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I recently read a great book, Leading Out Retail by Donny Perry, about how bicycle retail works. It’s a fascinating read for anyone who follows the industry, and I learned a lot.

One of the chapters talks about how bike selling works, and Donny says, “Any time someone ventures into cycling for the first time the purchase will always be frugal. Instead of spending $2,000 on the bike they probably need, they’ll spend $500 on a bike just to test the waters.” [Emphasis mine.]

He goes on to say, “When people start anything they start small, determine their style and preferences, then come back and buy what they feel is best for them. This is the human element of how people shop.”

My own experience certainly fits the mold; the first real mountain bike I bought was a $200 used Bridgestone MB-5 hardtail on consignment at my local bike shop. Before that, as a kid, I owned a sad parade of sub-$100 department store mountain bikes that kept breaking for some reason.

So I’m curious: have others followed the same path into mountain biking? Whether it was your first bike ever, or just your first mountain bike, we want to know how much you spent when you first started mountain biking.

Understanding that most folks (myself included) start small, it’s definitely changed my answer for friends who casually asks how much they should spend on a mountain bike to get into the sport.

What do you think?

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# Comments

  • ZipHead

    First MTB (fully rigid – somewhere in the late ’80’s) was rescued from a dumpster. Installed a stem (quill), seat, chain, patched the tubes and rode the hell out of it for almost a year. Felt like it weighed in excess of 40 lbs., but I learned how to huck drops on that thing.

    • Matthew Leo

      My first bike was a 1985 Peugeot Canyon Express, which according to the Peugeot catalog that year weighed “29.9 pounds”, which is an optimistic way of saying “30 pounds”. In some ways if you shortened the chainstays and put a suspension fork in it, it would look a lot like a modern hard tail with its slack head tube angle and (for then) giant 710mm wide “Bull Moose” bars.

  • Oldandrolling

    You are going to cash a lot initially, assuming you push yourself starting out. That being said a less expensive bike may not be the best fit however, you won’t feel so bad when it gets a scratched, dinged and bent from the learning experience. Then, once you understand a bikes ‘fit’ and your riding preference, you go and invest some money and really appreciate what a good bike can do for you.

  • Plusbike Nerd

    I bought my first bike in 1988 for $500. I was already a Road biker so I had an understanging of bikes and the bike I bought had a high quality drivetrain for that time. Back then, bikes didn’t have suspension and they were all made of steel. Mountainbikes were a lot like the Roadbikes of that time except with 26×2.0 tires and flat handlebars. We’ve come a long way!

  • vanevanson

    My first mountain bike was a 2010 Giant Talon 29er 3. It was $760. I was dating a girl who mountain bikes at the time. I didnt know that they sold used bikes at the time. I was told by her not to go to WalMart but to go to the LBS. This is what I bought. She also suggested that I buy a 29 inch wheel and nothing less. This was the cheapest one at the LBS. I’ve upgraded twice since then. A 2014 Specialized Camber 29 and now a 2018 Specialized Stumjumper 6/Fattie 27.5 plus

  • ActiVinVA

    My first real mtb was a trek vrx circa 1999. The frame was broken, and my dad bought it for me for $175. It retailed for somewhere around 10x that amount. I was 19 and worked summers in a weld shop on summers home from college. I got a friend to repair it and rode it hard for 3 years before snapping the frame in another location. Great bike for the time and it really got me into the sport.

  • Mrbaritonefreak

    Used to ride road a lot on my specialized alez from 2011. Road that bike to death and turned it into a gravel machine after a few years. Started to realize the best parts of my ride were anything that was off pavement so I slowly started to turn into a mountain/gravel biker. Unfortunately that bike was stolen about a year ago, and with it all my gravel hopes. I immediately started saving but complications happened and I was just able to afford a new bike a couple months ago. Being out of the saddle for so long I was a little lost in what to buy but I knew I wanted a proper bike.

    So I bought a Honzo st built with carbon parts and gx eagle. Little over $2k but that’s what I saved for a road/gravel bike and the recent moves gave me access to some sick trails; I couldn’t be happier. I still have a ton of learning to do but I’m enjoying it. Not sure my Honzo likes being in the ground so much but I’ll take dirt and rocks over hard asphalt any day.

    Loving the mtb life and so glad to be back in the saddle. I could have probably spent less and still would have been happy but I’m hoping the steel frame will last awhile.

  • Matthew Leo

    Dude, I bought my first mountain bike in 1985. It cost around $450 or something like that, which in 2019 dollars would amount to around $1000.

  • chris_callahan@live.com

    I paid $475 for a new Trek 830 in 1984. At the time it was the not-quite-top-of-the-line mountain bike offering from Trek. It was marked down to $450, but I added a set of “bear trap” pedals and a “Hite-Rite” dropper spring (Whoa! Racy!) which bumped to price the extra $25. According to dollartimes.com, that’s equal to nearly $1200 in 2019 dollars.

