Best Mountain Bikes In 2017 – A Complete Buying Guide

Product Name & Award

Overall Score

Price Range

Frame

Breakset

Wheel Size

$$$

Aluminum

Disc

29''

$$

Aluminum

V-Brakes

27.5''

$$$$

Aluminum

Disc

26''

$$$$

Carbon Fiber

Disc

27-29''

$$$

Carbon Fiber

Disc

26''

$$$$

Aluminum

Disc

26''

$$$$$

Aluminum

Disc

27.5''

$$$

Alloy

Disc

26''

Best Budget: Merax Finiss

$$

Aluminum

Disc

26''

$

Aluminum

Disc

29''

$

Aluminum

V-Brakes

26''

After thoroughly reviewing 11 of the best mountain bikes available today, we think the Diamondback's Overdrive 29 is the best option available.

If you're in the market for a new mountain bike, it can be daunting when you jump in head first.

Aside from all the different brands available, you also have a wide range of different aspects and components to consider as well.

Despite what some may think initially, mountain bikes can differ from each other in several different ways, which goes well beyond just their looks.

In order to ensure that you end up with the right model for your needs and budget, there are a number of things to consider before you get serious about shopping.

This guide will help your quest for a new mountain bike in a few ways; by describing the different types and components about them, and also giving a number of recommendations for many different budgets.

By the time you're done reading this, you'll have the information needed to make the best purchase, and perhaps even go with one of our many recommendations.

We'll start by going over the main reasons as to why being discriminate and informed about your mountain bike purchase is so important in the first place.

First we list below our favorite mountain bikes currently available, representing various budget levels and types.

Best Mountain Bike Under $2,000

High end mountain bikes can sometimes climb as high as $4,000 to $5,000. While these include some of the very best mountain bikes in the world, you can still get a lot for the money if your budget goes up to the $2,000 mark. These are the two best in that price range.

For those who are willing to spend around $2,000 for a mountain bike, expectations are demanding -- and they should be.

BEIOU’s 650B carbon fiber mountain bike manages to cram as many high-end components as possible into a superior carbon frame, without letting the price climb too high.

The result is a top-tier mountain bike that is perfect for competitive cross country racing, while still being able to handle some tougher trails and paths.

BEIOU Carbon Fiber 650B Mountain Bike

Click on the image to check the bike out on Amazon.

Everything starts with the frame. Toray T800 carbon fiber material is used, giving it the proper amount of flex in the rear, with additional strength focused on high-stress points. The weight savings provided by the carbon fiber allows the 650B to remain under 24 lbs. when fully equipped.

Carbon fiber isn’t just used for the frame with the 650B. Both the seatpost and handlebar are crafted from the same Toray T800 material, giving the entire bike a more cohesive feel, while keeping the weight as low as possible. A BEIOU saddle provides the perfect amount of cushioning, and matches the bike’s finish.

The gear system and drivetrain are another standout aspect to the 650B. Shimano Deore 610 technology is used for the shifters, which give you complete and precise control over the 650B’s 30 total gears. A Prowheel integrated crankset and Sunrace MTB cassette help power the drivetrain.

The wheelset is another major strength of this bike. RT 27.5” wheels offer a versatile size profile that is ideal for cross country racing. Maxxis tires help to give the 650B an added measure of speed that can make a noticeable impact during competitive use.

Brake components vary depending on the size of frame you get. The 17” models uses Shimano M355 brakes, while the 19” version utilizes Tektro HD-M285 hydraulic disc brakes instead. Both have ample stopping power with plenty of control when needed.

The BEIOU 650B is definitely not a budget-minded bike by any means, but it also doesn’t over-inflate the price just because it’s a carbon fiber frame with a slew of high-end components.

For the money, the 650B provides superior performance on every single level. Its strategic design and meticulous planning has created a professional-level bike for a cycling enthusiast price. It’s impossible to think of a better bike for this price range.

Read our in-depth review on this link.

Diamondback Bicycles Atroz Comp Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Click on the image to check the bike out on Amazon.

Full suspension frames can be a little tricky when they are intended for trail use.

