MTB BUYING GUIDE
Why a Mountain bike?
Mountain bikes are typically deisgned for off road use, whether this be a dirt track, gravel or downhill terrain. There are a huge range of MTB available from full suspension designed for challenging off road or hardtails that can double as a commuter bike if needed. So what's the difference and why would you choose a full suspension MTB over a hardtail?
Hardtail refers to no rear suspension, and isn't only a beginners specific bike, some terrains call directly for hardtails, with a variety of types of hardtails available. Some hardtails are made to be all rounders and some are for specific disciplines. The main differences between hardtails is the amount of front fork suspension travel, geometry, wheel size, components (gearing) and strength.
Suspension- most hardtails tend to have 120-140mm of travel meaning how much the fork compresses under pressure. Some cross country and race style hardtails have less travel (80mm) making it easier to control, the more travel there is the better the fork absorbs bumps however this then starts to impact the efficiency and control of the bike. Some "all terrain" hardtails have higher than 140mm travel to increase their shock absorption for tougher downhill terrain.
Geometry- for more technical and challenging courses a smaller more compact frame will better suit as it will be more manoeuvrable and if you're going to be doing more of a cross country track with a longer distance a larger frame will suit so you can stretch out and increase your power output. Race and cross country style hardtails also typically have a steeper seat and head tube angles, this puts the rider into the perfect position for seated pedalling, especially uphill.
Wheel Size- with there now being 3 wheel sizes (26", 27.5" and 29") for MTB things are starting to get interesting. The traditional 26" wheel size has been overtaken by the new 27.5" size for all models except for a base model for most manufactuers.
- Faster acceleration
- Tyres roll and grip significantly better than the traditional 26"
- Stronger and stiffer then 26"
- Handling and wheel placement feels more natural than 29"
- Smoother and stabler ride, with increased grip
- Slower accleration but once moving it holds speed better tahn 27.5"
- Awkward on tight, short trails
- Hard to have longer forks and less comfortable for shorter rider
Components- most MTB will feature a triple chainring to achieve a low range to suit hill climbing, mid range for flat terrain and a high range for fast downhill track. The rear cassette typically has 7-10 gears, depending on the quality and price point. The more gears the better, this gives you greater options to find the perfect gear for the situation. Quality levels for shimano are as follows:
1. Shimano XTR- used for racing, combines alloy, carbon and titanium making it light weight and strong with 11 speed.
2. Shimano XT- 11 speed is very similar to XTR exept for weight.
3. Shimano SLX- 10 speed, greater weight and lower shift quality compared to XT and XTR.
4. Deore- 10 speed, light and shares many features of the high end systems.
5. Alivio- 9 speed, includes some performance features such as rapid fire shifters. If you are wanting to buy a bike specifically for off road use, we suggest having Alivio level gearing at least.
6. Acera- 9 speed, includes some corrosion resistant materails.
7. Altus- 7,8 or 9 speed