A mountain bike is your ticket to off-road exploration, allowing you to ride technical terrain extending far beyond the comfort zone of a road or hybrid bike.
Whether cruising flowing singletrack under the forest canopy, tackling a previously unmanageable climb or hitting a new jump for the first time - the feeling of riding an MTB is inimitable.
Buying a mountain bike can seem confusing, but it need not be. This guide aims to arm you with the knowledge to make the right choice and choose the best mountain bike to suit your needs. With top brands and knowledgeable staff, we have the resources you need to take your cycling to new heights.
What is the Best Mountain Bike?
The best mountain bike will vary from person to person, depending on their needs, terrain and budget. What works for one rider might not work for another, so it pays to do your research to find your ideal model. With its wide range of mountain bikes, our online store is sure to have your dream ride, offering everything from high-tech cross country to exhilarating enduro mountain bikes, all at a range of budgets to suit any aspiring cyclist.
How do I Choose the Right Mountain Bike?
Mountain bikes are fun, period. But, what makes them more fun is having the correct model for the task at hand. When shopping for a new mountain bike, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is what type of riding do you want to do?
Much like road cycling, mountain biking consists of an array of subdisciplines, which can be divided into the categories of cross-country, trail, enduro and downhill. Although there is some crossover, each of these classifications is suitable for a different type of terrain, with there being distinct advantages and disadvantages to each depending on the type of trails you wish to ride.
Cross Country Mountain Bikes
Owing to their responsive and lightweight designs, cross country mountain bikes are exceptionally efficient, making them the number one choice for riders looking to tackle serious mileage on endurance-style rides. Perfect for undulating terrain and technical climbing, these bikes are the stand-out option for their namesake cross country, or XC, race format.
Although less capable on aggressive tracks than trail and enduro mountain bikes, cross country models provide unmatched precision on the trail and are an excellent choice for beginners looking to take their first steps into mountain biking. Typically these bikes will feature 100-120mm of suspension, come in both hardtail and full-suspension formats and utilise fast-rolling 29” wheels, making them suitable for covering vast distances over mixed-terrain.
Trail Mountain Bikes
Versatile and fun to ride, trail mountain bikes excel across a range of topography. Their mid-travel suspension designs and confident geometry offer a predictable ride that encourages speed, even when the trail gets rough, ensuring they are a perfect choice for much of the world's singletrack network.
While less efficient than cross country bikes on smooth terrain, these bikes offer composure for technical descending whilst still delivering an effective climbing platform, making them a superb all-round choice. A trail mountain bike will see 130-150mm of suspension travel, allowing them to soak up rocks, roots and other hazards with ease.
Enduro Mountain Bikes
Capable of smoothing out the burliest of trails, enduro mountain bikes are in a league of their own. They provide big-hit performance and confidence-inspiring handling for an unshakeable ride character, and are suitable for riding steep, rock-ridden trails and daunting bike-park features. Uplift days, jumps, and perilous downhill runs; it is all in a day's work for an enduro bike.
While this capability comes at the cost of efficiency across flatter trails, enduro mountain bikes are popular, ensuring the user is ready to tackle any grade of descent. A bike of this nature will commonly feature 160-180mm of plush suspension travel and weigh more than its trail and cross country stablemates.
What Type of Mountain Bike Do I Need?
While the above summaries outline the uses of the main three types of mountain bikes, it is worth taking your local terrain into account. If your local countryside is flat, you may find that a hardtail cross country bike is more appropriate, but if you are located somewhere with plenty of gradient and access to quality singletrack, a full-suspension trail bike will tick all the boxes, opening up previously unexplored areas for riding. Enduro mountain bikes require steeper terrain to shine, but if you are willing to travel to one of the UKs many bike parks, your efforts will undoubtedly be rewarded.
Should I Choose an Electric Mountain Bike?
In recent years, electric mountain bikes have gone from strength to strength, offering an unrivalled experience on the trail. Their powerful motors and high-capacity batteries deliver long-lasting fun, delivering the ability to ride further and faster. Electric mountain bikes are available for all the same disciplines as their analogue counterparts, guaranteeing there is a model to suit every rider.
Should I Buy a Hardtail or Full-Suspension Mountain Bike?
Both hardtails and full-suspension mountain bikes have their strengths and weaknesses, and picking the correct type for your ride style will make a vast difference to your experience on the trail. The amount of suspension on a bike, known as its travel, has a direct impact on the ride quality, with longer travel models offering increased isolation from bumps and heavy hits, but losing the responsiveness and spritely nature found in a short travel model.
Typically hardtails reside within the disciplines of cross country and trail, with the demands of enduro and downhill riding requiring a degree of composure unobtainable without rear suspension. It is often stated that beginners should start on a hardtail to progress their skill set without the compensation of a long-travel suspension platform. If the terrain you choose to ride is smooth and free flowing, you can likely reap the benefits of a hardtail mountain bike, but if you are looking to take on more aggressive singletrack then a full-suspension bike will deliver a collected, calm experience, allowing you to push harder and increase your speed. Suspension setup can seem daunting, but our suspension setup article guides you through the process, helping you get the most out of your mountain bike.
