With a seemingly overwhelming number of options on offer, buying a mountain bike can seem like a complicated process. Dually, hardtails, fatties, some with suspension, some without, different wheel sizes and frame materials, and then add in all of those different disciplines. Yet, the options seem to know no bounds.
Never fear, we’ve put together this guide to help cut through all the terminology and explain the different types of mountain bikes and how to choose the right one for you. This post will hopefully give you the information you need to decide what to buy and where to get it. It covers the basics of picking out the right mountain bike size for you, learning about some of the different types of mountain biking, and even going into some detail on some popular models.
Table of Contents
- 15 Tips for Buying a Mountain Bike
- Tip 1: Get the Right Size
- Tip 2: Choose a Wheel Size
- Tip 3: Choose Hardtail or Full-suss
- Tip 4: Don’t Obsess about Weight
- Tip 5: Beware the Flashy Trinkets
- Tip 6: Choose Suspension Quality, not Quantity
- Tip 7: Choose a Quality Frame
- Tip 8: Consider Drivetrain
- Tip 9: Choose Tires
- Tip 10: Consider the Material
- Tip 11: Get a Suitable Dropper Post
- Tip 12: Look for a Futureproof Design
- Tip 13: Keep some Budget Back
- Tip 14: Check the Warranty
- Tip 15: Know Your Derailleur and Flex Points
- Types of Mountain Bikes
- Price of types of Mountain Bike
15 Tips for Buying a Mountain Bike
Tip 1: Get the Right Size
With mountain biking, you must have a bike that fits perfectly. An ill-fitting bike can lead to discomfort, which leads to avoiding riding your bike.
Tip 2: Choose a Wheel Size
Wheels will play a big part in your speed as well as the overall look of your bike. There are five primary wheel sizes to choose from for your mountain bike: 26’er, 650b, 29er, 700c, 27.5. Here’s the breakdown:
- 26’ers (or 26-inch wheels) are the original wheel size designed for mountain bikes. It has a larger diameter than others and is suitable for downhill riding because it rolls over obstacles well and absorbs bumps. In addition, 26″ wheels can be used on the particular cross country/all-mountain bikes, and they are ideal for riders with shorter rides in mind.
- 700c (or 29-inch wheels) are the most common sizes found on mountain bikes and allow the rider to switch between different terrain types without adjusting the frame. 29ers are for experienced riders with longer endurance rides in mind. 700c wheels can be used with 27.5, 3″ or even 4″ hardtails.
- 650b (or 27.5-inch wheels) are not standard on mountain bikes; they are mainly used for racing BMX bikes, but there are a few 26-inch bikes with small-ring gearing or 454c cranks.
- Do not put a giant tire on a more petite frame; it will be uncomfortable and inefficient to ride.
- Wheels will play a big part in your speed as well as the overall look of your bike. The bigger the wheel, the faster you’ll ride, but they will also be significantly heavier.
- If you have a budget, choose a smaller wheel size to save money and weight.
- A good compromise between weight and performance is to go with 24/28″. These are a good all-rounder and will allow you to keep a low weight while still having an excellent technical capability.
Tip 3: Choose Hardtail or Full-suss
You should know exactly more information about the two that help you choose a suitable mountain bike for yourself and should know the pros and cons of the two and what is involved in getting them.
- A hardtail will have no suspension, while a full-suss has some suspension.
- Hardtails are excellent for all-terrain riding, while full-suss bikes are better for off-road riding with steeper hills and more technical terrains.
- Hardtails have greater use of the abrasion-resistant high tensile steel. Many frames are also pinned to the fork to prevent flexing, which makes it more stable for use in rough conditions.
- Hardtails are lighter and cheaper than full-suspension bikes. They also have better climbing abilities, as they use less travel to achieve the same effect as a full-suspension bike.
- At the same price, a hardtail has better parts spec as the rear shock, bearings, linkage, and extra manufacturing complication of full suspension. So you’ll have less maintenance and fewer things to go wrong, too.
- A hardtail uses your body’s natural movement with the shock-absorbing over small bumps; with a full-suspension bike, the frame absorbs most of it and keeps you still and aligned.
- Fullsusses are more durable than hardtails; you’ll probably be riding them for longer than hardtails, which means you’ll need to replace parts more often, but they are also heavier and cost more money in the long run.
