But I could feel myself getting stale. While I could still easily ride unpaved fire roads and my road bike still had more off-road miles than most mountain bikes, I had reached a plateau, not being able to pick off the more technical sections of dirt Alpine, for instance. Between that and the grin on my face from the Santa Cruz factory demo, I decided to look into getting a mountain bike.
When I first bought my MB-3 in 1994, Pardo's advice was, "Mountain Biking is the process of throwing your bike off a cliff very slowly, with you on it, so there's no point getting a bike that's too good." With that in mind, I set my budget low, and went to see what I could get. Disappointingly enough, most bikes in the sub-thousand dollar range weighed in the same as my 1993 Bridgestone MB-3. Apparently all the weight savings from aluminum frames, etc., had gone into bigger wheels, disc brakes, and suspension.
The one brand that stood out for value was Airborne Bicycles. Their $830 Seeker had components that looked to be very well thought out, and weighed in around 28 pounds (the same as my 1993 Bridgestone). I tried to buy one from the catory, but they were out of stock, and didn't expect to have any back until Spring. If I lived anywhere but California, that would be acceptable. But I live in Silicon Valley, and even in winter (maybe even especially in winter), mountain biking here is still good. In winter, sometimes the temperature drops enough that road biking is annoying, while mountain biking with its lower speeds is a good substitute.
I looked on eBay, and found a Seeker my size that was in decent condition for about $200 less than what I would have paid for new (which after tax would have been around $900), and proceeded to buy it. The bike came with the deraileur hanger bent during shipping, courtesy of Fedex ground, but it was a relatively cheap fix. As a precaution, I sent e-mail to Airborne Bicycles asking to buy a spare deraileur hanger, and they sent me a new one --- for free, despite my not being the original owner of the bike. This is customer service well beyond what I expect from a cut-rate mail order shop, so I think I can whole-heartedly recommend Airborne's bikes.
The first ride I took it was up Charcoal road (which isn't a paved road at all, but is single track for much of it).