How Are Mountain Bikes Different? Find Out Here.

differences-between-mountain-bikes

How Are Mountain Bikes Different?

Mountain bikes also called all-terrain bicycles, are designed primarily for off-road riding – a recreational sport that emerged in the 1970s. Today’s bikes are designed for not just the more rugged type of terrain, but for all kinds of surfaces you’ll likely encounter.

The mountain bike similar in basic structure to any bike – with two wheels on a frame, chain, handlebars, and seat. But nowadays, more often than not, a mountain bike often has suspension on both the frames and forks as well as heavier-duty, oversized wheels and stronger braking systems (as compared to regular bicycles). They also have lower gear ratios making it easier for a mountain bike to climb hills.

There’s a variety of styles and price points to suit any rider from the occasional to the more serious. There are even bikes for competitive cycling. Mountain bikes (MTB’s) are primarily made for trails. That are built strong to more easily traverse mountains, rough logging roads, and fire roads deep in the bush. They’re also made for single track riding (narrow pathways that are not much wider than the bike itself) and more.

Mountain bikes can handle virtually any kind of surface intermittently including gravel, stone, trails with protruding tree branches, rocks, washed-out areas, loose sand,  and steep hills – whether you’re going uphill or downhill.

Most MTB’s also ride well on pavement making them a solid choice as an all-purpose vehicle.

A well-built mountain bike can handle and get through obstacles like drop-offs, fallen logs, and rocky ledges – the kind of things you’re likely to see on trails.

 

As mountain biking gained in popularity, specialty mountain bikes came into existence. There are now specialty bikes for free riding (where tricks, twists, and stunts with style reign) and downhill cycling that involves steep, rough terrain with drops, jumps, and obstacles. There are also specialty bikes made especially for cross-country, slalom and track riding.

Diamondback Sorrento Hard Tail Mountain BikeEach genre of mountain biking posts new challenges for manufacturers as the basic all-purpose MTV couldn’t handle such extremes.  Increasing demands were placed on the bike and its components – so manufacturers introduced new lines.  Upgrades included more gears (up to 30) to accommodate climbing and descending.  Added suspension allowed MTV’s to withstand the rigors of jumps, and aerial acrobatics as well as the stones, roots and drop-offs that suddenly appear as you’re riding.

Originally, mountain bikes were modeled after the “cruiser bicycle” with its stable frame, upright posture and larger wheels.  It was a durable bike suitable for casual or occasional riders.  The mountain bike has taken the basic cruiser model and elevated it several notches higher, making it lighter and much more sporty than its predecessor.

Which Mountain Bikes Are The Best?

When shopping for a good quality MTB, you want to look for a bike that provides a solid frame, stable and durable wheels, fully-functional suspension and a reliable braking system.

There’s one champion, one dominant winner.  It’s the kind of bike that any serious cyclist would love to have.  Most would gladly give up their most trusted and prized current ride for the utter brilliance of engineering and technology that is the Diamondback 2016 Mission Pro Complete All Mountain Full Suspension Bike.

This is no ordinary bike by any means, and it is the kind of thing most mountain bikers only dream of owning someday. It’s a beautiful thing. Genius-level thinking has gone into every element of this beautiful bicycle.  It’s the kind of bike that can handle any terrain from steep mountains to rugged winding trails, rough areas, and wet marshes too – without a hitch.  It’s got everything you want in an all-in-one solution. If you’ve got the budget for this fine ride, this is one mountain bike that’s sure to deliver an amazing experience.

Beiou Mountain BikeThere’s another MTB that I consider to be among the better bikes available today – and it’s only a fraction of the price of the Diamondback Mission Pro.  It’s the Beiou Carbon Fiber 650B Mountain Bike, and it’s a sure-fire winner on all counts.  Although the Beiou is a relatively unknown name at present, it’s not likely to remain the case much longer.

This particular bike makes an excellent upgrade from a lesser model of the mountain bike.  If you’re a serious cyclist, you’ll love the Beiou with its super-lightweight, yet incredibly strong carbon fiber frame.  You’ll  easily conquer all kinds of surfaces on a Beiou and have a blast doing so.  They’re great on hills, mountain trails, single tracks, forest paths, muddy fields and just about any kind of surface you’re going to encounter.

Are Mountain Bikes Easier To Ride?

There’s nothing complicated about riding an MTB.  But the secret is to find a bike that’s a good fit for both your body size and your specific needs.

Freestyle, downhill, and any kind of competitive cycling isn’t typically something you’re going to step into right away.  It takes experience and plenty of practice.  But the basics or riding a mountain bike are much the same as any bike.

