Choosing a trail bike

Hi all,

A noob here, preparing for a bike race (want to do a race in all components first before trying a tri). It's a 100km race, mostly on a trail but it's supposed to be quite flat and easy (Vitosha 100km, July, Bulgaria - )

I am still very inexperienced with biking and know very little about the machines - e.g. I had to google what tyre sizes do bikes usually use - although I'm a seasoned motorbike enthusiast so I know the mechanics, etc. quite well. From what I gather, the optimal bike should be a hard tail cross country, leaning towards a road bike in parameters. A lot of people actually do this race with road bikes, including last year's winner - I was tempted to follow this route as I would reuse the bike for my tri, but then again, especially for a beginner, the better safety of a mountain bike would be advantageous, and it has better chances to survive the race and the training

Important contstraint - budget. £250/300 EUR tops, and I'm OK with second hand, I don't mind having to fiddle with a thing or two or even replace this and that. Apart from budget constraints, I don't have any safe place to keep it - it will live on the street, so I don't want to have to buy a new one each month.

I've spent some time looking at bikes online and 3 basic questions spring to mind:


1. What features should I be looking at in order to have a mountain bike that's closer to a road bike, i.e. capable of delivering good timing on a flat terrain?
Frame - I think I've settled on hard tail. Reasonably priced, and offer some cushioning
Fork - I believe it doesn't need to have more than 100mm travel
Tyres - that's clear, more towards the slicker side, but with at least a bit of texture for better off-road grip
Wheels - am I right in thinking that the larger the better, considering my goals? I would then need to look at 20" I guess?
Anything else important that I'm missing?

2. Specific models - maybe you can give me some suggestions?
The ones I've identified so far:
Carrera - Fury, Vulcan, Kraken
Voodoo - Hoodoo, Bokor
Boardman MTB HT Comp

3. Any tips for buying second hand?
I'll appreciate suggestions but probably everything on this subject has already been said, so a link to a good buyers guide will probably do. Also, anything specific for these types of bikes?

Appreciate your suggestion!
And if anyone from abroad is willing to join this race - give me a shout, I can provide all kinds of support, from help with translating from Bulgarian to finding good company for an afterpartyimage


  • Reading between the lines and having no experience of the race you detail I would imagine you would be better off with something like a cross bike ... you can change tyres/wheels then for triathlon if you need a more road specific bike

  • M...eldy wrote (see)

    Get a pink bike, everyone knows that they are fastest

    What she really means

  • If people are doing it on road bikes - then what about a cyclocross bike ?

    Only down side is that there are less of them around second hand.

    For your budget I don't think you can be too fussy - a decent MTB that fits you should be fine - and it's quite a big market.

    Most mtbs have the same size wheels. I don't think there's they many 29ers out there yet.

    Are you sure there's nowhere inside you can keep it ?
  • Furcough Fatty!!!

    (not you Cougs)

  • I'll take a look at cyclocross bikes - AFAIU, these are like road bikes but with treaded tires and more ground clearance. I will indeed have much less choice though, throw in a front suspension and another few bits and I'll have more options and better trail performance. I'll be shopping for a bike in Germany and here people apparently don't like to sell bikes online, so at least I'll get a chance to see a lot of bikes when I shop around.

    I agree that for my budget I shouldn't be too picky - that's why I want to get a list of models that are supposed to be OK as I can't really determine what's a decent bike without knowing the quality of the components. Armed with a list of acceptable choices, it will be much easier to just hop on the first one within my range that appears to be in reasonably good condition.

    As for wheel sizes, I apparently didn't get that right the first time - I now see that the options are 26 and 29. Maybe 29 are not that common but Voodoo Hoodoo at least has it as an option

  • Stefan - don't get too bogged down in wheel sizes for your first bike

    to translate - 26" wheels are what most MTBs have

    29" wheels are modern variants for MTBs and similar size to road/CX wheels (actually slightly bigger)

    in rough terms a 29 will allow a smoother ride over bumpy ground so are pretty good for open trails; but a 26 will always win out in technical singletrack as they are easier to throw around.

    and there is now a newer option for MTBs - 650b wheels - which kind of sit between 26 and 29 (650mm = 27.5" approx) so giving a compromise.

    at the moment - 26'ers are the norm so will come cheaper than the other options 

  • Thanks buddha - so you're saying that tyre size shouldn't make much difference

    Can anyone give me pointers to other models in this range I can look at? Or hints for what should I be looking at to tell a decent bike apart from a shit one when I go to a 2nd hand bike sale with lots of options?
    I guess frame quality is the most important characteristic, but can I reliably tell them apart?
    Condition of wheels and presence of disk brake is something I can easily observe visually, anything else in those lines?

    cougie, regarding storage - the only option for storing the bike securely will be inside my tiny flat, through 4 flights of tiny stairs image if I do this every time I ride I'll end up spending more calories taking it in and out rather than riding. Might be good practice if I decide to do cyclocross though image but far too complicated for my trail/tri practice

  • The brands of bike you suggest are all good value at this price point, specialized are fairly good value too.

    If you get offered a 29er do try as i ride one and its excellent for cross country and going up hill, and if the bikes fitted with disc brakes hydraulic ones are better. 

  • If you're looking at the German market then there will be quite a few bikes over there that we dont really get here. Stephens seem big over there - or at least they did in the IMDE races.

    Basically I think you're better off seeing whats out there rather than having a list of what we say and trying to match that up to the availability on ebay or wherever.
  • Well, that's a good pointer - if I know reliable brands I can get any bike that meets my specs and budget when I look around. Stevens seem to be one of those that I can't get it wrong with. Any others like that?

Sign In or Register to comment.