What are mountain biking categories?

Trials, Tricks and Dirt: More Mountain Biking Categories

If you have a couple of tricks up your sleeve, you may want to try urban or freestyle mountain biking.
If you have a couple of tricks up your sleeve, you may want to try urban or freestyle mountain biking.
Darryl Leniuk/Getty Images

Mountain biking doesn't always involve flying along with the clock breathing down your back. Still, the following types of mountain biking are anything but boring.

Trials. While most biking competitions are about speed, trials are the exception. Trials are about agility, balance and a little bit of creativity. Whether hopping across a narrow beam on the bike's back wheel or navigating up and over a log or rock, the goal is to complete the course with as few mistakes as possible. What constitutes a mistake? Depending on the trial, it can be letting your feet or certain parts of the bike touch the ground, or missing an obstacle. Because trials focus more on maneuvering and less on riding, these mountain bikes are possibly the strangest looking ones out there -- they usually have small wheels, strong brakes and no seat.

Urban/Street. This category is more commonly known as urban, freestyle or street BMX (bicycle motocross). These are the riders you see sliding down handrails on their pegs, jumping over benches and banking their wheels off walls in the middle of cities, on playgrounds and just about anywhere else that could be used for stunts. Riders in this category focus on tricks, agility and making good use of whatever is around them to get some air. Freestyle BMX bikes often have small wheels, wide tires and pegs (metal bars sticking out from the middle of the wheel) that can be used for sliding down things or for the rider to stand on when performing a trick.

Dirt jumping. Dirt jumping resembles urban BMX in that it incorporates jumps and tricks, but it's different in that the tricks are performed on dirt hills and mounds. Dirt jumpers usually spend a lot of time digging and building their own dirt jumping courses. Since dirt jumping bikes can take a beating, they're built strong and tend to be heavier than other bikes -- usually more than 30 pounds (13 kilograms).

All-mountain. The all-mountain category refers to your basic mountain biking. All-mountain involves riding long trails with lots of ups and downs. It is sometimes called enduro, which reflects the long-distance, endurance aspect of this type of riding. All-mountain bikes are pretty popular in the bicycle market. They have a lot of gears to handle both uphill and downhill riding, are built light enough for uphill riding and are tough enough to take hits.

Freeride. This mountain biking niche occupies the middle ground. This category is the go-anywhere, do-anything type, with an all-around bike to match. Whether you build it or find it, if you can put a wheel on it or jump it, it's freeriding. It's all about getting out and cycling. Freeride bikes have a lot of all-around features like all-mountain bikes, but they tend to be heavier and therefore not as good for riding up hills.

For more about mountain biking, racing and bicycling in general, ride over to the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Armijo, Vic. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cycling." Penguin. 1999.
  • BBC Sports Academy. "The Crazy World of Mountain Biking." (Accessed Nov. 12, 2009)http://news.bbc.co.uk/sportacademy/hi/sa/special_events/cycling/newsid_3992000/3992329.stm
  • Brink, Tim. "Complete Mountain Biking Manual." New Holland. 2007.
  • Crowther, Nicky. "The Ultimate Mountain Bike Book." Firefly Books, Ltd. 2002.
  • Cunningham, Richard. "Out of the Shadows." International Mountain Biking Association Trail News, Fourth Annual Freeride Guide. Fall 2006. (Accessed Nov. 20, 2009)http://www.imba.com/news/trail_news/19_3/itn_19_3.pdf
  • Eller, Mark. "Welcome to the World of Freeriding." Parks and Recreation Magazine. Volume 40, No. 12. December 2005.
  • Partland, J.P., and John Gibson. "Mountain Bike Madness." MBI Publishing Company. 2003
  • Shimano American Corporation. "Outdoor Freedom: As Natural as Riding a Bike." (Accessed Nov. 13, 2009)http://www.nemba.org/documents/ShimanoEconImpactsDocument.pdf
  • Snyder, Chad Robert. "Mountain Bike Attack." Mail Tribune. May 1, 2008. (Accessed Nov. 12, 2009)http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080501/LIFE/805010318/-1/OREGONOUTDOORS01
  • Worland, Steve. "The Mountain Bike Book." J.H. Haynes & Co. 2003.