    • Matthew Leo

      Recently the company that made Hite-Rites found a bunch of new old stock and put them on eBay for $48. They still show as available.

      A dropper post is definitely the way to go for most people, but for weight weenies and cheap people, it’s still a great idea.

  • Phonebem

    My first REAL mtb was $450 in 1994 dollars (about $780 now). A Jamis Durango full rigid, steel frame with Alivio components. I

    • Phonebem

      Oops, accidentally his submit and can’t edit…
      I upgraded the fork to a first gen Judy XC and the drivetrain to Deore LX and also did a wheel upgrade. I still have the bike hung over my work area in my garage with my other notable retired race bikes.

    • Leah Barber

      Ha! Jamis Durango was my first mtb too – in the late 90s 😉 And, I totally upgraded to the Judy XC as well! Remember Judy butter? Loved that old steel bike!

  • crevasse

    Oh it was sweet. 1985 Ross Mt. Whitney. Steel of course, chrome to boot. 3×7 Deore XT non-indexed thumb shifters. It was prior year when I bought it for $100 off $499 list price. Somewhere in Boulder.

    The cool thing about that era was that mountain biking had not really taken off so I could basically ride any trail in Boulder. There were zero restrictions at that point. Chataqua, Flatirons, all open for riding. Now any and all front range trails have been loved to death if they are open to riding at all.

    Second bike was $1000. 1991 GT Avalanche with Rock Shop Mag 21 fork. Third was a 2006 Stumpjumper Expert, $2500. 4th and current is a YT Jeffsy CF Pro Race, $5k. All good bikes in their time for sure.

  • ftsojic

    As a large individual with no knowledge of bikes whatsoever… I spent 700 on a kona fire mountain hardtail. I saved all the money from quitting smoking (2pk a day) for a year, and it was easy. I figured it was a good entry level bike, and that it was just enough $$$ wise to not fall apart on me, or with me on it.

    Oh that was only 2 years ago, and I still ride it, haha. Considering going full squish and getting something now in the 3-5k range. The kona has been awesome, and I couldn’t recommend it more to somebody that’s just starting out and knows nothing (like me).

  • coot271

    My first real mtn bike was a steel-forked aluminum framed hardtail from Sports Authority ($200.00) back in ‘96. It was heavy, but I rode it everywhere for the next 3 years. Life got in the way and priorities took over, but the bug bit again in 2010. This time, 29ers were just getting steam in the market, so I bought a Motobecane Outcast 29er single speed for 500 bucks.

    After realizing I wasn’t ready for single speed life, I added gears and upgraded the brakes. Learned alot about riding and sharpened my skills for the next four years. My next bike was a Motobecane Fantom 6by6 27.5 full squish ($1800.00). I rode the wheels off of that bike….took it everywhere, upgraded most every part, and thoroughly enjoyed the smoother ride than my hardtail.

    I retired that bike in June and now have a Guerilla Gravity Smash……what a bike!

    My progression throughout the last 23 years provided a long lasting and satisfying experience with mountain biking. I learned how to ride, replace parts, and repair my own bike.

  • rptaos

    I bought my first mountain bike for $150 in 1984. It was a blue Murray from Toys r Us. Pretty nice bike for the money. It lasted about a year and a half before it was stolen. In 1985 I moved to Crested Butte and got a Specialized Rock Hopper which I loved. That lasted a few years and then it was stolen too. Dang. Bike thieves are the scum of the earth. Around 1988 I bought a used Fischer – can’t remember the model – from a friend for $400 ($900 new). Fantastic bike. Still have it. Now I ride a 2018 Pivot Mach 5.5 and am in heaven. Amazing bike and a total joy to ride. The difference between my first mtn bike and my current ride is incredible. We’ve come a long way, baby!

  • m.krupp

    Funny to read all the comments and speaking of bikes from the 80’s. I bought a used Schwinn for $400 in 2,000. I think it was a maybe a SB 90.5. Some weird name. It was $800 new. i would never buy a Schwinn now but looking back and recalling components it was descent build for the time. Had a great time trying mountain biking and putting a child seat on it and riding my daughters in all kinds of crazy rides and places.

    Since then i have bought 3 mountain bikes. Never new though. Always found used ones but with a year of release date. With a family to take care of money is precious. I have saved around 50% on each bike and have been totally satisfied (one Salsa and a Santa Cruz). Any time I talk to someone getting in I advise them to start with a used bike to save money especially if you aren’t sold out on the sport. You have to do some research and educate yourself to know what you are looking at but there are plenty of great used bikes out there. Especially hard tails.

    Hopefully in a few years I can save and buy a new full suspension bike. For now I love the used bikes I have. Mountain biking is expensive but it does not mean one has to get all the latest stuff.

