How to Choose a Mountain Bike That's Right for You

How to Choose a Mountain Bike

There are many options to consider when comes time to choose a mountain bike, whether you are a novice or seasoned rider. If you heard terms like “cross country, trail, and enduro” and wanted to learn more, keep reading!

The most important consideration when buying a new mountain bike is where you will be riding it. Learn more about the features of different types of bikes and which ones we recommend for the South Florida trails. Soon, you will be on your way to discover a whole new world out on the trails.

Here are some quick links to the types of mountain bikes outlined in this article:

Types of Mountain Bikes by Categories

Shop for mountain and trail bikes like the Trek Roscoe at Bikes Palm Beach

Cross Country (XC)

Cross Country (or XC) bikes are one of the most popular bikes you’ll see out on the South Florida trails. Because we technically do not have mountains in Florida, our bikes require less suspension (also known as travel). The local trails, such as Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Halpatiokee, resemble cross country courses and offer flat and flowy terrain.

If you are riding long mileage or flowy, smooth terrain you may forgo rear suspension altogether and buy a hardtail. Most XC bikes are typically outfitted with 29-inch wheels. However, smaller riders may prefer 27.5 inch wheels for better fit and control, particularly for cornering and descending. If your goal is to ride fast and maximizing every pedal stroke, then choose this XC mountain bike.

However, the local South Florida trails do offer some very technical sections. If you see yourself as more of a technical rider who enjoys jumps, obstacles, steep and rocky terrain, you should consider choosing a mountain bike with more suspension than a cross country bike can offer.

XC Bike Key Features

Top XC Hardtail Mountain Bike Recommendations

Our Top XC Full Suspension Mountain Bike Recommendations

Trail Mountain Bikes

Trail bikes have a bit more front and rear suspension than cross country bikes. Their geometry lends to quick and nimble climbing but they are still capable on downhill and technical terrain. Many models of front forks and rear shocks have travel adjustment and lock out, to optimize climbs.

Not surprisingly, trail bikes are the most versatile choice out there and will allow you to tackle a variety of trails and conditions. A trail bike is the Swiss Army knife of mountain bikes.

Our South Florida trails offer fun, technical terrain, and obstacles that challenge riders. If you want to ride more technical terrain with confidence and comfort, a trail bike is for you. A cross country bike can require rider precision, however, a trail bike offers more leeway. A trail bike helps bolster confidence and makes the ride more comfortable and across all rider levels.

Trail bikes are great for South Florida mountain bike riders who travel out of the area with their bikes. Many riders travel to Santos, Alafia, Balm Boyette, Brevard in North Carolina, and Blankets Creek in Georgia. Choose a trail mountain bike if you fit this profile.

Trail Bike Key Features

Our Top Trail Mountain Bike Recommendations

Dirt Jumpers

Dirt Jumper bikes are a cross breed. They are a fusion between Freeride and BMX bikes. Dirt Jumpers also are sometimes known as urban, or street mountain bikes. And tend to only have suspension in the front or can be fully rigid with no suspension. Many of these bikes will have single speed gears, only one brake, oversized handlebars, small frames, and low seat posts for stunt riding.

Put simple, Dirt Jumpers are the bike best suited for the riders who like to spend their time in the air doing aerial stunts. In South Florida, you’ll find them at the BMX parks, pumptracks, and the jumplines at Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Markham Park. They tend to be ridden by people with little to no fear.

Dirt Jumper Bike Key Features

Our Top Dirt Jumper Bike Recommendation

Enduro Mountain Bikes

Imagine yourself on an epic mountain bike adventure in the real mountains like Colorado, California, Utah. Want to climb those inclines like a goat and fly with control on the downhill? Enduro bikes feature plush rear suspension to soften rough descents and sporty handling to maneuver switchbacks and berms. Although they’re designed for the hard-hitting discipline of enduro racing, the combination of incredible descending abilities and surprising climbing efficiency have made enduro bikes very popular with riders who seek out the most challenging trails around.

You don’t often see enduro bikes shredding the cross country style trails in South Florida, but they’re wicked fun for jumping. Therefore, South Florida riders who choose enduro bikes as their main sleigh can be found hitting the jumplines at West Delray Regional Park, Jonathan Dickinson State Park, and Markham Park.

