Mountain bikes should be an easy style of bike to understand. A mountain bike is a bike for cycling around mountains on, and they are, but there are many different styles and types. Do you want a hardtail or full suspension model? Do you need 26”, 27.5” or 29” wheels? How much travel do I need? How much do I need to spend?
We will answer these question below and help to guide you to buy the mountain bike that you need and not what a marketing department wants you to buy. We’ve kept the language simple and you’ll find the answers to the most common mountain bike questions.
How Much Do I Need to Spend?
You don’t need to spend a lot on a new mountain bike. The best idea is to sit down and work out your budget and stick to it. Starting out on a $500 hardtail mountain bike will help to make you a better rider, with better bike handling skills than if you jump out and buy one of the best full suspension mountain bikes on the market.
When you are budgeting for a new mountain bike, make sure you budget enough to keep the bike running. You’ll have parts wear out, and you’ll have the odd crash. You don’t want to have spent all your money on the bike and not have enough left to keep it running or have to downgrade parts as they wear out.
You’ll also need to make sure that you have bought any equipment you need. You’ll want to make sure you buy a helmet and any other protection that you feel you’ll need. A helmet, knee pads, and gloves should help lessen the risks from the most common style of crashes.
Then you’ll need to buy some tools. You might not be planning to work on your bike and would rather the experts look after your bike. Going to see the experts all the time will lead to big repair bills and time off your bike. If you have a few tools at home, you can learn to do a few simple tasks at home and keep your bike in tip-top condition and save you from big repair bills.
Do I Need a Hardtail or a Full Suspension Mountain Bike?
A hardtail mountain bike is a mountain bike that features a front suspension fork and no suspension at the rear of the bike. A full suspension mountain bike features both front and rear suspension. A hardtail will then be lighter, and a full suspension bike will help to save you from any mistakes you may make.
Helping to save you from mistakes may make you think you’d rather have a full suspension model. You will need to spend more to get a good full suspension, and sure you might see models below $1000, but they won’t have great suspension or parts, and you’ll spend longer fixing a bike than you will riding a bike.
Maybe, you can easily afford more than a $1000 for a bike, you probably still shouldn’t start out on a full suspension mountain bike. They help to hide mistakes, and if you don’t realize you picked the wrong line or should have crashed when you mishit that small bump then how will you progress.
A hardtail will make these mistakes obvious to you and the more you ride, the better you’ll get. Buy a hardtail, and you’ll become a better mountain biker, and surely that is the goal?
Mountain Bike Wheel Sizes
Mountain bikes now come in 3 wheel sizes. You’ll find 26” wheels, 27.5” wheels (sometimes called 650b), and 29” wheels (sometimes referred to as a 29er). What then do we need to know about these wheel sizes?
- 26” wheels are the original size of mountain bike wheels. They were originally supposed to be faster, and we have started to realize that idea is wrong. Now you’ll tend to find 26” wheels on cheaper bikes and jump bikes.
- 29” wheels are faster than 26” wheels, and we’ll even find them on downhill bikes now. They roll over over small items on the trail easily and are the fastest option for climbing. They are big though, and smaller riders might not like riding them.
- 27.5” wheels are the mid-size wheel. They appeared after 29” wheels and were designed to give the same roll-over and higher speeds of 29ers but also be as maneuverable as 26” wheels.
How Much Travel Do I Need?
Suspension travel has started to be aligned with certain styles of
- Cross country. Cross country (XC) is probably the biggest church of mountain biking. It can span everything from racing to riding fire roads, singletrack, or even just bridlepaths. Most XC bikes will have between 80 and 120mm of travel. This amount of travel will still allow the bike to pedal efficiently and will also help to keep weight down.
- Trail. Trail bikes
- Enduro. Enduro bikes will come with 160mm+ of travel. They will be as burly as downhill bikes but still be designed to allow you to pedal uphill. Pedaling uphill might not be as pretty as on an XC bike, but you’ll find the bike comes to life on downhill sections. Because of this, these bikes will be burly, and this will add weight.