Fewer activities offer the same amounts of sheer thrill and freedom as mountain biking. Being able to go anywhere you want, all under your own steam. It’s the perfect blend of human & machine, a perfect hybridisation of the organic and the mechanical.
It’s also one of the most ever changing sports, as mountain bikes have gone from an enthusiast niche, to the most ridden style of bike! Technology is always changing and has shaped what we now define as a mountain bike. Suspension, disk brakes, 20+ gears – all advances that were virtually unthinkable 20 years ago!
So, if you’re new to mountain biking, or you’re a ‘Born-Again’ biker and getting back into it, here are our Top Tips for choosing a mountain bike in 2017…
Tip 1 – The right FRAME of mind…
Starting with a frame, it’s good to establish what style of riding you think you’ll be doing the most. The 3 main types are full-suspension, hardtail and rigid.
Full Suspension (Soft tail)
This is best for if you’re doing downhill riding or plan to tackle some really bumpy stuff. This also can make for a highly comfortable ride; however it does come with additional costs, in terms of money, maintenance and weight…
This setup is exactly as it suggests, the rear of the bike is without suspension, relying on the suspension at the front of the bike to soak up the majority of the rough stuff. This is the most popular setup of modern bikes, as combines ‘The best of both worlds’ enjoying the benefits of both full suspension and rigid bikes.
This ‘old-school’ traditional set up removes the suspension element altogether. You also get the most pedal efficiency as all the pedal force translates to motion, rather than into the suspension. It is however, virtually impossible to do downhill riding on a rigid bike, and will make lots of cross country riding quite uncomfortable! This setup however in modern years has made somewhat of a comeback, with many people valuing the purist approach to the ‘roots’ of mountain biking.
Tip 2 – Get to GRIPS with your tyres…
It’s surprising how different tyres can completely transform the feel, speed and ability of just about any bike. Wider tyres with deeper tread are great when you’re on rough or muddy terrain, but will be noticeably slower if you’re on-road, or a fast dry trail – whilst thinner, slicker tyres will be the opposite! You can change them depending on where you’re riding, however you may want to consider a hybrid tyre that has a slicker middle, but chunky outer grip to keep you on the bike in the corners!
Tip 3 – STOP overlooking your brakes…
The quicker you can stop, the faster you can go, seems odd, but definitely true! As brakes are single-handedly the most important safety feature of any bike, it’s important that they’re the best you can get and most importantly maintained to the very highest degree!
Modern bikes with hydraulic disc based systems have the bonus of being virtually maintenance free, highly effective and don’t suffer from fade (brake inefficiency) from water and mud like rim based systems. However, they are inherently more expensive and complex than rim brakes. If you’re not likely to tackle a great deal of wet and muddy terrain, a cabled rim brake can be surprisingly effective if set up correctly.
Tip 4 – Getting into GEAR…
Gears are at the essence of what a mountain bike does, and can push the limits of where bicycles once couldn’t go! 27 is the most amount of gears you’ll see on mountain bikes, however, many new mountain bikes are moving towards dropping the front derailleur altogether, so you’ll start to see bikes with fewer gears, but with a bigger range of speeds between the gears, with 12 speed cassettes (the cogs on the back wheel) likely to soon become standard.
Tip 5 – Accessorise, Accessorise, Accessorise….
There’s plenty of other components and accessories that you can add to your bike to make it perfect for you. One saddle may not be right for someone else, certain bar grips may not be to everyone’s liking. Thankfully many of these little touches can be added or changed, easily and inexpensively.
Tip 6 – Set a realistic budget
If you’re buying a new bike, it’s good to have a starting budget of around £400 for a quality bike from a quality brand. It can be an expensive activity to get into, but if you’re on a tighter budget, thankfully there’s plenty of good quality used bikes out there in the free ads that can be had for around the £100 mark. It is also essential to also have the correct safety gear, and you shouldn’t skimp out on getting the very best helmet & reflective clothing you can get!
Tip 7 – Take out Travel Insurance – Accidents happen!
Because of the speeds involved and the range you can climb on a modern mountain bike, there are risks involved. Accidents abroad can lead to expensive medical bills, so it’s always a good idea to have appropriate insurance. That’s where Adventures Insurance can help. Personal Accident is also included with Adventures, paying a benefit of up to £5,000*.
*cover is reduced to £2,500 if you are aged 16 or under.