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Mountain Bikes

Hardtail Mountain Bike

General Description...

Mountain bikes have tough frames, good brakes, lots of gears and knobbly tires - perfect for riding off the beaten track. The riding position is quite upright so you can see that tree you're about to crash into! Suspension is now common, for two reasons: it's more comfortable, and it can increase traction. Mountain Bikes, however, do not necessarily all have suspension, some have rigid forks and frames, others just have suspension forks and some have suspension front and rear.
Full Suspension Mountain Bike

A related breed of bike is the ATB or All Terrain Bike. This is generally less of a serious bike than a mountain bike (MTB), more for pottering along canal towpaths than proper off-road riding.

69'ers and 29'ers

Some manufacturers of mountain bikes are starting to introduce larger wheels onto *some* of their bikes. The larger wheel is a 29" (effectively the same rim diameter as a road race 700c wheel, but made bigger by the larger tyre used on mountain bikes.
A 29'er typically refers to a bike with 29" wheels both front and rear.
A 69'er typically refers to a bike with a 29" front wheel and a 26" rear wheel.

Types of MTB:

Hardtail -

A mountain bike described as a "hardtail" is one which does not have suspension at the back of the bike: hard as in no movement and tail as in backend!
It is likely to have front suspension forks but this isn't always the case. Some entry level mountain bikes still have rigid forks.

Full Suspension -

A mountain bike referred to as full suspension has both front and rear suspension.
Manufacturers aften refer to the "travel" on the suspension. This refers to the amount of vertical movement in the suspension.
Be cautious of cheap full suspension bikes. Quality is often very poor and realistically, a full suspension bike at below £300-£400 will be very heavy and yet offer poor quality suspension... even worse, it will likely wear out very quickly.

XC (Cross Country) -

This is for what most of us do anyway - a bike for generally playing around in the woods. It may have suspension, but not to an extreme, and will have a good spread of gears and good brakes. Ideally suited to rough but well worn off-road paths and tracks.

Downhill -

For serious nutters only. The idea of downhilling is to get yourself down a path, track or dirt road as fast as possible. A downhill bike has a lot of suspension, very solid frame and components, and very powerful brakes.

Dirtjump or Trials - (see dedicated page)

Two related disciplines, both of which involve jumping and precision riding. Bikes have small, very strong frames, some suspension, lots of low gears, and very good brakes.

Other types...

No doubt the pedants will queue up to rip holes in the next paragraph!

It seems that every week a new special type of mountain bike appears, or a new type of riding... Whether it be North-shore, 4-Cross, Freeride, Back Trail, Enduro... and about everything else under the sun.

I really haven't got space to cover it all here and often the differences between each type are so insignificant... it is the style and place of riding that alters rather than the bike itself. Granted there are some exceptions but on the whole, most are variations on a theme rather than specific different types of bike. I could also put images of these types of bike alongside each other and doubt many would spot the difference.


Very versatile - you can use an MTB for anything from commuting to travelling across Outer Mongolia. There's a huge range available, with prices from £60 to in excess of £6000. The fitting of less knobbly tyres will make the bike usable on tarmac.


Bare MTBs need lots of extras to make the most of other uses - slick tyres, mudguards and lights for commuting, for example. Cheaper models fitted with suspension are, on the whole, a waste of money and VERY heavy. Often, cheaper suspension fails to give any benefit.

Expect to Pay...

As with BMX there are lots of bikes which look like mountain bikes. These are often referred to as ATB's. These start from as little £60, but you should really expect to pay no less than £250-£300 for a bike which is worth buying if you want to do any kind of off-road riding.

MTB's are the style of bikes which most puts people off cycling. Because the prices start so low, and supermarkets, catalogues and cheap outlets see them as some form of commodity like baked beans, meaning that many many people are succoured into buying a cheap "Mountain Bike". Components are of extremely low quality and can fail very quickly, and, perhaps most importantly, bikes from these types of outlet rarely come fully or correctly assembled meaning that many many bikes out on our roads are plain dangerous. In turn, these bikes get chucked in the shed and forgotten about. What a waste of money. If you feel that a mountain bike is the best type of bike for your intended usage, forget these cheap skips and instead look at bikes which you will enjoy riding. £125-£150 will get you a bike which is at least safe (if adjusted & assembled correctly) but for hard off-road riding, you really need to be looking above £200.
Image Copyrights
Images depict bikes manufactured by Marin and Genesis.
Mountain bikes are available from a number of other manufacturers and use of Marin and Genesis bicycle images is in no way an endorsement of their product for this purpose.
Permission for use of the images has been sought from Marin UK (ATB SALES) and Genesis (Madison) and copyright over these images remains with the respective supplier.
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