Overall, the average mountain bike provides a stable, upright ride that’s easy for most people to manage.  Climbing aboard feels much the same as it did with the first bike you ever rode as a child.  But a mountain bike is noticeably different as how substantial and supportive the structure below you feels.

For most people, the average MTB is easier to ride than say a racing bike, with its narrow and extremely lightweight frame. What also makes the MTB a good choice is that it’s so versatile.  You can ride the mountains and foothills – or take them on the road.  You can use it for exhilarating fun on weekends, or as your vehicle of choice to commute to and from work on weekdays.  This multipurpose nature of the mountain bike ensures optimum value and flexibility.

Are Mountain Bikes Good For Long Distance?

Yes, a mountain bike can go for many miles.  These bikes are built tough to travel long distances without any problems.  But if distance riding is your primary focus, you want a bike that can easily handle roads and the different kinds of pavement you’re likely to encounter. It’s good to have a solid frame, but not one that’s excessively heavy.

You also want a frame that’s a good fit to your body size and a seat that will provide reasonable comfort for hours at a time.  Quality tires can make a difference.  So if you’re planning an extended trip, get the best road tires you can afford before hitting the pavement.

If it’s comfortable for your body size, get a larger frame – a 28 or 29-inch model tends to roll on better over those long trips.  The larger the wheel, the smoother the roll.  Smaller models require a lot more total revolutions to cover the same distance – so you’ll need to work harder.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference, and it depends greatly on the terrain itself.  If the roads are paved and in excellent condition, a road bike might be a better option because they’re generally lighter.  They also have less tire making contact with the road, which means there’s lower resistance.

Road bikes are built to be more aerodynamic, so cruising longer distances is a little easier.  You also have more options for hand positions, providing relief and preventing premature soreness. You also likely arrive at your destination sooner.

But for overall comfort, a quality mountain bike with road tires is a solid option as well and may give more stability to the inexperienced rider.

Why Do Mountain Bikes Have Suspension?

The suspension allows for greater adaptability and flexibility and less stress on the frame.  This results in a more comfortable ride on a bike that’s built to take a beating and keep on speeding (with apologies to Timex).

Kestrel_Talon_Road_BikeIf every trail, path, crossing, and a road was as smooth as silk, you wouldn’t need much suspension – if any.  But very few stretches are that smooth, even if your cycling is limited to the roads.  Depending on specific road conditions, the suspension may or may not be useful to you.  But on the trails – it’s an excellent feature to have.  If you’re riding trails and doing jumps or downhill riding, you’re going to need a quality suspension system from the start.

Freestyle and downhill biking is tough on a bicycle.  Every time you catch some air, you’re  then pulled back to the ground with the considerable force of gravity.  Without proper suspension, it’s likely that your bike frame will fold up like an accordion, or the very least, get bent out of shape.     There’s no doubt about it – without suspension – there’s more steps or stress on the frame and the riders body. Sustaining damage is much more likely if you’re doing any extreme cycling, such as hitting those untamed trails, or performing jumps, or stunts of any kind.

How much suspension you need depends on what kind of riding you’re planning to do.

The first models of mountain bikes had rigid frames and forks.  It wasn’t until the early 1990s that suspension forks were introduced. Instantly, trail riders noticed how much easier it was to ride over rough terrain.  Those early models only had 1 1/2 to 2 inches of suspension. Today, front forks are readily available with 8 inches of travel – or more – to provide ample cushioning.

Bikes that have front suspension but no rear suspension are known as “hardtails” and their popularity soared from the time they were first introduced to the market.  That demand has tapered off somewhat in recent years due to the emergence of full suspension frames and all the various forms of specialty mountain biking.

The advantages of a hardtail bike are that it provides more efficient peddling, lower overall costs, and less maintenance, due to there being fewer moving parts.

Full suspension bikes (a.k.a., “dual suspension” or “full-user” models) have shock absorption capability at both the front and rear wheels. This delivers a smoother, more comfortable ride as both wheels can adjust to and absorb the impact of jumps, bumps, and any obstacles that get in the way.

For rugged off-road ridings such as downhill or freestyle cycling, full suspension bikes are hard to beat.

On the downside, a well-made, full suspension bike will naturally cost you more money.  These bikes are heavier and not as efficient regarding pedaling as a hardtail model.  Where you’ll notice this, lower efficiency is on the roads and hard surface trails.  You’ll have to work a bit harder to compensate.  But having proper suspension on those rocky trails will be worth the extra investment and effort.

