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mountain bike

Choosing a Mountain Bike: A Complete Guide (2019)

If you enjoy the thrill of mouthfuls of dirt, ball-bearing breaking rides and very close and intimate encounters with trees then you probably think mountain biking is pretty great. Who wouldn’t want to bomb down paths coated in evil roots and fly over uneven jumps at ridiculous speeds? It’s probably best not to answer that.

Or maybe you prefer a leisurely jaunt through the foothills of some of the most beautiful off-road scenery the British Isles or Europe has to offer. Not quite as exciting as what we just mentioned above but sure … everyone has to have a hobby.

Choosing a bike to suit your style of riding, discipline preferences and your off-road cycling adventures can be a difficult job. You want a bike that enables you and pushes you to take on more challenges whilst providing all the basics for dominating the course or terrain.

Making a choice on your next bike shouldn’t make you want to bail. That’s why we’ve made a comprehensive guide on the best mountain bikes you can buy in 2019.

best mountain bike

What is a mountain bike?

A mountain bike is a bicycle specifically designed for use off-road. They have many similar features to road bikes and time trial bikes but their environment pretty much dictates they need to be more hardcore. Road bikes are pretty robust but if you try to launch them down an off-road trail … you might only end up with pieces of the bike at the end.


Road bikes are designed to be lightweight and responsive on smooth pavement. These bikes have thin wheels and thin tyres, to reduce rolling resistance and increase speed. When it comes to big races, racing road bikes are designed to shave crucial seconds off a rider's time. Road bikes place the rider in an aggressive, forward-leaning position that improves aerodynamics and power transfer to the pedals.

Mountain bikes are built to be tough with thick tyres and strong wheels for combatting impact damage. The frames are manufactured to design punishment and are typically made from heavy material as they are wider and denser materials.

Mountain bikes are also pretty heavily kitted out in the suspension department. Think about launching yourself down a trail littered with bumps and obstacles and not having suspension. You probably wouldn’t want to think about that because you enjoy having your bones inside your body and your joints in one piece.

Hardtail mountain bikes have suspension in the front, while full-suspension mountain bikes have shock absorption for both wheels. Mountain bikes also have flat handlebars to place the rider upright for improved balance and control. If you constantly leant forward as you did on a road bike... you’d be kissing dirt more passionately than your wife before you’d even started.

 

buying a mountain bike

 

Buying a Mountain Bike: What to consider

 

If you’re new to mountain biking, either as a complete rookie to cycling or someone that needs more than the flat road, then choosing a bike will seem daunting. If you’re a pro on the trail and looking for your next best bud then it can still be a real process of deliberation.

 

To help you, check out our list of the key things you should consider when looking to buy a mountain bike:

 

The right size

 

When it comes to choosing bike size, everything else is secondary. Having the right size of bike is key for comfort and can also improve safety—kind of a big deal when you’re hurtling down a tricky track.

 

Having a custom bike fit is the best way to make sure you know your exact measurements when selecting your bike. It allows to experiment with your exact riding position and gives you the opportunity to talk face-to-face with bike specialists.

 

From saddle height to handlebar adjustment to frame height, a precise bike fit will take every factor into detail to make sure you select a bike perfectly in tune with your physical requirements.

 

Wheely important wheels

 

Choosing the correct wheels and tyres for a mountain bike has a lot to do with rims and knobs. Your bike’s wheels are going to get hammered as they run a course so need to be tough enough to withstand whatever you throw their way.

 

If you have no idea what you’re doing with spokes, treads and hoops then it’s a reassuring thought that most pre-built mountain bikes come with the best standard wheels and tyres for their model. However, knowing about wheels can help you gain advantages on different tracks, turfs and disciplines.

 

The three dominant wheel sizes are 26in, 27.5in and 29in. 26in wheels are not frequently seen on new bikes as they are considered too nimble and light. 27.5in wheels have improved roll-over ability, traction and air volume than 26in wheels. 27.5in wheels are lighter, stronger and typically more nimble than 29in wheels so can be a better option for certain environments.

 

29in wheels provide more traction, greater roll-over ability on technical obstacles and a smoother ride thanks to their increased size and air volume. These are the top dogs for the descent and are best used in cross country and trail-type riding.

