18 November 2011

Donovan's Trek

Trek 3500 (2012 model year), of course.

Having been waiting for many years to finally plunk down a large amount of money and buy a decent quality bike, and having gone back and forth about which model to get, what kind (road vs. mtb), and etc., I finally decided to go ahead and drop the hammer on a mountain bike. Specifically, this one:

Ain't she a beaut?

First, the pros: This is a real bike. It's got reasonable components for the price. It has good wheels, tires, and tubes. The bike is Aluminium, rather than steel, which is important to me since I weigh a lot more than necessary, and it's good that my bike does not. It was quite inexpensive for what I got. It's a hardtail, not a rigid frame, which I really wanted.

Next, the cons: it's not much of a mountain bike, it's really more of a light-duty trail and urban area ride. The front fork only has 63mm of travel, which would get eaten alive on many mountain trails. This one is the cantilever-pull brakes model, not the model with the disc brakes.

On my Scale of Awesome*, this bike gets an Awesome. It's a HUGE improvement over the Wal-Mart specials that I've been riding, and even if it's not much of a mountain bike for most trails it's PERFECT for what I wanted: a starter bike to introduce myself to MTB, a good light-duty trail machine, something that I can take on the sometimes crappy roads and urban bike/multi-use trails to lose weight and gain cardiovascular fitness. For me it was particularly important to get a bike that wasn't fragile and high-maintenance, a bike that will take my heavy body and not really care much. Once I'm down under 200 pounds and have had some time to get better at the general act of cycling then it will be time to consider a Real(tm) Road Bike. Something like a Trek 2.3 Apex or the Cervélo R3 or something like that. 

I made one significant change to the stock bike as sold, which was to add a Respiro saddle. That I will review separately; for now, it's a saddle designed to help relieve perinial nerve/artery pressure as well as keep the perinial area cool(ish) during long saddle times. I added a bottle cage (duh), bought a front and rear light for low-light riding, and I picked up a few other essentials as well. The base bike was about $350.

Yeah, you read that right. If you have a decent helmet already, and don't care to get the Respiro saddle, you can get a brand-new Aluminium Trek 3500 MTB for less than $400.00. If you get the disc brake model then you can expect to add about another $50 or so, which is still a SCREAMING deal.

If I had this decision to make over again, I would probably still pull the trigger on this bike, though I might consider getting the disc brakes instead. The next step up in this category (the 3700 Disc) adds a 100mm travel front fork, which is a nice addition. The next step up in bike quality is to the 4300 Disc, which really is a mountain bike, but is near double the price of this bike.

So far, I've ridden 249 miles on this bike, most of it on multi-use rec trails in town on my Diabolical Plan To Rule The Cycling World By Losing A Bunch Of Weight. The shifting is pretty good, though I've noticed a hitch going into and out of 4th gear both up and down (it takes a while to catch). On the Scale of Things that Suck†, it's Okay and Fine. Mildly irritating but nothing more than that. It's the lowish-end of the Shimano MTB shifters but still beats the Stuffing out of the shifters I've been using on the $80 Wal-Mart Total Suckage bikes. The crankset is a 42/34/24 with a 14-34 7-speed cassette, and works very well. I'm still learning to keep track of where I am in the gears and chainrings without looking at the shifters though, sometimes resulting in my dropping into a gear that is really not appropriate for the conditions. Such is learning!

So. Final Verdict: Inexpensive starter MTB-style bike good for initial purchase of a high-quality bike. It's not going to tear up your normal MTB trails, but it will work for bunny trails and is excellent for the urban jungle.


*: the Scale of Awesome is a five-point range from: Horrible, Bad, Merely Adequate, Awesome, or Super-Awesome.

†: the Scale of Things that Suck is a five-point range: Total Suckage, Sucks, Okay and Fine, Better than Expected, and Frakking Amazing.

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