Mountain bikes are broken up into various categories based on their intended use.
Types of Mountain Bikes
Cross Country (XC)
Cross-country mountain bikes are lighter weight (21 to 26lbs); incorporate steeper geometry and more aerodynamic riding positions to allow the rider to be the fastest and most efficient that they can be.
Examples of XC bikes: Giant Anthem, Santa Cruz Chameleon, Pivot Less
Trail bikes have more relaxed geometry and are typically slightly burlier (24 – 27lbs) than their twitchy, race-oriented, cross-country brethren. Trail bikes typify what a mountain bike is: an efficient, all-purpose bike you can take almost anywhere.
Examples of Trail bikes: Santa Cruz 5010, Santa Cruz Hightower, Santa Cruz Tallboy, Giant Trance, Pivot Mach 4
All Mountain / Enduro
All mountain & enduro bikes are generally mid weight (27 to 32lbs), slacker geometry, longer travel (suspension) versions of trail bikes. They allow the rider to tackle more technical terrain confidently but do add a ‘penalty’ to the climb up with extra weight and slacker angles.
Examples of All Mountain bikes: Giant Reign, Santa Cruz Nomad, Santa Cruz Bronson, Santa Cruz Hightower LT, Pivot Switchblade, Pivot Firebird
Downhill mountain bikes and big travel freeride mountain bikes are heavier (35 to 45lbs), much slacker geometry, long travel suspension bikes. They are built strong and incorporate larger brakes to allow the rider to tackle steep, rugged downhill terrain and big jumps. These bikes are much more difficult to climb with and are generally used at lift access ski areas or in shuttle assisted riding areas.
Examples of Downhill bikes: Santa Cruz V10, Giant Glory, Pivot Phoenix
Back in the day mountain bike wheels came in one size. 26 inch. Nowadays the 26″ mountain bike has been almost completely dropped in favour of more modern wheel sizes. There’s not just one! We have 27.5″, 29″, and even 27.5+ and 29+. Here’s a quick guide to today’s wheel sizes.
These were the standard mountain bike wheels for years. Tried and tested they were the most widely used wheel size and worked well in all situations.
Benefit: It’s the most common size so easy to find spares, tubes and tires – even on the trails from fellow riders. It’s also a very manageable wheel, easy to twist, turn and flow through the trails.
Don’t be fooled by the double barrelled name. This wheel size has a single purpose. To be the best all round wheel imaginable. Forgive us if we spare you with science, suffice to say that an increase in diameter over the standard 26″ wheel makes the 25.7″ size roll well over bumps, rocks and whatever gets in its way. The size is big enough to ride smoothly over trails but small enough that it remains quick to control.
Benefit: Great over rough stuff, lighter than a comparable 29″ wheel and retain much of the nimbleness historically associated with 26″ wheels.
The wheel that re-invented the wheel. The 29″ wheel bikes, or 29’ers as they are called, have wheels that actually look oversized and on the trails, they handle straight lines like nothing else out there.
The first generation of 29ers were quickly adopted by XC racers due to their incredible ability to roll quickly over rough terrain and carry speed. The geometry of these bikes tended to be steeper than their smaller counterparts, and generally not as fun to ride.
In the past couple years a new breed of 29er has surfaced with new, long, low and slack geometry that makes them well suited for anything from aggressive trail riding to enduro racing and even World Cup Downhill racing. Plus, they’re way more fun to ride than they used to be!
Benefit: Smoothes out the trail and carries speed better than any other tire size.
Plus (+) Sizes
27.5+ and 29+ tires are now a major market segment. These tires have the same diameter at the rim as standard sizes but are much fatter and taller. They do require wider rims and bike frames specifically designed to accommodate the extra girth of these wheels.
Plus sized tires are quickly gaining popularity among new and intermediate riders because the added traction provided by their wide contact patch boosts confidence and they smooth out the trail like no other. They’re also a hoot to ride!!
Benefit: Smoothest ride out there! Great for novice and intermediate riders.