Q: I've just started mountain biking and I'm thinking of getting my first proper mountain bike - my price range is between £500-£1000.
I want to use it for downhill mainly but it needs to be light enough for general riding, too. I can't decide whether to build it custom or to buy it fully made. I don't want to do too many upgrades after buying it, so I'm thinking custom would be best. If you don't think I should build a custom bike then please give me some suggestions of bikes in my price range.
A: If you're buying new then it's going to be really, really hard building a bike from scratch that'll beat a full bike in terms of value. It's also going to be hard to get good kit on a decent full suss bike for a three-figure price.
The good news is that there are some great hardtails around these days. They've got quality kit you won't need to upgrade, will progress your DH skill far faster than a full suss will and also take the knocks, too. We loved Marin's Rocky Ridge a few issues back, while the hardcore hardtails in the last issue are well worth a look.
For maximum value for money, always consider slightly older models, too. If you get a bike that's got everything you need for a cheaper price, who cares what year it says in the catalogue. A quick trawl through the internet and we were able to pick up the Rock Lobster B52 for £650 at www.merlincycles.co.uk, while www.evanscycles.com always have great sale selections. Your local shop will probably have some bargains too if you ask nicely.