It’s helpful to know what to look for when buying a mountain bike whether you’re new to MTB or a road rider looking for the thrills of hitting the dirt and going off-road. So take a look at our top tips for finding the ideal ride to get trail-ready.

1. Choose the appropriate size

Anything else comes second to getting the right frame size. However, don’t focus on specified size – while many businesses are transitioning to small, medium, and large instead of increasingly misleading numbers (seat tubes have been shrinking even as frames get longer), there is no universal definition of large. The large size of one brand can be comparable to the medium size of another.

Rather, you’ll want to make sure your bike is a good fit for you. Look for (and compare) the reach (from the saddle to the bars) and stack (from the middle of the crank to the mid-head tube) dimensions, and don’t be afraid to go longer than you would on a road bike. The axle is further ahead with a long front triangle, allowing you to weight it (for grip) without risking going straight over the bars on the first hit. It also aids climbing by keeping the front wheel firmly planted.

Only don’t drive too far that you don’t have enough room to stop. Only a few centimetres are needed. A short seat tube allows for better standover and manoeuvrability, but make sure you can reach maximum pedalling height without overextending the seatpost. It’s worth noting that 29ers have taller fronts and that riding position can be drastically altered with different stems, bars, and seatposts.

2. Choose a wheel size.

Diameters have agreed on a simple binary option of 27.5in (650b, aggressive trail and downhill) or 29in (650b, aggressive trail and downhill) (XC and trail). However, the recent trend toward 29in downhill wheels and wide-rimmed Plus sizes are muddying the waters.

Although heavy, stiff, and light(ish) 29ers will certainly become more popular in the coming years – along with appropriate tyres and frames – for the time being, the option is largely the same: bigger hoops for long miles or smaller, stronger ones for ripping trails. On hardtails, plus sizes may really pay off, but they’re tyre pressure sensitive, and there’s some debate over whether they’re here to stay.

3. Decide whether you want a hardtail or a full-suss.

Full suspension costs money because of the rear shock, bearings, linkage, and additional manufacturing complications. As a result, a hardtail is likely to have a better parts spec than a full-suss bike at the same price. There will be less upkeep and less items to go wrong.

Full-suss bikes, on the other hand, are now more advanced than ever, and their benefits can still outweigh their drawbacks. There’s no need to dismiss either, but don’t believe the fallacy that you need to “practice” on a hardtail before upgrading to a “huge bike.” This is purely a matter of personal choice.

4. Don’t be obsessed with your weight.

While weight is important, strength is slightly more important off-road. When random rocks, roots, and ruts can catch you from all directions, flimsy has no position – steering precision, cornering, and trust all suffer, dragging your speed down with them. It’s preferable to bear a few extra pounds to avoid colliding with the hedge. Out of the workshop, as well. You can easily get best mountain bike under 600 from different online platforms.

5. Be wary of gaudy trinkets

Don’t be deceived by a good rear derailleur: these are often upgraded to help sell the bike. A good mech is important, but so are good shifters and cranksets, and chainrings aren’t far behind. Consider that lower-spec components are heavier, more basic, and not worth paying a premium for, so keep that in mind when planning potential upgrades. FSA offers a wide range of high-quality MTB products.

6. Prioritize consistency over quantity when choosing a suspension.

Examine the forks and shocks (on full suspension) on the bike you’re considering, and use the manufacturer’s website to find the exact models. Note that OE (original equipment) units which have a different (often lower) spec than aftermarket units that appear to be identical. Quality damping and a good air spring will benefit you even more than any additional travel.

7. Look for design that is future-proof.

Check for current/popular axle diameters and spacing, as well as headset, bottom bracket, and even seatpost diameters – you’ll have a hard time finding the smallest diameter dropper post (for adjusting saddle height on-the-fly), for example. Internal gear cabling/brake hosing is also desirable for ‘stealth’ droppers, but what it gains in looks it loses in noise and ease of maintenance.

8. Save a portion of your budget

A dedicated trail helmet can provide you with more coverage, a better build, and a good peak. You will also need a backpack and glasses to protect yourself from flying debris. And there are flat pedal sticky shoes, mountain bike specific shoes, cleats, and clipless pedals.

You might also want new tyres because OE tyres use harder, less expensive compounds and/or heavier steel beads than their aftermarket counterparts. You’ll almost definitely want to customise the shape and size of your cockpit, as well as your gearing.

On the upside, this all always counts as upgrading your bike!

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