While well-intended, they still usually end up having too much bounce with the suspension, and also have mushy handling when navigating tight areas and switchbacks.

Diamondback’s Atroz avoids the common mistakes from many other full suspension bikes, and the result is an incredibly versatile and agile full suspension mountain bike that provides an ideal amount of shock absorption, but not at the expense of the feel and handling.

The core of the Atroz is its butted aluminum alloy frame that provides aggressive geometry, while still offering an an acceptable overall weight amount. The frame feels responsive on the trail, and allows the suspension to do all the work in the process.

RockShox technology is used for both the front and rear suspension. For the front, a Recon silver coil shock with 120mm of travel absorbs a high amount of impact with ease. In the back, a Monarch-R air shock moves seamlessly, while also eliminating the common and annoying chain slap you can get with other bikes.

For rides on smoother surface, both of the shocks can be locked out in a matter of moments, helping you maximize your pedal efficiency. As for the seating, a Diamondback Sync’r saddle provides a surprising amount of comfort and a versatile fit, while an alloy micro-adjust seatpost gives up to 45mm of reach.

SRAM holds down the most crucial aspects of the gearing system, with an NX rear derailleur and shifters handling the 11 different speeds, which are provided with an NX cassette. The gears are ratioed perfectly, and provide enough coverage for the different speeds you’ll need during standard trail usage.

SL 27.5” rims give the Atroz the durability needed for trail rides, while Kenda Nevegal Lite tires offer a high level of performance for all types of surfaces, whether it’s hard or soft pack. Tektro Gemini hydraulic disc brakes ensure dependable stopping power and easy control on any terrain.

If you prefer full suspension for your trail riding, and want to keep your pricing in a mid range, the Diamondback Atroz is worthy of your attention. Its simplicity and strategic design gives it a surprising amount of handling, control, and pedal efficiency, without reducing ample shock travel amounts and shock absorption. That’s a rarity with full suspension trail bikes.

Best Mountain Bike Under $1,000

You don’t have to empty your savings to purchase a higher-end mountain bike that offers a more professional feel on the trail. If you’re willing to go as high as $1,000, you’ll find a surprising amount of bikes that look and ride similar to competitive bikes. Here are our favorite two.

29er mountain bikes (models that have 29-inch wheelsets) are becoming more widespread in their use.

The added size allows for better handling of smaller trail obstacles, and helps with top overall speed efficiency as well.

The Diamond Overdrive 29 is a great example of a 29er offering performance that is a few steps up from an entry-level bike, but maintains a price range that is a few steps down.

Diamondback Overdrive 29 Hardtail Mountain Bike

Click on the image to check the bike out on Amazon.

It combines an aggressive frame design with a mixture of quality components to ensure a smooth, efficient ride for an affordable price.

The frame is a hand-built 6061-T6 aluminum alloy model hard tail that is more than capable of handling tough trails and repeated impact, while giving the rider the proper position when using the larger-sized tires and wheels.

An SR Suntour suspension fork gives the Overdrive 29 a solid amount of travel with the shocks, without taking away too much pedal power, or creating a less-responsive amount of steering. Very appropriate for cross country enthusiasts and trail riders alike.

The Overdrive’s drivetrain is composed of Shimano-brand components, and provides 24 separate speeds, giving you more than a few options when you are climbing, descending, or just making your way across flatter trail portions.

The 29-inch tire size is provided by Schwalbe, and gives the bike an added emphasis on traction and skid control, something sorely needed with 29-inch wheelsets. Tektro handles the braking aspect, with very responsive and low maintenance disc brakes that are easy to control during any portion of the ride.

Those who are looking for a more affordable 29er that is serious on the trail will find a lot to love with the Diamond Overdrive 29. It serves as both a step up from entry level mountain bikes, or as an affordable way for an experienced rider to try out the 29-inch size.

You can find our in-depth review by clicking here.

BEIOU Toray T700 Carbon Fiber Mountain Bike

Click on the image to check the bike out on Amazon.

BEIOU seems to have a knack for putting out legitimate, high-quality carbon fiber mountain bikes for a very fair price.

