BUYING GUIDES: MOUNTAIN BIKES

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Mountain Bikes are bikes that are designed to be ridden off-road on trails, mud tracks, rocky/sandy sections and generally areas which are not smooth. Generally, mountain bikes are identified by knobby tires, flat handlebars, and suspensions which provide a smooth and stable ride even on highly irregular or broken terrain.

Mountain bikes are broadly classified into two categories

1) HARDTAIL – these bikes come with a single suspension in front
2) FULL SUSPENSION – these bikes come with a front suspension as well as a rear shock absorber

WHAT KIND OF RIDING IS SUITABLE FOR MOUNTAIN BIKE?

If the idea of getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and going riding to your local trail sounds perfect or going on a Manali to Leh cycling expedition that involves riding in areas in the midst of nature where road connectivity is not present, the mountain bike is the ideal bike.

WHAT SHOULD BE THE IDEAL WHEEL SIZE FOR MOUNTAIN BIKES?

Mountain bike wheel size has undergone somewhat of a revolution in recent years. Originally most hardtails used 26” wheels but many brands have switched to 27.5” or 29” wheels. The bigger 29” & 27.5″ wheels roll faster and roll better over obstacles but many riders claim that the smaller 26″ wheels feel a lot more responsive. From our experience, having ridden all kinds of bicycles – we think it really depends on how well the bicycle has been engineered.

HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKES

A hardtail uses a single suspension at the front to provide suspension and to improve traction and handling keeping safety in mind. hardtails are typically cheaper vis-a-vis a full suspension bike as they don’t have multiple suspensions, have a simpler design and are lighter. Maintenance costs end up being a lot lower since these are simpler machines with lesser moving parts. All this makes a hardtail a good choice for riders just looking to explore the sport of mountain biking.

WHY ARE HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKES THE BEST CHOICE FOR BEGINNERS?

Hardtail mountain bikes are the best way to start riding off-road. These bikes typically cost less than a full suspensions. They feature a lightweight frame and have a suspension fork with 100 – 120mm travel. Hardtails have all three wheel sizes – 26″, 27.5″ & 29″. Because of its simple design and the lack of a rear suspension, hardtails have a major advantage when it comes to pedalling – there is no loss of energy from the rear suspension activating as you pedal. This is known as “Pedal Bob” and rear suspension technology works hard to reduce/prevent this. Since there are fewer moving parts, overall maintenance costs are drastically lower compared to a full suspension bike.

WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS OF HARDTAIL BIKES?

The lack of rear suspension translates to a less comfortable ride, especially when the terrain is extremely rocky or undulating. These constant vibrations can lead to fatigue and also increases the chances of having a fall since there is no suspension to soak up the bumps and impact.

WHICH HARDTAIL BIKE IS SUITABLE FOR YOU?

There are many different types of hardtail bikes, some designed as all-rounders and others to cater to specific disciplines.

Most budget and mid-range hardtail Mountain Bikes feature a lightweight aluminium frame and Top end bikes typically use lightweight carbon fibre. Typically we have three different types of hardtail bike available – Crosscountry (XC), Trail and Dirt Jump Hardtail bikes.

CROSS COUNTRY BIKES (XC) – Cross Country mountain bikes are designed to be efficient and fast on single-track trails with climbs and descents. Generally, cross-country hardtails are used to cover long distances, irrespective of it being a race situation or if you’re riding with your friends. Suspensions typically have 80-120mm of travel and are sometimes equipped with a fork lockout to make them even more efficient while riding smooth sections or while climbing. Most frames are made of lightweight aluminum whilst some of the top end models use Carbon fiber while not only reduces weight but also improve ride quality as the frame becomes stiffer while staying compliant.

TRAIL BIKES – Trail bikes are built to handle varied terrain including berms, jumps and rock gardens. These offer a slightly slack geometry and about 120-150mm of travel. Compared to Cross-country hardtails, Trail bikes are slightly heavier as the frames and hardware are tougher to make them capable on demanding, rocky trails. These bikes are available in 26″, 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes.

DIRT JUMP BIKES – Dirt jumping bikes are designed to spend as much time in the air as they do on the ground. Generally, these bikes have tough aluminum or steel frames which are much heavier than cross-country & trail bikes. Frame sizes are typically smaller providing increased agility in the air and to offer clearance for pulling tricks. But this also means that they aren’t good for riding big distances.

FAT BIKE – The Fat bike is the newest member to enter the mountain bike family. Because of its ultra-wide tires and very minimal tire pressure, these bikes are perfect to travel across snow, mud & sand with ease.

FULL SUSPENSION MOUNTAIN BIKES

A full-suspension bike allows you to ride off-road trails with more comfort and control than a hardtail bike. By using a rear shock absorber it allows wheels to move over bumps and rocks smoothly. Because of this additional stability and control, full suspension bikes are a must while the terrain becomes a lot more technical and challenging.

WHICH FULL SUSPENSION BIKE IS SUITABLE FOR YOU?

There are many different types of full suspension bikes, some designed as trail ready all-rounders and others that are specific to certain disciplines of riding. There are four major types of full suspension bikes – Cross-country (XC), Trail bikes, Enduro bikes & Downhill bikes.

CROSS COUNTRY BIKES (XC) – Cross Country mountain bikes are designed to be efficient and fast on single-track trails with climbs and descents. Generally, cross-country hardtails are used to cover long distances, irrespective of it being a race situation or if you’re riding with your friends. Suspensions typically have 80-120mm of travel and are sometimes equipped with a fork lockout to make them even more efficient while riding smooth sections or while climbing. Most frames are made of lightweight aluminum whilst some of the top end models use Carbon fiber while not only reduces weight but also improve ride quality as the frame becomes stiffer while staying compliant.

TRAIL BIKES – Trail bikes are built to handle varied terrain including berms, jumps and rock gardens. These offer a slightly slack geometry and about 120-150mm of travel. Compared to Cross-country hardtails, Trail bikes are slightly heavier as the frames and hardware are tougher to make them capable on demanding, rocky trails. These bikes are available in 26″, 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes.

ALL MOUNTAIN/ENDURO BIKES – All mountain & Enduro bikes are slightly heavier than Trail bikes. These are built keeping challenging rough terrains that normal Trail bikes in mind. Enduro bikes are available in 26″, 27.5″ or 29” wheel sizes and frames in aluminium or carbon fibre depending on usage. Enduro bikes are slightly longer and have slacker angles compared to Trail & Cross-country bikes. This makes them a lot more stable while descending technical terrain. These also come with wider handlebar and shorter stems for reactive steering.

DOWNHILL BIKES – Downhill bikes have strength and durability as the biggest priority with weight less of an issue. Suspensions are typically between 140-200mm which allows the bike to absorb massive bumps and drops. These bikes are typically built to race down technical trails and are not really build to pedal up or ride on flat trails/roads.