Which bike is best for adventurous exploration of mountain paths, and which one for normal trails?
If you are here reading this text, you too must be a dedicated MTB bike lover. Everywhere you look, you see advertisements prompting you to buy this shiny enduro bike or take this lovely trail bike home, and when you go to the bike store, all you can see is this abundance of MTB bike models making you think something along these lines “okay, so how on earth am I going to pick the right one?”. Feeling a little overwhelmed by this variety of options? So, you start looking into the matter and analysing some of the available models, and perhaps you have this reflection that they all look the same to you. Clerk gives you his standard sales pitch and identifies each model by various trendy names. There is also this one distinctive machine, looking somewhat like motocross bike, labelled as “downhill bike”. So, how is it really with this differentiation? Is mountain bike an enduro bike or trail bike? Or perhaps neither of them? Which mountain bike is the best for you?
How to choose the right MTB bike?
We will try to answer all these questions. Let us start by saying the obvious – mountain bike and MTB bike are one and the same thing, the latter being simply an abbreviation. No matter if the bike has full suspension or not, MTB bike label fits almost every bicycle that is at least a bit more performance-oriented than city bike with basket on the handlebar. Naming can be misleading, especially in bike stores aiming at mass sales. We wish to clarify things a bit, so you can see that classification of mountain bikes is in fact quite simple.
We can divide mountain bikes into:
Downhill mountain bikes are machines with travel range from 180 mm to 200 mm with characteristic double crown front fork. With the right person behind the bar this devil of a machine easily rolls over any obstacles on the track, such as stones, fallen trees and roots, and enables the rider to pull off really big jumps. This type of mountain bike is designed for extreme conditions of mountain biking, bike parks and urban downhill. It’s also a real speed demon that feeds on the gravitation. Progressive frame geometry, robust components and increased travel are this bike’s essential features. It will be also perfectly suited for extreme freeride with big hops, drops and steep sections.
Frame construction: downhill MTB bikes have head angle of approx. 62°/64°.
Is this a bike for you? Yes, if your biking style matches the description above, you have access to biking spots offering chair or gondola lifts and your general rule is to “have more downhill than uphill sections”. This bike will also be perfect for downhill competitions, as well as specifically jump-oriented tracks, such as A-line trail in Whistler, Canada 😉
Enduro mountain bikes – these machines have full suspension with fork travel range from 160 mm to 180 mm, and that is why you will have only single-crown fork suspension at the front, guaranteeing more manoeuvrability. In case of 180 mm travel both in front and in rear, we deal with “super enduro” bike, which can also be sometimes referred to as freeride bike. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, such subgroups are mostly done for marketing purposes, as freeride refers more to a riding style than to bike’s parameters. Thanks to decreased travel, modern geometry, lighter construction, and distinctive 1×11 or 1×12 drivetrain, enduro is more universal bike. Enduro MTBs are getting more and more popular all over the world and this is not surprising – having this model, you can ride downhill almost in any conditions, and at the same time uphill sections are a piece of cake. Enduro bikes might be inconspicuous on the outside, but their insides enable the rider to have it all – riding challenging technical downhill trails in the woods, jumping on flow trails and climbing uphill to the very top of the mountain and that’s what we like about them!
Frame construction: enduro bikes have head angle of approx. 64°/65°.
Is this a bike for you? Yes, if you ride a little bit here, a little bit there, and a little bit everywhere, but your basic goal is to have fun on downhill trails.
From time to time you visit bike parks, but you also like to prove yourself on challenging uphills, sometimes you choose to spent the time riding a wild single track, and some other time you feel like practising your hops on a flow trail. With this bike, you can go crazy wherever you want! Or more leisurely if that is more to your liking.
Trail bikes (all-mountain)
Trail bikes are more relaxed version of enduro bikes. You can very often find them under the name “all-mountain bike”, since from practical point of view, you can use them almost anywhere, while maintaining an optimal comfort of riding. Don’t be therefore deceived by the two different names on labels in bike store – they both describe the same type of bicycle. Trail mountain bikes (all mountain) have a shorter suspension travel in comparison to types described above. Generally, it can be said that the range is from 140 mm to maximum of 160 mm with a slightly gentler geometry. If you like to go wild with jumping and try some crazy things in bike parks, bike with less than 160 mm travel is not for you. Frequent hits that your suspension takes during jumps are not comfort-friendly, and most definitely not a particularly good thing for your back.
Frame construction: trail bikes have head angle of approx. 66°/67°.
Is this a bike for you? Yes, if what you like the most is spending time actively on bike tracks, taking long trips many miles into the wild mountain trails and sometimes, when occasions happens, you will not say no to a more technical enduro trail.
XC (cross-country) bikes – in case of this type, it will be easier to invoke here the formal definition: “Cross-country, or just XC, is one of the disciplines of mountain biking, in which competitors usually race over a specially prepared track in a lap-based manner.”
If it is to be used in races, XC bike will in 90% be a hardtail since its components and geometry are adapted for typical racing on cross-country/mountain trails. Here, the most important things are making good speed and having lighter bike than others. We can see more and more full-suspension XC bikes both in case of professional competitions and in recreational riding. Suspension travel range is 90–120 mm in front/rear.
With this type of bike, the biggest advantages are rigid and manoeuvrable construction that has to support the rider during intervals, but also be able to handle well the so called “technical sections”. This is not a bike to be chosen for someone who likes his or her riding to be pleasant, soft and comfortable. This bike will generally do well on stony trails, gravel paths and asphalt, it can also swiftly negotiate any larger rocks, but all of this requires combining with adequate rider’s technique.
Frame construction: XC bikes have head angle of approx. 68°/70°.
Is this a bike for you? Yes, if your preference is to ride uphill and if from time to time you like to make an off-road or mountain biking trip. It will also be a perfect choice when your goal is to take part in the MTB marathon.
To sum up, mountain biking is a rapidly growing sector offering us more and more bold innovations and state-of-the-art solutions. Because of that, we have more versatile selection of the bikes, but at the same time the classification gets more complex, or even unnecessarily overcomplicated. We will just have to accept that, getting in return a very wide range to choose your perfect bike from. We hope that after reading this article you already know, which MTB bike is the best for yourself – the one ideal for prepared trails and bike parks or the one designed for long off-road trips in mind? Make your choice!
If you have any questions or something is still no clear for you, be sure to contact our Bike Builders team. We are here to help and advise you! Contact us on our Facebook or Instagram profile and together we will choose the best bike for you!