This is a rarity on the bike world, as some manufacturers tend to pair an economically-priced carbon frame bike with inferior components, and hope you don’t notice.

The Toray T700 is the opposite of this. For just under $1,000, you get a carbon fiber frame and the right components to back it up.

When all is said and done, you end up with a carbon fiber mountain bike that rides and feels like a bike that literally costs nearly three times as much.

Like other carbon fiber frame mountain bikes put out by BEIOU, the Toray T700 uses a well-designed, durable carbon fiber frame that offers a perfect amount of flex in all the right areas. You get the same weight advantage you find with other carbon frame models.

The bike’s seatpost is carbon fiber as well, along with the handlebar. This helps cut down the weight even more, while giving the bike a more complete, seamless feel. That’s a lot of carbon fiber components for a bike under $1,000.

Suspension is provided via a GTMRK 330 hydraulic front fork. The fork easily takes on trail obstacles and rough terrain, without feeling mushy and unresponsive when precise steering is needed.

Shifting and gear component are all from Shimano’s Altus series, with 27 total gears that give the rider plenty of gear options for any scenario.

The Toray T700’s wheelset may not be very flashy, but it offers just the right amount of rigidness, durability, and traction. The bike’s rims are Ruituo M200’s, while the 26-inch tires are made by Chaoyang. BEIOU disc brakes give the bike plenty of stopping power and control without straining on the brake levers.

The BEIOU is a great way to get into the carbon fiber mountain bike market for riders who don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, but still want a high-quality bike that provides all of the carbon fiber benefits, along with impressive components on every level.

Read more about this bike by clicking here.

Best Mountain Bike Under $500

The under $500 price range represents the lowest budget level in our guide, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for mountain bikes that are barely above a department store level. The three bikes below are all examples of quality mountain bikes for a very affordable price.

We’re not really sure how Gravity managed to cram this many features and solid components into a mountain bike in such a low price range, but we’re definitely okay with it.

This is not one of those cheaply-made full suspension bikes you see at big box stores.

The Gravity FSX 1.0 is a legitimate full suspension bike that is capable of taking on some intense singletrack trails, and even some slight downhill paths as well.

Gravity FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Click on the image to check the bike out on Amazon.

Brand name components, an acceptable weight, and a smart design and aesthetic make the FSX 1.0 one of the best bike values, regardless of type.

The bike’s hydroformed aluminum frame has flawless welding points, and provides reinforcement and strength in all the right areas. The bike hovers around he 26 lb mark, which isn’t overly impressive, but definitely serviceable for the price.

Suspension is comprised of Suntour shocks that are adjustable in both the front and rear. The travel amounts are suitable for trail and all-mountain riding, while also offering the right amount of rigidness for more efficient pedaling and precise steering.

The FSX 1.0’s seatpost is made from the same aluminum alloy as the frame, and supports a surprisingly comfortable saddle that makes casual riding and flatter trail sections much more enjoyable.

The bike’s gear system is comprised of Shimano parts, including the Shimano EFT shifters that are feather-light, and very reliable in between tuneups. All of the gear components work together to create a 24-speed system that features impressive ratios and coverage.

The tires on the FSX 1.0 are lacking a bit in the traction area, but still have ample coverage and an added amount of durability to withstand small punctures and pinch flats. A tire upgrade brings the performance of the FSX 1.0 up to even higher levels.

As if all these components aren’t enough already for a bike that barely clears the $330 mark, the FSX 1,0 also comes with Tektro Novela disc brakes.

Overall, it’s practically impossible to think of any other bikes that come close to delivering this much quality on a full suspension bike for this low of a price. The FSX 1.0 is the definitive entry-level full suspension mountain bike.

If you'd like to read our in-depth review, click here.

Runner Up: Merax Finiss

Merax Finiss 26-Inch Aluminum 21 Speed Mountain Bike

Click on the image to check the bike out on Amazon.

Finding a highly-affordable hard tail mountain bike that actually has a quality feel to it is way harder than it should be.

While you may encounter one that has a decent look to it, once you get on and ride, you realize it was an illusion.

The Merax Finiss is the solution to this problem. It is definitely on the beginner level for mountain bikes, but it certainly doesn’t ride like one.

