Tuesday, March 1, 2016

All About The Bike- The Mountain Biking Introduction

I want to buy my wife/girlfriend/partner a mountain bike, so what’s the least expensive mountain bike you have? I’m not sure that she’ll like it, so I don’t want to spend a lot of money on it.

Personally I’m probably the worst person to talk about this because I could be seen having a silver spoon in my mouth when it comes to bikes.

I have an extremely supportive partner who loves mountain biking and building bikes- hence a fleet of bikes built for me that make jaws drop. Some of this you could say is out of sheer learning- we’re in the process of figuring out what I like/dislike.

Working at a bike shop I should be expected to be knowledgeable and Travis felt knowledge beyond "book smart" would be ideal. Plus, I started mountain biking much later in life than Travis and he experienced many bikes, thus felt I should as well.

My ponderous mind provides some food for thought on the subject of- "getting my partner/wife/girlfriend a mountain bike."

I was never on a bike that wasn’t within the same chapter as Travis’ in terms of mechanical function. Sure, I have different gearing than he does and sometimes his bike was lighter than mine or had better components- but it was not an entire book away.  For Travis, it was important that I had the best possible chance of riding “with” him.

I feel that if you want to introduce a new rider into the off-road world, it’s good to look at couple things:
1. What is their fitness level? Often the least expensive mountain bikes will be heavy- with this be a deterrent? Suspension or no? Suspension adds weight but can also add comfort. Suspension increases cost. Weigh pros/cons.

2. Location, location, location. Purchase a bike that can handle the trails you will be riding. If the trails are flatter, you can probably go with a base model bike to start with and be okay. If you live in a climb-intense area, look into investing in a bike that will give a new rider a better chance to succeed.

3. Is the bike mechanically sound and durable? New riders will fall and/or crash. Will the bike be reliable enough for her to want to ride it solo? I consider a bike like a car- I would not invest money into something that is questionable. I’m fine with used but I would want to make sure that it’s reliable enough for the price.


I’m not saying “the only right answer is to go buy your significant other a $5,000 carbon mountain bike” but I feel that the new rider’s bike shouldn’t be miles away from your bike in terms of quality and function. If you have a $500 bike, she should have something equal. If you have an $800-$1,500 bike, you obviously like certain things about bikes in that price point; chances are she’d like a bike like that as well.

Did you “earn” the bike? Are you sure? I’m not entirely sure I “earned” any of my bikes, but I darn well ride the crap out of them. I enjoy riding them because they are fun to ride. I’m confident that they will withstand my biffs and I have not broken a single bike or bike part yet. I like that I can ride them and not worry about mechanical failure. I’m inclined to go ride and ride often and attend out-of-town events because I'm confident with my bike.

There are resources that can assist with finding a quality bike at an affordable price- Ebay and Craigslist for example. Of course, take precautions when using these sites (know what you are buying). You may find a bike locally thru local buy/sell sites.
Don’t forget to check with your local bike shops! Sometimes there may be closeout bikes that the shop can order in and potentially they may have bikes in on trade that would fit the needs of the new rider. 

Some bike shops have rental programs which allow you to apply some or all of your rental dollars towards the purchase of a new bike within a year of your rental. Decorah Bicycles has several rental rates- all of which can be applied in full! You can rent a bike for a month and apply the full month rental towards a new bike (within a year of your rental). This is a great way for the new rider to try out a couple different bikes.

What it comes down to: Find the best bike that fits the needs of a new rider and (if you can) invest in a bike that will help them grow as a rider. Do not have cost be the only concern- the experience of the rider should be the primary concern. There is always the option of upgrading in the future be components or the bike itself.

The bike needs to be one that the rider can feel confident on- the bike is ½ of the equation when it comes to mountain biking. If the individual feels that the bike holds them back, they are not able to handle it well, or mechanically it doesn’t work smoothly the likelihood of them liking the bike in the first place goes down.

For any ride application you hear stories of individuals purchasing the least expensive bike option in the bike shop and months down the road the bike sits in the garage…untouched. A lot of times the bike is the deal breaker. If the rider can’t establish a comfort level and “good relationship” with the bike, they will not ride it. I broke up with my Krampus because of that very situation. Stand over was awkward and it was a lot of bike for me to handle. I was introduced to the Cali and found myself with a bike that was geared better, had better stand over, and made me feel more confident as a rider.

It’s imperative for the mountain bike partner to really listen to what the new rider has to say about the bike. If they aren’t sure of what they want, allowing them to have experiences is the best way possible. (And not on your bike unless you both legitimately fit the same size bike!)

When it comes to introducing your partner to mountain biking, I feel it's best to take away the “earn” factor. Plus saying that they “might not like it” before you even start already shadows the situation with negative thoughts/emotions. It ends up being the only thing they might think about. Try before you buy and invest in a bike that is durable for rookie riding errors. The more confident she is with the bike, the more confident she will be when it comes to riding it.

It’s also important to be supportive when it comes to the rides: don’t leave her in the dust, ride with her. Tearing off into the unknown while the inexperienced rider is miles behind does not inspire.
Encouraging her to find other women to ride with is positive as well. This does not have to take away from your time together, but it can enhance her overall experience and increase her confidence. Decorah Bicycles will be offering a women’s off-road ride at 2 p.m. on Sundays this year (start date yet to be determined.) This is geared specifically for women who are new to off-road riding but all rider-levels are welcome! If you would like more information on the rides, you can join FWD on Facebook to stay up-to-date with scheduled rides.

Introducing your partner/wife/girlfriend can be extremely rewarding and well worth the effort- it's important to take steps to make a new experience a positive one with communication, time, and experiences.

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