Mountain bikes have advanced in leaps and bounds in the past few years. In addition to becoming dramatically lighter, there are now bikes for just about any purpose.
The biggest factors to consider include:
- Wheel size: 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ are now all available.
- Suspension: Front suspension and full suspension bikes have different advantages.
- Geometry: “Steep” angles on the bike make them turn quicker and pedal more efficiently, while “slacker” angles on your head tube and seat tube make it harder to pedal but make the bike way better suited to smash through boulders and over logs.
Some of the different types of bikes include:
Cross country bikes are meant to go fast over fairly smooth off-road terrain. They are great for light trails without a ton of bumps. They are NOT the type of bike to get if you want to do jumps and go smashing down black diamond trails. There are very affordable cross country bikes with front suspensions (called hard tails) which will perform great, while there are also full suspension cross country bikes that are built to handle rough terrain a little better, but also carry a higher price tag.
At the top end of the cross country spectrum are the cross country “race” bikes which are built to be tough but super-light (ideal for racing). This performance is matched with a dramatically higher cost for these bikes!
Most cross country bikes now come with 29″ wheels as these are considered to be the “fastest” wheels for longer distances, although they are a little less playful when it comes time to carve quick turns.
Trail bikes are basically the next step up in durability from cross country bikes. These are meant for riders who aren’t super-aggressive riders but who want something a bit more durable so they can have some confidence when they do want to get into some rougher trails. These bikes are good all around bikes for all but the most aggressive trails in the Victoria region. These are a great bike for someone who wants to ride around locally but also wants to be able to get in some offroad rides from time to time. These bikes are not typically recommended for jumping or extreme trails.
All mountain bikes are considered to be great “all around” bikes. They are built to be able to climb up steep trails while also having strong enough suspensions and frames to take a beating coming back downhill. These are the perfect bike for riding somewhere like Hartland as they are way better for pedalling around the park than downhill bikes but are also tough enough for rough downhill tracks and jumps.
There are full suspension all mountain bikes and there are also some very affordable “hard tail” all mountain bikes that also do a great job getting you around the park. The two bikes pictured on this page are both all mountain bikes: the Norco Range Killer B (with 27.5″ wheels and full suspension) and the Norco Wolverine (with 26″ front wheels).
Full suspension bikes like the Range are excellent choices for cycling enthusiasts who spend a lot of time on the trails while the hard tail Wolverine is a great choice for anyone getting into the sport who wants a bike that will handle challenging local terrain. All mountain bikes typically have 26″ or 27.5″ wheels.
Downhill and Freeride Bikes
These bikes, with up to 8″ of suspension travel, are the choice of racers and daredevils. These bikes are built to take an absolute beating at high speed on rocky terrain with big drops. These types of bikes are not ideal for our local area (they are very hard to pedal uphill) but are great bikes for places like the Whistler Mountain Bike Park where you have lifts to take you up the hill!
As the name would suggest, these are bikes which are purpose-built for jumping. This would be the perfect style of bike to get for someone who spends their time at a place like the North Saanich Freeride Park. These bikes typically have jumping forks up front, a solid rear end and a low seat for lots of clearance when jumping.
So what’s in a wheel?
There’s currently a lot of debate in the mountain biking world about wheel size, but here’s the quick overview:
- 26″ wheels are more “playful” and better for jumping and quick turns.
- 29″ wheels are faster and do a better job of rolling over small-medium sized rocks and roots.
- 27.5″ wheels, depending how you look at it, have the best of both worlds or the advantages of neither. In truth, however, the riders we know who ride all mountain style bikes generally love their 27.5″ (or 650B, as they are also known) wheels.
Lastly, your height and riding style should be your guide when picking wheels. 26″ wheels are often still the best choice for most new riders and smaller riders. Also, it’s dramatically more important to get yourself on the right style of bike than it is to fixate on your wheel size.