As spring rolls in, you’ll likely see a lot of people adorned with bikes, helmets, water bottles, and those stretchy pants that look a little funny. While I greatly admire those people that have the willpower to bike to work every day, I strictly spend my bike time off-road.
I started mountain biking more frequently in college, which as most of you know, is not the time in your life when you’ve got a lot of extra cash lying around. Amidst budgeting for textbooks, basic living expenses, and beer, I didn’t have much left over to set aside for my new hobby.
That’s how I figured out that it’s completely possible, albeit not extremely comfortable, to mountain bike on a budget.
Extreme sports are such that if you pay thousands of dollars for nicer equipment, it’ll truly be more comfortably and easier to use.
That being said, most people (like me, for instance) don’t have a couple grand to spend on a bike and equipment.
Here’s a few areas where I was able to save.
Buying a mountain bike
If you’re thinking of trying out mountain biking, it doesn’t matter what kind of bike you initially get, as long as it’s designed for trail riding.
There’s no getting around it, you’ll have to spend some money up front, it just doesn’t have to be a ton.
I bought my first mountain bike for just under $100. It worked out for the simple, easy trails near me, but more experience and longer rides requires a better bike.
Now that I’m in the market for a new bike, I’ve found that you can get long-lasting bikes for $250-$500, but not much less than that. Which brings me to an important point.
Try fixing up an older bike
If you’ve got some time, fixing up a used bike can be a fairly inexpensive way to start biking.
Bike parts cost a lot less than a brand new bike, and luckily we live in an age where YouTube can teach us a whole new set of skills—like rebuilding bikes.
One of the more expensive pieces of the bike to replace are tires, and if, in addition, the gear cables are failing, you might want to buy a new bike. These parts can be difficult to fix yourself and you could end up wasting a lot of time.
What equipment will you need?
While it may look cool, you don’t need to buy equipment specifically designed for mountain biking unless you get very serious about the sport, and possibly not even then. Here’s what you do need.
Seriously, never get on a mountain bike (or any bike) without wearing a helmet.
There are helmets specifically designed for mountain bikers that offer protection for your entire face and head. Beginners who ride simple trails really just need a helmet of any kind.
You can get a helmet for under $20 that offers great safety, just make sure you have one!
There are some clothes that are essential in mountain biking for a more comfortable ride. If you’re just starting out, a pair of baggy shorts, some sneakers, and a t-shirt are the way to go.
As you get more advanced and start to go on longer rides, you’ll definitely want to get some shorts specifically made for mountain biking with padding in them. Trust me, it’s worth spending $30-50 (and sometimes even less, if you can find sales) on a good pair of biking shorts. You can find them for both men and women.
There are shoes designed for mountain biking that help you clip into your pedals to safely stay on the bike if you’re riding on hard terrain. However, cheaper mountain bikes don’t usually come with this clip-in feature, so there’s really no need for fancy shoes.
A good pair of skate shoes or sneakers with a thick sole are enough for beginner or intermediate riders. As long as you’ve got some that keep your feet comfortable and don’t slip off the pedals too easily, you’re good to go.
Personally, I recommend getting some biking gloves, just because it’s easy to get calloused hands on the grips of mountain bikes. You’ll find yourself holding on a lot tighter than if you were riding on flat ground.
With any sport it’s important to keep hydrated! Most mountain bikes don’t come with a place underneath the body to put your water, so have a small bag or even a hydration pack that allows you easy access to your water.
Where do you ride?
The great thing about mountain biking is most trails are free to ride on. As long as you can get there you can ride.
But I’ll tell you about some of the best mountain bike trails in the U.S. and how to save a little money getting there.
The thing about Moab is, it’s not just home to great mountain bike trails what with its range in terrain (mountains and desert conditions), but it’s surrounded by two national parks. There’s also the perk of a local brewery in town, which you can visit after a full day of riding.
With affordable lodging, camping, and even hostel options, this is a great place for a biking vacation.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Crested Butte is known more for its colorful, old-timey downtown and ski resorts, but it’s also one of the birthplaces of the sport of mountain biking. This is likely due to the fact that it’s literally surrounded by mountains.
Since its claim-to-fame are the ski resorts, prices for lodging drop slightly during the summer.
Sedona has riding trails for the novice to the advanced rider, and many of the trails are easily accessed from the city itself, so there’s no need to drive miles to get there once you’re in town.
With lodging hovering around $100 a night, Sedona isn’t excessively expensive.
These are just three towns on my own mountain biking wish-list, but chances are, you live within driving distance of a couple great mountain biking areas. That brings us to the potentially costly price of bike racks.
Buying a bike rack
It can be easy to spend hundreds of dollars on a bike rack what with plenty of companies out there that specialize in bike racks. If you bike constantly with multiple people, you might consider one of these racks. They’ll likely last you a lifetime and be easier to travel with. But since all the other equipment in mountain biking will cost you a bundle, an expensive rack isn’t extremely necessary.
Sometimes a bike rack isn’t necessary at all. I fold down the seat in the back of my car and just throw it in. But I usually go on solo rides and don’t have to worry about shoving multiple bikes into my small sedan.
This isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially since my bike is fairly heavy, but it’s saved me some money.
If you want to avoid the hassle, or need the back seat for other passengers, Walmart offers fairly cheap racks. But there’s a reason these are cheap—they’ll wear fast and aren’t the best for long-distance travel.
So I just gave you a list of a ton of equipment, but to sum it up, you can have everything on my list for $175 (based on my own spending as a beginning rider) instead of the typical thousands you could spend on a bike, equipment, and rack.