The type of riding you intend to undertake will greatly influence the style and bike configuration. Although most mountain bikes look similar, there is a vast difference in frame types, steering geometry, suspension, gearing as well as the wheels, brakes and tyres.
As a rule of thumb, a beginner rider will best be served by a recreational cross country bike. If you intend to do a lot of riding on pavement and off-road, choose a model with good front suspension, no rear suspension (hardtail) as they have the best efficiency and comfort. If you intend to do more off-road riding, a full suspension frame is best.
If you intend to use it exclusively off-road and mostly over rough terrain look for a higher end full suspension model as these will have a greater range of suspension travel and a heavier more robust frame and brakes. This will help with the comfort and stability of your ride.
Downhill MTB’s must be very heavy duty in design and have lower, looser steering geometry. These design changes make the bike more responsive at fast speeds down steep slopes; these bikes are designed for the more experienced rider.
Depending on the type of riding you wish to undertake the following is a list of good MTB brands which I have found to be good quality and good value for money. They are Giant, Diamondback, Kona, Trek, Norco, Schwinn, Mongoose and GT brand bikes.
The last thing you need to decide is, do you want good, or do you want cheap. The words “good” and “cheap” are not synonymous, nor are good bikes generally found in discount department stores.
While researching Kids mountain bikes, I discover a renewed passion for the sport as both my sons now have mountain bikes. We purchased a 21 speed – 24 inch “GT Stomper” for my nine year old son while my eleven year old son rides a five year old, 7 speed – 20 inch Schwinn.
My eleven year old does well to keep up with us on our larger and faster bikes. His bike is much more agile over jumps and tight tracks. He now wants to upgrade to a larger 26″ bike. Due to his age and height, frame selection is critical as he is going through rapid growth spurts. He is currently just that little too short for a medium frame size. We are waiting until his next birthday before choosing a good mountain bike with a larger frame size that he will not outgrow too quickly.
I must commend my son as he has learnt that there is a difference between a cheap bike, a good bike and a reasonable bike. We said we would look at a GT aggressor, a reasonable bike, good for its price range; however, he has his eyes on the Mongoose Tyax Comp or if he can stretch his savings a GT Avalanche 1.