Keep in mind that within each bike type, there are various designs with significant differences. For example, if you're shopping for a dualie, you'll decide whether you want one with long-travel suspension or a model with less pronounced action. We can point out the differences and explain why you might prefer one over the other.
You'll see an interesting choice on our chart called a Freeride bike. Most manufacturers offer one or two models built ruggedly and designed for downhill speed and to absorb impacts over insane terrain. These bikes feature heavy-duty frames, forks, wheels and components that hold up to rough riding. And, they often sport long-travel suspension. If you intend to ride every drop-off and launch your rig at every opportunity, give these unique MTBs a look.
Mountain-bike frames today are built of several materials. And, you'll find people who insist that theirs is the only way to go. But, don't put too much stock in one person's opinion. We have bikes at all price points and while their frame materials vary, we're confident you'll find a ride you love. That's what's most important, not what the frame is made of. Keep that in mind and don't decide until you've had a chance test ride some bikes.
Most new mountain-bike buyers purchase a model equipped with suspension. Ironically, even if you buy a rigid bike (one without front or rear shocks), you actually get a certain level of suspension thanks to the cushioning effect of the fat tires, which float over bumps (if you don't pump them up too hard).
Today, the majority of off-road bikes come equipped with components from Shimano. Our chart shows Shimano's parts groups and describes how they differ:
Shimano by no means dominates the equipment scene. Manufacturers commonly substitute brakes, derailleurs and cranksets from makers other than Shimano such as Sachs, Magura, Avid and others.
And, the larger bike manufacturers, like to "brand" their bikes by installing components made in house. So you'll often find pedals and cranks bearing the bike-makers' names.
Rim Or Disc Brakes
In the past few years there have been impressive advances in brake designs and today you'll find amazing stoppers on every bike you buy. There are two types, rim and disc. The former is the traditional bicycle brake that rubs on the rim to slow and stop the bike. These work great, usually weigh less than alternatives and are simple to service and repair.
The rim brake has some weaknesses, however. Because it rubs on the rim, it gradually wears the rim, which may damage it in time. Also, muddy and wet conditions rapidly wear rim-type brake pads and also reduce gripping power.
For these reasons, many off-road bikes today come with disc brakes, which grip a disc attached to the center of the wheel and work similar to car brakes. These aren't as affected by wet and muddy conditions (so you don't lose braking power) and they don't wear the rims.
Mountain bikes come with impressively reliable wheels and tires that are designed to withstand the rigors of off-road riding. The rims are wide and shaped for optimum strength. And they're protected by fat tires containing a good cushion of air that prevents impacts from damaging the rims/wheels. Rider weight, terrain and technique are also factors in how long off-road wheels last. With just a little care, they'll run true for years.
Our MTBs sport tires spec'd by the manufacturer to handle the way they believe you'll ride that bike. So, a rigid mountain bike, which they think will see road and off-road use, might come with a dual-purpose tread that rolls smoothly on pavement but also delivers a decent dirt grip.
You won't ride much if your bike doesn't feel right, which is why we spend time checking you to make sure you're on the perfect frame size before we start recommending bicycles. Three other important considerations are your contact points with the bike, the handlebars, seat and pedals.
We hope this overview helps you pick out a great new mountain bike. Feel free to kick some virtual knobbies on our website and be sure to visit our real store soon so we can show you some of these amazingly fun bikes up close and personal. Happy shopping!