If you already know what you’re looking for in a mountain bike and just want to compare makes and models, visit the appropriate page (e.g., Cross Country Hardtails, Trail Bikes, All Mountain Bikes, Singlespeeds or Fat Bikes) and review the tables of recommended bikes. If you’re not sure what to look for in a mountain bike, then read the following sections to help answer some of the questions you may have.
How To Choose the Best Mountain Bike For You
The first thing to consider when choosing a mountain bike is the type of riding you plan to do. Mountain bikes are generally categorized in one of two ways. The first and most common method is to categorize them by the type of riding for which they’re designed. Mountain biking riding styles are discussed below and include cross country, trail, all-mountain, and downhill. The second way to categorize mountain bikes is by suspension design. There are two primary suspension categories, hardtails and full-suspension. For a more detailed discussion of mountain bike suspension types, see Mountain Bike Suspension Types.
Cross-Country mountain bikes are designed for speed and therefore tend to focus on efficiency and low weight. Cross-Country bikes will generally be better at climbing hills than the bikes from other categories. The vast majority of hardtails would fall into the cross-country category. If speed, light weight, and climbing prowess are among the most important factors to you, this is definitely a category of mountain bike to consider.
Trail mountain bikes are probably the most popular category, as they are designed for conquering a wide variety of terrain. While they may not climb quite as well as their cross-country brethren, they still climb very well and descend with equal aplomb. If cross-country mountain bikes are all about speed, trail bikes are about maximizing fun and efficiency over varied terrain.
All-Mountain bikes are also referred to as enduro mountain bikes. The term enduro comes from the world of mountain bike racing and refers to a competition that has timed downhill stages and untimed uphill stages. Therefore, these bikes are designed with long and technical descents in mind but are still capable of being pedaled up hills. All-Mountain bikes will generally have more cushy suspension than trail bikes, but will also generally be heavier as a result.
Downhill mountain bikes have the most suspension and, as a result, tend to be the heaviest of the mountain bike types. They are generally not intended for riding uphill and are therefore primarily used for riding at lift-serviced mountain bike parks or by downhill racers. At this time, we are not including recommendations for downhill mountain bikes.