The demand for mountain bikes continues to grow but not everyone uses them in the mountains. Sometimes the local park is the sum total of a mountain bike's off-road use. But for the more adventurous who want to ride them in the terrain for which they were originally named, Alex Sheehan, mountain biking expert from Utah, shares his tips for choosing a bike and his pick of the best mountain bikes for mountain terrain, off-road and trail riding according to specs, performance, price and warranty...
Tips for Buying a Mountain Bike
Mountain bikes are different from regular bikes in terms of their features. Moreover, all mountain bikes are not meant for all types of terrain. The top 4 disciplines are:
- All Mountain & Enduro – Best for climbing. Requires effort for downhill technical terrains
- Cross Country (XC) – For riders who prioritise pedalling performance
- Downhill (DH) – Perfect for gnarly, steep terrain, big drops, jumps and speed
- Trail Bikes – More suspension and gravity. Great climbers and capable descenders
There are three categories of mountain bikes available in the market:
- Hardtails: Front suspension forks
- Full-suspension: Suspension at the front and rear
- Rigid bikes: No suspension
Less suspension travel often implies a lightweight, faster uphill bike. On the other hand, more travel means better descending performance. An overview of available suspensions is as follows:
- 60-110mm (Cross country race bikes)
- 110-130mm (Cross country or Trail bikes)
- 130-160mm (Trail bike)
- 160-180mm (Enduro bike)
- 180-200+ mm (Downhill and Gravity bikes)
Mountain bike performance is heavily influenced by wheel size, as higher diameters move faster over hurdles. Here’s an overview:
- 26”: Common choice for smaller riders or purchasing for not-so-rough paths
- 27.5”: More suitable for almost all mountain bikes
- 29”: Designed for cyclists who value speed and efficiency
Frame and Construction
The construction of your bike will play a crucial role in determining its’ service life. Some of the options are:
- Aluminium – Most popular choice. Aluminium is comparatively cheap, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant
- Steel – More expensive to mass produce. In addition, expect the frame to be heavier
- Carbon – Comparatively lighter than alloy and steel
- Titanium – Most expensive. If you can afford it then the biggest advantage is durability
The Best Mountain Bikes of 2022
The top bike models available out there:
1) Specialized Stumpjumper
Loved by thrill-seeking solo bikers, Stumpjumper is one of the most popular models by Specialized. The company was founded in the early 1970s, so there is some assurance that they know what they are doing. And the Stumpjumper has proved to be of high quality and suitable for almost all riders.
In addition, there are more than 10 versions of the full-suspension design offered under the same name. The model is probably one of the most suitable for off-track biking and offers durability to harsh jumps and bumps.
Best for: Lightweight, active suspension, and easy mount. Best performing trail bike. The Stumpjumper is ideal for long bike rides.
2) Trek Fuel EX
Even though Trek Bikes may not be as innovative as Specialized, they turned a lot of heads with the release of Fuel EX, one of the most renowned models and often acknowledged as the Jack of all trades. For women, too, the Fuel EX has much to offer.
Even with the numerous geometric and design change over a decade, Fuel EX retained its title as a do-it-all. Trek also offers a lifetime warranty on the frames. Finally, full customisation is also available.
Best for: Specifically designed for trail biking, the Trek Fuel EX is one of the world-famous mountain bikes and has kept the title for years. Suitable for both male and female riders who prefer a bike for fitness/skill improvement.
3) Santa Cruz Bronson
When it comes to performance, the Santa Cruz’s Bronson cuts no corners. Recently made with a mixed-wheel setup, the Bronson is the perfect mountain bike for longtime riders.
From an expert rider’s perspective, there’s so much to like about the Bronson. Just as Trek, the Santa Cruz offers a lifetime warranty on their frames and they take a step further by applying this warranty to all their bearings. Moreover, the company’s designers are passionate about the sport so the chances of you finding a subpar component are zero.
Best for: The Santa Cruz Bronson is famously acknowledged as the 'king of corners' among enduro bikes of 2022. The Bronson is comfortable and more suitable for fun activities rather than competitive biking.
4) Giant Bicycles Trance
It may come as a surprise but Giant Manufacturing is among the larger manufacturers in the bike industry with Trance one of the company’s best models in history. Whenever you look up Giant Bicycles, you’ll find the Trance on the list.
Though Trance may not be as good in terms of progressive geometry or technology compared to the Fuel EX or Stumpjumper, it is the perfect choice for the one bike that can do it all. Trance also comes at a more competitive price.
Best for: The Giant Trance is classified as a trail bike. However, it is also a great choice for playing around with jumps or carving tight turns. Suitable for both men and women looking for an affordable bike.
5) Yeti Cycles SB150
The quick up and down of the SB150 is that if you are looking for a fantastic-looking bike that climbs better than any other, this is the right choice for you. However, it comes at a cost. Yeti Cycles are one of the most expensive brands out there. You can purchase this model for a cool $4,700. What you are also buying is the company’s vibrant “Yeti Teal” frame colour and unique rear suspension platform.
The SB150 is known to seek out younger talents and evolve them into formidable riders. Some of the Yeti Cycle’s best works include Jared Graves, John Tomac, Richie Rude, and Juliana Furtado.
Best for: One of the best enduro race machines available. However, only suitable for aggressive riders who can huck the sky high price tag.
6) Ibis Cycles Ripmo
Cycles’ Ripmo offers you a responsive bike that is relatively affordable. You'll find the Ripmo tearing up the enduro race scene by the likes of Robin Wallner.
The Ripmo is precisely made and can accommodate less tall riders from 5’0”. To clarify, this is not something common among 29-inch wheel bikes. The Ripmo might not be as beautiful as others around but it offers the same durability and quality as you would find in any expensive model.
However, even though Ripmo is affordable but there are complaints about why is the warranty only 7 years?
Best for: Perfect for all-mountain and enduro biking. Regardless of the terrain, the bike is extremely comfortable to ride. Recommended for male bikers aiming to go competitive on a good budget.
Choosing a mountain bike is a matter of compatibility rather than the model. Therefore, it is better to pick your options depending on your personal preference and comfort.
The guide is designed to help you understand the best fit for you. If it's high altitude riding you want but not high prices check out the best full-suspension mountain bikes under $2000.
So why change gear from ski to bike for the summer and head for the mountains? It makes a lot of sense because of the similarities between skiing and mountain biking. Hurtling down trails on two wheels not only provides that adrenaline hit during the summer but also can help improve your skiing technique.
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