Getting Started with Mountain Biking - Trail Climb Nation

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Getting Started with Mountain Biking

Earlier this week we did an article about packrafting which is something I discovered while researching for our site. Something that has intrigued me lately has been mountain biking. It looks like an incredible way to explore a mountain. For someone who lives in the middle of Oklahoma there really isn’t too many mountain bike experts around. Maybe where you are located you find yourself in the same predicament. To help you get started with mountain biking I have found a few things to help you get started. Let’s begin with what a mountain bike is. This article is brought to you by

Mountain Bicycles are design for riding rough off-road trails. They have flat or upright handlebars, and a very low gear range for pedaling up steep trails. Most mountain bikes have some type of shock absorbers or suspension. Mountain bikes with front suspension only are called hardtails; mountain bikes with both front and rear suspension are called full-suspension bikes or duallies. Mountain bikes with no suspension are called rigid. Mountain bikes can be outfitted for use as touring or commuting bikes, although they would not be as light or efficient as traditional touring or commuting bikes.

I thought this was an interesting description since I had absolutely no idea that mountain bikes came in three different types of suspension. Now let’s discuss the styles of mountain bikes brought to you by

Trail Bikes

This is arguably the most common mountain biking style because the category isn’t grounded in any specific type of racing. If you’re interested in meeting up with friends at the local trailhead and riding a mixture of climbs and descents, then this is the style for you. Bikes in this category place equal emphasis on fun, efficiency and sensible overall weight.

Typical specs: 120–140mm of suspension travel; 67–69° head-tube angle

(Suspension travel is the amount of movement offered by the bike’s front and rear suspension. Head-tube angle is the angle that the head tube forms with the ground. A steeper head-tube angle generally indicates that a bike will turn faster and climb better. A slacker (lower) angle generally indicates that a bike will provide better stability at high speeds but won’t climb as well.)

Cross-Country Bikes

This style of riding typically implies riding fast, with an emphasis on climbing prowess. Distances vary from just a few miles to 25-plus, and bikes tend to focus on efficiency and low weight. These bikes can be great if you’re considering getting competitive or would like a racier ride for your local trails.

Typical specs: 80–100mm of suspension travel; 70–71° head-tube angle

Fat Bikes

Oversize tires, from 3.7 in. to 5+ in. wide, give these bikes excellent traction, especially in sand or snow. Fat bikes are great for beginners because the wide tires are reassuringly forgiving as a rider picks a line through rough terrain.

All-Mountain Bikes

Think of all-mountain riding as trail riding on steroids, with bigger leg-burning climbs, longer, scarier descents and more technical features—both man-made and natural. Bikes for all-mountain riding are designed to perform well on steep descents while also being light and nimble enough to pedal uphill.

Typical specs:140–170mm of suspension travel; 65–68° head-tube angle.

Now that we’ve learned more about the style let’s look at three things to consider when you finally decide on what type of bike you want. This article is brought to you by

The basics: Wider tires, suspension and straight handlebars are the three main things that make a mountain bike a mountain bike. The gearing of a mountain bike is also designed to tackle the constant changes in slope and terrain. Quality mountain bikes will have a lightweight frame, usually made of aluminum. Low-end mountain bikes will normally have a heavier steel frame. Most mountain bikes have 26-inch wheels. Some have 29-inch wheels, though mountain bikers debate the benefits of the larger wheel.

Suspension: A quality front-suspension bike, called a hard-tail, is enough for most moderate mountain bikers. A front-suspension fork will soften the jarring in your arms and shoulders. A full-suspension bike (front and rear) will make for an even smoother downhill ride, but the design can make climbing more difficult.
Sizing: One important measurement of a bicycle is its stand-over height. This is the measurement from the ground to the top tube. You can know what size of mountain bike to look for by measuring your inseam (from crotch to floor) and comparing it to the listed stand-over height. Make sure you will have 3 to 5 inches of clearance between your crotch and the top tube when standing over the bike. Often, bike makers don’t list the stand-over height but do list the frame size. A bike’s frame is measured from the center of the cranks to the top tube — basically, the length of the seat tube. You can find your recommended frame size for a mountain bike by multiplying your inseam measurement by 0.59. For example, somebody with a 32-inch inseam would probably want a bike with an 18- or 19-inch frame (32 x .59 = 18.88), depending on the available sizing options.
Hopefully this article can help you on your way to exploring the outdoors in a whole new way.
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