Why Are Mountain Bikes Expensive?

Actually, not all mountain bikes are expensive.  You can often find cheap versions of mountain bikes at the big box stores.  Even bike shops usually have some low-end models as part of their inventory.  But there are significant differences between a cheap bike and quality mountain bike – and it’s best to know this before you spend a dime.

Diamondback Response Mountain BikesThe more expensive bikes are made for those who want to get the most out of their cycling experience.  The quality difference is evident from the engineering and design, right up to the packaging material used to protect your investment as it’s shipped to you.

Regarding performance between “cheap” and “expensive” – they are miles apart.  The cheaper models are meant for occasional use around neighborhood streets or the nearest city park.  They are not built to handle the twist and turns, or the ups and downs of trail riding.  And a cheap bike simply wouldn’t be able to handle a substantial road trip.

But saddle up in a quality name brand MTB and you’re in for an entirely different experience.  The entire look and feel have changed dramatically.  It’s like stepping into a fine Mercedes automobile after you’ve been driving a 20-year-old Ford Taurus.

Better built bikes are responsive, lightweight and rugged.  The gears shift seamlessly.  Brakes are quick to respond, and the bike rolls along without much effort at all, unlike a ride on the bike from the big box store.  Quality bikes also use quality parts from top manufacturers like Shimano.

Cheap frames are made of steel alloy whereas quality bike frames are constructed of carbon fiber, titanium, and aluminum.

Expensive bikes are designed and built for serious cyclists.  This means they are capable of performing at higher levels – even in the most extreme side of mountain biking.

Yes, these bikes are more expensive for some specific reasons.  But ultimately you’re getting way more bike for your money.  The higher the quality you seek – more money it’s going to cost you.  That’s not a truism limited to bicycles; it’s the way it is with most everything in life.

There’s no cheap way to a quality life experience.

Are Mountain Bikes Good For Commuting?

It depends on several factors.  There’s no reason why your mountain bike would not be a solid performer as a commuter vehicle, provided you didn’t cheap out with a Big Box store model.

But it is the best bike for commuting?  Well, that all depends on you. How far from home is your workplace and what’s the condition of the roads and traffic like for cyclists?  And how experienced are you as a cyclist?

Schwinn protocol mountain bikeIf you’re not at an expert level, a mountain bike could be just the ticket for you.  But if racing is more your style, you’ll probably be happier with a different bike.  For most, however, a good brand name mountain bike would be completely fine for a commute.  These bikes are stable and reliable and comfortable enough to get you to work and back home day after day.  You get to ride sitting upright, in the comfortable position, instead of being hunched over and arriving at your destination with a sore back.  That’s not the best way to start – or end – your day.

Your best bet maybe a hardtail bike with quality road tires.  That will give you the best road experience possible from a mountain bike.  You’ll also want to get both the best possible seat available.  A smoother tire tread will allow you to glide on roads at greater speeds with less effort. It’s important to pay attention to these seemingly minor details so you get a bike that will work for you.

Why Are Mountain Bikes Heavy?

The kind of mountain bikes I pay attention to are not what I would consider “heavy.”  In fact, most of them are quite light.  If you try out a bike, and it feels heavy to you, it’s more than likely that the frame is the culprit.  Is it heavy?  Compared to what?

If you compare a mountain bike to a road bike, well yes, mountain bikes are typically heavier and with good reason.  Mountain bikes are designed first and foremost for off-road purposes.  This entails traversing rugged and diverse types of trails.  It means that the bike needs to be capable of powering through drops and jumps, stones, and stumps.  This requires a stronger, more durable frame than you’ll ever see on a typical road bike.

With thinner frames and wheels, there’s less resistance.  So all things being equal, a road bike is faster.  Mountain bikes have thicker frames and wider wheels so they may be a little on the heavier side.  But thanks to the development of alternative frames, today’s high-end mountain bikes are considerably lighter than they used to be and not at all like the weighty “cruisers” whose look they initially emulated.

Are Mountain Bikes Allowed In Wilderness Areas?

In America, the answer is “no”.  Since 1984, mountain bikes have been banned from areas designated as wilderness.  The same does not apply however to hikers or equestrians, which to the average trail cyclist hardly seems fair.

Mountain bikers have been locked out.  The wilderness ban used to apply only to “motorized transportation”.  But in 1984, the wording was changed to widen the ban to include any “mechanized transportation” – including mountain bikes.  Many bikers felt cheated and betrayed because they believe that other interest groups simply don’t want to share the wilderness.

Are Mountain Bikes Good For City Riding?

