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What is a Mountain bike?
Mountain bikes are designed to handle rough terrain while maintaining a comfortable and safe riding experience. There are two types of mountain bikes in the industry: hardtail and full suspension. A hardtail mountain bike has a suspension fork but no rear suspension. A full suspension bike has a suspension fork and also an additional rear shock to further improve the comfort and safety while navigating technical terrain. The main benefit of having the additional rear suspension is that it will further dampen any blow from rocks and features and also provide greater control while navigating chunky terrain.
While having a rear suspension is a nice feature and important for certain kinds of trail riding (enduro, downhill, competitive cross country, etc), hardtails are still one of the most popular bikes sold in the U.S. The biggest selling point for a hardtail is that they are generally at a cheaper price point compared to a similarly specced full suspension and they also help improve the core riding techniques that every mountain biker uses to safely navigate trails. The main deciding factor between choosing a full suspension and hardtail is the type of trail riding you intend on doing.
Full suspension bikes are generally designed for steep downhill descents and riding trails with big features (big rock drops, berms, jumping, rock gardens, etc). Although all of these features are possible on a hardtail, the ride feel will generally be more jarring and you will have less comfort during jumps and especially rocky parts. Hardtails are best suited for riders who are looking to ride uphill and also go downhill, people who are into long distance off road riding, and also for bikepackers (camping with a bike).
You will find entry level mountain bikes specced with aluminum frames while higher end mountain bikes can be either carbon, titanium, steel, and even high quality aluminum. The deciding factor for frame materials for a mountain bike is weight and reliability.
A carbon frame will be lighter than a metal frame but will be slightly more susceptible to damage from high impact crashes. Carbon is actually much stronger than metal frames while still being much lighter. Metal frames have a shorter lifespan than carbon due to metal fatigue. Carbon can hypothetically last forever if properly taken care of.
A metal frame will be safer in the event of a big crash but will be much heavier. Titanium is also the highest price point for frame material but will last a lifetime and have a snappy ride feel depending on geometry.
Mountain bikes have some of the most technologically advanced components in the bike industry. Suspension forks and rear shocks greatly vary in price and craftsmanship. Cheaper suspension components generally don’t last quite as long as premium components and the ride feel is very vague compared to a properly engineered component.
Mountain bike drivetrains are generally all now a 1x system (no front shifter or derailleur, 11-12 speed rear cassette). The benefit of riding a 1x system is there are fewer moving parts to service and the weight is less than a 2x or 3x system. Reliability is also a huge factor with switching to 1x.
A unique component specific to mountain biking is a dropper seat post. These dropper seat posts telescope up and down in your seat tube. The benefit is that on a steep descent, you can drop your saddle to get it out of your way and get lower on the bike.
A recent trend is to go with full electronic shifting. Electronic shifting removes the need for having cables and housing all while providing the quickest and most responsive shifting performance possible. The batteries last weeks before needing to be recharged and they are also surprisingly durable and hold up to small impacts well.
Tubeless wheelsets are becoming the standard in the cycling industry. With a tubeless wheel set up, punctures and flats caused by goatheads and other sharp objects are a thing of the past and it even offers the opportunity to have the tires at a much lower psi (which makes for a more comfortable ride feel).
Mountain bikes are a great option for anyone who is looking to ride around rugged mountain and desert trails while still having the benefit of a comfy suspension. It is possible to ride a mountain bike around town and on the roads but it will be slightly slower than a road bike or gravel bike.
An entry level hardtail will start around $1600 and go up to about $3500 depending on frame material, components, etc. A worthwhile full suspension will start around $2500 and go up as far as you want. It is possible to find full suspensions for less than $2500 but the trade offs are a much heavier weight, low grade components, harder to service and source parts, and a more muted and less responsive ride feel. We feel starting at $2500 and going up from there is the best way to enter the world of full suspension mountain biking.
A properly fitting mountain bike should have a comfortable reach, plenty of stand over height, and in a frame size that is appropriate for your height. We have noticed that nearly all modern mountain bikes fit riders excellent straight from the box.
Even though bike fit has gotten progressively better in recent years, small adjustments and component swaps might be necessary.
If we feel that a specific component would help with proper fit, we always make sure to relay this information with you and help guide you through the process.
Some brands we carry are Santa Cruz, Orbea, Pivot, Salsa, BMC, All City, Surly, Juliana to name a few.
Who is this for?
Mountain bikes are especially suited for the adrenaline junky who want a lightning quick descent and also someone who wants a comfortable bike that can handle off pavement use.