- A full-suspension bike will give you more comfort and control when you hit technical terrain.
- Fill your budget with a hardtail and then save money for upgrades later. You may not need the cushiness of a full-suspension bike for now.
Tip 4: Don’t Obsess about Weight
A bike is not measured by its weight. It is measured by its ability to withstand any riding, terrain, and conditions. Weight, however, does play a role in your ride comfort level. Understanding the weight range of your bike will help you choose the right bike for your fitness level.
- Mountain bike weights can vary depending on frame materials, shock lengths and travel numbers, shock hardware, tires and rims, brakes, pedals, and seat post.
- Weight is essential, but off-road, strength is marginally more substantial.
- Lightweight bikes may be made of aluminum or carbon fiber. They are stiffer than steel bikes and suitable for pedaling efficiency, but they are more expensive than steel frames.
- Lighter bikes usually have lower operating weights, so you require less effort to get it moving, but the tradeoff is that they are compared to heavier bikes with poorer durability.
- If you’re a lightweight rider, you should have a lighter (12kg or less) and a quicker handling bike, and if you’re a heavier /stronger rider, you’ll probably be more comfortable on a heavier (15kg+) and cruising through the trails kind of bike.
Tip 5: Beware the Flashy Trinkets
- If you’re unsure about sizing, the best thing to do is go to a bike shop and have them measure you or get help from a professional. Family or friends are not reliable sources for sizing
- You can also check out the sizing chart.
- Should consider getting the correct frame size. A common mistake is to get the right size for your friend, but finding out it doesn’t fit you properly can lead to buying the wrong size.
- Make sure the bike fits your riding style. For example, if you’re only going to use your bike for city riding, then a more petite frame will be more suitable than if you’re planning on heading far off into the mountains.
- Look for (and contrast) the reach (distance from the saddle to the bars) and stack (distance from the center of the crank to mid-head tube) measurements, and don’t be afraid to go longer than with a road bike.
- Check the reach (distance from the saddle to the bars) and stack (distance from the center of the crank to the mid-head tube) dimensions, and don’t be afraid to go longer than a road bike.
- While the reach may not make a vast difference between small sizes, those with long legs may find a large frame with an equivalent reach measurement is more comfortable than a small frame.
- Don’t assume that the size of the bike is always right for you. It’s not uncommon to find that an XL bike is more comfortable than a medium.
- Don’t go so long there’s no standover clearance. If a bike doesn’t have the proper standover clearance, it may lead to a fall or injury.
- Don’t drive so far that you don’t have enough room to stop. A fall or injury might occur if a bike lacks the required standover clearance.
- If you are going to be doing a lot of technical riding, consider going a smaller size. This will allow for more agile handling and greater clearance between your body and the handlebars.
When you start spending money on a new mountain bike, it’s easy to get carried away and buy all the bells and whistles we think we need or want. But in reality, it’s not necessary and will only add to the cost of your bike. Beware the flashy trinkets that come with the bike; some are just ‘fashion accessories.’
- The trick is to focus on the basic specs: frame, wheels, suspension travel, and quality parts that will keep your mountain bike reliable for years to come.
- Don’t get too carried away with fashion accessories; they may look good, but they aren’t the most important thing.
- Decide what you need and cut out the fluff.
- Avoid fashion accessories like big air canisters and giant stickers that will only increase your bike’s cost and weight.
Tip 6: Choose Suspension Quality, not Quantity
You will need to learn about the different types of suspension systems to understand their function better. There are many options with unique functions, but mountain bikes come with only three basic suspension systems; hardtail frames, full-suspension frames, or fat bike frames.
- Suspension is designed to smooth out the trail ahead of you through small bumps and obstructions that usually snap your wheel off its path. The suspension absorbs most impact energy and takes the brunt of it for you.
- Suspension quality is defined by the shock absorber hardware and movement capability. A bike with a cheap suspension system will most likely have problems down the road, either with hardware or moving parts.
- The more travel a bike has, the more it can move up and down to absorb impact on the trail. So a bike with 100mm of travel can absorb more bumps than a bike with 60mm of travel.
