Buying a mountain bike is not a walk in the park. From the different types available to the quality of the components, you will have a long checklist before deciding what to purchase. It can be tempting to choose one based on price, but the bike’s performance should reign supreme.
Need help choosing the best mountain bike? Keep on reading this short guide on how to choose a mountain bike and learn from the things we’ll share.
Types of Mountain Bikes
Like road bikes and touring bikes, mountain bikes are available in all shapes and sizes. Your riding style and the riding environment, among others, will have an impact on the types of mountain bikes that will work for your needs.
Trail Mountain Bikes
From all the mountain bike types, this is the most popular because you can use it in almost any environment. It is considered the Swiss army knife of mountain bikes since it has everything that you will need in general-purpose rides. It is the jack of all trades.
One of the most common features that you will find in this mountain bike is the dropper seat post. This will allow you to lower the seat even when you are on the move. This will make your pedaling more efficient regardless if you are going uphill or downhill.
Most of the trail bikes will have 27.5 or 29-inch wheels. The suspension, on the other hand, will have a travel of 120 to 150mm. It commonly has a neutral geometry, which may have a 66 or 68-degree angle.
Cross-Country Mountain Bikes
Also called XC mountain bikes, these are built for those who would like to emphasize pedaling performance. If you are often climbing, then this bike is built to perform. It has a geometry similar to road bikes, with a focus on being lightweight and efficient. However, the latter can also be a drawback since this bike does not do well when going downhill.
This category can be further divided into two – XC race and XC trail bikes. If you are looking for a fast and efficient bike, then you should choose the XC race over the XC trail.
Most of the cross-country mountain bikes today have 29-inch wheels. They are also often lightweight, with most weighing less than 24 pounds. It will be better if you choose one with a hardtail suspension. Longer chainstays and wheelbases are also common.
It is considered by many to be the cousin of the trail bike, which is also known for being an all-around option. If you cannot decide what to pick and you want a safe bet, then you can never go wrong with all-mountain or enduro bikes.
Compared to trail bikes, all-mountain bikes have more powerful features. Unsurprisingly, it is called a trail bike on steroids. If you will be riding on steep climbs, you can be confident that this mountain bike will not let you down.
Downhill Mountain Bikes
For the adrenaline junkies, this is one of the best types of mountain bikes. As its name implies, this is the best choice if you love flying down technical trails. This is for those who dare go fast going downhill. Make sure that you are wearing your mountain bike helmet to protect yourself!
If you are conquering steep and gnarly terrains, you will never be disappointed with a downhill bike. To handle the demands of the task, it often comes with burly frames with suspension travel of 170 to 250mm. Their tires have two-ply casings for durability and traction.
Fat Mountain Bikes
While fat bikes can be a category of their own, they can also fall under the most common types of mountain bikes. They are the biggest of all those listed in this guide. The most noticeable is that they have wide and heavy tires. This is a great choice for adventurous riders who dare conquer off-the-beaten tracks.
The oversized tires of fat bikes are running on low pressure. This will give traction that is necessary to perform well on sand or snow. Their tires can be as wide as five inches, which will be the ones responsible for providing excellent grip on several surfaces.
Electric Mountain Bikes
This is one of the newest categories of mountain bikes. As the name implies, it has electric components. It has a motor and battery, which will enhance the performance of the mountain bike while minimizing the effort required for pedaling.
Electric mountain bikes are often heavy because of the additional parts. The added weight should not matter because it is motorized, making it easy to bring with you even on technical trails.
Single Speed Mountain Bike
The main characteristic of this mountain bike, as the name implies, is that it comes with a single speed. If you are looking for the best beginner mountain bikes, a single-speed bike can be great because they are affordable. The simplicity of this bike is also one of its best assets as it comes with a pedal and ride mechanism.
With a single-speed mountain bike, there will be minimal moving parts. Aside from being easy to use, this also means that care and maintenance will be a breeze.
Dirt Jump Mountain Bikes
Wrapping up our list of the different mountain bikes is a dirt jump bike. If you are hitting jumps or pump tracks, this is what you should pick. This is a common choice for riders who would like to show off their moves on the trail.
It is common for dirt jump bikes to have tough frames that can withstand impact after completing a jump. Many of these bikes also have a single gear for simplicity.
What Type of Mountain Bike Should I Get?
The type of mountain bike that you should get will depend on your riding style, budget, and personal preferences. For a lightweight bike, choose cross-country bikes. If you will often climb, choose all-mountain bikes. On the other hand, for downhill riding, buy a downhill bike. If you are an adventure rider, pick a fat-tire mountain bike. For a general-purpose mountain bike, go for a trail bike.
