How to Choose a Mountain Bike

Last Updated on May 1, 2020

How to Choose a Mountain Bike

If you read this text, you are probably sold at the idea of spinning through the forest on two wheels. We can confirm this: mountain biking is great.

The purchase of a mountain bike, especially if it is your first, is a highly anticipated moment. MEC mountain bike specialists can help you find the mount that’s right for you.

For starters, here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a mountain bike:

The type of mountain bike you want to practice: Bicycles are adapted according to different types of cycling; you will find their descriptions below.

How to find the right size of the bike: A bike perfectly suited to your proportions can make a big difference.

Understanding suspension and wheel size: Some advantages and disadvantages to knowing.

Essential equipment for mountain biking: Some basic items to plan in your budget.

Caring for your bike: Tips on bike mechanics.

Small note to keep in mind when shopping for your bike: you will often see the same bike with different selling prices. Why is that? Generally, this refers to the various components installed on each model (e.g., fork, suspension, brakes, transmission). A more expensive model = higher quality components.

Bicycles for Different Types of Cycling

Since today’s mountain bikes are designed for different types of mountain biking, the first step is to determine which one you plan to practice most of the time.

There are four main types of mountain biking: cross-country, off-road, enduro and downhill. The fat bike is also gaining popularity.

If you’re a beginner, ask your cycling friends for information about the trails in your area and what kind of bike they ride?


Do you like both ascents and descents, and do you prefer time distances rather than intervals? Cross country relies more on endurance and fitness than on fast-paced descents.

Cross-country bikes (sometimes called XCs) are lightweight to make the long rides a little more comfortable, where you’ll pedal a lot.

What to Expect From Cross-country Bikes

Suspension: These are mostly single suspension bikes, but there are also double suspension models. The front travel can vary from 100 to 140 mm, while the rear travel can vary from 115 to 130 mm.

Wheel Dimensions: They are typically equipped with 29″ wheels for the optimal ride, but some are equipped with 27.5″ wheels (there are no modern cross-country bikes with 26″ wheels).

Geometry: Designed for ascents, these bikes have steeper steering angles than the others (from 67.5 to 70 degrees).

How to Choose a Mountain Bike

The Off-road

If you like to go up and down the trails, the mountain bike is for you. Off-road bikes are multi-purpose machines designed to hit technical slopes, spin on smooth surfaces at high speed and cheer up in the forest.

Ride this kind of bike to go downhill (short, but intense) after work, downhill on a different slope and make extended dirty outings during a long weekend.

What to Expect From Off-road Bikes

Suspension: Double suspension bike models are the norm. The front travel can vary from 130 to 140 mm (sometimes a little more), while the rear travel generally ranges from 115 to 130 mm.

Wheel Dimensions: All-terrain bikes are generally equipped with 27.5 “wheels, but some models have 27.5”, 29 “and sometimes even 26” wheels.

Geometry: Not too loose, nor also pronounced to ensure efficient climbs and promote stability at high speeds.

The Enduro

It’s a bit like moving up a gear. Enduro trails are faster, and descents are steeper and more aggressive. As a result, Enduro bikes are designed accordingly:

They are more robust than off-road bikes to cope with hilly trails, such as the Sentiers du Moulin, and absorb big shocks while being able to do steep climbs. Initially, Enduro was a race format where downhill runs were timed (but not climbs).

Today, the term refers to a discipline of mountain biking focused mainly on the descent. However, you will have to pedal to the top of the mountain before you can descend.

What to Expect From Enduro Bikes

Suspension: Double suspension models are the norm. The front travel can vary from 130 to 160 mm, while the rear travel ranges from 130 to 165 mm to allow you to go down ambitious lines.

Wheel Dimensions: They typically have 27.5 “wheels, but some models are equipped with 29” wheels.

Geometry: Generally, a looser angle at the steering tube will help ensure dynamic maneuverability in steep descents.

The Downhill Bike

In the world of bike parks and lifts, downhill bicycles (also called DH or freeride bikes ) are designed to hit the slopes at high speeds. And to demonstrate? It’s not their strength. Bet on the lifts of a bike park or on a vehicle equipped with a bike rack to thoroughly enjoy your downhill bike.

How to Choose a Mountain Bike

What to Expect From Downhill Bikes

Suspension: Double suspension all along the line. The front travel is impressive. Think 200 mm. And the rear trip is just as much: around 215 to 240 mm.

Wheel Dimensions: Most are equipped with 27.5 “wheels, but 29” wheels are gaining popularity (you can still see models with 26 “wheels).

Geometry: The relaxed angle at the steering tube moves your weight backward so you can tackle excellent lines and crash into the bike park.

The Fatbike

Do you want to ride 365 days a year? The fat bike is the solution. Designed to accommodate oversized wheels, the fat bike is a rather nice way to ride in the snow.

Many Canadian ski centers and even national parks open trails that can accommodate fatbikes and also offer rental services. Some cyclists ride their fat bike to ride in mud, sand, and gravel.

