ride on woods and paths
The mountain bike was born in California at the end of the sixties: it was designed to travel on unpaved roads and paths both uphill and downhill.
Handiness, toughness and agility are the main characteristics an MTB should have.
Handiness, toughness and the necessity to travel on unpaved roads require a heavier frame; tyres with a wider diameter than a road bike are required, too, so as to increase friction between tyres and terrain and to reduce performance on paved roads. All the same, cycling tourists like MTBs a lot because they are safe on any kinds of terrain and steady enough to be fit to luggage transportation.
It’s the central and main part of a bike and the main point to get performance, comfort and usability; it obviously weighs on the final price.
An MTB frame has a different shape from the usual road bike frame in order to meet requirements of handiness and toughness. As a matter of fact, these MTB frames are more compact, less stretched out and much stronger.
These frames are mainly required to withstand the power of pedalling, discharge it on the rear wheel and withstand the stresses of off-road paths. If you want to purchase an MTB you should take rigidity, elasticity and weight of the frame into account: rigidity conveys pedalling energy to the rear wheel; elasticity helps your bike to withstand stresses and to fit to the various terrains; weight bears on the transportation of your bike.
This is why bike designers have used all those new materials which combine lightness, rigidity and elasticity.
Until some years ago steel was the most used material as it is heavy enough and guarantees very good toughness and durability. But nowadays steel has been replaced with aluminium in mass production: as a matter of fact, 90% mountain bike frames are made of this material that is a good compromise between rigidity and weight.
Steel is still used in some low cost MTBs and in models with a very high cost and performance: steel frames with a similar weight as aluminium ones are produced by using special alloys and skilled labour; moreover they maintain elasticity and toughness which are the main features of steel.
Carbon: this is a very expensive material and is mostly mounted on bikes used in cross country competitions. It’s lighter and more flexible than aluminium but is also less strong and much more subjected to wear and tear.
Titanium: this is the top of the line material indeed as it represents the best compromise among strength, lightness and elasticity. Unfortunately it has a very high price, so this is why it’s not very common and it’s only mounted on very high level bikes.
Types of Mountain bikes
There are various types of mountain bikes; so, when you mean to purchase an MTB, you should realize the real differences among these kinds and how you want to use it.
FULLY RIGID BIKE
This is the basic model, with no suspension.
It’s not demanded very much because of the development and the reduction in prices of the bikes with suspension.
But we think that this model is often undervalued, as rigid MTBs are cheap and provide good performance thanks to their stability and to their easier control while in motion, especially if you want to carry some luggage. This is good unless you mean to use your bike for cross country racing or for very uneven pathways.
FRONT SUSPENDED or HARDTAIL
This type of bike has got a front suspension often implemented with a set of shock absorbers in the front fork and has about 80 to 100 mm of suspension travel.
Nowadays it’s the most common model and it’s also used in professional races with not too difficult circuits; moreover these bikes are lighter and easier to ride than the full suspended ones.
FULL SUSPENDED, or SOFTAIL BIKES
They have front and rear suspension and have been designed in order to guarantee to absorb shocks almost completely on very hard pathways, mostly downhill.
The double shock absorber makes these bikes very heavy; this is why designers tend to use more and more technological and light materials: unfortunately this weighs on the cost that’s really very high.