Mountain Bikes

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Mountain Bikes

There are few cycling activities as exhilarating and heart-pounding as mountain biking. Tearing down the trail, challenging both your body and mind to react to each new obstacle, is addicting. Mountain biking, though, is only possible if you have the right bike. Mountain bikes are specially designed to help you conquer the toughest trails without damaging your knees and joints. Read more about mountain bikes, and buy your next bike right here at BikeExchange! Whether you’re looking for road bikes, family bikes, or a top-of-the-line mountain bike, we have what you need!

What is a mountain bike?

Mountain biking doesn’t have much in common with road biking or urban biking at all. Rather than sticking to concrete and smooth roads, you’ll be in rocky, gravel-filled trails with lots of ups, downs and sharp corners. Riding these trails can be pretty bone-jarring, especially on a bike that isn’t suited for it. On top of that, mountain biking trails can be outright dangerous, with the risk of a crash being much more severe.

Therefore, mountain bikes need to be hardcore machines that give you the ability to truly conquer the trail. This means they have strong, thick frames, wide and knobby tyres, and springy suspension systems. All of these features allow you to withstand hard impacts, glide over bumpy terrain, and get all the traction you need.

Two types of mountain bikes

When you shop for a mountain bike, you’ll notice there are two different types of bikes available. The first type of mountain bike is called “dual-suspension” or Full-suspension. Dual-suspension bikes, as the name implies, have suspension on both the front and back wheel. The front suspension is called “fork suspension” because there is a spring inside both sides of the fork that attaches to the wheel.

Full-suspension bikes are sometimes recommended for beginners because they provide a lot of extra cushioning to make learning the basics a bit easier. That being said, most dual-suspension bikes are used by serious mountain bikers on very steep, aggressive trails. They’re the most expensive type of mountain bike because of the extra parts; they also mean more maintenance. Though they’re comfortable, full-suspension bikes can become inconvenient when pedalling uphill because the rear suspension absorbs some of the force in each push.

Hardtail mountain bikes, the other type of bike, are the most affordable and popular type of mountain bike because of their advantages over full-suspension bikes. These bikes only have suspension on the front wheel, hence the name “hardtail”. As a result, they’re slightly less comfortable when used on rough terrain or trails with lots of dips/jumps. Outside of that, though, hardtail mountain bikes have some key advantages.

First, hardtail bikes are cheaper; there are fewer parts that you have to pay for. Because they have fewer parts, maintenance is easier and needs to be done less often. They’re also lighter and faster than full-suspension bikes, perfect for light-medium trails that won’t rattle your bones without the rear suspension. Hardtail mountain bikes are, far and away, the most popular type of mountain bike. Most people who get a full-suspension bike do so knowing that they’re using it only on trails where they make the most sense.

How does mountain bike gears work?

Because mountain biking involves constant speed and incline (both uphill and downhill), mountain bikes have lots of different gears. When you select a new gear, it changes the amount of resistance in the pedals and the number of pedal rotations it takes to move the bike.

The lower the gear, the lower the resistance. However, lower gears also mean that you have to pedal more to travel a certain distance than you would at a higher gear. Higher gears mean that there might be more resistance when you pedal, but you’ll travel farther (and usually faster) with each push.

It would help if you used low gears on your mountain bike for difficult pedalling situations, such as climbing up hills or working through thick mud/wet grass. The low gear will take a lot of pressure off your knees and thigh muscles while still allowing you to make progress on the trail. High gears are great for flat/downhill riding, where you don’t need to pedal very hard to hit high speeds.

The handlebars on your mountain bike will have gear shift knobs you can use to change from one gear to another. It’s important to remember that you have to change gears one at a time. Otherwise, the bike chain will jump off the gears. Some mountain bikes have more than one “chainring”, which is a feature that allows for the inclusion of more gears. If your bike has multiple chainrings, it will have two different shift knobs on the handlebars- one for the chainring (usually labelled 1-3) and another for the gears in each ring (labelled 1-8, 1-10, etc.).

Learning when and how to change gears on your mountain bike is a skill that will elevate your enjoyment of mountain biking considerably. When you’re not pedalling with all your might to get up a hill, climbing is much more enjoyable. Ensure you practice proper gear switching as you learn other mountain biking skills so that you don’t overwork your body!

How to select the right mountain bike?

Outside of the two different categories of mountain bikes, there are a few different sizes that you’ll be able to choose from, as well as different frame materials and tyre types. The wheel diameter measures the three different mountain bike sizes, usually shown in inches. The three sizes are 26-inch, 27.5-inch, and 29-inch.

Choosing a size is mostly dependent on the length of your inseam and basically what size feels most comfortable to you.

There are also a few different types of tyre that you will find on a mountain bike, each intended for different trails. Fatbikes are relatively uncommon but popular for people who often ride on sand and snow; they have ultra-wide tyres that make riding on this terrain possible.

Trail tyres are the most common type; you may not even see this listed as a feature or subcategory because they are the standard for mountain bikes. Trail tyres can handle just about everything except snow, sand, and deep mud.

Finally, gravel tyres are a bit less knobby than trail tyres but still provide great traction on nearly any type of trail. While these tyres were used exclusively on mountain bikes in the past, there is a new type of bike, aptly called the gravel bike, where you’ll find these tyres more often. Gravel bikes, just like hybrid bikes and commuter bikes, can be used on light, smooth trails but shouldn’t be mistaken for true mountain bikes.

How long does a mountain bike last?

The frame of your mountain bike will last decades if you take care of it and clean it after each use. The bike wheels, tyres, brakes, and other bike accessories, though, won’t last that long. Depending on the part, you can expect 3-5 years of high-performance use before it starts to degrade.

So, while you won’t avoid maintenance and replacing parts, you can get 15-20 years out of your mountain bike. You’ll have to repair and replace individual parts of the bike as time goes on. You may never have to start from scratch with proper care and maintenance and buy a new mountain bike- although you certainly can if you wish to. You only need to replace one or two parts every few years to keep the bike in tip-top shape.

Mountain bikes can be quite expensive, almost as expensive as e-bikes and cargo bikes, but they have a very long life. The good news is that your investment in a mountain bike will almost certainly pay off by giving you many years of exercise and adrenaline rushes! You can shop for your new mountain bike, cycling shoes, and cycling accessories right here on BikeExchange today!

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