How To Choose The Right Mountain Bike For You
Mountain biking is a well-established tradition. For decades, people have modified bikes to be able to handle difficult terrain. During the 1970’s and 1980’s competitive mountain biking competitions emerged to take the pastime to an entirely new level. Today, there are many manufacturers that make bikes that are designed specifically to handle rigorous riding and tackle tough terrain. With all of the available options out there, from various styles and types of bike, frame geometry, brakes, suspension, tire size and more, it can be overwhelming trying to determine which is the best mountain bike to buy. In this guide, we will be providing you with useful information and tips to help you find the best mountain bike for you.
There are several ways that a mountain bike is different from a road bike. A mountain bike has a more rugged and smaller frame, in addition to wider tires for handling such conditions as steep climbs, jumps, fallen branches, rocks and muddy trails. You can, of course, ride a mountain bike in places other than mountains. Even if you ride in an urban area or cross-country, it may be ideal for you to have a durable bike that can handle many different types of terrain. So whether you will be riding on the steepest mountains, or using your bike for daily commutes or long weekend rides, we can be providing you with advice on how to choose the right mountain bike.
How To Choose The Best Mountain Bike Style
Mountain bikes can be used in different ways, so the exact type of bike you should get will greatly depend on what you are planning on using it for. In general, the more aggressively you are planning to use your bike, and the tougher the terrain you will be riding on, the more advanced features you will need your bike to have. More advanced bikes are of course more expensive. The key to finding the ideal mountain bike that balances your budget with your needs.
The process of selecting a mountain bike involves having to constantly compromise between cost, weight, and features. For instance, titanium frames are strong and light, but costly. Front suspension adds cost and weight, but on many types of terrain can be very advantageous. Full suspension (both rear and front suspension) adds weight and cost, but might only truly be useful to seriously hardcore bikers. The one thing that all serious mountain bikers warn against is to not purchase a cheap mountain bike online or at one of the big box stores. They might be inexpensive, but they are a complete waste of your money. You should expect to spend $400 at least – and you might need to compromise on the quality at that price.
Size is really important. You need to take into factor your height, how much clearance is between the top tube and your crotch, whether you prefer leaning forward or sitting upright, and how long the cranks are. The basic sizing advice is to not purchase a bike until you go to a local bike shop and take it out for a test ride. If adjustments need to be made, they can help you. Or if it isn’t the right size for you, they can help find a better fit for you.
How To Choose The Best Type Of Mountain Bike
The type of mountain bike you choose will depend on what kind of biking you are planning on doing. For beginners, it is usually best to choose a mountain bike that has a more general purpose instead of one that is more specialized.
An all-mountain frame is well-suited for mountain riding. They are similar to cross country bikes but emphasize climbing ability even more. They are also designed to withstand a mountain’s steep descents.
Downhill Mountain Bikes
These are less common since they tend to only be useful at bike parks when there is a lift to get riders up to the top of a mountain or hill.
This is a very common style of bike and is perfect for recreational riding. The suspension is not as robust as other choices, so they also tend to be quite affordable. These bikes strike a good balance between fun, efficiency, and weight. If you are just getting started with mountain biking, or are on a strict budget, then a trail bike can be a great choice for you. These are versatile bikes that perform well on both pavement and trails.
These bikes have wide, fat tires and can have any size frame. For beginner riders, the tires can be comfortable, since wider tires can handle more bumps and there is less of a chance that a fall will occur. They also are better for riding on sand or snow.
Cross Country Bikes
They are lighter in weight but still quite similar to a trail bike. The light weight is well-suited for climbing hills. Since they are more efficient and lightweight, the bikes tend to cost more than the average trail bike.
How To Choose The Best Mountain Bike Frame
You don’t want to cut corners on your bike’s frame. It is easy to upgrade brakes, gear sets, and other features. However, the only way to upgrade the frame is basically to purchase a new bike.
Geometry and material are the two major aspects you need to consider when it comes to mountain bike frames. The resulting are the most common types of frame materials, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.
High-Tensile Steel: This is a strong and inexpensive, but very heavy material. Low-end bikes use it, but serious mountain bikers avoid it.
Chromoly Steel: This allows molybdenum and chromium. It is more rigid and lighter than high-tensile steel but is more expensive.
Aluminum: Aluminum frames are lighter but not as strong as chromoly. For intermediate bikers, aluminum can be a good compromise between cost and weight.
Titanium: This is a very strong and light material. However, some titanium frames have broken joints due to it being tricky to weld titanium. Titanium frames have come down in price but still are found on expensive, high-end bikes.
Carbon fiber: Although very rigid and light, carbon fibers are susceptible to impact damage and is very expensive. Serious competitive mountain bikers tend to choose carbon fiber frames.