The most aggressive bikes in this category approach the technical chops of a true chairlift-only downhill bike, making them the best choice for riders who travel out of the area, seeking adventure riding in lift-accessed bike parks, yet still want to ride trails that are pedaling access-only. They feature a high amount of travel, slack front angles, and can take your riding to the next level. Charge hard, get airborne, pin that switchback and do it again as fast as you can.

Enduro Mountain Bike Features:

  • Front Suspension: 150-180 mm
  • Rear Suspension: 140-165 mm
  • Weight: 27-30+ lbs
  • Great for South Florida riders who frequently travel north and out west with their bikes

Our Top Enduro Mountain Bike Recommendations

Downhill Bikes

Downhill bikes, or DH bikes, are designed for steep, gnarly terrain, speed, big drops, and jumps. These bikes aren’t designed to be ridden up the mountain; you’ll need to hike up, take a shuttle, or a chairlift, depending on the location of the trail. Downhill bikes simply aren’t made to go any direction but down. A downhill bike is perfect for you if you’re not even remotely interested in pedaling uphill, have the trails and terrain to support high speeds with airtime, and the skill level to handle yourself in these situations.

These bikes really aren’t at home here in South Florida. Though they may be fun on some of our jumplines and rowdy downhills segments like Bunker Hill at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, having to push the bike through the rest of the course may not be a fun trade off. This bike is great for anyone who spends a lot of time in the downhill bike parks found at ski resorts in mountainous regions.

Downhill Mountain Bike Features:

  • Front Suspension: 180-200 mm with dual-crown forks like a motorcycle
  • Rear Suspension: 170-250 mm
  • Extremely slack geometry with less than 65° head angle
  • Weight: 35+ lbs

Our Top Downhill Mountain Bike Recommendations

Fat Bikes

Fat bikes have wheels with tires at least 3.8 inches wide. They are designed to be ridden in snow, sand, downhill, and across varying types of terrain. Because the tires are designed for snow or sand, a rider can pedal across even the softest terrain without sinking.

Fat biking has risen in popularity not just because it’s badass and allows for four-season touring — but also because it’s one hell of a workout. Biking is already great exercise, burning about 650 calories per hour in normal conditions. Fat biking more than doubles that if you’re pushing through powder. Those with sensitive knees rejoice since fat biking is on par with running in its intensity, without the constant joint-pounding that comes with jogging on pavement. You can also move a lot faster than you could with snowshoes or cross-country skis, with the added benefit of actually looking forward to the downhill parts of the trail.

If you enjoy all-season and all-terrain riding, get yourself a fat bike, because the gigantic tires glide through the softest and driest sand. They’re great for bike touring across variable terrain whether it’s winter or not, which is why you keep seeing them on the beach and the outskirts of town with a duffel strapped to the back. If you’re unsure as to whether or not your current setup can handle everything coming at you on an upcoming trip, odds are a fat bike can put your mind at ease.

Fat Bike Features:

  • Front Suspension: Fully rigid to 120 mm of travel
  • Rear Suspension: Fully rigid to 100 mm of travel
  • Weight: 35+ lbs
  • Perfect for South Florida riders who want to glide through the sugar sand conditions on trails like Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Halpatiokee

Our Fat Bike Recommendations

Recreational Mountain Bikes

When most people hear the term “mountain biking”, they associate adrenaline seekers, jaw dropping inclines, 20+ foot gap jumps, and terrain that they would not walk over let alone ride a bike through it. However, mountain biking can simply be a peaceful ride on a relatively flat trail or bike path with little to no obstacles to overcome. In fact, it’s a great activity for pretty much every member in the family.

If you enjoy the outdoors, want a great workout, and are itching go further than your feet alone can carry you on multi-surface trails, then recreational mountain biking may be right for you.

You can ride recreational mountain bikes at Riverbend Park, Dyer Park, on the paved trails at Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Halpatiokee Park, or anywhere around your neighborhood on or off road.

Recreational Mountain Bike Key Features

Our Top Recreational Mountain Bike Recommendations

Browse Mountain Bikes under $3,000

No matter what mountain bike you choose, Bikes Palm Beach is here to help you locate the perfect bike for the South Florida trails. And don’t forget to be safe and have fun!

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