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Mountain Biking Guide Series - Article 2: Mountain Biking Categories

In our previous post, we discussed what mountain biking is and the different types of mountain biking. Today, we will delve into each category and see the differences between them.

Cross-Country Cycling

The summer Olympic Games has Cross-Country mountain biking as the only sport out of all other mountain biking types.

Cross-Country mountain biking is simply riding your mountain bike from point A to point B or loop from point A and back to point A. This ride should include variety of terrain including climbs and descents.

A typical Cross-Country bicycle weights 9-13 kg. (20-30 lbs.), and usually comes with front suspension and sometimes rear suspension.

This type of mountain biking requires physical strength and endurance but no special technical skills.

Trail Riding

Trail riding or biking in a trail is a recreational activity that is done in designed trials and marked for such activity. The trails can be unpaved tracks, forest paths and other forms of outdoor trails. Some of the trails are large and complex routes and others are simple and relatively short.

All-Mountain – Also known as Enduro

All-Mountain later became part of the Enduro World Series racing. Enduro racing has two forms. Big-Mountain Enduro which is a long race, sometimes takes a full day to complete, that contains climbing sections.

Gravity Enduro is the other form. It uses equal amounts of uphill and downhill. Usually, there is a maximum time limit on how long a rider has to reach the top of the climb.


Enduro bikes have moderate-travel suspension system and components that are usually stronger than Cross-Country bike models. While there are high level full time racers, most Enduro racers compete for fun.


As the name suggests, this type of mountain biking is to ride your bicycle downhill which includes jumps up to 12 meters (39 feet) and drops for 3+ meters (10+ feet). Generally, the courses are rough and steep.

Racers usually use the ski resorts in the summer and utilize the lifts and other automobiles to reach the point of descent, especially that downhill mountain bikes are heavy to a point that precludes cycling uphill.

Downhill bikes are equipped with front and rear suspension and large disk brakes. Their weight is about 16-20 kg. (35-44 lbs.) considering the heavy frame they must have along with other heavy parts.


Downhill is one of the most dangerous cycling type due to the extreme steep and rough terrain. Therefore, racers must wear minimum body protection such as knee pads,

full-face helmet, and goggles.

Racers of this sport possess total body strength, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, mental control, as well as the acceptance of relatively high risk of incurring injury.


This type of mountain biking is similar, in the bigger picture, to Cross-Country cycling especially, as its name suggests, that you can do anything from downhill to clock jumping…etc. However, trails are elevated with interconnecting bridges and logs which require more skills and aggressive techniques than Cross-Country. It can also be thought of as Cross-Country biking with BMX style tricks and techniques.

Freeride bikes have no specified standard. Usually, the riders prefer to custom build their bicycles depending on the level of skill or aggression they prefer. Rear and front suspensions are common in these kind of bikes and they are relatively heavier than their Cross-Country counter parts but still retaining their climbing ability.

Dirt Jumping

Trails, where Dirt Jumping is practiced, are shaped with special mounds and piles of dirt and soil so that after riding over the lip, the rider will become airborne and aim to land on the knuckle.


Any bicycle can be used for dirt jumping but competitors usually choose smaller and more maneuverable bikes so that tricks, such as backflips, whips, and tabletops, are easier to perform. The bikes are usually simple so that when a crash occurs, there are fewer parts to break or cause injury. Also, the bikes are sturdier and built from materials such as steel to be able to handle repeated heavy impacts.

These are the most common categories but mountain biking is not limited to just the aforementioned six types. There are more types with more or less features and specifications in common with the six we discussed.


To mention few more, Marathon, which is long distance touring on dirt roads.

Bikepacking, similar to backpacking and camping but it includes using your lightly laded bike in a multi-night mountain biking. And Urban or street which similar to BMX.

As you noticed, mountain biking can be done for fun and recreation as well as a competitive sport.


In our next post, we will discuss the equipment needed for mountain biking in addition to the different accessories as well as the protective gear.

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