Tips for getting started in HRM

Hi folks, nice place you have here!

I’m keen to try out some local MTB action around HRM (I’m a Dartmouthian), but am really new to mountain biking.

I’ve been riding road bikes my whole life and used them as my main mode of transportation before kids.

Would greatly appreciate some advice on -

  • Gear - what to buy and where? I have SPD shoes, pedals and a helmet. I am frugal and totally OK with second hand stuff, but don’t really know what I should be looking for.

  • Some easier trails to get started without breaking myself



The Bike Pedaler in downtown Dartmouth sells new and refurbished parts and bikes if your looking for gear and advise on such things.

Rides are posted here and often go on beginner friendly trails in the HRM especially if it has been wet.


Yeah for sure, come out on a Tuesday ride when we post it as beginner. (Usually MacDonald Sport Park or Shubie Park.)

Spider lake is fun (on a dry day). Some of it is gnarly rocks but much of it is hard packed dirt so it is good to get a feel for the bike.

I think people coming from road riding have an advantage with fitness but need time to work on techniques like body position and knowing how to manipulate the bike to roll over the rough stuff.

Maybe watch for bike deals on kijiji or Pinkbike buy and sell. You should study up a bit before you buy though. Many people here are riding Trail or All Mountain style bikes.


Thanks - a visit to Marc and crew is certainly in order. What do you think is a reasonable price point to purchase a used MTB? I know they deal in new Brodie bikes, as well as the used/refurbed bikes for sale. I’m just uneducated about what makes a real difference in terms of riding on the trails round here.

Is full suspension/disc brakes the most common setup nowadays or is it still quite varied depending on the rider?

MEC has some MTB group rides that are more beginner-friendly as well. @Rolls often attends those, I believe. Sign up is required. You can do that on their website. As I’m still developing my own technical skills, I prefer to ride the trails with someone else in case I make a rookie blunder and bash my face into a tree…or rock. I love Nine Mile River for quick and flowy beginner friendly riding, but it’s a hike to get there, for sure. Shubie Park is the go-to beginner spot on that side of the harbour.

I would second @bent6543’s comment about Bike Peddler in Dartmouth. MEC has good prices on decent gear, but please support your local bike shop

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You want disc brakes for sure. Many start out with hard tails because they are cheaper and then migrate to a full suspension once they are hooked for sure and know what they want.

Some bike shops rent bikes if you want to test them out.

Not all MEC rides are beginner, and it sounds like more will be intermediate in the future.


Thanks Jeff - just those buzzwords about the kind of bikes to consider are helpful google search terms. From this guide:

I’d guess a trail bike is what I’m likely going to start with. Never heard of pinkbike either, so thanks for that as well.

There are a couple of NS bikes listed in a size that might suit me - both $400 - 2002 Kona Stab Primo (more downhill?) and a 2006 Norco Bigfoot.

Stab Primo is definitely more of a DH bike and is going to be heavy- not ideal for trail riding where you have to pedal up sometimes.

Keep your eye on Kijiji, good deals pop up fairly often if you’re patient. Also, not sure what size you’re looking for but this is a pretty happening deal on a new bike (older model year):

Also not sure if a 29’er is what you’re after.


Kijiji can be good if you know what you’re looking at and the seller is truly honest about the bike they are selling.
You can easily get burned thinking you’re getting an awesome deal, but the drivetrain is beat, forks and/or shocks are beat and have never been serviced, seatpost seized in the frame, general abuse and neglect et cetera is very common. A $400 bike can easily double in cost for replacement parts and service in the worst cases.

I wouldn’t bother with the Kona, it’s an ancient downhill bike. The Bigfoot could build up into something decent for beating around and getting into mtb… taking my previous warning into consideration.

Price points are tricky…a soild frame and decent suspension components should be where the money is invested, then wheels, all the other components are easily replaced as they break or wear out. Most new bikes under $1000 have low end forks/shocks that squish but are more or less disposable.

As with all things bike: light weight, strong/durable, low cost, pick two.


Good points regarding buying off Kijiji @bent6543 !

@damsam the weekly MEC rides are all intermediate rides now. But as was mentioned, our Tuesday ECMTB rides are often beginner friendly depending on the location.

Shubie, McDonald Park, Hemlock Ravine, Nine Mile River, Irishman’s Rd are all great places to cut your teeth. You won’t need full suspension at any of those places, but it’s nice to have if you ever want to get a bit more adventurous.


Thanks for posting that - I’m not sure either, but it looks like a good deal for sure. I’m not tall or heavy (5’8"/165lbs), but the small frame size might suit. Especially given that many Kijiji bikes are posted for that or more well used…

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I just sold my 2013 Trance X 29er 2 in the fall for $900 so that one at Bicycles plus is a true bargain! It was my first full suspension bike. Loved that bike!! Great all round bike.


Received some solid advice from Marc at the Pedaler - going to get a used hardtail to get started. Probably a good idea before dropping serious money on a ‘dualie’ (I’m already learning the lingo I guess). I’m going to put cyclocross tyres on my hybrid for a quick trip around shubie this weekend with Ride East.


You may already be aware from road bikes - choose a decent name brand bike (Giant, Specialized, Trek, Kona, Norco, Cannondale). Lots of other good names too, but no CCM or Huffy. :slight_smile:

Rear derailleur is a good starting point to gauge level of components. Others may chime in on this - Order from worst to best - Tourney, Altus, Acera, Alivio, Deore, Saint, SLX, XT, XTR. I wouldn’t recommend going below Acera for technical singletrack for durability and weight reasons. A new hardtail with Acera/Alivio level components is about $6-700. Deore is a really nice starting point - probably $1000 for a new hardtail.


@rockhopper - thanks, likely going to go used… in fact I have my eye on a steel Brodie hardtail that should be my size and is for sale locally. Failing that, Marc at the Bike Pedaler always gets frames in that he can work into a functioning bike… just might have to wait a bit.

I rode my first singletrack in Shubie yesterday and it was tons of fun, if a tad bumpy.

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You’ll learn quickly that Shubie is not bumpy by any stretch of the imagination in HRM. The key is not sitting down, especially on a hardtail. Stand up, use your body as suspension and let the bike bounce over everything. Sitting down is for the road or gravel path ride rides.


Maybe next time… I was just out buying a bike! Proud owner of a 2011 Brodie Catalyst. Will try to get to the group ride tomorrow to try it out:


Brodie’s a good name in bikes. Congrats! Have fun on it!

Nice! Haven’t owned a ‘modern’ steel frame… how’s the ride?