What To Look For In A Mountain Bike? – A Cheat Guide!

Confused about what to look for in a mountain bike before buying? You are in the right place.

From frame size, seat, tires, to bike suspensions, here’s a lowdown on the things that matter the most to ensure lasting durability, comfort, and more importantly, value for your money.

Buying A Mountain Bike Guide – Things To Consider

Frame size

One of the important deciding factors to ensure you get the best mountain bike for your money would be the size frame.

Mountain bikes come in different frame sizes and you will need to get one that fits your height. 

The standard mountain bike has an 18-inch frame. If you are shorter, then it is best to go for a 14-inch or 16-inch frame while riders who are taller should look for 20-inch or 24-inch frames.

More often than not, bike shops provide a size guide that will help you to determine which mountain bike frame is best for you.

If you do not find a suitable frame size for your height, then you can always go for a custom-made bike that will be delivered within one or two weeks.

Suspension

Mountain biking is not all about speed and the ability to go as fast as possible. In fact, it is all about agility and control. The way you smear through the terrain plays a big role in your riding experience.

Thanks to modern engineering that has taken place in the mountain bike industry, you can now find bikes that can be adjusted to suit your exact needs and style of riding.

There are three classifications of suspension systems utilized in mountain bikes namely rigid, full-suspension and hardtail

Rigid mountain bikes are good for those who are looking to use the bike for trail riding and hopping over rocks and roots.

Full-suspension mountain bikes have a rear shock but do not have a front shock. It is great for those who are looking to go through rough terrain or rides where you need to get from one end of the obstacle to another.

Full-suspension design also provides more control over the bike when you ride for an extended period.

Lastly, hardtail MTBs features a single suspension system. It is deemed as the simplest design of mountain bikes and is great for off-road biking.

Frame Material

Mountain bikes are made out of many different materials including aluminum, carbon fiber, steel, and titanium. Each material comes with its own advantages and disadvantages:

Aluminum is a cheap option but at a slight cost of durability. Wheels can bend or even break under heavy loads depending on where you’re riding and what you’re doing. It is for amateur to intermediate riders.

Carbon fiber and steel are more durable than aluminum, but also more expensive.

Titanium is the most durable but also the most expensive material. It can be very heavy as well, but if you were looking for durability then we recommend this as your material of choice! However, it’s not for those on a budget.

Saddle

The saddle is where you place your posterior when riding the mountain bike. It is a matter of personal preference, but most people will prefer padded saddles. 

Some new riders may also find saddles shaped like that of a road bike to be uncomfortable because their position on the bike is rather upright.

You may want to experiment with different saddles and see what feels most comfortable for you. A saddle should ideally allow you to maintain your posture while riding and put a little strain on your body as you ride over bumps and rocks. 

What’s significant here is to inspect the saddle’s padding, weight, and shape.

Groupset

You will probably hear a lot about groupsets in mountain bikes. A groupset is a collective term for all the components that make up your bike’s power train.

Common mountain bike groupsets are Shimano, SRAM, and Shimano XT/SLX.

We suggest you go for a Shimano groupset as it is the most popular choice in this category. The complete groupset is made up of a combination of shifters, rear derailleur, front derailleur, crankset, and brakes.

Budget

How much should you invest in a mountain bike? A good rule of thumb is to think about the cost of a new bicycle. It can then be broken down into six different types of bicycles which are Basic, Advanced, Standard, Hybrid, and Disc.

So what type of mountain bike should you buy? Well if you’re just starting then we would recommend going for the most basic and affordable bike in the market. Why? Because as we mentioned earlier, these bikes are made for those who are just getting into this sport. 

Since it is your first time, you’ll be experiencing a lot of things in the mountain. And who says that you won’t get stuck on the trail or have a crash? So when this happens, it’s better to spend on something basic and inexpensive than something really expensive. Price range from £400 to £1,500.

However, if you are an experienced rider, then we recommend going for the more expensive but better models of mountain bikes. It’s all about what kind of experience you want out of your ride. They may cost roughly £1,000 to £2,000 but they’re worth it in the long run.

How Difficult Is Mountain Biking?

A lot of beginners think mountain biking is too challenging. However, it’s not as difficult as it seems. The trail can be divided into three different levels: green, blue, and black.

Green is for beginner riders who are still learning the basics of bike riding such as pedaling, balancing, and steering. The trail has a few obstacles such as logs and small hills which are easily managed by beginners.

Blue is for the intermediate riders who will be a bit more difficult to handle. The trail is a little more complicated with some steep climbs which you’re expected to do smoothly and stably. This level also includes the so-called technical trails where you’ll have to deal with obstacles like roots and rocks.

Black is for the advanced riders who are ready to face anything in their path. The trail is quite challenging with lots of obstacles such as rocks, roots, logs, and small hills.

TYPES OF MOUNTAIN BIKE 

You need to look into what type of mountain bike will be suitable for your needs—not everyone is the same. And let’s be honest, most people wind up buying one that doesn’t suit their needs and then giving up on it.

