The Frugal Mountain Biker: Part 1

One of my favorite things to do during the winter off-season is to browse the internet for upgrades, look through magazine and website reviews, and hunt through price listings for bikes and parts that I might want to buy. Sometimes I do also enjoy browsing at high end gear that I will probably never be able to afford. What sometimes bugs me is that for some reason it seems like every magazine and website mostly features high end, glamorous, and expensive MTB bikes and gear. My guess is that us average folks admire these awesome features, but we can’t typically buy that expensive gear.

Mountain biking can get very expensive, but it does not have to be!

This is the first of an on-going series of write-ups on “The frugal Mountain Biker”. This series will cover upgrades, thought process, recommendations, budget shopping, and just general discussion on these topics.

Statistically, most bike shops’ sales volume dollars are from their popular lower end gear, with a small portion of their profits coming from a rare few high end sales. So how about us average consumers? How do we shop? Normally, I look for reviews on lower end models. There are many well-built value oriented models that are very capable out on the trails that will yield many good years of reliable service. That usually means name brand components. Definitely NOT for example a Walmart mountain bike with canti brakes and a pogo stick fork. The frustrating thing is that lower end model reviews are many times nowhere to be found, anywhere.

So with this in mind; I will be looking at providing information for the average rider. How do I typically shop for gear? These are some of the questions that I ask myself when I browse the internet for more information:

Fox 32 Float 100 CTD Remote
  •     Will this bike compliment the other bike/bikes that I already have?
  •     Would that bike make my riding more fun where I usually ride?
  •     Would this other component upgrade make my 26er all-round bike more capable?
  •     …my 29er faster? …more comfortable? …more fun? …fix a problem I have now?
  •     What component upgrades make one bike version more expensive than the other version?
  •     Would this break my budget? Is it worth spending a bit more for the next model up?
  •     Is it cheaper on Ebay or Amazon or on year end retailer specials?
  •     How expensive is the shipping? …installation cost? …yearly maintenance cost?
  •     Is it available at local bike shops?
  •     Is this uncommon off-brand going to be deal killer if I decide to re-sell it a few years later?
  •     Are my bike’s components wearing out to the point where it is probably better to just sell the whole bike and upgrade to a newer more capable one?

If money were no object, then none of this would be complicated at all. If you have money burning hole in your pocket and decide to plop down $8,000 on the newest thing out on the market, then awesome. I have nothing against you if that is what you wish to do with your money. I sure am not like the Geico guy in the commercials that is made of money. I also don’t consider myself to be a cheap-skate, but I certainly am frugal. I am a strong proponent of the “Ride what you have” and “You don’t have to spend a ton of money to mountain bike”. I rather enjoy the challenge of getting the most value and fun for my hard earned dollar. But that is the fun part of it in my opinion. It really is not always as easy as it sounds.

I really like the idea of updating a component on one of my existing bikes to make it more capable, or more fun, or possibly more comfortable for long rides. However, there are limitations to this.

For instance, I would never recommend spending $875 on a Fox 32 Float 100 CTD Remote fork, or $750 on a complete Shimano XT XC M780 Disc 2×10 MTB Group Set to install as upgrades on a $700 low end bike. These kinds of upgrades are much more appropriate for higher end bikes that are in the $2000 or higher range.

Shimano XT XC M780 Disc 2×10 MTB Group Set

As a frugal person I believe that there certainly is nothing wrong with having just one bike. It is all up to you and what makes you happy. There is also really nothing wrong with having multiple bikes with different complimentary capabilities. Maybe one bike is a long travel full suspension AM 26er. The second is a light weight XC hard tail 29er race style bike. And maybe even a third bike that is an all-round capable bike that can serve as a loaner when your brother comes to visit, or as a back-up bike when you have another bike at the repair shop unexpectedly. Take your pick of any of these combinations …or a rigid frame single speed …or a fatbike …or a downhill only bike park beast …or a commuter bike, etc. I only have 2 for now and I am happy with that.

So as an intro, these are my initial thoughts on making the most out of my money and having fun with it. Stay tuned for the next write-up in this series of “The Frugal  Mountain Biker”.

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