How to Choose a Mountain Bike

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

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.