Many people may see this question as a daft question, but it isn’t a silly question at all. There are now so many biking disciplines that have bikes specifically designed for them, so for someone who is new to biking, may just need to gain an understanding of the different types of bikes and disciplines to decide which one is best suited to them and which they believe they would enjoy more, so here I want to answer the question of “what is a mountain bike” by covering all aspects of mountain biking.
The aim of this post is to give you a full understanding of what mountain biking is and that by the end of it, you can decide whether this discipline is for you or not.
What Is Mountain Biking?
Before understanding what a mountain bike is, it’s important to know what mountain biking is so you gain understanding what these bikes are designed for.
Basically mountain biking is biking off-road on different terrains such as gravel, soil, dessert, rocks and many others. There are different aspects to mountain biking such as cross-country, down hill biking or even dirt jumping. I have written a post on the different types of mountain biking here if you would like to read into more detail on these different types.
A little history behind mountain biking, it was first originated in California back in the 1970s as a fringe sport. It was first established as a sport during 1976 to 1979 by Velo Club Mount Tamalpais, then they started to organise downhill mountain biking which started to draw in lots of attention from the public and the media.
1983 in the USA, the first national mountain biking championships was held which then started to spread across to different countries in Europe and Australia. The cross-country side of mountain biking was first introduced into the Olympics in the Atlanta games.
Mountain Bike Frames
With mountain bikes, there are different frames to suit the different types of mountain biking you can do. For most entry level, steel frames are probably more popular due to their strength and durability but the only downside to steel is that it is more on the weighty side.
As you move up from steel frames of course so does the price too, such as aluminum frames which is very strong and very light and also rust proof. The only downside to aluminum is that over time after so much stress on the frame, they can start to break.
Carbon fibre frames would be the next material up from aluminum, which is again another advantage of being super light and strong but again will only take so much stress before breaking.
For the top riders or if your budget allows you to buy one, frames are made from titanium, which is super light, super strong which will take more stress and made to take almost anything you throw at it on the rides. The only downside to titanium frames is purely the high cost, so these are for the more serious mountain bikers out there.
Mountain Bike Gears
Because mountain bikes are designed to tackle all sorts of different terrains, they have a high range of gears to choose from. The low gears will be a lot lower than the gears you would find on a road bike to help the rider tackle sudden steep hills which maybe rocky, muddy etc. The higher gears won’t be as high as the highest gears you find on road bikes, mainly because its not all about speed on a mountain bike, plus you don’t really want to be trying to get a top speed on some twisty muddy, rocky steep drops, you would be more focused on dodging hazards or tackling technical section.
Mountain bikes usually have two or three chain rings at the front and then usually eight or nine rings on the rear cassette. This allows a high gear range to tackle any off-road terrain. Usually mountain bikers call the easiest gear a granny gear because this is the gear you need for super steep climbs.
Handlebars on a typical mountain bike are usually flat with quite a wide grip sticking out each side straight from the stem, usually around shoulder width. This allows the rider a good riding position when either sat down or standing up.
Wide nobbly tyres are usually used for mountain bikes to allow better traction on the different terrains and usually the tyre pressure in the tyres is less than on a road bike as this enables better traction as well. The spokes and wheels on a mountain bike are much stronger and durable to take the rough riding and handling when off-road.
You can buy all kinds of accessories for mountain bikes from cyclo-computers, tool bags, frame pumps, water bottles and cages, although I personally find hydro packs more convenient for off-road mountain biking. Tool kits are essential to carry around with you when mountain biking, due to the nature of many mountain bike trails are out in the middle of nowhere, so if something was to happen or break, at least you may have the tools to get you back on track and get back to where you started.
Does Mountain Biking Sound Fun?
Many people such as myself who are into cycling do a bit of road cycling and mountain biking but I must admit that I am tailored more towards mountain biking as I love the off-roading, technical sections on trails and the nature of the trails too where I go which is usually in forests.
If you like to be away from the main road and not have to worry about other road users but you like the challenge of man made trails and different terrains or maybe you just like the normal cycling paths, then mountain biking is for you and with some good company, you would certainly love mountain biking, it is so much fun!
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