What to Look for in a Mountain Bike

What to Look for in a Mountain Bike

So you're looking to a buy a new mountain bike. Before diving in, there are a number of things to consider. The fact is, there are a lot of different types of bikes out there, and finding the perfect one for your needs is important. This guide aims to help you find the right bike for the right price.

What Kind of Bike is Right For You?

Mountain bikes come in several different flavors, depending on the type of riding and terrain you plan on tackling. Are you going to be on mostly roads and easy trails? Or are you planning on taking on heavy-duty downhill terrain? Courses or uncharted rides?  There are many different types of mountain biking, and specific bikes for each type.

When looking at possible bikes, make sure and take into account the kind of terrain you'll be riding on. A cheaper, simpler bike might be just fine for light conditions, but you'll want a mean-machine (which comes at a price) if you want to take on rough or muddy rides.

Additionally, mountain bikes, like road bikes, generally come in a Men's and Women's style. The difference is not just aesthetic: men and women have different body builds, and riding the wrong style of bike can either impede your ability, or worse, end up hurting you.

Also, make sure and look at the suspension that comes with the bike. In mountain biking, a good suspension can mean the difference between a smooth, enjoyable ride and an utterly disastrous one. Optimally, we recommend a full- or dual-suspension, preferably an adjustable one, for serious riding, though a front- or rear-only suspension is fine for road and simple-trail riding.  For more information, see our comparison of full suspension vs. front suspension.

Set a Price Range

Like any specialized product, mountain bikes come in a wide array of prices. You can spend anywhere from $100 to $4,000 on a new mountain bike. Consider your budget and try to find the best possible bike in your price range.

If you're looking to save a few dollars (and who isn't?), we highly recommend checking online, especially for used bikes. You can find a used machine for a fraction of the price, and if you're thorough in your shopping, you can find one that is in perfect or near-perfect condition.

Specialized Components

There are a number of components to look at for your new mountain bike. Besides the all-important suspension, it's a good idea to look at breaks, frame composition, gear-shifters, and other options.

For example, rim brakes are generally cheaper than disc brakes, but offer less control. For easy riding, rim brakes are just fine, but if you're going on tough downhill rides, you'll definitely want the added punch of high-quality disc brakes.

Disc Brakes vs. Rim Brakes

Tires are also very important. Thinner tires are ideal for road and light off-road conditions (consider the ultra-thin tires standard on high-end road bikes), because they allow for high speed. Wider tires (1.5-2 Inches) are much more suited to rough terrain, because they ensure a higher level of control.