- Check the reviews of the forks and shocks (on full suss) on the bike you’re looking at, and use the manufacturer’s site to get the exact models. Note that OE (original equipment) units can be a different (often lower) spec than similar-looking aftermarket ones. Quality damping and a decent air spring will do far more for you than any amount of extra travel.
- Read reviews of the forks and shocks (on full suspension) on the bike you’re considering, and go to the manufacturer’s website to find the precise models. Note that OE (original equipment) units may have a different (typically lower) standard than aftermarket units that appear to be equivalent. Quality damping and a good air spring will benefit you far more than any more trip.
Tip 7: Choose a Quality Frame
The frame is the heart of a bike, and it’s what you can see from the ground. Don’t settle for anything less than the very best quality because cheaper frames might not be strong enough to support your weight. Unless you’re confident in your skills, don’t buy a bike without checking it out in person, mainly if you can borrow someone else’s bike for a test ride.
- Check that the frame is structurally sound.
- If the frame is gold, make sure it has not been painted.
- Turn the bike upside down and see if the bottom bracket is entirely straight.
- Look at the head tube and rear dropouts and check that they’re in good condition.
- Check that all bolts for your parts are tight and secure, and don’t forget to check that your drivetrain has been fitted correctly.
- The most important determinant of pricing is the material used to make the frame. Carbon fiber is often lighter and allows producers to endlessly fine-tune the form and riding quality. However, it is also the most expensive. Metal frames are less costly than titanium, which is equally as vibration dampening and almost as light as carbon. Steel is well-known for its riding qualities, although it is hefty. Aluminum is heavier than carbon, although it is often the least priced alternative. Despite its reputation for a hard ride, manufacturers have made significant progress in terms of compliance and weight in recent years.
- The most important factor in determining pricing is the frame’s material. Carbon fiber is generally lighter, and it allows producers to fine-tune the design and riding quality to their hearts’ content. However, it is also the most expensive. Metal frames are less expensive than carbon frames, with the exception of titanium, which is just as vibration dampening and almost as light as carbon. Steel is known for its smooth ride, but it is also heavy. Aluminum is likewise heavier than carbon, although it is typically the cheapest alternative. Despite its reputation for being a rough ride, manufacturers have made significant progress in recent years in terms of compliance and weight.
- Choose carbon or titanium for the highest-performance bikes; aluminum and steel are fantastic for durability and economy.
Tip 8: Consider Drivetrain
A drivetrain is a mechanical system that transfers power from the pedals to the wheel. It consists of a chain and drive sprocket and may include a derailleur, shifter, and kickstand. All-mountain and downhill bikes usually have 1x systems that provide just one speed, but this is changing due to the increasing popularity of 2x systems. Quality drivetrain reduces the amount of maintenance needed and increases the lifetime of the bike components.
- Get a bike that allows you to match the gearing for your skill level and usage. For example, if you are riding a lot on a fat bike, a 2x drivetrain might be better for this type of terrain.
- Good quality gears make shifting much smoother and more manageable. Avoid cranks with plastic or coated metal teeth, as they wear quicker and damage the gear teeth.
- Get bearings that are sized for your frame, so your wheels stay true no matter what.
- Most high-end mountain bikes now have a single chainring up front and a large cassette in the back, which may give a wide gear range without the added weight and maintenance of a front derailleur. So, of course, you’ll want the largest cassette feasible (10-50 for SRAM; 10-51 for Shimano).
- These days, most high-end mountain bikes have a single chainring up front and a large cassette in the back, which can provide a wide gear range without the added weight and maintenance of a front derailleur. So, of course, you’ll want the largest cassette feasible (10-50 for SRAM; 10-51 for Shimano).
Tip 9: Choose Tires
Tires are an essential part of your bike because they allow you to ride over surfaces that would otherwise be too bumpy, slippery, or uneven. They also provide traction for your bike’s tires. The most important things to consider when choosing tires are what surfaces you will be riding on and the size of your rims. Proper tires for mountain bikes have a knob pattern that provides grip on rough terrain and a smooth rolling surface for smooth terrain.
- The size and width of the tires influence the feel of a bike.
- The size and width of a bike’s tires have an impact on how it feels.
- When buying tires, you’ll want to make sure that they will fit your rims. It is essential to know how wide your rims are before getting new tires, so you don’t waste money on ones that won’t fit.
