Types of Mountain Bikes: Which MTB Suits your Purpose?

Mountain biking is an off-road cycling discipline that’s popular all over the world. It’s also a very diverse sport as many mountain bikes lead to sub-disciplines, race-formats, and events, including enduro, cross-country, slopestyle, and free ride. Mountain bikers, including me, are found riding everywhere (from high mountains to verdant forests).

While all the different types of mountain biking require fitness, skill, and lightning-fast reactions, there are still significant differences between them.

While cross-country racing is more about high-speed, high-energy riding over an intense couple of hours, some such as downhill favor gravity-fueled descents. Then there’s trail riding, which is more about going out and enjoying local tracks and routes for pleasure.

List of Mountain Bike Types

mountain bikes types

Below is the list of Common Mountain Bike types:

  • Cross-Country (XC) Mountain Bikes
  • Downhill Mountain Bikes 
  • Trail Mountain Bikes 
  • Enduro Mountain Bikes
  • Fat Mountain Bikes

Now, let me show you how mountain bikes are divided into different categories.

Different Types of Mountain Bikes based on Frame

The market is based on three different mountain bike frames — Rigid, Hardtail, Full Suspension, and Gravel.

1) Rigid

rigid mountain bikes

Rigid mountain bikes, including all BMX and cruisers, a bicycle without any suspension. For this reason, the journey is often more inconvenient than other types.

However, there are many reasons why a rigid bike might be helpful. 

First, these are usually less heavy because they are not weight-added by the suspension. Secondly, they are more efficient because your pedal is not removed (suspension sometimes has pedal bob).

Today, people buy rigid bikes because they are fun. Because rigid bikes are much more careful than other types of bikes, walking is usually easier. Only its pedaling efficiency and lighter weight make it superior to the two kinds of mountain bikes.

PROS:

  • Durability 
  • Less heavier
  • Versatility

CONS:

  • Pricey

On the other hand, going off-road is much more difficult and less convenient.👎

2) Hardtail

hardtail mountain bikes

Bikes that have front suspension are hardtails. Almost every hardtail is for mountain biking, but only a few rare cruisers and hybrids.

👉 I think Hardtails are great for riders who enjoy traveling in cities and on trails.

The lack of a rear suspension makes it very efficient to pedal. The front suspension’s objective is to contribute towards the absorption of the initial impact of bumps, rock, and roots on the trails. With front suspension, your hands also don’t become so bad on a long journey.

Two main types of front suspension forks — air and spiral, are available. Air suspension is usually lighter and can be adjusted easier, both high and low-end, the air and the coil-sprung forks.

The suspension travel on a hardtail is typically 80 – 140 mm, but up to 200 mm. With over 140 mm, we would not recommend buying one.

PROS:

  • Lighter
  • Low maintenance

CONS:

  • Rear Brakes can’t be applied frequently

If you need this suspension, a complete suspension bike should probably be available. However, there are various ways to adjust the front derailleur depending on the bend.

3) Full-Suspension

full suspension mountain bikes

A full-suspension bike is a front and rear suspension bicycle. The full-suspension bike has two shocks — on the front and back. At times, full-suspension bikes are also called dual suspension bikes.

Any suspension bike you and I find will be a mountain bike for riders who regularly find themselves on rough off-road paths. Complete suspension bikes are more used for leisure and racing than for transport. ✅

>Depending on riding preferences and mountain bike type, the travel length can range from 80 to 200 mm at the front and rear.

PROS:

  • Quick on hard terrain
  • Improved stability on bumps

CONS:

  • Costly

It makes uneven terrain feel smoother and works great for riders with a sore or damaged body (back pains, etc.) because of its lessons impacts.

4) Gravel

gravel types of mountain bikes

Off-road gravel bikes provide more stability because of their extended wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, and higher head tube angle. Usually, gravel bikes have drop bars that are designed to increase speed and efficiency.

👉 I personally think flared drop bars put more control and stability into gravel bikes.

Some people also refer to gravel bikes as adventure bikes because they can handle many surfaces, carry additional gear, and be used for longer rides on roads less traveled.

In general, gravel bikes provide an upright riding position, having a longer head tube and shorter reach than road bikes.