In fact, with just a few upgrades down the the line, it can easily serve as an intermediate level bike that can take on somer tougher trails.

The aluminum frame is nothing to get excited over, but it’s not a clunky, heavy frame like you’ll get with inferior bikes in its price range. It offers a responsive feel on the trail, and doesn’t weigh too much either.

The seatpost is adjustable with an easy-to-use clamp, and the saddle itself is noticeably comfortable, far better than saddles you’ll often find on bikes in higher price ranges.

The gear system is made up of various Shimano components that results in a smooth, quick, and precise 21 speeds that offer enough coverage to give you ideal gears for everything from steep climbs to achieving higher speeds on long, flat surfaces.

The wheelset is another aspect of the Finiss that is worthy of some attention. Meras uses their own double-walled aluminum rims, which come with 26 inch Kenda tires that give the bike plenty of traction on off-road surfaces, including rocky terrain.

While the idea of disc brakes on lower-priced mountain bikes is usually a bad idea, not so with the Finiss. Shimano aluminum levers make controlling the mechanical disc brakes easy and smooth, without the need for excess pressure.

All in all, the Merax Finnis is easily one the best entry-level, low budget mountain bikes that you can actually take out on a real singletrack trail.

Honorable Mention: Vilano Blackjack 3.0

Vilano is already well-known for manufacturing high-quality road bikes for a very affordable price, and the Blackjack 3.0 is a great example of their prowess in doing the same with mountain bikes.

On top of that, it’s a 29er as well, making it one of the most affordable 29-inch tire mountain bikes.

It all starts with the standard aluminum alloy frame that’s not overly heavy, but not noticeably light either.

Vilano Blackjack 3.0 29er Mountain Bike

Click on the image to check the bike out on Amazon.

The frame is hand-built and butted using 6061 alloy, with seamless welds as well.

The bike’s seatpost is made from the same material, and supports a contoured, slightly-padded saddle that is serviceable for most, although heavier riders may want something a little better.

The Blackjack 3.0’s front suspension fork isn't the greatest, but that’s to be expected with this price range. There is one major advantage with it however, as the shock provides a quick lockout feature for this who need more stability and pedal efficiency.

The gear system is made up of Shimano components, with the gear shifters being integrated into the brake levers, just like their popular road bikes. You get 24 speeds total with the Blackjack 3.0, which is perfectly fine for most moderate trail riding scenarios.

We aren’t exactly sure who makes the wheels, but the 29-inch design holds up, and functions in the same way as any other bike with larger wheels and tires. You can clear obstacles easier, and attain higher speeds with less effort. The Blackjack 3.0’s tires are made by Kenda, and have adequate traction for dirt paths.

The bike’s disc brakes are superior to other bikes in the lower entry-level price range, and provide a great amount of stopping effort and control with little hand effort.

Simply put, the Vilano Blackjack 3.0 is an entry-level 29er you can buy, and feel totally confident about.

Best Fat TIRE Bike

Fat bikes are no longer a side niche, but a viable and increasingly-popular bike type that is still winning over riders who need a better way to navigate surfaces like sand and snow on a mountain bike.

Diamondback Bicycles El Oso Grande Fat Mountain Bike

Click on the image to check the bike out on Amazon.

Diamondback utilizes their usual sense of innovation and precise engineering with their El Oso series.

The Grande is one of the more higher-end models, and offers a smooth and confident ride via the oversized tires, while mixing in quality components and features.

The result of this combination is an excellent fat bike that is so versatile that some prefer to take it to regular trails as well, and even some lighter commuter riding from time to time too.

The frame of the El Oso Grande is made from hydro-formed 6061 alloy aluminum, and features excellent craftsmanship and welding. The frame ensures an optimal riding position, while distributing weight as it should. The overall weight of the bike is around 29 lbs, which is where you want a fat bike to be.

SRAM components are used for the gear system and drivetrain, which totals out to 20 gears. The ratio of the gears is ideal for intensive off-road situations, and gives the rider lots of options when trying to find a stride. Stopping is effortless with the bike’s hydraulic disc brakes.

