MBA: What’s the most important thing
to look for when buying a bike?
Essence: I ask myself, “What style of
riding do I most enjoy?” If I’m going to be
doing mostly cross-country, I am going
to be looking for a lightweight hardtail. If
I’m going to be doing mostly enduro, I am
going to be looking for a bike that will easily handle climbing and technical downhill
MBA: Do you have any tips on when
a rider should get a hardtail instead of a
Essence: You should get a hardtail bike
when you know that you are going to be
mostly climbing. If you like to explore and
take your bike on long rides and aren’t
looking to do any technical downhill riding
because that’s just not your thing, then go
for the hardtail.
MBA: How much suspension travel do
you think a new rider should have?
Essence: Max, 6 inches. Most people
think they need a big bike to handle all
the bumps they will encounter, but what
they don’t realize is that more suspension
equals more weight. Start with a lighter
full-suspension bike so you can enjoy
the downhill and not completely hate the
MBA: What do you think is the best all-around wheel and tire size for the average
Essence: I think 27. 5 is a perfect,
happy medium, because it allows you to be
quick and nimble in cornering yet still much
faster-rolling than a 26. Twenty-niners are
definitely fast-rolling, but they take a while
to learn how to properly maneuver quickly.
MBA: Is there anything a rider should
avoid buying when getting a new bike?
Essence: Do not get the cheapest bike.
You will have more problems than if you
just spent a couple hundred bucks extra.
Usually the cheapest bikes have the worst
components, and that is usually what most
people have to go back into the bike shop
to get fixed. Get the bike with better components.
MBA: Is it better to get a new bike or a
used one when starting out?
Essence: It depends on how serious
you want to take your riding. If you get a
used bike and want to be a serious rider,
make sure you are buying from someone
who is, and was, already serious about
their bike. It’s also a bit sketchy to buy
used bikes from online sites, because you
can’t be sure that it is the true owner who
is selling it to you. If you are going to buy a
used bike, do your research. Know whom
you are buying from and what exactly you
are getting before you take the leap.
MBA: How helpful is it to take a test
ride on a bike before you buy it?
Essence: Extremely helpful. I always
demo a bike before buying.
MBA: How would you suggest a rider
choose a bike shop?
Essence: Talk to friends who are
already avid riders. They know which shops
will take care of you and which will rip you
off. If you don’t have any friends who ride
already, make some!
MBA: Is it better to spend more money
on the frame or on the components?
Essence: Components. Always.
MBA: What are some things you should
look out for?
Essence: If buying a used bike, make
sure the frame is not cracked or dinged.
That can put you in a very dangerous situation if you are riding a bike that has a
frame that is compromised. Test ride any
bike before you buy.
ESSENCE BARTON’S TIPS
A top woman enduro racer’s
Tip #4: Decide what size wheels
point of view
either want a race-oriented full suspension
or a hardtail. These days there is a bike for
every type of riding and terrain; figure out
what you’re going to use it for and get the
bike that suits your needs best.
you should get
If you’re on the fence for what wheel size
to get, try them both. They will both work
well, but one will probably feel better to you
than the other. This is a matter of personal
preference. If you’re a very short rider, I’d
say go for 27. 5. If you’re taller, get a 29.
If you’re doing more jumps, I’d say get a
27. 5. A 29 will feel more stable, carry more
momentum and roll over stuff easier. The
27. 5 is better at quicker maneuvers, while
the 29 will roll over things easier. What
are you going to use the bike for? If it’s
jumping, get smaller wheels. If you’re an
XC racer, get 29s.
Todd Wells: We can’t even tell you how
many national championships Todd Wells
has won. He’s also won the Leadville 100
multiple times. He knows bikes.
Smart advice: Essence Barton was a
national champion in collegiate mountain
biking before moving into the pro ranks.