Off Road Cycling: There’s No Such Thing as a Dead End!
The sport of mountain biking was made popular in the mountains of California in the 1980s, but off-road cycling in some form dates back to late 19th century England. Amos Sugden took his fifty pound bicycle frame over Sty Hyde Pass which runs through Wasdale Head to Seathwaite and cause such a stir that the CTC Gazette had to write about his adventure. The response to the article showed that Sugden was not the only biker to attempt such a daring off-road ride.
Mountain bikes also owe some of their frame design features to the early 20th century sport of Cyclo-cross which is still a form of bike racing in countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, France, and the Czech Republic. Cyclo-cross bikes resemble racing bikes. They have narrow tires, and drop handlebars as well as narrow knobby tires for traction, and cantilever brakes for muddy conditions.
The first mountain bike actually appeared in print in 1966 and by 1970 the sport had taken hold in Northern California so bike manufacturers started building bikes using lightweight high-tech materials like aluminum which opened the door for titanium use in recent years. The 1982 Specialized “Stumpjumper” was the first mass production mountain bike and it lead the way for four categories of mountain bike frames which are based on different degrees of suspension.
The first category is the fully Rigid Frame which has a rigid fork and a fixed rear with no suspension. The next group is called the Hardtail which has a front suspension fork, but no rear suspension. The third group is the Soft Tail with a little rear suspension which is activated by the flex of the frame not by pivots. The last group is the Dual which is also called Full Suspension. It has a front suspension fork and a rear shock that allows the wheel to move on pivots.
Mountain Bike Frame Designs Are Versatile, Functional, and Try to Be Somewhat Practical
Mountain bike frames are designed to be used for certain types of bike rides. These categories determine the design:
Cross Country bikes are designed for racing cross country which means climbing hills and maintaining speed over different surfaces. The early Cross country bikes were made of lightweight steel using a Hardtail frame with rigid forks. New models are made using carbon fiber composites with full suspension and they weigh around twenty pounds
Trail Bikes are used by recreational bikers who ride at trail centers or on natural of-road trails. Trail bikes usually weigh around twenty to thirty pounds and can have Hardtail as well as Soft Tail suspension. They are built to handle rough terrain, and have slacker head angles which provide greater stability on downhill slopes.
Freeride bikes are built for strength so heavier components are used as well as ample suspension. They are effective on uphill climbs, but can be hard to maneuver at low speeds. They usually weigh around thirty to forty pounds. Freeride bikes may be too heavy and have too much suspension to comfortably ride uphill.
Downhill bikes usually have strong, but lightweight frames and have seven more inches of suspension travel. These bikes are perfect downhill racers, and the new models weigh less than forty pounds. They only have one chain ring in the front with a large bash guard and chain guide. Some downhill models are made without bash guards to reduce weight. New design features include gearboxes that are built into the frame which eliminates the need for the rear derailleur mechanism.
Modern mountain bike frames are built to withstand impacts and jumps and use a geometry that allows more freedom when riding over rocks, ramps, logs, and other obstacles. That means there are certainly no dead ends on a mountain bike.