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Mountain bike buying guide


With big knobby tires and air-filled shock absorbers, mountain bikes make easy work of even the toughest terrain. They help you head deeper and faster into the wilderness, sometimes accessing places easier than on foot. Here are a few things you should know before buying a mountain bike.


There are two main types of mountain bikes: full suspension and hardtail. Bikes with full suspension have shock absorbers on both the front and rear for a softer, easier ride on really rough trails. They’re also the most expensive. Hardtails have suspension only on the front fork. This type is generally more durable, requires less maintenance and is a great choice for most riders.

Mountain bikes also come with either rim or disc brakes. Unless you’re an advanced rider, choose a bike with rim-style brakes, the most common and easiest to service.

No matter what sort of bike you’re looking for, here are a few tips to keep in mind:


“Look beyond department store bikes and go to your local bike shop,” says pro rider Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, the reigning mountain bike national champion. “The salespeople there will be so much more knowledgeable and there’s a huge step up in quality of bikes.”

When talking to salespeople, be honest about your biking skills and where you plan to ride. That way, they can point you toward the best bike for your skill level.


Sure, you may see a really cool-looking, full-suspension bicycle for $150 at a department store, but odds are it’ll be really heavy and not very durable. Expect to spend at least $300 to get a good quality, entry-level mountain bike, Kobelski says. For more experienced riders, check out bikes in the $500 to $700 range. Those models will likely be lighter, more durable and outfitted with higher quality gears and components.


As you push the pedals, it’s the bike’s components (gears and other moving parts) that move you down the trail. But if you buy a bike with poor-quality components, you probably won’t get very far. Look for quality component brand names like Shimano, Sun Tour, SRAM and Bontrager.


Someone at the shop should help you find the correct bike for your size.

“The most important measurement is the stand-over height,” Kobelski says. “Stand over the top tube and pick the bike up. See how much clearance you have — how high you can pick it up.”

You should have at least a couple of inches of room, so you can hop on and off easily. It’ll also make the bike more maneuverable. Make sure the salesman gets you fitted perfectly. And look for a bike with an adjustable-height seat so the bike can grow with you.


Before you buy a bike, ride as many different models as you can. Kobelski recommends doing tight turns and sprinting on the bike. Try to ride up a couple of curbs, too. Pay special attention to how the bike turns and shifts.


Don’t leave home for a ride without these important pieces of biking gear:

  • Helmet
  • Water Bottle
  • Tire pump
  • Extra inner tube and/or patch kit
  • Tire and chain tools
  • Bike shorts (optional)
  • Gloves
  • Glasses/goggles (optional)

62 Comments on Mountain bike buying guide

  1. biking down a 100 foot hill is AWSOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // November 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm // Reply

    My bro has a Kona bike. IT…IS…AMAZING!!!!

  3. i got a next power climber 24 inch from walmart and it works great

  4. I got an used, but almost new Diamondback for $80. It works really well, especially for that price.

  5. bikes are awesome

  6. i have a custom made bike that cost $8000

  7. My Raleigh is an awesome bike. I took it on the C&O Canal and it is a really durable bike. I flipped over the side of the tow path and the bike hit a log then landed on top of me, which hurt alot and the bike was fine.

  8. i swear Jackson Hole has the best bike trails in the world!!! skinny-bridges, jumps, quarter pipes, they got ’em all!

  9. Used bikes are another good option. Some people outgrow their expensive bikes, upgrade or lose interest in cycling. If you can save hundreds of dollars on a top name/quality bike by buying one used…You can use the money you saved to buy accessories. If you’re still growing and on the verge of needing a bigger bike in the not too distant future…Don’t waste your money on something you’ll soon be replacing.

  10. Random Person in the comments // August 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm // Reply

    Trek bikes are really good quality and good for off road. Just make sure you buy it for around $330 because they also put their name on cheaper bikes that arent very good.

  11. I do BMX Freestyle, which is kind of like mountain biking except you do it on street, somtimes dirt, and vert (skate parks).

  12. I am about to get the schwinn aluiminum comp

  13. i have a Trek Mountain Track

  14. i have a 07 dimondback respinse. its a hard tale but the only problem is the bottom bracket that i dont know how to fix. just keep in mind that you dont know every thing. if you dont know how to fix it take it to the bike shop. they know what there doing.

  15. get up and go // April 3, 2010 at 1:38 pm // Reply

    I won a Pathfinder Mtn. Bike for selling 1’500 dollars worth of pop-
    corn. No idea what it costs, but it’s probably worth it.
    It has 18 gears, alloy body, all terrain wheels, it’s SUPER light!,
    and fast!, and Ive gone as par as to nail it head long into a tree,
    witch, if I’m honest, hurt me quite allot…BUT NOT THE BIKE! EVEN

  16. I know absolutely nothing about what kind of bike to buy, and in the neighboorhood that I live in, it’s really good to have a bike that lasts.

  17. I just got a schwinn and It Awesome, Its gears Stick Every Long Once in a while but it is GREAT!!!

  18. I got a blue and silver sturdy NEXT bike with dual suspension for $70 at walmart and it’s amazing. I could ride it easily even before I was tall enough to get on and off. It is a little heavy and the gears can mess up once in a while, but for where I live it’s perfect.

