I’m thinking about buying a bike for solo longish day rides and bike-backing trips in the north of Scotland. I’m more of a road rider, and haven’t ridden an MTB for about 15 years or so. That was on a rigid steel frame with canti brakes. I was never very happy on the descents – although I’d try to relax and let the bike do its own thing, I hated the way the speed would build up whilst clattering over stones and ruts. However, I’d like a change from road riding, and would love to be able to get away on some remote routes. (I’d probably look into getting a few lessons to help with the off-road bike handling skills and confidence).
I have no idea what sort of bike to buy. My natural preference is for olde-worlde simplicity – I’ve ridden a lot on fixed wheel. Although full suspension (or even hard tails) don’t really appeal to me, I suspect they could make the descents a bit less stressful. I popped into a bike shop the other day, and they had some interesting bikes – everything from full suspension race bikes through to things like the Surly Pugsley, a Salsa singlespeed, and some bikes with hub gears. The one bike which jumped out at me, and which I knew nothing about, was a steel Jones Spaceframe with Alfine gears. I was encouraged to ride it around the car park, and it immediately felt ‘right’. I liked the riding position, and the handlebars were comfy (I have problems with nerves in my fingers, and can’t ride very far on normal flat bars). Once I psyched myself up to it I was able to hop up and down a fairly high kerb, and the bike never faltered. It also seemed to handle great – it was neither too slow nor too fast – it just carved into turns, and encouraged me to go faster. However, I was then told the price (about £1600 for the frameset). I’ve spent more than that on some bikes, but I wasn’t really looking to buy something like that at the present. I’ve since been idly browsing some other bikes, including the fat tyred Pugsley and the Salsa Beargrease, but I’m not really sure if they’re suited to the sort of riding I’d like to do. Also, I’m wondering if a singlespeed would be okay for lightweight camping trips in the Highlands. There are so many choices! I do wonder if the Jones can be bettered. If not I might be persuaded to go for it – even if I have to wait a little, and try to sell a bike or two to help pay for it. However, I wouldn’t want to pay over the odds for a ride that wasn’t really any better than other bikes, and I haven’t ruled out other styles (including FS) if they would work better. Whatever I go for, I’d probably want the Jones’ H-Bars, and I’m not sure if they’d be compatible with other makers' frame geometries.
I know I’ve rambled a bit, but I’d be interested to hear some opinions and experiences.