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Shopping For a Mountain Bike
Image When you were a kid, the anticipation of showing off on your shiny new bike was almost too much to bear. Then, on shopping day, you were on top of the world as you sped down the sidewalk in a blur of red enamel, chrome and handlebar tassels. Can buying a new bike be that exciting now that you're all grown up? It can be, if you know what to look for.

Shopping for a mountain bike can be time consuming, and a bit frustrating. But if you follow a few guidelines and make sensible choices, you'll make it the exciting experience it should be.

Set Your Price
There is a vast price range for mountain bikes. You can spend under $100 for a bargain bike at a department store, or lay down thousands for a professional model. Set your budget and try to stick with it. There are good bikes available at reasonable prices, and there are some overpriced stinkers. Know how much you can afford, and keep your spending under control. Remember that in addition to the bike, you're also paying for quality and service. With this in mind, you should consider buying from a local bike shop, rather than a mass merchant store that can't provide follow up service or repairs.

Sales and seasons
Like any product, prices will fluctuate based on the market demand. The price will naturally be higher during prime riding seasons in spring and summer. If you can wait until winter, you'll likely cash in with a lower tag price or even find a few good off-season sales. Waiting until the market quiets down can save you hundreds of dollars. To save more money, check to see if your bike shop offers discounts on additional parts and accessories purchased with your bike.

Find Your Style
Mountain bikes are built to accommodate different riding styles and terrains. Before you can shop for a mountain bike, you need to know what type of riding you will be doing. Mountain cruising, cross-country racing, smooth riding or lift access downhill are all riding styles available to you. Decide how and where you want to ride, then choose a mountain bike that fits your personal style, rather than that of the sales staff.

Hard Tail or Suspension
If you can afford it, a full suspension mountain bike is definitely worth the price. Lightweight hard tail bikes without rear suspension may pedal more efficiently, but full suspension models provide better control and more comfort. Your riding style, price range and choice of terrain will help you decide between suspension and hard tail bikes.

Pick a Few Favorites
If you were to compare mountain component to component, you'd spend the entire biking season going over notes instead of taking on the trails. There are far too many combinations available. The best way to narrow down your options is to determine the components that are most important to you, such as the forks, rear derailleur and wheels. When you've created your wish list, find a few models that meet your needs and fall within your price range. Now do your comparison-shopping based on five or six available bikes.

Find a Good Dealer
More often than not, dealing with a reliable bike shop is more important than saving a few bikes. Try to find a dealer that cares about helping you find the right bike for you, rather than just trying to sell you an expensive bike. Great bike dealers have friendly salespeople and a clean, organized repair shop. Sooner or later you will need a tune-up or repairs, so be sure to deal with someone you trust to provide dependable follow-up service.

Try it before you buy it
Test-ride as many different bikes as possible to find your comfort zone. Even if you're not crazy about the way one model looks, it might be a dream to ride. If a bike is in your price range, take it for a spin. The more bikes you test, the better you'll understand what works and what doesn't. Again, choose a reputable dealer that will allow you to try the bikes before you buy. Mega department and hardware stores will not give you this option.

Do your Research
There are many great resources to help you compare and choose a mountain bike. Read product reviews and cycling magazines, research online, and ask for advice at your local bike shop. Find out as much as you can about the reliability and performance of each model. Look at what other riders appreciate about their bikes. Know your options and understand the differences before you make your final purchase.

Take the time to think before you shop for a mountain bike. Making the right choice may take longer, but will pay off when you have a bike that suits your perfectly and will perform season after season. You'll be on top of the world as you speed down a mountainside in a blur of red enamel, chrome and toe clips.
 
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