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Mountain Biking 101
By MBT Staff


Trail and Riding Types

TRAIL - The universal, most well rounded and largest market segment of the mountain bike industry. Trail bikes are sturdy framed, outfitted with a potpourri of worthy components, and can handle most riding conditions thrown at them. It is versatility and the mind-set of being capable of handling most anything that makes them appeal to a vast majority of riders in all disciplines. Options generally include front or dual suspension setups, disc brakes, 2 to 5 inches of fairly supple suspension travel, and overall weights in the middle of the spectrum (25-35 lbs).

CROSS COUNTRY - Whereas initially both a trail and cross country bike appear quite similar (especially to the untrained eye) the versatility of today’s trail bikes are forcing a true cross country setup into a category of its own. The basis of the cross-country approach is componentry selection of the lightest possibly available. Since the goal and usage of this setup is centered on endurance racing, attributes such as durability and long-term reliability are bartered for shaving off pounds. Suspension travel is very soft and kept to a minimum and exists only to smooth out trail conditions rather than absorb big hits. The cross-country bike is the proper choice for the rider looking to race endurance or trail ride and sprint on the lightest possible bike (at the cost of frequent maintenance and a generally disposable attitude). Weights vary between 19 and 25 lbs.

DUAL SLALOM - Just as specific as the Cross Country division, Dual Slalom (sometimes called Mountain Cross or 4X) bikes are designed specifically for race applications giving up reliability and long-term durability for a light-weight efficient pedaling platform designed especially for carrying speed and cornering. Truly a mixed bag of options, rigids, hard tail and dual suspension set-ups are all commonly found. Weighing in at 25-30 lbs, this bike is designed to win races then be totally rebuilt.

DOWNHILL - Now we venture into the realm of a much more focused segment of the MTB market. The downhill bike is in essence, the exact opposite reasoning of the Cross Country set up in that suspension travel is at an absolute maximum (hovering around 9 inches of ultra beefy extra stiff travel) and overall bike weight approaching the 50 lb mark. However, with gravity working with the rider, downhill bikes are capable of pounding through seemingly impossible rock gardens, swallowing up massive rain wash-outs, and hucking unrealistic hang time off dirt doubles, tabletops, and cliff drops. However as with any specific setup, there are cons to counter the pros. In this case, it is trail riding that becomes hardly an option and with such incredible weight under the rider, pedaling uphill is nearly impossible. 35-50 lbs.

FREERIDE - If you are a rider who has trouble committing between the trail and downhill categories then this is your class. Although still a bit on the “chunky” side in terms of overall weight, these bikes at least capable of being pedaled on multi-use trails but come equipped with enough suspension travel and braking ability to tame North Shore trails loaded with drops, wooden obstacles and chutes. Their main appeal is the ability to withstand the abuse of repeated landings. Appearance wise, they are similar to their downhill cousins with shorter over lengths, stubbier ergonomics, and less overall weight. 35-45lbs.

STUNT/DIRT JUMP/URBAN - What if someone took a lightweight, single speed BMX frame and outfitted it with 4 to 5 inch mountain bike forks and larger tires? You would have the dirt jump hybrid bike. At home in skate parks, BMX dirt tracks, vert ramps, and urban assault everywhere, these bikes represent the rider looking to show off some freestyle. Simplicity to the bike’s design is the key and riding styles that favor body English are most at home here. 30-39 lbs.

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