What to Expect From Fat Bike

Suspension: Many models have fully rigid frames. There are also fatbikes with single or double suspension (with a small deflection).

Wheel Size: Most models are equipped with 26 “wheels, but tire widths (up to 5”) make fat bikes so unique.

Geometry: It will depend on the bike and the brand. A geometry adapted to the trails is becoming more and more common.

How to Find the Right Bike Size

Each bike has a list of features and size chart on Although overhead height is essential, the wide variety of frame, corner and wheel size geometries means that similar bikes can react in different ways when you pedal.

A bike that is too big or too small may be difficult to control, in addition to giving you back pain. A bike perfectly adapted to your body type will be fun to control and maneuver.

In the end: try before buying. Try bikes to find out how they react and find out what you like most.

Once you have determined the size of the frame, you can talk to a mountain bike specialist to find custom components.

Understand Suspension and Wheel Size

Mountain bikes have many technical features. If you are a beginner in the world of mountain bikes, the suspension and the size of the wheels are two important technical characteristics to remember.

How to Choose a Mountain Bike

Suspension 101

There Are Three Types of Suspension on Mountain Bikes

Double suspension: A fork suspension at the front and rear.

  • Advantages: it absorbs a lot of bumps and impacts on the technical grounds. During climbs, you can often lock the suspension to avoid losing precious energy.
  • Disadvantage: A rear suspension adds extra weight.

Single suspension: A suspension on the front fork and no rear suspension.

  • Advantages: It ensures efficiency during climbs. Lighter than a double suspension (unusual for cross-country) and generally less expensive and easier to maintain.
  • Disadvantages: It absorbs fewer shocks and vibrations, and you will have to walk more often when the terrain becomes uneven.

Rigid: No suspension. Generally, fatbikes do not have suspension, because huge wheels allow the bike to float over roots and rocks.

  • Advantage: the maintenance is very easy.
  • Disadvantage: no suspension to absorb shocks.

Dimensions of Wheels 101

The most valuable thing to remember when talking about wheel dimensions is the feel they get when you’re riding. The best way to know the difference is to try different bikes by booking a test session.

26 “wheels: Until the early 2000s, the 26″ was the classic diameter in the mountain bike industry. However, today’s 26-inch wheels are becoming increasingly rare.

  • Advantages: Light, strong and lively for you to move quickly or negotiate tight turns.
  • Disadvantage: They do not offer a good ride on the rocky and technical terrain.

29-inch wheels: The 29-inch format has become the replacement for the 26-inch.

  • Advantages: They offer increased traction because a larger surface of the tires touches the ground. Also, the 29-inch wheels powerfully surmount the obstacles on the trail such as rocks and roots.
  • Disadvantages: The 29 “wheels are the heaviest of the three models. They are a little less maneuverable and take a little longer to start rolling. If you are a small person, you may find that the 29 “wheels raise the bike too much.

27.5 “Wheels: Also known as the 650b, the 27.5″ wheels hit the market after the 29 “.

  • Advantages: Delivers dynamism and fast starts, plus allows the bike to negotiate tight turns (overcomes obstacles better than 26 “wheels).
  • Disadvantages: Compared to 29 “wheels, they offer less surface contact with the ground, so less traction. Also, they overcome obstacles less than 29-inch wheels.

Essential Mountain Bike Equipment

Once you have chosen your bike, plan a few funds to get some essential items. If you buy your bike at MEC, save 10% on all the accessories for this bike when you buy them at the same time.

Since most mountain bikes are sold without pedals, you will probably need to buy them, as well as a helmet, a water bottle, and some necessary repair items. Take a look at this checklist for mountain biking to learn how to dress and what to bring during your outings.

Caring for Your Bike

Since mountain bikes receive more shocks and become more covered with mud than urban or road bikes, they need to be treated with onions. When you buy an Intense bike from MEC, you get a free, two-year elite maintenance service.

If you buy a model from another mountain bike brand, you get a free one-year maintenance service, including adjustments and minor repairs.

How to Choose a Mountain Bike

Developments for New Bikes

Like new cars, bikes need a break-in period. After you have traveled a certain number of kilometers, it is essential to bring your bike for a quick basic tuning (and free if you bought it from MEC).

We recommend that you bring your mountain bike to the store after the first 40 hours of use for a quick check of bolts and front and rear suspension.

Since the cables, the sheaths, the brake pads and the stirrups change and stretch over the kilometers, our mechanics can take a look and make the necessary adjustments.

Preventive Maintenance

To avoid squeaks or sharp noises, learn how to do some basic repairs:

Clean your bike after each ride (at least after very messy exits). Debris and dust wear out your components. Take them away! Learn how to clean your bike. Keep your chain clean and lubricated, and your tires inflated to the proper pressure before you go out.

Check the condition of your brakes before each ride. If your pads are very worn, take them to the MEC bike shop for a replacement, or you can replace them yourself. Learn how to repair a puncture and adjust your suspension.


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