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How to Choose Mountain Bikes

    How to Choose Mountain Bikes

    Are you attempting to decide which mountain bike is best for you? How to approach the query is as follows:

    • The place and the way you plan to ride should be your first consideration when choosing a bike because different riding styles require different bikes.
    • The most important characteristics are brakes, gears, wheel size, suspension, and frame materials.
    • Last but not least, make sure your bicycle fits you comfortably. At a bike shop like REI, it is better to do this in person.

    Types of Mountain Bikes

    Trail Bikes

    Considering that the category doesn’t have a foundation in any one kind of racing, this is possibly the most popular mountain biking style. This is the riding style for you if you like to meet up with buddies at a nearby trailhead and ride a variety of peaks and descents. The emphasis on fun, efficiency, and reasonable overall weight is equal on bikes in this category.

    Standard specifications include 67-69° head-tube angle and suspension travel of 120-140mm.

    (Suspension travel is the range of motion that the front and rear suspensions of the bike provide. The angle that the head tube makes with the ground is known as the head-tube angle. A bike will often turn faster and climb better if the head-tube angle is higher. A slacker (lower) angle typically denotes a bike’s ability to climb effectively but providing superior stability at high speeds.)

    Cross-Country Bikes

    This kind of riding often involves moving quickly and placing a premium on climbing ability. Few miles to over 25 miles can be covered, and bikes are frequently made to be lightweight and efficient. If you’re interested in competing or want a faster ride for your local trails, these bikes can be ideal.

    Standard specifications include 80-100mm of suspension travel and a 70-71° head-tube angle.

    Fat-Tire Bikes

    These bikes have outstanding traction because to their broad tires, which range in size from 3.7 inches to 5 inches or more. Because of how comfortingly tolerant the broad tires are as a rider takes a course through challenging terrain, fat-tire bikes are excellent for beginners.

    All-Mountain Bikes

    Imagine all-mountain riding as trail riding on steroids, complete with more technical aspects that are both man-made and natural, longer, more nerve-wracking descents, and bigger, leg-burning climbs. All-mountain bikes are made to be fast and agile enough to pedal uphill as well as perform well on steep descents.

    Regular specifications include 140–170mm of suspension travel and a 65–68° head-tube angle.

    Downhill/Park Bikes

    These bikes aren’t sold by REI and are mostly used at lift-serviced bike parks. When riding downhill, motorcyclists experience jumps, berms, rock gardens, and wooden ladders while donning full-face helmets and body armor.

    Standard specifications include 170-200mm of suspension travel and a 63-65° head-tube angle.

    Mountain Bike Features

    The type of suspension and wheel diameter are two essential characteristics that define the kind of terrain a bike can handle. As you narrow down your bike options, keep factors like frame material, gear count, and brake type in mind.

    Mountain Bike Suspension Types

    Rigid: “Rigid” mountain bikes lack suspension, making them less popular types of mountain bikes. Although they are typically less expensive and easier to maintain, most riders prefer bikes with suspension because they are more comfortable. Since wide tires and low tire pressure offer all the squish required to absorb trail bumps, most fat-tire bikes are inflexible.

    Hardtail: The term “hardtail” refers to bicycles that have no suspension in the back and a front suspension fork to help with front wheel impact absorption. In general, hardtails are less expensive and have fewer moving parts than full-suspension bikes (which often translates into less maintenance). The front fork of the majority of hardtails can be locked out for situations where a fully rigid bike is desired.

    Hardtail bikes are more popular among cross-country riders because they provide a more direct transmission of power from the pedal stroke to the rear tire. Hardtails can also be used on all-mountain trails, and they are a good alternative to major lift-serviced downhill routes anywhere else due to their reduced cost and simpler maintenance requirements.

    Full suspension: Full suspension bikes come in a variety of configurations, but the front fork and rear shock serve as the primary shock absorbers for trail impacts. As a result, the rider is significantly less likely to be injured, traction is improved, and the ride is more pleasant and forgiving.

    Full-suspension bikes can absorb a lot of trail chatter and bumps, but they can also “bob” a little bit and reduce your ability to transmit energy when ascending. Because of this, the majority of full-suspension rigs can lock out the rear suspension to provide greater power transmission and more effective climbing.

