Muddbunnies Mechanicals: Bike Comparisons

In the first editorial of our new series titled, “Muddbunnies Mechanicals” we will be assisting fellow Muddbunnies Riding Club member, Toni, with the tough decision on what bike to upgrade to.

Toni is a recreational XC rider trying to learn North Shore All-Mountain and Downhill style riding. She describes her skill level as beginner/intermediate, and she is currently riding everything on a 2″ dual-suspension, XC 29er. She’s ready for a bigger travel bike!

Toni wants a bike that will that she can use to ride with the Muddbunnies, shuttling Seymour, riding up Fromme and spending a couple of days per season riding Whistler blue trails. “I think in order to help myself progress, (and not ruin my xc bike) I would like to find something with 6″ and 6″ suspension and slacker angles but that is not too heavy”. I want something AM that is still fun to ride if not shuttling/bike park as I am not a super aggressive rider, but want 6″ and 6″ suspension and slacker angles than my xc 29er with only a couple inches of suspension that I keep trying to kill myself on”.
Like many of us, Toni is on a smaller budget and wants to find the perfect bike without breaking the bank. So her options are to purchase a clearout bike, buy an entry level full bike or buy used. Here are the pros and cons of these options:

Buying a Clearout Bike: Many bike shops end up sitting on stock, especially smaller bikes that don’t sell out, perfect for a 5’5 rider like Toni. Additionally, many shops will purchase clearout bikes from manufacturers at a lower cost, allowing them to pass on the savings to their retail customers.

The benefits of buying from a bike shop are many. In addition to having a professional mechanic build and check over the bike before it goes out the door, is the warranty on the frame and parts. Many shops offer a one year to lifetime of service, (don’t forget to ask the details of the warranty service when shopping). Some shops also offer a fit guarantee, ensuring the proper saddle, brake and stem adjustments. This means that if you get out riding and feel uncomfortable, (for example you feel too stretched out while riding and experience shoulder or back pain) you can take it back to the shop and have the stem replaced with a shorter one.

Finally, manufacturers typically offer a one year, “manufacturers defect” warranty on parts with some companies offering up to 3 years! Frame warranties on full-suspension bikes however, vary from company to company with the average warranty being five years.

Buying An Entry Level Bike: Here is where you can save money. Like anything, there is a tiered level of parts and frames; the better the part, the more expensive the bike. However, many riders don’t need to invest as much money into a bike to allow them to ride the terrain they want to, especially if you’re just starting out. Keep in mind though, investing more money typically means that you’re investing in a bike/parts that is lighter, more durable and that offers more adjustments. Like buying a bike on clearance from a shop, you benefit in the frame and parts warranties.

Buying Used: Buying used has its benefits too especially when you know who you’re buying from. Buying used may allow you to purchase a better quality bike because it is no longer new and because it doesn’t come with the warranties.
I’ve personally sold many of my bikes to friends and acquaintances. I, however, have had the benefit of working in a bike shop and having qualified mechanics fix and maintain my bikes so I felt those purchasing my bikes were getting a quality ride. The risk in buying used is that not everyone takes such good care of their bikes. I have seen many bikes coming into the shop for repair that looked as though they hadn’t been serviced once, ridden hard and put away wet. So my advice is to know where the bike was ridden and who was riding it. Never assume! I have had friends spend hundreds of dollars fixing a used bike that they bought from someone in the cycling industry, but who they didn’t know. I can’t stress it enough, “know who you’re buying from”.

Now back to Toni. She has done her research and has decided she would prefer to buy new and benefit from the warranties. The following are the bikes that she has narrowed it down to:

2010 Rocky Mtn Slayer SXC 30

2010 Reign 2

2010 Reign X2

All three bikes are quite different from each other. The Reign 2 is a lightweight, all-mountain bike with a steeper seat tube angle than the Slayer or Reign X2. The Reign 2 is a great choice for someone coming off a cross-country bike. The fork on the, Reign 2 is a Fox Float R and while both the Reign X2 and the SXC 30 comes spec’d with the Marzocchi 55R. Reviews on both forks suggest that a lighter weight rider would benefit more as they are less likely to bottom out the fork responds better under high speed. The rear shock on the Reign X2 is the Marzocchi Roco Coil which I think is over-kill for Toni as she is looking for a bike to climb and descend with.
The rest of the specifications on all three bikes is fairly comparable though the Reign X2 is spec’d with heavier, more freeride specific parts. For this reason plus the slacker head angle, I would cancel out the Reign X2 as a possibility for Toni.

So we’re down to two options: The Reign 2 and the Slayer SXC 30. Both models offer a low stand-over height, ideal for shorter riders. The final decision is going to come down to test riding both bikes but my final say is this:

1.2010 Giant Reign 2 – If Toni wants a bike ideal for climbing and descending and a few days at the bike park on green and blue runs, then this is a great option. She’d be getting a light, tried, true and tested fork and rear shock.

2. 2010 Slayer SXC – If Toni wants a bike that will feel better descending and can deal with the extra weight climbing then she would benefit from this bike. I say this bike falls directly in the middle between both Giant bike options and is spec’d a bit better than the others. I also say that though Toni describes herself as a beginner/intermediate now, she won’t be for much longer and she may want more from her bike next season. I think the Slayer SXC 30 is ideal for riding West Coast terrain and will enable her to become a better rider, faster.

Either way, best of luck to you, Toni! I know you’ll be happy with whatever bike you purchase and I look forward to hearing your decision. Keep us posted.

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