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Mountain Bike Blog

 

 

MTB Cheaparsery - getting started cheaply

 24/1/2013

I'm certainly no expert when it comes to mountain biking in fact I'm a newcomer, but as each day goes by I'm less able to recall some of the important lessons I learnt along the way.  So I'm taking the opportunity to put them down here.

For the experienced MTBer

As with most of the content on this website this article is written for those thinking about or just starting out on their mountain bike adventures.  For experienced mountain bikers - people who know that $3000 is not a lot to spend on a mountain bike - you may need to take a step back .. this article is not for you.

For the newbies ..

I'ts likely that a totally devoted mountain biker friend has got you interested in the sport.  They probably parade around a bike and riding kit that costs more than your first car.  While I'm now moving in that direction it's not how I started, far from it in fact .. this is my story of Mountain Bike Cheaparsery (cheap-arse-ery).

A Sad Story

I was riding Manly Dam recently and came across a guy having a break.  I began drooling over his brand new $3000 kit and asked him a bunch of questions about the 2013 spec.  He seemed somewhat confused by my interest before telling me it was his first time on a MTB .. period! 

"I didn't think mountain biking would be this hard!" He said.

This poor bloke had tried to go from zero to hero, riding a beast of a bike on tough terrain.  I wondered if his bike would ever be ridden again and it got me thinking about how I had gone about things very differently.

Who spends $3000 without even trying the sport first?  Apparently its not uncommon.

The Bike

I bought myself a $300 Diamondback dual suspension bike from Big W in 2010.  It had  1" of travel on the front and god knows what at the back, but despite its obvious limitations it got me around a large assortment of trails with some degree of style and grace.  In fact there are only a few places I ride my current 6" travel Giant Reign that I didn't take my Big W bike, Like this for example - I just rode a whole lot slower. 

The Learning Curve

I took the Big W bike down some pretty steep and rocky descents. I'm 110kg+ so in order to get down safely I had to ride well.  It was a great way to learn.  I didn't rely on ridiculous amounts of travel, strong brakes or grippy tyres to cover for my bad technique, in fact I often had to let go of the brakes and ride sections out because I physically couldn't stop the bike.  I had to concentrate on riding line and body weight because if I got it wrong I was on my arse, or head, or face .. you get the picture. 

I look back now and realise how much I learnt about riding line, bike control, body position and gear shifting. I made my shitty $300 bike do things it was never designed to do.

On that subject - you will need to consider safety implications when riding a bike that has a big warning sticker "This bike is not for riding off-road".

Breaking Stuff

As most learners do I broke things but repairing a cheap bike is relatively inexpensive.  I never spent more than $50 having a part replaced by a local bike mechanic; however when I broke one of my gear levers on my current bike - $93 for the part alone!!  Crashing a borrowed $3000 bike could turn out to be a very expensive way of learning.  I've broken more things from "just riding" my expensive bike than I ever did on my cheap bike, so don't assume expensive means stronger!

Finding My Inner Mountain Biker

For many people the idea of riding hundreds of kilometres of fire trail is heaven.  While I ride fire trails regularly the stuff that really floats my boat is descending. I like descending, I like descending rough terrain, I like descending over rocks .. I really like descending. 

In hindsight I spent 2 years "demo-ing myself" to see where I liked riding, if I could handle the aches, pains and injuries, the logistics of riding regularly, what trails I could get to easily and importantly where I wanted to take my mountain biking experience.  I spent around $500 over 2 years to work all this out.  A bike, riding gear, spare parts, servicing, upgrade and repair -  SERIOUSLY ONLY $500!

The Bike Decision

I spent a good 6 months talking to bike shop sales people about the right bike for me and every one of them tried to sell me a bike that was on the XC side of all mountain.  However because I could explain the trails and trail sections I really enjoyed, what I wanted to do in the future, what I was struggling with on my current bike and what bike features I was willing to sacrifice in order to gain performance elsewhere the sales guys were able to get a picture of the bike I needed, hence why I ended up with a 6" travel bike and A DROPPER SEAT POST!  9 months down the track I couldn't be happier with my choice.

The Rant

In my opinion a one off $3000 sale that never gets ridden doesn't build a sustainable local MTB industry.  While some people may disagree with my "discount store mentality" it allowed me to enter the sport and get totally hooked before I went to the Leader of the Opposition and begged for a real bike.

Did it stop with the initial $3000? HELL NO!! - I've spent (... oh shit I just added it up .. and I don't want to print this in case my wife reads it) a lot of money upgrading, fixing, accessorising and building my kit this year.

I'm now a valuable and long term MTB customer.

My Theory
Cheaparsery works!

Read part 2 - MTB Cheaparsery Part II - Clothing, protection & kit

 

Trail Centres and Trails featured in this blog

 

Comments:

This website is brought to you by MTB weekend warrior Aaron Markie.
There are plenty of great websites out there with a wealth of information about Mountain Bike Trails,
however in my experience its hard to get a good mix of info, maps, photos and videos of trails I've never ridden.
The idea of this website is to tie those 4 elements together and give you a more detailed look at the MTB Trails I ride.
If you have anything to add then let me know.