Mountain bikes absolutely are a exciting technique to exercise and join with character. When compared to street bikes, they have got the following traits:
fatter tires with rugged tread for stability and durability on off-road terrain
a more upright cycling position that lets you enjoy the view
suspension systems on some bikes absorb shock for a more comfortable ride
There are many ways to enjoy mountain biking, and you don’t even have to be in the mountains. Trails vary from pleasant rides on wide, flowing logging roads to high-adrenaline challenges on technical singletrack.
In this article, we'll tell you the basics of what to expect before your first ride, including an overview of different types of mountain bike terrain, styles of mountain biking
and basics for getting geared up for an enjoyable time on the trails.
Types of Mountain Bike Terrain?
While you might start out on trails that are relatively smooth and flat, your ability to navigate around—or over—obstacles will develop as you gain experience and becomes part of the fun of the sport. Mountain-bike-specific trails are typically marked by skill level (beginner, intermediate, expert and double expert) and are maintained.
Singletrack, the most common trail type, has a width that varies from just a little wider than your shoulders on up to a track that's just wide enough for two bikes to pass. Many singletrack trails are open to one-way travel and wind their way through the best terrain that the landscape offers.
A biker rides up a singletrack trail
Doubletrack trails are normally double the width (or more) of a typical singletrack trail with enough room for two bikes to ride side-by-side. Often doubletrack trails follow abandoned logging roads, fire roads or power-line roads, where the tires of vehicles created two single tracks. Doubletrack trails are usually a gentler grade than singletrack and tend to have less-technical features.
Mountain bike terrain parks are popping up everywhere from jump-and-pump tracks under urban overpasses to lift-serviced trails at ski resorts. Expect such features as elevated bridges, halfpipes, jumps of various sizes, berms, banked corners and hairy downhill switchbacks.
Mountain Biking Styles
Many bike manufacturers categorize their bikes based on the next mountain biking styles to help you decide what type of bike is appropriate for you.
This is arguably the most common mountain biking style because the category isn’t grounded in any specific type of racing. If you’re interested in meeting up with friends at the local trailhead and riding a mixture of climbs and descents, then this is the style for you. Bikes in this category place equal emphasis on enjoyable, efficiency and sensible overall weight.
: This style of riding typically implies riding fast, with an emphasis on climbing prowess. Distances vary from just a few miles to 25-plus, and bikes tend to focus on light weight and efficiency. These bikes can be great if you’re considering getting competitive or would like a racier ride for your local trails.
: Think of all-mountain/enduro riding as trail riding on steroids, with bigger leg-burning climbs, longer white-knuckle descents and more technical features—both man-made and natural. Bikes for all-mountain/enduro riding are designed to perform well on steep descents while also being light and nimble enough to pedal uphill.
The term enduro comes from the racing world and describes a competition that has timed downhill stages and untimed uphill stages. The winner is whoever has the fastest combined time on the downhills. Enduro riding has become very popular, and the term is now often used interchangeably with all-mountain regardless of whether you’re racing or not.
This type of riding is mostly done at lift-serviced bike parks (often during a ski resort’s warmer months). You ride big, tough bikes and wear full-face helmets and body armor. The bikes boast more durable components and fewer gears, and the suspension has more travel (the amount of movement in the suspension). All of this helps you conquer jumps, berms, rock gardens and wooden ladders. Given that you’re on a perpetual descent the entire time, you don’t have to pedal much, but you still get a serious workout because you’re constantly reacting to the fast-approaching terrain.
Picture the kind of bike you always wanted as a kid: one with giant tires that can roll through just about anything. Fat-tire bikes are bikes with tires that are at least 3.7 in. wide (and may be as wide as 5 in. or more). They offer excellent traction through snow and sand. Fat-tire biking is not limited to these conditions and has proven to be a fast-growing addition to all-season trail riding. Fat-tire bikes can be a great choice for beginner mountain bikers because they are very forgiving on rough terrain.
Types of Mountain Bikes
What type of bike you ride is usually decided by where you plan on riding. Suspension type and wheel diameter are two key features that determine what type of terrain the bike is capable of riding. You have a wealth of options when it comes to types of suspension and wheel diameter (denoted by such terms as 26, 27.5 (650b), and 29ers).
Suspension TypeProfile of a rigid mountain bike
Rigid: While not the most common type of mountain bike, “rigid” mountain bikes don’t feature any suspension. They are easy to maintain and usually less expensive, but most riders prefer bikes with suspension for greater comfort. Most fat-tire bikes are rigid, and riders find that the wide tires and low tire pressure provide all the squish needed to absorb bumps in the trail.
Profile of a hardtail mountain bikeHardtail:
These bikes have a suspension fork in the front to help absorb impact on the front wheel, but the rear of the bike has no suspension—ergo a hardtail. Hardtails are typically less expensive than full-suspension bikes, and have fewer moving parts (which often translates into less maintenance). Most hardtails hold the ability to lock out the front fork for times where a fully rigid bike is desired.
Cross-country riders typically gravitate toward hardtails as they allow more direct transfer of power between the pedal stroke and the rear tire. Hardtails can also be at home on all-mountain trails, and the lower cost and easier maintenance make them a solid option for everything except serious lift-serviced downhill trails.
Profile of a full-suspension mountain bikeFull suspension: There are many variations of full-suspension bikes, but the general idea is for the front fork and rear shock to absorb the impacts of the trail. This drastically reduces the impact on the rider, increases traction, and makes for a more forgiving and enjoyable ride.
A full-suspension bike can soak up a lot of a trail bumps
and chatter, but the bike can also “bob” a bit and you lose some of the energy transfer when climbing uphill. As a result, most full-suspension rigs have the ability to lock-out the rear suspension to offer better power transfer and more efficient climbing.
Bikes designed for downhill riding typically boast a lot of travel—the amount of movement in the suspension—compared to bikes designed for cross-country and all-mountain riding. As much as eight inches of travel front and rear is fairly common.