With the inevitable march of technological innovations, venturing into the world of mountain biking can be intimidating for many beginners. Just where do you begin with so many different kinds of bikes, brands, features and materials? In this article we take a quick dive and set out 7 essential features your first mountain bike needs to have.
7 essential features to look for in your first mountain bike
1. Disc brakes

Disc brakes are an essential part of the modern mtb. With superior stopping power and reliable all-weather breaking, they have all but replaced rim brakes.

Choosing a first bike with rim brakes to save on cost means that you can never install or upgrade to disc brakes. The mounting points necessary for disc brakes come as a part of the frame, and will not be present on a bike that comes with rim brakes.

You can choose either hydraulic or mechanically operated disc brakes. With the former providing more stopping power whilst the latter is more cost effective.

Don’t forego this all-important feature for supreme stopping power on the trails.

2. A derailleur hanger

Crashes are inevitable when you begin trail riding. One of the most important things to look for in a beginner bike is a derailleur hanger. It connects your derailleur to your frame. Designed to break upon a heavy impact, they will sacrifice themselves to save your frame!

A bike with a derailleur that mounts directly onto the frame is a warning sign. They leave you vulnerable to irreparably damaging your frame upon impact. Derailleur hangers are cheap and easily replaced. Don't buy a mountain bike that doesn't have one.

3. Quick release wheels

Flats are common out on the trails and are an inevitable part of mountain biking. So when you have a puncture, you’ll want a quick release lever to quickly and effortlessly remove your wheel.

Many cheaper mountain bikes will use nuts to secure the wheel, implying you need to carry a wrench. This can be both inconvenient and time consuming for you and your riding partners in the event of a puncture.

4. Threadless stem

Identifiable by pinch bolts, a threadless stem is an essential addition to any mountain bike. When riding over rough terrain, the stem can take a hammering. And if damaged, a one-piece stem can be hard to replace as you are limited to old, unreliable parts.

Threadless stems are easy to service and replace while also offering a much tougher design to handle the rigours of off road riding.

5. A modular crank and chainring

When it comes to crank and chainring assembly, you should avoid a bike where they are riveted together. Ideally they should consist of several independent pieces bolted securely together.

In cases where they consist of one large piece, an innocuous crash that causes damage means that the entire set has to be replaced. To avoid this costly process, don’t buy a bike with an all-in-one crank and chainring system.

6. Hardtail or full suspension?

A mountain bike with both front and rear suspension will generally be out of the price range of most seeking their first mountain bike.

Hardtail bikes - those which have only a front suspension - are often the best choice as a first bike. Not only are they a superior choice in terms of price, but also as a means for progressing your skills.

As a newcomer, you’ll learn how to maneuver the bike better. A hardtail bike will force you to choose a better line on the trail and will force you out of the saddle more often.

Beginner riders generally won’t maximise the potential of a high-end bike with full suspension. It is always better to hone your skills on a hardtail.

7. Weight, durability and price - Can you have all 3?

You need to compromise somewhere as you can’t have all 3! We can all benefit from a lighter bike, but unless you are competing, weight is not of primary concern for a beginner. If you want to keep costs low, be prepared to buy a slightly heavier bike. A lightweight durable bike doesn’t come at a cheap price, so beware of models on sale that claim to exhibit all 3.

In conclusion: At Decathlon we’re here to help. We know it can be a daunting experience as you delve into the world of mountain biking. We stock a wide range of mountain bikes, and by selecting wisely you can choose a bike which will not only serve your needs, but which can also be easily upgraded as your skills improve and you tackle more challenging terrain.

From there it’s a question of getting faster and fitter, jumping higher and farther, and becoming better simply by trying to keep up!