This buyer’s guide will walk you through selecting the best mountain bike for you. This article covers everything from how much you should spend on a mountain bike to which mountain bike is ideal for you.
We’ll also refer you to our rankings of the best deals at each price point and the most crucial spec elements to look for on a mountain bike.
What should I look for when purchasing a mountain bike?
Knowing what to look for when buying a bike is helpful if you’re new to mountain biking or seeking off-road experience on a road bike. Check out this list of the best trail bikes.
Choose the correct size
Good frame size is the most critical aspect. However, do not rely on the listed size-while. Many companies are shifting to “small, mid, and large” instead of the increasingly inaccurate sizes (seat tubes have been shrinking even as frames get longer). A large brand may be comparable to a medium-sized brand of a different brand, and there is no universal definition of “large.”
Instead, you should make sure your bike is a good match for you. Don’t be afraid to go further than you would on a road bike. Check (and compare) the reach (seat to handlebars) and stack (mid-head tube to center of the crank) measurements. Having the front triangle extended, the axle is further behind, making it easier to weigh it (for grip) without worrying about going over on initial impact. The front wheel is also firmly planted so that climbing is more straightforward.
You need a few centimeters to stop, but don’t go so far that you don’t have space. Your standover and maneuverability will be better with a short seat tube. Just make sure you don’t overextend your Seatpost. 29ers have taller front ends, and different stems, bars, and seat posts can make a big difference in the riding position.
Choose a wheel size
Diameters have been settled on 27.5″ for the 650b, aggressive trails, downhill, and 29″ (650b, aggressive tracks, and decline) for cross country. Because wide-rimmed plus sizes and 29-inch downhill wheels are becoming more popular, the picture isn’t as straightforward as it could be.
For the time being, the decisions are roughly the same: more giant hoops for long mileage or more minor, stronger ones for ripping trails. Strong, stiff, and light (ish) 29ers will become more popular in the coming years, along with appropriate tires and frames. There is considerable debate about whether plus-sized tires are here to stay on hardtails because they are tire pressure-sensitive.
Choose between a hardtail and a full-suss
Full suspension costs more since rear shocks, bearings, linkages, and additional manufacturing difficulties are involved. Therefore, a hardtail at the same price is likely to have a better component spec than a full-suss bike. Additionally, a hardtail bike will be simpler to maintain and less prone to breakdowns.
The benefits of full-suss bikes have become more advanced than ever before, so their disadvantages may still be outweighed. Although neither should be discounted, you shouldn’t be misled into thinking you have to ‘learn’ to ride a hardtail before upgrading to a “large bike.” This is purely a matter of preference.
Don’t obsess about your weight
Even though weight is substantial, strength is marginally more crucial off-road. The unpredictable nature of pebbles, roots, and ruts means that light steering is useless; steering accuracy, cornering, and confidence will all be compromised, resulting in slower speeds. If you wish to avoid colliding with the hedge, it is better to carry a few more pounds. Outside the workshop as well.
Avoid the flashy trinkets
Don’t be fooled by a nice rear derailleur: they’re often upgraded to attract buyers. Mechs are essential, but so are good shifters, cranksets, and chainrings. When planning future improvements, consider that cheaper components are heavier, more basic, and not worth paying a premium for. FSA has a lot of high-quality MTB parts.
Choose quality suspensions, not quantity
Use the manufacturer’s website to locate specific models for the forks and shocks (on full-suspension bikes). Remember that OE’s (original equipment) units may have a lower standard than aftermarket units that appear to be equivalent. With suitable dampers and an air spring, you’ll have a more enjoyable trip.
Opt for a future-proof design
For example, you’ll have a tough time finding a low-diameter dropper post (for adjusting saddle height on the fly). Be sure to check for current/popular axle sizes and spacing and a headset, bottom bracket, and even seat post dimensions. Besides internal gear cabling and brake hoses, stealth droppers also have internal gear cabling, but noise and maintenance are lost.
Save a little of your budget
Trail helmets are more rugged in construction, provide more excellent coverage, and have decent peaks. Protect yourself from flying debris with a backpack and eyewear. Pedals with clipless pedals, sticky flat pedals, cycling shoes, and mountain bike shoes are also available.
Furthermore, OE tires are harder, cheaper, and employ heavier steel beads than aftermarket tires. Your cockpit and gears almost certainly need to be customized.
The upside is that it’s still an upgrade!
Is Buying a New or Used Mountain Bike Better?
A used mountain bike can be an excellent choice if you’re on a tight budget because you can get a higher-quality bike with better components for the same price as a new low-spec bike.
Better components will result in a smoother ride and more dependability. However, whether the previous owner cared for the bike, used bikes might be hit or miss.