Choosing the right mountain bike

mountain biking
Alpine Bikes, 05 April 2011
Choosing the right bike for your needs and budget can be confusing, so the first step is to ask yourself what you will be using the bike for. We’ll be talking here about bikes suitable for off-road use. “Off-road” can mean very different things. For one, it could be riding on canal towpaths, while for another it could mean riding purpose-built mountain bike trails such as those offered at the 7-Stanes riding centres in the Scottish Borders. For each of these riders quite different bikes would be appropriate. With several sub-divisions of off-road bikes, the prospect of buying a bike can be a little daunting, but with research on your part, and some expert advice from our experienced staff, you should be able to purchase a bike that suits your specific needs.

Hybrid bikes
Hybrid Bikes are literally a cross between a traditional bike and a mountain bike and are most suited to light off-road use, such as forest paths and canal towpaths, as well as for city/commuting use. Standard Hybrids with a relatively upright riding position (such as the Trek 7000 series Hybrid bikes) offer sprightly performance on all firm, relatively smooth surfaces. Alternatively, the Comfort Hybrid’s (such as the Navigator series from Trek) are aimed at those who want a more sedate, comfortable ride. These have several comfort orientated features; a very upright riding position, suspension seat posts, generously padded saddles and larger, softer tyres.

Mountain Bikes
Mountain Bikes have diversified as the sport has developed and can be loosely categorised as follows:
    •    Recreational Mountain Bikes – aimed at those who want to take their first steps in off-road riding. A good example of this would be the Trek 4300.
    •    Cross-Country Mountain bikes – aimed at those who want to ride more aggressively, and faster, both up, and downhill, but for whom the climbing performance (and hence weight) is key. These bikes, such as the Trek 8000 or the Santa Cruz Superlight come with either front or full suspension (3”- 4” travel).
    •    Trail Mountain bikes – for those who still want to be able to climb and cover long distances, but also tackle more technically challenging terrain with jumps, and drop-offs. A bike which is more robust, if a little heavier, with a control orientated riding position. These again have either front or full suspension, but will typically offer more suspension travel (4”- 6” for greater control). For examples, take a look at the Genesis Altitude 2.0, or the Trek Fuel EX series.
    •    Freeride bikes and Downhill bikes tend to be big, burly full suspension bikes with between 6”-10” travel. Of little use for covering distance, these are the fastest (and most fun) bikes on very steep, rocky, extreme terrain. The Iron Horse Yakuza, 7 Point and Sunday ranges, as well as the Trek Sessions are good examples.
Ultimately, within the cycling market you definitely do get what you pay for…lighter/more durable/increased adjustability/more refined performance etc.

Bikes specifically for women
Women’s specific models are available in several categories including Hybrids, Recreational Mountain bikes, as well as Hardtail and Full Suspension Cross Country Mountain bikes. These feature frames designed to fit women and tend to feature different saddles, handlebars and grips, brake levers, and softer suspension for better ergonomics and functionality. See Trek’s WSD and Gary Fisher’s GS offerings.

Finally, having successfully identified a suitable style of bike, the most important consideration when purchasing a new bike is sizing: getting the correct size is critical for the rider to feel comfortable and in control on their bike. If possible try several different bikes and ask your local Alpine Bikes expert to check your position for you.

Article provided by Alpine Bikes

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