Can You Commute on a Mountain Bike?
Riders with a limited budget or space often ask, how good is a mountain bike for commuting? Although not as fast on the asphalt as a dedicated road or hybrid bike, it is perfectly possible to cycle a mountain bike across town, whether running errands or riding to the office.
If you plan on leaving your mountain bike in public, it is worth investing in a high-quality bike lock, as this will help lower the risk of theft. In regards to what mountain bike is best for commuting, hardtail cross country bikes offer the most efficiency, helping you cover ground more quickly.
What’s the Difference Between a Hybrid Bike and a Mountain Bike?
The differences between a road and a mountain bike may be obvious, but with hybrid bikes, these differences may be more difficult to perceive. From a distance, a hardtail mountain bike is visually similar to a hybrid, but up close, these subtle contrasts become more apparent. Hybrid bikes tend to have slimmer tyres with low-profile tread, lowering their rolling resistance and boosting speed on the tarmac. Conversely, mountain bike tyres feature more aggressive tread patterns and a wider tyre, which amplify grip in loose and wet soils.
Although hybrid bikes can feature a suspension fork, these will usually see less available suspension than those found on mountain bikes. Wider handlebars, single-ring drivetrains and more relaxed geometry are other features that set mountain bikes apart, with these characteristics helping to bolster off-road performance.
How Much Should I Spend on my First Mountain Bike?
Budget is personal to each individual, and the true answer to this question is only as much as you can afford. Mountain bikes are becoming increasingly accessible, with what was once high-end technology, features such as disc brakes, air-suspension forks and dropper seatposts, now featuring on many sub-£1000 bikes. Good performance shouldn’t cost the world, and our wide range of mountain bikes has something for everyone, no matter your needs or budget.
What is the Best Mountain Bike for a Beginner?
There has never been a better time to start mountain biking, with the current crop of bikes on offer seeing vast improvements over even the bikes of five years ago.
For beginners, tamer singletrack such as that found at trail centres offers the perfect challenge on which to start your journey, allowing you to take your first steps towards riding more technical features. This style of riding is less demanding, making a hardtail mountain bike an ideal starting point. As a general rule, look for hydraulic disc brakes and adjustable air suspension, as these features will offer massive performance gains on the trail.
5 Tips for Buying Your First Mountain Bike
1. Purchase your bike from Sigma Sports
Buying your bike from Sigma Sports grants you access to our industry-leading warranty and after-sales care teams and in turn their expert knowledge. This helps make the buying process as smooth as possible.
2. Seek out quality components
Buying a mountain bike is about more than just the frame. High-quality components from reputable brands make a marked difference when it is time to hit the trail, providing additional performance benefits.
3. Look for air suspension
Air suspension is a step up from entry-level coil offerings, allowing you easily set the bike up to suit your weight and preference.
4. Hydraulic disc brakes
Hydraulic disc brakes provide increased power and modulation over traditional cable offerings, delivering improved stopping power on steep descents. Unlike cable models, hydraulic disc brakes remain consistent in their feel, requiring less maintenance in the long run.
5. Budget for accessories
Items such as pedals, grippy cycling shoes and a quality mountain bike helmet will improve your ride. Make sure you plan your budget accordingly to get the most out of your rides.
How Do I Choose The Right Size Mountain Bike?
Buying a mountain bike online used to be a challenge, with vague size guides offering little insight into what size would best suit. Now, our range of mountain bikes features comprehensive size guides detailing specific geometry, height ranges and more, helping you make the right decision.
If in doubt, contact our customer care team or visit us in-store to meet our team, who will gladly assist you in finding your dream mountain bike.
What Is The Best Mountain Bike Wheel Size?
Simply put, there is no best mountain bike wheel size. The two main sizes available both have distinct advantages and disadvantages, each supplying a unique ride character.
27.5” (650b) Wheels
27.5” wheels were adopted into the mainstream around 2010, offering increased performance over the now rarely seen 26” wheel standard. As the smaller of the two commonplace sizes, 27.5” wheels provide a nimble, more playful ride, with their shorter diameter offering increased manoeuvrability and faster acceleration on the trail. This increased responsiveness on the trail improves cornering characteristics but comes at the cost of grip and overall top speed compared to 29” wheels.
Fast and efficient, 29” wheels are found across the spectrum of mountain bikes, from race-ready cross-country models to trail-crushing enduro steeds. The larger diameter provides an increased contact patch on the ground, which in turn enhances grip, as well as improving overall top speed and stability. Their expanded size comes at a handling cost, requiring more movement to lean the bike over when cornering.
Mixed Wheel (Mullet, MX)
The goldilocks size for many riders, mixed wheel bikes are taking the world of mountain biking by storm, splitting the difference between the stability of a 29” wheelset and the responsive handling of a 27.5” setup. This provides a unique feel that combines the best of both worlds, allowing the rider a fast yet fun ride character, alongside improved clearance when leaning over the back of the bike.
Finding your dream mountain bike should be a fun and exciting process. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us online or by phone, or visit us in-store today for expert advice, up-to-date knowledge and more. Ready to discover your perfect model? Browse our wide range of mountain bikes from top brands online today.