Buying a mountain bike can be quite a challenge if you don’t know what exactly you are looking for. Mountain bikes are designed with strong frames, high-grip durable and high shock absorption which makes them more resilient to handle rough terrain. Another unique characteristic of mountain bikes is that the brakes have higher clearance in order to avoid debris and dirt build up. This blog article will give you insights into the four main features of a mountain bike which are suspension, brakes, frames and gear shifters:
Deciding the kind of suspension you want is the most important decision you will have to make regarding the bike.
There are basically two kinds of suspension:
- Full suspension – front and rear suspension
- Hardtail – only front suspension
Full suspension bikes ensure more comfort and offer better control in comparison to their counterparts. The downside of the full suspension bikes is that they are heavier, and their efficiency is a little less compared to hardtail suspension bikes. Full suspension bikes are usually more expensive.
The hardtails also have some advantages. Firstly, pedaling is much easier and more efficient especially when the terrain is relatively smooth. They are also lighter and low maintenance bikes. The lack of suspension translates every movement you do into an instant reaction,hence improving maneuverability. If you are looking for a much more explosive and adrenalin rush packed ride, the hardtail is the best option.
|Hard tail suspension||Full suspension|
|Terrain||Smoother terrain||Severely rocky terrain|
|Power transfer||More power transferred||Less power transferred|
|Ride comfort||Harsh at times||Mostly smooth|
In addition to the function of making your bike stop, the breaks on your bike also help re-directing your bike and maintaining balance.
There are 3 kinds of breaking systems:
- Disc Brakes
These brakes work well under any conditions since they are located in the middle of the wheel. So, they remain dry even when biking on wet trails. However, they are heavier and more expensive. They also cool down fast (due to the higher surface area, making them the ideal choice for downhill ride (Brakes lose stopping power if they cross a certain temperature range).
- Rim Brakes
The advantages of the rim brake system is that it is lightweight, inexpensive, and offers good braking performance, as long as the rims are kept in good condition. Unlike disc brakes they do not perform well on muddy and wet terrain. These are not very common nowadays.
- V- Brakes
Nowadays V-brakes are standard in all ranges of Mountain Bikes. They are lightweight, easy to install, and inexpensive. However, V-brakes are not very suitable when biking on wet roads. The cables will be prone to rust, unless they are greased on a regular basis.
|Type of bakes||Terrain|
|Disc breaks||Ideal for wet terrain also|
|Rim breaks||Ideal for dry surfaces|
|V-brakes||Better suited for dry surfaces|
There are four materials from which bike frames are made:
Most entry-level mountain bike frames are made of steel. Bikes with steel frames are stronger and more durable. Steel frames are fairly inexpensive in comparison to other materials. However, this makes the bike heavier and that it can be prone to rusting.
Next in line is aluminum. Aluminium frames are light and rust-proof. They are less expensive than steel frames. A couple of disadvantages are that they are not immune to breakage and cannot withstand repeated stress. Therefore aluminium frames are not preferred by most mountain bike riders as the terrain is usually rough, and the frame is constantly subject to stress especially when there is a heavy rider. Despite this, many prefer aluminuim frames because they are stiffer and provide a string base for climbing.
Carbon fiber frames are one step better than the aluminium ones. They are similar to aluminium frames in terms of weight and being rust-proof. These frames are very strong and are not as expensive as the titanium frames. Again these frames are prone to breakage, and this breakage happens suddenly and usually at the worst possible time. These frames can be quite expensive.
Top-of-the-line mountain bike frames are now made from titanium. They surpass aluminium and carbon fiber frames in terms of weight and durability. A titanium frame is very strong, in and so it is best suited for heavier riders owing to its ability to handle larger loads. Titanium frames also flex which enable the bike to absorb terrain vibrations, this is another plus point. But like the other frames the titanium frames also have their drawbacks. Firstly, it is very expensive and because of this they usually fall beyond the range of all but the most serious cyclists.
|Steel||Strong and durable||Heavy|
|Aluminium||Light, rust proof||Cannot withstand repeated stress|
|Carbon fibre||Light, rust proof||More prone to breakage|
|Titanium||Very strong and absorbs impact well||Expensive|
Gear shifters/ Derailleur
Before riding out of the store with your new Mountain Bike, be sure to comprehensively check the shifting of the gear. Run through all the gear ratios and see if it shifts smoothly without hesitation. Pedal also for a time to see if it doesn’t shift while pedalling without you touching the shifters. Also make sure that the cables are caped at the end. See if the limiting screws are adjusted correctly so you won’t accidentally shift off the chainring or cog.
