The money trap

Walk into a bike shop and tell the guy behind the counter that you are “looking to buy your first mountain bike but don’t want to spend too much money” and watch his face light up. He knows you’ll be back.

Everyone likes to save a bit of money when buying their first bike. It’s a mistake most beginners make when starting out, a trap I fell into.

When my mates got into mountain biking I was reluctant to follow. I already had a plethora of other hobbies and with two small kids free time was limited.

But the guys were having too much fun and I always loved riding as a kid so I relented and brought myself an entry level bike.

Everyone warned me against it. “You get what you pay for,” they all said but money was tight and really, how much time would I have to ride the thing anyway?

I figured that I might get out once or twice a month, I couldn’t see me getting value out of a high priced bike and wasn’t planning anything too extreme anyway.

So it was that I brought what the manufactures call a recreational class mountain bike. On my second ride my mate threw me down one of the many steep single tracks in our area. I spent more time on the dirt then I did on the bike but at the bottom of the hill I had a big grin on my face that the scrapes, blood and bruises couldn’t diminish. I was hooked.

Soon I found I was getting out three or four times a week. My other hobbies, rock climbing and cannoning, took time to plan and set up. With them I’d need to organise friends and set aside at least half a day to go out and more time to pack up all the gear afterwards. My busy life made this hard.

MTBing was different. If the kids flaked out and decided to have an afternoon snooze at 3pm then I’d grab the bike out of the shed and go for a spin. There was no need to organise and prepare, just get on the bike and go. It didn’t matter if I had a spare couple of hours or just twenty minutes a ride was feasible.

With all this riding my skill levels advanced rapidly and I was constantly looking for the next challenge. Pretty soon I was hurling down terrain the bike just wasn’t made for. Recreational bikes are made for cruising dirt roads not hurling down mountains. Even on simple fire trails the delayed gear changes and constant derailing chain became ever more annoying.

Four months after buying the bike I ended up snapping the frame and had to up grade.

Nearly every rider I talk to has a similar story. They all have a cheap bike sitting in the shed doing nothing or set up for their non-riding partners for those times when they can convince them to go for a spin.

A mate of mine has come up with a formula he gives to people who are thinking about buying a bike and if you are browsing these pages just contemplating your first bike you’d be well advised to take heed where ever possible.

Work out how much you think you should spend on a bike and then add $1000. This should get you the absolute minimalistic bike for your needs.

This may sound excessive but remember, every dollar you save on that first bike will most likey cost you two sometime down the track.

Enjoy the ride, I hope to see you out there somewhere

The Cat.