This entry is a supplement to Episode 2 of Mountain Biking Explained. The following are good features to look for on beginner bikes. Whether you order your bike, buy it at a shop, or get it used, it’s surprisingly safe to just follow these guidelines. We use the 4 itie’s to choose a beginner bike:

  • Affordability
  • Reliability
  • Serviceability
  • Simplicity
  1. If you’re spending under $1200, it might be a good idea to find a hardtail. Hardtails are bikes that only have suspension in the front. For your dollar, you’ll get a lighter and more reliable hardtail than you will full suspension. Once you start spending more, the benefits of full suspension can outweigh the simplicity of a hardtail.
  2. Look for a bike with disc brakes. Disc brakes are ubiquitous on all legitimate mountain bikes, so a bike without them is a huge red flag. Whether they are cable driven or hydraulic will depend on how much money you spend, but they will be reliable and effective either way.
  3. A good bike will have quick release wheels, whether they are traditional skewers or more robust thru axles. This means the wheels can be removed without any tools, simply by flipping a lever (as opposed to wheels that are held on with nuts). Not only does this make the bike far easier to service, but it also reduces wear on the axles. Additionally, replacement and upgrade parts will all be either quick release or thru axle compatible, so you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you buy a mountain bike with bolt on wheels. Usually you only see this on cheap department store bikes which are not really meant to be serviced.
  4.  legitimate mountain bikes have threadless headsets. This is the part that connects the steer tube to the handlebars. In if has pinch bolts, you’re good to go. If you see a gooseneck with a nut around it you’re looking at a quill stem which is jurassic technology only used on department store bikes. Sure, these used to be just fine, but not anymore. The bikes that come with quill stems now are using really cheap stuff, and the worst part is that you can’t upgrade it. Your frame, your fork, your stem, your headset—everything is made to fit that old standard. So don’t shoot yourself in the foot, get bike with a modern threadless headset. You would only encounter the quill variety on used bikes or department store bikes.All
  5. Beginners will have an easier time with a one by. A one by, or 1x is a drivetrain with only one shifter. This is important because it’s easy to use. Cheaper bikes and older bikes usually have 3 gears up front, in addition to the ones in the rear. (yes, cheaper bikes have more gears than expensive bikes). This makes the bike heavier, noisier, more complex, less reliable, and way more difficult to operate. Go with the 1x.

Everything else like sizing, brand, or frame material is honestly pretty trivial for a beginner. You can speak with your local shop, read reviews, and even watch more videos to learn what’s right for you. As long as you choose a bike with those five essential features, you really can’t go wrong.