- Always check tire pressure before each ride. This can be done by squeezing the tire with your fingers. If it feels soft, pump some more air into them until they feel firm again.
- For wider rims, you may want to consider the 29er model, which is also known as a plus-size tire. So-called plus tires are great for stability and help you ride confidently, but they fit only specific frames with enough clearance.
- If you prefer bigger rims, the 29er type, often known as a plus-size tire, is a good option. Plus tires are wonderful for stability and confidence on the bike, but they only fit certain frames with appropriate clearance.
- For smoother rides with less traction, select tires with knobs or tread patterns that are smooth and provide good grip.
- Fat bikes, which have tires that are 3.8 inches or larger, are specialized types suited for sand and snow. Fat bikes feature at least 3.8-inch-wide tires that are ideal for sand and snow.
- In the past couple of years, trail bikes have settled into a middle-ground size of 2.4-to-2.6-inch tires, which blend the supple, high-traction ride of bigger tires with more manageable weight.
- Trail bikes have settled on a middle-ground size of 2.4-to-2.6-inch tires in recent years, which combine the soft, high-traction riding of larger tires with more manageable weight.
Tip 10: Consider the Material
Mountain bikes are usually made from CrMo (carbon) steel (often called “Chromoly” steel), which is used for its strength, lightness, and high-end ride quality. However, Shimano has recently introduced an alloy called DURA-ACE. When the first mountain bikes were produced in the late 1800s, they were also made of wood, so it may seem counterintuitive to consider this material today.
- The best way to decide which bike material is best for you is to test them out in person.
- Some of the most famous mountain bikes now feature aluminum frames because they are lightweight and offer excellent ride quality, but they break easily.
- Steel is generally more complicated than aluminum, so it requires more maintenance. However, if you take good care of your bike, it will last much longer.
Tip 11: Get a Suitable Dropper Post
A dropper post is a bicycle suspension and steering component that allows the rider to raise and lower the post, which acts as a shock absorber, to change or relieve pressure on their backside. This lowers the saddle while climbing hills and steep terrain. In addition, they allow varying amounts of “dropped” height, commonly anywhere from 125 mm (5″) to 400 mm (16″). There are two kinds of dropper posts, mechanical and hydraulic. Mechanical posts are the older of the two, and they rely on cables to operate. Hydraulic posts are more complex, but they use fluid to operate. Dropper posts are an essential part of mountain bikes because they make it easy to tackle rough terrain.
- When buying a dropper post, choose one with a remote control lever that operates on the right side of the handlebar or with right-hand bar-end shifters.
- The adjustable drop is the most critical design aspect for ride quality. Of course, it will depend on your riding style and preference, but for most riders, dropper posts are great because they let you adjust the height without having to interrupt your pedaling stroke.
- Whether you buy a bike without one, at the very least, look to see if the frame has internal cable routing.
- If you buy a bike that doesn’t have one, at the very least look to see if the frame has internal cable routing.
Tip 12: Look for a Futureproof Design
Mountain bike frames and suspension designs come and go and come back again. Nearly every year, we see a new frame design or a new way of doing suspension. However, a reasonable mountain bike frame is designed to last you at least ten years, so it’s worth spending some time looking at the following things:
- Steer clear of suspension designs that look old and out of date. The bike doesn’t need to be the newest one on the market. Just make sure it’s not popular in 2005 or earlier.
- Make sure the frame’s geometry is configured for the riding you do. While this can be backward-looking, it can also point to a future trend you should watch.
- Check if the frame has been designed for the latest suspension system with the shortest travel or shock length possible.
- Check for current axle diameters and spacing, plus headset, bottom bracket, and even Seatpost diameters.
- Have a look at the frame geometry and suspension layout, as well as the intended use of the bike. For example, some designs were intended as all-rounders and had features that weren’t ideal for riding their bikes hard. Others emphasize pedaling efficiency and climbing ability – especially amongst ‘enduro’ race-focused bikes where you need to get further and faster than the competition.
Tip 13: Keep some Budget Back
When you’re ready to buy a new bike, there are some vital points that you should consider before parting with your cash. The most important of these is your budget. Mountain bike pricing can vary wildly depending on where you buy it from, the spec of the bike, and the components used on it.
- Don’t get carried away with what’s on offer or what’s there in the store. For example, mountain bike brands charge big money for their bikes and components, but you can pay less than half of that if you shop around.
