Choosing A Mountain Bike

Mountain Biking

Choosing A Mountain Bike

What to look for when buying a mountain bike, particularly if it's your first time purchasing an off-road bike.

What to look for when buying a mountain bike, particularly if it's your first time purchasing an off-road bike.


Buying your first mountain bike is not easy. Your choice depends on a number of factors, notably how and where you intend riding the bike, but crucially your budget. There’s little point spending thousands on bike that you’re only ever going to take on a gentle excursion, while at the same time a budget bike isn’t going to fare well on bone-shaking testing terrain.

You might want to consider whether you actually need a mountain bike or whether a hybrid bike, equally as comfortable on or off-road might be more suited to your needs.

However, once you’ve decided a mountain bike is what you need, you should consider the following:

  • Does the bike have the suspension you need?
  • How heavy is the bike? The use of carbon fibre will drastically reduce the weight.
  • Does the bike have the right gears for the terrain you’ll be riding on? Don’t buy what you don’t need.
  • Does it have a quality gear system like those from Shimano? The better the gearing the more expensive it will be.
  • Are the brakes of a high quality? Top level brakes and gears are essential if you are going to do some serious off-roading.

If you are going to be putting some big demands on the bike, you should be looking to spend a fair bit. The more competitive you intend to be then ideally the more you should be looking to spend. Remember you can always upgrade some components but make sure the bike you buy is easily upgradable.

Technological advances in mountain bikes

Although the principles of mountain biking are very straightforward, the technological developments in the sport have been extremely significant. The top bikes of the early 1990s are fundamentally different from those of today. Bear this mind when choosing your next bike ...

The key areas that have changed are:

  • The suspensions of the better bikes are now totally different. Some of them have programmable front and back suspension.
  • The material used in the frame is now far more developed, making the bike much lighter. Carbon fibre is now used in many bikes and the difference is immediately noticeable.
  • The brakes are dramatically improved. It is now fairly common to see bikes with disc brakes which are far more effective, especially in wet muddy conditions than caliper brakes.
  • Wheels on bikes have been significantly upgraded. You can often buy a mid-priced bike with decent alloys, which again helps reduce its overall weight. Carbon wheels are an option, but bear in mind they are not quite as durable when coming into contact with a rock!