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Ultimate Beginners Guide to Buying a MTB

Author: Darren Mallard   Date Posted:9 March 2022 

Buying your first mountain bike can be a daunting task. Bicycles Online want to make the process as easy as possible for you by narrowing down your choices. We will look at the riding you will be doing, what bikes are best for terrains and how to get the best bang for your buck. 

What is Mountain Biking?

Mountain bikes are designed for riders looking to explore the outdoors, expand their boundaries or challenge their limits against the clock. They are made to be robust, comfortable and confidence-inspiring when you turn off the tarmac.

Mountain biking starts as a riding style but soon becomes a way of life as you discover more riding destinations, go further than you could ever go on foot or ever reach in a car. You can test your limits of speed, endurance and riding ability or, just head out on a leisurely roll whenever you like.

Key Features

  • Increased traction and comfort provided by the suspension
  • Wide, Knobbly tyres that dig into the dirt
  • Disc brakes for powerful and reliable braking in all conditions
  • Frame geometry optimised for stability
  • Designed to take on the rough terrain and allow riders to explore with confidence


What style of MTB should I get?

There are so many types of mountain bikes on the market these days that it is hard to decide what suits you best. Often the best way to pick which bike will suit you best is to identify the terrain you will be riding.

Cross Country

Cross Country bikes are designed to conquer the toughest climbs with ease, take riders to the top step at an XC race or, allow riders to travel as far as they possibly can on a ride.

They are light, stiff and leap forward with every pedal stroke. With 90-120mm of travel the efficient and nimble to ride. They love to maintain speed and propel riders along the smoother tracks with ease. When the turns get tight on the way up they turn on a dime.

While they are robust and built to take on big challenges, the lightweight components are not always up to the task of difficult descents and may fail when tracks get gnarly. The agile nature of these bikes on the climbs becomes unstable on the fast downs. If you are an experienced rider you can manage to ride XC bikes downhill with pace but, if you are a beginner they may reduce some enjoyment on the descents.




Trail bikes

Trail bikes are the swiss army knives of mountain biking, designed for climbing, traversing and descending with confidence. They offer a mix of benefits from XC, All Mountain and enduro bikes, to create a bike for any style of trail.

With 120-140mm of travel and frame geometry more aimed towards speed, trail bikes are more robust to take on harder hits. They still retain some of the agility and playful traits seen in XC bikes so climbing can still be a good time.

We recommend these bikes to most beginners as they allow riders to discover the broadest range of MTB trails. They are easy to climb and descend with confidence. As you progress you may discover you want an XC bike to climb faster, you may want an enduro bike that descends with more confidence or, you could find that trail bikes suit your style perfectly.



Enduro bikes are optimised to descend with speed while boosting a rider’s confidence. Thanks to long, low and slack geometry partnered with the 160mm+ of travel, enduro bikes love to push the boundaries.

Because these bikes are optimised for speed on the descents, climbing can be a bit of a chore. They can winch themselves up the mountain and it may take a bit more energy but, it is all worth it once you point back down.

If you are looking to ride the steep, rocky terrain with jumps and drops, an enduro bike will have your back. They will inspire you to challenge obstacles that once scared you and ride faster down the mountain than ever before.



Carbon Fiber

Carbon fibre is a premium material, and this is reflected in the price. Thanks to malleable fibres, a frame's ride characteristics can be tuned throughout the structure. Lightweight carbon fibre frames combine the best features of Alloy and steel; they are laterally stiff while remaining vertically compliant, resulting in excellent power delivery with insurmountable comfort.


Alloy mountain bikes provide the same stiffness as carbon and can be stronger when it comes to direct impacts. Alloy will also dent instead of crack, this means your bike can retain structural integrity even after a heavy hit.

Alloy Mountain bikes also offer better value because the materials are cheaper and are easily manufactured. Thanks to the lower frame cost, some alloy bikes can come with higher spec components for a better overall price. If you are tossing up between two bikes where one is a carbon frame with low specs and the other is an alloy with higher specs but they are the same price, we recommend the alloy version as it will give you a better ride.

Why should I buy a Hardtail mountain bike?

Hardtail mountain bikes offer amazing value with amazing simplicity. If you are on a budget, want to challenge yourself or want a bike with less fuss, a Hardtail will be perfect for you. 

Thanks to the added simplicity from the lack of suspension linkages Hardtail Mountain bikes are extremely cost-effective to manufacture. This means you can get an excellent bike at an amazing price. 

Some commuters enjoy using hardtail mountain bikes as they get extra comfort from the larger tyres, front suspension and upright riding position. While the bigger tyres and extra weight may make them a little less efficient on the tarmac the comfort and durability benefits far outweigh the negatives. 

Hardtail Mountain Bikes teach riders how to use their body while navigating over difficult terrain. Beginners can learn a lot of fundamental skills from a hardtail mountain bike. On the flip side, they can be difficult to ride for inexperienced riders and may result in a less enjoyable ride. Riders who think they may suffer without rear suspension should check out our dual-suspension range. 


Why should I buy a Dual Suspension mountain bike?

Dual suspension mountain bikes use linkages and rear shock absorbers to allow the rear wheel to move up and over terrain as well as the front. This leads to increased traction, stability and confidence. 

Because both wheels can move up and down with the terrain your bike’s tyres will remain in contact with the ground more constantly. The suspension will actually compress the tyres into the ground through corners, on jumps and through roots so you can concentrate on holding your line with confidence.

Dual suspension bikes absorb the bumps and keep your bike level as you ride rough tracks. You won’t be getting bucked forward or get sent offline as easy, this inspires the rider with confidence as you just point and shoot. 