Different types of mountain bikes can be broken down into three major categories namely hardtails, full-suspension, and specialty mountain bikes. 

HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKE

They are called hardtails because the front end is stiffer and more rigid than those of full suspension and specialty models. They are the perfect bike for off-road rides. They can handle the roughest of terrains and are light, making them easy for you to move around.

There are lots of options to choose from when it comes to hardtail mountain bikes. They come with different frame styles such as hardtail 29er, hardtail fat tire, dirt jumper, and many more. This can be divided into sub-categories known as rigid, flex, and dual suspension.

RIGID HARDTAIL

Rigid hardtail mountain bikes are also called ‘rigids’. They are stiffer and more rigid than their flex counterparts. The best part is that they are less expensive and lighter. They usually come with a front suspension fork and larger frame tubes which makes them more durable off the beaten path.

FLEX HARDTAIL

Flex hardtail mountain bikes are a mix of hardtail and full-suspension bikes. They have suspension in the front, which means you’ll be able to tackle rough trails easier than a rigid bike. They also come with dual disc brakes and better shocks than the rigid models. 

DUAL SUSPENSION HARDTAIL

Dual suspension mountain bikes are basically the same as their flex counterparts except that they come with rear suspension as well. This gives you much more control while riding on rough terrain because the suspension helps absorb some of the road shocks and bumps, which means that it’ll be easier to handle jumps in the trail.

FULL SUSPENSION BIKES

Full suspension mountain bikes are regarded as the top of the line because of their unbeatable durability and capability to handle off-road trails with ease. This is because they have both a rear shock and fork which absorb bumps, knocks, and shocks meaning you can ride at high speeds without any problems (the suspension). 

The weight is also usually in favor of full suspension mountain bikes although there are specialty models that fall under this category as well. It has a wide variety too. There are 29er full suspension, downhill full suspension, and even cross-country full suspensions.

It’s ideal for people who want to ride long distances and tackle steep climbs without any problems.

SPECIALTY MOUNTAIN BIKE

Specialty or all-mountain bikes are those mountain bikes that are designed for longer rides and can handle both the on and off-road. They are models that are designed to do one thing, and that’s being a trail bike.

These bikes are made for the hardcore mountain biker who likes being off the beaten path. They usually have a lightweight frame, 21-speed gears, hydraulic disc brakes, and rigid front forks.

It’s also important to know that this type of mountain bike is harder to repair if one does break. It’s also only for those who love the sport and want to do it right. It is best recommended for advanced users. They have great brakes that work well even on steep and rocky trails.

MOUNTAIN BIKING RIDING DISCIPLINES

Are you into racing? Or do you prefer technical riding? Perhaps, you just want to be a recreational rider. It’s important to understand these types of things before you decide on what type of bike would suit your needs and riding style.

Keep in mind that every mountain bike discipline demands a unique set of features. With that, here is a quick rundown of the kind of riding:

CROSS COUNTRY RIDING

Cross-country is a strain on the mountain bike. It forces the bike to cover long distances quickly and minimize pedaling by keeping the weight low, often with a lighter frame.

Cross-country mountain bikes also need to be able to handle a lot of rough terrains, so a cross-country bike will usually have shock absorbers and robust frames for maneuvering over rocks and other obstacles.

TRAIL RIDING

Trail riding is more about long days of continuous pedaling and traveling over many different terrains.

These bikes need to be comfortable so you can push on, and the bike needs to be nimble enough to grind challenging trails. It also needs to be stiff enough to handle bigger drops and jumps.

Usually, trail bikes have dropper seat post suspension, often with a lockout button to stop the suspension from bottoming out. They also have wide tires and rigid forks for confident handling over loose ground.

Many trail bikes have disc brakes to prevent wheel lock-up.

RACING 

Racing is about going as fast as possible down as many trails as you can. These bikes will have shock absorbers that can be set up for a more supple ride but stiffen for descending so you can shred the downhill.

You want a stiff frame that lets you crank the pedals over rock gardens without flexing in the frame.

A race bike also needs to be very light, since every gram counts when you are racing against your mates to the bottom of the trail.

DOWNHILL

Downhill riding is about hurling down steep hills as quickly as possible. You need a bike that can sustain big jumps and slides without flexing. Downhill bikes also need to be very stiff because you are riding at high speeds and want a bike that isn’t flexing or wobbling underneath you. 

A downhill bike needs to be lightweight and has strong frame tubes that are resistant to bending (many downhill bikes use double-butted aluminum tubing, whereby the wall thickness in the middle of the tube is reduced to shave weight).

ALL-MOUNTAIN

A form of mountain bike races, where traditional racing disciplines are not held. Mountain bikes need to be able to handle rough terrain easily. They also need a suspension design that can soak up impacts that traditional hard-tail mountain bikes are ill-equipped to handle, such as big drops and jumps.

The frame geometry for an all-mountain bike is somewhere in between a race bike and a freeride bike, with a longer wheelbase and a larger diameter rear triangle for maneuverability.

