Mountain bike buyers guide | Choosing Your Perfect One

Mountain Bike Buyer’s Guide In 2017 (Complete)

Mountain Bike Buyer's Guide

The correct mountain bike is an extension of the rider.

As you ride, you should be aware of the sensation, the environment, and that mountain lion that looks hungry.

What you should not be aware of is your bike and you must read the mountain bike buyers guide.

Purpose Of This Buyer’s Guide

The purpose of this mountain bike buyers guide is to guide you how to choose a mountain bike that matches your needs perfectly. This guide is specially written for newbies in the mountain biking.

Problem Of Not Choosing The Right Bike

Feeling the shoulder tension of incorrect handlebars or the discomfort of sitting on the seat are things that take your enjoyment away. These discomforts can also be avoided if you have taken the time to choose the correct bike.



3 Misconceptions on choosing a Mountain bike

There are some common misconceptions and errors that can cause you to make an incorrect choice when buying a mountain bike.

1. All bikes work on all terrain

Mountain bikes come in a variety of styles and each is made with a different purpose in mind. One may be an excellent trail bike while another is created for jumps.

When purchasing a bike, you need to take the time to learn which bike works best for how and where you plan on riding it.

2. dual suspension bike is the ideal choice

This is based on the "more is better" concept. The type of suspension that works best will depend on where you plan on riding. Your body size can also be a factor in which suspension style will work best for you.

3. Frame size doesn't matter

It can't be emphasized enough that every body size and shape needs a different frame size. A mountain bike that feels comfortable to someone with long legs is going to be uncomfortable for someone who has a longer trunk and shorter legs.

It is impossible to know which bike frame is best for you without actually getting on the bike and trying it.


First 2 things that makes your decision easier

1. Evaluate Yourself

Lot’s of available mountain bike with amazing quickly create confusion for you. Since all mountain bikes are not for everyone. It’s very important at the beginning to evaluate yourself. Do you want to start as a newbie? Do you have any skill for handling expensive or advanced level bike?

Because it will not be a wise decision to spend much especially if you are an entry-level biker. Once you will start biking and develop some skill sets, you can go for the bike with the latest features.

2. Riding Habits

Where you plan on riding your bike the most must also be considered. Some people spend most of their riding time on city streets, others on flat highways, and still others on rugged trails. You need to know how well a certain bike handles the kind of terrain you will be navigating.


Tips #1: Select the bike that Gives You The Most Comfort

In actuality, the bike that feels the most comfortable for you is the one you need. It is not physically problematic to ride a mountain bike designed for the opposite gender.


Suspension System: Quick Guide

A suspension on a mountain bike is a consideration that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Its purpose is to create an enjoyable riding experience while being able to handle various terrains.

Suspension system | Quick-guide


Image: rei.com

Mountain bikes offer one to two shock absorbers to soften the impact from rough trails and terrain. A hardtail has a front suspension only while a full suspension has it in the front and the rear.

Full suspension will often cost more upfront, but it’s great on rough trails and for individuals who suffer from back and joint issues. The hardtail is currently more common and weighs less.

Suspension options to consider when purchasing are:

  • Quality of the ride
  • Air springs mean less weight
  • Compression and rebound adjustments with a lockout feature
  • Quality construction that requires minimal maintenance and a long-lasting life

Suspension determines ultimately how smooth your ride will be - and how bruised your back end feels at the end of the ride. The suspension is what makes your ride easy or rough.

It is designed to keep bumps to a minimum, allowing you to ride over small things like stones, sticks and other rough terrains without ending up with a bruised rear.

Mountain Bike Types Based on Suspension Systems

Suspensions are a key component when finding the ideal ride, so our mountain bike buyers guide has a detailed breakdown of the three most common systems.

1. Rigid Suspension Bike

Rigid Mountain Bike

Rigid Mountain Bike

This style of bicycle doesn’t have a suspension. While to some this may seem odd, there is a variety of benefits that a rider can enjoy from this system.

Removing the suspension makes the bike much lighter while forcing you to use your body as the suspension.

2. Hardtail Suspension Bike

Hardtail Mountain Bike

Hardtail Mountain Bike

Predominantly the most common type, a hardtail suspension is located on the front of the bike. The fork suspension allows for easier steering while providing comfort to the upper body.

