What is a mountain bike?
Specifically designed for off-road use, mountain bikes can be broken down into different styles intended for different discipline and trail types. A mountain bike has standard handlebars, easy gears to help you climb those steep hills and knobby tires for added traction. Most of them come with a suspension fork and some of them with a rear shock.
Why choose a mountain bike?
You choose a MTB because you plan on riding mountain bike trails. Of course, mountain bikes can be ridden on paved road, but their heavier weight, suspensions and bigger tires make them slow commuters. In fact, if you don’t plan to ride off-road, you should consider a hybrid bike.
The different suspensions configurations
A bike with a front suspension only. Also known as a “hardtail”.
A bike with a front suspension and a rear shock.
Mountain bike categories
Suspension travel ± 100 mm
Very popular, cross-country bikes are the lightest and the most efficient mountain bikes. They are designed to be excellent climbers and fast machines on flat terrain.
Most of these bikes use only a front suspension for light weight, but some of them use a rear suspension as well, in order to optimize traction and comfort in all conditions. The Trek Marlin, Cannondale Cujo and Giant Talon are prime examples of cross-country bikes.
Ideal cyclist: A rider looking for a light and efficient bike, anywhere from a racer to a beginner.
Suspension travel ± 120-130 mm
Trail bikes are very versatile, which explains why they’re so popular amongst riders. They are basically beefed-up cross-country bikes with full suspension, more travel and a slacker headtube.
The result is better downhill performance and more versatility, while still retaining a great pedaling efficiency. If you love cross-country efficiency, but wish do have more fun in the descents and go faster, this is what you should get. The Trek Fuel EX, Cannondale Habit and Giant Fathom are prime examples of trail bikes.
Ideal cyclist: You wish to ride anywhere. You want a fun bike that can climb, but also perform in the descents.
All-mountain / Enduro
Suspension travel ± 140-160 mm
With their bigger suspension travel, slack and long geometry, and longer wheelbase, All-Mountain/Enduro bikes are tuned mainly towards downhill performance and jumps.
They’re pretty robust, very fast in scary descents and feel right at home when tackling demanding terrain. These days, these bikes can also manage to climb pretty well, so they offer a great versatility. The Trek Remedy and Giant Reign are prime examples of all-Mountain/Enduro bikes.
Ideal cyclist: You prefer going downhill, but need a bike to climb back up as well. These bikes are perfectly suited to riders with downhill experience.
Suspension travel ± 200 mm
A bike dedicated to downhill MTB. With massive suspension travel and the slackest headtube angle there is, DH bikes are built to withstand the brutal demands of very fast descents, jumps and rocks. This makes for a heavy bike, which cannot really climb. That’s why you use the chairlift.
Ideal cyclist: The mountain biker who wants to ride downhill tracks.
Suspension travel ± 80-100 mm
This is the first category of mountain bikes and it’s targeted at beginning and recreational riders. These bikes come with components that are ideal for starting mountain bikers, but the more experienced riders looking to ride more seriously should look at a cross-country or trail bike instead. The Trek 820 is prime example of sport bikes.
Ideal cyclist: The occasional rider, the beginner, someone who rides mostly on paved roads.
The fat-bike is a mountain bike with very large tires. These tires offer major traction gains, which translates into solid performance on unstable terrain. You’ll find fat-bikes in trails in the wintertime and in fall. The Trek Farley and Cannondale Fat CAAD are prime examples of fat-bikes.
Ideal cyclist: Anyone looking to have some serious fun.