First, you need to choose your bike style.
There are four main categories of mountain bikes. Each type is designed to suit a specific environment or riding style.
An all-purpose trail bike is incredibly versatile, making it the go-to pick for many mountain bikers. With more suspension and gravity-oriented components, it can hold its own on most terrains – climbing or descending. If you’re not sure which type of mountain bike you need, a trail bike is a good place to start.
Lightweight and efficient, a cross-country bike is built for speed. Its geometry makes this bike ideal for racing and all-day rides, as well as traveling uphill, but it falls short when it comes to downhill terrain.
Also referred to as enduro mountain bikes, an all-mountain bike is the burlier cousin of the trail bike. While its downhill-oriented design requires more pedaling when going uphill, this bike shines when traversing more technical, demanding terrain and steep descents.
As the name implies, a downhill bike is made for going downhill fast. These durable, sturdy bikes are especially adept at mastering rough terrain, and they’re typically reserved for steep trails that can be accessed via lift or shuttle.
Next, you’ll need to consider suspension.
There are two types: hardtail and full suspension. When deciding between the two, think about where you’ll be riding and how much money you want to spend.
With a lower price point and less maintenance required, there are several advantages to a hardtail bike. This type of bike has a rear end with no suspension, making it faster on ascents and smooth trails, more efficient when pedaling, and lighter weight. A hardtail is usually the natural choice for cross-country bikers.
A full-suspension bike features both a suspension fork up front and a rear shock, making for a smoother, more enjoyable ride. Comfort aside, beginners will appreciate the extra stability this bike provides, especially on bumps and descents. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time on technical trails, and you have a little more money to spend, a full suspension bike is the way to go.