KNOW YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKES: A Primer on Mountain Bike Types
Because it’s not just “a bike,” but an affordable, enjoyable, well-crafted mode of transport that gets you smoothly through the roughest trails.
Growing up as a kid in the late 70s, I had a Bicycle Motocross bike, known more popularly as a BMX. The village where we lived still had undeveloped portions that connected to dirt roads and rice fields. A BMX was the bike you could take to any road or trail. It was also these undeveloped areas that brought local Motocross riders to create tracks and eventually hold races there over the course of a few summers. We BMXers looked-up to those Motocross riders and took to their tracks when they weren’t around.
Social media and Internet were non-existent back then, so little did my barkada and I know that what we were doing in Brookside Hills, Cainta was a reflection of the growth of BMX thousands of miles away, across the Pacific Ocean, in California. Other riders in California were modifying old cruiser bikes for off-road use. By using balloon tires, gears and BMX or Motocross-style handlebars, the mountain bike (MTB) was born.
The mountain biking craze has long landed on Philippine shores. The variety of terrain and trails across our islands and the inherent friendliness of Pinoys have added to the growth of the sport. Even without getting technical, the default stance of MTBs in general make them the most accessible to majority of riders and its setup allows the most versatility across different road and trail characteristics. But you probably already knew that.
With a steady influx of affordable and high-end brands brought in by distributors, online forums and social media sites that give support to riders of all skill levels and build the community as a whole, the proliferation of online content to answer all your questions, and no shortage of trails to hit across the country, it’s a great time to be an MTBer! This established sport has also evolved to cater to specific riding disciplines. We feature the MTB types that have gained popularity.
Majority of riders begin their MTB life doing trail riding. It starts as a very recreational type of riding but allows you to experience the varied features a trail usually offers. The riding is typically done on clearly marked trails within established trail centers or a series of routes that connect to one another after traversing more developed road networks. These are either hardtail (no rear suspension) or full-suspension bikes with a travel (the distance a suspension fork or a shock can compress) of four to six inches.
XC bikes are used for riding loops that include climbs, descents and varied terrain. The riding style is quick and responsive, so the bikes are also built to be light and stable. Hardtails are usually preferred for XC races since they can deliver better power transfer and still maintain a lighter weight.
Similar to trail riding, this riding style favors more experienced and aggressive riders. These bikes are used on trails that are more technical with jumps and bigger drops, so additional protective gear is a must. The bike’s construction is sturdier but still provides decent weight suitable for climbing and descending across varied terrain, and travel is within five to seven inches. There are enduro races in several formats that suite course characteristics and rider proficiency.
This bike has a more sloping top tube and heavy-duty construction, with a travel of seven to 10 inches for dedicated DH riding. Due to its heavier weight, DH bikers typically travel to the start of the of descent and are not expected to bike to it. From there, they commence a fast downhill run that covers a relatively straight line while still going over rocks and even jumps. More body protection is required for this extreme type of riding.
As the name connotes, this covers MTBs with tires of 3.8 to 4.8 inches of width. The fat tires are intended to run on very low pressures, to allow the greatest amount of surface contact on sand, dirt and snow to prevent sinking. Since the fat tire gives additional grip, as well as providing the suspension needed, it has gained popularity in providing riders access to trails previously impassable.