Skills You Need for Mountain Biking

The actual skill needed for mountain biking will depend on the type of mountain biking you are doing. However, there are a few general skills you will need to be successful in any type of mountain biking:

Strong coordination: You will have to quickly learn how to use your body as well as the bike.

Stamina: If you are riding for a long period of time, then stamina is very important. You will have to find out what works best for you.

Balance: In all types of mountain biking, you will need good balance skills. If you want to do more advanced tricks, then perfecting your balance skills is essential.

Flexibility: Flexibility is also a very important skill for mountain bikers. You will need to be flexible to do some of the advanced maneuvers associated with mountain biking. If your lower back tends to lock up, then try stretching and yoga.

How To Take Care of Your Mountain Bike?

Bikes don’t come cheap, so you’ll want to make sure you know how to maintain properly of your investment. Here are some good tips:

1. Clean your bike after every ride. 

2. Keep your tires inflated at the right pressure, and change their air periodically (depending on usage)

3. Check your brake pads and replace them if needed. 

4. Lubricate your chain periodically to avoid rusting.

Keep your bike clean and you will extend its life by a long shot.

5. If you’re going to store your bike for a month or so, completely drain the gasoline to avoid any cause of damage.

6. Keep the chain cover on, in case there is lots of debris around. Not only will it protect the chain, but also keep it lubricated and safe from any possible damage too.

7. Always remember to close the cap on the gas tank. If you’re going to leave the bike outside, it’s best to put it inside a locked garage or shed.

8. You should lower the seat post and make sure that it sits in a horizontal position when not in use, and lock the clamp around it.

9. Inspect your spokes and wheels regularly. Make sure that they are straight and no parts are loose or broken off. 

TIPS FOR BUYING A MOUNTAIN BIKE

1. Pick the right suspension: If you know you’ll be riding on rough terrain, choose a bike with at least 100mm suspension travel.

2. Allot a budget for replacement parts and service: The costs for mountain bike parts and upkeep can really add up. You should budget somewhere between $150 to $500 on replacement parts and servicing (depending on your budget). This will allow you to maintain your bike in good condition should it develop problems later down the line.

3. Choose a bike that fits you: Try to test the bike before you buy it. That way, you’ll be able to make the right choice. Also, compare the seat and handlebar placements of different models if possible. While every model may have different standards, they all offer similar benefits and characteristics. It is important to choose a bike that will suit your preferences best.

4. Determine your riding style: Different riding styles require different equipment. The right gears and components will let you tackle whatever situation you may find yourself in.

This is critical when it comes to buying new mountain bikes. Remember, the right bike for you depends on your compatibility with the bike and its components.

5. Pick a bike designed for your skill level and intended purposes.

6. Consider how much storage space your rear cargo rack will require when deciding on bike size.

7. Choose a bike with an upright riding position to increase handling and visibility.

8. Opt for at least a 27-speed drivetrain for rough terrain or long-distance riding.

9. Consider a front derailleur on mountain bikes with 3 or more chainrings on the crank.

10. Consider the bottom bracket height to figure out whether or not your knees will hit the crank arms while pedaling.

Each time your pedals make a revolution, your knees extend. The less clearance between the bottom of the crank and chainstays, the more likely you are to strike your knees against them when pedaling. 

EXPERT-RECOMMENDED MOUNTAIN BIKE BRANDS

Here are some of the best mountain bike brands for beginners on the market. These are good places to start looking if you want a solid, reliable bike at a reasonable price.

1. CAMPAGNOLO

2. GIANT

3. FUJI BIKES

4. SE SPECIALIZED

Some of these will be a bit on the pricey side, but they are made of high-quality materials and components and have a low center of gravity too.

The aluminum frame is lightweight, powerful, durable, and responsive to handling commands from the rider.

REASONS WHY MOUNTAIN BIKING IS GOOD FOR YOUR SOUL

It can’t be denied, mountain biking offers several health benefits, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Mentally, it gives you a chance to escape the stress of daily life and find some peace of mind. There is no other way to get mental rest than escaping in nature.  It’s hard to stay awake at night when you are surrounded by silence and a vast forest.

Physically, it enables you to stay in shape and keep your body active. You’ll do lots of physical activities such as pedaling, balancing, and steering where your heart rate will definitely go up high. The nice thing about mountain biking is that you can bring it to your own pace.

Emotionally, mountain biking helps us gain a healthy perspective of the world. There are so many things we can do which cannot be attained by living in today’s busy city life. For example, it helps us appreciate the natural beauty of the world. It’s very relaxing to spend some time in a natural setting.

In other words, mountain biking is a great way to unwind, smile, and grab the chance to reconnect with nature. It’s a great way to lose your stress and enjoy your family time.

Conclusion

To wrap it up, you should now have a better understanding of what makes a good mountain bike. You should also be able to recognize the different parts of the bike and how they can affect your riding experience.

Keep in mind, it can take some time to find and ride the perfect mountain bike. But don’t give up! The experience you have at first will determine if you enjoy the sport or not.

From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 10+ trails across the globe, for Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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