A hardtail suspension makes climbing steep terrains easier, they’re not as expensive, and require less long-term maintenance. This makes steering easier and helps keep your upper-body more comfortable on long rides.

3. Full Suspension Bike

Full Suspension Bike

Dual Suspension Bike

Recent advances have brought this style to the fore-front of biking. The front fork is similar to the hardtail, but it also has front and rear triangle pieces that are connected by a pivot.

This system allows the two sections of the frame to move independently, providing optimal control and handling. It’s offer a greater amount of comfort than hardtail bikes but it’s also heavier, which means it’s need a rider with a bit more strength and experience to handle.


Mountain Bike Buyers Guide | Choosing Your Perfect Bike

Choosing the ideal mountain bike takes knowledge and research. The mountain bike buyers guide provides you with the information you need to find you that perfect ride.

Whether you already own a mountain bike or are looking to purchase your first one, there is a variety of styles, suspensions, frames, and accessories to consider.

To find that ideal bike, what should you consider before buying?


How will I be riding?

Do you want a mountain bike that can withstand rugged mountain terrain, one that is great for tricks or one that will be able to handle a variety of situations?

Knowing in advance what you expect of your mountain bike will help you avoid disappointment.


How much should I spend?

Finding the best mountain bikes for the money you have budgeted to spend is an obtainable reality. The prices can range from as low as a few hundred dollars, up to 2000 depending your biking needs, quality, and choices of accessories.

Besides the upfront cost, maintenance of your bike needs to be taken into consideration as well. Much like a vehicle, bicycles need to be maintained to perform at their peak performance.

The following is a breakdown that MTB buying guide has determined are the best mountain bikes in their respectable price ranges.

under $300: Best cheap mountain bike

Schwinn is one of the oldest bicycle manufactures to date, and their reputation for creating affordable and well-constructed bikes is still relevant. One of their most popular mountain bikes is the Protocol 1.0.

This dual suspension bicycle is an entry level mountain bike that has all the bells and whistles one could expect for a ride at its price. Other Schwinn bikes to consider that are under $300 and have a full suspension are:

Mongoose is another well-known brand name that produces quality entry level mountain bikes. The MTB buying guide has the Mongoose Impasse HD on the best mountain bikes for the money list.

This lightweight and responsive ride includes 29’’ tires, an Element front suspension fork, and SRAM MRX twist shifters. Other rides that made the mountain bike buying guide list include:

You can also read mountain bike in-depth reviews for our picks =>

Under $500: best mountain bikes for the money

Raleigh recently produced an entry-level model called the Talus 2 which has a lightweight frame and is a 21 speed bike. This well-rounded bicycle is good for riding around your neighborhood, along with taking it on the trails. The mountain bike is extremely easy to handle and comes with a comfortable saddle.

Diamondback is another trusted brand name that has delivered a great lifestyle bike called the Sorrento Hardtail. Designed to be used locally and on trails, this mountain bike has everyday functionality with optimal off-road capabilities.

The Mongoose Switchback Sport 27.5 makes the list with an SR Suntour suspension fork and aluminum frame. What sets this bike apart from the rest is the Shimano EF51 shifters in conjunction with the 21 speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain. These two components create quick and fluent gear changes that make this ride an overall favorite.

You can also read mountain bike in-depth reviews for our picks =>

under $1000 | Best mountain bikes

The options available to you in this category are numerous, and can be overwhelming. The mountain bike buyers guide has done extensive research to provide you with the best possible options.

Leading the pack is the Raleigh Kodiak 1. This ultra-responsive bike is not only stylish, but comfortable to ride. 

Features include:

  • Weinmann U50 rims
  • Kenda Havoc 27.5” PLUS tires
  • 24 speeds
  • Shimano SL-M310 shifters
  • Dual suspension with hydraulic disc brakes

Our second top pick is from a brand you may not be familiar with, but earns its spot due to providing a full carbon bike for under $1000. 

The Beiou T700 is an ultralight carbon fiber hardtail ride that features a hydraulic suspension fork. 

Other features include 26’’ tires, a choice of three different size frames to choose from, and a weight of 25 lbs.

