The 10 Best Mountain Bikes
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Whether for fitness training, fun, or a cost-effective commute, you'll be enjoying the wind in your face in next to no time once you pick up one of these mountain bikes. Some are affordable models for those trying cycling for the first time, while others are specialist machines that will have advanced cyclists going uphill and downhill with ease. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best mountain bike on Amazon.
Hitting The Trail Towards Better Health
Compared to cycling around town or even through a manicured park system, mountain biking offers a much more thorough cardiovascular workout.
Of all the outdoor activities you can engage in, few combine high speeds, strength, endurance, an ever changing landscape, and the thrill of potential danger. Mountain biking involves all of these things and more, all while putting you in serene wilderness environments.
Compared to cycling around town or even through a manicured park system, mountain biking offers a much more thorough cardiovascular workout. Part of this is because the terrain (mountains, wilderness trails, etc.), often boasts dramatic changes in elevation that can suddenly require riders to put forth a tremendous amount of effort. Downhill portions of the ride may seem a little easier, but they also require a lot of balance and coordination to maintain control of the bike.
The other part of the increased difficulty of a mountain biking excursion is in the quality of the terrain itself, as wooded trails are often muddy and winding, causing riders to trudge through even on relatively flat bearings. All of these features come together to make mountain biking a unique and significant challenge.
That level of difficulty also makes mountain biking particularly good for you. It’s intermittent periods of tremendous hard work couple with periods of downhill balancing to create the perfect fat burning and strength building routine. And since the motion of cycling is almost completely devoid of impacts (so long as you don’t pick a bad line or a really rugged trail), it’s actually kinder to your body than jogging or even walking might be.
What To Look For On A Mountain Bike
When you set out to buy a mountain bike, you’re liable to encounter a lot of pretty variegated options. With a cursory glance, that variance might be hard to see, but as soon as you start reading about all the differences between one model and the next, your head may begin to spin.
To help you begin to narrow down our selection to a handful of viable options for you, the first thing you should do is ask yourself whether you’re buying a mountain bike to actually tackle the mountains or whether you’re more interested in the riding position and durability they offer, even though you may not be bound for the wilderness. After all, these bikes are just as capable on city streets as they are in the mountains, so they make good options for bicycle commuters. If you’re looking for something like that, then you can probably afford to aim for the middle of the price range and be very happy with what you get.
For others, particularly riders who’ve ridden solid frames their whole lives, it can be hard to get used to.
If you’re serious about heading into the mountains with your bike, there are certain features you want to examine closely. First and foremost among these are the aspects of the bike designed to absorb shock. As we said, the terrain you’re covering can get pretty harrowing at times, and your bike’s ability to smooth out the sensation of your ride will have a direct effect on your ability to control it. Most mountain bikes focus their shock absorbing efforts in the front fork, and you want this to be as high-quality as possible. The travel distance of this fork is often cited as a measure of quality, and in a very general way more travel is better, as it can theoretically offer you more give as you go over sudden, steep changes in ground. Keep in mind, however, travel distance isn’t everything in shock absorption, as the resistance offered by a fork matters, as well.
Some bikes will also place an additional shock absorbing spring toward the back of the bike’s body, and this feature comes down more to preference than performance. For some riders, this loosens up the feel of the frame, providing a little more control. For others, particularly riders who’ve ridden solid frames their whole lives, it can be hard to get used to.
You’re also going to want to look out for the quality and flexibility of a given bike’s drive chain and gear system. When you suddenly go from an uphill slog to a downhill sprint and back again, you’re going to need a drive chain that can move quickly and accurately through its gears to give you the utmost control over your speed.
Your brake system is the next thing to carefully evaluate, as your stopping power can mean the difference between an exhilarating ride and a tumble off a cliff. Most of the mountain bikes out there rely on disc brakes, but that category is divided between mechanical disc brakes and hydraulic disc brakes. Mechanical units rely on the physical action of a braided cable pulling on the brake system to engage it. Hydraulic brakes utilize a more complex fluid system to achieve the same goals. While hydraulic brakes are a little more reliable and consistent, they’re also more expensive and harder to tinker with if you’ve got your own bike stand for maintenance.
Finally, you’re going to want to check the weight of a given mountain bike. Every ounce counts in this part of the equation. The lighter a bike is, the less effort you’ll need to move it. And if anything should go wrong on the mountain, it’ll be a lot easier to carry back down.
Preparing For Your Mountain Biking Adventure
Once you’ve decided on a good mountain bike, you’ll want to make sure that you’re ready to hit the trails. With the right additions to your set of biking accessories, you can easily have a fun, safe experience on the mountain.
To the point of safety, you’re going to need to wear a helmet. Good helmets that actually look cool are much easier to come by today than they once were, so you have no excuse to leave this at home. You can even get a smart helmet if that makes you feel better about it.
In addition to that, you’ll want a reliable bike bag that you can fill with everything from important survival gear to your cell phone. And make sure you’re adequately outfitted, as well. That means thermal and moisture wicking layers in the cold months, and lighter, more breathable fabrics in the heat.
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