BUYER’S GUIDE 2015
In mountain biking’s infancy, picking the right bike was pretty simple. Riders would oftentimes use the same bikes for cross-country racing as they would for trail riding, and sometimes even use that same bike for downhill racing. Today, though,
DEFINING THE CATEGORIES
Making sense of the world of bikes
every bike is designed with a specific purpose in mind, and the
landscape has become so segmented that it is tougher now more
than ever to pick the right tool for the job. This chart is designed
to classify bikes for their designed purpose so you can hit the
trails with the bike type that matches your riding style the best.
By far the most popular category
because of their incredible versatility, trail
bikes offer 4 to 5 inches of travel and are
ideal for all kinds of singletrack riding.
Their geometry is quick but still stable at
speed, with head and seat angles slightly
slacker than the cross-country race bikes
they evolved from. This is the broadest category of mountain bikes, with a wider price
range, three wheel-size choices and tons
of design options. For every skill level—
from beginners to professionals—these
are the most versatile bikes out there.
Weight range: 22–30 pounds
Travel: 100–140 millimeters ( 4–5. 5
Wheel-size options: 26, 27. 5, 29
Strengths: Versatile and adaptable
geometry that can tackle nearly any trail
you throw at them.
Weaknesses: Not designed for
super-aggressive downhill riding, big jumps
or technical stunts.
Price range: $–$$$$$
These trail bikes are specifically
designed to handle the most aggressive
terrain without throwing climbing prowess
out the window entirely. These 6-inch-trav-
el machines go by a number of names,
including all-mountain or enduro bikes.
They can be pedaled to the top of the
hill, although it will require a little more
fitness and resolve to get there, and pay
dividends to the rider on the backside with
more capable geometry and suspension for
gnarly terrain. These are not typically suited
for beginners, as they require more effort
to get to the top and more skill to maximize
their potential on the descents.
Weight range: 26–34 pounds
Travel: 140–160 millimeters ( 5. 5–6. 3
Wheel-size options: 26, 27. 5, 29 inches
Strengths: Impressively capable suspension and confidence-inspiring geometry
can slay difficult trails rather than just
cruise down them.
Weaknesses: Slight weight penalty
compared to smaller trail bikes, and not
quite as capable as true downhill sleds.
Price range: $$$–$$$$$
Designed specifically for crossing the
finish line first, these bikes put lightweight
performance ahead of creature comforts.
Their suspension travel is minimal, usu-
ally around 4 inches or less, sometimes
even opting for the ultimate efficiency of a
hardtail design. Their handling manners are
meant for shaving seconds off of lap times
and not simply cruising the trail. These are
best for training and racing only, and tend
to be more finicky and less forgiving than a
traditional trail bike. Anything below $3000
in this category is actually a short-travel
trail bike and not a bike that’s ready for the
starting line of a racetrack.
Weight range: 18–25 pounds
Travel: 4 inches or less
Wheel-size options: 27. 5 or 29 inches
Strengths: Extremely quick in both
pedaling efficiency and handling manners,
these bikes are the fastest on the climbs
and nimble feeling on the trail.
Weaknesses: Components are both
finicky and expensive. These bikes are like
a Formula 1 car—if you can’t afford the
upkeep, don’t buy one.
Price range: $$$$–$$$$$
TRAIL BIKES AGGRESSIVE TRAIL BIKES CROSS-COUNTRY RACE BIKES