Other rides that made our best mountain bikes for the money list include:

under $1500 | best budget mountain bike

Mountain bikes featured in this price range will have a variety of wheel sizes, along with high quality suspension forks and parts that won’t need to be upgraded as your experience level increases.

The BMC Teamelite 03 Deore-SLX is a high performing speed and terrain bike. It comes with a Triple-butted and hydroformed alloy frame, RockShox XC 30 Silver TK PopLoc fork, and it weighs less than 30 lbs.

If you’re looking for a full suspension mountain bike, the Giant Stance 27.5 will hit the mark. This bicycle features an alloy frame, RockShox Monarch R shocks, and has the capability of riding hard and fast.

Other top bikes include:

under $2000 | best value mountain bike

This is the sweet spot price range for high-quality full suspension bikes, while also providing an easy up-grade to top parts when the originals wear out.
The Trek's Stache 5 made our list due to its large 29x3.0 tubeless tires, and because it doesn’t have maintenance intensive parts.

Orange Crush S Hardtail takes the lead with a 6061 custom butted aluminum frame that provides a stable ride no matter the terrain. Additional features include a RockShox Yari RC 150mm fork, WTB Vigilante and Trail Boss tires, and a Shimano SLX 11-speed drivetrain.

The Scott Scale 720 Plus is another great buy that shows how plus size tires are changing the world of mountain biking. This hardtail is fast, light, and provides an enjoyable ride every time.

Other best buys include:


What Mountain Bike Type Should I Choose?

When faced with choosing your mountain bike, the number of choices can be overwhelming. One bike might look nice but you find out it doesn't handle the kind of activity you expect of it. Now, let's look at the...

Differences between Mountain Bike Types

Image: ibikeride.com

5 Main Mountain Bike Types

Choosing the right bicycle for you will depend on how you plan to ride it. There are five different disciplines and our mountain bike buying guide is here to break them down for you.

1. Cross Country

This style of riding is most common among mountain bike enthusiasts and requires a good deal of endurance for the time spent on trails. Cross country bikes are generally lightweight and are designed for fast speeds, along with hard turns.

A cross country trail will usually include steep inclines and descends with long-winding paths that can have difficult turns. The mountain bikes themselves have carbon or aluminum frames and a hardtail front suspension.

The wheel sizes come in a variety of sizes from 26’’ to 29’’. This style bike can handle itself on open spaces, along with mud and gravel paths.

2. All Mountain (Enduro)

These types of bikes have a suspension system that is stronger than cross country bicycles. The terrains for this bike are often filled with difficult obstacles that produce a thrilling riding experience.

By taking advantage of a mountains natural design, a rider on an Enduro can handle jumps and unpredictable trails. These bicycles generally have a full air suspension with a carbon or aluminum frame.

Options include a steep seat tube angle for pedaling or a slack head tube angle for downhill riding.

3. Downhill

This style will include wider tires and rims. These bikes are built for speed and don’t handle turns as well as a cross country model. In a professional setting, riders will walk their bikes up an incline rather than ride them because they’re designed for racing downhill.

The bike will have a smaller 26’’ wheel with a low designed seat. Often the frames are made from carbon or aluminum while the full suspension can be coil or air. Enduro racing has become very popular and provides a high amount of thrills and Adrenalin.

4. Freeride

This style focuses on showcasing a variety of tricks while facing drops, hard turns, and various kinds of trails. Much like downhill bikes, they are not designed for climbing.

You’ll only find 26’’ tires on these bicycles, along with the standard low seat and aluminum frame. A freeride terrain will often include natural components from the mountain, along with added obstacles.

These added thrill objects can include ladders, beams, ramps, and other various special features to showcase your trick skills. The same tube angles found on Enduro bikes are found on freeride bicycles.

5. Dirt Jump Bikes

If you don’t have any mountains available, the dirt jump discipline might be more what you’re looking for. These bikes are designed for jumping, performing tricks, and for park style riding.

They will come either in a hardtail or rigid (no suspension) style. The frame can be made from Steel or aluminum and the tires are optimal at 26’’. A dirt jump bike will have a rear brake only and a stiff set-up.