  • silverstang

    My first bike was and still is a Raliegh Talus 29er that I still have to this day. It is an entry level mountain bike but has served it’s purpose for me. I got into the sport (2013) later than I wish I had but am glad that I did. When I bought it the salesman asked me if I was sure I didn’t want to spend more and I replied that I was sure because I didn’t want to invest too much money into a sport I wasn’t sure I would like. He replied and I quote “Mark my words buddy, you are going to get hooked and will buy a better quality bike later on.” Needless to say he was right or I wouldn’t be writing this. I have been shopping around and finally have decided on my 2nd mountain bike that I will be buying in the next month or so. I have made progress in my riding over the years but still want to improve my skills so I try to ride as often as possible and on different terrain. Mountain biking – no better outdoor sport in my opinion.

  • silverstang

    I will add that I recently added a PNW dropper post on my Talus and it has definitely made riding that much more fun.

  • Tom House

    Bought a Specialized Rock Hopper last summer for my first real mtb. Had that one for about a month before I sold it and bought a Transition Smuggler. When that was stolen, I moved to a Commencal Meta TR 29. Learned what I needed to know on the cheap hardtail. Glad I did. My $3k bikes would have been lost on me as a total newb. Now as a partial newb, I know enough to know what I prefer.

  • killer climb

    350 on a new hand made cannondale way back. 1500 my roscoe 8 pls upgrades since but i ride the life out of it. My advice is dont spend to much unless you have a past of riding.Most want nicer than they can ride because thats what they think or their friend has.Being a good rider at 52 and pushing my limits most of the time i still cant outride a 1500 dollar bike. I do drool over a nice full squisher alot though.

  • troutwest66

    In ’98 I traded three dozen trout flies I tied for a used Schwinn Impact that my wife still rides. In February I bought my first real mountain bike and went all out, sort of. I went with a Framed Wolftrax Carbon with Rockshox Bluto, 27.5 x 4 fat tires. Now I have a year round bike that is a lot of fun and I can’t wait for my inner 12 year old to emerge from this 53 year old’s body and utilize what this bike can do. I paid $2100 for the bike and have added a dropper and converted to tubeless. So add that expense. Never knew what having a bike with real components and geometry that works with you instead of having to overcome the bikes limitations was going to be like. I only wish I would have started serious mountain biking when I was quite a bit younger.

    • Tom House

      You and me both. I got into it at 40. But the learning curve ain’t so bad. I’m lightyears ahead of where I started.

    • m.krupp

      I just stumbled across Framed bikes today. I was wondering how good they were. Looking at what I can their components seem really good for the price point and geometry seems modern too. I want to add a fat bike and it seems like this is a good option especially for the money. Would love to hear if there were any issues you have discovered yet.

    • troutwest66

      m.krupp,

      I love this bike! The Wolftrax comes with Sram NX Eagle 1×12 and Level T hydraulic brakes. SunRingle Mulefoot 80 rims which need the Gorilla tape treatment to seal tubeless. Terrene Cake Eater tires (have performed well so far). Carbon rims are another $500 but will seal much easier. I couldn’t justify another $500. With the carbon frame it weighs about 30 pounds. The Framed website doesn’t give us all of the options that a dealer can order so keep that in mind. If you wanted different components a dealer can order builds that we might not be able to. Everyone I have shown the bike to has been impressed and it does look really cool. All black. Looks like the Batmobile of mountain bikes. I have a KS 4″ dropper post on it and that works well. I can’t find any faults with it yet. If you were close to me in north Idaho there is a dealer in Hayden, Idaho (Mt. View Cyclery) and I’d let you test mine out. I believe you can search for Framed dealers. Good luck finding the right one for you.

  • stevebudde

    I bought my Stump Jumper in 1991 for about $900. I’m still riding it…

  • Fuzfast

    Trek 850 rigid, about $400 in 1994.
    I still have it and use it periodically for road or gravel rides.

  • commo_soulja

    Summer 1990 after graduating high school, I bought a $300 Giant Sedona, rigid steel, *I think* it was a 7 speed, canti brakes, 1.8 Tioga Farmer John tires… I thought that was a lot of money back then but the joys it gave me was more than twice the price of the bike. I rode the hell out of that bike. First on the local trails near my house the venturing further out for “real” mountain bike trails. I upgraded it to SRAM 8 speed grip shift, a Rock Shox fork, V-brakes and bigger 2.0 tires, bar ends, better stem, bar, seat post, yadda yadda.
    It was in my garage up til two years ago when I moved and had to thin out the garage. Since it was collecting dust and not ridden I gave it away to a local bike co-op. Last I seen it, it was being ridden by some college kid at UVA. Glad it’s being used.

  • marvinmartian

    My first real mtn bike was a 1996 Kona Cinder Cone; fully rigid with LX /XT component mix. I loved that bike and actually still have it as a commuter. It cost me $750 (seemed like a lot of money back when the top end Specialized was only $2200)

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