PROS:

  • Easy to handle
  • Customizable

CONS:

  • Slower
  • Heavy

In addition to being more comfortable on long rides, you can also shift your weight around easier during descents.

Mountain Bike Types based on Disciplines

Mountain biking is divided into several disciplines. We’ll take a brief look at them:-

1) Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bikes

Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bikes

XC mountain bikes are designed for riders who want the highest priority pedaling performance. These are crushing pulmonary machines produced to achieve endurance and efficiency. Cross-country bikes have similar geometry to road bikes. 

In exchange for efficiency and weight, cross-country bikes sacrifice downhill performance for efficiency and weight.

  • Modern XC bikes tend to be the most significant size 29″ Mountain bike wheel.
  • This diameter is identical to the size of the road bike of 700c.
  • Ultra-lightweight builds (sometimes less than 24 lbs) of 4.7”/120 mm or less make you look at the lightest mountain bike.

In this category, hardtails (front-only suspension) can, in some cases, be preferential. The drivers have efficient graduations through longer chainstays, rough head angles such as 69° and steeper, and a long stem.

PROS:

  • Improved Cardio
  • Gentle on joints

CONS:

  • Only for riders that love racing.

Tires on these bikes can reduce weight and efficiency and increase rolling resistance instead of traction, control, or durability.

Best For:

XC mountain bikes are great for riders who pedal and give priority to climbing downhill miles.

 2) All Mountain/ ENDURO Mountain Bikes

All Mountain/ ENDURO Mountain Bikes

These types of mountain bikes call the trail bike’s grizzled cousin. All Mountain bike is central to the race format called ‘Enduro,’ which requires climbing but is timed and marked on only the downhill sections.

A mountain bike, whether you’re all-mountain or enduro, is the perfect platform if you’re willing to pedal, but downhill, with the technical ground and air-time in mind. 

  • Mountain Enduro bikes are available with 27.5″ or 29″ wheels or even with mixed “mullet” size 29″ in front and 27.5″ in the rear.
  • The suspension of all mountaineering bikes ranges from 5.5″/140 mm until 6.7″/180 mm.
  • It favors geometry to descend to ascent strongly.
  • Head angles from 65° to 67° may need some finesse in steep climbs.

In this respect, a complete mountain bike can handle this, too, if you want to skip the pedaling and do a couple of rides at a bike park.

The long wheelbase, the extended bottom bracket, and the slack head angle are essential for modern mountain/enduro geometry.

PROS:

  • Improved Cardio
  • Gentle on joints

CONS:

  • Only for riders that love racing.

Tires on all mountain bikes will probably favor aggressive bumpers in a corner and drive as gravity is an integral part of the ride.

Best For:

These are perfect for climbs, contouring trails, off-road and tricky tracks. All this is possible due to their 150 mm suspension travel.

3) Trail Mountain Bikes

trail mountain bikes

Are you looking at epic rides all day long as you bang around the town and on your local trails? Do you measure your travels rather than seconds by grin and smile?

Trail bikes add more suspension, greater severity such as better traction chunkier tires and larger brake rotors, and less reliable geometry than their XC brethren to make them more capable on all sorts of terrain.

If you are upholding downhill mountain biking and looking for a drop or a jump, then I believe you’re looking for a trail bike. There are 27.5″ or 29″ trail bikes available in the market.

  • There can be a 4.7″/120 mm to 6″/150 mm suspension anywhere on the front or the back.
  • “Neutral” head angles of trail bike geometries (66° or 68°) vary widely depending on the style.

Trail bike tires strike an equilibrium between durability, traction, and rolling efficiency.

PROS:

  • Improved Cardio
  • Gentle on joints

CONS:

  • Only for riders that love racing.

Best For

Many trail bikes are available, and they should be suitable for cross-country riding and technical downhill riding. A trail bike’s geometry is typically between those of an XC bike and an enduro bike. When the trails get exciting, the climbing position is combined with more rigid elements, a heavier frame, and a relaxed geometry.

4) Downhill Mountain Bike

types of mountain bikes

The downhill bikes are designed for steep, gnarly ground, speed, large drops, and jumps. I usually look for a different way to the top of the trail with these bikes, whether this is a walk, shuttling, or chairlift. 

