It is challenging to decide on what bike to purchase among too many bike types such as road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, etc. Moreover, there are many subtypes of each bike type, so you need to research and choose the most suitable one for you.
This article demonstrates 9 Types of Mountain Bikes classified according to two different terms: the riding purpose and the suspension.In addition, you can visit Top 13 Best Mountain Bikes Under $500 first to see some popular models.
The purpose classification is the most popular way to differentiate bikes so that even amateur bikers can understand easily. According to that, mountain bikes are sorted out into six different types; they are Cross Country Mountain Bike (XC), All Mountain & Enduro Bike, Downhill Mountain Bike, Trail Mountain Bike, Fat Mountain Bike, and Freeride Mountain Bike.
Cross Country Mountain Bike Bike (XC)
Cross Country Mountain Bike (XC) is mainly used for long-distance mountain biking. These bikes are also used by professional cyclists when they are participating in Cross-country Cycling in the Olympics. And to support bikers to complete a very long distance across the country, these bikes are designed to be as lightweight as possible.
Cross Country Bikes are not designed for a specific terrain. When you ride across the country, the landscape changes a lot. You may have to go through paved roads, gravel trails, rocky surfaces to slippery hills.
Therefore, you can’t expect this bike type to perform excellently on a particular terrain. The manufacturer already considers all various kinds of obstacles that bikers have to encounter. Therefore, they already bring out the most suitable design to balance and manage all terrains through the ride.
It often has 29-inch wheels because these large wheels get extra rollover and significant momentum. So once you are up to speed, they will carry the speed very well. And these bikes are usually equipped with a wide gear range and rim brakes to provide great speed control.
Asides from the size, the wheels’ weight of an XC is also essential. The lighter, the better. It is possible to get very lightweight alloy wheels, but most cross-country racers will choose carbon wheels because you can set slightly stiffer and stronger ones for the same weight.
The frame is the heaviest part of a bike, and to keep the weight down, it is as much about simplifying the frame design as possible. The manufacturers use lightweight material and remove all unnecessary parts to produce “no-frill” bikes.
The weight of the frame is usually around 10 up to 11.5 kilos. It is made of various materials: titanium, steel, aluminum, or carbon. In terms of the ultimate race bike, carbon at the moment tends to be the king.
The geometry of XCs is entirely focused on efficiency and agility. These bikes need to be agile and responsive, particularly in race situations. When you are racing in close proximity to others at various speeds on changing terrains, you have to act instinctively anytime.
That is why the geometry of cross-country bikes is a bit steeper. Their steep head angles allow them to be agile at low speed and also suitable for climbing. Besides, you’ve got a long stem and low handlebars to keep weight on that front wheel. Therefore, you are not wheelie-ing too much when you are climbing.
Moreover, these bikes also have a shorter wheelbase and shorter reach to put riders in a position to push more power down on the pedals.
All Mountain & Enduro Bike
Enduro bikes is another name for all mountain bikes. The term “Enduro” comes from the racing discipline where racers are timed on multiple stages.
This bike type is the perfect combination of downhill, freeride, and trail bike. The outstanding durability can well protect the bike from impacts and allows bikers to perform risky skills properly.
Suppose your passion is to conquer complex mountainous terrains with bendy slopes and gravel trails. Or even experience complicated feelings when overcoming large potholes or rugged rock-tops, an enduro bike is a perfect choice for you.
The wheels of an enduro bike will either be 29 inches or 27.5 inches, with a trend towards larger size. Tires are also tough, with thicker sidewalls to help prevent punctures.
There have been some crucial changes in certain areas of the bike over the years. First and foremost is the geometry, the angles of how all the tubes fit together. The head tube angle on modern bicycles is a lot slacker than before, making them more stable and steeper trails more manageable.
Besides that, the broader handlebars and shorter stems make these larger bikes far more responsive and less twitchy in the handling department.
Downhill Mountain Bike
When you look at downhill mountain bikes, the first thing that will probably draw your attention is how aggressive it seems. You should know that it is minimal use of what you can do on this bike.
As you might imagine from the name, downhill mountain bikes are designed to be ridden downhills fast. These bikes are equipped with heavy suspension, for the only function is to go drops. The faster, the better.
Never think about doing steep climbs with these bikes because they are too heavy. Usually, after downhill sections, bikers have to carry their downhill bikes on their shoulders and walk uphills before sloping down one more time.
This type of mountain bikes is purely designed. A downhill mountain bike is incredibly overbuilt, all the way from the front forks, which are a triple clamp, very similar to a motorbike to huge aggressive tires; super strong, often tubeless.
The most remarkable thing about these is the fact that they are designed with zero compromises. They only have to ride downhills. That means they do not need a saddle position that is efficient for climbing and many miles in the saddle. They barely need a saddle at all.
Moreover, they don’t have to be super lightweight. And they don’t need a water bottle cage or anything like that on them. The only thing a downhill bike needs to do is get down the side of a mountain as fast as possible. That means it has to be designed to withstand rocks, roots, jumps, and bumps at insane speeds.
The bike’s geometry is focused entirely on getting down the side of a mountain as fast as possible. A downhill mountain bike has a very slack head angle on the front, so you feel comfortable going down steep descents. Moreover, this also helps the suspension work better.
In addition to the slack front end, you will probably notice that there is quite a long wheelbase on these bikes. It is all about stability. As we know, longer vehicles and longer things handle better at speed than shorter things.
Besides, downhill bikes always have wide handlebars, up to 800mm, so racers can keep balance better when sloping down. All help give these bikes that extra stability.