 

Suspension

 

Hard-tail or full suspension is the question you need to ask yourself when looking at a mountain bike. Except there’s no definitive answer we can give you about which is better. It’s actually a matter of preference and how you want to feel during a ride.

 

In general, a full-suspension bike will be heavier because of the addition of the rear shock and the extra tubes and pivots that all unavoidably add weight. There are mountain bikes, both hardtail and full-suspension designed to suit all terrains including cross-country and trails centres but if you are really a pure downhill demon, we’d recommend getting full-suspension because absorbing all those corners and bumps more effectively can do your body and time wonders.

 

beginners mountain bike

Top Mountain Bike Brands

So now you know a little bit more about the qualities to look for in the best mountain bikes, it’s time for a rundown on the best bike brands out there that satisfy the criteria.

 

The following brands are “Giants” in their field and you can expect the utmost quality when choosing any of them.

 

Cannondale

 

Cannondale was the first company to feature large, oversized aluminum bike frames on cycling's biggest stage, the Tour de France. After powering a Cannondale to four stage victories at the 1999 Tour, the Saeco team leader proclaimed "Cannondale is the best bike”.

 

And it’s not just road bikes. Cannondale is also an innovator of the mountain bike and were the industry leaders in the dual suspension revolution. Cannondale’s bikes were favourites of legends such as Cadel Evans, Missy Giove and Chrisophe Sauser.

 

For enduro enthusiasts, we recommend Cannondale’s Jekyll 2. Its Gemini shock system allows instant switching between super-plush speed or a tighter, more dynamic ride. The long-stretch/slack-head geometry, wide/short cockpit and XL front tyre create a massively confident front end and overall this model boasts excellent tough trail spec.

 

Focus

 

If you want a manufacturer that pays the utmost FOCUS (yes again, hah) to their bikes then this company is above and beyond. They were founded by a cyclocross World Champ so who better to know about the demands needed for all different disciplines! Not to mention Focus are well known for their constantly sleek aesthetics and great finishes.

 

We’re big fans of the sleek, robust Raven model and its hardtail suspension and we’re definitely a fan of its price. The FOCUS Raven knows no limits. It was developed for the racetracks of the world and has already earned the FOCUS Racing Team several podium places. The super light carbon frame competition machine convinces with breathtaking acceleration, agile handling and amazing comfort.



Giant

 

Giant are a real bike behemoth. They have pioneered advancements in both aluminium and composite engineering and introduced the first affordable carbon fibre bike and revolutionized high-performance road bikes with their Compact Road Design.

 

Their passion wasn’t lost on mountain bikes either. When 27.5-inch wheels hit the market, Giant went all in, and the brand was outspoken that the handling characteristics of smaller wheels far outweighed the benefits of bigger hoops.

 

Giant also aren’t out to break your bank either. Models such as the Anthem 29 Eagle boast incredible stats at such a good price it’s hard not to question why.

 

GT

 

GT bikes were founded with the ambition to improve the BMX market offering. Their ambition for off-road never stopped and they made huge innovations in improving the suspension for trail bikes.

 

The embodiment of their innovation is the GT Aggressor, often considered a favourite for mountain bike newbies. This model definitely won’t break your bank but still has capable handling, rugged versatility and provides comfortable, confidence-inspiring performance.

 

Liv

 

Let’s hear it for the lady bikers tearing up the trails and pushing unprogressive standards straight down into the dirt. Liv makes bikes for women but they do not make a “woman’s bike” because not only are women different from men but they are all different from one another. They design bikes for all women from the ground up that fit bodies, respond to strengths and are built to defy stereotypes.

 

Liv is the sister company to Giant, the largest bike manufacturer in the world, so you can be sure that these Liv bikes are top quality.

 

Their range of women’s specific mountain bikes offer superb performance and fit, whether it's your first time off-road or you’re an experienced trail rider. If you need a bike that’s equipped for anything then the Bliss 2 is the one for you.

 

Whyte

 

No one knows how to deal with bad conditions better than Whyte. Founded in the UK, they have been creating bikes to deal with the grimmest and toughest conditions since 1999. Their bikes are innovatively designed to keep important parts protected from the elements and their suspension development was closely linked to dominating all UK terrains. This brand probably couldn’t be more British even if it had a union jack flying from the handlebars and a nice brew on the saddle.

