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Mountain Bike Buyer’s Guide

Words by Tony

on 28/10/2015 15:10:00


Mountain biking has been revolutionised in the last few years with the introduction of larger wheel sizes and more sophisticated suspensions. Whether you are buying your first mountain bike, or you want to upgrade your ride, this is a quick guide to steer you through the occasionally confusing world of mountain biking.

Prices for a mountain bike that will last and give you a proper riding experience start around £400, which includes bike set-up and your first service. On bikes over £600, we include a free suspension set up, which is a £45 value. You can spend less on a bike, but you’ll either get sub-standard components or be left on your own to build up the bike, fit it correctly, tune the suspension and service it once it beds-in. See all our Mountain Bikes here.


What are you paying for?

£400 - £4,000 is quite a range, so how do you decide what’s right for you? For example, is it more important to spend extra to get a carbon fibre frame or would you be better off with a less expensive frame and better gear shifters, brakes and wheels? If it’s an upgrade from your current bike you are looking for, how do you choose the best frame, groupset and wheels for you?

    1. Your Mountain biking objectives
    The best place to start is understanding what you want to achieve with your bike. Are you riding local bridleways and towpaths, or will you be a regular on the red runs at Swinley Forest and the trail centres in Wales? Do you want to do big jumps, or be fast cross-country? The answers to these questions will guide you toward the right kind of bike. To keep it simple, we will refer to Cross country, Trail, and Downhill.

    2. Frame materials
The most common material is aluminium, as it’s light and strong, and it is less likely to be damaged in a crash than carbon fibre. Carbon fibre frames can offer improve weight and stiffness, but all carbon is NOT equal. Cheap carbon is like riding a plastic bike, and it is unlikely to survive many crashes.

    3. Suspension & frame angles
“Hardtail” bikes have suspension forks and a rigid (non-suspended) rear triangle, but “Full Sus” bikes have a rear shock absorber as well. Quality Full Sus bikes start at £1,000, as the parts and manufacturing costs are higher. The suspension “travel” is matched to the type of riding you will do. Cross country bikes generally have 100 - 120mm or travel, Trail bikes have 140 - 160mm, and Downhill bikes go up from there. Downhill bikes have a fundamentally different frame design, and very heavy duty shocks, so it’s a specialist area. 

    4. Wheel sizes   
All quality mountain bikes now come with either 27.5” or 29” wheels. The “traditional” 26” wheel is slower over rough surfaces and has less grip due to the smaller contact patch with the ground. In general, 29” wheels are a good choice for medium and larger Hardtail bikes, and 27.5” wheels are the best for smaller frames and Full Sus bikes.

We are here to help you match you with the best bike for your riding objectives and budget. We'll make sure you get the right size and set it up correctly for you in any case, but we can also discuss the trade-offs and pros & cons of your different choices. We are all cyclists and enthusiasts, so we are keen and able to help. test lnk