You've heard rumblings at the brewery from mud covered friends about an amazing ride they just had or from a co-worker inviting you on an after work escape to get some fun exercise. The smiles and enthusiasm these individuals share is derived from the two-wheeled, ridiculously blissful experience called mountain biking. Before we talk brands and components, it is important to understand the types of mountain biking and what makes a bike right for you.
A few early mountain bike pioneers had the great idea in the late 1970s to bomb down a mountain in Marin County, California on beach cruisers. Needless to say the bikes could not withstand the rough and steep terrain of the old fire road and promptly fell apart. This would become known as the birthplace of mountain biking. Since conception, companies have been engineering mountain bikes to be safe and highly capable off road machines. Instead of the industry trying to market a single do it all bike, designers have built a range of bikes that fit the individual and their surrounding terrain.
Mountain bikes are primarily designed with two things in mind, the terrain and rider intention. For example, are we looking to pedal long distances on winding clean single track or ride challenging features on rock and root strewn trail? Here we will breakdown the types of mountain biking into four categories. Cross Country, Trail, Gravity and Fat Bikes. These four bike types have been built for specific terrain, rider and ride styles.
The head tube angle is the degree in which the frame holds the steer tube. The steepness or slackness of the head tube angle will affect the bikes performance on the trail. For instance, a steeper 71-degree head tube angle benefits the frame's climbing efficiency but makes it less stable while descending. A slacker 65-degree head tube angle increases the frame's stability while descending but the bikes climbing efficiency is compromised.
Most mountain bikes are designed with suspension. Suspension travel is the maximum distance the suspension can compress in its stroke. Travel is shown in millimeters or inches. For mountain bikes a small amount of suspension travel is 80mm and a large amount of travel is 200mm.