Friday, February 15, 2008

The Different Types of Mountain Bikes

There are basically two types of mountain bikes: the so-called hardtail and the dual suspension. There are also, in general, two types of mountain biking: downhill riding and cross country riding. This article describes which type of mountain bike is more suitable for the type of mountain biking that a rider might participate in.

Cross Country Mountain Biking

Cross country mountain bike riding is simply riding a trail. The rider negotiates the terrain whether it requires climbing a steep incline or maneuvering the mountain bike down a long descent. Cross country bikes are typically lightweight and are built for fast trail riding. Quality cross country bikes have at least front suspension to help absorb the bumps on a rough trail.

Many bike manufacturers are creating so-called all-mountain bikes, or trail bikes, which have dual suspension. These types of bikes are great for long, casual or sporty rides on mountainous trails. The suspension is enough to help absorb the typical trail shock but not beefy enough to be a true downhill racing rig.

The only problem with full-suspension is the extra weight it adds to the bike making it more difficult to ascend hills. There are not many cross country racers riding full suspension, especially on very mountainous courses. However, sport riders tend to opt for comfort over the weight advantages.

Downhill Mountain Biking

Downhill mountain biking is simply riding your mountain bike down the hill or mountain. Much of the terrain on downhill courses are extreme so it requires a beefier cycling rig to manage the demands of the trail. The mountain bikes used are very durable and heavy compared to cross-country bikes. They have long travel front and rear suspension to absorb the bumps and drops from the obstacles on the downhill course.

Many ski resorts open their slopes to downhill mountain bikes in the off-season. The riders use the ski lifts to transport themselves and their bikes to the top of the slopes and then speed down the hill at maximum speeds. Downhill mountain biking requires more safety than typical cross-country riding. Downhill riders will typically wear a full face motorcycle style helmet as well as body armor, elbow and knee pads.

Best of Both Rides

Many mountain bike riders own both a downhill and cross-country mountain bike. If you enjoy both disciplines there is no way around it. It would be too difficult to try to ride your cross-country bike down a downhill course. You may in fact hurt yourself or damage your bike. Conversely riding a 40 pound dual suspension mountain bike up a mountain may not be very enjoyable either. The lightweight of a cross-country bike may be more advantageous. Manufacturers are building all-mountain bikes to try to serve both disciplines. The idea is to create a lightweight machine with dual suspension and that are durable for those moderate downhill trails.

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