How To Buy A Mountain Bike | A Comprehensive Guide

Mountain bikes are great. They’re versatile, durable, and fun to ride. If you plan to use your bike for exercise or recreation, it should be your top choice over a road bike any day. Struggling how to decide which mountain bike to buy? Read this guide to find out

Mountain bikes are built tough with wide tires that can handle off-road trails while still being able to function well on the street. And if you’re just getting into mountain biking, there’s no better way than to start with a solid beginner mountain bike.


Where To Buy A Mountain Bike?

There are several places where you can buy a new or used mountain bike: online, at a local bicycle shop, and even at department stores like Walmart and Target.

Buying a mountain bike online is certainly convenient and can offer great deals, but you won’t be able to test ride the bicycle first. If you’re unsure of what type or size bicycle to buy, this approach isn’t recommended.

At the local shop, however, bikes are typically set up and ready to ride (if not, they should adjust them for free). This means that you’ll be able to test out several different types of bicycles before deciding which one is best suited for your needs – something that won’t happen if you opt to go the online route.

Finally, purchasing a mountain bike at Walmart or Target will be inexpensive and offer good value for your money – just don’t expect the quality and durability of higher-end models.

What To Look For When Buying A Mountain Bike

Frame Material

When buying your first mountain bike, spending a little bit more on a better frame is usually recommended. Cheaper bikes will typically feature steel frames while mid-range options are usually made of aluminum or carbon fiber. Titanium and high-end steel frames are also an option, but they’re usually overkill for casual riders and beginners.

Aluminum Alloy

Aluminum alloy bikes have been around since the early days of mountain biking. They are still an extremely popular choice because they are inexpensive without being too heavy while also being durable enough for most trails.

However, aluminum has its disadvantages as well. Being a soft metal it will eventually wear down over time so even though it may not need much maintenance during its lifespan it may require some fine-tuning every once in a while.

Also, aluminum bikes do not dampen trail feedback very well which may lead to a rougher ride.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber bikes are becoming more and more popular in the mountain biking world because of their lightweight properties while still maintaining their strength.

Carbon fiber is very strong, but it has a tendency to crack or snap under stress thus requiring some delicate care while assembling or repairing the bicycle.

Carbon fiber bikes provide amazing dampening characteristics compared to aluminum which allows for a smoother ride on any trail.

However, they come at a much higher price than aluminum alloy bikes which may steer many people away from them even though carbon fiber does not need nearly as much maintenance.


Titanium bikes are extremely rare due to titanium being so difficult to work with when it comes to building an entire bike frame itself.

Titanium provides all of the benefits of both aluminum and carbon fiber while not having many of their disadvantages.

Titanium is lighter than aluminum alloy while still being stronger and more durable than other materials such as steel or aluminum which makes it perfect for mountain biking because it can resist trail damage like aluminum while dampening the trail feedback like carbon fiber thus making for a bike that will last much longer without any maintenance.

Aluminum Mountain Bike


The wheels and tires on a mountain bike can vary widely in size depending on the type of terrain you’ll be riding on and the overall feel that you want from your bicycle. 26-inch wheels are standard across the board, but there’s a growing number of options with larger or smaller wheels to choose from these days. Larger wheels offer better traction while smaller ones make controlling the bicycle much easier at slower speeds.

Mountain Bike Wheels

The most common type of mountain bike wheel is the 26-inch (also referred to as 650B) which falls in line with traditional road bikes. This size has been standardized for many years, and it’s used on nearly every type of bicycle that you can imagine these days.

The best thing about 26-inch wheels is that they’re incredibly durable, but this durability comes at the cost of low maneuverability and cornering ability.

These wheels are also much harder to accelerate quickly than smaller ones. If you tend to ride trails where high speeds aren’t necessary, however, these wheels will suit you just fine.

27.5-inch wheels are newer additions to the market, and their popularity might overtake 26-inch wheels in the next few years.

They fall between a traditional mountain bike wheel and a road bike, making them much easier to accelerate quickly while still providing plenty of stability for riding off-road. Standard tire widths are 2 inches for this size which provides extra grip without sacrificing speed.

29-inch wheels tend to be found more often on kitted-out bikes from popular manufacturers rather than stock sets due to their high price tag.

If you plan on riding down incredibly steep hills or hitting high speeds, however, they might be worth looking into since they offer the greatest combination of maneuverability and speed possible while still sticking with a 26-inch diameter. This type is slightly heavier than other options but not by much.

Wheels with different sizes than 26, 27.5, and 29 inches can be difficult to find depending on where you shop. 26-inch wheels are the most common across the board but some specialty shops do have lots that contain other sizes.

Mountain Bike Tires

27.5-inch tires are quickly becoming the standard in most mountain biking circles due to their combination of maneuverability and high speeds. Standard widths are 2 inches with anything over 2.25 being considered large for this type of tire.

29-inch tires are heavier than their 27.5 counterparts but offer higher speed capabilities when combined with larger diameter wheels. Anything over 2 inches is considered extra wide for this type of tire, so it is important to keep that in mind when attaching these.

Smaller tires are more popular for pure cross-country riding since the smaller diameter allows the bicycle to accelerate quickly and handle better at slow speeds. Standard tire widths range from around 1 inch for extra skinny styles to 2 inches for solid off-roading.