There’s no simple answer to this question either.  It depends on the specifics.  First of all, a well-made mountain bike can serve your purposes quite well on city streets.  But there are a lot of variables that can impact your experience.  For example, are you planning to ride in crowded downtown streets with plenty of cars and pedestrians coming and going?

Mountain Bikes Under 500 DollarsIf so, you would want your bike to be quickly responsive and adaptive to changes.  This means having excellent breaks in good working order and flexible steering.  You also want to equip your bicycle for the road with a solid set of road tires.  Chances are, your bike came with knobby, wide-treaded tires.  This is the type of tread that is ideally suited to trails and unknown pathways – not necessarily pavement

It’s also important to have your bike in peak operational condition.  You don’t want to ride any city streets with a banged up frame, imperfect wheels, or fading brakes.  It’s just too risky.  It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you’re on.  If it’s not in the best working condition, it probably shouldn’t be on the road.

Most cyclists who ride city streets on a daily basis, do so with road bikes that are thinner, lighter and faster.  But there’s no reason why you can’t use a mountain bike for this purpose as well.  But you will want to purchase a hardtail mountain bike if you’re going to do lots of city riding.

Where Can I Get A Good Buy On A Good Mountain Bike?

Forget about the big chains.  Despite the promise of good deals, it’s never a sound investment when it comes to bikes to purchase a cheap, inferior product.  And let’s face it, that’s what you’re going to find at the bigger stores that serve the general public.

Specialty bike shops can provide a wealth of knowledge.  It’s also a fun and uplifting experience for any cyclist to spend some time browsing and to be able to direct your specific questions to a competent bike technician.  These guys have plenty of quality bikes for the serious cyclist – and that’s where they make their money.  But for the buyer, it might not be your best move.  Chances are, you will overpay if you buy from a local shop.

Checking out the local shops can help narrow down your choices.  But you’ll almost always find a better deal on a quality mountain bike online.  If you’re serious about getting a good mountain bike at a good price, click here.

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Read This Report About The Schwinn 270 Recumbent Bike - July 22, 2016 Reply

[…] is supported by the back and buttocks, spreading out the weight for a more comfortable ride. On a traditional bike, the rider’s entire body weight will rest on a small area (the sitting bones, hands, and […]

    Von Tompkin - August 24, 2016 Reply

    Mostly ridden at lift-serviced bike parks, these bikes aren’t sold by REI. Downhill bikes are big and tough, and riders wear full-face helmets and body armor as they encounter jumps, berms, rock gardens and wooden ladders.

      ffor4 - August 25, 2016 Reply

      Von Thank you for the comment. The Schwinn Recumbent Bikes are stationary Bikes. They are used for
      exercising at home.

Dawn D - August 9, 2016 Reply

Hi – thanks for the comprehensive information. I have found that local shops are very informative too, but I am afraid that I have also found the added ‘mark-up’ on the price. Your advice to shop around online is very valid – thank you!

Mecala - August 9, 2016 Reply

So, I’ve come across your very informative site while doing a bit of researching for a good friend who has no clue how to navigate the web (sad, I know). She wants to surprise her son with a new mountain bike and it seems he has his eyes on the Diamondback 2016 Mission Pro! Well, when she hears what the price is she might want a couple of other options.
Thanks to all of the information you have here, I can provide some for her without having to spend hours online visiting tons of sites. Thank you for that!

    ffor4 - August 10, 2016 Reply

    Meccala, thank you for you comment. Your friend will find the Diamondback bikes are
    a great bike for the money.

Maria - August 9, 2016 Reply

I like what you have to say about Mountain Bikes and comparing the different styles. I have always lived on gravel roads thus have not enjoyed bike riding. Probably if I had a good bike with excellent suspension and wider tires it would be easier and more pleasurable. Good to know they are rugged without being heavy.

    ffor4 - August 10, 2016 Reply

    Maria, thank you for your comment. Check out the Best Diamondback Response 29er for wider tires.
    You will find the article on my website.

Lauren - August 14, 2016 Reply

I had no idea mountain biking couldn’t be done in the wilderness. That is really interesting and I can see how that’d be frustrating for avid bikers if equestrian and hikers are allowed. Thanks for researching that and going into depth about it!

Ines - September 6, 2016 Reply

Came to your site to get to know more about mountain bikes and have some of the jargon explained. But when I read that mountain bikes are not allowed in the wilderness in the States – That just shattered a budding project! I got all interested in that when a friend from the UK told me about bikepacking over there. Surely there must be areas where that’s possible.

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