So you’re looking to buy a mountain bike? You have probably realized by now that your old trusty-rusty in the back of the garage isn’t the best fit, and with the complexity of mountain bikes these days, you may not know where to start. To find the perfect ride, there are a lot of things to consider - everything from your riding style and your budget to the terrain in your area. To simplify things, we’ve broken down some of the most important factors: the style of bike, the build, and the fit.
Possibly the most important question to ask yourself is, "What kind of riding am I going to be doing?" This will determine which style of mountain bike you choose. Think of this like choosing between a sports car and an SUV. Mountain bikes can be categorized into four main categories:
Get more details in our guide to mountain bike types.
Once you select a bike, you may notice there are different options at various prices. This is due to the bike’s build kit, or the parts and components such as brakes, gears, shifters, handlebars, that make your bike work. This is also what determines, in large part, the price of the final bike. A more expensive build kit will get you nicer components that are often both lighter weight and more durable. Two of the biggest build factors that impact the price of bikes are the suspension and frame materials.
The next choice you’re going to have to make is which bike wheel size you want - 26-inch, 27.5-inch, or 29-inch. At one time the 26-inch wheel was the standard, but larger wheel sizes have become more popular, and they allow you to roll over obstacles on the trail more easily. Twenty-nine-inch wheels (29ers) handle bigger terrain better, although they’re a bit tougher to handle, while 27.5 inches is a nice balance between 26 inches and 29 inches.
Last but certainly not least, a bike is only good if it fits you right. Mountain bike sizing is fairly simple - small, medium, and large. Most mountain bikes focus on an extremely low stand-over height, so the traditional method of standing over the bike flat-footed doesn’t really work. Check out the size charts from a big brand to get an idea. If you’re on the edge, sizing down will help you if you have a smaller torso or want more control and ability to whip your bike around, while sizing up is useful if you have a larger torso or simply want a more stable ride. When in doubt, don’t be hesitant to test ride and visit your local shop for sizing advice.
Sure, it is possible to just hop on your new bike and ride in your regular clothes and street shoes, but a couple of mountain bike accessories will go a long way in making your riding more comfortable and more fun. Focusing on the areas where you, the rider, come into contact with your bike will help to avoid common areas of discomfort or pain. The first pain-point to address is your backside, and getting a pair of proper mountain bike shorts and padded liner shorts (also known as chamios), will be a bigtime help. Add gloves to the mix to protect your hands, and you’ll be good to go!
Have more questions? Check out our guide to getting started mountain biking.
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