How To Choose Your Mountain Bike

Cycling is a hobby for many which improve heart health, breathing, immunization and much more. You may be overwhelmed with the choices and brands available in the market, but it’s an individual choice to select the right one that matches with his/her preferences.

While choosing the best brand for mountain bikes, you should look into few important factors like types of mountain bikes, frame and wheel size, gears and brakes, material quality, brand reputation, price and warranty details. Let’s discuss each parameter in detail!

1. Types of Mountain Bikes

There are 4 to 5 different types of mountain bikes.

  • Trail Bikes – This is by far the most common style of mountain bikes that do not fall in any specific racing category. It’s a perfect choice for those who ventures out regularly and considered as an all-rounder that can be used for local trailhead riding and low key climbing and descends. These are worth buying and can be a great gift for your little ones.

Trail Bikes

  • Cross-Country Bikes – Cross-country bikes are designed specifically for fast riding with an emphasis for uphill climbing. This style focuses on high efficiency and low weight and is ideal for competitive racing. It comes with a suspension of 80-120mm both front and rear side to overcome the obstacles – rocks, loose gravel etc while riding.

Cross-Country Bikes

  • All-Mountain Bikes – This style is specially suited for steep climbs and sharp descends and comes with more technical features so that they perform well on steep surfaces. Mountain-bikes are usually lightweight. The suspensions are around 140-170mm and frames are lowered to enhance the speed and stability.

All-Mountain Bikes

  • Fat Bikes – This style features wide and oversized tires which provide excellent traction on surfaces such as snow and sand. In this, the tire size may vary from 3.7-5 inches and choose the best one depending on the requirement. These fat bikes are perfect for beginners because of the wide tires and to move conveniently in a line.

Fat Bikes 

  • Down Hill Bikes – Of all the mountain bikes, downhill type bikes are the specialized ones. It features 65° steering head angle, long, and the sticky compound wires for comfortable usage. To add on, it has a suspension of 180-220 mm and a metal coil spring absorbs the shocks when you travel on hill areas at high-speeds.

Down Hill Bikes

Important Features of a Mountain Bike

1. Suspension Type

Suspension type of a mountain bike determines the type of surface the bike is suitable for riding. Suspension forks offer many advantages in trail riding, because the wheels can go up and down, they stay in contact with the ground even in most bumpy terrains.

They offer more speed with controlled and safer rides. Most bikers like bikes with good suspension. Suspension fork located at the front is relatively simple compared to the rear suspension that is bit heavier and complicated. If you buy rigid bikes, you get a certain level of suspension because of their fat tiers which can float on the bumps only if you don’t pump them way too hard.

Another amazing thing offered by a bike with good suspension is lowering the amount of beating picked up by your body.

mountain bike types

a) Rigid

This type of mountain bike does not come with any suspension. These bikes are less expensive compared to the other mountain bikes and are easier to maintain. But they do not provide the comfort like suspension bikes and have less moving body parts which limit their usage only on decent trails.

Fat bikes usually come under the rigid category because they already have wide tires that absorb the shocks efficiently.

b) Hardtail

Hardtail suspension bikes come with a suspension fork only in the front and having a hard tail. They are lighter, requires less maintenance and less expensive than the dual or full suspension bikes. Their front suspension mechanism can be locked to form a full-rigid bike to prevent from compressing.

The light body weight and less movable body parts make them ideal for cross-country riders who chase speed not deadly downhill trails. Their half rigid nature still offers plenty of comfort to go for biking on different off road trails.

c) Full-Suspension

Full suspension bikes feature a front fork and rear shock absorber to absorb the impact of the bumps which in turn lowers the impact on the rider. They are heavier and more expensive than their hardtail brothers. If you want a bike dedicated to ride on dirt trails which will be easy on your joints and muscles then you should not bother about spending some more on full-suspension bikes.

You will also see that your rear wheel is sticking better to rocks and stones compared to hardtail ones, and body feels more energetic on long rides as it takes less of a beating.

2. Wheel Size

The wheel size of the mountain bike determines the traction it provides and how easily the rider will be able to roll over rough surfaces.

  • 26 inches – Although, 26 inch wheels were the standard wheel size for adult mountain bikes in the past, it has been replaced by 27.5 inch wheels. 26 inch wheels are still available are they are quite nimble and efficient.
  • 27.5 inches – This has become the standard wheel size for mountain bikes because it provides a middle ground between 26 inches and 29 inches so the rider can enjoy the best of both worlds.
  • 29 inches – 29 inch wheels are more difficult to maneuver through twisting trails compared to the 27.5 inch wheels. They are a lot heavier and slower to accelerate, but they do cover the terrains easily.
  • 24 inches – Mountain bikes for kids and children usually have 24 inch wheels and are suitable for kids aged 10 to 13 years.

3. Frame Material

The frame material of the mountain bike determines the weight, strength and durability of the bike. Nowadays, bikes are made up of several materials and differ in price.

