Fact Checked

What are Mountain Bikes?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

Mountain bikes, also known as all-terrain bicycles or MTBs, are bicycles especially designed to ride on natural trails, which can include anything from unpaved roads to rocky tracks. The main difference between mountain and standard road bikes is in the tires. As a rule, mountain bikes have thick tires and front-wheel suspension and offer advanced shock absorption. Some have rear suspension, also known as "soft tail," which allows the rider to move the wheel on pivots.

There are basically eight categories of mountain bikes, based on the terrain they are used on. Cross country bikes are the basic model from which most of the others originated. They are light weight, have little to no suspension, and are best for uphill or flat terrain. Trial mountain bikes are similar, except that they are used mostly in dirty trail competitions, rather than for day-to-day riding. Downhill and dirt jumping bikes are geared to specific terrains. They are usually very strong bikes with excellent suspension, fast-rolling, and extremely durable.

Mountain bikes are designed to traverse rough terrain.
Mountain bikes are designed to traverse rough terrain.

The newest models to hit the market include all-mountain bikes, freeride, and single speed. These bicycles are designed for a specific purpose, and require superior skill and physical fitness. All-mountain bikes, for example, tend to be heavier than other models, and are used by riders who want to combine uphill and downhill riding with advanced suspension technology.

All bike tires must be inflated properly.
All bike tires must be inflated properly.

Most mountain bikes have 26-inch (66-cm) wheels, although 29-inchers (73.66-cm) are now becoming popular. Some riders, especially experienced ones, outfit their own bikes, adding suspension forks, changing chainstays, and taking off their seats — which are often not needed, as riders spend most of their time standing up on the pedals. Bikes range in price from a few hundred dollars for a basic model to a few thousand for a professional version to be used in competitions. Mass-produced bicycles are widely available, and they are usually enough for the occasional weekend rider.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


I have seen the triathlon races on TV. I really like the races where the competitors ride mountain bikes. Watching them ride on the courses makes it look like so much fun.


@Drentel - I ride trail bikes, but there are so many varieties of off road bikes and mountain bikes, as this article mentions, that it is virtually impossible to know about all of the specifics of each. However, I think whichever off road bike you decide to buy you will find that it is a great exercise tool. And the workout you get from one of these bikes is going to be a bit different from what you experienced with the road bike.

The first time I spent a day on a trail bike, I was sore for several days after, but once I got conditioned to the bike I felt much better after riding; and I can see the difference in muscle tone since I started riding the trail bike.


I grew up riding a ten-speed road bike as a means of transportation. I road that bike all over the neighborhood and down the road as far as I cared to go. While getting from place to place I was also getting in great shape.

I lived in the country outside of a small town, so there was not very much traffic on the roads I traveled on my bike. Now that I am much older, I want to get back to riding a bike to get into shape and stay in shape. The bad thing is there is much more traffic on the roads where I live now, and I don't feel safe riding a bike in all of the traffic.

I have been told that riding mountain bikes is great exercise that requires using a lot of muscles and that doesn't put too much stress on the joints. This is what I need. Also, I don't have to worry about being run over by a car in traffic.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Mountain bikes are designed to traverse rough terrain.
      By: Ljupco Smokovski
      Mountain bikes are designed to traverse rough terrain.
    • All bike tires must be inflated properly.
      By: lamio
      All bike tires must be inflated properly.
    • Mountain bikes are more suited for rugged, outdoor trrips.
      By: david hughes
      Mountain bikes are more suited for rugged, outdoor trrips.