Mountain bikes are for cyclists who want to head off the beaten path. Choose a mountain bike if you plan to trek off-road and encounter mud, rocks and debris along the way.
There are two basic types of mountain bikes:
- Trail Bikes are a versatile, general-purpose take on the traditional mountain bike. They’re great for riding on packed trails, dirt roads and uneven ground.
- All-Mountain Bikes have sturdy frames and full suspension for riding steeper descents in more challenging environment
Mountain Bike Wheel Sizes
26-Inch Wheel: Basic mountain bike models are equipped with this compact and agile wheel size.
27.5-Inch Wheel: Now considered the industry-standard, this wheel size bridges the gap between 26 and 29-inch wheels. It offers the same rollover resistance as the 29er, without compromising the maneuverability of the 26-inch wheel.
29-Inch Wheel: Also known as the “29er”, this wheel offers superior momentum, rollover resistance and traction. It also best accommodates larger riders.
Mountain Bike Suspension Systems
- Disc Brakes use a hard, metallic-based pad attached to the wheel hub, ensuring that the brake is not easily affected by debris on the trail. There is also a large clearance area beneath the brake, so it’s great for taking on muddy terrain. Disc brakes come in mechanical and hydraulic models. Hydraulic provides more control while breaking.
- Linear Brakes, also called “v-brakes,” are a side-breaking mechanism that draws together a bike’s cable housing arms to bring the machine to a stop.
Gender & Mountain Bikes
Mountain bikes are built in “adult” and “women’s” models. What’s the difference? Most adult bikes are designed for an average man’s body size, while women’s-specific bikes are built to better accommodate a woman’s smaller frame. Keep in mind, women can ride both adult and women’s-specific bikes. Children’s bikes also come in smaller frames with a variety of colors and designers for young cyclists.
Common Frame Materials
- Aluminum is the most common frame material on mountain bikes. It’s lightweight yet durable—an ideal combination for taking on technical terrain.
- Steel-Frame mountain bikes are sturdy and offer a smooth, fluid ride, though this material may be too heavy for some cyclists.
Bike Suspension Systems
- Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes have front and rear-wheel suspension that performs well on more rugged, technical terrain. This option is ideal for bikers who want a ride that’s easier on muscles and joints.
- Front-Suspension Mountain Bikes have a suspension fork attached to the front wheel to improve steering and reduce fatigue while riding.