Mountain biking is a staple among the extreme sports. It’s great for just about any age, and once you’ve made the initial gear investments, it’s relatively inexpensive. But you do have to make an investment, and the biggest piece of gear you’ll have to purchase is the mountain bike itself. So how do you make sure you’re getting the right bike for you? Here’s a look at three key elements to consider when purchasing a mountain bike.
While it’s true–a “mountain” bike is a specific type of bike–there are actually specific categories of mountain bikes, and you should choose the one that’s most appropriate for the type of riding you’ll be doing. Here’s a breakdown:
Trail Bikes–Trail bikes are the most popular style because it’s fairly all-purpose. You can enjoy long, flat rides and more dynamic rides (full of climbs and descents) equally.
Cross Country Bikes–These bikes are built for speed and they’re designed to handle climbs more efficiently than a trail bike. They’re usually lighter than other bikes and if you’re considering getting into competitive mountain biking, this is likely a category you’ll want to focus on.
Fat Bikes–These bikes have oversized tires and they’re a great choice for beginners. They provide excellent traction and they’re more forgiving in rough terrain like snow and sand.
All-Mountain Bikes–This bike-type is for those serious about tackling some nasty terrain. They’re most at home on scary descents and technical obstacles. They’ll also tackle some big uphill pushes thanks to the nimble design.
Downhill/Park Bikes–These specialty bikes are primarily found at big bike parks. Riders will likely wear full-face helmets and additional padding as they take these bikes over jumps, rocks, berms and wooden, man-made obstacles.
When it comes to features, the type of suspension and wheel diameter are the two big areas you should focus on when choosing a bike.
Suspension–When it comes to suspension, there are three types: rigid, hardtail, and full suspension. Rigid suspension bikes have no suspension at all. Hardtail bikes have suspension on the front fork only. Full-suspension bikes have both front and rear suspension and they’re definitely the most comfortable option. They also tend to be the most expensive.
Wheel Size–Mountain bike wheel diameter usually ranges from 24 inches to 29 inches. The 24s are usually found on kids’ bikes. As you go up in diameter you can more easily tackle obstacles and rough terrain, but they’re also tougher to handle. When picking a wheel size, experiment and research which size will work best for your riding.
Mountain bike sizing is pretty simple–you’ll pick a small, medium or large bike. The actual sizes correspond to your height, so it’s not all that complicated, but you should still consider going to a professional bike shop to make sure you get the best bike for you.