Skip to main content

What kind of mountain bike should you buy?

This is a question that I believe most new riders struggle with. With the number of new riders on the trails, I can’t help but ask the question, how did they decide on the bike that they’re riding? Some people just do whatever the salesmen or their friends tell them, others rent a variety of bikes beforehand, and  some just buy a bike that looks cool. Personally, I think that the best option before making your mountain bike purchase is to try a variety of bikes or to just demo a mountain bike in general beforehand a couple of times to see if it is something that you like! However, with current rental conditions, this isn’t always necessarily feasible. There are a few simple questions that you can ask yourself before coming into a bike shop to make your decision and save you from making a purchase that you regret. 

WHAT KIND OF RIDING DO YOU LIKE OR WHAT DO YOU ENVISION YOURSELF RIDING?

When I bought my first mountain bike, I envisioned myself riding large jumps, drops, and freestyle lines which guided me towards purchasing a more downhill-oriented mountain bike. I quickly learned that I wanted something more well-rounded, that could still pedal uphill efficiently, but that was still capable enough of a fun descent. 


Do you envision yourself doing long-day missions that cover some serious mileage? How about going out for local trail laps with friends after work? Or do you just want to throw your bike in the back of your buddy's pickup and have him haul you up to the top so you skip all of the pedaling uphill altogether? These are all good questions to ask yourself before looking into purchasing a bike. There are a few different classes of mountain bikes that can help you decide what category of bike to lean more towards.

what type of mountain bike should i choose?

Cross Country bikes are ultra-lightweight and can weigh less than 25 lbs in some cases. They usually have around 120mm of suspension travel which makes for the lightest mountain bike category that you will find.

    Cross country

    Cross country bikes are geared towards the rider who wants their bikes pedaling efficiency to be the best. These bikes are for the people that want to crush on the uphill and like long, high-intensity rides. When looking for an XC bike, you want to look for something that is centered on efficiency and being lightweight to make it an excellent uphill beast. These are great bikes for those that enjoy long miles and prioritize climbing over descending. 

    Trail bikes are still classified as a lighter-weight bike but will be more around the upper 20’s to lower 30’s weight-wise. Their suspension travel can range anywhere from 120mm (4.7”) of travel all the way up to 150mm (6”) of travel.

      trail mountain bikes

      Trail bikes are the category that most think of when they refer to a “mountain bike”. They are the “do it all” bike, the bike that is going to climb/pedal well uphill, and then be fun on the way down. They are a perfect in-between bike that is going to be a bit more capable on the downhill than an XC bike. It’s more relaxed frame geometry creates a bike that mends the gap between the two categories of uphill riders and downhill riders. Do you see yourself going on a long backcountry ride with friends, or just going out for a quick ride on your local trails after work? Then this would be a good fit for you! This bike is categorized by its longer suspension travel, more gravity-oriented tires (something chunkier that will grip better), and better braking capabilities. 

      All Mountain/Enduro bikes are going to be a heavier bike that sits in the 30 lb range. Their suspension travel ranges from 150mm (6”) of travel up to 170mm (6.7”) of travel making this a very capable bike that can take big hits and still feel plush, forgiving, and comfortable.

      all mountain or enduro bikes

      All Mountain or Enduro bikes are the big brother to the trail bike. These bikes are considered to be the category that blurs the line between a trail bike and a downhill bike. Do you want a bike that can climb when it needs to but also crushes the downhill? An all mountain/enduro bike is a corner slaying, rough descent ripping choice. This is the best choice for riders who spend a significant amount of time riding lift-accessed bike parks, yet still want to ride trails that are pedal access only. It is not going to be the best for pedaling up technical ascents, but it will do alright. Where this bike thrives is in the downhill portion of your ride. 

      Downhill and Freeride bikes are the heaviest in the mountain bike family weighing in at upwards of 35 lbs or more. Their suspensions travel usually sits around 170 mm (6.7”) or more. Along with having a longer suspension platform the fork or front suspension of this bike is different than the other categories. It carries what is called a dual-crown fork giving the suspension more of a stiff and aggressive fork, minimizing flex for those big jumps and drops.

      downhill & freeride mountain bikes

      Downhill bikes are designed for exactly what it sounds like, downhill and freeride. If you have ever seen the famous competition, Redbull Rampage, then you know what freeride looks like, if you haven’t, take a look! Downhill and freeride mountain bikes are built to take heavy hits on steep fast descents. These bikes are geared towards the rider that spends all of his/her time shuttling downhill-specific trails or the rider that spends their time hiking up steep mountain faces where pedaling up is not an option. Downhill-oriented bikes do not pedal well uphill at all, they are designed to go down, not up, so make sure that if you are planning on pedaling a lot,  that you don’t go for this category! 


      how much do you want to spend?

      The last question that you need to ask is, how much do you want to spend on your set up? Everyone knows that mountain biking isn’t necessarily a cheap hobby, however, sometimes spending a little bit more initially, can save you money in the long run. A modern-day full suspension mountain bike cost is right around $2000.00. It seems like a large investment; however, if it is something that you know you enjoy and will be doing often, it is worth it! You can spend upwards of $15,000.00 if you want the best of the best. The varying price points will give you different levels of quality of components or parts. The more you spend the better and longer-lasting the parts. To find the right price point, you may want to have a few questions in mind like: How often do you ride? How hard do you ride? How well do you take care of your bike? 

      by Joey mcvey

      Joey is an avid mountain biker and works as a Rider Care Specialist at Red Rock Bicycle Co. He currently rides a Santa Cruz Bronson Mullet Party Bike and loves it. His favorite trail is the Captain Ahab trail in Moab, Utah. His favorite things about cycling are the places it takes you and the escape it gives you from normal life.