Mountain Bikes 101

February 5th, 2014

For the uninitiated, the world of mountain bikes can be convoluted and quite confusing.  The mass of ever changing terms, tire sizes and technologies are pretty hard to understand, so we’ve tried to put together a beginners guide to help you out.  This article is intended to provide an overview of the different styles of mountain bikes on the market, focusing primarily on frame and suspension styles. We won’t get into the wheel size debate here as that’s a more subjective discussion.  But even if we can’t all agree on wheel diameter, we do know off-road riding equals huge smiles, relaxation, and a connection to the outdoors that you may be missing by riding on the road.


These are essentially the pure race machine the off-road world. Cross country bikes are often hard tails (no rear shock), although we are seeing more fully suspended (front and rear shock) models  lately.

The lightest mountain bikes on the market; this is one of our best selling MTB styles and what the racers of the 2014 Mellow Johnny’s Classic will be riding on. These bikes have shorter travel suspension which generally means that you have 80-100mm of suspension. Great for around Austin, but you may feel the limited range of travel if you are going off bigger ledges. Great examples are the Trek Superfly, or Giant Anthem.

Trek Superfly 8


With a little more suspension (normally around 120-130mm of travel), these bikes are another extremely popular choice for our customers. Trail bikes give you more cushion, suspension, and ultimately more control in the rocky, technical stuff, but tend to weigh more than comparably priced cross country bikes.  This makes Trail Bikes a bit harder to throw around corners and a little slower accelerating, but much more forgiving.  Great examples of this style are the Trek Fuel EX & the Santa Cruz Blur.

Santa Cruz Blur TR Carbon


These are full suspension bikes featuring a larger amount of suspension travel (150-160mm) and more relaxed geometry. Called “all mountain” because they are still light enough to be ridden uphill, yet feature the suspension and geometry to  handle high-speed gravity-fueled descents.  The Trek Slash 9 is a great example of an All Mountain style bike.

Trek Slash 9


Ride in a truck, ski lift or helicopter up to the top of a mountain and then ride down as fast as possible. These are heavy, big hit bikes for advanced riders that boast suspension designs and technology taken from motorsports. Often the successful designs here will trickle into shorter travel, more consumer friendly designs.  Watch all or part of the video below for more information.  And to think, I’m pretty excited if I bunny hop a curve without hitting my back wheel.

That’s it.  Introduction over.  Call us with any questions or swing by the shop to check our extraordinary selection of mountain bikes and mountain bike gear.   We’ll be happy to go over the differences in person, let you ride a few models and help find the right mountain for both your needs and budget.  There’s great riding to be had in Austin, with terrains and features for all abilities and desires.