Help a newb buying a mountain bike just as winter starts....?
December 15, 2020 7:15 AM   Subscribe

I've been trying to get a mountain bike since the beginning of Pandemic, and one is finally available just in time for all the local trails to close for winter! Is this a stupid time to buy one (pros/cons), or if I go for it does anyone have any advice on what I need to know?

Like everyone else, my family of 3 (two parents and 7 y/o) have been trying to get mountain bikes since the beginning of Pandemic, and so far we've been successful only for the 7 year old who proudly possesses an awesome little Giant bike. I've been refreshing the Giant/Liv site about daily for 8 months now and the bike of my desires is finally in stock at a small bike shop near my home.

We have 2 easy MTB trails and a pump track within walking distance to a 20 minute drive, which are of course now closed for the winter season. But we have lots of paved trails, rail trails, canal towpaths around us as well. Is it reasonable to use this bike on those types of trails over the winter? If so, what do I need to know - I ride horses outdoors all winter so I'm pretty good in terms of managing dressing for outdoor cold weather exercise, but I don't want to buy a brand new bike and then destroy it with winter use. Should I just wait until spring (but then maybe they'll all be out of stock again?)

In terms of bike selection, the Liv Tempt was recommended to me by my more-local bike shop who has not been able to get it in stock as something that would meet my needs and I am in love with the idea of geometry built for women. BUT if you have a really strong opinion of something else I should look at, I'd consider it. We have pretty basic simple woodsy trails nearby and I don't expect to do any serious stuff like drops etc., just want an outdoor exercise hobby to add to the arsenal of stuff my kid and I do together so that we can go on road, off road, gravel trails, wherever and have some adventures. Kid is having an awesome time at the pump track and building up confidence, and I'm eager for us to hit trails together in spring.

Do I pull the trigger? Do I wait? Is this a dumb hobby for a 40 year old woman to pick up out of the blue? My only method of bike transport is a trunk rack on my '06 convertible Mustang which sounds ridiculous has been working fine so far with kid's bike and my cheapo Walmart road bike? Is that ridiculously bad? Am I overlooking something ridiculously obvious? Is this whole plan ridiculous? I tend to have big dreams of fabulous adventures that are sometimes not realistic (ask me about my desperate desire to go endurance horseback riding and camping for 3-4 days, or my longing for hike-in backcountry camping even though I have no experience with same). Or should I just buy the damn bike?
posted by MustangMamaVE to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Buy the damn bike!

The best bike for you is the bike that you actually get on & ride. You've been thinking for long enough - if you've got a chance to buy it locally, you should take it. Otherwise you risk going through a whole other (ahem) cycle of analysis-paralysis.

Buy the bike & have the fun! Get it wet & muddy! Just wash down & lube moving parts when you get home.
posted by rd45 at 7:40 AM on December 15, 2020 [11 favorites]

That bike will be totally fine (give it a test ride before you buy it to make sure the geometry fits you). Plus, it looks cool. Mountain bikes are made to be abused. If you're riding on roads that have been salted, it wouldn't be a bad idea to spray the salt off when you get home. Other than that, everything you'll be doing with it is what you're supposed to do with it..

It definitely isn't a dumb hobby for a 40 year old woman to pick up out of the blue.

Your trunk rack is fine.

The whole plan is not remotely ridiculous.

In short: buy the damn bike.
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:47 AM on December 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Buy the bike because when the trails open again, you won't be able to get the bike because we'll still be in a pandemic.

I, as a turned-50-this-year-old woman, picked up biking as a hobby when the pandemic started. I luckily already had a bike but hadn't really gotten into it. It was a lifesaver this summer, I tell you. I can't wait to ride again (it's been a bit cold here for me lately).

Buy the damn bike.
posted by cooker girl at 8:01 AM on December 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

OH! I have a Liv bike. LOVE. IT. SO. MUCH.
posted by cooker girl at 8:01 AM on December 15, 2020

+1 Buy the bike.

Non-extreme mountain bikes are the most versatile bikes. Best in less than perfect trails and roads, okay on road, okay for way rougher places than most people will ever go.

