Mountain Bikes which can also be known as a ATB's, MTB's, Off Road Bike's or Off Roader's have been designed to be ridden off-road. Mountain Bikes are extremely versatile and are designed to be ridden off-road but can be ridden anywhere on any terrain. These bikes have design characteristics that allow them to thrive on highly technical (i.e. rocky, slippery or steep) terrain. Unlike Road Bikes, Mountain Bikes have a more upright position that encourage the rider to look ahead and read the trail. Mountain Bikes usually come with suspension and wider tyres to enable them to ride over pretty much any kind of surface from root infested switchbacks to rocky alpine trails. Mountain Biking is a great way to discover the outdoors and explore what your local trails have to offer. Mountain Biking offers a sense of freedom and escape in the great outdoors that other forms of cycling don't allow. Riding your bike for extended periods of time without seeing another person can be very liberating. There is a certain feeling of being at one with nature that can be had from Mountain Biking.
Available now in varying styles and wheel sizes, there is a Mountain bike for every type of riding. Below are some of the disciplines 'Mountain Bikes' are split into.
Trail riding is pretty much as it sounds and is the most normal and versatile form of Mountain Biking. Trail riding is "normal" Mountain Biking; to put it simply, it involves using versatile Mountain Bikes that can climb and descend with equal performance. A trail bike will have the geometry to allow a rider to climb steep terrain, but will also have a suspension platform that allows the rider to descend at speeds far greater than a pure cross country race type bike would allow. The vast majority of trail bikes have full suspension which is considered the optimal platform for climbing and descending at speed whilst offering increased control. Wheel sizing can range from 26" – 29" to offer the perfect size to match your style and venues.
Cross Country Bikes:
This riding places more emphasis on fitness and endurance than trail riding. Cross Country (XC) riding comprises of extended climbing and riding faster rolling terrain. Most of the endurance Mountain Bike races are competed on using XC Mountain bikes. A cross country Mountain Bike will usually have only front suspension (Hardtail) or will have a rear suspension unit that offers limited amounts of movement to ensure that the riders energy is being put into propelling the bike forwards at all times. The smaller amounts of travel are present to help keep the tyres on the terrain giving you grip at speed.
Downhill or Freeride Bikes:
Downhill and Freeride Mountain Biking are a form of gravity riding with considerable emphasis on riding technical tracks at speed. Downhill riding is best done on a specialist downhill bike which has a slacker, more relaxed head angle, low bottom bracket and at least 7-10 inches of front and rear suspension travel to soak up big impacts and keep you in control at all times. Downhill bikes tend to be heavy and hard work on any terrain other than when its pointing down! Much as you wouldn't want to ride a Cross Country bike downhill you wouldn't want to ride a downhill bike on a cross country route. Downhill Mountain Biking takes the sport to its most extreme. Freeride Mountain Biking is similar to Downhill but the courses are often more technical and can include man made wooden structures called "North Shore" named after the North Shore of Vancouver in Canada where this type of riding was born.
Hardtail Mountain Bikes:
Hardtail Mountain Bikes offer the rider a lightweight bike with front suspension only. These bikes have a fully rigid rear end and are ideal for smooth trails with plenty of flowing single-track and climbs. Due to their lack of rear suspension they're not always suitable for steep and rocky terrain that requires technical manoeuvrability. Hardtail's built for off road riding usually come equipped with enough gearing options to tackle a wide variety of descents and inclines. Disc brakes ensure that the hard tail rider can cycle with control and ample stopping power, even in muddy wet conditions, where rim brakes can suffer a loss of power. The sport of Mountain Biking started with cross country riding on 26" wheeled hardtail bikes. The latest trend in Mountain Biking is using bigger wheels which effectively make the bumps smaller and carry more speed. The most common big wheel size at the moment is 29" wheels (29ers). 29ers are taking the hardtail market by storm and the extra three inches of wheel diameter go some way to reducing the harshness of a fully rigid rear end, and offer faster rolling when riding. Sitting in between a 26" and a 29" wheel is the 27.5" wheel size. 27.5" or 650B (The correct technical name) Mountain Bikes occupy a Zen-like middle ground between the low weight and flick-ability of 26in wheels and the momentum-carrying, obstacle-smashing attributes 29er riders love.
Full Suspension Mountain Bikes:
Full Suspension Mountain Bikes have become the most popular type of Mountain Bike over £1500 where they can really come into their own and are lightweight enough to not add much of a weight penalty. Full suspension mountain Bikes offer more control to the rider and will allow you to ride faster over a given type of terrain. Full Suspension Mountain bikes come equipped with disc brakes and enough gearing options to tackle a wide variety of descents and inclines. Disc brakes ensure that the faster speeds generated on a full suspension bike can be tamed when needed. Much like Hardtail Mountain Bikes, Full Suspension Mountain Bikes are now almost exclusively produced with the bigger wheel sizes. 29er Mountain Bikes are readily available in short travel modes (100mm front and rear) but the latest models are now incorporating up to 5 inches (127mm) of front and rear travel, making them more suitable for riding technical tracks. Some manufacturers offer 29" and 27.5" options in the same bike so you can make your ultimate choice. 27.5" wheel sizes are more popular on 120mm suspension travel bikes and upwards.