- Mountain bike companies will often put cheap parts on their bikes to try and attract customers, so don’t be fooled by the cheap but flashy parts on display. If it’s cheap, it’s usually hit or miss.
- Take your time shopping around, especially for the latest models such as a dedicated trail helmet or a backpack, plus glasses for warding off flying crud. Or sticky shoes for flat pedals or mountain bike-specific shoes, cleats, and clipless pedals. You may also want new tires to suit your terrain, or simply because OE tires may use harder, cheaper compounds and heavier steel beads than their aftermarket namesakes, or you can tune your gearing and almost certainly customize the shape and size of your cockpit. Of course, this all still counts as upgrading your bike.
Tip 14: Check the Warranty
Carrying a bike is a risk for any company that makes it. So they have to cover their backs.
- Some bikes come with a 10-year warranty; some only have a one-year warranty.
- Ask if there are any manufacturer’s defects covered under warranty.
- Check if the bike has been repaired or not. If you hear “sold as is” or “to be checked,” ask why it hasn’t been checked.
- Check if there are any limitations on warranty claims.
Tip 15: Know Your Derailleur and Flex Points
Mountain bikes require suspension to absorb bumps in the road, but it is not as ideal for rough terrain because the suspended frame only moves back and forth rather than side to side.
- You can adjust this movement via a ‘flex point’ – the place where the suspension pivots to change its angle of movement.
- This can be done by loosening the key and moving the derailleur towards the seat post or towards the pivot of the headset.
- With modern suspension systems, and with most bikes, this is an area with little movement, so be sure to adjust your saddle height too.
Types of Mountain Bikes
There are many different mountain bike types, including hardtail mountain bikes, full-suspension mountain bikes, and drop-bar mountain bikes.
1. Hardtail Mountain Bike
A hardtail mountain bike has a rigid frame and is heavier than a full-suspension bike. The stiff frame allows the rider to maintain momentum over rugged terrain without losing control or balance. This type of bike is designed for technical, rocky trails.
2. Full Suspension Mountain Bike
A full-suspension mountain bike is a type of mountain bike that has a coil or I-beam shock absorbers in the rear suspension system. This allows the front suspension to be controlled by the rider. A full-suspension mountain bike is stiffer, lighter, and more agile than a hardtail mountain bike. Therefore, it is ideal for recreational riding in less technical terrain.
3. Drop Bar Mountain Bike
A drop bar mountain bike does not have a rear shock or suspension system in the rear, meaning that power must be transferred to the pedals through pedaling. The rider must be very skilled to ride a drop bar mountain bike without losing control.
Price of types of Mountain Bike
The price of mountain bike components can vary depending on the manufacturer, the material used, and it’s quality.
- Full Suspension Mountain Bike: Price range from $1200-$5000
- Drop Bar Mountain Bike: Price ranges from $1000-$5000
- Hybrid Drop Bar Mountain Bike: Price ranges from $700-$1500
- Hardtail Mountain Bike: Price ranges from $500-$1500
What size mountain bike should I buy?
It depends on your body height, style, and preferences. But basically, you should choose the one that best fits you. If it’s too small or too big, then you will not be able to ride it for a long time. But, on the other hand, if you force yourself to ride it, you will not be able to enjoy it.
What is the weight of a mountain bike?
Mountain bikes come with different types and sizes of material, and they all have varying weights. For example, a mountain bike with suspension in the front and back will weigh more. Also, some mountain bikes that look heavier in appearance can be lighter in weight than others. It all depends on the materials used in building your bike and how sturdy its frame is built.
What is the best material for a mountain bike?
Carbon fiber is often used to make high-end bikes lighter and more aerodynamic, but aluminum is still more common and cheaper. Carbon fiber can cost several times as much as aluminum and steel alloys used in lower-priced bikes.
What is essential when buying a mountain bike?
The brands and the price should be necessary, but you do not have to spend lots of money. It would help if you also looked for reviews from different people who have used other bikes from the same manufacturer. Then, compare those reviews with other customers who bought a similar bike from a different brand.
What age is a 26-inch mountain bike for?
A 26″ mountain bike is suitable for kids from the age of four. However, if they are very tall, a 24-inch bike might be a better option.