Sometimes it seems like there are almost as many types of mountain bikes as there are trails in the Gunnison Valley. Singlespeed, 29er, hardtail, 650b, etc. We’re a far cry from the days when your mountain bike was whatever klunker you had cobbled together in your garage.
It’s overwhelming. The good news is that there is almost definitely a bike that will fit you and your riding style. In fact, you may even be able to find a bike that will make you a better rider instantly.
Mountain Bike Types Glossary
To give you a leg up when you’re looking to buy your next bike, we’ve come up with a glossary of mountain bike types.
A cross country bike typically has anywhere from 2 inches to 4 inches of travel. It’s designed for covering large distances and both climbing and descending quickly. It’s probably not the bike you want for tackling the black diamond downhill trails on Crested Butte Mountain.
This is a bike designed for riding lifts up and then riding the gravity trails at Evolution Bike Park. Look for 8+ inches of travel front and back, and a coil shock instead of air. The head tube angle will be more slack (think a dude chilling on a motorcycle). They’re heavy and beefy and designed for riding rock gardens and hitting jumps. Not for pedaling up. Don’t take one on Deer Creek.
An Enduro Bike is where XC meets downhill. It will often have a little bit more travel than your typical xc bike (somewhere in the 5.5-7 inches range, usually). It may have 27.5 inch/650 b wheels. It’s probably going to be a little heavier than an XC bike, but certainly lighter than a downhill bike. These bikes are designed to minimize trade-offs between bikes that climb well and descend well. But they’re still going to be more effort to pedal around on a long trail than a light XC bike will be.
Single speed bikes are pretty self-explanatory. Instead of having multiple gears, they only offer one speed. They shouldn’t be confused with fixies, they do have a coast option. But they require massive quads to pedal them around our mountain trails since they lack the mechanical advantage of gears. You’re most likely to see that at Hartman Rocks, since there isn’t a ton of elevation required to ride the trails there. Look for some of the most fit athletes in the SingleSpeed division of the Gunnison Growler.
A standard mountain bike, for years and years, had 26 inch wheels. The larger 29 inch wheels were prototyped on early bikes in the 1980s, but the supply of those wheels wasn’t consistent so brands didn’t use them. Since the early 2000s, the 29er has been making a major comeback. The larger wheels have better rolling momentum and seem to rise up and over obstacles more easily. However, the heavier wheels don’t corner as well. They can also be hard to fit for a smaller person.
Much like the Enduro Bikes are a compromise between a Cross Country Bike and a Downhill Bike, the 27.5 or 650b is the hybrid between the 29er and the standard 26 inch mountain bike. Right in between in terms of wheel size, many manufacturers claim that these bikes have the rolling power of the 29er with the cornering abilities of a 26 inch bike.
A hardtail mountain bike is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It has front suspension, but no rear suspension. This results in a lighter bike, but it takes more skill to shred technical trails on a bike without rear suspension. For certain racers, the weight savings are worth the loss of suspension, especially if paired with 29 inch wheels that make rolling over obstacles significantly easier.
Like a hard tail, the rigid frame is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a fully rigid metal or carbon fiber frame. Lack of suspension in both the front and rear means that the bike will likely be extremely light. But it’s also going to require a significant amount of skill to ride over anything but trails with a 1 on the flow to tech scale.
The bike doesn’t make the rider though. We’ve seen people climb 7+ inch plush bikes to the top of our hardest climbs and people on rigid frame bikes ride over tech like it ain’t no thing. Just find a bike that works for you and then get here and ride it!
Rentals and Demos
Even if you have a general idea of what you’re looking for in your next bike, you should spend some time testing the waters before you commit. Our local bike shops can put you through your paces on a wide variety of mountain bike types until you find the perfect bike for your riding style.