It isn’t easy to go shopping for the best mountain bike if you are new to cycling. There are quite a few different types to choose from, have different specs, and come in a huge variety of brands.
So, how do you decide on the best mountain bike to buy when there are so many gorgeous bikes out there? Well, stick around because in this buying guide we are going to make it very easy for you to find exactly what you are looking for.
The first thing you should consider when you go shopping for a good mountain bike is not the brand, price, or fancy accessories that these bikes have to offer. You should first determine your ultimate need for your bike.
What type of bike do you want to buy? Or, more importantly, what are you going to use your bike for?
Do you need a good bike to get you to and from work? Then mountain bikes are probably not the best pick, to begin with. Do you want to ride up and down rocky mountains? Or do you perhaps need a bike that can ride on and off the road? Do you love to take on long rides through country trails?
These questions are very important because they help you define the type of bike you need to buy. Here is a quick look at the best bikes to get based on your primary need.
The Best Mountain Biking for Beginners
So, you’ve never ridden a mountain bike before and don’t know what type of journeys you want to take on?
Don’t worry because we have a bike type in mind just for you.
The best beginner mountain bike is one that is flexible enough to go anywhere. You don’t know exactly what type of biking adventures you prefer just yet and as a complete beginner, it is always best to stick to trails that are not too tough.
Trails that are too rocky and rough to handle won’t just extinguish your lust for adventure, these trials can have a terrible effect on your body. Yes, we are talking muscle spasms, burning knees, and sore feet because your body just isn’t used to this type of workout just yet.
The best entry-level mountain bike for complete beginners is a trail bike.
These bikes are the most common on the market because they can be used for various types of adventures. Trail bikes usually have a full suspension, they can be made of any material, they are decent for descending and climbing, and they do fairly well on long journeys. These bikes also vary quite a lot in price which means you are very likely to find one that suits your budget.
The most basic trail bikes usually have 26” wheels but you can also find these bikes with 27.5” and 29” wheels. They usually have a full suspension with the rear ranging from 4.3” to 5.5” and the front from 4.7” to 5.9”.
The Best Mountain Bike for Riding Anywhere
If you like to take on a variety of adventures then you already know that you should find a mountain bike that is a jack of all trades. The trail mountain bike is the best pick for those who want a bike that is designed for having fun on different types of terrain. These bikes are ideal for handling all types of vertical and horizontal paths.
As said before, trail bikes are the most common and they are ideal for general mountain biking. They are fairly good at uphill trips, they are pretty fast for downhill races, they are fairly good for long distances (especially if you have a trial bike with 29” wheels) and these bikes are great for staying fit.
These bikes usually come with a full suspension and you can get them with any of the three main wheel sizes, including flat tire designs that are more equipped for road-trips. The key here is to invest in something durable since you will likely be using your mountain bike quite a lot. Invest in a quality brand and a bike with an aluminum alloy frame since these tend to be more durable.
An enduro bike can also be a good pick for adventure lovers that love to sample different challenges. These bikes are relatively new on the mountain bike market and are usually purchased for enduro racing. These races usually involve lots of climbing, technical turns, and timed journeys. Enduro bikes are designed to be light, fast, durable and they are fairly good at handling both uphill and downhill trails.
One downside, enduro bikes are usually quite pricey, which is why we do think that a trial bike might be the better option since these are very similar in terms of flexibility.
The best bike specs for versatility are something with a full suspension that ranges from 5.9” to 6.7”. 27.5” wheels are the most common for enduro bikes but you can also get them with 29” wheels. These bikes usually have a wider geometry than trail bikes and tend to be lower to the ground but they still offer good peddling comfort.
The Best Mountain Bike for Speed
Love to speed along cycling trails as fast as you can? Then you should definitely look for a mountain bike with a 26” wheel since these are considered the fastest mountain bike types.
The following mountain bike types are our top picks if you need something that can go fast:
In enduro races, athletes often have to race against time to complete certain sections of the tournament. Enduro bikes, therefore, are also designed to be quite fast. They are lower to the ground with a wider geometry.
When it comes to speed, you should look for 27.5” wheels since these are not too small to reduce your speed, yet not too large to make it hard to gain momentum. Full 5.9” to 6.7” suspension is also a good feature to look for in these bikes.
