On this page, we will introduce the different mountain bike types.
Mountain bikes have developed a lot since we first started seeing them. From fat tire cruiser type bikes made by Schwinn, to the capable modern machines we have today, a lot has changed!
In the 70s, Gary Fisher, who was the godfather of mountain bikes, introduced the first proper mountain bike. He is in part to thank for the awesome bikes that are now available.
There are basically three different mountain bike frame types on the market – Rigid, Hardtail, and Full Suspension. We will cover these below:
Hardtails are bikes that have only front suspension. Almost all hardtails are mountain bikes, with the exception of some rare cruisers and hybrids. Hardtails are great to riders who like to ride in cities as well as on trails. The lack of rear suspension makes them pedal very efficiently.
The purpose of the front suspension is to help absorb the initial impact of bumps, rocks, roots and whatever else you come across on the trails. Having front suspension also helps to keep your hands from getting too sore on a long ride (takes away a lot of vibration).
There are two main types of front suspension forks available. They are air, and coil. Air suspension tends to be lighter and is easier to adjust. There are both high and low end air, and coil sprung forks. The suspension travel is typically 80 –140mm on a hardtail but it can go up to 200mm. We wouldn’t recommend buying one with more than 140mm. If you need that much suspension, you should probably get a full suspension bike.
Depending on the fork, there can be different ways to adjust it. Here are two basic adjustments:
Rebound – This is how fast the fork returns to its extended state. This should usually be set as fast as it can go without making a “clunking” noise on extension.
Lockout – Lockout can either be gradual, or on/off. This affects the damping of the fork. The more locked out it is, the harder the fork will feel. A fully locked out for will not compress at all.
The good and the bad:
Advantages of hardtail: Lighter and more efficient than a full suspension, and much more comfortable than a rigid
Disadvantages on hardtail: Cheap ones have very poor performance. On rough terrain, a full suspension is more comfortable.
Who should get one: Hardtail mountain bikes are basically meant for everyone. If you aren’t often riding rough terrain, get a hardtail. They still ride great on most mountain bike trails, even if there are a few roots and rocks!
Full Suspension (FS)
A Full suspension bike is a bike that has both front and rear suspension. Sometimes they are also called the dual suspension bikes. Any full suspension bike you come across will be a mountain bike.
These are meant for riders who regularly find themselves on rough off-road trails. Full suspension bikes are ridden for leisure and racing more than they are for transportation.
Travel length on front and rear can range from 80 – 200mm, depending on the riding preferences and mountain bike type.
Depending on the model, there are different ways to adjust the rear shock just like the front fork:
A rear shock can have rebound and lockout, as well as many other features such as high speed and low speed compression.
Advantages of a full suspension: Makes uneven terrain feel smoother, and works great for riders with a sore or damaged body (back pains etc.) because it lessons impacts
Disadvantages: FS bikes are heavier than HT, and Rigid bikes. Full suspension bikes also cost more
Who should get one: Full suspension mountain bikes are great for those who want to take their mountain biking to another level. Full suspension bikes will help you ride terrain that you never thought was possible on a rigid or hardtail bike! These bikes are also great for riders who have sore or damaged body parts as the suspension helps to absorb a lot of the rough aspects of a ride.
A rigid bike is a bike with no suspension at all. This is why the ride is often more uncomfortable when compared to the other types. Mountain bikes are not very often rigid anymore (they used to all be). However, BMX, cruisers, and road bikes are all rigid.
There are several reasons why having a rigid bike could be beneficial. First off is the fact that they are usually lighter in weight because they do not have the weight that suspension adds. Secondly, they are more efficient because there is nothing to take away from your pedal power (suspension sometimes has pedal bob). This is why some companies still offer ridged options.
The main reason people buy rigid bikes today is for the fun factor. Rigid bikes require more attention to line choice than the other types of biking, making a usually easy trail, more challenging.
Advantages: Efficient to pedal, and weighs less than the other two types
Disadvantages: It is much more difficult and less comfortable to ride off-road
Who should get one: Rigid bikes are suggested for someone who wants to stick to the roots of mountain biking, or for someone who just have some fun being extra picky choosing with line choice.
Well, that is it for frame types when it comes to suspension, now let’s talk about disciplines of mountain biking!
MOUNTAIN BIKE TYPES
Mountain biking has divide into several disciplines that we want to introduce to you. Personal riding preference will decide what category you fit into and what bike to choose.
Let’s check out the different discipline types of mountain bikes.
Cross Country (XC)
The vast majority of bike are called cross country bikes. These are designed to be ridden on anything from city streets, to intermediate mountain bike trails. They pedal well and usually absorb small bumps with ease (unless you choose a rigid).
These bikes are meant for trails, but not harsh jumps or technical downhill trails. This is because they are designed to go fast on relatively neutral terrain. However, this doesn’t mean that Cross Country bikes are only meant for cruising around the city.
Usually cross country mountain bikes have these features:
- Can be a hardtail, full suspension or rigid bike
- Feature either 27.5” or 29” wheels
- Have 80 – 120mm of suspension travel
- Have relatively steep head angles (69 degrees or steeper)
- The prices range from $500 to $6000+
Trail bikes are basically more aggressive cross country bikes. They are slightly heavier than XC bikes, but have more suspension which lends well to riding rougher trails.
Trail bikes will handle jumps and descents quite well. What plays a big role here is geometry. Trail bikes are kind of between XC bikes and the more aggressive bikes for head angle. This makes them work great on all types of rides.
- Can be a full suspension or sometimes a hardtail (less often)
- Feature either 27.5” or 29” wheels
- Have 120 – 160mm of suspension travel (front and rear)
- Have Neutral head angles (67 degrees)
- Prices start at $800 for a decent one
Enduro / All Mountain
If you want to open yourself up to even more trails, you might want to look at enduro or all mountain bikes. They are designed to be a step more aggressive than trail bikes. No to flat roads, yes to steep mountains. Enduro bikes thrive in areas that require great traction and have steep downhill sections. However, unlike a downhill bike, an enduro bike can still be efficiently pedaled up hills (usually to get to a descent). Only experienced riders will make the most of an Enduro bike.
- Always a full suspension bike
- Typically 27.5” wheels but sometimes 29”
- Head angles is about 67 degrees or less
- Have 150 – 180mm of suspension travel
- Prices start at $1,200 (a cheaper one probably isn’t worth buying)
Downhill / Freeride
Downhill and freeride bikes are designed to take steep drops, huge jumps, gnarly terrain, and high speed. Downhill bikes are engineered to handle a mass amount of stress without failure. Even downhill tires are made extra resilient.
The geometry and parts on downhill bikes have been designed so that riders can go over obstacles with maximum traction.
To summarize, downhill bikes are only meant to go downhill, and on specific trails. They are not comfortably ridden as an everyday all around bike.
- Always a full suspension bike
- Usually 27.5” wheels (rarely 26” or even 29”)
- Long travel suspension (180-200mm on front) and 170 – 250mm on rear
- Slack head angle of less than 65 degrees)
- Prices start at $2,000
Read further: Types of bikes
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