Mountain Bike Types – All You Need to Know

Cover photo

I bet that you can easily spot a number of differences between a mountain bike and a road bike.

But can you spot differences between mountain bikes? In case you didn’t know, there are numbers of different mountain bike types.

They might look very similar at first but come with a different purpose and intended use.

After learning everything about racing & road bikes, in this post, you’ll be able to find everything you need to know about mountain bikes, their purpose, and even find a type that will be the most suitable type for you.

What is a Mountain Bike?

Cover photo
Photo by Jürg Stuker (Flickr)

When people think of mountain bikes, they think of them as heavy bikes which consist of a heavy and sturdy frame that can endure almost anything you throw at it off the road.

But actually, a mountain bike is a bike with a very lightweight, yet sturdy frame that is equipped with many necessities that keep it running.

You’ll always recognize a mountain bike by its deep-treaded tires, but if you look closely, you’ll also spot multiple gears that are designed for use on a mountains terrain.

As the name suggests, a mountain bike is a bike suitable for mountains. But there are different types of mountain bikes to accommodate different surfaces, mountain types, and purpose of either climbing the mountain or coming down off the hills.

Mountain Bike Types

Mountain bike
Photo by Rino Peroni (Flickr)

There are the 5 most common and known mountain bike types.

Those are:

  • Cross-Country
  • Trail
  • Enduro/All-Mountain
  • Downhill
  • Dirt Jump

And down below, you will find everything that makes each mountain bike type, but also find its purpose, its advantages, and disadvantages.


Cross Country Mountain Bike Type
Photo by Peter Dean (Flickr)

Cross-country is the most common mountain bike, and therefore, it can be considered to be one of the most affordable ones, since they are manufactured by a big number of manufacturers.

The main reason cross-country mountain bikes were designed is for optimal speed, efficiency, and fast rolling tires.

Most of the time, cross-country bikes come with lightweight frames (but not too light), and components that vary in quality (depending on the manufacturer).

The reason cross-country mountain bikes are popular is the riding experience they offer. If you try out a decent cross-country mountain bike, you’ll have a smooth sustaining, yet speedy ride.

One thing that you will almost always find on cross-country mountain bikes is 29-inch wheels that will overcome obstacles way easier than 26-inch wheels.

Along with 29-inch wheels and robust tires, the suspension plays a big part. Cross-country bikes will usually have about 80 to 120 mm of either the front or rear suspension movement in order to absorb shock from rocks.

What’s the intended use of a cross-country mountain bike, you might ask?

Cross-country bikes provide an increased grip in combination with a superior comfort which allows people to go faster, ride for longer, or simply have more control during their rides.

Therefore, cross-country bikes are very versatile and are perfect when you’re looking to get to remote places faster, participate in a race or an event, or simply benefit from a mountain biking fitness.


Trail mountain bike type
Photo by Vik Approved (Flickr)

Trail bikes are a combination of a few different mountain bikes, and you can often hear that trail bikes combine the speed of cross-country bike type with the ability of enduro bike type to tackle anything off the road.

Therefore, trail bikes usually come with a front suspension only which is called a hardtail, but if you invest a bit more money, you can get a trail mountain bike that comes with a dual suspension, also known as a full suspension.

The reason trail bikes can tackle almost anything off the road is the travel range of its suspension that is anywhere between 120 mm to 160 mm. Obviously, a full suspension will always provide a better comfort and easier way to tackle obstacles.

Most trail bikes are light and have the ability to pedal decently to make a climb comfortable and fun.

What’s the intended use of a trail mountain bike you might ask?

Trail bikes are known as very affordable mountain bikes that help people tackle trail or challenge no matter the destination or a goal.

A fun fact is that trail bikes are also considered to be “a hero” mountain bike which will let people tackle anything they come across.

Of course, there are different variations of trail mountain bike types, but if you aren’t sure which mountain bike to get, it would be ideal to start with a trail mountain bike.

They offer a great versatility for fun and enjoyable rides where there is no obstacle that will stop you.


Enduro mountain bike type
Photo by Mob Mob (Flickr)

Many people mistake enduro mountain bike for a downhill mountain bike because of its low frame, and a pretty aggressive attitude towards off-road.

However, enduro bikes are also known as “all-mountain” bikes with a suspension that has a big travel range in combination with a lowered frame to have better stability in high-speed corners.

The whole enduro bike is made with one thing in mind. It’s to help you overcome anything you come across without slowing down even for a bit.

