An old, slow cyclist is baffled by today's MTB technology
October 21, 2012 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I haven't ridden offroad for more than 20 years. Please help this large, slow, stately cyclist get his mountain bike on.

I would like to get a mountain bike. Last time I rode, U-brakes, Biopace and white bikes with neon highlights were (regrettably) quite the thing.

Key points:
  • I'm a big dude: 181 m, 112 kg.
  • I would likely be riding trails in the Toronto ravine system.
  • I'm not big on spending hours on pre- and post-ride maintenance — although I'll happily do what's required to ensure I have a safe bike that won't be an immovable pile of oxide by the next ride.
  • I'm not bothered about bike weight one bit. I'm heavy enough, and my commuting bike likely weighs twice as much as the new purchase will.
  • My riding style is best described as “stately”. My ideal bike would be something like a Cleland, but it doesn't look like they'll ever be made again.
  • Rim brakes are right out. I'm not about wheels as consumables, and I'd like to be able to stop somewhere short of Lake Ontario if it's muddy.
  • Budget is up to about $1500.
Bikes I've looked at and not been entirely horrified by include: Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29, Devinci Wooky XP, and the Surly Ogre. The Ogre looks almost perfect (steel frame! no suspension!), but the component specs are much lower than other bikes in this price range.
posted by scruss to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
can't speak to your bike, but I'll tell you my maintenance regimen:

I ride in west central florida - wet & sandy, hell on metal interfaces. Most maintained trails have a pressure hose to roughly clean you and your bike. I hose off, sweep or slap off the worst of it, then apply White Lightning Clean Ride liberally to all moving parts. I put on Clean Ride (self-cleaning wax lube) whenever I can hear my bike's moving parts. It's not real expensive, and obv costs less than parts.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:25 AM on October 21, 2012

The Ogre looks almost perfect (steel frame! no suspension!), but the component specs are much lower than other bikes in this price range.

My bias: I just spent some serious money replacing the front and rear derailleurs, plus one shifter, on my old steel Mongoose with no suspension. The frame is the most important part of the bike to me: if I'm happy with that, everything else can be dealt with or upgraded.

Would it be worth it to get the Ogre and upgrade key components yourself? (You can donate the old ones to Bike Pirates or one of the local co-ops.) Or would this put the total price out of your range? (You might find it on sale, or a decent used version on Craigslist.)
posted by maudlin at 11:35 AM on October 21, 2012

Surly sells the frame & fork by itself too. You could put together whatever component configuration you wanted, no need to go with their budget-minded built bike.
posted by carsonb at 11:42 AM on October 21, 2012

If you want steel & no suspension, and you're just getting back into the sport, why not get a used bike from the steel-frame rigid bike era? You won't have disc brakes, but rim brakes work pretty decently, especially if you're not bombing huge rough downhill trails (and you probably won't be if you're moving at a stately pace & don't have suspension), and can be improved with a $20 brake pad upgrade. It takes a pretty long time to wear out a set of wheels, in any case, and the whole used bike might be cheaper than a set of nice disc brake rotors.

Something like this:
posted by akgerber at 6:41 PM on October 21, 2012

Response by poster: Sorry, no, rim brakes are right out. I won't consider a bike with them.
posted by scruss at 7:00 PM on October 21, 2012

My two cents worth are that disc brakes aren't great for off-road, not that I've used them. From what people tell me, one whack on a disc brake and it's out of true. One fall on a root or stump and your disc is hosed. Don't know if that's true, but it sounds reasonable. V-brakes are pretty powerful. I wouldn't discount them, they work way better than the cantilever brakes from an earlier era.
Also, a front suspension fork is a good investment. Maintenance is pretty minor or you can get one that is elastomer-based. I rode un-suspended for years and while it's kind of challenging, in the long run I wish I had just forked over for the suspension. Easier on the body and on the bike too.
posted by diode at 7:05 PM on October 21, 2012

The most important factor for a bike is how it fits your body, so I think you should take that list of bikes you're interested in and call around to local shops to see if you can take them for a spin.

Then if you have the money and want the components, do something like buying the Ogre frame and fork and having the LBS install an upgraded drivetrain and brakes.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:44 AM on October 22, 2012

Re; the Ogre I'll say that while I don't do any off road riding, I do weigh about the same as you and have Avid BB7 disc brakes on my commuter. With Nokon cables they are very nice and have sufficient stopping power and good modulation.
IMHO better components than on the Ogre will buy you lower weight and perhaps somewhat longer life (bearings) smoother action(drivetrain). Not extremely important for off road I'd say. I would buy it and replace components as they brake, but that's me :-)
posted by Thug at 11:33 AM on October 22, 2012

Response by poster: Actually, looking back at the Ogre's specs, I'm fine with the mix and match of components.

Another bike that looks almost perfect is the Trek/Gary Fisher Sawyer, but it looks like it has been discontinued. The real problem is that none of the bikes I'd really like to try are stocked locally. I can ride any of the standard brands and models in all of the stores, but the Ogre and the Sawyer are vapour.
posted by scruss at 1:28 PM on November 17, 2012

Response by poster: Hah! I found a new old stock 2011 Sawyer in my size at Duke's Cycle at ⅓ off. Test rode it, loved it, bought it.
posted by scruss at 6:04 AM on November 24, 2012

Yay for perfect cheap(er) bikes!
posted by maudlin at 1:06 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

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