When you’re new to the world of mountain bikes, there’s so much jargon and specialty vocabulary. We want to help. If you understand what types of mountain bikes riders choose, and why they choose them, you’ll be on your way to picking the perfect bike for your needs. Our guide is meant to exhibit the wide variety of riding styles that exist in the mountain biking community.
Cross Country Trail Bikes
This is your average, all-purpose mountain bike. It’s they type you’ll take on any trail and probably the type you’ll choose if you don’t want to do any racing. Trail bikes have a heavy frame to withstand up to the elements. They’re more relaxed in the seat placement and have a lot of suspension for going down steep hills or rocky terrain. This is a bike that you can strap to the roof of your car, take out to the trail, and be sure you’ll have a fun time riding. You could think of a Cross Country Trial bike as the entry-level mountain bike for riders who just want to hit the trail, go exploring and have some fun.
These bikes will have a thick suspension rig. Here’s a rundown of the types of suspension on mountain bikes. Hardtail means shocks at the front. Full Suspension means shocks at the front and back. Rigid describes a bike without shocks. Most Cross Country Trail Bikes will have Full Suspension.
Cross Country Racing Bikes
Racers are, of course, built for racing on well-maintained tracks. They have a shorter wheelbase, steep angles, a light weight frame, and are made to accelerate quickly and power through steep hills. These bikes are a little tougher to ride than your average Trail Bike. They’re less stable and can’t handle big obstacles or jumps. However, they don’t take too much getting used to, so if you’ve ridden a mountain bike before and want something faster a Cross Country Racing Bike provides that opportunity. They’re great at taking tight corners and turns though, since they’re made to win races. Usually, Cross Country Racing Bikes have Full Suspension. These bikes are perfect for moderately-experienced riders who want to go fast.
If you want to go straight downhill, feel the wind in your air, and maximize your speed potential,. you want a Downhill bike. They’re gears are large and allow for fast pedaling over rocky terrain. The tires of a downhill bike are wider, with extra-wide rims as well to allow for a bike that can stay stable even during high speeds. Downhill bikes also have a chain guard to protect your chain while you’re rapidly descending down the mountain. Downhill bikes usually have air shocks or coil shocks—which add weight to the bike, but absorb necessary shocks as you go down hill. Now, there’s a reason these aren’t called Uphill bikes, because they’re not fun to ride up the mountain. Usually, riders just walk their bike up the steep part and have fun riding it back down. These are some of the most expensive bikes on the list, but since Downhill riding is arguably the most dangerous, you don’t want to skimp out on the price with this one.
Freeriders are a twist on the Downhill bike formula. They’re less heavy than Downhill bikes, and they use this lighter frame to increase mobility and allow for better jumping and stunt potential. Like their Downhill brothers, they’re not fun to ride up the hill, only fun to ride down. They’re great for riders who want to do tricks while they’re rocketing downhill. They’re not so great on average trails though, as this is definitely a specialty bike. If you want a bike that allows for a lot of mobility once you’re riding down the hill—in sacrifice of speed, get a Freerider.
These bikes are like a tougher, Cross Country Trail Bike. They have a sturdier frame that weighs more and has full suspension. You can go through harder trails and more rugged obstacles with an Enduro bike. They’re great for steep hills and complex trails. Some riders think of Enduro bikes as the best ones to go up hills and then go down fast thanks to the added weight of the frame. Their tires are wide for extra grip so you can go down really rocky terrain with ease. These bikes can withstand the toughest trails, so the most hardcore of riders usually choose to ride an All Mountain/Enduro Bike.
Another combination-type bike, Dirt Jump bikes are like a Freerider meets a BMX bike. Sometimes riders call them Urban Mountain Bikes because they’re light and maneuverable enough to ride in a city commute. As the name implies, these bikes are the best for jumping big dirt tracks and doing tricks in the air. Often, these bikes are fixed gear, with only one break and oversized handlebars, smaller frames, and seats set best for trick riders. If you’re looking to do some shredding on the trails, this bike is for you. It’s not for beginners though, so if you’re thinking about starting out with a Dirt Jumper, you might be disappointed when you crash in the mud.
In conclusion, the mountain bike landscape is vast and varied. Beginners would do well to stick to a Cross Country Trail Bike. If you want more speed, a Cross Country Racing Bike is a good pick. Then, you get into the specialty categories of bike: Downhill bikes and Freeriders are great for people who want to go down steep hills and experience as much speed as possible. Enduro Bikes are great for people who are going to ride on rugged, unpolished terrain tracks. Finally, Dirt Jump bikes are perfect for people who want to do tricks on their dirt bike, and need less gears and features in order to do the tricks properly. Most serious riders own more than one bike. If you can afford more than one, you’ll be able to experience a few of the many styles of mountain biking.