I did a lot of Mtn biking in the earlier days of the sport (’87-’92). The last bike I purchased was a Giant all-carbon 26er about 12 yrs ago and I haven’t ridden it much, which is a shame because I live in Utah.
Anyway, I know what I’ve missed and want to get back into it again, but this time with a couple of my teenagers and I need some help.
My brother is an expert in the sport with racing and coaching experience. I recognize that my boys may potentially race at the HS level, but I mostly want them to have fun, learn a new sport and lifestyle (w/added benefit of being fit)…racing is a secondary benefit if they have interest.
My question for the forum:
What is the minimal level bike I should buy for these boys?
My brother’s recommending a hardtail for my 13 yr old and a full suspension setup for my 16 yr old. He stresses low weight above all else and the bikes I’m looking at are $2,000 for the Hardtail and $3000 for the used full suspension (Pivot). I’m ok spending the money, but don’t want to over buy. Back in the day, my $500 Stumpjumper was a good bike and I did everything on it (Mountain trails, slick rock, etc). I know bikes have changed a lot, but I’m wondering if I need to invest in such high level bikes for entry level riding. I know the elite riders will spend hundreds and even thousands more for that extra pound or ounces of penalty, but I’m not sure where the range is for my boys.
My boys are athletic enough, good skiers, and will be fine, but again, am I buying too much bike?
If you paid $500 for your Stumpy in 1987, that’s the same as $1,100 today if that makes you feel any better. 🙂 Still, it’s a lot less than what you’re considering, even for the hardtail!
I would think hardtails for both boys would be appropriate, and you can get good, lightweight hardtails starting at around $1,500. (If you kids are anything like mine, you HAVE to get them the same exact bike or you’ll never hear the end of it.) That’s two bikes for the price of the FS you’re considering for your older boy!
You definitely don’t need to spend that much on bikes for your kids. Weight should be a factor, but not a major one unless your boys are racing seriously which it doesn’t sound like they’re doing yet. A wide range drivetrain will help overcome a slightly heavier bike anyway. The difference in performance between a 26-28lbs. hardtail and a 23-24lbs. hardtail won’t be as drastic as the difference in price.
If you want them to have fun, look for more trail-oriented hardtails and not just dedicated race bikes. Something like the Kona Honzo would be a great place to start.
I would hit the used market, particularly CL. You can get a really nice 5 yr old carbon HT for around 1k used, and don’t be afraid to haggle. That’s what I did when I was starting out, so I can unload it easy without losing much money if its not for me.
And to get your kids going, let them ride with a local club or their HS mtb team. Talk to the coach/teacher adviser, I’m pretty sure they’d be happy to let them in on their practice rides. Plus kids love riding with other kids. That’s what I did with my son.
I have always been a strong believer in starting out on a flat pedal hardtail to learn how to actually ride properly. That being said they are also the cheaper end of the mountain bike spectrum. I see no reason to spend more than 1100 dollars, but i would also not recommend spending less than 600 or 700. Singletracks themselves puts out some very helpful lists of starter and budget mountain bikes check out their articles!
Most of the high school racers in California are riding hard tails. I would recommend deciding on how much you want to spend then look for both new and used bikes. If they get into the riding a racing you will be upgrading to a lighter hard tail in a few years if you and afford it and if they earn it.
Have fun. My son is in his second year of high school racing. It started with a used heavy full suspension bike then went to used carbon hard tail (high end), now getting ready to upgrade to a new under 20 pound carbon hard tail. It’s a great sport if the kid gets into it. The good news they can be average and have fun racing. Enjoy the ride.
I agree with all those advocating for hardtails. They are fast up and fast down (except on the most extreme trails), and probably better for high school cross country. I also grew up in Utah and learned to ride there. Mostly every trail on the Wasatch Front is rideable on a hardtail – The mountains are just softer there. After a 10 year break in riding, I bought a hardtail to get back into riding in Colorado. The bike can still handle more than I can, and developing my skills again has been a lot of fun without the forgiveness a full-suspension brings. But I am a glutton for punishment!