Do I need a high-end mountain bike?

Image Gallery: Extreme Sports Consider how much experience you have and where you plan to ride when deciding what kind of mountain bike to invest in. See pictures of extreme sports.
Image Gallery: Extreme Sports Consider how much experience you have and where you plan to ride when deciding what kind of mountain bike to invest in. See pictures of extreme sports.
©iStockphoto.com/Anton Sokolov

When it comes to the price and quality of mountain bikes, the sky -- or your budget -- is the limit. Mountain biking is not a cheap form of recreation and exercise, and there's a pretty big difference between bikes on opposite ends of the price spectrum. Basic models can be purchased for as little as $85 to $300 (especially from large retailers and online discounters), while the most decked-out, high-performance models can run $5,000 or more.

If you don't know your derailleur from your toe clip, then perhaps a top-of-the-line bike is more than you need -- or can properly maintain. Because nearly every part and piece of a mountain bike is replaceable and upgradeable, it's possible to buy a "standard" mountain bike and -- to a limit -- increase its performance over time.

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You'll also spend more time replacing chains and other parts on the more affordable but less durable low-end bike. On the bright side, you'll be learning about mountain bikes one part at a time. However, once you get more serious about mountain biking, you very well may decide to opt for a better bike that holds its own against time, the elements and wear-and-tear.

If you haven't done any mountain biking, consider borrowing a bike from a friend or renting one from a bike shop. This way, you'll discover whether this is the sort of thing you want to pursue and fork over some serious cash for. Also, you'll have a better knowledge of bikes in general, and you'll be better prepared to discuss specifics with a bike seller.

If you are just a hobbyist or you use your mountain bike to cruise around the neighborhood, there's nothing wrong with using a low-end bike without full suspension (suspension on both the front and rear of the bike, as opposed to just the front) and other add-ons, features and accessories.

After you spend time navigating your way around difficult terrain, the value of full suspension and other such features will become quite clear.

If you're a more experienced rider, you don't need a high-end mountain bike, but you'll want to get the best bike you can afford, keeping in mind that even mid-range mountain bikes can cost more than $1,000.

See the next page for lots more information on mountain bikes.

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Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Donaldson, Doug. Bicycling Magazine's Guide to Bike Touring: Everything You Need to Know to Travel Anywhere on a Bike. Rodale, 2005. ISBN 1579548628, 9781579548629.http://books.google.com/books?id=xyQhru7JJTUC&dq=mountain+bike+accessories&source=gbs_navlinks_s
  • MTB Britain. "Beginners Mountain Bike FAQ." (Dec. 22, 2009)http://www.mtbbritain.co.uk/beginners_mtb_faq.html
  • Van der Plas, Rob. Mountain Bike Maintenance: Repairing and maintaining the off-road bicycle. MBI Publishing Company, 1994. ISBN 0933201656, 9780933201651.http://books.google.com/books?id=A7l-GdYX5RgC&dq=mountain+bike+accessories&source=gbs_navlinks_s
  • VanInwegen, Myra. "What kind of bike do you need?" (Dec. 22, 2009)http://www.myra-simon.com/bike/whatbike.html
  • Worland, Steve. The Mountain Bike Book. MBI Publishing Company, 2003. ISBN 0760316724, 9780760316726.http://books.google.com/books?id=NBjqy8a-f4gC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false
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