Frames and Components
Buying your first mountain bike can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time, especially if you are new to the sport of mountain biking and buying you first bike. There are hundreds of different models to choose from. The range of bike frames, parts and accessories can seem endless. Even when you have decided to buy a cross-country hardtail as your first bike, the number of chooses is dizzying.
From a distance, all mountain bikes may look similar with their beefy frames, a sloping down tube and knobby tires, but mountain bikes come in different models specifically built for different styles of riding such as downhill (DH) and cross country (XC). If you look closer, you’ll see that mountain bikes come in different frame materials, different sized tires, different brake systems, different suspension systems, etc.
A cross country hardtail’s intended use on off-road trails, single tracks and for racing, while being lightweight and pedal efficient, determines the bike’s frame construction and the components attached to the frame, and its price.
The general rule in mountain bikes is that the more expensive the bike, the lighter, stronger and more reliable it is.
If your budget for your first mountain bike is limited, and you want to get the best bike you can for the money, you need to spend your money on the parts of the bike that ready matter for a comfortable, durable and fun mountain bike.
Consider spending a major portion of you budget on a good frame and the rest of the budget with less expensive components. The frame is the largest and usually the heaviest single part of a bike. It is also the single most expensive part of a mountain bike. The frame is the heart and soul of a bike. It is what ready distinguishes one bike from another. So you want to get the lightest and the best quality frame you can afford at the start.
Most mountain bikes are made of steel or aluminum. There are two types of steel: high-tensile, or hi-ten, steel and chro-moly. Buy only frames made with chro-moly steel. You can generally expect cheap frames to be made with high-tensile steel. Don’t buy a bike that has any part made of high-tensile steel, whether the steel used in the main frame or in the fork.
While there are different sorts of aluminum, such as 6061 and 7005, there’s not much noticeable different between them at the $400.00 to $600.00 price range for a new, good entry-level, cross country hardtail mountain bike.
When looking for a not-too-expensive mountain bike, the traditional diamond frame is the best. Any frame design other than this will be heavier or not as durable.
If a bike comes with inexpensive but adequate parts you can upgrade them in the future without greatly affecting the ride characteristics of the bike; but once you replace the frame, you are essentially getting a whole different bike.
Keep in mind that it is less expensive to buy the components that are already on the bike than it is to buy the components separately later to upgrade.
The difference between cheap and expensive components comes down to the materials use in the components, which determines their weight and durability. Another factor influencing the price of a component is fit and finish and performance that are expected of the specific component, such as derailleurs and brakes.
The average grade components are usually made with aluminum, which are light and durable. Less expensive components may be made with steel, which are durable but heavy, or plastic, which are light but may not be very durable. High-end components made with titanium or carbon fiber are both light and durable but the weight savings and added durability do not justify the higher cost.
Learn about the different types of materials used for mountain bike frames. Get some tips on what to look for in a quality frame and which components you should spend your money on when picking out your cross-country hardtail mountain bike.