Last updated: September 3, 2020

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Traveling by bicycle is a healthy and efficient option, as well as an economic, ecological and beneficial means of transport for your health. It is also exhilarating to ride a bike. If this weren’t enough to convince you, getting around on a bike saves you significant time by helping you avoid traffic jams in the city.

However, bicycles are not just for commuting around big cities. Mountain bikes (also known as mountain bicycles or MTB) are all-terrain bicycles that are designed for use on rough trails, traversing forests or navigating rocky terrains. Thanks to their versatility and multi-purpose uses, they are among the best-selling bikes today.

Key Facts

  • Within the MTB market there are many different models. The first decision you must make, if you do decide to buy a mountain bike, is the type of mountain bike. The most popular model is the all-terrain mountain bike.
  • One of the most common mistakes when buying your first MTB is choosing the wrong size bike. This error will make your first mountain bike experience very uncomfrotable and unsatisfactory. If the bike is too large or too small you will not be comfortable nor will you be able handle the bike well. An ill-fitting bike can put you off biking altogether, so make sure you get the bike that fits you correctly.
  • If this purchase is your first mountain bike, it’s best not to buy anything too complex or advanced. It is important to check what components the bike has, so that you make a purchase that will offer you great value-for-money. Yo ucan always sell or donate your old bike and buy a new one when you have worked out what your preferences are.

Our recommendation: The Best Mountain Bikes on the U.S. Market

Below we have provided you with a list of the best mountain bikes on the U.S. market so that you can find a bike that is perfect for you. With these variations and different options, you can choose a bike that best suits you, depending on characteristics such as size, type of seat, brakes, frame, suspension or materials from which the bike is manufactured.

Huffy Hardtail Mountain Bike, Summit Ridge 24-26 inch 21-Speed

The Huffy Summit Ridge is equipped to deliver in looks and in performance. The striking look in denim blue gloss, the 21 speeds, the front suspension all add up to one hardtail ready for action. Backed by a limited lifetime warranty, the hi-ten steel hardtail frame provides solid performance and efficiently transfers your pedal power for strong acceleration on straight surfaces and uphill climbs. This 26-inch model is ideal for a rider height above 5 feet tall; an alloy-metal quick release enables easy seat height adjustment.

The ATB saddle, with premium padding, has stitched sides for lasting comfort. Front suspension on the Summit Ridge handles uneven terrain with ease. The Kolo 1200 fork, in rich black gloss, absorbs any bumps and dips encountered on your path for a smoother-feeling ride. Lightweight alloy wheels in matte black blend well with the overall design. Front and rear steel linear pull handbrakes provide consistent, dependable stopping action on demand.

The slight-rise handlebar enables upright riding to minimize back and shoulder strain. Krayton grips remain comfortable to the touch, on short and longer rides. The ATB-type resin pedals on the 3-piece Kolo steel crank have a good, responsive feel. Kickstand included.

Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bikes, Multiple Sizes, Multiple Colors

Weighing 40+ lbs and just over $200, this bike comes in 24″ and 26″ sizes and in black, silver, teal and blue. Models are available with and without a crossbar.  Schwinn mountain frame with Schwinn suspension fork provide for controlled riding on tough trails.  Shimano twist shifters with 21-speed rear derailleur allow quick gear changes on the trail.

Front and rear alloy linear pull brakes provide secure stopping power.  All-terrain, wide knobby mountain tires sit on light and durable alloy wheels for added stability. Schwinn alloy crank offers optimal gearing and less maintenance on your end.

Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike, Featuring 17-Inch High-Tensile Steel Frame, 7-Speed Shimano Drivetrain, Mechanical Disc Brakes, and 26-Inch Wheels

Are you looking for something different from a name you can trust? The Mongoose brand 26″ fat tire mountain bike is for you. At a reasonable $275, you can conquer any off-road trail with ease with this steel-framed mountain bike with supersized all-terrain knobby tires.  Shimano rear derailleur with seven speeds makes hills easier to climb, while twist shifters make it smooth and easy to change gears while riding.

