Types of Mountain Biking

Types of Mountain Biking

There are many different types of mountain biking. As referenced elsewhere on this site, when choosing a bike, you should keep in mind the type of riding you intend to do. With that in mind, let's examine some of the most popular types of mountain biking.


Cross-country (also called XC) mountain biking takes place on generally easy terrain. Most commonly XC consists of trail riding or very light off-road. These are fairly basic rides, and don't require any specialized equipment or training. E.g.: riding around the neighborhood and backyard.


Downhill riding (aka DH) consists of high-speed rides over dangerous, steep terrain. A downhill bike is built specifically for performance and speed. The best downhillers maintain a balance between pure speed and brute durability. They're meant to go down rough, serious hills as fast as humanly possible. With that in mind, a good downhill bike is built to take a serious beating and move fast, but is generally poor at any uphill riding.

In a downhill race, the fastest rider to the finish line wins.


Freeride (aka Big Hit) riding involves a lot of drops, jumps, ramps, and other obstacles. Bikes built for freeriding generally have a serious suspension travel (150-200mm) and are sturdy enough to handle serious collisions. Generally in a freeride situation, riders get to the top of the mountain by shuttle or ski lift, though sometimes they ride up to the top.

Dual Slalom

Dual Slalom is a specialized form of racing. In this race, two riders go head-to-head in a man-made course with gated turns (think slalom skiing). Often additional obstacles are scattered throughout the course, such as rocks, jumps, and bumps.

The fastest racer to the bottom wins, though racers are penalized a small amount of time for hitting or missing any of the gates. Dual Slalom runs are usually pretty short, about 30 seconds or so. In recent years this type of race has become more and more common in both local and international biking events.