Mountain Bike Design Is Important to You
Before you look into the specific attributes you want in a mountain bike, it’s helpful to know a little bit about the different designs available. All share some of the same basic characteristics, but the devil is in the details.
All Mountain (Enduro)
The name really says it all. All Mountain or Enduro bikes are built for the roughest conditions. They’re heavier than Cross Country (XC) bikes, pushing the scales as high as 30-35 pounds (14-16 kg). They also offer larger suspension travel – up to 6 inches (135mm) on both front and rear. Newer models allow that to be adjusted.
They’re designed for riders to climb medium to steep inclines. But, because they are on the heavier end of the scale it will take a robust rider to keep up the activity for any length of time.
For riders interested in getting down with speed, a Downhill is just the ticket. With more than 7 inches (160mm) or more of travel, the suspension is smooth as silk. They are on the heavy side, though, weighing in around 40lbs (18 kg). Head angles (the angle of the head tube from the horizontal) is very slack at 64 degrees.
Downhill bikes also sport large sag (the amount of suspension compression from the rider’s weight), up to 30%. That helps attain optimum traction on bumpy downhill racing terrain.
Freeride mountain bikes emphasize strength over speed. Suspension is still ample, up to 6 inches of travel. That is achieved with stronger, and therefore heavier materials. They may tip the scales anywhere from 30-45 pounds (14-20 kg).
Moderate slack head angles make it hard to maneuver uphill, so they’re intended more for trail riding. That problem is often overcome by using them at ski lift areas where the only riding is down the hill, not up. Frame angles are steeper than those on Downhill bikes, enhancing maneuverability around stones, road bumps, and more.
Among the newer, but increasingly popular types of mountain bike is the Singlespeed. Unlike other mountain bikes, the SS has only one set gear ratio. It is chosen according to the rider’s specific ability, tailored to personal strength and skill.
They’re intended more for very fit, experienced riders to use on cross country terrain. Also factored in is the larger-than-standard wheel size. A 29″ wheel bike will be set differently than one with the standard 26″ wheel.
XC (Cross Country)
An XC mountain bike has a very short travel suspension – around 65-100mm (3-4.5 inches). They are also lighter weight, as low as 20lbs (9kg) in some cases. That is achieved with lightweight materials in both the frame and components. As a result, they may not stand up to the pounding that other mountain bikes will.
But they’re designed to be a good all-purpose mountain bike that provide easy climbing, quick turns, and sure maneuverability. Still, riders should avoid jumps and deep washouts.
Consider the type of riding you intend to do before you select your mountain bike.