This is not an everyday type of bicycle. Tracks are often found in parks specially made for this style of riding and will include ramps, jumps, and lots of tricks performed in the air.


Mountain Bike Types Based on Gender

It’s unnecessary to purchase a bike based on your sex. The differences between these bicycles are strictly for comfort only. The components found on unisex, men’s, and woman’s bikes are exactly the same.

What changes is the position of the rider, allowing different sized individuals to find comfort where there didn’t use to be. Choose a bicycle that fits you, not by how it’s labeled.

The main differences between male and female bikes are minimal, other than the actual physical design. Women's bikes are often lighter and the handlebars shorter. The saddle is also designed a bit differently.

Men’s Mountain Bike

The difference between a men’s bike, and the others is based on anatomy. Men’s bikes will typically have larger frames, bigger wheels, and a seat ergonomically designed for them.

Women’s Mountain Bike

A women’s bike fits an individual with a smaller torso and shorter arms. This means the tubes are shorter, and the bike can weigh less. The saddle is made for a woman’s anatomy, but can easily be swapped out for your comfort standards.

Unisex Mountain Bikes

This bike is very similar to a women’s bike, but with less of a difference in the drop-tube from the men’s version. The handle bars are generally closer, and the petals are designed for someone who is smaller in stature. This type of bike is designed for male and female. Anyone can ride without any confusion.


Tip#2 Trust Your Own Judgment

The best bike is one that is comfortable to ride, fits your budget and is made to run well on whatever terrain you are planning to ride it on. Once you determine the physical characteristics that fit your needs, take a test ride. When you find your ideal bike, you will know it.


Things That Confused Most People

There are a few things that you should have an understanding of before you choose your mountain bike. People are often confused about the three types of suspension, how to know if a frame size might fit and how to determine the best tire size. Here are some details to help you get started.

Once you've gone through the process of narrowing your choices to type and style of bike, it's time to pick one that fits you perfectly.


Choose the Right Fit

It is essential that you get a bike that fits your body well. Not only will that increase the amount of comfort you feel but it also a matter of safety.

2 Factors to Consider for a mountain bike that perfects suits you

1. Frame Size

Many people consider tire size the same as frame size and this is incorrect. The two measurements are different. In order to get a mountain bike that feels comfortable to ride, you need to do a few calculations. Since many people aren't thrilled about math, here is a handy chart to get you started.

Keep in mind that people come in all shapes and sizes and these frame sizes are just a starting off point. If you don't feel comfortable on the size indicated, move up or down a size accordingly.

Mountain Bikes Frame Size Chart

Mountain Bike Frame Size Chart

The basic Rule of Thumb, regardless of the frame material is that there be a three-inch clearance between you and the bike frame when you stand on it.

2. Wheel Sizes

Mountain bike wheels come in three sizes and each has its merits as follows
It used to be you didn't have much choice on what size of tire you could get on your mountain bike. Times have changed, however, and you now have a few choices. Each size has its good and bad points.

29 Inches (")

These are often the choice for taller riders who feel smaller tires look out of proportion for their longer legs. The 29" tire is great for speed. They don't do well when on extremely rugged terrain but are often the choice for racers.
Another advantage of the 29" is that it seems to be better at gripping on wet roads. Smaller riders may feel intimidated by the large size.

27 1/2 Inches (")

These tires are the upgraded version of the 25" tire most long-time riders are familiar with. The width is often less, making them more efficient on turns than the smaller tires.

They are not as fast as the larger ones, however. These are the tire of choice for most modern riders, offering better speed than the 25" and easier navigation than the 29".

25 Inches (")

For years, this was the size of choice for mountain bikes. The wider tire and smaller size made for a stronger tire that could handle the more rugged ground. Today, those who spend time doing jumps and exploring mountain trails often stick with this tried and true size.

It doesn't offer the speed available in either of the two larger sizes, but the control and durability are greater.


