Extreme Sports Image Gallery
Extreme Sports Image Gallery

Mountain bikes have smaller frames and wider tires than traditional bikes. See pictures of extreme sports.

©iStockphoto.com/hamurishi

adAfterSmallInset

People have been modifying bicycles to handle difficult terrain for decades, while competitive mountain biking competitions date to the 1970s and 80s [Mountain Bike Hall of Fame]. Today, numerous manufacturers produce bikes specifically designed to tackle tough terrain and rigorous riding. The options available can seem staggering, from frame geometry to suspension, brakes and tire tread patterns.

A mountain bike differs from a road bike (commonly known as a "ten-speed" bike) by having a smaller, more rugged frame along with wider tires that can handle muddy tails, rocks and fallen branches and even jumps or steep climbs. The narrow, lightly treaded tires on a road bike may be efficient for high-speed riding on a smooth surface, but even the most gentle forest trail can give them problems.

Of course, mountain bikes aren't restricted to mountains. A durable bike able to handle wide variations in terrain might be ideal even if you ride cross-country or in an urban area. Whether you're planning long weekend rides, daily commutes or an all-out downhill assault on the steepest mountain around, this article will offer some crucial advice on finding the right mountain bike for you.