Before choosing your mountain bike, it’s a good idea to think about the kind of biking you’ll be doing and the kind of trails you’ll be traveling. When you go to a bike shop, you’ll need to know the features of the bike that’s best for you. If you don’t know ahead of time, you might be overwhelmed by the selection available. Also, the size of mountain bike will depend on your height. Know your height and your inseam before selecting a bike, as bikes come with different rim sizes based on the height of the rider.
Most mountain bikes fit into several categories: cross country, trail bikes, hybrids, and downhill bikes. Look at the terrain you’ll be riding on most of the time. Will you be riding on smooth trails, with some up-and-down variations but few obstacles? Will you be traveling on rugged courses, doing lots of downhill work? Or are you riding a combination of trails, hoping to ride more difficult terrain as your skills improve?
Cross country bikes are light and easy to pedal, and are built for even riding around town. They’re not the best for riding rough terrain or working on a downhill course, nor are they comfortable on these types of trails. Cross country mountain bikes usually have less than about 4.5 inches of suspension travel. These bikes are built for efficiency, low weight, and self propelled speed. They can handle most trails, but don’t cover rough trails like the heavier weight bikes. Good for uphill travel and smooth trails, for the novice bicyclist who isn’t concerned with conquering rough trails.
True mountain bikes, or trail bikes, are used for that rugged terrain, the hardcore rides that leave you breathless, your muscles burning. Their frames are stouter, more upright than traditional bikes, and riders are meant to sit upright or stand while pedalling. The tires are wider than on a cross country bike and have deeper treads to accept the rough terrain. The frame clearance is higher than a standard bike to help riders over obstacles such as rocks and logs, and through ruts. Trail bikes work well on simple, smooth paths as well, and are an excellent choice for most mountain bikers. Their steel frames withstand lots of use, and the suspension travel can range from 4 to 6 inches, farther than cross country bikes. The only negatives to a steel frame are its weight, and steel is prone to rust.
Hybrid bikes offer the best of both worlds with the features of a trail bike and the features of a road bike. They have the upright frame and stout frame of a trail bike, and lighter rims and taller gearing for speed of road bikes. The frames are usually aluminum or steel, and the gears offer anywhere from 16 to 27 gear combinations. If you do in-town riding as well as take a few mountain trails, or are just starting out in mountain biking, a hybrid bike is a good choice.
The last type of bike style is a downhill bike. Downhill bikes are built just for downhill racing, covering heavy terrain at high speeds. This bikes are builty for durability and suspension when going downhill. The suspension travels about 7 to 10 inches and absorbs heavy-duty trail shock. These bikes aren’t for uphill travel, and are built specifically for racing. If you’re not a downhill racer, this bike isn’t for you. If you’re a novice mountain biker, this wouldn’t be the best choice of a bike, either.
As you can see, there’s a wide variety of mountain bike styles available for every rider. Think about your skill level, the type of terrain you’ll be covering, and your future goals for mountain bike riding. Then go find your ideal mountain bike!