I've been noticing that it's harder and harder to keep up with N when we go riding, and I think a large part of that is the difference in our mountain bikes (MTB). Last year he had 24" wheels and an older, kind of junky bike that was given to us by a friend. It served us well because N got a taste for riding, and he rode that thing all the time up in the hills. Since he showed interest, we decided to get him a decent MTB, though we kept the old one.
With his new ride, N pretty much blows both me and his sister out of the water, and it must feel good to him. I'm wheezing and struggling to keep up with the guy, and whereas A used to put us both in the dust, now N is the leader. A started using my MTB because it has bigger wheels than hers, and I started using N's old MTB, and believe me when I tell you the difference is significant. We went riding the other day and the kids were so far ahead of me I couldn't even see them; they were like dots on the horizon.
I had a conversation with mom and said that at the very least, I could use a more modern bike on the trails. My bike is about 22 years old, which is over 150 in dog years, and has a rigid frame. MTBs for trail riding today pretty much all have front suspensions, and it doesn't take much to realize how handy that can be. Whenever we ride, my body gets rocked by the terrain. My goal was to buy a newer bike, and of course I was looking for something on the cheap. This meant eBay, Craigslist, and the Classifieds, with the occasional yard sale, if possible.
As with any search, you can find anything you want in life if you're willing to spend the money, and MTBs are expensive. Needless to say, I couldn't find anything within my price range. People don't seem to sell low range MTBs, whereas the higher end ones are everywhere, for a price. At some point I started thinking I would just buy a low-end new one, which would set me back at least $350, and believe me, that's bottom of the line cheap. For a decent MTB that most guys ride, you're looking at at least $500, and from there, the sky is the limit. I see these beautiful dual suspension MTBs on the trails that must cost at least $1000, if not more. Much more.
I had resolved to ride my old MTB for the long haul, and it's a testament to the quality of its construction that it still rides so well. However, the other day I was driving through town and there was a yard sale going on. I noticed a bike for sale, and the guy was eager to unload it. I checked it out and the tires were flat, the brakes were thrashed, and the gear shifter was broken, but the frame was in good shape. It was a Jamis, which I had never heard of, but there are so many MTB brands out there, this was nothing new. The bike felt light, and the paint just made it look more X-games, as if I had just ridden on the muddy trails. The guy wanted $20, and I was hesitant and said I'd have to think about it. He was eager to sell, however, and within minutes he was telling me to take it for $5, just get it off the yard. Say no more.
I bought the bike (how could I not?) and N did a little maintenance, putting the chain back on and inflating the tires, which it turns out were still good. I took it over to our good friends at Paradise Sports and RT said that brand new, the bike could run into $600 to $700. Talk about a score! To get it fixed and running, it would require a tuneup and some new cables, and I was looking at about $100, which was A-okay with me.
Best of all, the frame has the capability to upgraded to a disc brake system, which is really what a I wanted. It would cost (everything costs) a few hundred dollars to do this, but I'm in no hurry, and I figure it's something I could build up to over time.
For now, I have a bike with a suspension that didn't cost me an arm and a leg. I love when that happens. Then again, I haven't gotten it back yet, so there could be complications on the horizon. Stay tuned for more.
Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Francisco Saiz for the pic.