Clean it off after use.

May need a little less clothing than riding, but I'd guess the principle is the same (layers!).
posted by jclarkin at 8:08 AM on December 15, 2020

I am in your demographic.

I am an MTB'er.

I am jealous of your close-by pump-track, MTB trails, and other bike-friendly destinations.

Buy the bike!!!

(Also, +1 on your trunk rack being *fine*.)
posted by chiefthe at 8:16 AM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thank you all, you know you are all telling me what I wanted and hoped to hear but I really needed the encouragement. With my Ulster Scots family background, and a frugal father raised in the depression, I tend to deny myself things. "No, no, I shouldn't, I'd better not, that's foolish, save your money...."

Wonder if I am allowed to piggy back a second question, a second Liv bike I'm interested in is also in stock at a different store nearby. Can anyone advise me on the comparison of these two bikes? The Tempt was recommended by a local shop, but the Bliss description really reads toward exactly the use case I think I'll have. And would leave me a little more room in my budget for accessories.

It's hard not to mark every answer as best but cooker girl's encouragement is extremely persuasive and the confidence that the MTB is the most versatile really helps me pull the trigger. I think I'm going to have a lot of fun!!!
posted by MustangMamaVE at 8:16 AM on December 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

The biggest things that pops out to me is that the Tempt has disc brakes. These are much better in sloppy conditions (wet, slushy, mud) and that the Tempt is 1x9 while the other is 3x7.

Disc brakes are generally superior.

The gearing is a bit trickier but 3x7 seems suboptimal on a modern bike, IMO.
posted by jclarkin at 8:25 AM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Is it reasonable to use this bike on those types of trails over the winter? If so, what do I need to know - I ride horses outdoors all winter so I'm pretty good in terms of managing dressing for outdoor cold weather exercise, but I don't want to buy a brand new bike and then destroy it with winter use.

Do it! A family member of mine rides thousands of miles a year, and in winter it's not uncommon for him to return with a chunk of ice in his water bottle. As long as you can dress for the cold the bike will be fine!

He also stores his bikes inside the house (finished areas, not a mudroom or garage) so I guess that also gives you a cleanliness benchmark to aim for.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:27 AM on December 15, 2020

+1 on disk breaks. Much better for the winter and in sloppier conditions. Easier to trigger in heavy gloves.

If I was going to buy a new bike, I would go for one with a single gear on the front. I have a older Giant Anthem that has two on the front and I find the extra gear distracting when I am riding hard, so rarely use it in anything than the most mellow conditions.
posted by chiefthe at 8:33 AM on December 15, 2020

You should totally buy one of these, and I would lean towards the Tempt 2 because of the disc brakes and the 1 x 9 drive train.

Disc brakes stop better in bad conditions and are much less maintenance.

1 x 9 drive trains are more reliable and you don't have to worry about which shifter should you use, so they are much easier to learn good shifting.

(The suspension on the Tempt is also a little nicer, but that's probably not the thing you should be deciding on.)
posted by advicepig at 8:39 AM on December 15, 2020

Looked a little more at the 3x7 vs. 1x9.

I would have gone for the 1x9 before doing the math but that is confirmed by looking at the range of ratios.

The possible advantages of 3x7 are two-fold. 1) Greater range in gearing, 2) smaller steps between gears.

1) isn't the case for these two setups. They're pretty close. Greater range would be good if you want to go faster or slower but since the ranges are close, this is a wash.

2) the x7 part isn't going to give you a lot of steps. the 3x part adds complexity and weight. It doesn't appear to really do much for you. If this were a 3x9 maybe it would be better.

If there were no price difference, there would be very little reason to get the Bliss. If the money difference isn't a huge factor, the Tempt seems like a considerably nicer bike.
posted by jclarkin at 8:42 AM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Liv are good bikes, this is an all around good mountain bike and has enough performance that you can push it as hard as you want and rely on it. The more you ride, you might develop opinions and needs to something more specific (Gravel bike, stump jumper). But for a first bike that is hard to beat.

