When buying your first mountain bike, you will be faced with a myriad of bike types, models and prices. Having the right guide will help set your expectations and help you find the right mountain bike that suits your needs.
In this guide, I will show you 6 essential tips you need to look before you buy your first MTB.
Let’s dive –
1. Decide the type of riding you want to do
As an ever-growing sport, mountain biking enthusiasts have seen huge progress of the sport through the years. In fact, there have been various major annual competitions held worldwide and it has branched into different riding styles or disciplines. Each discipline requires a unique mountain bike design, trail type and kit used.
The type of mountain bike you purchase depends on the type of riding you are interested in. Currently, there are 4 categories of mountain biking:
Cross Country or XC
If you are looking for a least extreme among other disciplines, then opt for cross country racing.
This is also an Olympic discipline where you race with other competitors from point to point through defined trail sections the fastest time possible.
You can choose from open fire roads to winding narrow single racks to test your endurance and technical handling skills on the bike.
Pick a mountain bike with short-travel hardtails and full suspension with over 120 mm of travel if you prefer cross country rides. A lightweight bike is also ideal as it makes climbing a lot easier.
If you are after extreme rides and love the speed of descending down the roughest single track through rock gardens, gnarly root sections and massive drops. These types of races are exciting to watch and very intense.
Only one rider races down a set downhill section and the one who can complete the trail the fastest time possible is declared the winner. It is best if you opt for a mountain bike with a robust design with long suspension travel and beefy dual-crown fork to keep you in sync with gravity as you ride downhill. Pick a bike with 180 to 220 mm of travel.
If you are a more adventurous type, you can try enduro (also known as all-mountain). Their tracks are more technical than cross country races and they involve greater jump and drop sections perfect for adrenaline-thirsty riders.
The race takes over a few days to complete and involves steep climbs and timed descents. The type of bike you should buy for this discipline should be light enough to allow you to ride whatever trail or weather conditions are out there during your ride.
Your bike wheels should also be strong and puncture-proof so you won’t be hindered by unexpected terrains, big rock gardens, natural jumps and drops. Choose a bike with 150-180 mm travel.
This is a more aggressive type of cross country riding with more technical single tracks both uphill and downhill.
If you are fond of riding modern trail centers and combining technical and flowing features, then this is the biking discipline meant for you.
This race prefers the descent more than the climb but you should also be prepared and conditioned for uphill riding so you can explore more fascinating trails.
You may need a full-suspension or a hardtail bike with 120 to 130 mm of travel if you want to be a trail rider.
2. How much can you spare for your first mountain bike
Once you have identified the type of riding you want to accomplish, you can now shop for the right bike.
Your budget can help narrow down your options especially if you consider opting for a used bike.
Take note that while used bikes may be initially cheaper, it will require more maintenance in the long run, especially if your bike has full suspension or has parts that can bend or break.
You can also own a penny pincher for about $500 or less for an entry-level hardtail from a name brand.
But if you are looking for full suspension bikes, you may have to pay a bit more, especially if they are new.
The more high end parts and features on the bike, the more expensive it is going to be.
This is not an issue if you have the money to spend but if you are a rookie, you may want to try it out with mid-cost bikes at first that have full suspension and nice hardtails for more pleasant riding experience.
3. Know what size is perfect for you
One of the most important aspects to consider is the size of the bike frame. Do not just rely on marketing gigs or the sizes set by companies as these may differ depending on the brand.
The bike should be the right fit for you especially when it comes to reach and stack measurements.
Leave enough standover clearance so you can enjoy full pedaling height without having to overextend the seat post.
Tweak your riding position with alternative bars, stems and seat posts depending on the front of your desired mountain bike.
4. Pick between hardtail or full suspension
This depends on the type of riding you want to do and your budget. Full suspension bikes have a rear shock, bearings, linkage and extra components that make them a bit pricey.
If you want a less maintenance with fewer chances of mishaps, opt for a hardtail instead.
It will probably cost almost the same as the full-suspension bike but you will not be plagued with all the maintenance services that it entails.
However, if you have to choose suspension, make sure to choose quality instead of quantity.
Read reviews on the bike or go to the manufacturer’s site so you can get the actual models. Focus more on quality clamping and decent air spring as they offer more value than extra travel.
5. Go for a test ride
Test rides are not exclusive to cars or trucks. Once you have determined your riding style and found a bike that suits your budget, try it out to check it you and the bike can be in sync when riding.
Avoid buying mail order bikes. Instead, be sure to support your local bike shop so you can test it out before you part ways with your hard-earned cash.
Find local bike shops that allow you to test their bikes in the parking lot so you will test out the brakes, check the axles and overall fit once you are seated and grip the handlebars.
Whether you are buying a new or used mountain bike, going for a test ride is still the rule of thumb to ensure that you get the best value for your money.
6. Buy the perfect bike
If you are satisfied with the test ride, you can now pay for your bike and bring it home. However, don’t be hasty in making a payment.
If you purchased a new bike, check the terms of any warranty that comes with the bike. Make sure the warranty applies on the date of purchase, especially if you are buying a bike that is released from the previous year.
You should also be vigilant for any follow-up tune-ups and other maintenance services needed.
For used bikes, make sure to check the bike thoroughly even if you bought the unit from your closest friend.
Look for any cracks on the frame and see if the wheels are genuine. Are there any weather cracks on the tires or any frayed or stretched cables?
The suspension should also be smooth and has no leak, squeak or creak. You can even take it to a bike shop to help you check if the used unit is worth the investment.
Now that you know what you should look for when buying a mountain bike, you will be more confident once you enter a bike shop and check out their coolest mountain bikes for sale.
Talk to bike owners and listen to their tales, especially if you share the same riding preferences.
Being with like-minded people will help you get into the healthy and physically rewarding habit of mountain biking.
While mountain bikes typically have the same features as other bikes, they have features that are crafted to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain.
They usually have front or full suspension, more durable wheels, large knobby tires, more powerful brakes and even have lower gear ratios that are important for steep and technical climbs.