5 Quick Tips on choosing the Right fit

  • The basic Rule of Thumb, regardless of the frame material is that there be a three-inch clearance between you and the bike frame when you stand on it.
  • Seat Height: start with the seat positioned at hip level when standing next to the bike. As you ride, notice if your bottom stays comfortably still as you pedal. If your hips rock, lower the seat a bit.
  • When your hands are on the handlebars, your elbows should be slightly bent. At the same time, you should not need to bend forward more than a 45-degree angle to reach the handles.
  • Saddle should be wide enough so that it doesn't press into the center of your cheeks causing nerve pain.
  • You need to determine what tire width suits your needs according to where you will be riding. Adventures tend to be less fun if you have to stop and get off your bike often to navigate obstacles fix a flat.

5 important things you should know that you help make a solid decision

1. Frame Material

This can often determine how heavy a bike is, as well as how well it will manage what you put it through on your rides. Your choices will be steel, aluminum, titanium or carbon.

Both steel and aluminum can be found in lower-priced bikes. Aluminum is lighter and easier to handle when racing but steel is more durable. Titanium is extremely light and carbon, though expensive, is a very strong material and lasts longest.

There are four major materials that can make up the composition of a mountain bike frame. Ultimately, the differences between them will come down to weight and durability for the style of riding you prefer.

1. Aluminum

Making bicycle frames out of aluminum has existed since the late 19th century. For lightweight mountain bikes, aluminum is the most commonly used material. These frames are also less likely to rust, making them ideal for an individual who wants to have low-maintenance issues.

Aluminum can be weaker than other materials, which is compensated by larger tubes that don’t add a significant amount of weight.

2. Carbon Fiber

These frames are the lightest on the market. What separates them from the others is their ability to give and not have a stiff ride like an aluminum frame. A carbon frame is likely to outlast any other type of frame, allowing you to own one for up to ten years with normal usage.

They used to be the most expensive material on the market, but due to new advances in technology the price of a carbon frame has become more affordable.

3. Steel Frame

This frame is still popular due to its durability, especially for larger riders. The Steel material provides a smoother ride than its counterpart aluminum by dampening the vibrations from the road or surface you’re riding on.

The down-side to Steel is that it can rust, paint is prone to chip, and it’s the heaviest material on the market.

4. Titanium Frame

Titanium is similar to carbon in that both are newer materials that can be found in modern day mountain bike frames. The frame has better flexibility than its counterparts, providing for a more comfortable ride.

A titanium frame is extremely durable, but can be very expensive to replace if damaged. For a larger rider, titanium will provide a better lightweight frame than a carbon one.


2. Mountain Bike Groupset

A groupset is a combination of components that make up the innards of the mountain bike. Most commonly, a groupset is referring to the parts that make up the brakes and drivetrain.

Shimano

Shimano leads the pack in selling and manufacturing bicycle component parts. What once comprised three people creating a start-up company is now a full distribution center with various offices in Japan and California. Shimano offers efficient components that require less energy from you as the rider.

Some of their more popular groupsets include:

  • XTR
  • Deore XT
  • SLX
  • Saine
  • Zee
  • Alivio

SRAM

SRAM is a groupset producer made up of cyclers who love the sport and are passionate about riding. They provide components tailored to mountain, road, and urban styles of bicycling.

Providing dozens of groupset components, SRAM is a reliable company that you can trust to take your bike to the next level.

Their feature set the GX Eagle includes a trigger shifter, grip shift, rear derailleur, crankset, cassette, chain, and driver body. These components are ideal for more experienced riders, but are helpful for those starting out too.


3. Component Details of a Mountain Bike

There are five main components that make up a mountain bike, and various minor ones. These parts all serve an essential purpose in providing you the ride you desire when you hit the pavement, mountainsides, and trails.

Brakes

In mountain biking, there are three main types of brakes: coaster, disc, and rim. A coaster brake was popular in the 80s and is making a comeback. It basically allowed the rider to come to a skidding stop, leaving behind track marks.

Rim brakes incorporate pads on either side of the rim, gently slowing the wheel down depending on weather conditions.

Disc brakes are the most modern type to get and can either be hydraulic or mechanical.

Hydraulic brakes are very similar to what you would find on a vehicle, using a piston- cylinder system filled with fluid.

These types of brakes offer more stopping power, but are not as easy to maintain and fix as mechanical brakes.

Mechanical brakes however are more affordable and use a steel cable that pulls on the caliper at the disc. Disc brakes are overall the best option.