    Mountain Bike Wheel Size

    • 26 in.: In not too distant memory, adult mountain bikes had wheels measuring 26 in. Although it is still a wheel size that is available, when asking about mountain bikes in a bike store, you are now more likely to be asked, “26 in., 27.5 in., or 29 in.”
    • 27.5 in. (650b): These wheels provide a compromise between regular 26 in. wheels and 29ers, giving riders the “best of both worlds” experience. They are more agile than 26s but more easily roll over terrain. Both hardtail and full-suspension rigs use 27.5-inch wheels.
    • 29ers: These bikes have 29-inch wheels, which are slightly slower to accelerate but allow you to cover far more ground than a bike with 26-inch wheels once you get moving. They are more effective for longer rides because they maintain momentum and have a greater “attack angle,” which makes it simpler for the wheel to roll over trail hazards. The cross-country community has grown to love these bikes in droves. There are rigid, hardtail, and full-suspension rigs for 29ers.
    • The plus sign merely denotes extra-wide wheels and tires, which are typically 2.8 inches wide or wider. 27.5+ in. Wider tires provide a smoother, more forgiving ride. Bikes are increasingly being made with bigger wheels and tires because they experience less rolling resistance.
    • To suit kids’ shorter legs, kids’ mountain bikes often use 24 in. wheels. The majority are more affordable, simpler versions of adult bikes. These are suitable for children between the ages of 10 and 13, however size is more important than age in this case. Mountain bikes with 20-inch wheels are suitable for younger or smaller youngsters to learn on.

    Mountain Bike Frame Materials

    The frame has an impact on a bike’s weight, durability, ride quality, and cost.

    The most typical substance utilized to make mountain bike frames is aluminum alloy. Due to the manufacturer investing more money and time in the material selection, tubing design, and manufacturing process, some more expensive models feature lighter aluminum frames.

    Steel, titanium, and carbon fiber are some more frame materials. Although relatively hefty for a mountain bike, steel is durable, affordable, and provides a smooth ride. Only high-end mountain bikes can afford titanium, despite material being both lightweight and sturdy. Due to its strength and light weight, carbon fiber is frequently seen on cross-country bikes, fat-tire bikes, and high-end trail and all-mountain bikes. However, due to its labor-intensive manufacturing process, carbon fiber is very expensive.

    Mountain Bike Gears

    The number of front chainrings times the number of cassette sprockets equals the number of gears a bicycle has. There are mountain bikes available with a single speed and up to 30 or more gears. Things can become complicated when you take into account the various combinations of chainrings, cogs, and the amount of teeth on each.

    To keep things simple, your degree of fitness and the terrain you’ll be riding on should be your top priorities. You should choose higher gears if you plan to ride a lot of steep hills and you have trouble climbing. You can get away with fewer gears and keep your bike lighter if you’re a good mountain biker or exclusively ride on flat terrain because you won’t need as many low gears to power up a hill.

    Mountain bikes often have two or three chainrings to offer a choice of simple climbing gears. However, single chainring mountain bikes with a wide-range cassette with 9, 10, or 11 cogs are currently highly well-liked. Since there is only one shifter required to change the ratios on the cassette, bikes with just one chainring are lighter and easier to use. They also offer the majority of the gears you’ll need.

    Remember that changing a bike’s gearing after purchase is rather simple, so this shouldn’t be your first priority when selecting a bike.

    Mountain Bike Brakes

    Except for entry-level mountain bikes, disc brakes have taken the role of rim brakes.

    Brake pads on a brake rotor connected to the wheel hub are a component of disc brakes. There are two types of disc brakes: With less finger effort, hydraulic disc brakes provide more progressive and powerful braking and self-adjust for brake pad wear. Mechanical (cable-activated) brakes require manual tweaking when the pads deteriorate.

    In comparison to rim brakes, benefits include more constant braking under all circumstances, the ability to repair a damaged rotor much more affordably than a whole wheel, and improved performance in slippery and steep terrain.
    Advantages over rim brakes: More challenging to examine and replace worn-out brake pads. Service for hydraulic brakes is more expensive.

    Rim brakes: A few beginner mountain bikes are equipped with rim brakes. Rim brakes have pads that adhere to the rims of the wheels.

    Benefits over disc brakes include cost-effectiveness and ease of replacement of worn brake pads.
    Comparative disadvantages to disc brakes Less stopping power; less effective in wet or muddy situations; requires more finger effort on the levers to brake forcefully; gradually wears down the wheel rim, necessitating the wheel to be replaced.

    Mountain Bike Fit

    You’ll enjoy riding a bike that is comfortable and appropriate for your height, flexibility, and riding style. A properly fitted bike can increase your trail confidence and handling so you can take on more difficult and technical rides.

    Mountain bikes come in standard sizes (S, M, and L) and are typically sized similarly across brands. Sizes typically match your height. A height range is provided for each bike size in many sizing charts that are provided by bike manufacturers. If you’re unsure of your size, it’s recommended to go smaller because a smaller frame can accommodate more sizing adjustments than a larger one. See our post on Mountain Bike Fitting Basics for additional information on fitting a mountain bike.

    Visit a bike shop to get the best fit: Now is a good time to visit REI or another specialty bike outlet armed with a broad idea of the type of bike you’re looking for to identify some acceptable models and try out a few bikes. For the best fit, do it that way.

    Take a test drive. Request to ride several motorcycles. You should be able to reduce your options to two or three motorcycles with the aid of a salesperson. Despite having comparable costs and parts, each will ride differently. Ride each of them for five to ten minutes through a variety of terrain, including a little hill. Most of the time, one bike will just feel more comfortable for you than the others. A bike should complement your body like a natural extension.