Mountain biking is one of the best ways to experience the great outdoors. Not only does it allow you to enjoy nature, but it also provides you will a full body workout that can regenerate you from your core. Choosing the right bike, however, is not a simple task since they have been getting more and more technologically advanced and come packed with features that can be hard to evaluate for a novice.
The best mountain bikes combine power, speed and maneuverability to get you through those rugged, rocky paths, and if you’re looking to get into competitions, you’ll need a top rated mtb bike by your side. The advances have been numerous in recent years, with bikes getting sleeker and suspensions becoming more widespread. A little clarity is needed to make sense of it all, and that’s why we have compiled mountain bike reviews for the best options available today on the market. Read on to find out more.
How To Choose A Mountain Bike – Buying Guide
Mountain bikes can be divided into more or less four major categories, cross-country, trail, enduro and downhill. Cross-country bikes, as the name implies, are made to challenge cross-country (or XC) trails, which feature a mix between rough forest paths and smoother roads. These bikes are designed to provide excellent handling and come with good suspensions, with usually larger wheels and steep head-tube angles. Trail bikes are the most widely used type of bike since they behave well on cross-country trails but are also good for simply strolling around a city. Head-tube angles will not be so pronounced and wheelbases will also be slightly longer than pure cross-country bikes. Enduro bikes are made for going fast on steep terrain and are ideal for fast descents. Head-tube angles are even less pronounced, and the bikes are designed to keep your weight a little to the back. Downhill bikes are made specifically to get you down a slope and fast. They have very long wheel travel and excellent suspensions to keep your weight as low as possible and feature dual-crown forks to help keep the wheels in a straight line.
The most common wheel sizes you will encounter on mountain bikes are 26, 27.5 or 29. These refer to the wheels’ diameter, measured in inches. If your goal is to cycle for long distances, you should narrow your choice down to the 27.5 or 29 inch options, as the 26 inch wheels are becoming increasingly reserved to those dedicated to tricks and jumps, or simply used on kids’ bikes. The main difference between 27.5 and 29 inch wheels is that the former will feel more precise and maneuverable, while the latter will make you go further for one turn of the cranks. Whichever one you choose will depend greatly from your riding style and where you are planning to use your bike. 27.5-inch wheels are easier to accelerate and fit smaller riders best. 29-inch wheels will be the favorites of those who prefer speed and stability, since they put more rubber on the ground and roll over obstacles more easily. Beginners might also prefer larger wheels for the added balance and comfort they provide.
The size of the tire you mount on your mountain bike will determine the grip they exert on the ground, and the overall maneuverability of the bike. The width can vary between 1.6 inches and 3 inches and can make a big difference to your riding. A thicker tire means more stability and comfort and is generally recommended for beginners. This comes with the downside that thicker tires will significantly reduce your speed and the precision with which you can turn. As your skills increase you can transition to thinner tires and get some of those features back. We recommend you experiment as much as you can with different tire sizes to find the one that best corresponds to your style. Each one of us rides slightly differently and has to find his or her sweet spot.
For wheel rim width, you can apply more or less the same considerations as with the tires. A wider rim, which can be 30 or 35 mm across, will generally give you better stability in your turns than a slower one. You also have to consider, however, the combination between the rim and the tire you are using. Given the same tire width, a tighter rim will make it bulge out more, whereas a wider one will keep it flatter. This contributes significantly to the added grip and stability that larger rims provide, by making it much easier to govern your bike through a turn.
The frame is one of the only parts of the bike that you cannot upgrade without buying a new bike. It is also where you will attach most of your bags if you decide to go bikepacking. The two main things to look out for in a bike frame are the material it is made of and its geometry. Aluminium frames are usually a good compromise between weight, durability and cost, but there are also other options available on the market. High-tensile steel is also inexpensive and strong, but too heavy for most professional riders, whereas chromoly steel is lighter and more rigid but comes at a higher price. On high-end bikes you will likely find titanium, which is extremely strong but pricy, while the most expensive material you can find is carbon fiber, an excellent choice if your pockets are deep enough. For shape, if you’re a beginner you’ll probably be just fine with the classic diamond one. Geometries tend to get quite varied if a rear suspension is fitted in and don’t always feel as comfortable as one would like. Finally, it is very useful to have a sloped top tube, between the seat and the handlebars, since that is the first thing one comes in touch with in case of a fall, and it is best to keep it further away from the more delicate parts of one’s body.