Cross country bikes are also designed for speed. They are perfect for uphill and downhill rides and the bikes are usually lighter with carbon-fiber frames. These bikes usually don’t offer too much suspension (around 3.9” to 4.7”) and they usually come with 29” wheels that are perfect for momentum.
If you want a cross-country bike that offers quick acceleration and offers fairly good speed then you should consider one that has 27.5” wheels with the minimum suspension mentioned above.
Downhill bikes are the fastest for, surprise, downhill trips. They usually have a deep suspension (around 7.9” for the front and back) and they have a lower frame with long wheelbases.
Downhill bikes are usually heavier to help them gain more momentum while you are racing downhill. These bikes are great for downhill races but they are not elite picks for general speed because they are not necessarily designed for uphill travel.
The best downhill mountain bikes usually come with 7.9” front and back suspension and geometry with slacker angles (around 62 to 64 degrees). These bikes usually have a heavier aluminum alloy or steel frame that is ideal for increasing your speed when traveling downhill.
The Best Mountain Bike for Long Distance Riding
If you are traveling across the country or on long races then you should consider a bike that is light, easy to peddle, stable on the road, and that has large wheels. Long-distance races usually involve lots of uphill and downhill terrain but the road is (usually) fairly smooth.
For traveling across the country, like endurance races, there is no other bike to choose than the cross-country mountain bike. These bikes have large 29” wheels that might be slow to accelerate but are terrific for reducing your cycling efforts once you have built good momentum.
They usually don’t have much suspension since these bikes are very light to help you preserve your energy as much as possible.
A cross-country mountain bike with a back suspension of 3.9” to 4.7” or even a rigid bike (no suspension) is ideal. The 29” wheels are ideal for long journeys and a nice and light carbon-fiber frame will come a long way if you are feeling tired.
The Best Mountain Bike for Downhill Rides
There are not too many downhill bike trails but if you have your heart set on a bike that is designed to offer you maximum speed when you are racing downhill then you only have one option, the downhill mountain bike.
Downhill Mountain Bike
These bikes are designed for downhill races. They are lower to the ground with a slacker geometry of around 62 to 64 degrees. They mostly come with 27.5” wheels, they have lots of suspension in the front and back, the frames are heavier to help you gain momentum when traveling downhill, and they have a flatter and lower fit for when you are sitting on these bikes.
The fastest bike is one with smaller wheels like 27.5”, or 26” if you can find one. A balanced aluminum frame is ideal (especially if you want your bike to survive a downhill fall). A 7.9” full suspension is perfect for keeping you steady on your path and the slack angle of 62-64 degrees is perfect for gaining as much momentum as you can while you are cycling downhill. You should also get a bike with large, firm brakes to help you control all of that speed.
The Best Mountain Bike for Stunts
Not all mountain bikes are ideal for aerial stunts, where you fly through the air before coming back down with a lot of force. You need a lightweight bike with plenty of suspension and one that is easy to ride uphill and downhill.
The Dirt Jump Mountain Bike
These bikes are specially designed to handle all of those stunts and falls. Dirt jump bikes usually don’t have a whole lot of fancy gear to marvel at. They usually have single speed gears since anything more than this is only likely to break when you come crashing down from a height.
Dirt jump mountain bikes also have large handlebars so you can easily grip your bike when performing stunts while the frames of these bikes are usually quite small.
If you have no idea what dirt jump biking is, then you might misjudge these bikes for a very expensive kids bike.
For these bikes, you should look for something with a very small frame. They are also usually the best hardtail mountain bikes. The frame is smaller so you can perform stunts easily and a light yet durable frame is a must. Look for a bike with large handlebars and a single-speed gear set.
How to Pick the Right Bike Specs
Once you have chosen the right type of mountain bike to buy, you can start considering other bike specs. There are lots of mountain bike brands out there and each of these brands might offer a mountain bike type with unique specs.
Some bike brands even offer bespoke services so you can get your bike designed according to your own specifications. Bespoke bikes are, however, quite pricey. Only professional or competing mountain bikers usually consider bespoke bike services because they need a bike that will give them optimal performance based on their own body’s characteristics.