Essential Considerations on How to Choose a Mountain Bike
To help you narrow down your choices, below are other important considerations.
One of the most important parts of the mountain bike is the frame, which will have a direct impact on its performance, price, and durability, among other things.
This is the most common material for mountain bikes, which is known for being lightweight. It has a great power transfer and also known for its durability.
If you are looking for cheap mountain bikes, it is hard to go wrong with steel. It is heavy but more forgiving than aluminum. However, it can be prone to rust.
This used to be a material exclusive in professional mountain bikes because it is expensive and hard to work with. It is now more affordable but still expensive for most riders.
It is rare to find one that is made of a titanium frame because it is the most expensive material. This material is lightweight and resilient against crashes.
As you try to narrow down your options for the best mountain bike, another important consideration is its suspension. The choice of suspension will depend on the type of terrain where you will be riding.
This bike has a front fork and rear shock that will absorb impact when you are on the trail, which will be crucial for promoting your highest level of comfort. Aside from dramatically minimizing the vibrations that you can feel, this suspension type also improves traction.
The best hardtail mountain bikes have only one suspension, which is in the front. It has fewer moving parts compared to a full-suspension mountain bike. As a result, it is also lighter and more affordable.
This is a type of mountain bike that does not come with any suspension. It is known for being affordable and easy to maintain. However, it is not as popular as a full-suspension and hardtail bike because it compromises comfort.
A properly-fitting bike is a secret to having a good time on the trail. This will make the bike more comfortable. You will also be more efficient. Among other things, your height is an important consideration.
The height of the rider should match the size of the frame. For instance, for those who are 4’10” to 5’2”, the frame size should be 13 to 14 inches. If you are 5’3” to 5’6”, 15 to 16-inch frames are the best. For those who are 5’7” to 5”10, you will be good with a frame that is 17 to 18 inches. From 5’11” to 6’1”, 19 to 20-inch frames are recommended.
Rather than relying on charts provided by manufacturers, it will be better if you will have the chance to physically try the mountain bike and see how it fits. This way, you can be more confident that the fit is right and comfortable.
The mountain bike tires are also important. From the inner to the other material, make sure that it has a durable construction. It should have good tread patterns, which will be indicative of its traction. Because you will always be tackling tough trails, make sure that the tires are up to the task.
Unsure about the right tires for your needs? Take the time to read this short article about how to choose bike tires guide and sizing. If you are looking for the best mountain bikes for kids and young riders, a 24-inch tire will be a good choice. For adults, most of the old bikes have 26-inch wheels, although, this is no longer the trend these days. 27.5 and 29-inch wheels are more popular today.
Most of the time, you will be sitting when you are on a mountain bike. So, pay attention to the quality of the MTB saddles. It will be directly related to your comfort. Consider the materials used, cushioning, shape, and size. It should be well-padded, which will help in impact absorption and keeping you comfortable. It will also be good if it comes with an adjustable height so that you can have it customized based on your inseam.
The component of the mountain bike is a collective term to the moving parts. It can include the crankset, cassette, chainring, levers, and MTB brakes. Individually, make sure that they have top-notch quality. This way, they will work together to deliver exceptional performance on rugged terrains. These components will often be exposed to mud, dirt, and rain, so they must be made of materials that can withstand harsh environmental elements.
One of the most important among the components is the braking system. This will affect the stopping power of the bike. Pick brakes that will be easy to engage and will put the bike in a complete stop instantly. Old and affordable mountain bikes often have rim brakes, which have pads that get in contact with the wheel rims to stop the bike. Mechanical, disc and hydraulic disc brakes are also common.
The Reputation of the Manufacturer
At the end of the day, if you are unsure, consider the reputation of the bike maker. Choose one from a reliable company. Read online reviews and learn from what other people have to say about their experiences with various brands
What are the Best Brands of Mountain Bikes?
Some of the best brands of mountain bikes are Yeti, Kona, GT Bicycles, Cannondale, Mongoose, Merax, Schwinn, and Tommaso. These companies are known for manufacturing exceptional bikes, although, some of them are also among the most expensive.
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Learning how to choose a mountain bike is crucial for the best bang for the buck. From the types of mountain bikes to their components, pay attention to the things discussed above to help you make the right choice. Do not pick a mountain bike only because it is cheap. Quality and performance are more important considerations.