The Chaoyang cruiser 26” x 4.9” tires are the real stars here, offering up plenty of ground coverage and shock absorption, especially at lower PSI. Adding some extra air pressure makes the Grande even more suitable for normal surfaces.

Fat bikes are getting popular for a reason, especially as more riders figure out the best ways to use them. The Diamondback El Oso grande has a mid-level price, and delivers on an even higher level. If you want to hit the ground running in the fat bike world, start here.

You can read our in-depth review by clicking here.

Alton’s original Mammoth was already a well-respected fat bike that delivered on every level. The company has upped the ante with the newest version of the Mammoth.

The 2.0 model offers better performance across the board, and is easily the best value you can get with a fat bike.

The aluminum alloy frame is a bit on the heavy side with a 43 lb. total weight, but some may actually prefer this.

Alton Mammoth 2.0 / Fat-Tire Bike

Click on the image to check the product out on Amazon.

The frames design offers an aggressive stance, and distributes weight in a strategic fashion.

The older version of the Mammoth used Shimano components for the gear system, but they have increased the quality by using higher-end Shimano parts such as FD-Deore, and RD-Alivio.Shifting is even more precise with the provided 27 speeds.

Alloy rims and a 26” x 4.0” tire design trims down the wideness a bit, giving the Mammoth 2.0 a bit of extra speed when being used on normal road and ground surfaces. Promax disc brakes give you all the stopping power and control needed to compensate for the larger wheels and tires.

The Alton Mammoth 2.0 manages to do all of this for under $750. Riders who want an affordable entry into fat bike riding should give the Mammoth 2.0 their strongest consideration.

Best Women’s Mountain Bike

Women’s mountain bikes have a few strategic tweaks to their size and design, allowing them to be a better match a woman’s body in most cases. These two models are our favorites for a wide range of reasons.

Diamondback Bicycles 2016 Laurito Hardtail Complete Mountain Bike

Click on the image to check the bike out on Amazon.

Riders that try to keep their bike purchases on lower-level budget know that this can often mean getting a bike that appears to be good, but provides a terrible riding experience in just about every way.

The Diamondback Laurito is the opposite of this, ensuring a quality ride for just a little extra money.

The Laurito's aluminum frame is lightweight and sturdy, and uses an innovative design that reinforces for added strength in all the right areas, while improving the overall handling, and encouraging a more comfortable and proper riding position.

The front suspension fork is made by Suntour, and ensures not just a suitable amount of travel for rail riding, but also a responsive amount of comfort that doesn’t affect the bike's handling.

The aluminum seatpost holds a wider saddle that gives the rider better coverage and comfort, while utilizing a more friendly ergonomic shape.

Shimano components make up the gear system and drivetrain, which is highlighted by an EF-51 easyfire shifter setup that gives you better control and command over the bike’s 24 total speeds.

The Chaoyang 26-inch tires are perfect for this bike’s geometry, user-level, and weight. The tread design gives the bike extra traction on dirt and rocky surfaces, and is still smooth enough for road use. Diamondback alloy linear brakes offer up firm stopping and slowing power with just a small squeeze of the brake levers.

We’ve already mentioned it once, but it’s worth saying again. If you're needing an entry-level women’s bike that offers what you need on all the major component and design levels and for an incredibly low price, the Laurito should be your top choice.

Read our review by clicking here.

Buying an affordable beginner’s full suspension bike shouldn’t mean sacrificing quality.

Mongoose Status 2.2 is certainly not the most advanced and well-engineered women’s mountain bike out there, but it succeeds in offering all it can for under $200 total.

This makes the Status 2.2 the definition of an entry-level bike that can still offer up the right amount of performance needed for a beginner who is looking to grow in the sport.

Mongoose Status 2.2 Women's 26

Click on the image to check the bike out on Amazon.

The frame of the status 2.2 is made from aluminum, and features both front and rear suspension that gives the bike one of the most plush rides you can find for this price. It uses reinforced frame components that add strength to high-stress areas, while supporting the suspension system.

The Status 2.2 combines front and rear suspension into one, helping the bike absorb impact and vibrations, both on the trail and off. This is helped by the thick 26-inch tires, which also add an increased measure of traction.

