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Buying Off Road Bikes Online: A Guide

Off-Roadbikes have evolved at a blindingly fast rate over the years. The 90s was like a holy grail period for whacky, bizzare mountain bike designs. When this trend first started, the bike’s weren’t exactly engineered specifically for off road terrain. People just made do with regular bicycles and found later that off-road riding can be far more enjoyable if the frame geometry of the bike, weight, tyres and suspension (among other things) supports the whole experience. And now in 2019, we have world class technology being employed in the suspension that the new age MTB Bikes are using. Just the rear suspension of a high spec, modern day mountain bike may cost a little more than a small car. Yes, you read that right. But do we need world class technology in our mountain bikes? Well, that depends. Certainly not for casual off road riding but for racing, surely.

So, what makes a Mountain bike, a mountain bike?

  • Good shock absorbers with at least 100mm of travel.
  • A strong frame designed for the purpose coupled with good rims.
  • Wide tyres with a wheel diameter of either 26, 27.5 or 29 inches.
  • A shorter gear ratio as compared to road bikes.

Why does this make a bicycle off-road ready?

Off road terrain is most often, all natural. We’re talking gravel, rocks, drops, quicksand, wet mud etc. Naturally, the chances of crashing are higher. We could use all the traction available. Also, the bike takes a solid beating when ridden off road and needs to be stronger than normal bicycles in order to keep itself and the rider safe.

Just like how bicycles have different types, Mountain Bikes have sub categories which are suited to the various different disciplines of the off-road riding world. Here’s a brief explanation of the most common disciplines:

  • Cross Country (XC): Usually a very long ride, full of different kinds of obstacles, climbs and descents. Hardtail XC bikes and/or full suspension enduro bikes are used for this type of riding.

  • Downhill: As the name suggests, downhill is about going down a hill as fast as possible and the bikes used for this type of riding look like spaceship guns crafted by aliens. Extremely long travel suspension and a long wheelbase make this type of riding possible.

  • Freeride: Freeride is the most extreme type of off-road riding where the riders take huge drops of over 25 - 20 feet and catch massive air over ramps. It’s all about making the most of the terrain that nature has to offer.

Types of Off-Road Bikes:

Hardtail: Hardtail bikes are so called because they do not have a shock absorber on the rear end. This is both good and bad depending on the riding style. Used mostly for XC riding, hardtails are easier to climb with as the rear shock takes up too much of the pedalling input energy while operating. These bikes are much lighter as compared to full suspension bikes which makes them even easier to ride and flick around. The only downside is that the ride gets very bumpy and it puts some riders off. They’re far more affordable than their springy counterparts. Good choice for casual trail riding.

Enduro/All Mountain Bikes: These bikes strike the perfect balance between XC/Trail hardtail and downhill bikes. They’re the perfect choice to tackle challenging terrain while retaining some amount of comfort at the same time. The wider bars and shorter stems make these bikes easier to maneuver.

Downhill Bikes: With downhill bikes, weight is less of a priority enabling manufacturers to focus their resources on making the bike stronger, faster and safer. The maximum suspension travel is seen on these bikes. These suspension systems are at part with the technology used in motorized vehicles and can handle anything you throw at them.

Which Off Road bike is right for you?

  • If you don’t intend on using the bike for technical downhill or hard core off road riding, then the hard tail is the best choice. If your bike will spend at least half its riding life on roads, it’s best to avoid full suspension bikes.

  • If you absolutely cannot compromise on the rear shock absorber then getting an entry level enduro/all mountain bike would make sense.

  • If you’re a crazy downhill riding adventure junkie, then you’re probably already riding a DH bike. If not, consider getting one.