Windsor Cliff 4300 Review

Windsor Cliff 4300

Windsor Cliff 4300 Gallery

Ok, folks, this isn’t going to be an exhaustive review, and I’ve only taken this bike on one significant mountain bike ride (a better review would come after, say, 500 miles of riding or something).  But I can give you what I’ve observed so far!

First of all, here are a few important component specifications, which are the components I mention in this review.  I say “important” because they’re really the only ones I care about.  I don’t really care as much about forks, frame details, or headsets.  But, who knows, some day I might.  All kinds of hobbyists become more and more picky (snobbish?) about their hobby as they become more advanced.  :-)

  • Crankset – 22/32/42T
  • Cassette – 12-34T
  • Front derailleur – Shimano Acera
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Deore
  • Brakes – Tektro IO Mechanical Disc
  • Shifters – SunRace M30 Trigger shift

My previous mountain bike was a 2007 Motobecane 300HT and there was two things that bothered me about it:

  1. It’s lowest chainring was 28 tooth and it’s lowest geared cog was 28 tooth.  Yeah, pretty sucky for climbing.
  2. I have taken a liking to winter cycling, sometimes in fairly deep snow.  V-brakes get clogged up with ice and snow after a while, so I wanted to try out disc brakes.

As you can see in the above specs for the Cliff 4300, it’s got some plenty low gearing and it has disc brakes.  I was talking about this bicycle on Facebook, and the famous Alex Wetmore wrote the following reply about the Tektro IO brakes:

They are difficult to impossible to adjust so that the pads don’t rub and so that they function properly. They usually don’t have the all available adjustments to align the caliper and rotor, or don’t make it easy to adjust the pad to rotor clearance.  I’m fine with cheap v-brakes, but cheap discs are not fun.

Cliff 4300 Action Shot!

This statement concerned me, but the next price up on for a bike that comes with nice Avid disc brakes was around $550, and my price range was closer to $350.  Besides, my shopping philosophy is to buy something low-cost and if it doesn’t work out, sell it and buy the next higher-priced model.  Not everyone shops this way, but I think it has worked out for me pretty well so far.  I should probably mention that this is my fifth bicycle purchase from  Yeah, I’m nuts.

The Cliff 4500 and 4700 were the same price as the 4300, but their rear cogsets did not go as low as the 4300.  And they all had pretty similar hardware, so I went with the 4300.  The higher models had nicer forks, but as I said above, I really don’t care about forks at this point in my cycling career.  All I need is something to soften the bumps a little, and just about any modern fork can do that for you.

Assembling the Cliff 4300 was pretty easy for the most part, except for 2 issues:

  1. The 3-speed left shifter for front derailleur was defective.  It would not shift onto the big chain ring.  I completely disconnected the cable and it still just wouldn’t click into number three.  I emailed Bikes Direct and explained the issue and they sent me a new shifter with cable, no questions asked.  It arrived in 3 days.  Thumbs up for good customer service there!
  2. Yes, you guessed it.  I had a tough time getting those disc brakes to stop rubbing.  Groan.  I played with them until they nearly stopped rubbing and then I gave up.  As long as the wheels spun freely with just a hint of rubbing at some points of the rotation, that was good enough for me.

Other than that, assembling this bike was a snap and everything looked good on it.

The Mountain Bike Ride

Chinese Peak

Chinese Peak

So a few weeks later, my friend Dan wanted to take me on a mountain bike ride up Chinese Peak just east of Pocatello.  Climbing the steep 3-mile trail was pretty nice on this bike.  The uber-low gear made it quite pleasant and I found myself enjoying the climb instead of struggling so much like I did on my old bike.  About half way up, however, I heard my front brake rubbing a lot on the disc.  So I stopped, whipped out my trusty multi-tool, unscrewed the brake-to-frame connector screws a little, yanked the brake over a bit, tightened the screws, and then things were back to normal.  I hope this doesn’t continue to happen or else I might have to buy some better brakes.

Soon we made it to the top and I felt good, and not very fatigued at all.  Dan mentioned that there were some steep parts on the way down the other side, but I was not prepared for what I saw ahead in the trail.  Yeah, I’ve dealt with a lot of steep downhilling; but I usual “deal” with it by walking my bike down the steep parts.  Yup, I’m downhill-a-phobic when it comes to the steep stuff.  Dan, however, merrily flew down the entire trail, steep parts and all, like it wasn’t any concern.  He waited for me down the trail about a half mile while I skidded my feet and bike down a steep section.  I felt like a goon.  Sigh.

The steep parts were near the top of the peak and soon the trail was a bit more friendly.  I started actually having a pretty good time since there were a lot of nifty little jumps in the trail, which were sometimes terrifying if you had your speed up.  Dan was having a great time while I was feeling half nervous and half thrilled; sort of like the feeling you have on a roller coaster, anticipating the sudden descents and twists.  Yeah, I think I need to practice my downhilling.  :-)

We then exited the wilderness via Black Rock Canyon and cycled home on Highway 91.  During the following few days, I was surprised that my quadriceps were pretty dang sore.   Cycling usually doesn’t make me sore any more like it used to, but I guess between the long hill climb and getting used to the new bike, I subjected my legs to some good exercise.  Anyway, stay tuned and I will be posted edits to the bottom of this article as I continue to ride this bike and see what happens with it!  I’ll also take some detailed photos of it soon for your viewing pleasure.

