In this guest post, Amanda Wilks offers tips on how to choose a mountain bike that fits your needs. Four careful steps should ensure you get a mountain bike that helps you get a good start in the exciting sport of mountain biking!
If you’ve just discovered mountain biking, you’re undoubtedly excited about experiencing this new and exciting hobby. But first, you need a bike! Selecting a bike as a beginner can be a daunting task –there are seemingly endless mountain bikes on the market today, and each one has different features. Knowing what you want in a bike is challenging if you don’t have much experience. In this post, we’ll focus on some of the basic things you should look for when selecting your first mountain bike.
Step 1: Read Bike Reviews
One way to get an idea of the best bike for you is to read other people’s opinions on certain models. For example, this Diamondback Sorrento review gives a reviewer’s opinions on one mountain bike model. Or this Specialized TriCross review gives plenty of details on everything you need to know about this particular bike.
Reading reviews can help get a feel for what can work for different people, and can also help you understand what you want in a bike. Also, knowing some of the terminology and the broad categorization of bikes will help you streamline your search.
Step 2: Choose a Bike Style for Your New Mountain Bike
Start to narrow down the choices by deciding which style of mountain bike makes the most sense for you. What type you choose is up to you, but trail rider Robyn Goldsmith recommends that beginners get something more general purpose. This will help you to explore different styles of riding before you specialize. As you can see from the choices below, some mountain bikes are more general purpose, and some are more specialized.
Choice 1: All-Mountain Bikes
If you are looking into mountain riding as opposed to regular trail riding, an all-mountain frame may be for you. These bikes are similar to cross country bikes, but with even more emphasis on climbing ability. Also, they are built to withstand the steep descents you will find on a mountain.
Choice 2: Downhill Mountain Bikes
Downhill bikes are also available, but these are less common, as they generally useful only at bike parks where there are lifts to get riders to the top of a large hill.
Choice 3: Trail Bikes
Trail bikes are very common and are ideal for recreational riding. Their suspension is less robust than the two choices above, so they tend to be more affordable. They strike a balance between weight, efficiency, and fun. If you are just getting into mountain biking and not sure about specializing, or if you’re on a budget, a trail bike may be a good choice. These bikes are versatile and can perform well on trails and on pavement.
Choice 4: Fat Bikes
Fat bikes can have any frame size, but they are set apart by their fat, wide tires. These tires can be comforting to beginner riders, since a wider tire can handle more bumps and is less likely to cause a fall. Also, those riding on snow or sand will likely have a much easier time when riding a fat bike.
Choice 5: Cross Country Bikes
Not exactly a mountain bike per se, but if you just want to be fast, cross-country bikes are similar to trail bikes but are generally lighter in weight. The light weight is ideal for climbing hills, so if you’re planning on taking on hillier trails, this style may be a good choice. Because they are lightweight and generally more efficient, these bikes are often more expensive than your average trail bike.
Step 3: Pick a Suspension Type for your New Mountain Bike
Now that you are a bit more familiar with the various types of bikes, let’s look at the different suspension types available. Just as a car has a suspension system to absorb shock, mountain bikes often come with a suspension. What suspension setup you choose will depend on your budget and where you plan to ride your new mountain bike.
Suspension Choice 1: No shocks
Occasionally, you may come across a mountain-style bike with no suspension or shocks. These bikes are generally much less expensive, but many riders find them uncomfortable. Plus, if you are going over a lot of bumps on trails, a good suspension can keep you safer because it helps keep the bike wheels in contact with the ground.
Choices 2 and 3: Hardtail and full suspension
The two main types of mountain bike suspensions are hardtail and full suspension. A hardtail has shock absorbers in the front fork, but none in the back. A full suspension has shock absorbers in the front and rear of the bike. Generally speaking, a hardtail is a lot less expensive to buy and maintain, and it is also lighter. The Raleigh Bikes Tokul 1 Mountain Bike is an aluminum hardtail mountain bike with front suspension (SR Suntour SCM supension fork with 120 mm of travel) and is excellent value for money.
While a full suspension mountain bike is more expensive, it is a good choice for those who are going to be riding on very rough trails. If you have back or joint issues, a full suspension will also provide a more comfortable ride.
David Galati, a Category 2 men’s road and cross country cyclist, notes that a hardtail bike is typically faster with hill climbs, but that a full suspension bike is commonly faster and more comfortable on downhills. He suggests that if you are considering different types of suspensions, you consider your budget and how much time (or money) you are willing to spend on bike maintenance.
Here is a beautiful Devinci dual suspension bike that has just completed a muddy ride in Whistler, BC. To maintain this bike, owner and hardcore downhill mountain biker Steven will need to spend at least an hour getting the dirt out of all the moving parts!
Step 4: Consider Getting a Professional Fit for Your New Mountain Bike
Bike style and suspension type are the two most important variables to consider when choosing a new mountain bike. Beyond that, with any bike you buy, it’s wise to have a professional bike fit done. With this, you pay to have a professional adjust the bike to fit you exactly, which can help ensure safety and prevent injuries and pain. You can usually find a local professional bike fitter on Google, or by asking at your local bike shop.
By following the steps above, you are sure to find a mountain bike that will let you get out and start mountain biking! Get yourself a great mountain bike that fits your needs, and then get out there and have fun on your new bike!
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