A Beginner’s Guide To Downhill: Choosing An Affordable Bike

With so many different types of mountain bikes, it can get pretty overwhelming for a beginner to choose the right bike. This guide is for the rider who has decided to purchase a downhill mountain bike that wont break the bank, but needs some quick tips.

If you are considering getting into the downhill game, the first question you should ask yourself is “What do I want to do with my mountain bike?”. If you want to pedal your bike up a hill, a downhill bike is not for you. With your downhill bike, you will reach the top of the mountain a few ways:

  • Chairlift at a mountain resort
  • Shuttle via a van or truck
  • hike

Now, lets get to the good stuff. Since most of us don’t have  >$4,000 to shell out on a top of the line world cup machine, I have outlined some affordable options from Specialized, Giant, and Kona. All bikes listed are under $3,500 and come with a dual crown fork. Many companies will offer a cheaper bike with a single crown fork. The choice between single and double crown truly comes down to personal preference and budget. Same goes for coil or air sprung shocks/forks.

Specialized Status 2 Retail: $3,300

Quick Specs 

  • Tires – Specialized Butcher DH
  • Shock – Custom FOX VAN RC, coil w/piggy back, compression and rebound adj
  • Fork – RockShox Boxxer RC, alloy steerer, compression and rebound adj
  • Brakes – Custom Avid Elixir 5 R
  • Derailleur – SRAM X7, 9-speed, short cage


“Status II is a far more realistic option for many riders who want a bike that can be ridden hard and fast, be it on a race course or just with your buddies, but aren’t willing to sell a kidney to do it.” – Pinkbike.com  

I agree 100% with Pinkbike. I have been riding the 2012 Specialized Status 2 since July and it is great. The only major difference between the ’12 and ’13 models is the fork. The 2012 model comes with a RockShox Domain Dual Crown R while the 2013 has a RockShox Boxxer RC. Specialized really stepped it up by equipping the bike with a Boxxer because the Domain is both heavier and does not have as many adjustments. I do not have a problem with the Domain because it is plush and soaks up everything I throw at it. I would expect the Boxxer to do that even better! Pinbike is completely correct in saying that the Status can be ridden hard and fast. The Status‘s geometry was inspired by the world cup proven Demo 8 and is fantastic. You will not be disappointed with the Status 2 by Specialized.

Giant Glory 2Retail: $3,200

Quick Specs                                                         

  • Tires – Schwalbe Muddy Mary
  • Shock – RockShox Vivid  R2*
  • Fork – RockShox Boxxer RC
  • Brakes – Avid Elixir 5
  • Derailleur – Sram X5

* The rear shock pictured is a Vivid R2. The spec sheet lists it as a Vivid AIR R2 on the Giant’s site.

The Giant Glory 2 is the little brother to the World Cup proven Giant Glory 0. The Glory 2 packs the same design as the Glory 0 but at a much more affordable price point. The Glory 2 comes fully loaded with RockShox suspension and Giant’s own Maestro linkage design. Giant claims that Maestro suspension soaks up anything and every thing in addition to pedaling efficiency. I can’t speak from personal experience, but I would not doubt the powers of Maestro paired with Giant’s slaying, entry level downhill bike. Don’t believe me? Just check out Danny Hart’s 2011 World Championship winning run on the steep slopes of Champery, Switzerland. The Giant Glory 2 is the closest you can get to feeling like Danny Hart with out shelling out the big bucks.

Kona Operator Retail: $3199

Quick Specs 

  • Tires – Maxxis High Roller 2 DH
  • Shock – Rock Shox Kage RC
  • Fork – Rock Shox Boxxer RC
  • Brakes – Avid G2CS
  • Derailleur – Sram X9


The Kona Operator retails for the same as the Glory 2 with very similar specs. The operator comes equipped with RockShox suspension including a Kage rear shock, instead of the popular Vivid Kona also uses a 4 bar suspension platform. This offers amazing performance and longevity. The kona Operator is another solid choice as a first downhill bike. It is simplistic yet durable and will have you begging for more.Final Thoughts 

All three of these bikes are solid choices, and I would recommend either one. Every bike comes stock with a Rockshox Boxxer fork which is one of the best forks on the market. The purpose of this guide is for you too see a few options and some quick specs. I would personally go to your local bike shop and see what companies they have to offer. Rent a demo bike and find out what you like and dislike. The best way to choose a bike is through personal experience. I am not here to tell you what bike to buy, I am just recommending  a few options that I personally would consider purchasing. I wish you luck and I hope you have as much fun on a downhill bike as I do. Ride on!

What bike would you pick?

About Author