Updated: May 9, 2015
Mountain Bike Reviews:Mountain biking has turned into a huge sport over the few decades as more young people are trying extreme sports like downhill mountain biking. Summer activities at major resorts like Whistler or Vail offer some great mountain biking events. As each mountain offers slightly different terrain, the bike manufacturers give us something a little different and specialized with all their bikes. We need to start with the top manufacturers of mountain bikes to begin the discussion. There is Kona, Specialized, Schwinnn, Fisher, Diamondback, Santa Cruz, Cannondale, Trek and Mongoose. Because of the variety of frames, wheels and components in each, it's hard to compare them side by side. Let's start with Trek, they have always created quality mountain bikes and their 2 most popular bikes are the Trek 4300 Disc and the Trek Fuel EX 8. For those that ride on trails and need quick handling, Trek delivers. Specialized has been making Stumpjumpers and Rockhoppers for years with great results. These mountain bikes are perfect for someone with an active lifestyle. They run about $1000 for a new one. Kona offers a variety of product lines called Back Country, Out of Bounds, Downhill, and Cross Country with bike names like Cadabra, Stinky, Cinder Cone, and Kula. Check bikes out online at Konaworld.com.
Choosing a Mountain Bike- When I first set out to buy a mountain bike I was immediately intimidated by all the terminology and technology. Just what does it all mean and what do you really need on your bike. You will typically find mountain bikes split into 4 categories - trail riding, downhill, freeride, and cross country. Hardtail bikes refers to those with suspension in the front only, not in the back. Full suspensions mountain bikes are available, but not necessary for a comfortable ride on all terrains. The trail mountain bikes are the most popular for the average recreational user (those that ride on weekends for example) as they provide durable frames (not as lightweight as the cross country variety) and plenty of suspension - often described in terms of "travel" over the front or rear wheels. Experts say that 5 inches should do the trick. When you get fitted for a bike the salesperson can help guide you on these types of features. We have included a few key terms below to give you an idea of what is important and what to ask the salesguy at your local bike shop. You can always upgrade to new forks, brakes, shocks, pedals, saddles, et. at a later time if you want.
Suspension - Perhaps the most critical feature since you will probably being dirt and trail riding which could easily include jumping rocks or going on uneven surfaces. The forks will be either air sprung or coil sprung. Coil sprung forks are cheaper than air sprung, but tend to be stiffer. Suspension systems can often be adjusted as needed or upgraded depending on your riding.
Brakes - When you are coming down a mountain trail at full speed, your brakes will keep you safe even in rugged environments. Look for bikes with mechanical disc brakes minimum, although the hydraulic disc brakes are the best.
Wheels - Lightweight wheels are best and tire tread will determine how smooth the ride can be. For riding on hard packed trails or on paved surfaces, smooth tires work just fine while those going on off-road terrain need to consider deep-tread tires.
Frame Sizing - You will see sizes like 16 inch, 18 inch, 20 inch and 22 inches when it comes to bike frames. Whenever possible get down to a bicycle shop to get fitted properly and then you know what size frame you should be buying in case you purchase online.
Intended Use - With the variety of mountain bike frames and components, you need to determine where you will be riding the bike most of the time before commiting to any mountain bike brand or style. The vast majority of casual riders will do just fine with a trail bike.
Budget - We discussed at the beginning of the article (see above) the pricing that exists. I wouldn't spend less than $300 for a beginners bike and certainly nothing more than $1000 unless you are an experienced rider who demands the highest quality components in a mountain bike.
Mountain Bike Reviews - Where should you start your research? We say online is the best place. Websites like Mtbr.com, Consumersearch.com, and Bicycling.com offer up hundreds of reviews on mountain bikes. Get the latest details on newest mountain bikes and read up on what experts have to say while also checking out consumer reviews on websites like Amazon.com or REI. Even Consumer Reports has their own opinion on the top rated mountain bikes and which ones are worth the money. Going into your local bike shop is a good way to sit on an actual bike and get a feeling for the frame, pedals, and handlebars. If you are just starting out and looking for a new bike, experts don't recommend spending over $500, look at the Specialized Hardrock Sport or similar models that sell for under $500. As your skills improve consider the high end bikes like the Trek Fuel EX 8 or the Kona Cadabra (both are priced over $2200). The good news is that mountain bikes come in a wide variety of prices and offer features for all level of riders. Amazon.com offers quite a few mountain bikes between $500 and $1000, although they don't carry the Trek or high end Kona models. You can browse some of the best selling mountain bikes online here.