Gear & Gifts

The Ultimate Guide to Mountain Bikes

If it is your first time to buy a mountain bike, there are several things that you should know before making a purchase. Mountain bikes are not only limited to their size and their wheels, as you would also have to learn more about suspensions, hardtails, and other parts of the bike. To help you understand the different intricacies of the mountain bike, we are providing you with the ultimate guide on what to know before buying one.

Mountain Bike Types

While the mountain bike is already a type of bike, there are sub-types that exist within the realm of the said vehicle. Here are three of the most notable types of mountain bikes.

Full-Suspension Bikes

Full-suspension or dual suspension bikes have special parts near the wheels that reduce or absorb impact on the rider. In rocky or uneven terrains, these suspensions minimize the pain that rider usually experience whenever the bikes go up and down while it moves. In addition, the suspension also helps the wheels to remain on the ground instead of bouncing around on the trail.

If you are planning to ride a mountain bike on hills or trails, then it is best that you should have suspensions installed on the rear and front wheels of your bike. Now, there are two types of suspensions that you need to know. The first one is the air spring suspension, which relies on an air pump for proper shock absorption, while the second one is the coil spring suspension that has titanium or steel springs to provide extra durability while having shock reduction capabilities. There are cons to each of these suspension types, the coil springs are much heavier than air springs, and the latter is a bit more fragile than the former. It is up to you as to which type of suspension you would like to have on your bike, but we recommend that you try them or watch videos about them first before buying or installing.

Rigid Bikes

Rigid bikes are more affordable than full-suspension one due to having no suspension installed on them. Because these bikes have no suspension, they are typically only used in lighter trails, as riding them on rockier terrain would be painful for the rider since there is no shock absorption found near the wheels.

For beginners who are on a tight budget, a rigid bike may be the right one for you, but you may need an upgrade soon if you are planning to ride on more technical trails. However, do keep in mind that rigid mountain bikes today are fairly uncommon since bikes with suspension are becoming cheaper and cheaper thanks to lower production costs.

Hardtail Bikes

Hardtail bikes have suspension like dual suspension bikes, but instead of having two suspensions, there is only one found in hardtail versions, and it is located at the front wheel. Since they only have one suspension, hardtail bikes have lighter weight and are much more maintenance-friendly because you would only have to keep an eye on one suspension. However, like rigid bikes, hardtail bikes are not really suitable for technical trails, but they allow the rider to anticipate and control impact on the rear, as they can prevent shock from occurring at the back of the bike by maneuvering away from the rocks at the front.

Types of Mountain Bike Wheels

Besides suspensions, you would also have to take a look at the wheels installed on the bike you are planning to buy, there are many sizes of wheels available for mountain bikes, but there are currently three that are the most popular for beginners and veterans alike.

29 Inches

Often named as “29ers” by bike enthusiasts, the 29-inch wheels are arguable the heaviest and the biggest ones out of all popular types. These wheels are usually utilized in technical trails that have more rocks and obstacles in them, as it enables the rider to absorb less impact since he or she is slightly elevated, and the wheels are also durable enough to withstand the terrain. On the other hand, they are very heavy, and its weight may be a con for those who are incapable of controlling heavier bikes.

27.5 Inches

The 27.5-inches wheels, sometimes called the 650Bs, are currently the most common size of wheels in the market because of their versatility. Before the 650Bs became popular, the 26-inch wheels are the ones found on most mountain bikes in the 90s and the early 2000s; however, when mountain biker riders realized that they could get all the pros found on the 26 inches in the 650Bs but with extra durability, they decided to switch to the latter.

26 Inches

The 26-inch wheels, which were once the normal size of wheels for mountain bikes, are the lightest and thinnest out of the three popular types of wheels. They are suitable for beginners who wanted to learn how to better control mountain bikes on lighter terrain, but they are not recommended for experience rider who may want to ride their bikes in rockier trails.

Types of Cranksets

There are three main types of mountain bike cranksets to choose from, but only two are considered by professionals to be the best for racing or just for casual trail riding.

Three-Ring Crankset

The triple chainset was once the common crankset used by professional mountain bike riders, with having 22, 21, and 44-tooth chainrings attached to the bike. Over the years, riders have switched to other types of crankset because the three-ring version is too heavy for most of them. But, you can still see some beginner-levels bikes that have this crankset installed, mainly for the purpose of teaching newbies how to change gears.

Double-Ring Crankset

Double-ring cranksets are favored by experienced mountain bike riders because they are lighter and more reliable than three-ring cranksets. On the other hand, professional riders would often steer away from using double-rings due to being heavy than the ones that they use, which is the single-ring crankset.

Single-Ring Crankset

The single-ring crankset is the favorite of rider who are usually using their bikes for downhill racing. As the years went on, the single-ring crankset became a popular choice among professional bikers due to it being the lightest as well as the fastest.

Types of Frames for Mountain Bikes

As the frames are the ones that hold all the parts of the mountain bike together, it is important to know the materials used on this specific part because it needs to be durable and stable enough to keep the other parts of the bike in place. These are some well-known materials used for bike frames.

Steel

Steel is considered the cheapest option when it comes to frame materials, and it is often seen in beginner-level bikes, mainly because of its affordability. But there are plenty of cons to steel frames, and one of which is that it is highly susceptible to rusting or corrosion. Another con that steel frames have is that they are very heavy, which can be bothersome for veteran riders who want to control their bikes better in any terrain. There are steel frames that have a special coating on them to prevent rusting, although they are almost the same price as some of the other frame materials on the list, so it is better to you choose other materials instead of steel.

Carbon Fiber

Originally only seen in mountain bikes owned by athletes and professional riders, carbon fiber was an expensive material for frames back in the days, but due to lower production costs, even a beginner or someone with a tight budget will be able to buy a mountain bike with a carbon fiber frame. Carbon fiber frames are one of the most lightweight material that is perfect for any type of mountain bike riding, but because of its lightness, the material can be quite fragile at times, which leads to cracks in several areas due to the stress caused by impact. If you are going to buy a bike with a carbon fiber frame, make sure that you perform proper maintenance and see if there are any damages on it so that your bike won’t fail on you during your riding trips.

Aluminum

After the steel frame bikes almost became obsolete, aluminum is now the most common material used for mountain bike frames. Similar to carbon fiber, aluminum is a lightweight material, but it is much more durable because of its denser properties. Aluminum also has shock-absorbing properties that can further reduce the impact on the rider if the mountain bike has a suspension system.

Titanium

Titanium is the most expensive material out of the four, but its hefty price tag is justified by its durability and ability to withstand any weather or terrain conditions. Most bike riders will tell you that Titanium is stronger than aluminum and carbon fiber, and it also insusceptible to rust, corrosion, or discoloration. However, because of its price, it is not the number one option for frame materials by riders, as they would opt to go for aluminum since it is less expensive and low maintenance.

Those are some of the parts of the mountain bike that you should keep in mind while visiting a bike store or searching for bikes online. Choosing the right mountain bike for you is not easy, so you must first be knowledgeable in the different aspects of the bike so that you will know what to expect once you take it for a ride on a trail.

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