with plus bikes is the weight of the wheels. Usually there’s a short comment in a review like “the big tyres are a bit harder to get up to speed but you don’t notice it once you’re moving”. No doubt this is true for a fit and powerful experienced rider, that has the skill to carry momentum everywhere, but I’m a skinny guy that’s crap at carrying speed, so really noticed it out of every corner and up every little climb when I demoed a Norco Torrent. (I’ve also heard the wheel weight can especially catch up to you after a few hours, but I didn’t get to ride it long enough to confirm that) So personally I went into that demo day pretty set on a plus hardtail, and actually came out thinking about a full suss instead.
But I think the point shouldn’t be to go for a full suss, but rather that the demo day changed my mind. So yeah, if possible, get her to try both!
Went through almost the identical situation with my wife. She will never ride technical trails and a HT was the clear choice for her riding. BUT… my LBS let us take out a HT and a FS and she was clearly more comfortable and confident on the FS. Bought the Lush by Trek and have not looked back. 29″ wheels roll over things better and she likes that feature. Nothing beats getting on a bike and test riding it- one of the many advantages of buying local!
@Jagungal you bring up a good point, and it’s something I’ve noted in my reviews of plus bikes. The tighter and twistier the trail, the more that weight is noticeable. On certain trails it can reach the point of not being enjoyable.
Plus bikes need more elbow room on the trail to shine, IMO. If you have those kind of trails, the bikes can be a lot of fun.
To the OP, it’s a tough call between the two. A plus HT and a FS could both give her confidence, but achieve it through different means. Weight should also be a consideration. A lighter bike will be easier to ride and also more fun.
I say have her try a plus FS bike, the Cannondale Bad Habit is very fun to ride, great for beginner to intermediate trails. I’m not a plus tire guy, but I test road one at a demo day and it was a blast.
I appreciate the feedback….As been said, it was a tough call, and unfortunately there is no right answer (aside from getting more than one bike). She ended up going with a HT 26″+ (women’s specific design) bike….Given her size & the type of riding she plans to do, I am thinking this was the right choice. She hasn’t really taken it out for a “true” test…..From the little bit of riding that she has done: Positive-“It rolls over obstacles with ease & confidence”, Negative-“Kind of slow…Big tires make it tough to get her rolling”. Kind of the reaction that you’d expect. I will report back with more once she’s been able to do some “real trail riding”.
I must say I was a little hesitant going with a 26+ bike (because to my knowledge there are only 2 or 3 companies making them Jamis & Surly??)…So my next question is: Do people think this is going to stick around for a while or fade away? My concern is mainly wheels/rims/tires…..What to people think?