Even their seats are designed in a way to allow you to throw your weight around as you ride in order to deal better with gravity when the speed gets wild, without losing any power.

Some of the better enduro bikes will now come with 650b tires, but in lower and medium priced enduro bikes you will be able to see 29-inch and even 26-inch tires.

But as usual, you’re eager to learn more and you’re wondering what is the purpose of enduro mountain bikes?

Enduro is the right choice if you’re looking to ride and race the maddest and the hardest trails without losing your confidence.

However, you will still be able to ride enduro bikes on normal trails due to its great responsivity, or you can even pedal them uphill if you’re not trying to do it in a specific time frame.

Enduro bikes are usually priced higher than other mountain bike types for a reason. The technology that is involved to create a bike where all parts and components will work towards the same goal will require you to make a significant investment.


Downhill mountain bike type
Photo by Ventura Medoza (Flickr)

If you’ve thought that enduro bikes are one of the most specialized bike types out there, you were wrong. It’s the downhill mountain bikes.

You’ll notice a downhill bike by a long stance (front wheel is extended), and if you look closely, so is the whole frame laying low.

In combination with such custom frame, downhill bikes always come with compound tires that are made to manage the fastest and steepest challenges.

What you will notice immediately with downhill bikes is the travel range of its front suspension, which is most of the time anywhere between 180 to 220 mm (which is a huge difference between cross-country type).

Downhill mountain bikes are the only type that doesn’t consist of a light frame, yet feature a heavy frame that is made to withstand heavy and tough stuff.

As the name says it all, downhill bikes aren’t really made to go uphill. They feature no climbing gears and if you happen to be at a trail that has no ski lift or a ramp, you will be expected to push it to the top.

Who needs a downhill mountain bike?

As they’re very expensive mountain bike type, they’re usually owned by professionals and high freefall freaks and enthusiasts who love the adrenaline.

Let’s face it, downhill bikes are all about the adrenaline, and if you’re an adrenaline junkie – look no further.

Dirt Jump

Dirt jump mountain bike type
Photo by Peter Dean (Flickr)

Imagine a BMX bike with a bigger frame and bigger wheels. Done?

That’s your dirt jump mountain bike type. If you have ever watched professionals perform tricks with BMX bikes, imagine them doing their tricks on dirt jump bikes.

They’re bikes that are used mostly by acrobatics in sculpted jump parks. They’re very minimalistic as they come with a single gear and only a single break.

Who is the dirt jump bike for?

Anyone who’s an experienced BMX rider would love to give dirt jump bikes a try. However, dirt jump bikes come with more risk and a higher percentage of crashing.

Anyone can give dirt jump bike are try, but the most benefits will be seen with people who are experienced acrobatics who enjoy this type of riding.

Which Mountain Bike is The Right Type for You?

Mountain bikes
Photo by Sean Rowe (Flickr)

Now when you’ve met mountain bike types and different purpose/riding available, which mountain bike is the right for you will depend on your personal preference.

I would love to suggest you exact brand and model of a mountain bike. But I can’t do that unless I know you really well.

(Feel free to leave a comment and tell me more about your preferences and needs!)

Here are some questions that will guide you through the choosing process:

  • Do you prefer comfort over speed (or vice-versa)?
  • Are you may be looking for a combination of both comfort and speed?
  • Are you an adrenaline junkie?
  • What do you think about BMX bikes and acrobatics?
  • When you bike uphill, do you do it for fun or for statistics?

These are some questions when answered can eliminate some of the mountain bike types. That will leave you with a very limited choice of one to two types.

If you still aren’t confident to choose your preferred mountain bike type on your own, these questions are designed to help you understand which mountain bike type will work the best for your needs.

After all, it’s all about finding the perfect mountain bike that you won’t only enjoy, but will be excited to ride and experience journeys with story-telling.


Whatever your background is, don’t think that any of these mountain bike types isn’t suitable for you. If you find a purpose and a will for any of these types – guess what? You deserve it!

After reading this post, you will now be prepared with a lot of knowledge on mountain bikes that will help you choose the most suitable mountain bike for your needs. Or even be able to recommend a type to someone you know really well.

If you aren’t sure which mountain bike type is the right for you after reading this post, feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what kind of rider you are, and what you’re looking to get from your next mountain bike.

I’ll do my best to respond and recommend you a mountain bike type that you will benefit from the most, and you can either agree or let me help you further.

Enjoy your rides & stay safe!

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