Mountain Bikes (MTBs)
- Strong frame
- Powerful brakes
- Wide range gears
- Knobbly tyres
The riding position tends to be more upright than a road bike to give you good vision and to balance your weight evenly over both wheels.
With the development of different types of equipment for different types of terrain and styles of riding, modern mountain bikes have split into many different categories but they tend to fall into three main groups; Cross Country (XC), All Mountain/Trail and Freeride/Downhill (FR/DH).
Cross Country (XC)
This is the most common form of mountain bike. They are the ‘raciest’ and therefore lightest of the mountain bikes. Designed primarily for riding off-road trails, often competitively, their potential speed and light weight make them a very popular option and useful for a variety of riding.
XC bikes are often ‘hardtail’ (no rear suspension) but nearly always come with front suspension. This increases control and comfort when riding rough terrain. More expensive models may have rear suspension (typically 2.5-5 inches) to further increase control and comfort but weighs a little more; this aspect can put off seriously competitive (frequent racers!) riders who are prepared to sacrifice comfort and control for the lightest weight possible. They will also usually come with a full range of gears; triple chainring (3 sprockets) up front and between 7 and 10 gears at the rear giving from 21 to 30 gears.
Although designed for off-road use these bikes do have some limitations with more extreme conditions and riding; that and the starting price makes XC bikes the most practical for the new mountain biker.
Proper XC bikes start from around £250, and the sky is the limit at the top end.
Trail/all mountain riding has become very popular over the last few years with people wanting to explore places they couldn’t easily ride on XC bikes and to push themselves and their bikes harder and over rougher terrain.
All mountain/trail bikes typically have medium to long travel suspension (4.5-6.5” travel), front and rear, to provide maximum control when tackling rougher and more extreme terrain. All mountain/trail bikes are ridden by people looking to ride further into more challenging terrain and to test themselves on downhill/technical and go on ‘epic’ all-day rides. Unfortunately manufacturing a bike with the suspension to cope, added frame strength and chunkier tyres but at a weight reasonable enough for long rides isn’t cheap.
The cost of a proper all mountain/trail bike can be high but you are buying a lot of technology on a bike like this. Prices start around £1,000.
These bikes are all about high speed over very extreme terrain. Downhill is specifically racing based featuring timed runs down very steep, fast, technical purpose built tracks. The bikes are full suspension with anywhere from 7 to 10” of travel, very large, powerful brakes and no more than 9 high range gears. These bikes are not ridden uphill!
Whilst DH is all about speed, Freeride is all about style. Style and HUGE jumps, drops and tricks. The bikes look similar to downhill bikes but are all about massive strength with no real consideration to racing weight. They often have a wider range of gears to make it possible to ride uphill, albeit slowly. Again DH/FR bikes do cost a lot of money but you do get a lot of bike.
Buying a mountain bike
What type of rider are you ?
XC/Race: Clad mostly in lycra, you will be seen monitoring your heart rate whilst trying to beat your best time around a local trail. Keen to race or already racing and of the opinion that jumping is a dangerous pastime for kids, you’ll probably have a road bike for getting in the miles to improve your hill climbing.
XC/Trail: Probably wearing baggier shorts over your lycra, you’ll be riding around your local trails with a few mates laughing about each others jumping abilities but still keen to beat them up the climbs.
Trail/All mountain: The clothing is probably getting a little baggier but still made of the latest technical fabrics because you don’t mind (even enjoy) getting caught in a wintery squall high up in the mountains and you’ll need its windproof attributes on those now competed descents.
Freeride: Possibly wearing jeans and body armour, you don’t mind pushing up some hills if it’s got a ‘sick’ line back down. You may be filming your mates no-handers on BIG natural jumps.
Downhill: Dressed in baggy race kit and always in a full face helmet and goggles you’ll be sessioning one set of corners to shave valuable seconds off your next run.
For an in-depth description about the ins and outs of the various mountain bike components read this TredzTalk guide to buying a mountain bike.
April 13, 2012 Bike Guides