Riders who are new to cycling will benefit from the extra safety and control that a dual-suspension can provide. Experience riders and racers love dual-suspension bikes thanks to the extra confidence as they push their limits and increase stability at warp speed. 

The only major downsides to dual suspension are added weight from the linkage systems, some increased pedalling inefficiency from pedal bob and a larger price tag. If you are looking for exceptional value, a lighter frame and pedalling efficiency a hardtail will be for you. 



What do the different levels of components do?


Deore                                         Shimano XTR

An unsung hero of mountain biking                            Shimano’s flagship mountain bike groupset, XTR,  
componentry, Shimano’s Deore may                           has long been the company’s signature component suite.
be high on value, but it’s not low on quality,              In 2018, the Japanese maker released its first
performance or reliability.                                                12-speed iteration of this top of the range drivetrain, the M9100,
                                                                                                 featuring an enormous 51-tooth cassette, along with a 
                                                                                                 range of weight-saving features. Even before the addition
                                                                                                 of its 12th speed XTR could be found on the bikes of the world’s 
Over the years it’s been tweaked and                           fastest competitors, claiming podium finishes                           
refined and has benefited from                                      in the biggest competitions around the globe.
improvements in technology at the higher
echelons of the Shimano hierarchy which                   Lightweight, strong and stuffed with impressive technology,
has trickled down into upgraded features                   it provides some of the crispest, efficient and consistent 
for this entry-level brand. An ideal choice                    gearing on the market.
on entry-level bikes and for general trail

SLX                                               Shimano Deore XT                   

A relatively recent addition to the Shimano                   XT brings a whole new level of performance to the 
groupset family, SLX is a highly versatile                         Deore family, taking advantage of lighter weight parts 
component group that you can tailor to your                and even higher performance features. As with most
own riding preferences. SLX is a smooth-shifting,        components in the Shimano stable, XT gets trickle-down
long-lasting option packed with Shimano’s                   features from the higher models in the group, with many
high-tech features, including their Shadow+                 options on offer to tailor for your requirements – whether
rear derailleur, Ice Technology disc brakes,                     you’re a trail rider, cross-country cyclist or big-hitting
and the RapidFire plus shifter. All this adds                    all-mountain type.
up to an exceptional performance at a sensible
price.                                                                                           Crisper shifting, increased power transfer and general
                                                                                                      refinement are where XT excels.


SRAM SX Eagle                            SRAM GX Eagle

The SX Eagle uses similar technology                                 GX Eagle was the first affordable bridge to 50t-speed from SRAM
to some of SRAM’s higher-end groupsets                          and quickly became one of their most popular as a result. 
but the SX is at a much lower price point.                          Using much of the technology from the top end 
Although on the lowest rung of the Eagle                         groupsets without some of the weight-saving advantages of the
drivetrain lineup it still shares technologies                       XX1 and X01, GX is a reliable, high-performance groupset worthy
most obviously the largest 50T sprocket cassette.           of its place on any bike. 
The SX Eagle is a more common sight on
complete bikes.

SRAM said their Eagle drivetrains are designed to
work as complete systems, giving riders the ability to
interchange XX1, X01, GX, or NX Eagle components
as they desire.

SRAM NX Eagle                             SRAM X01 Eagle

NX Eagle shares technologies with its higher-end             Released in 2017, SRAM X01 Eagle swooped to popular acclaim
birds of a feather, making it completely compatible          with its tight response, reliability, and sensational performance. 
within the Eagle component ecosystem – good
news for Eagle riders looking to replace parts for

SRAM GX EAGLE AXS                   SRAM XX1 EAGLE

When SRAM released their high-end XX1 and XO1              The original and still the gold standard, the SRAM XX1 
wireless drivetrains, not only were we excited by the          Eagle is the envy of riders everywhere with its gleaming 
new technology but possibly more interesting that it        golden chain and cassette. Initially conceived with cross- 
wouldn’t be too long until that technology worked its       country riding in mind, the XX1 Eagle offers incredible  
way down to SRAM’s more affordable drivetrains.                shifting quality in the toughest settings.

GX Eagle AXS is the perfect example of trickle-down
technology – the performance on offer with GX Eagle
AXS is so close to the top end systems that many people
will be wondering why they should spend more.

The Upgrade Kit comes with a rear derailleur, battery,
controller with clamp, charger and chain gap tool – which is
everything you need to take your wired SRAM Eagle system
to the next level, without having to splash out on a fresh groupset. 

Finding Balance

We would all love to start riding the best superbike possible, but we know that is not possible for everyone. The best bike may also be overwhelming for many new riders due to the insane amount of adjustment and technology.

When you are on a budget, we recommend aiming to get the bike closest to your maximum amount. Bikes represent a more effective product for the more you pay. Settling for a lower price can often mean you are settling for a lower grade product.


If you are looking at riding extremely rough terrain a lot of the time, a bike that isn't up to the challenge will end up costing you more over the long run. You want to be riding your bike, not repairing it all the time. Spending the extra money at the start will save you money in the long run. 

While Bicycles Online offers the best bikes for the best value, we still understand that balancing your budget with the bike you want is hard. When you are sitting at your desk wondering which model you want to get, we highly recommend doing so if you can stretch the budget and get a better bike. Sacrificing higher-end components to save some money at the start will only hurt your wallet in the long run. Get on the best bike now and enjoy the ride. 

If you are not sure Mountain Bikes are going to suit your needs check out our full buyers guide HERE