 

We’re huge fans of the T-130 S and its do it all attitude, completely rounded off with its big tyres.

 

Top 5 Mountain Bikes

 

Choosing the best of the best is never easy but when you find superior models on the market, it’s only right that they’re given commendation. Below are our top 5 mountain bikes in 2019:

 

Cannondale F-Sir Carbon 4 2019 - £2,159.99

 

This is the bike for the mountain bike obsessed. Built to climb faster, descend harder, and sprint better than any other hardtail out there, it's serious XC goodness is designed for those with serious XC issues. And there’s no cure other than taking this beauty out onto the trails and leaving the rest of the competition choking on your roost.

 

This bike combines hardtail suspension with a Balistec Carbon frame for the ultimate strength and control.

 

cannondale S-Fi

 

Focus Whistler2 6.9 2019 - £1,200

 

We haven’t touched on electric bikes before this point but we couldn’t not talk about this model when it comes to the best mountain bikes out there. An incredible price for an E-bike, the Whistler also has superior brake performance and control combined with a strong aluminium frame.

 

This model of the Whistler isn’t trying to be anything it’s not and that’s why it works. Sometimes simple is the best option! Our favourite thing about Whistler? Its impressive disc brake addition for consistent braking performance and optimum braking behaviour.

Focus Whistler

Liv Hail 2 2019 - £2,799

The designers at Liv call the Hail a bike that loves to rip and ride on aggressive terrain. It lets its rider push her limits and gain confidence on technical tracks and trails. This full-suspension mountain bike is made to provide a sure-footed ride on the steepest slopes. The lightweight ALUXX-SL frame is designed to balance a woman over the PowerCore bottom bracket, placing her in the right position to control steep climbs and charge technical descents.

 

Liv Hail

 

Giant Anthem 29Er 2 Nx Eagle 2019 - £1,999

 

Hold on, we hear you say, you’ve already mentioned this one! Yes, obviously. There’s a reason for that. Want to know why it’s called Anthem? Because we should be putting it on a podium and raising a flag whilst singing a warbling rendition of God Save The QOM. The Anthem has existed on the market for over a decade but when it disappeared from the bike scene a few years ago we waved a wistful farewell. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how to land a comeback.

 

Built on an ALUXX SL aluminium frameset featuring 90mm of rear suspension travel and 100mm up front, this 29er delivers speed, balance and control on fast, technical XC terrain. It’s optimized for larger-diameter wheels with an updated Maestro suspension system that’s configured for a tighter rear triangle. The geometry makes it a quicker and more agile on climbs and descents. The trunnion-mount shock produces a smooth, supple feel with improved pedalling efficiency.

 

Giant image

 

Cannondale Trail 7 2019 / Cannondale Trail 4 2019 - £399.99

 

Sometimes best can be measured in many different ways. The best maximised ability for the price is a pretty good best to us. The Cannondale Trail offers unreal performance for its price and is available in altered geometry for a more adjusted fit for women in the form of the Trail 4.

 

With a low price but incredible specs, this bike is fantastic for those just starting out in mountain biking and testing their preferences or for those on a budget that consider it more of a once in a blue moon hobby. It is built with the beginner rider in mind and it really is the perfect starter model. Just make sure you have a really good MTB helmet because you’re bound to learn quite fast that mountain biking is all about being prepped for the fall.

 

Cannondale trail

 

Order your mountain bike today

At TRI UK we never stand still and we want to make helping you choose the best bike as slick as possible. Our range of mountain bikes boast the most impressive models from the best manufacturers in the world at the best prices. And if you see them cheaper somewhere else...we offer a price match guarantee because we’re committed to giving you the best service online or in-store.

 

Our insured delivery is trackable and fast to make sure you know exactly where your bike is and when it’ll get there. We never want to stop someone getting back out on the course! Just make sure to stock up on muc-off and laundry detergent for that inevitable adjustment period.

 

If you want the best mountain bikes on the market, visit us in one of our stores or contact us now for more expert advice at sales@triuk.com