The frame geometry that you select will depend on how advanced of a biker you are and whether or not you want to have rear suspension. Traditional diamond frames do well for many intermediate as well as beginner mountain bikers. For the rear suspension, you might need a more specialized kind of frame geometry, as well as competitive riders for increased performance and to save weight.
Another recommendation is to get a frame that has mounting spaces where you can add optional equipment. You can easily upgrade a basic mountain bike if the hubs can mount disc brakes and you can change the front suspension. If you would like to take your mountain bike out on longer rides, then it will be nice to have mountain spaces for cargo baskets and mudflaps.
How To Choose The Best Mountain Bike Suspension
There is no suspension on a rigid frame bike. Finding a rigid frame mountain bike is hard to do, although one to two rigid models are offered by a couple of manufacturers. Even lower-end mountain bikes normally have front suspension, which is also called a suspension fork. A bike that has no rear suspension but a suspension fork is called a hardtail. A bike that has both rear and front suspension is called a full-suspension bike.
So which type of suspension is best for you? Every suspension element adds weight and complexity to the bike. The trade-off for a suspension fork is that it adds comfort and increased control. On a rough ride if you have to absorb every impact it can take a huge toll on your arms and wrists. The aspect of control is even more critical. When there is no front suspension, the front tire on the bike will tend to bounce off of various obstacles such as branches and rocks. You can’t steer whenever the front fire is bouncing. Also, if you happen to hit something, you could end up in a serious crash. Therefore, it is critical to have a good suspension fork, unless you are planning to only ride on bike paths or groomed trails.
You don’t necessarily need to have rear suspension. It adds more weight, and a different frame is required, which can make it impossible or difficult to add a rear suspension onto a hardtail bike. Rear suspension is standard equipment for competitive riders, and many mountain bikers do swear by it.
How To Choose The Best Mountain Bike Brakes
Rim brakes are the kind of bike brakes most people are familiar with. The brake lever is on the handlebar and when it is pulled it is transmitted by a cable to the brake pads which squeeze against the bike rim, to slow it down. There are different versions of the technology, including caliper brakes, direct pull brakes, V-brakes and U-brakes.
There are two major problems that rim brakes have. The first one is that the brakes must make contact with the rim’s outer edge. If the conditions are muddy or wet, the rims may become slippery. This can effect the brake’s performance. The second problem is that braking power is limited due to the small surface area that the brake pads can grab onto. If you are going at high speed on a downhill trail, rim brakes will not have enough braking power to effectively slow you down.
Disc brakes are a more advanced option. They function the way that a car’s disc brakes do. A metal disc is held by the hub that usually freely spins along with the wheel. There is a caliper on the fork that squeezes the disc whenever the brakes are applied, to slow the bike down. There are a couple of reasons why disc brakes work more effectively than rim brakes do:
They are not as likely to pick up water or mud since they are further away from the trail compared to the rim’s outside edge.
Braking power in the middle of the wheel provides higher overall breaking power due to the differences in speeds between the outside edge and center of the wheel.
Larger calipers and discs can be built for greater braking power.
Sometimes disc brakes add more weight to the bike. However, advanced disc brake systems have been engineered by some companies to be even more lightweight than rim brakes are.
You also can choose either hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes. With mechanical brakes, the calipers are the squeeze with the same amount of force that is used when you squeeze on the brake lever. With hydraulic brakes, hydraulics are used to amplify force, which results in increased braking ability.
The saddle on a mountain bike should not be overlooked. While the tires provide contact between the trail and bike; the saddle is the main contact between the rider and bike. It supports some of the weight of the rider and provides lateral control as well. Having the wrong type of seat will cause discomfort on long rides and also reduce the ability of the rider to manage the bike effectively.
There are two important components of the seat that you need to consider to find the right one: the nose and the pads. The pads are in the back part of the seat. When you are in the seated positions, the two bony protrusions that are on your pelvis have to wear your weight. You need to ensure that those bones rest on the pads. If the seat isn’t wide enough for your pelvis, your sitting bones will end up extending past the edges of the pads. That will reduce in soft tissues bearing your weight, and will be quite uncomfortable. Women tend to have wider pelvises compared to men, so many companies offer saddles that are designed especially for women.
When the seat isn’t adjusted correctly, the nose can be another source of discomfort. It does serve a very important function, however, which is it allows the thighs of the rider to laterally control the bike. The nose is omitted in some saddle designs. However serious riders will want to have it.
The best way of finding the best saddle for you and getting it adjusted correctly is to take it for a ride on a trail. There are some bike shops that have test saddles that you can take out on a trail to test it in real-world conditions. It is a manner of trial and error involved to find the saddle ideally suited for your body shape and riding style.
All of the above features should be recognized when choosing the best mountain bike for you. You will have to make compromises between cost, weight, and features. If you are a beginner mountain biker, choose a good general purpose bike that is affordable and that allows you to upgrade it and add accessories as needed.