For added speed and performance, the strong, lightweight alloy rims keep the weight down. Ride comfortably with beach cruiser pedals and insure safety with front and rear disc brakes. This bike ships ready to be assembled. Sized for adult riders 5 feet, 6 inches to 6 feet tall, and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

Raleigh Bikes Kodiak 2 Mountain Bike

For 130 years, Raleigh has been pushing the boundaries of what gets the world riding in style and comfort. This higher-end bike weighs in at about 30 lbs. and comes with a price tage of about $1400.  Designed for riding rooty, rocky, mountain trails with serious suspension.

Made with a 6061 alloy frame with 120mm of travel, Raleigh thru axle, tapered head tube, and a Sun tour Raidon 32 air, 27.5+ fork for a cushy ride. This rugged bike features new lightweight SRAM NX 1×11 drivetrain, a narrow-wide CNC chain ring with a great gear ratio for going up and down hills. Includes Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakes for the ultimate stopping power in all conditions.

Release 4C Diamondback Carbon Full Suspension Mountain Bike, Silver

If you want the best Mountain Bike money can buy, consider the Diamondback Release 4C. The Release 4C features the same bottomless-feeling rear suspension and deft handling as their aluminum Release models, but with an even lighter, stiffer chassis built from carbon fiber. It starts with the Level Link suspension system, which isolates chain forces from trail inputs, meaning the suspension doesn’t bob when you stomp on the pedals, yet becomes extremely plush on technical descents.

For smooth bump-eating performance, the Release 4C is equipped with a Fox Float DPS EVOL LV rear shock and a 150mm travel Fox 34 Performance Float fork. SRAM’s NX Eagle 12-speed single-ring drivetrain provides consistent shifting and, thanks to its 50-tooth granny gear, makes short work of pesky climbs. SRAM Guide R brakes keep you slicing through the most technical lines all day long.

Shopping Guide: Everything You need to Know About Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes are becoming more and more popular for those who live in cities as well as those in the country. If you would like to buy a bike to ride to work or to simply spend fun days in the countryside, we will help find the bike that best suits your needs. Read our detailed article and follow our recommendations so that you can make a successful purchase.

Biker pushes his bicycle up in high Caucasus mountains

One of the biggest mistakes made when buying your first MTB is choosing the wrong size. (Source: stage 7: 1231402/ unsplash.com)

What is a mountain bike and how is it used?

Mountain bikes first appeared in the 70s in the United States as bikes for recreational purposes. Since these DIY models, mountain bikes have evolved significantly to suit different uses and needs. This is why it is often very confusing to choose the right MTB, because there are so many factors and options to consider, such as the type of suspension or the size of the wheels.

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Fred A. Birchmore, 25, circled the globe by bicycle in 1935. The entire trip, through Europe, Asia, and the United States, covered 40,000 miles. He pedaled about 25,000 of those miles. The rest was traveled by boat. He wore out seven sets of tires.

What are the different types of mountain bike suspension?

It is possible to find mountain bikes with many different types of suspension, from those with front suspension (rigid or semi-rigid) to those with full suspension (also known as double suspension). Choosing one suspension over another generally depends on where you are going to ride the bike and how often, as well as your spending budget. Below, we will tell you more about the different types of suspension.

Type of suspension Characteristics Price Weight
Rigid or semi-rigid No suspension. Not advisable for rocky sections or long rides Cheaper because they are simple to manufacture Light
Double suspension Provide a more comfortable riding experience. More effort is required when riding uphill due to the extra weight More expensive Heavier

What type of wheels should I choose when buying a mountain bike?

Smaller wheels (27.5″) will give you more rapid acceleration because they are lighter, however they are less suitable for riding long distances. Larger wheels (29″) are more stable, which is better for uneven terrain and they allow you to travel further with each pedal stroke.

guy on a mountain bike in the desert

Mountain bikes first became popular in the 1970s in the United States. (Source: TRAILSOURCE.COM flickr.com)

What should I be aware of before I start mountain biking?

If you are unsure whether mountain biking is your thing or not, the following section is going to be very helpful to you. We are going to help you understand the factors that take months of learning to clearly set your expectations and to help you will save on unnecessary expenses. Read the following tips carefully and keep them in mind before you buy your first mountain bike or start mountain biking.

