Mountain bike suspension technology has come a long way since it first became popular on mountain bikes. Today it is possible to buy high quality bicycles that sport full suspension on both wheels for a fraction of what it would have cost only a few years ago. However, the majority of people who are unfamiliar with mountain biking or biking in general will probably have limited to no experience with suspension on mountain bikes, and it is worth learning more about the different types of full suspension that can come with a mountain bike before spending your money if you are interested in buying a fully suspended mountain bike. This article will provide you with information on the different uses mountain bikers find for bikes with different levels of suspension to help you determine which amount of suspension might be right for you. Essentially, once you have decided that you are in the market for a full suspension mountain bike, your next task will be to determine just how much suspension you need on your rides; the amount of suspension travel that will suit you best will depend on the kind of riding you are interested in pursuing when you take your bike out for fun as well as the kind of terrain you plan to take your bike through.
There are essentially four different types of mountain bikes that come with full suspension. Each comes with slightly different amounts of suspension travel, and there are many bicycles that can blend the borders between the different types of bicycles. However, the majority of mountain bikes out there will find a home in one of the categories to be described.
The first category of full suspension mountain bikes you should consider are cross country mountain bikes. These bikes typically have around 4.5 inches or less of suspension travel. A cross country mountain bike will be designed to let you travel efficiently, and as such it will be tuned for speed and built with low weight in mind. While you will be able to use a cross country mountain bike to handle the majority of trails you come across, it will not offer as much protection from the bumps and jarring effects of the trail as will bikes that have longer amounts of suspension travel. However, if you are primarily interested in racing and winning cross country challenges, in reaching the tops of hills before your competitors have a chance to, or have the opportunity to do most of your riding on trails that are relatively smooth and fast, this may be the best fully suspended mountain bike option for you.
The second category of full suspension mountain bikes you should consider are trail or all mountain bikes. These typically offer between 4 and 6 inches of suspension travel. They are slightly heavier than cross country bikes but will allow you to tackle more aggressive terrain. They are good all around mountain bikes due to their balance between durability and weight.
The third category of full suspension mountain bikes you should consider are freeride bikes. These typically offer between 6 and 8 inches of suspension travel, and they are built to be used in difficult conditions. They can still take you up hills, but will do so with difficulty. They will allow you to tackle much rougher terrain however, as well as drops and jumps.
The fourth category of full suspension mountain bikes you should consider are downhill bikes. These mountain bikes come with the most suspension you can find in typical stock bicycles, which will usually be between 7 and 10 inches of suspension. You can use a downhill bike to tackle nearly any kind of terrain you could possibly come across during the downhill portion of the trail, but they can make it extremely difficult to pedal uphill, as they are designed to help you achieve high speeds on downhill trails and help you maintain stability and maneuverability on highly technical downhill courses. If you are potentially interested in downhill racing, you can try a freeride bike. However, if you are convinced that downhill racing is the path for you, then you should look into a dedicated downhill mountain bike.