Best mixed use (trail/mud/uneven terrain) bike for under £500?

Slink

Senior Member
Hi all,

I'm looking to get back into cycling after an almost decade long hiatus.
There are so many variants of bikes these days I don't really know where to start or what to look for. I'd assume some form of mountain bike?

I'm looking to spend ideally no more than £500 but can afford a 10% budget creep if it's worthwhile.
Ill be predominantly riding on muddy paths and the trails in the woods (nothing too extreme mind) potentially even on the beach if the feeling takes me if possible.

I'm 6'3" so I imagine I'd have to be looking at the larger end of what's available?

Outside of bike recommendations are there any tips and tricks (maintenance and gear) you can educate me on as I'm little more than a beginner these days.

Thank you.
 

raleighnut

Legendary Member
Location
On 3 Wheels
Avoid suspension forks.
 

Cycleops

Legendary Member
Location
Accra, Ghana
Good morning.

If you’re exclusively riding trails, muddy tracks then a mountain bike would indeed be a good choice but if you intend to use tarmac as well then a gravel bike, like a road bike but with wider tyres, could be the answer. You could also consider a hybrid which has flat bars.

Trouble is there’s a dearth of most two wheeled machines at the moment due to the pandemic so I would advise finding out what’s available in your area. If you have a local shop or you could try the multiples like Decathlon and Halfords so you can try before you buy.

You’ll need a L or XL or around a 60cm.

https://www.halfords.com/bikes/adve...enture-bike---52-54.5-57cm-frames-445554.html

https://www.halfords.com/bikes/hybr...s-hybrid-bike----18in-20in-frames-445471.html

As above avoid suspension fork as at that price point it only adds unnecessary cost and weight and will be rubbish.

This might be worth a read:

https://blog.halfords.com/gravel-and-adventure-bikes-buyers-guide/


Good luck.
 
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SkipdiverJohn

Veteran
Location
London
An old school rigid MTB from the late 80's or 90's in a large frame size - 23" or even slightly bigger if you can find one. Get hold of any half decent bike or even a suitable donor frame and you can easily knock something up from basic low cost MTB mechanicals. Triple chainsets and a six speed freewheel. Basic indexed shifters, canti or V brakes, bit of spanner work, job done. You've got a functional bike that it easy to maintain and cheap to replace parts on. I've never spent over £50 on one yet, never mind £500!
 
OP
S

Slink

Senior Member
An old school rigid MTB from the late 80's or 90's in a large frame size - 23" or even slightly bigger if you can find one. Get hold of any half decent bike or even a suitable donor frame and you can easily knock something up from basic low cost MTB mechanicals. Triple chainsets and a six speed freewheel. Basic indexed shifters, canti or V brakes, bit of spanner work, job done. You've got a functional bike that it easy to maintain and cheap to replace parts on. I've never spent over £50 on one yet, never mind £500!
Realistically how easy is this to do? I will be starting from full scratch and know very little about the bits and bobs. I feel like it would be a project that would take a while and I'm quite keen to get back sooner rather than later.

On a very brief browse of retailers it seems that most MTB are front suspension set ups. I'll have to keep looking and try to set up some alerts perhaps.

A minor concern of mine also is that some of the trails around here can get VERY muddy, would gravel bike tyres have enough to keep me upright?
 

SkipdiverJohn

Veteran
Location
London
Here's an old 1991 Raleigh I saved from the tip a couple of years back. Good frame, Reynolds 501 and half decent parts on it. Not a cheap bike new. It's a large 23" with a high standover height. At just under 6ft I have to ride it with some respect, but a 6ft 3 rider shouldn't have any issues unless they have short legs.
587877


Building bikes up from bits is pretty easy and straightforward spannering - if you stick to basic technology designs with steel frames, nutted axles, quill stems, conventional round seatposts, and square taper bottom brackets. It's best to get hold of a complete bike if possible, then just sort out what needs sorting out. I've never had to spend more than a few hours in total giving one a stripdown, lubrication service, then reassembling it.
If you encounter something siezed up it can add extra work and time, alloy seatposts stuck in steel frames can be a real pain, but that's about the worst thing you may encounter. I can usually strip an old scrapper totally in less than an hour from starting with a complete bike to having a pile of spare parts and a bare frame. If the frame has suspension or the forks are suspension, they go straight in the bin and I just keep the mechanicals. If the frame is rigid, I may choose to rebuild the bike as is and use it.
 