  • Stay clear of bargains: Beware of ridiculously cheap prices (below 100 dollars). It is preferable to buy a more expensive mountain bicycle to have a strong and reliable bike rather than a cheap, fragile bicycle.
  • Physical fitness: It is important to be consistent when practicing this sport so that you build up your physical fitness. The ideal way when riding uphill is to start climbing at a gentle pace and increase the intensity halfway up the route. Over time you will build the muscles, flexibility and strength needed to have fun and push your limits mountain biking, but only if you go biking regularly.
  • Little by little: At the beginning it is normal that you want to ride your bike every day without resting. However, it is better start slowly and gradually ride more every day. Increase your skills a little at a time.
  • Listen to your friends: Mountain biking is a sport that is more fun when accompanied by friends. Listen and learn from your friends who have more experience than you.  You can learn from their experiences and they will help you overocme challenges.
  • Hydration: It is very important to stay well-hydrated when mountain biking.
  • Take care of your gears: When changing gears, reduce the pressure on the pedals while the chain is changing. This will guarantee a longer life for your crank shaft. Be gentle on your investment.
  • Relax: It is common for new riders to be very tense and hold the handlebars extremely tight. Breathe deeply and let your energy flow without fear. As long as you exercise common sense and do not take too many risks before you are ready, you can relax and enjoy the (bumpy) ride.

What types of mountain bikes are available?

When thinking about cars, there are many differences between a subcompact car and an SUV. It’s the same with mountain bikes, there are so many differences among the various models. One common thread is that they are all designed to be ridden on unpaved terrain, however each type of mountain bike is designed with a specific use in mind. The following table will explain this further.

Bike type Characteristics
Trail (or All Mountain) Used to ride on unpaved stretches (forest trails, dirt roads and mountain trails) and are aimed at recreational users. They are ideal for beginners looking to ride at slow speeds
Downhill Used to descend at full speed on trails or down stairs. They can be made with double or single suspension, are strong bikes and are designed to withstand falls and blows
Cross Country (also known as XC) Suitable for crossing mountain sections at high speed. These mountain bikes are used to compete in the Olympic Games, the X-Games and professional races
Enduro Mountain bicycles that are designed to go up and down hills. They are for routes that pass along mountain roads or wider tracks with some jumps

What materials are used to make mountain bikes?

It is not only professional racing bikes that are made with the best components available, as entry-level bikes are also built using high-quality materials. Thanks to progressive innovation in mountain bike design, MTBs have suspension, brakes and gears that are light, resistant and durable, at very competitive prices. Here are the materials from which all components of a mountain bike can be made.

Material Feature
Steel The lowest priced material and the pioneer in mountain bike design
Aluminum Lighter than steel, but less resiliant. Aluminium absorbs impacts very well
Titanium One of the lightest materials, although more expensive.
Its main characteristic is its elasticity/adaptability.
Due to its high price, few brands use titanium for the frames of their mountain bikes
Carbon fiber Absorbs the vibrations of the ground very well.
More flexible than all other materials however the most fragile material

What is the most important part of a mountain bike?

Without a doubt, the most important part of a mountain bike is the chassis or frame. The frame is the largest component of a bike and holds everything together. The frame can be made of different materials, as described below.

Frame material Advantages Disadvantages
Steel Very affordable and simple material for manufacturing Steel is less resistant/more absorbant of vibration than other materials
Carbon fiber It is a high quality material that is extremely light and absorbs vibrations well Very fragile in case of falls or large impacts. Expensive material
Titanium It is the lightest and strongest material of the four. Used in professional mountain bikes The most expensive
Aluminium It is as strong as steel yet lighter On bumpy roads, the rigidity of the material can be uncomfortable

Which MTB suits each different style of mountain biking?

As there are many different ways to go mountain biking, there are also different mountain bikes that suit each type of biking. This means that the use of each mountain bike depends on the type of mountain biking you plan on doing. Below we explain which types of mountain bikes exist and what are the specialities of each.

Riding style Type of bike
Free riding The bike should be light, manageable and resistant. The bike does not necessarily need to support long distances
Urban fixed speed riding These are bicycles with a fixed gear and the speed depends on how hard you pedal. People that are in excellent physical shape can ride these bikes
Downhill riding Specialized mountain bikes for safe descents. They are heavy and reinforced bicycles because the terrain is usually rocky and uneven

What is the best “starter” mountain bike?