I would suggest having them fit you for it, and as you ride pay attention to elevations. I have an opinion that 29" are oversized for all but really rocky terrain, but that's just me.
posted by nickggully at 8:56 AM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Tempt has bigger, knobbier tires, which are generally better off-road, but will slow you down on pavement since there will be more friction.

The disc brakes on the Tempt are a big plus. They work so much better when things are wet.

To me, the thing that might be a deciding factor is the gearing, which jclarkin summarizes nicely. To me, only having 9 gears would take a bit of getting used to. If you can test drive that, give the gears a good run-through to make sure that th jumps between gears and overall range will work for you.
posted by jonathanhughes at 8:56 AM on December 15, 2020

I started mountain biking at 42 and have so much fun every time I'm out. Took a womens' clinic with female instructors in their 50s who race and jump and are all around amazing. Buy the bike! Have fun with your family, but don't be afraid to sneak off on your own to push yourself!
posted by mcgsa at 9:24 AM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

1. Like everyone is saying, you should buy the bike. You want it. You've been waiting for it. It's not going to be MORE available in the spring.
2. I agree that the bike with disc brakes and 1x9 is the one I'd pick. Depending on how much road riding you are planning to do, relative to off-road, I'd consider asking the shop to put on a different tire, for instance one that has a raised spine in the center for road riding, with knobs on the sides for cornering off road, but for general recreational use literally any tire that holds air is going to be good.
3.If you don't have them already, get some warm gloves, warm wool socks, and a woolen Buff for your neck and ears. Those three things are the difference between misery and glory in a winter bike ride. Your torso and legs will warm from activity, but your extremities will not benefit from that warmth.
4. Ride on with your bad self.
posted by gauche at 9:40 AM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Buy the bike and also start researching bike camping, I think you'll love it :) Go have awesome adventures!!

TRULY cannot second gauche's point #3 enough. The only thing I'd add is perhaps some arm-warmers, but admittedly the only time I really wanted those was when it was below freezing and I was riding next to the ocean, so you can probably get by without. I prefer wool to anything else, but really you just need to avoid cotton and you'll be fine.
posted by kalimac at 9:58 AM on December 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Another consideration- this time of year people are buying bikes like mad and you can get a lightly used bike for something like half price. There are a ton of great used bikes for sale all around me right now. They often have all kinds of good aftermarket accessories on them too. That stuff can add up.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 12:08 PM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

UPDATE! I bought the bike! I went for the Tempt and I greatly appreciate folks who helped me better understand the differences - the advantage in sloppy conditions is a big persuader for me!

Not to be too chatty but funnily enough, I recently saw an AskMe about Buff neck warmers and thought to myself "That would be perfect for kid and me under our horseback riding helmets this winter!" and bought one for each of us!

And it never occurred to me that I might be able to find a clinic for gaining skills the way I can with horseback riding, that appeals to me so much! I want to have ADVENTURES but definitely do it safely (don't bounce as well as I used to) so I will definitely be looking excitedly for similar offerings around me. Thank you for mentioning that, mcgsa.

Again, thank you thank you everyone - for the encouragement, knowledge and advice!
posted by MustangMamaVE at 12:19 PM on December 15, 2020 [13 favorites]

Very nice!
posted by gauche at 12:21 PM on December 15, 2020

I rode my mountain bike all last winter and enjoyed it several times nearly every week.

(Of course I also ride my road bike, trail bike, tandem, etc etc etc most every week throughout the winter as well.)

I did most of my mountain bike riding in a simple open field near my house. You can practice a ton of skills and techniques in any little grassy area, dirt area, field etc. No particular trail or such needed. You can google "mountain biking skills" or similar and find tons of instructional pages and videos with things you can do even in quite limited spaces--say your backyard.

Of course, that is in addition to all the other things you can do with your bike.
posted by flug at 12:46 PM on December 16, 2020

I came in to say buy the bike so I'm now just complimenting your great choice. I have a version of that bike that is 4 years old and it's a great bike, enjoy!
posted by cholly at 2:51 AM on December 17, 2020

« Older These bleedin’ radiators!   |   Showy data analysis with not much data Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments