Mountain Bike Overview
The concept of hitting the dirt and off-road tracks on a bike is not a new one by any means. However, the evolution and uptake of mountain biking in many forms is growing rapidly. Mountain bikes come in an astonishing array of models and disciplines these days, and there's plenty to consider when determining what's going to be right for you. Some mountain bikes are the perfect commuters, others are extreme machines designed to hurtle down mountains, whilst different again are mountain bikes that are ideal for moderate to long rides through undulating terrain. A common link between most mountain bikes is their ability to handle bit of dirt & dust and their impressive durability.
So what is a 26" Mountain Bike?
Right up until 2013 26" mountain bikes were by far the most popular and common type of mountain bikes with only a few manufacturers choosing to manufacture alternatives. Chances are you've seen or ridden this type of mountain bike. Okay cool....But what does the 26" measurement actually refer to? It refers to the mountain bike's wheel size, this is not to be confused with the mountain bike's frame size (which is also commonly measured in inches).
Why the 26" wheel size?
Put simply the 26" wheel size offers mountain bike riders greater maneuverability and wheel strength than its newer cousins the 27.5" MTB wheel and the 29" MTB wheel. For this reason the 26" wheel size remains a popular choice for downhill mountain bikers.
Due to the size of the wheel, 26" mountain bikes suffer from reduced translation of pedal power to the ground as well as smoothness of ride. This is not an issue for downhill bikers as little peddling is needed and the attributes of strength and agility are appreciated in favor over other wheel sizes. This is not to say that 26" mountain bikes aren't fast!
The 26" Hardtail & Rigid Mountain Bike
In this article we are predominately concerned with 2 models of the 26" mountain bike; the rigid 26" mountain bikes and and hard-tail or single suspension 26" mountain bikes.
The key feature of rigid mountain bikes - or rather lack thereof - is that they have no suspension. What! Why?! You may ask. Of course there are reasons for this:
Originally these bikes were pretty much the only mountain bikes available to the public. Thanks to advances in technology suspension has become affordable and feasible to implement on most mountain bikes, resulting in the creation of the hardtail mountain bikes (which we will look at below). So why do these relics of the past still adorn bike shop floors? They are perfect for beginner and young riders. Their generally low price tag won't hurt the bank, they are neigh on impossible to destroy and require very minimal maintenance. Furthermore they often feature a single speed drive train which means they are super easy to use and even harder to break, no matter who you are!
Rigid mountain bikes are often constructed of chromoly steel but some manufacturers opt for the lighter materials such as alloy and titanium.
More recently rigid mountain bikes have become loosely known by another name "Dirt Jumpers". As the name suggests this in reference to discipline solely focused on massive dirt jumps and air time. The only discerning feature of a dirt jumper is that the seat often sits just above the frame as the riding position is intended to be standing not sitting. (They are pretty much a large bmx dirt bike).
26" Hardtail bikes are great all rounder bikes they are well-suited to both on and off road conditions, the main feature of the bikes is the front fork suspension which results in a smoother, more comfortable ride. The name "hardtail" refers to rigid rear triangle of the bike. Hardtails may also loosely be referred to as single suspension mountain bikes. The main features of 26" hard tail mountain bikes are:
- Smoother ride vs rigid frame bicycles
- Great all rounders
- Greater pedalling power translation vs dual suspension bikes
- Wide range of manufacturers and models in the market
The hardtail variant of the mountain bike is the most common type of mountain bike seen today by in large due to its ability to tackle a wide range of terrain whilst maintaining speed and durability. This is usually accompanied with a reasonable price tag on entry level models. More recently the 26" variant of the hardtail mountain bike is slowly phasing out in favor of its slightly larger cousins the 27.5" hardtail and 29er hardtail. The benefit of the move towards larger wheel sizes means that most 26" hardtail mountain bikes are readily affordable and make great entry level bikes to the cross country mountain biking discipline.
Popular 26" Mountain Bike Brands
There are a huge range of different Mountain Bike Brands available. Some of these brands offer a complete range of bikes to suit every terrain and activity while some specialise in particular areas. Here's a few brands to get you started!
- Search for Apollo mountain bikes.
- Search for Avanti mountain bikes.
- Search for Cannondale mountain bikes.
- Search for Giant mountain bikes.
- Search for Malvern Star mountain bikes.
- Search for Merida mountain bikes.
- Search for Mongoose mountain bikes.
- Search for Trek mountain bikes.
How to Make the Best 26" Hardtail Mountain Bike Purchase
Mountain bikes can be expensive, so set your budget first and then choose a mountain bike that not only fits it but also suits your style of riding.
Some of the things to keep an eye out for are changes in the drivetrain, frame material and suspension model when comparing bikes. Carbon frame bikes often feature the pinnacle of mountain biking technology resulting a fairly hefty price tag. If shredding seconds off your race time isn't a priority opt for alloy framed mountain bikes.
Size & Geometry:
Make sure the mountain bike fits you and is the correct size for your height.
Comfort is usually key here, "if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't." A poor riding position can result in health issues or impede your ability to control the bike. Sizing and geometry can be so detailed and involved, which is why we strongly recommend being sized and fitted by a professional no matter your skill level.
Compare different brands and models of mountain bikes, this will make it easier to find the mountain bike that you like. Remember to check previous years models in your hunt for the bike that's right for you.