Update, October 15, 2010: A couple of days ago I went out in my front yard and took snapshots of the Windsor Cliff 4300 at every angle I could think of and here is the photo gallery.  Enjoy!  The bike is a little dusty from the above bike ride, but that gives it a more realistic look I think (I was just too lazy to wash the bike).  :-)  Also, in case you’re wondering, at the bottom of the gallery, you’ll see a couple shots of the bit of clothes hanger wire I used to attach the top of the rear fender to the frame.  I think I’ll write an article about that in the near future.

Update, October 18, 2010: On Sunday afternoon, I put 37 miles on this bike, half of those miles on some pretty brutal off-road terrain.  A friend and I cycled up West Fork Mink Creek and down Gibson Jack road.  I put myself and this bike through some steep grades, mud, bounced it over rocks, and did a lot of heavy cranking and braking.  So far so good!  I didn’t have to adjust the brakes during the ride this time and the bike held together fine and performed well.  Needless to say, this bike is a much better climber, and just feels better generally, than my previous mountain bike.  :-)

10 comments to Windsor Cliff 4300 Review

  • Jeff Selfa

    Nice pics – all ready to sell! ;-)

  • Haha. Yeah, it seems like I only keep bikes for like 2 or 3 years before I sell and upgrade!

  • yang

    Hey Man, nice reviews.. recently got a tourist now and I’m thinking of upgrading my old GT MTB… Was thinking of buying a Surly Troll frame and building it up, but I don’t think there are enough riding opportunities around me to warrant that extra expense.. Looking at the Cliff 4500 since the 4300 is no longer in stock.. They look to have the same geometry. How much does the 4300 weigh? It looks like you had room for Fender? Did you have to do much hacking for that? How you liking the bike now a couple years later? Thanks

  • Thanks for the comment, Yang. Yeah, it looks like there’s not a lot of difference between the 4500 and the 4300; a couple components are different and the 4300’s cogset has a 34 tooth big cog, which comes in really handy with the god-awful steep climbs around Pocatello. I am not sure how much my 4300 weighs, and it’s definitely not designed to be lightweight (then again, it’s a sub-$400 bicycle, hehe). However, when I lift it up it definitely doesn’t feel heavy. It feels about the same weight as my Windsor Tourist.

    As you can see in this photo, I had to use some clamps to attach the front fender to the fork: I think I had to do that on my last mountain bike as well. You can get those kind of clamps in the electrical section of your local hardware store, and it makes it really easy to attach racks and fenders to any part of a bicycle. And the fenders I had on hand didn’t have the bracket that attaches the rear fender to seat stay bridge, so I bent up some clothes hanger wire and made one: But, yeah, you’ll probably have to get a little creative since fenders are not something most MTB manufacturers have in mind. :-) My fender attachment hacking has worked fine, though. Well, actually, while cruising down a wood chip -laden trail, my front tire picked up a large wood chip and snapped the front portion of my front fender right off. Yeah, maybe this is why MTB’s shouldn’t have fenders. ;-)

    I’ve been pleased with the Cliff 4300. I haven’t heard anymore brake pad rubbing, so either I adjusted the brakes correctly or the brake pad wore down a bit, hehe. I haven’t had any problems with the bike, but I haven’t ridden it a ton, either. I’ve ridden it on a few trail rides and as a “snow bike” for 2 winters and it has done very well. I’ve put over 5,000 miles on my Windsor Tourist, though, and it continues to be the best bicycle I’ve ever ridden. I have a lot of faith in and I don’t care what the bike snobs say! Anywho, happy riding!

  • ramon

    hello im from mexico and i ride a cheap bike next $89 on walmart
    i want a $350-380 bike what is better
    winsor gt or gravity
    i live in baja and is very hard trak help me to be the best choise

  • You’re right, it looks like Baja is very mountainous from what I see on Google Maps terrain view! Also, my first mountain bike was from Wal-mart too, and I shudder when I think about it. :-) For steep mountain trails, the most important thing you’ll need, in my opinion, is some low gears. This means a small chain ring (granny gear) of something around 22 teeth (the smaller the better) and a large rear cog of around 30 teeth or greater (the bigger the better). The mountain bike I describe in this article has a 22T granny gear and a 34T big cog, so that makes it easy to climb steep trails. I’m really sort of a beginner-to-intermediate mountain biker, so I really don’t have a preference on suspension, tires, etc. The way I shop for any bicycle is to look up their specifications online, compare them detail by detail, and try to read as many reviews on the bikes and components as I can. You can always go down to your local bike shop and test ride a few. Happy shopping!

  • Yang

    Hey korey, what rack do u have on the bike? I got a rack for my 4700, but found the disc brake makes it impossible to attach

  • I am not sure what brand the rack is, but it really isn’t anything special. I think it was some cheap thing off of or something. Here’s a close-up photo of how it attaches on the disc brake side of the bike:

    Your rack just can’t have any parts that get too close to the brake, so you have to find a rack that has kind of a long, slender part that gets down to that rack eyelet on the frame. Ah, the joys of putting bikes together, aye? Good luck!

  • Josh

    I have had the Windsor 4500 for a few months now, and I am very impressed with it. Which isn’t saying a whole lot because it is my first decent bike. I also have a newer schwinn protocol 1.0. I got wanting to try the dual suspension. Bad decision. The Windsor is just too nice and easy to ride. The schwinn is collecting dust. The gearing the front suspension the velociraptor tires and the lighter weight windsor has it all.

  • Hmm, that’s an interesting review, Josh. I’ve never actually ridden a full suspension bike, and I guess they aren’t all that good until you get into the medium-to-higher end components from what I’ve heard. Good info, thanks!

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