In the world of mountain biking we find that there are as many disciplines as types of terrain that can be ridden on. This last aspect is important when choosing a bike, as the first thing we should look at is how we are going to use it.
Though all mountain bikes (abbreviated as MTB) are designed for non-asphalt terrains, there are differences according to each discipline, mainly in geometry and suspension. Sometimes these differences can be confusing, so in this article we will try to shed some light on the different disciplines and what type of bike is best suited for each one.
Cross-Country or XC
Also known as XCO for Olympic racing, these names refer to the same riding style, which is also the most popular. Aside from XCO circuits, this discipline is typically associated with trails or tracks without too much technical difficulty.
As for XC bikes, most have a rigid and lightweight frame (aluminium or carbon), though some also have short-travel full suspension between 80 and 110 mm. As for the wheels, the most popular in recent years have been the 29” as they have good grip, deal well with obstacles and get the most out of each pedal stroke.
XC aluminium cranks are also used to improve the stiffness-to-weight ratio.
XCM – Cross-Country Marathon
Very similar to XC, so it is generally included in this discipline. In the Marathon MTB category we can find bikes for more technical or long distance routes. The suspension travel is greater, up to 120 mm, and the materials should be as light as possible. In addition, specific power meters are used, such as the 2INpower DM MTB.
This is another of the most popular disciplines, where the focus is on enjoying the bike and the mountain landscape, with suspension travel between 120 and 130 mm and, though you also use 29” wheels, the tires are wider, between 2.25 and 2.35”.
Though similar to the previous discipline, these bikes are also geared towards performing well downhill and on more technically complicated terrain. In these cases you need a more versatile MTB, perhaps with a less competitive edge than the XC bikes but more aggressive than the trail models as far as steering angle. In this category, we mostly find full suspension bikes with greater suspension travel (between 110 and 140 mm) and 29” wheels.
Enduro mountain biking is possibly the discipline that has grown most in popularity in recent years. Although they have similarities with the previous models, these bikes are mainly designed for going downhill, including technical descents and very fast sections. However, the idea here is to make it uphill by your own means while saving energy so as to complete several stages in each race. Therefore, although these bikes are equipped for climbing uphill, they are not as efficient in this area as XC or trail models. Here it’s important to maximise power transfer, for which you can use an INpower® DM MTB power meter together with oval Q rings to achieve maximum pedalling efficiency.
Suspension travel usually ranges between 150 and 160 mm and the bikes have a more aggressive geometry than those designed for the previous disciplines.
Downhill or DH
Very technical descents, tall ramps… In this discipline, completely geared towards descent, we will rarely see a cyclist pedalling, just a few meters if at all, so the climb is done by other means.
In this category we’ll find bikes designed to perform very fast and safely on descents, with front and back suspension and 180-220 mm forks, so as to undertake jumps and technical challenges at high speed. The wheels are usually 27.7” in diameter with 2.5 or 2.6” tires.
Though this is a basic classification, we hope to have shed some light on the different disciplines that can be found in the world of mountain biking. Please go to the comments and tell us – what kind of mountain biking do you practice?