Tires

A mountain bike tire has several facets that need to be considered such as tread design, compound, and structure. Construction structure is the casing of the tire and is normally made out of nylon threads.

An increased density in these threads can create a lower rolling resistance while a higher count is used in cross country riding.

The tread of the tire is the part that connects with the road or trail. There is a variety of treads for every style of mountain bike riding. Compound is the material used in a tread and can affect durability, traction, and resistance.

Handlebars

Handlebars can often get overlooked by inexperienced riders, but any veteran will tell you they can affect control, versatility, comfort, leverage, and aerodynamics.

Flat: Great for climbing, these bars are versatile and easy to operate. They also work in tight spaces and are easy on the wallet. Speed is not their strong suit.

Riser: This style is optimal for trail and free riding. Riser bars are easy on the wrist and have good control. However, they are not good for climbing and are heavier.

Bullhorn: These are the best to use for climbing. They are great for speed and look really cool too. A bullhorn bar does not handle tight corners well.

Drop: Versatility and style make a drop bar what it is. They are great for aerodynamics, but handle tight turns poorly and are not good for trails.

Aero: Allow the rider to rest their hands and have excellent aerodynamics. On the downside, they can be dangerous.

Seats

Saddles come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are designed to bring comfort to the rider while also providing the proper support for a particular style of riding.

Choosing the right seat is important, but can take some trial and error to find the perfect one.

Brand names to consider when purchasing a mountain bike saddle are:

  • Specialized
  • Fizik
  • WTB
  • Prologo
  • Selle Italia

Pedals

Having a good pedal will enhance your mountain bike riding experience. Platform pedals are the standard for most bikes you’ll find in a retail shop. They’re popular because you don’t need a special shoe while riding and are more affordable.

A clipless pedal is the opposite, having a cleat that attaches to the riders shoe.

This style is usually for more advanced riders looking to improve their technique and performance.

There are also combo pedals that combine these two styles together.

Other components

The other parts that will affect the ride you have are the chain, stem, frame, and shocks. Changing these parts out is usually for veteran riders or for an individual looking to improve their current bicycle without spending money on a new one. New riders should learn about these parts, but not be overly concerned about replacing them.


4. Bike Accessories

Our mountain bike buying guide team has come up with seven essential accessories every rider should have.

Helmet: Unless you’re keen on suffering from a brain injury, you should always wear a helmet. Prices can range from $50 to $300 depending on style and special features.

Hydration Set-up: Water bottles are a good economic choice and only require a holder to be attached to the frame. Hydration packs are essentially back-packs with water that can even have a drinking tube attached. These are great for riders who’ll be out on the trails for hours.

Pump & Tube: Always have a hand-held pump and spare tube close at hand, especially when riding trails and mountainsides. For $25 this accessory can save you from a long walk.

Protective Eye-wear: Sunglasses work, but are not recommended when riding in a forest. Clear lenses only run $20 and can keep you from getting a serious eye injury.

Tools: A multi-toolkit contains essentials to keep you riding despite small mishaps.

Gloves: These are essential in case a fall occurs. We recommend full-finger gloves with some palm padding.

You can also read mountain bike gloves in-depth reviews for our picks =>

Shorts: Riding shorts prevent rashes, and can keep you from getting saddle sore.


5. Test Ride and Research

The biggest mistake you can make when buying a new ride is to shop impulsively. Get on the bike and take it for a spin. See how it feels, handles, and determine if it’s a bicycle you would be comfortable riding.

Buying a car without driving it first seems ridiculous, and so should it be when purchasing a bicycle. Be sure to ask the retailer questions and do your research before hitting the showroom floor.

The more information you have before beginning the buying process, the more likely you’ll end up happy and enjoying the mountain bike riding experience. Read our mountain bike buying guide to keep up on current trends and to further your knowledge regarding the MTB community.


Final Words

This mountain bike buyers guide gives a basic overview on how to choose a mountain bike. Taking the time to consider all the above will give you the chance to buy a mountain bike that will give you hours of adventure wherever your chosen playground may be.

As with any new purchase, take the time to get to know your bike and what it can do. Build your skill and grow as you explore the capabilities. Finally, have fun and stay safe.


Helpful Resources