Fork and Rear Shock
The front forks you find on mountain bikes have the crucial job to reduce the impact you feel on your hands as you race through the trails. This improves your control over the bike and lessens the negative impact this might have on your body. Depending on the type of bike you choose, be it cross-country, enduro, trail or downhill, you will find bike forks of different sizes and travel that are specifically designed to meet the needs of one particular activity or the other. Downhill forks will be the thickest and the ones that travel the most since they will be subjected to the most impacts, being on bikes that are designed to go fast on a downward slope. The rear shock does the exact same thing for the rear wheel, but not all bikes come equipped with one since its implementation requires some significant changes to the shape of the bike frame.
Options for mountain bike saddles are numerous, but it’s hard to get a good idea of how they feel without actually sitting on one. Try to get hold of a friend’s bike or see if a local shop will let you try one to see how it adapts to the shape of your body. Take your time in making the right decision, since the seat is one of the only three contact points you have with your bike, and arguably the most personal and important. The two main categories in which saddles fall are flared or dropped wings, with the former providing more surface area and the latter being designed with speed in mind.
Suspensions are a key part of any mountain bike, since they allow you to better control its movements when you encounter tough obstacles on the road and absorb the shock that comes from the impacts with them. Aside from the very technical details, the most important feature you have to look out for is the travel, which means how much the lower section can rise in consequence of a hit. This will give you a good indication of just how much power the suspension is capable of absorbing. The thickness of the stanchions also follows a similar logic.
Q: What Is Mountain Bike?
A mountain bike is a bicycle that is designed to be ridden not only on nice, concrete, smooth roads. It features fatter, grippier wheels, wider handlebars and suspensions, all of which are absent on regular road or city bikes, so that is can overcome obstacles such as sharp rocks or uneven terrain.
Q: Do I Need A Special Mountain Bike?
There are several different mountain bike options available on the market today, and we have described in the "Type" section in the buying guide, a little above. This will allow you to understand which type is best for you depending on the type of riding you are interested in doing so that you can choose the option that best fits your needs.
Q: What is a mountain bike used for?
Mountain bikes are designed to be used on trails or other unpaved surfaces, in contrast to road bike that are made to be used on smooth concrete. This is why they have thicker tires and different handlebars. Some specific kinds of mountain bikes are made to enable the user to jump over high obstacles or even attempt some kind of acrobatics, and feature extra suspensions than regular bikes.
Q: How much does a mountain bike cost?
The price of a mountain bike can vary greatly, going from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Of course, the more you spend, the more features and advanced materials your bike will have, but you can already get a lot done with an entry level bike. Unless you need carbon fiber frames or electronic shifts, your budget will probably be enough to get you a good quality bike.
Q: Why are mountain bikes so heavy?
Mountain bikes are heavier than road bikes because they use heavier components, since they are designed for rougher riding. They need to sustain heavier impacts than the ones one can experience while cycling on smooth concrete. This is not necessarily a bad thing since more weight adds to the maneuverability of the bike, making it easier to steer.
Q: How dangerous is mountain biking?
There is an undeniable risk of injury associated with mountain biking, since it involves riding at high speeds through rocks and branches. This is part of the excitement of course, but we cannot stress enough how much it is important to have protective gear with you as well as avoiding any reckless maneuvers until you feel you have mastered the technique.
Globo Surf Overview
The world of mountain bikes is a complex and fascinating one, but it can quickly get overly technical and difficult to understand. Cheap mountain bikes and more expensive ones can even look alike buried under a list of specifications. We hope that our article has helped you cut through the mist and better understand what are the key features to look out for, so you can quickly make an informed decision and head to the trails.