The gear and drivetrain use Shimano components for each section, giving the bike a cohesive gear shifting system that makes the best use of the 24 total gears. Climbs, descents, and high speeds on flatter surfaces are all covered with the large amount of gear choices.

The Mongoose Status 2.2 is deceivingly solid, providing plenty of performance and durability in one of the lowest price ranges you’ll find with a women’s full suspension mountain bike. Any rider looking for the cheapest and most accessible full suspension bike will be pleased with the Status 2.2.

Why You Should Choose Your Mountain Bike Carefully

Mountain bikes have evolved so much from when they were first developed that they now have a wide range of designs and uses that cater towards specific styles of riding, and certain terrains as well.

Choosing the wrong type of bike can result in a diminished riding experience in more than a few ways.

Man jumping with a mountain bike.

For instance, if you plan to only do some light cross country riding most of the time, and you purchase a downhill mountain bike, you'll be pretty miserable on the trail, as you're riding a bike that was designed for anything but flat and uneventful paths.

Careful choosing of a mountain bike also involves knowing the right size, and what components are most important to you when riding. This will help the bike to be more comfortable, perform better, and match your own riding style and preferences.

Follow all of these aspects, and you'll end up with the perfect mountain bike for you, while also getting the most for your money.

What to Look for in a Mountain Bike

Don’t begin shopping for a mountain bike until you are familiar with all of the essentials.

Type

While many mountain bikes share a similar look or aesthetic, there are actual five common types that are made specifically for certain styles or riding, which also includes different terrains as well.

Trail Bike

These are the most versatile mountain bikes, and also the most popular as well. Designed for singletrack use, trail bikes are very efficient, and are made to withstand a moderate amount of punishment, while still providing manageable overall weight, a moderate amount of speed, and plenty of shock absorption.

If you are looking to hit up your local singletrack trails on a regular basis, a trail bike would be your number one choice.

Trail bike on a hill.

Trail bike.

Cross country bike on a dirt road.

Cross country bike.

Cross Country Bike

Cross country bikes are intended for smoother off-road surfaces, with very little obstacles or drops. These bikes place an added emphasis on speed, and take deliberate steps to reduce weight as much as possible. Speed is their main priority.

This isn’t to say that cross country bikes are fragile, or incapable of handling more intensive trails. While they are indeed faster and lighter, cross country bikes should still be able to take on more difficult stretches of singletrack, holding up to the terrain and ensuring adequate handling.

Those who are looking to enter competitive XC biking, or simply favor speed and weight with their tail riding should strongly consider getting a cross country bike.

Fat Bike

Fat bikes are mountain bikes with oversized tires and wheels. Although considered more of a small niche at first, fat bikes have grown in popularity in recent years, with more riders appreciating their ability to handle certain conditions with a much higher functionality than other mountain bikes.

Originally developed for snowy areas, fat bikes are much more equipped to ride on shifting surfaces, which also includes sand. Their wider profile tires offer a better surface coverage for added grip.

Fat bikes are similar to other mountain bike in terms of frame design and other components, but they do have some small alterations that work to support the wider tire design, improving both efficiency and handling.

Fat bike in the snow.

Fat bike.

All-mountain bike on a dirt road.

All-mountain bike.

All-Mountain Bike

All-mountain bikes are intended to handle a broader range of terrains in mountainous or hilly areas. They represent a combination of both trail bikes and downhill bikes, resulting in a well-rounded mountain bike that is capable of taking on steep drops and lots of obstacles.

The frame of an all-mountain bike is closer to the design of a trail bike. The main differences are the suspension travel amounts, and sometimes the steering components. Full suspension is very common with all-mountain bikes, although there are a few hard tail versions.

All-mountain bikes have stronger brake systems, and slightly wider wheels and tires. All of this goes together to create a durable mountain bike that can conquer treacherous terrain, while still offering a high level of maneuverability, handling, and speed.

Downhill

Downhill bikes are made for long, steep descents that include huge cliffs and boulders. They feature a slack frame design that keeps the rider in a more comfortable and controlled position, helping them maintain a proper line of vision, and maneuverability.

