Mountain Bike Categories
When it comes to mountain bikes, there are three categories to choose from: Cross-Country (XC), Trail, and Downhill.
Cross-Country (XC) mountain bikes are made for mellow terrain. These bikes are designed to be light and efficient, with short suspension and steep head tube angles. XC bikes typically lack rear suspension, have skinny tyres, and are meant for fast rolling singletrack or fireroads.
A trail bike is an excellent choice for riders who want a versatile, efficient bike that can handle both XC racing and hard-packed descents. A lightweight hardtail is the best match for XC rides.
Suspension travel is increased for a bump up in performance. Mountain bike suspension designs are suited for most riders; however some riders may prefer different setups depending on their riding style or terrain preferences. Some of our top picks include the Marin Rift Zone 27.5, Salsa Timberjack, and Commencal Meta HT AM Ride .
Mountain bikes prioritize traction and control over all else when hitting trails - this is why they often have more durable frames than cross country oriented bicycles do. Downhill bikes are the slackest of the bunch, with little gearing and a heavy weight to make them slow going uphill. They are built for speed and descending prowess, making them the choice for riders who want to bomb hills and take on technical terrain.
Fat bikes are ideal for snow, sand, or anything else a regular mountain bike cannot handle. Fat bikes have very wide tyres and are able to float over terrain that would otherwise stop traditional mountain bikes. Fat bikes typically have 3-inch wide tyres - this width is key in giving these bikes their amazing traction capabilities. Fat bikes are typically considered a play toy for riding on soft terrain like snow and sand; however, they can be ridden on dirt trails as well. Due to their larger and heavier tyres though, fat bikes will feel slower than standard mountain bikes when ridden on hard pack surfaces
Full Suspension vs. Hardtail
When it comes to mountain biking, there are two main types of bikes: hardtails and full-suspension. A hardtail has a frame with no suspension fork, while a full-suspension bike has a frame and front suspension fork.
Which one you choose depends on the type of riding you plan to do. A lightweight hardtail can be more fun and flickable than a heavy bike with rear suspension. If you're going to be doing a lot of technical or rugged terrain, then you'll need the extra stability that a full-suspension bike provides.
Because of the cost and complexity associated with suspension design, you will see upgrades across many components on a hardtail mountain bike. For this reason, it's important to consider long-term maintenance when buying a new mountain bike because it will last longer than others with cheaper components. Hardtails are typically used as a wet-weather or winter bike.
On the other hand, full-suspension bikes require more upkeep than hardtails since there are more parts that can go wrong. They're also heavier and more expensive than their counterparts, but they're better suited for harsher terrain
Wheel Size: 29er vs. 27.5-inch
When it comes to mountain bike wheel sizes, there are three main types: 26 inch, 27.5 inch and 29 inch. Here is a brief overview of the pros and cons of each size:
29er wheels can be heavier than smaller wheels. This extra weight makes them less agile on tight and twisty trails, but they are more stable and less affected by rocks.
The larger wheel base of a 29er also means they are not as good at climbing as a 27 inch wheel set would be, due to increased drag. However, their greater speed and stability on descents make them better for downhill riding.
A 27.5-inch wheel handles trails and turns more confidently than a 29er does; it strikes the perfect balance between agility and stability.
The wheel diameter refers to whether the tyre size is 29 or 27.5 inches in diameter (27.5+). Some riders feel that this offers the best combination of handling, speed and durability when riding over different types of terrain - although fat bikes have tyres up to 4 inches wide, which gives you unparalleled floatation across soft surfaces like snow or sand .
Drivetrain and Gears
The range of the gears on a 1x11 or 1x12 can be managed well enough to handle mountain biking's ups and downs. For example, a Shimano SLX M7000 11-speed cassette has an 11-40 tooth range which should cover most terrain. Mountain bike features SRAM's or Shimano's entry-level 12-speed drivetrain. This will give you plenty of gears for most situations, but it might not be suitable if you're looking to race downhill.
Mountain bike models are available under £2000 and include front derailleurs, but don't quote the specific model. The Giant Trance 2 is one such option that comes with a Fox 34 Rhythm fork, Shimano Deore brakeset and XT rear derailleur. More expensive mountain bikes often come with better components, such as Shimano's XTR Di2 drivetrain, which is considered the best in the business. However, these bikes typically cost over £4,000.
Mountain bike drivetrains are becoming more affordable; for instance, SRAM's NX Eagle 12-speed groupset is now available for just £325. This means that even budget mountain bikers can enjoy the benefits of a 12-speed drivetrain.
Mountain bikes with a 12-speed drivetrain are starting to trickle into the under £2,000 category. The Diamondback Atroz Comp is one such example, which comes with Shimano's SLX M7000 11-speed drivetrain and a dropper post.
Mountain bike weight is one of the biggest areas of sacrifice in a low-priced mountain bike. A lighter frame will make it up hills easier, and hardtails are an option if you want to keep your budget while still getting all the performance benefits you expect from a modern mountain bike.
If you're trying to save weight and get more out of your pounds, hardtails are the way to go for most riders under £2,000. Mountain bikes are less expensive to build because they don't need as much suspension. You can reduce weight by switching your bike to a tubeless setup and running at lower pressure, which increases traction and comfort without fear of flats. Mountain bikes typically have a tubeless-ready tyre - this means that there's no tube inside the tyre so when you get a puncture, air doesn't escape like it does with traditional tyres meaning that you can ride home without having to repair/replace the tube or tyre!
Mountain bike rims may be compatible with a standard tubless rim, or the process to set up a standard tubless rim can be difficult first time around - but it's definitely worth doing if saving weight is important to you!