More and more people are starting to participate in mountain biking. If you are also thinking about engaging in this sport, the first step is usually to go out and buy a bike. Experts recommend that a mountain bike with front suspension is suitable for beginners. Below we tell you why:

  • They’re cheaper: Price is an important factor as you don’t know whether or not you’ll like this sport. With price in mind it is recommended that you make a smaller investment.
  • They are simpler to use: Although all bikes require pedalling for forward movement, bikes with only front suspension are lighter and more efficient than those with double suspension.
  • They’re more resistant and durable: No unnecessary shock absorbers that need care or maintenance.
  • They’re more versatile: This type of bicycle can be used for both downhill mountain biking and as well as for riding long distances. You will be able to experience many different riding situations thanks to its great versatility.

Shopping Criteria

Nowadays there is a great variety of brands and models when it comes to mountain bikes. Having so many varieties and options to choose from can be both an advantage and also overwhelming. In the following section we will explain which characteristics to look for in a mountain bike to ensure you make a long-lasting purchase.

Frame

The frames are usually a standard style for beginner and amateur bicycles. The difference therefore lies in the assembly and components. Each brand of mountain bike has its own frame design that will vary in one way or another. There are two key factors to consider when it comes to choosing a bike frame:

  • Standover Height: This is the distance from the ground to the top of the top tube of the frame. The bigger, the better, but you must still be able to touch the ground with your feet.
  • Design: The bike should have a more relaxed geometry (with a more open steering angle).

Wheels

The ideal wheel size for M, L and XL bikes is 29,” while for S and XS mountain bikes, the size of the wheel should be 27.5”. This is because smaller wheels are lighter, so they are more suitable for smaller cyclists. If you want to start with downhill mountain biking or performing jumps, you should also choose a smaller wheel.

Forks

These are one of the most important elements of your mountain bike as they are a cushioning element. Below we explain which models of forks are available on the market to help you to decide which is best suited to your own personal needs.

Fork Features
Suntour XCM They are the most basic level of forks and will not last long
RockShox XC 30 They are very good quality and offer great reliability and resistance
Air fork They are high quality and lightweight forks
RockShox Recon Gold They are made from aluminum (lighter than those of steel).
These are the most professional forks available

The best decision to make when starting out mountain biking is to choose from the second fork category onwards (RockShox or higher). If you cannot find any of the models mentioned above, it’s a good idea to try to find out what the equivalent models are.

Brakes

Only disc brakes and hydraulic brakes are worth investing in as these allow you to stop suddenly if required without skidding. Good disk or hydraulic brakes also relieve pressure from your hands as they are far more sensitive that other braking mechanisms. The most common brands of mountain bike brakes are Tektro and Shimano.

Mike BrcicFounder, Sacred Rides

“A bad day on a mountain bike always beats a good day in the office.”

Gears

With a mountain bike, the crank and the pedals are what make it possible for us to move forward by using our legs to provide additional force. Mountain bikes use gears depending on the terrain that changes the resistance of the crank. Gears on a mountain bike are sometimes referred to as ‘speeds.’ The ideal gear system for a beginner level mountain bike is 2×10 or 1×11.

Tires

Often, the tires that come standard with our first mountain bike are replaced immediately for better ones. The important thing to remember if you want to get new tires for your mountain bike, is choose tires that are multi-purpose and have a good tread. Buying tires from previous years is a good way to reduce the cost, as the design rarely changes between years.

Suspension

The function of suspension is to cushion the contact of the wheel with the imperfections of the ground (such as rocks, holes, bumps or tree roots). The suspension of your mountain bike must be carefully selected, because a quality suspension improves the comfort level and a poor quality suspension makes mountain biking very uncomfortable.

Summary

There are so many designs and models of mountain bikes that when it comes to choosing, there are several factors that need to be taken into account. The fundamental decision is being clear on the intended use of the bike, as this will determine a number of elements, such as the frame material, suspension and forks, among other aspects.

You must be realistic and clear regarding what type of terrain on which you will ride your mountain bike, because the more difficult the terrain, the higher the quality the components will need to be. You should keep in mind that your bike will likely cross forests, climb mountains and ride on rocky terrain, so a well-designed bike with quality parts will be a worthwhile investment.

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(Source of featured image: Bogdancadar: 666656/ unsplash.com)

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