Trail Mountain Bike
A trail mountain bike sits between a cross-country bike and an enduro bike. This mountain bike type is popularly used, particularly trail riding, thanks to its extensive application.
Trail bikes are designed to be versatile, perfectly balancing both climbing and descending. It is a mountain bike you can take in many different situations, from flat to rugged and gravel terrain.
It will not be as fast as a pure cross-country bike and not quite as capable on rough technical downhills as an enduro bike. But everything is in between, and it will satisfy you to some extent.
The head tube angle on trail bikes is typically going to vary between 66 and 68 degrees. Trail bikes need to be a bit more agile, so they have steeper head angles.
It would help if you had a head angle that is steep enough so that when you are going up a climb, the bike is not going to wander around, and you won’t feel too sluggish. But you don’t want a head angle too steep because the bike still needs to be pretty capable on a downhill.
Besides, trail bikes will have a shorter wheelbase that allows you to feel more agile and more playful simply. In contrast, these bikes usually have a longer effective top tube link because you want to be in a more stretched-out position, putting you in a better pedaling place.
Fat Mountain Bike
Why is its name “fat mountain bike”? Which parts of it are fat? Generally, the appearance of a fat bike is not too different from that of other bikes, except for its oversized tires.
Fat bikes are designed with fat tires to give you ample flotation so you can ride over things like snow and sand that standard bikes would sink into. You may not be able to ride a regular bike through the snow like you would be able to do with a fat bike. Fat bikes are also great on things like hard-packed sand, gravel, and dirt roads.
People who live in an excellent climate may not need these bikes. But if you live in a cold country where it snows all the time or in a desert, a fat bike is necessary.
The most significant difference in a fat bike is the size of its tires. Standard bike tires are usually about 1.95 through 2.5 inches in width, whereas fat bike tires can range anywhere from about 3.8 to 5 inches.
Fat bikes were predominantly made for riding in the snow; this is where these bikes excel. The oversized tires usually provide much more traction and grip than a standard bike tire would.
Some people, especially fat people, sometimes may feel that they will fall over when riding skinny tires. But it seems near impossible when they ride a fat bike unless they do something catastrophic because the bike is so well balanced. Fat bikes have a tremendous weight capacity.
Lower tire pressures make you feel like you are having suspension on your fat bike while it literally doesn’t. The wide tires, by their very nature, absorb a lot of shocks. You can float over things like rocks and branches without feeling the impact as much as you would if you were riding on a skinny tire bike.
Freeride Mountain Bike
Freeride mountain bike is a great combination between mountain bikes and BMX bikes. As its name mentions, these bikes are flexible and lightweight, and they allow you to move your body freely while riding or practicing any skills. So, if you cycle for the love of adventure and want to demonstrate your riding style, this bike type can satisfy you.
Freeride mountain bikes are a perfect choice if you love conquering super rough terrains and hard-to-do obstacles. These bikes can perform when racers ride uphill or downhill.
When riding this bike, bikers usually focus on tricks and technical trail features. So you can use the bike to perform hazardous riding skills. If you need a bike to cycle around the city elegantly and comfortably, a freeride bike is never a good choice.
Almost all freeride mountain bikes have shorter wheelbases and steeper head angles than other mountain bikes. This difference in geometry offers better maneuverability and makes it easier to do spin tricks.
While performing risky tricks, the speed will be lowered, and at some moment, your bike seems immobile. Therefore the different geometry of a freeride bike can stabilize the low speed on technical stunts.
Another way to classify mountain bikes is to base on the amount of suspension that the bike has. There are three subtypes of mountain bikes: rigid mountain bikes, hardtail mountain bikes, and full suspension mountain bikes.
Rigid Mountain Bike
Rigid mountain bikes have no suspension, so they should be ridden on flat and paved surfaces unless you want to experience the bouncing during your ride. These bikes are not designed for rugged terrains. They only perform well when you ride in town or around the city.
However, if you want to challenge yourself and upgrade your riding skills, a rigid mountain bike can help. But remember that riding in mountainous trails on a rigid bike is much more complex and risky, so you should be careful.
The most apparent advantage of a rigid bike is that you can straightforwardly put the power down. There is no suspension fork, so every inch of the power you put is directly converted into kinetic energy.
However, if you prefer comfort when riding or have back pains, I don’t recommend you buy a rigid mountain bike.
Hardtail Mountain Bike
Hardtail mountain bikes only have one suspension on the front wheel, no suspension on the back. This bike type sits between rigid bikes and full suspension bikes.
Basically, the front wheel will contact obstacles on the road before any other bike parts. So a front suspension helps to absorb and remove partial impact when riding effectively.
One of the reasons why many mountain bikers choose a hardtail is that it is designed with a perfect combination of shock absorption and capacity. The front suspension provides racers smooth rides, even on rugged trails. Meanwhile, the stiff rear offers an excellent stable pedaling platform.
However, if you usually ride on really rough and challenging trails, you will need a bike with excellent shock absorption, and it will be one of the other bike types, not a hardtail.
Full-suspension Mountain Bike
A full-suspension mountain bike is equipped with suspension forks on both front and back wheels. It means that this bike type provides you a better shock absorption system than many other bikes.
Mountain bikers or people who usually ride on rugged terrains may prefer a dual suspension bike because it offers a more smooth and stable riding experience.
Obviously, the main benefit of this bike is that the suspension forks on both wheels work effectively at the same time to provide double better shock absorption. Moreover, this bike can maintain traction when you go over obstacles and keep rolling without missing a beat.
One drawback of a full-suspension system is that it makes your bike heavier, and some of your power may not be converted to kinetic energy because the suspension absorbs it. So to reach the same speed, you may have to use more energy.