Mountain Bike Buyers Guide

Not too long ago there were two types of bikes, road and mountain bikes, it was easy to decide which one was right based on how you planned to use it. 35 years later and the term mountain bike has been bifurcated 6 times and counting, making it harder to discern what is what. Trails systems have also flourished and there are now a multiple of ways to enjoy mountain biking from easy machine built green circle trails to gnarly technical terrain that is accessed by a ski lift at a dedicated mountain bike park. The purpose of this article is to explain each type of mountain bike, what terrain it is best suited for and to help you decide which is right for you.

1. Electric Mountain Bikes: 
Electric mountain bikes are bikes that are equipped with a motor to help assist you up the hills. There are a variety of different Electric Mountain bikes like there are different regular or acoustic mountain bikes. The simple explanation is that they give you pedal assist giving you the boost you need to tackle more challenging and the ability to go further. These bikes all have a battery and a controller giving you command of how much assist you need depending on the terrain. For more details on all things electric mountain bikes click here to learn more.

2. Trail Bikes:
Trail bikes are what most people think of when they are picturing a mountain bike. They typically will have front and rear suspension but more affordable versions will only have front shocks. These bikes are for the rider who is looking to tackle their local trail network with the idea of having fun with a balance of riding up as well as down. The bikes will have neutral riding characteristics that create a handling effect that both supports the rider up the hills as well as riding down the hill. These bikes will generally have suspension frames and forks with a travel range of 100mm or 4 inches up to 140mm or 5.5 inches.

3. Cross Country Bikes also known as XC
Cross country bikes also known as XC bikes are designed for the rider who is looking to get to the top as fast as possible and with the most efficient tool available. These bikes are engineered with more focus on going up the mountain and with the most efficient suspension platforms. If you have a competitive side and like the idea of taking your bike racing, this is the category for you. Like trail bikes these come in hardtail versions (only front suspension) and dual suspension, but with less wheel travel to optimize efficiency over comfort. These bikes will have suspension travel in the range of 80mm or 3 inches up to 120mm or 4.5 inches.

4. All Mountain/ Enduro bikes
The all mountain and enduro category is the big brother of the trail bike category and makes up the largest category of mountain bikes, with that being driven by the enthusiast crowd. With the rise of bike parks, which are purpose built places to ride, think ski area for bikes and enduro racing, riding to the top, untimed and racing down, with multiple tracks raced over a day or two, these bikes have become very popular. They are a great option for the rider that can only afford one bike and wants it to perform well in all areas. These bikes are designed to be ridden up and down but with the emphasis on the downs. They will have longer suspension travel, anywhere from 140mm 5.5 inches to 180mm or 7 inches of supple suspension, enabling these bikes to go super fast and yet stable when pushed to the limit. These bikes are so capable that they can be ridden on a long cross county ride as well as feeling right at home at the bike park where all the trails are down.

5. Fat bikes
Fat bikes are mountain bikes that have oversized tires. The tire widths range from 3.8 inches all the way to 5 inches wide. These monster trucks of the bike world were originally designed for riding in the snow and sand but work great in any terrain. These bikes look big and cumbersome but ride much better than they look. Tire pressure is really important with these bikes and varies up to 15lbs depending on the terrain you are riding. For example you may need as low as 3lbs for loose snow or 18lbs for hard packed dirt. These bikes are great for new riders as they take a large amount of the technicalities out of the trail, i.e. rocks and roots, that may push a normal mountain bike (tire 2.1 inch width) around and off line. A large 5 in tire with low tire pressure will conform to the rocks and roots making challenging terrain easier.

6. Downhill and Freeride bikes
These bikes are on the higher side of suspension travel. These are the bikes that the casual passer by says “where's the motor” as they look very similar to a dirt bike. They generally have triple clamp suspension forks which look just like a dirt bike fork. They have suspension anywhere from 180mm or 7 inches and up, with some having over 260mm or 10 inches. They are gravity specific bikes where the user is using a chairlift or a shuttle to get to the top. Their main purpose is to give the rider the best possible experience going down steep technical terrain with almost no emphasis on how the bike rides uphill.