What Can $1000 Dollars Get You

by FatBob on December 7, 2011

One of the most common questions 29erOnline gets is, “I have a $1,000. What is the best bike I can get?” To be honest, it’s been a while since most folks around 29erOnline rode a $1,000 bike. We tend to test full suspension, which are inherently more expensive and, because we are certifiable bike nuts, we tend to ride and test stuff that is more expensive. We wondered - can a $1,000 bike handle what we throw at bikes every day? What compromises, if any, do you make with a $1,000 bike.

We called around and, so far, we’ve received several bikes that meet the $1,000 budget and are considered trail capable by their manufacturer. Regardless of price-point, so much in choosing a bike depends on terrain, style of rider, and just plain old opinions based on personal likes and dislikes. So, while it is unlikely that we will be able to state definitively that “this bike is the best $1,000 bike”, we can help point out each bike’s strengths and weaknesses and give an opinion based on a perspective informed by time spent riding a wide variety of bikes.

So really, at its core, testing $1,000 bikes is just like testing any other bike for us - we’ll ride them and tell you what we think about how they perform. Obviously, comparing these bikes to more expensive bikes would not be fair. However, we do feel like we can look at similar bikes and draw some conclusions about how well they perform in general and tell you what their relative strengths are.

It would be a mistake to think this is a beginner test. The truth is, for most people, $1,000 is a good amount of money for anything and mountain biking is about having fun not going broke on equipment. Every bike we are testing was designed to be capable of doing the things we will ask of it. We expect a lot out of a bike no matter the price - watch our test videos, we’ll be riding these bikes on the same trails we ride all our test bikes on.

Since we are also testing a category, so to speak, we will have additional things in mind as we test. Our goals in this test are:

1) See if these bikes can withstand the type of riding a beginner and enthusiast rider will subject them to. These bikes will be ridden multiple times a week in all conditions. We want to accelerate the wear cycle that most riders will put these bikes through, with a special eye on how things like components hold up. We will not be trading parts out. These bikes will remain stock unless their is a failure of a part, in which case we will replace it with an equivalent part.

2) See what each bike’s strengths and weaknesses are. Which bikes excel in what conditions? Are there parts that were universally liked or disliked? Did any parts fail? Where is your money best spent - the bike with the best shock, the best shifters, or something else? Do some favor tight terrain, slow speed tech, or wide open speed? Are they balanced between climbing or descending or do they have leanings toward specializing in one area?

3) If you are new to Mountain Biking, is there other gear you should budget in? For example, do clipless pedals or a quality hydration pack make any ride so much better that it is worth sacrificing on a better speced bike in favor of something else.

We have looked at this review process from the eyes of a fairly experienced bunch and I, for one, am excited to see what you can get for your hard earned cash. We have two endurance racers, 2 dedicated enthusiasts who periodically race, a rider transitioning from road riding to the mountains, and two women. This should give a wide array of experience and backgrounds to represent most user groups.

In no way are we trying to be critical or to nit pick a company. These bikes are sweated over just like the high end bikes. The kind of devotion the product managers and employees put into these bikes deserves our respect. Please read these reviews with that concept in mind.

This is the first time we’ve attempted this type of test with lots of similar bikes at once. Phone calls have been made, commitments made, commitments broken, dates quoted and dates absolutely shattered. Our original intent was to receive all the bikes in a close time frame then very methodically rotate through bikes, documenting rider’s feedback at set intervals not giving any advantage to one bike over the other. We had also cooked up a surprise format to really bring out what these companies are capable of putting out at this competitive price range.

In the end, after many hours of phone calls and follow ups, we have half of the bikes that were committed to us - best laid plans and all that. So, as bikes keep trickling in, we will build and report on them, getting them out to testers as fast as possible. We will still collect data and attempt to find out what these bikes can really handle, there will just be a lag in the testing schedule compared to what we had hoped for. Don’t worry, we will get you results in plenty of time to decide what you want before the spring riding season.

As usual please feel free to ask questions. I will ask that you post questions in the Comments section under each individual bike’s write up.

Giant Talon 0

Specialized RockHopper 29 MSRP $960

More Bikes to be added as we receive them