A downhill bike frame always has full suspension, with a high amount of travel on both the front and back. The extra travel amount is essential in giving the bike resistance to impact at high speeds, while also handling the added stress from long drops and repeated impact.

Downhill bike.

Downhill bike.

Downhill bikes are not good for flat surfaces, or even trail riding. Their high travel amounts and build are made solely for declines, and offer little to no efficiency with the drive train.

Size

No matter what type of mountain bike you get, ensuring that you end up with the proper size is of the utmost importance. Riding on the wrong size can be highly uncomfortable, and will reduce the overall quality of your ride, and your performance too.

Most mountain bikes are available in S, M, L, and XL sizes, but this should only be considered a starting point when trying to gauge your ideal size on all levels. There are four other factors that one must go over in order to acquire the ideal size.

  • ETT - This is short for effective top tube length. ETT refers to horizontal distance between the head tube and the seat tube. This applies to any tube style, whether it’s a straight top tube, or one that slopes down on a full suspension frame.
  • Reach - This is the term for the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the head tube, using a horizontal line. Reach shows how long a bike will feel while you’re riding when off the saddle, which is where most riders spend the majority of their time when riding off road.
  • Standover Height - The distance between your inseam and the top tube. This was once considered the main way to gauge a bike’s size in relation to yours, but the influx of newer frame design has lessened its importance. If the bike has a flat top tube, your inseam should clear it by 1 to 3 inches.
  • Seat Height - This is the only size aspect you have any control over in terms of adjusting. The seat height should be set to where your legs are 80 to 90% extended when you are pedaling in the saddle, and at the very bottom of the pedal rotation.

Components

We've discussed the details of mountain bike components in our main article, but here's a quick refresher that will help you when reading our descriptions of the bikes in this guide.

Frame

The frame is the essentially the bike’s body, where all of the other components are mounted and attached. Mountain bike frames are made to be sturdy and durable, while also being as light weight as possible.

Aluminum is the most common mountain bike frame, offering a measure of affordability, combined with a low weight. Carbon frames have become more popular with mountain bikes, especially cross country versions. Titanium is both durable and light, but is usually only found on higher-end models.

Wheels/Tires/Rims

Mountain bike wheels take a lot of abuse, along with plenty of wear and tear as well. Most of them are made from aluminum, alloy, and are reinforced and engineered to provide added stability and resistance to bending.

Different tire types for mountain bikes.

Tires on mountain bikes are also made to be highly durable, and utilize knobby, aggressive tread designs that resist punctures, while ensuring better traction on dirt and rocky surfaces.

Gear System

The gear system on a mountian bikes is made up of shifters, derailleurs on the front and back, along with the crankset and cassette.

Derailleurs are responsible for transferring the chain into the different-sized cogs and crank wheels, which is what determines the ratio of the bike’s gears. Mountain bikes can have anywhere from 9 to 30 geas total.

Handlebars

Handlebars are used to steer the bike. They are mounted to the front fork, and connected with a component called a stem. Handlebars and vary in their length and shape, with even the tiniest differences noticeable affecting the steering responsiveness.

Saddle/Seatpost

The saddle is the seat the rider sits on, albeit not very often. The seatpost is the component that fits into the bike’s frame, and attaches to the saddle. The saddle can be adjusted in both height and angle.

Mountain bike saddles have a bit more coverage and padding than road bikes, but are still short on comfort for the most part. Still, an adequate amount of comfort is needed.

Brakes

Brake systems on mountain bikes come in two forms: disc, and rim. Disc brakes are mounted on wheel hubs, while rim brakes are mounted over the bike’s tires, and work by applying pressure to both sides of a wheel rim.

Discs vs rim brakes on a mountain bike.

Conclusion

We hope you’ve arrived to this point with a better understanding of what goes into shopping for a mountain bike, and how to start looking yourself.

Whichever bike you end up going with, always make sure that it has the key aspects you are looking for, and also the right price.

Have any bikes you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll consider reviewing it!

About the Author Max Shumpert

Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start BikesReviewed.com. In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.

Leave a Comment: