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In this section, we explain a little about the different types of mountain
bike and road bike that are available in the UK.
Please note - this section is only intended as a guide - we always recommend visiting your local Independent Bike Dealer (IBD) to speak to an expert who can assess your needs and size a bike that's just right for you. Using our buyers guide, and comparing the products on offer throughout the site will allow you to walk into the shop knowing the brands and models that are available, and roughly what the difference is between them.
Around 15 years ago when mountain biking became mainstream in the UK, there
really was only one type of Mountain Bike (MTB) available. Things have come on a
lot since then with riders demanding very different MTBs for different riding
scenarios. There are roughly 6 types of MTB available:
Cross Country (XC) - these bikes are super light-weight and designed for speed. Low rise stems, flat handlebars and a 'stretched out' feel. Really for the enthusiast that's into XC racing or training hard. Available in both hard tail and full suspension. Manufacturers are producing full suspension XC bikes that provide better traction uphill and also iron out a lot of trail buzz, however, you pay a slight weight penalty.
Trail - an all day bike that is comfortable to ride and fairly lightweight. Ideal for full days in the saddle. Great on the uphills and good fun on the way back down, as long as the going doesn't get too extreme. Expect to see a mixture of hardtail and for full suspension bikes, around 3-4 inches of travel. If you are starting out in mountain biking and intend to ride on a weekend basis, a trail bike is probably the place to start when comparing options.
'All Mountain' - the 'do it all' category is fiercely fought over with the big mountain biking companies producing new lines of bikes that are designed to be relatively agile going uphill but great fun to ride coming down the other side. The geometry on these bikes is more relaxed and provides a more 'heads up' riding style than an XC bike. Expect to see a higher front end, 'riser' handlebars and for full suspension models, anything from 4 - 6 inches of travel front and rear.
Free Ride (FR) - aggressive bikes for demanding situations. These bikes are designed to be ridden hard. Built to withstand big drops, jumps and general hucking around the bike parks of the UK and Europe, whilst maintaining the ability to get back up the hill if you miss the last lift! Expect a Free Ride bike to have between 6 - 7.5 inches of travel front and rear.
Downhill (DH) - as the name suggests these bikes are designed for riding and racing downhill - fast! Expect a downhill bike to weigh 40lbs+, have burly components, strong disc brakes, large volume tyres and only enough gears to get you down the course, fast, faster and a bit faster than that...
Jump/Street/4X - these bikes are small framed, strong, and designed for control. Be it in an urban jump park, bomb-hole or a purpose built 4X track
Commute / Flat handle bar – Generally these are ‘Sport’ style road
bike with flat wide handlebars. This gives you more control in tight traffic and
a more comfortable upright riding position. Perfect for the fast commute or just
to get fit through cycling. Most come with luggage carrying capacity for a
briefcase and mud guards so you don’t get too wet on the way.
Competition – These are the lightest fastest road bikes available.
Most are replicas of the same bikes ridden at the classics of the Tour de France
and the Giro d’ Italia. Expect light weight frames, the pick of the best
components and a flat stretched out riding position designed for those with
speed in mind.
Cyclo Cross – XC racing on a road style bike with a slightly more
robust frame, more ‘off road’ brakes and fatter tyres. Racing usually takes
place in the autumn winter on parkland and sports fields giving super fast
spectator friendly racing. But don’t pigeon hole these bikes. They are great for
leisure use letting you explore or just go where you want to.
Folding – The perfect bicycle for that mixed use commute. Ride to the station, fold the bike up and pop it on the luggage rack, unfold it and complete your journey. It’s that easy. Available in both on road and off road spec, often with ‘small’ wheels giving good control and acceleration in tight traffic.
Hybrid – These bikes strike the balance between road bikes and mountain bikes, allowing you to cruise comfortably on the road but still follow the local bridleways if it takes your fancy. Perfect bicycle for mixed use leisure cycling.
Sport – Whether you ride on the road to train or simply escape, these bikes will take you where you want to go fast. Light weight, competition related but with a slightly more upright position just taking the strain off your lower back and wrists. Available in everything from a top specification for those who want to tackle the highest mountain Cols, or more affordable for those who just want to get fit.
Tandem – “Who wants to steer?” A bicycle designed for two-up fun with one in front and one behind. You both get to pedal but unfortunately only one gets to hold the handlebars. Available in both on and off road configuration.
Touring – Escape the rat race! Load these bicycles up with your tent and food and cycle off into the sunrise looking for adventure. Perfect for exploring new places, long distance adventure or just travelling at a more relaxed pace.
Track – Built for the planked ovals of the Velodrome. Expect fixed wheels, single speed, no brakes and super flat aerodynamic positioning.
Traditional – If you are a purist who loves all things retro these are the bikes for you. Brazed lug construction, Swept back handle bars, upright positions. Great fun for cycling to work, fetching the morning paper or cruising the beach front!
Time Trial / Triathlon – Built specifically for the rigours of racing against the clock. Able to hold the fastest average speeds. Very flat back positioning on the bike with stretched aerodynamic handle bars. Expect oval aerodynamic frame sections and deep section aerodynamic wheels.