Whenever you’re buying any kind of first bike, one of the problems you have is that you’re unlikely to know exactly what type of riding you’ll be doing. In a road bike, for instance, a lightweight frame is good if you’re going to climb a lot of hills, while an aero design may suit you better if you want to go fast on the flats. The geometry of the bike, too, is usually geared towards a certain type of riding.

In mountain bikes, you’re faced with a similar dilemma. Knowing what type of riding you’ll be doing most will inform your buying decisions. Here are the three main styles of mountain bike:

  • Cross Country (XC) bikes are designed to cover varied, undulating terrain, allowing for extended climbs.
  • Enduro/All-Mountain (AM) bikes are intended primarily for fast descents, while still being light enough to climb and ride other parts of a course.
  • Trail bikes, as their name suggests, are meant for recreational rides along trails and paths. These bikes are good all-rounders and have a relaxed geometry for comfortable riding.

If you’ve never ridden a mountain bike before, a trail bike is a decent place to start. Suspension is another key area to look at when choosing a bike. There are two main choices:

  • Hardtail: a hardtail bike has suspension in its front forks, but no shock absorption at the rear. This makes it better for power transfer, making it a little faster than a full-suspension bike on flat land.
  • Full suspension: a full suspension mountain bike has shock absorption at front and rear and is ideal for fast riding down descents. The extra suspension makes the bike heavier, so the bike becomes more sluggish when climbing.

A hardtail bike is cheaper and easier to maintain, so makes a good first choice.