Birth of the mountain bike
The MTB or Mountain Bike is a bicycle that allows to ride on uneven terrain thanks to wide and serrated tyres. The actual mountain bike (MTB), designed specifically to ride off the road, was born in the 1970s in the United States.
It was in 1979 that Tom Ritchey assisted by Gary Fischer and Charlie Kelly created the first brand of MTB (mountainbikes) and the first production of mountain bike series.
Very soon the enthusiasm for mountain biking became important and numerous international competitions were created: 1984 first Roc d'Azur, 1990 first cross-country and downhill World Championship, 1996 Olympic discipline. This is how MTB models adapted to each type of practice are developed. Today, brands offer different ranges ranging from cheap MTBs to the top-of-the-range model for extreme practices such as downhill.
The different types of MTBs and equipment
The practice of mountain biking has evolved tremendously since its creation in the 70s and the offer has adapted to the different practices that have emerged: enduro, cross country, downhill, all-mountain.... MTBs are distinguished by the size of the wheels: 26, 27.5 or 29 inches, the presence of suspensions at the front and/or rear, the travel and the rigidity and lightness of the frame (made of steel, aluminium, titanium or carbon). Today almost all mountain bikes are equipped with disc brakes.
- Regarding trail or cross country bikes, MTBs now usually have 29 inches wheels and at least a front suspension. The fact of not having a rear shock saves weight and allows a more efficient pedaling. However, there are still more and more full-suspension mountain bikes for this discipline. Nowadays you mainly see 29-inch wheels on cross country bikes since these wheels offer better rolling and efficiency though loosing a bit of playfullnesss might some say. Note that 26 and 27,5 inch MTBs are the old MTB standard and are less and less used today in this category except for dirt bikes that only use 26 inch wheels.
For enduro, downhill, all-mountain and freeride, MTBs have wheels generally either in 27.5 or 29 inches and sometimes a mix of both. They have suspensions both at the front and rear. The frame heavier than a hardtail due to the shock added at the rear and the different geometry of the bike. It's more comfortable and stable than a hardtail, it's also more efficient in technical downhills and trails but less so during uphills.
- Enduro MTB: a clever combination of a cross-country bike and a downhill bike. The enduro mountain bike is usually a full suspension MTB with suspensions travel going from 140mm to 170 mm. It's made of aluminium, carbon or titanium. This is a very versatile bike that will handle downhills at perfection and still be able to get you back up the hill.
- Cross-country MTB: mostly hardtails with a low travel suspension at the front, the cross-country mountain bike is lightweight and allows you to perform well on pedaling. Full-suspension cross-country MTBs also exist and offer greater comfort and are used more and more in competition. The frame is made of carbon or aluminium, usually carbon since it's trying to be as light as possible. This is the bike that goes uphill with the most ease however it's having a much more difficult time going downhill.
- DH MTB or MTB Downhill MTB: it's a heavier bike with oversized front and rear suspensions (going up to 220mm of travel). The center of gravity of the frame of a downhill MTB is low which makes it more stable, it allows the pilot to handle rough terrains better. Deffinitely the weapon of choice for going downhill however forget about going up since it's not made to pedal uphill! It's usually made of aluminium or carbon, knowing that the carbon bike will be lighter but also stiffer, while an aluminium frame will absorb some of the vibrations for better comfort.
- Freeride MTB: equipped with front and rear suspensions, the free ride mountain bike is sometimes close to the Downhill bike since it also has a lot of travel to handle huge jumps. It is designed for stunt riding, it's usually a reinforced frame with a geometry made to give more stability in the air.
- The all-mountain MTB: designed for a versatile practice, this mountain bike is a full-suspension bike with medium travel and lighter components than an Enduro bike.
- The dirt MTB : inspired by the BMX, the dirt bike is a compact and solid hardtail, easy to handle for jumps and stunts. It's used extensively in indoor and outdoor bike parks.
When you make your choice, whether it's a cheap mountain bike with a minimum of features or a more sophisticated and therefore more expensive MTB, you'll quickly enjoy the steep trails. A carbon MTB is ideal if you're looking for performance and lightweight. Men's mountain bikes and women's bikes can be distinguished as the black mountain bike is distinguished from the red mountain bike. Indeed, the geometry of women's mountain bike frames is different.
The rider's equipment can range from a minimalist outfit (cycling shorts, jersey, gloves, helmet and glasses for cross-country for example) to a safety-oriented outfit (back protection, full-face helmet, goggles, knee guards) for the extreme practices.
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