Tires with different sizes than 27.5, 29, or 26 inches can be difficult to find depending on where you shop. Most stock sets come with one of the three standard sizes listed here but specialty shops may carry unique options like 24 or 20-inch wheels.

If you’re unsure about what type of wheel will work best for your type of riding, ask a trusted friend who’s familiar with mountain biking since professional advice can make all the difference in the world!


There are many different types of mountain bike suspensions. The suspension is a very important part of the bike as it allows for a smoother ride and makes the biking experience less bumpy and more enjoyable.

There are three types of suspension that you can get on your mountain bike. Those are:

  • Front and rear suspension + Coil and air
  • Single-pivot suspension.

Front Suspension

The front suspension usually has an upside-down fork; the steering tube is above the tire and it has a disc brake attached to it (see picture).

There will be another shorter tube attached to the top of the first one which goes all the way down to two legs that hold up both wheels. The two forks allow the front wheel to move up and down freely, therefore giving more comfort for riding.

This type of suspension usually requires little maintenance as there aren’t many moving parts apart from the wheels.

The disadvantages of this system include susceptibility to damage by rocks and roots as well as an inability to handle braking forces well.

Coil and Air

The second type of front suspension is the one that has a coil and air system (see picture). It features a cartridge in which you can adjust the stiffness and dampening by using tokens or preload spacers, depending on the type.

These types of suspensions are usually more expensive than other systems but also require less maintenance due to fewer moving parts; it has better dampening and responsiveness when riding over rough surfaces such as rocks or roots because it slows down braking forces much better than the first method mentioned above.

However, there is no easy way to adjust for changing terrain conditions while riding. The disadvantages of this system include being bigger and heavier than other types of fork assemblies that have simpler designs.

Rear Suspension

The rear suspension usually has one shock; the wheel axle runs through it. The shock is connected to two aluminum or carbon rods that keep it in place (see picture).

This type of system requires little maintenance as well due to its simple design but provides almost no comfort for riders on bumpy roads because of the small amount of travel available.

Also, braking forces are absorbed poorly which makes the ride less smooth.

On the other hand, this type of suspension is very effective when riding over roots or sharp rocks because they can’t damage it easily and braking forces are absorbed much better than with front suspensions. It also doesn’t have many moving parts so there is little chance of failure while riding.

One disadvantage of this system is that the distance between the axle and the bottom bracket tends to change while riding, thus requiring re-tensioning.

Single Pivot Suspension

The single-pivot suspension design usually has a swing link above the chainstay.

This type of bike uses bushings instead of bearings for less friction and therefore provides better performance in rugged conditions. Like with front suspension, it requires little maintenance but doesn’t absorb braking forces too well.

It also absorbs impacts from rocks or roots very nicely making it one of the best types around. One main disadvantage includes difficulty in adjusting for changing terrain during riding.

Integrated suspension

These are becoming more popular lately since they combine both front and rear suspensions into one unit which keeps things simple without the need to adjust different things for different types of riding conditions.

The swing link is kept in place by the short tube that goes from the bottom bracket up to just below the steering tube which holds up both wheels allowing them to move freely vertically.

This type of suspension is harder to service and maintain than other types because it has many moving parts that would need adjustment or replacement.

This suspension absorbs impacts very nicely, provides good braking performance, and doesn’t suffer from a lack of maintenance. It also has the ability to absorb changing terrain conditions during riding. On the other hand, it is not effective when riding over roots or sharp rocks.

The movement of this suspension system’s pivot allows the wheels to remain neutral while absorbing impacts which makes it easier to control.

This also means that braking forces are absorbed better than with most types of suspension, especially on rough terrain. It takes a lot of time and effort to adjust or service this type of suspension system, especially because the front and rear suspensions are separate.

As with other types of bike suspension setups, there is no problem with braking forces which makes for a very smooth ride over rough terrain.


A brake is a system used to stop the motion of a bike. Various types of brakes can be found on a bicycle. These include rim brakes, disc brakes, and drum brakes. The type of brake depends on what you’re going for in terms of how much stopping power you want.

Disc Brakes

There are two types of disc brakes. The first is the hydraulic disc brake. This style was developed in 1984 by Avid Corporation founder Keith Bontrager and uses two pads that squeeze together to stop the rotations of a wheel.

The second type of disc brake is the mechanical brake, With this type, when you pull on the handlebars, it squeezes a cable which then presses down on one or two brake pads that press against the rotor thereby stopping movement.

Rim Brakes

The rim brake works very similarly to how skis work in regards to using metal edges in conjunction with friction to slow down or stop a vehicle.

This brake system works with a wheel that is made up of a rim that has a metal edge around it. Along the inside of the rim, there are small blocks, called brake pads, which have rubber on them to create friction with the metal edge as you apply pressure to brakes to slow down or stop your bike.

Drum Brakes

The drum brake system is attached directly to the hub of the wheel and operates by pressing internal shoes against an internal drum when you pull levers mounted on your handlebars.

They often require less maintenance than other systems since they don’t come into contact with wet or muddy conditions as easily as rim brakes do, but also provide little stopping power compared to discs. These types of brakes are found on kids’ or cruisers’ bikes.