(Limiting screws-When you ride your bicycle, the front derailleur is responsible for pushing the chain to different chain rings. By selecting a larger or smaller chain ring, you will greatly affect how many rotations you need to turn the pedals before the wheel makes a single rotation. If the limit screws on your derailleur are not set correctly, it is possible your chain will slip out of gear or be thrown off of the chain rings entirely.)
Lastly, invest in a high-end rear derailleur coupled with good shifters. This is the part that needs more precise shifting than the front.
In addition to this there are a few other things that must also be taken into consideration, they are:
The different kinds of pedals available in mountain bikes are:
These pedals have a clip or extension which secures the foot onto the pedal. One of the biggest advantages is that this prevents your foot from sliding while pedaling. The cages are usually plastic or metal cages. The cage has a strap which can be adjusted around your foot. The second advantage is that by keeping the ball of your foot centered over and attached to the pedal, you can maximize the power and efficiency of your pedal stroke. This becomes more noticeable during hill climbs.
These kinds of pedals are ideal if you often go on long rides that are relatively uninterrupted by traffic stops, toe clips can give you a noticeable power boost by allowing you to use both sides of your legs. However while using these pedals ensure that you slide your foot properly out of the pedal when coming to a full stop else you will fall.
Clipless pedals are actually a system comprised of special pedals and cleats, devices included with the pedals that attach to the soles of clipless cycling shoes. Once you have the cleats bolted to your shoes and the clipless pedals on your bicycle, you simply put on your new shoes and step on the pedals to click your feet securely in place. Clipless pedals have the following advantages:
- You have more power throughout the pedal stroke and while accelerating and climbing.Because your feet are locked into the pedals when riding,
- Clipless pedals also give you more control by letting you use your feet for maneuvers such as hopping pavement cracks, railroad tracks and more exciting obstacles if you’re riding off road.
- Lastly, because you can get in and out so quickly, you’re more apt to get your feet down and land safely should you need to dismount quickly.
Theseare the regular pedals which are broad and flat. Some platform pedals have notched edges or a surface that grips your shoe treads to maintain a better connection. Arguably, the biggest benefit of the platform pedal is that your foot is free to step off at any time. Whether you use your bike to commute around a town or a city, ride trails or go off-road, not having to worry about reaching down to loosen toe clips or twisting your heel out of a clipless pedal can give you the peace of mind that you’re not going to fall over when you make fast stops. These pedals are not as expensive as its counterparts. But the disadvantage is that if you are riding in wet conditions, your foot can slip off the pedal.
|Type of pedal||Advantages|
|Cage pedals||Prevents feet from slipping, more efficiency|
|Platform pedal||Foot is free to step off anytime|
|Clipless pedal||More efficiency, more control|
When looking at handlebars there are a few aspects that you have to take into consideration:
More width gives you more control, but slows down your ability to snap the bike into turns. Low, narrow bars make you more aerodynamic and ergonomically efficient for long stretches of pedaling. Therefore ideally handlebars with more width are better for mountain bikers because one needs to have as much control when riding on rough, uneven terrain.
|More width||Offers more control|
|Narrow bars||Provides aerodynamics for long stretches|
You should now know that having your handlebars further forward will give you more power. This will also give you better aerodynamics and high speed control. Having a lower handlebar will allow you to pull up more under hard acceleration and again give you better aerodynamics. If you choose to have the bar closer to you and/or higher up it will be more comfortable but you won’t be able to ride as fast as you are capable.
|Further forward||More power, better aerodynamics|
|Lower handlebar||Good aerodynamics|
|Higher handlebar||More comfortable while riding|
Depending on the kind of terrain that your are most likely to use your bike on, you can choose a handlebar position.
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