A mountain bike is a broad term and encompasses a number of different types of bicycles which are suited for a particular terrain. Different riding styles and the place you ride at affect the type of bike you choose.
Mountain bikes can be broadly classified into:
Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bikes
Cross country (XC) mountain biking is a form of mountain biking that is performed on paths consisting of forest paths, smooth roads, single-track, and paved roads connecting trails. XC biking emphasizes endurance above technical skill.
Cross country mountain bikes are built for riders who want pedaling performance as their top priority. These are uphill crushing, lung-busting machines bred for endurance and efficiency. The focus on efficiency and lightweight doesn’t come without trade-offs, however, cross country bikes trade out downhill performance for efficiency and weight. Modern XC bikes are trending towards the largest mountain bike wheel size, 29”. This is the same rim diameter as the 700c road bike size.
Ultra-lightweight builds (less than 24 lbs. in some cases) with 4.7″/120mm or less of travel make for the lightest mountain bikes you’ll see anywhere. Tires on these bikes are likely to favor reduced weight, efficiency and faster rolling resistance rather than traction, control or durability.
Trail Mountain Bikes
This category is what most people relate to when they think “mountain bike.” Trail bikes, as the name suggests, are ideal for cycling on slightly uneven terrain trails. The trail bikes are suited for beginner level mountain biking and give equal importance to speed, design, weight, and comfort. The trail bikes usually feature suspension travel of 120- 140 mm which is nothing but the amount of movement allowed by the bike’s front and rear suspension.
Trail bikes add more suspension, more gravity oriented components (like chunkier tires for better traction and bigger brake rotors), and more relaxed geometry than their XC brethren to make them more capable on all kinds of terrain. Trail bikes come with 27.5” or 29” wheels. Suspension can be anywhere from 4.7″/120mm to 6″/150mm of travel (front and back).
Trail bike geometries are typified by “neutral” head angles (66° or 68°) but vary widely to suit different riding styles. Tires on trail bikes will strike a balance between durability, traction and rolling efficiency.
All Mountain or Enduro Mountain Bikes
You could call this category the burly cousin of the trail bike. all-mountain bikes are the centrepiece of the race format called “Enduro,” where climbing is necessary, but only the downhill sections are timed and scored on.
Enduro in its most basic definition is a type of mountain bike racing where the downhills are timed, and the uphill are mandatory but not timed. Riders are timed in stag es that are primarily downhill, with neutral “transfer” stages in between.
Long wheelbase and reach, low bottom bracket and slack head angle are key terms when talking about modern all mountain/enduro geometry.
Enduro mountain bikes come with 27.5” or 29” wheels, or even mixed “mullet” sizes with 29” in the front and 27.5” in the rear.All-mountain bikes have slightly more suspension travel than trail bikes, ranging from 5.5″/140mm to 6.7″/180mm.
Downhill & Freeride Mountain Bikes
A downhill bike (also known as a downhill mountain bike) is a full suspension bicycle designed for downhill cycling on particularly steep, technical trails. Unlike a typical mountain bike, durability and stability are the most important design features, compared to lighter, more versatile cross-country bikes. With these bikes, you’re usually looking for some other way to the top of the trail whether that’s hiking, shuttling or a chairlift.
Freeride bikes have steeper head tube angles and shorter wheelbases for low-speed stability on technical stunts, while downhill bikes have slacker headtube angles and longer wheelbases for absolute high-speed stability at the cost of low-speed manoeuvrability. Burly frames sporting 6.7″/170mm – 10″/250mm+ of suspension travel in the rear and 7″/180mm – 8″/200mm in the front with dual-crown forks that resemble something you might see on a motorcycle.
These bikes tend to be extremely slack (less than 65° head angle) and sport a very low center of gravity (bottom bracket) for confidence on steep terrain and aggressive, brown-pow roosting corners.
Reach out to Spoke Herd for further details. Happy cycling!