The only place they’re meant to go is down. When you’re not keen on pedaling uphill from a distance, have the terrain & paths to support high speeds, and have the skill level you need, a downhill bike is for you.

The burly frames with dual-crown diameters resemble what you can see on the cycle have 6.7″/170mm – 10’/250mm+ suspension traveling in the rear and 7″/180mm – 8″200m on the front. The bikes tend to be very slack with lower brackets to rely on steep surfaces and aggressive, brown-powered coasts.

Tires on downhill bikes with 2-ply casings are geared for traction and durability.

PROS

  • Improved Cardio
  • Gentle on joints

CONS

  • Only for riders that love racing.

Best For:

Downhill bicycles are focused entirely on going downhill. If you want to achieve that, you can ride laps in the local bike park or go as fast as possible during the local downhill race. Trails of all kinds can be managed with these. It was not designed to climb that mountain or ride across it.

5) Fat Mountain Bikes

fat types of mountain bikes

Four-season cycling versatility is the hallmark of fat bikes. The wide tires of fat bikes make them easy to identify. The tires are twice as wide as conventional mountain bike tires and have a diameter of between 4 and 5 inches. 

Larger tires provide increased traction on snow and sand, making these bikes the best for riding in all conditions.

Fat bikes often do not have a suspension system. Under most conditions, these wide tires are kept at a level below average to reduce shocks.

Pros

  • Best for riding in snow, sand, and mud
  • Offer a smooth, comfortable ride
  • Excellent grip.

Cons

  • Costly
  • Sluggish
  • Weighty

Best For

In the winter, mountain fat bikes like Mongoose Malus and Mongoose Dolomite are perfect for getting you outside when you wouldn’t otherwise. Suitable for both hardpacked snow and loose soil, they are also ideal for hard-packed snow conditions. Their control and confidence make it possible to overcome obstacles without losing traction.

FAQs

All-mountain vs. Trail: What is the Difference?

Trail bikes usually have more suspension travel than all-mountain bikes, ranging between 5.5″/140mm and 6.7″/180mm. The geometry strongly favors descending over climbing. Modern all-mountain/ enduro geometry is characterized by a long wheelbase, reach, and low bottom bracket.

Enduro vs Downhill: What is the Difference?

A downhill run usually lasts between three and five minutes. A typical enduro race lasts two days, and you’re out on the bike all day. It involves multiple stages that last over ten minutes, and the total race time can be over an hour.

XC vs Trail Bike: What is the Difference?

In terms of their intended use, mountain bikes today have become extremely specialized. Cross-country bikes are lighter and faster to accelerate and steer, while trail bikes are heavier and designed for descents. You will find cross-country racing mountain bikes at one extreme.

What are the famous MTB Brands?

In my experience, Specialized Bicycles, Schwinn, eAhora, Trek, Yeti, Evil, etc., are some famous mountain bikes brands. However, I recently posted a list of the top 10 mountain bike brands; make sure to check it out.

How do I choose a Mountain Bike?

For the best return on your money, what bike should you invest in? It is essential to know the basic types of mountain bikes designs, needs, goals, and expertise. Therefore, I recommend you read Our Guide before choosing an MTB.

What size mountain bike should I buy for my height?

A mountain bike can always bring an enigmatic feeling to a ride, an ethereal connection to your trip. I urge you to get on a few bikes and have some fun! All of it looks excellent and fits perfectly for selecting the right bike size for yourself.

Final Words

In general, expert riders may like the types of mountain bikes I mentioned above, but that is not the case for everyone. An XC bike, as mentioned above, is designed for those who desire high performance, whereas an Enduro bike is designed for those who want to race downhill in endurance events.

Trail bikes are the most popular among the trail biking categories and can be used for all kinds of trail riding.

It is because of their name that Downhill bikes are designed specifically for rough terrain and jumping. Nothing but down is intended for them. I recommend the bike that is best suited to your requirements and a long ride.

References

  • https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10255842.2012.713605?journalCode=gcmb20

Tom Fortune has been reviewing cycling products for several years from his home in the French Alps. As a freelance mountain bike wrtier, he mainly reviews mountain bike products but also reviews road cycling products independently.

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