Cycleops

Legendary Member
Location
Accra, Ghana
You would need to check the bike over thoroughly as rigid MTBs will be 20+ years old. You could consider more modern versions but they'll have a suspension fork which isn't a disadvantage if you're riding really rough and muddy tracks. Bear in mind even the chunkiest pattern tyres (as on the Scott) will fill up and be ineffective in the heaviest mud.

587886


I bought these two down here recently for less than £100 each but you'll likely pay more in the UK. The Cube is more recent with hydraulic discs but mechanical are fine, so are V rim brakes as on the Scott.
 

SkipdiverJohn

Veteran
Location
London
Personally I won't entertain anything with either suspension or disc brakes, and hydraulics really do not belong on bicycles at all. The simpler a bike is, the easier it is to overhaul, the easier it is to maintain, and it will cost peantuts to use even for years.
I actively avoid anything with what might be called modern bike engineering. It isn't DIY friendly in the same way the old stuff is. I can mix and match pretty much any set of spare wheels I have with any frame, fit any chainset, any brake levers and mechanisms, and any gear change mechanisms. MTB's from the front triple, 5 or 6 speeds on the back, and canti brakes era are basically big meccano sets that can be constructed easily from a pile of random bits and the result will be a bike that works fine.
 

DRM

Guru
Location
West Yorks
Realistically how easy is this to do? I will be starting from full scratch and know very little about the bits and bobs. I feel like it would be a project that would take a while and I'm quite keen to get back sooner rather than later.

On a very brief browse of retailers it seems that most MTB are front suspension set ups. I'll have to keep looking and try to set up some alerts perhaps.

A minor concern of mine also is that some of the trails around here can get VERY muddy, would gravel bike tyres have enough to keep me upright?
If it's very muddy, you will need a tyre with large knobs on, the down side of this is it'll be compromised on tarmac/dry trails, most gravel bikes will come with a tyre that's a compromise between use on tarmac & off tarmac use, people who ride in muddy conditions will have a second wheel set with mud tyres & one with a more dry condition tyre
Terreno Dry | Gravel and CX | Vittoria
Terreno Wet | Gravel and CX | Vittoria
Terreno Mix | Gravel and CX | Vittoria
See these as examples, the tyres a new bike comes with will have been selected to be a good all rounder, if it's that muddy you will have to ride carefully and be ready to walk it through in places, most MTB's are designed to be used off road, so are compromised on tarmac, you'll have to think carefully about what you want your bike to do most.
 

SkipdiverJohn

Veteran
Location
London
See these as examples, the tyres a new bike comes with will have been selected to be a good all rounder, if it's that muddy you will have to ride carefully and be ready to walk it through in places, most MTB's are designed to be used off road, so are compromised on tarmac, you'll have to think carefully about what you want your bike to do most.
Full knobbly MTB tyres are too draggy to do very much road mileage on unless you actually want a hard workout. They will knock a couple of mph off your average speed compared to more road-oriented ones.
One of my bikes that gets used on mixed surfaces currently runs a Schwalbe Silento on the front and a Schwalbe Land Cruiser on the back. I fitted those tyres because I just happened to get hold of them and they are reasonably puncture resistant. Traction is adequate in most situations. I run another hack bike with an odd pair of no-name full knobbly tyres, again it's what I had around. These are better in gloopy mud but much more draggy and hum noticeably at speed on tarmac. Knobbly tyres also wear out much quicker than more road-biased ones. Rather than keep swapping wheels or tyres between bikes I just set different bikes up for different types of use. When you run cheap secondhand stuff as I do, you can have as many bikes as you have room for or different uses for. I'm never without a bike that's exactly suited to the type of riding I want to do on that day.
 
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