Mountain Bikes Buyer's Guide

Mountain bikes are a wide and versatile range of bikes designed primarily for off-road use. They are made with strong frames and components, off road tyres and a large range of gears to suit the challenges of riding on unsealed and often hilly or mountainous terrain. While performing best off-road, mountain bikes are extremely versatile, and suitable for a variety of recreational and commuter purposes. For electric mountain bikes, see our electric bike buyer’s guide.

Hardtail

A hardtail mountain bike has no suspension at the rear of the bike. In most cases, a hardtail mountain bike will feature front suspension in the forks, however, some very low cost models due use rigid forks. They're mechanically simpler, and having no rear shock makes them lighter and brings down the cost. A hardtail mountain bike is excellent for someone looking to get into off-road mountain biking or simply looking to commute or ride with the kids. Entry level hardtails are not designed for off-road use, rather as versatile bikes for riding on sealed or dirt paths. Generally speaking, bikes equipped to properly handle off-road use start around $800.

See All Hard Tail Mountain Bikes

Dual Suspension

A dual suspension or full suspension mountain bike features suspension at both the front and rear. This makes the ride more comfortable and handle better on the uneven surfaces of a trail. Dual suspension bikes are more complex, with more features, and therefore start at a higher price.

See All Dual Suspension Bikes

Wheel Size

Mountain bikes now come in 3 wheel sizes: 26", 27.5" (also called 650B) and 29". 26" is the traditional wheel size and is now less commonly produced. Generally, the smaller wheel makes the bike more agile and easy to manoeuvre.

The 29" wheel size offers reduced rolling resistance over rough terrain, which provides easier clearance of bumps and obstacles, and generally improved comfort. The bigger wheels also offer more tread connected with the surface, helping to increase traction.

27.5 offers a balance between both 26” and 29”. It is still easily manoeuvrable in tight areas, but rolls along quickly and easily across the trails. Some bikes are designed with a 27.5” wheel size for smaller bike sizes and 29” in for larger bikes sizes, as they feel this optimises the performance and handling.

Cross Country

Designed for riding longer distances, both up and downhill. Generally very lightweight and efficient to handle the long distances and climbs, with suspension travel ranging from 90mm - 120mm.

Trail

Typically built to handle shorter rides over rougher terrain. They come equipped with 120mm - 130mm suspension travel, which means they can soak up bigger bumps on more challenging trails.

All Mountain

Designed to handle big, technical trails, while still being able to ride back up to the top again. They are designed mainly to descend, with 150mm - 180mm of travel. The frame geometry is also optimised for downhill, while still being okay for climbing.

Enduro

Enduro is a format of riding where downhill sections are timed, but uphill sections are not. Enduro bikes are essentially race-oriented versions of all-mountain, and typically feature 160mm - 180mm of travel.

Down Hill

Designed purely for downhill riding, they can take big hits on the way down, but are not designed for efficient and easy riding on uphill and flat sections. Typically (180- 200mm) of suspension travel are designed for taking down dedicated downhill trails and race courses.

Dirt Jump

Dirt jump bikes are somewhere in between a BMX bike and a mountain bike, designed for riding over jumps made of dirt. They are typically very strong bikes and look like a bigger, longer BMX with 100mm - 150mm of front suspension.

Frame material

Mountain bike frames are typically produced with alloy (aluminium) or carbon fibre. Alloy frames are lightweight and stiff, and come at a lower price than carbon fibre. Alloy is also typically heavier, and can tend give a less comfortable ride than carbon. For most riders looking for a more practical or recreational bike, alloy frames are sufficient.

Carbon frames provide a noticeable increase in performance. Riding a carbon bike will immediately feel easier and more responsive and easier to ride uphill as the material is extremely lightweight and stiff. Carbon also provides greater comfort (through vibration dampening) as well as power transfer and efficiency (through stiffness) compared to an alloy frame. Less flex laterally in the frame means less power is lost from each pedal stroke, and more transferred into forward motion.

Brakes

V-brakes (rim brakes) apply force on the rim of the wheel for braking. Typically, rim brakes feature on lower priced bikes. V-brakes are typically lighter and considered to be lower maintenance.

Disc brakes apply force on a rotor mounted directly to the hub. Mountain bikes designed for more serious off road riding will feature disc brakes as they offer more stopping power and control over braking.

Groupset

A groupset is made up of the brakes and drivetrain of the bike, the drivetrain being cranks, chain, chainrings, cassette, derailleurs and shifters. As you move through price points of different groupsets, the materials and design change in order to provide improved performance. Materials progressively become lighter, smoother and more precise to operate, and more durable.

Shimano Alivio is considered the first step into performance or race level groupsets. Shimano Alivio is aimed at intermediate level riders, offering a good balance of performance, reliability, and cost effectiveness. Some race level use 1x drivetrains, whereby there is no front derailleur and only a single chain ring. This is done to reduce weight, create space and eliminate unnecessary gears that are not required by high level rides.

Bike fitting

It is important to be properly fit to a mountain bike, as this process will ensure maximum comfort and performance, while reducing risk of injury. Our website offers a mountain bike size guide which generally outlines the size of bike that will suit riders of certain heights. This is a guide only, and as individual body types differ, the most accurate way to ensure you are riding the correct size mountain bike is to be measured and fit by a trained professional. At 99 Bikes, all our sales consultants are trained experts in bike fitting, which comes complimentary with your new bike.