    • I dont think that was a good choice because next bike are cheap and break

    • Don’t be completaly satisfied. I got a bike like that along time ago ang I thought it would last but after a year it fell over and the gears snaped right off. What I would recomend (what I personaly did) is if you don’t have a bike shop you should go to a place like Dick’s and look for a $300-$600 bike(probably a dimond back) and spen your mony on that!

  19. Dimodback full suspention bikes are great.

  20. Get a GT or a Foes and even if it is expensive it is way worth the money

  21. Longhorns 3-0 // September 20, 2009 at 7:03 pm // Reply

    Oh ya Kona and Tonka are good too.

  22. Longhorns 3-0 // September 20, 2009 at 7:01 pm // Reply

    OK yall dont know any thing about Mountain bikes. First off $259 is a OK price spark, second Schwinn is OK….but Treks, Giants, Cannondales, and Specializeds are MUCH better. 5 times the price but soooo worth it. Wal mart bikes are VERY HEAVY and dont last u. (if u actually ride it 2 times a week) Last, stay away from wall mart or target, Try Dick’s, acadmey or a local bike shop….most of their bikes ARNT made in china.

    Hook em horns

  23. kona rocks i love it i do not have one but i know how much it rocks!!!!!

  24. Is a mongoose subject good

  25. I got a schwinn for 150$ from Target.

    • hillbilly boy // September 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm // Reply

      I got a schwinn from target too, but It’s front brakes stick, and the back tire rims are a little bent now after using it, but it’s still pretty good averall

  26. get a tonka full suspension from walmart in 20in. I love mine and didnt have to spend alot of cash only 59.99!

  27. bike rider 352 // August 4, 2009 at 1:31 pm // Reply

    For bicycle essentials for bikers who ride on roads with regular vehicle traffic, I’d include a flourescent orange zippered sweat shirt or a flourescent orange traffic triangle flag along with other bicycle reflectors that vehicle drivers can spot in low visibility situations from greater than fifty yards from a bicyclist–for the essence of bicycle safety.

  28. my dad has a shwin sidewinder that is more than 10 years old but it is a great bike.

  29. x6789nmju // July 7, 2009 at 2:42 pm // Reply

    i think konas the best

  30. corvette guy // May 31, 2009 at 8:00 am // Reply

    I got a Schwinn spitfire from a department store and it works just fine, thabk you.

  31. Got a Schwinn S-60–It’s awesome! I do all sorts of wheelies and bunnyhops on it!

  32. I got a Trek 820… It’s nice. Konas are really amazing, too.

  33. colonel klink // April 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm // Reply

    mountain bikes have great traction

  34. Konas are the best types of bikes. If you get a kona, you’re reallly getting into the area of high performance and durable bikes, with great components.

  35. I have a mongoose. I was on of those $100 Wal-Mart ones, but it’s good enough for me!

    • Dreadspeedkid // May 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm // Reply

      That’s weird. I cant find any boys’ bikes at walmart. I’m assuming you ride my size because if you were any bigger it would probably cost around $200.00, right?

  36. One tip. unless you do SERIOUS riding, never spend too much on a cannondale.

  37. You should never even consider getting a bike from a department. all it will do is break into pieces within a couple of days. Do yourself a favor and spend the extra $. I’m 17 and have purchased all of my bike from bike shops. They have better products and better customer service. I’ve been mountain biking for 6 years. I started out on a Trek 3700 for about $350. Now I have a Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo that cost me about $1500. Money well spent!!!

    • GARY FISHER is the way to go i have a green wahoo i plan to get disc brakes for it works great for beginners looking into mountain biking

  38. Davey Jones // March 20, 2009 at 9:49 am // Reply

    $100.00 bikes from wal-mart are not a very good choice because they are very heavy, fragile, and the suspension is extremely stiff. If you want a good bike you will have to go above $250.00.

  39. You cannot forget the mongoose mountain bikes. They are awesome! I went on a trail with my mongoose spark ( dual suspension, Dual disc brakes, Front and rear fenders, 21 speed and side handle bars and $259.00.) and it didn’t even creak.
    By the way is $259.00 a good price?

  40. Don’t have one yet but I want one.

  41. I got a great schwiin mountain bike at target for $130

  42. trek is without a doubt the probly the best moutain bike and road bike around. i have a trek and its a great bike to ride on trails and theings like that and it is a pretty good on the road to…..

  43. No bob, a $104 wal-mart bike is not good. if you do anything more that ride around very easy trails or the streets it will break. Do yourself a favor and buy a nice bike from a shop. I have a Trek 4200…i think. Its very nice

  44. Day before yesterday was my 11 bday so i got a trek 820 [16″] for $300 this guide is okay, but they should suggest some models.

  45. kedggoeriousdj // December 7, 2008 at 5:11 pm // Reply

    Last year I bought my first mountain bike for $350.00 at Trails End. I now race with WVMBASS (west virginia mountain bike assoc) I also ride on the W AND O(WASHINGTNTON and Ohio rail road) i ride on my rode bike 21 mi in 1 hour to Purcellville to Washingston

  46. i have a specialized rochhopper. it cost 770.00. its a great bike, and comes in many sizes (im 6′ 4″)

  47. mountain biker // November 3, 2008 at 11:59 am // Reply

    I almost bought a schwinn but then went to a bike shop and for 150 more and got the more exspensive and is cooler looking lighter

    and better

  48. i found a dual suspension at wal-mart for 104.00 and its really good.

  49. nice info, keep it up BL

  50. Grahamcracker // August 29, 2008 at 7:39 am // Reply

    that is some pretty good edvise.

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