Here is a quick guide to help you find a bike with the right specs:
Consider the Bike Size
All mountain bikes come in different sizes. These sizes are generally universal and usually suit people of different lengths. Here is a quick look at the different sizes of bikes for people of specific height categories:
XS – Suitable for riders with a height of 58.2” to 62.2”
S – Suitable for riders with a height of 62.6” to 66.1”
M – Suitable for riders with a height of 66.5” to 70.1”
L – Suitable for riders with a height of 70.5” to 72.8”
XL – Suitable for riders with a height of 73.2” to 76”
XXL – Suitable for riders with a height of 76.4” or taller
Consider the Wheel Size
Mountain bike wheels only come in three different sizes: 26”, 27.5” and 29”.
When you are looking through different types of mountain bikes you will notice that most of them only offer bikes with specific wheel sizes. Cross-country bikes, for example, all come with 29” wheels with exceptions for small bikes for youths.
Some bike types do, however, offer various wheel sizes to choose from. A good example is the trail bike where you can choose from any of the wheel sizes.
Unless you’re buying your bike for a specific purpose like those mentioned above, wheel sizes often come down to personal preference.
Consider Your Bike Frame
Most mountain bike types come with different types of frames. The frame you have can also impact the cost and weight of your bike. Lighter frames like carbon fiber, tend to be very expensive and can be a bit fragile.
Relatively heavier frames like aluminum alloy, tend to be more affordable and durable, but they are also heavier.
To make it easier for you to decide on the best frame you should consider these options:
Long-distance and Endurance Riding on Straight Paths
For these types of trips, you should consider something lighter like a carbon fiber frame. Yes, they will be more expensive but in the long run, can help you reduce fatigue.
Rough Terrains, Stunts, and Downhill Rides
For rocky terrains, stunts, and downhill rides where you are very likely to fall at least once, you should consider a bike with a stronger and more durable frame like aluminum alloy. You don’t want a bike that breaks after the first fall.
The frame that is going to last you the longest is an aluminum alloy frame. These frames are rust-proof, tougher, and they will last you a very long time. Steel frames are arguably tougher, but they are also much heavier. Aluminum carries the best balance.
For tournament rides, carbon fiber frames are always the best pick (with exceptions for downhill rides). These lighter frames allow you to go further without feeling tired so you can bring home the gold.
For Those on a Tight Budget
Carbon fiber frames are quite pricey. If you are shopping on a tight budget then it is better to get an aluminum alloy frame, not just because they are more affordable but also because your bike will last a lot longer.
We are not going to touch too much on the subject of geometry in terms of specs. If you have chosen the right mountain bike type, the geometry of the bike should already be correct. These bikes are specifically designed for specific tasks and their frames are usually pretty standard.
Mountain Bike Suspension
The suspension on mountain bikes can vary quite a bit, even for the same type of mountain bikes. But generally, mountain bikes can have three different types of suspension.
These bikes have no suspension at the back to help keep the bike as light as possible. The suspension in the front reduces the impact on your arms and makes it easier to steer your bike.
Full Suspension Bikes
Full suspension bikes have shocks in the front and back. The suspension range usually varies quite a lot for different types of bikes.
These bikes don’t have any suspension at all. There are not too many rigid bikes available on the market but if you do choose a rigid bike, know that they are not really intended for rough terrain.
How About Brand
Last, but not least, we have the whole brand issue. For many people, brands are not important, and yet it should be one of the most important things to consider when choosing your bike.
Cheap brands use cheap parts and these bikes are not as equipped to offer as much in terms of performance.
When you buy the best mountain bike brands, you are sure to make a good investment and you will get good quality that will either save you money in the long run or pay for itself in terms of performance.
There are quite a few mountain bike brands out there and it is always best to focus on those with a longstanding reputation for manufacturing quality bicycles.
When you buy a quality bike, you will get quality performance. For most people, a good mountain bike is a one-time investment that they benefit from for many years to come. It is a vessel that offers the opportunity to enjoy lots of adventures and helps you stay fit and healthy.
Quality is always one of the most important features to consider when you are shopping for the right mountain bike.
We do hope that this guide helps you discover what type of mountain bike you need for your adventures. And if you are in the market for a good quality bike then we welcome you to have a look at some of the other articles we have right here on our website.