  • Aluminium- aluminium alloy is the most widely used frame material for mountain bikes. There are different grades of aluminum used in the framing. They make good looking; strong, affordable bike fames that wont rust. Some high end bikes also use full aluminium frames to make the bike more light weight.
  • Carbon fiber- carbon fiber frames are a new introduction in making mountain bikes. They are super light weight, best vibration dampers and fully resistant to corrosion. They are also strong and work as good as any other material until you crash it against rocks, because they tend to be more prone to impact compared to metal frames.
  • Titanium- a strong yet lightweight material that make comfortable frames which are impermeable to rust and corrosion. They are usually used in aircraft manufacturing and holds up to a lot of abuse and hardcore dirt riding quite well. Only disadvantage is that they make one of the costliest frames.
  • Steel- steel is known for their durability and strength, though it is used less commonly in making of bike frames. They are quite heavy and offer good riding qualities.

4. Gears

Mountain bikes are available in single speed as well as gears ranging from 22 to 30 to allow them to ride on varied terrain. The number of gears you choose should be determined by the type of surface you will be riding. With low gears, usually lower than that of the road bikes, riders can easily conquer some real rocky, steep mountain paths.

Being a mountain bike, it should have the capability to take on any terrain and that is why gears are important so that you don’t encounter any loss of power or grip or traction while riding.

5. Brakes

Mountain bikes feature either disk brakes or rim brakes.

  • Disk Brakes – Disk brakes are present in entry level mountain bikes. They come with brake pads that hold onto the brake rotor present on the wheel hub. Disk brakes are either hydraulic brakes or cable activated brakes.

Disk Brakes

  • Rim Brakes – Disk brakes are being replaced by rim brakes. Rim brakes come with pads that hold onto the wheel rims.

6. Pedals

Basic mountain bikes are equipped with flat, platform pedals that are useful if you put your feet down frequently. But advanced riders may prefer clipped or clipless pedals that secure their feet on them. These require cleated shoes that lock the pedals when you step on them to offer you optimum pedaling efficiency.

Getting your shoes locked may seem a bit dangerous but it is even easier to free them. Just a bit of practice at first and you are good to go. But people who are into stunts usually prefer larger, flatter pedals. It completely depends on the terrain you encounter.

7. Affordable Price Range

Apart from the features and functionality, you should also look after the mountain bike price. Mountain bikes are available from 6000-20000 range. So, choose the best one that is your budget range and matches with the current requirements.

If you can afford high-prices go with the high-end mountain bikes given in this article. They tend to be strong, enhance the riding performance and last-longer.

8. Brand Reputation and Warranty Details

Finally, it’s always good to purchase a mountain bike from well-known or reputed brands.  It is because they offer decent quality products and exceptional warranty services from the date of purchase. Whereas, a low-quality bike can wear down quickly and you may end up investing more on spare parts.

Mountain bikes Frequently Asked Questions?

1. How important is suspension on a mountain bike?

Suspension is only worth when you are using the bike for real time off-road ridings. Wait and ask yourself what is the purpose of your bike. If you are thinking to use your MTB on rough terrains then suspension is one of the greatest things to consider, keeping in mind it will add some extra weight which will somewhat affect the maneuverability of the bike, especially when you will be riding on a rocky path.

2. Should you get a dual suspension or a hard tail?

Most MTBs are equipped with certain amount of suspensions to keep you comfortable on rugged surfaces. But not all bikers and riding terrains demand a suspension. Full-suspension bike fans will agree that the rear suspension gives more comfort when you are tackling over tricky terrains while smooth off-road biking becomes more fun with lightweight and stiffer hardtail bikes. Better suspension with flatter tiers helps in better traction which makes it easier to glide through rocky, muddy and steep hills trails.

Rear suspension can absorb more shocks on the back making it more comfortable for long rides but the extra added tube and bigger tire makes it heavier at the same time it takes more energy to paddle.

In simple terms, a full suspension bike will give you more comfort but if you can handle a hardtail on any trail then you will be called superior in biking terms.

3. What would be the perfect tire size?

It will largely depend on what type of terrain you will be riding and on your body profile. The larger the wheel sizes the harder to maneuver the bike through rigid or twisted trails.

Though 26” is the most popular wheel size most MTB riders like it to be not less than 27.5”. Our personal suggestion would be 29” for the smaller riders, but if you are going to use it on muddy or rocky terrains then opting for 27.5” would be wiser. Wheels less than 27.5” provides better maneuvering on rigid and tricky terrains but the comfort is less.

4. What would be the best all-in-one purpose MTB?

Our answer is trail bikes! They are more reliable, can go up and down almost on any trail. They offer security and an amount of stiffness that is required to ride on trails. They also come with full suspension to absorb shocks and traction to lessen body beating.

5. What is the best type of bike for long distance travelling?

The answer would be all mountain bikes and endure bikes. They are crafted for terrains that come in long distance riding. They are perfect to climb on technical trails or descents. They endurance bikes have a 65-66 degree steering head angle which helps in better traction when climbing.

6. Are clipless pedals necessary?

No. they are not actually required unless you are a hardcore road-rider (for them it is a must have feature). Long distance endure and cross country riders may sometime prefer clipless pedals but for downhill riding, a practical rider would prefer fat tire with standard flat pedals and a pair of comfortable sneakers, because they often need to put their feet on ground. On unknown trails, a long distance rider will also prefer platform pedals due to their flexibility and versatility.

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