Semi-rigid or full suss? Steel or carbon frame? We take a look at your big mountain biking questions



Getting the best mountain bike can be tricky. It’s not just about how much you have to spend – there are some great performing models in our best mountain bike guide under £ 500 / $ 500, after all – but also what you plan on doing. do with your new bike. With that said, it’s always a good idea to go for the best bike you can afford; it means that you get a more reliable and better machine that you will have more fun to drive.

Here, we answer some of the big questions you might have when looking for a new mountain bike. And if you’re not sure that’s the type of bike you’re looking for, you might want to check out our MTB vs road bike explainer first.

Hardtail vs full-suss: how much suspension do I need on my mountain bike?

The most obvious difference between mountain bikes is invariably whether they have suspension or not. You can go from no suspension to a bike with front suspension forks (a ‘semi-rigid‘) to total suspension (a’Full of suspense‘), providing rebound at the front and rear.

The more suspensions you have, the more likely your bike is to cost. But do you really need it? If your bike will never hit anything other than your local canal towpath or easy forest fire trails, you probably won’t; if you plan on doing more engaged cross-country on bridle paths and easier routes in the middle of the trails, a decent hardtail may be enough; and for anything tougher, like the red and black runs at your local trail center, enduro and serious downhills, you’ll need full suspension.

You can get a perfectly acceptable mountain bike without any suspension for £ 400, and add another £ 100 and you will find some very acceptable hardtail bikes; for “full thrills” look at an entry point of around £ 1,500, from where the sky is roughly the limit in terms of spending.

The type of suspension can also vary enormously – air suspension, coil spring, oil-moistened and so on – and the more you pay, the more settings and adjustments you get, allowing you to tune your bike more effectively for different riding styles and terrains. Look for established brands like Fox Racing, RockShox, and DT Swiss.

Stop that! What are the best MTB brakes?

All modern mountain bikes come with disc brakes, which are much more efficient than the old-fashioned caliper and “V” brakes. Cheaper bikes will have mechanical (i.e. cable activated) brake systems, while hydraulic systems, which generally perform better and are easier to install, are standard if you spend a little more. The main players are Shimano and Sram, both of which manufacture a wide range of brakes to suit all budgets.

Front disc brake on an ATV

(Image credit: Dorothy Castillo on Pexels)

What type of wheel is best for mountain biking?

There are two main sizes of MTB wheels, 29 “ and 27.5 “. Larger wheels roll better over obstacles and tend to have better traction while smaller wheels offer better handling and acceleration and are lighter.

When it comes to tires, there is an almost endless variety of tread patterns to suit all types of terrain, but common sense will determine what rubber you ride on – there’s no point in shoeing your tire. bike with aggressive and super knotty downhill tires for a smooth, flat ride the forest trails and likewise the smoother and narrower tires suitable for easier recreational riding will be deadly on rocky, loose and slippery single trails.

What is the best material for an MTB frame?

Steel and aluminum frames tend to be cheaper. Carbon and titanium the frames are more expensive but lighter and, especially in the case of titanium, rustproof and sturdy.

You will find that the handlebars on mountain bikes are wider than those on road bikes, as this provides better control over rough terrain.

Should I add a dropper post to my ATV?

A dropper post allows you to lower or increase the height of your saddle remotely via a lever on the handlebars, which is very useful on steep and technical descents; by lowering the saddle, you can perch lower on the bike and reduce the risk of hovering over the bars while being in a more dynamic riding position for navigating difficult and steep terrain.

What gear system do ATVs have?

Gone are the days of 27-speed mountain bikes with three front chainrings and an associated front derailleur and shifter; other than economy models, most mountain bikes these days come with a single front chainring and an 11-speed rear cassette. This system is more efficient, lighter, offers roughly the same range of gears as the old system and with a single shifter on the right side of the handlebars, there is less chance of getting it wrong.

Flats vs clips: what is the best type of pedal?

Newer mountain bikes either come with inexpensive plastic pedals or without any pedals, the latter of which lets you choose your own. There should be raised pins on the pedals that give your feet a better grip as you bounce on rough terrain, although more experienced long-distance runners often use without clip pedals. These literally attach the cyclist’s feet to the pedal via spikes at the bottom of their cycling shoes. if you’re a novice rider you probably won’t want to use them just yet as there is a skill involved in slicing and unclipping – do it wrong and it invariably results in erasure.

And finally, there’s the color of your new bike – just kidding, although you’ll find that the frame colors change with each season and if you’re happy to go with last season’s color, you can often make a good deal on a bike which in virtually every other respect is the same as this season’s model.


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