How to Buy Your First Mountain Bike: Frame Sizes
If there’s one thing that’s crucial when you’re buying your first mountain bike, it’s getting the right size of ride. Get the wrong size and you’ll end up struggling to control the bike, straining to do so and possibly injuring yourself. So, how do you know?
If we’re being honest, the best bet for this is to ask the customer assistants in the bike shop when you go in. They’ll know the bikes and sizes back to front and should be able to help you out.
Most bikes are listed either by frame size or simply in the standard small, medium or large framework. Roughly, these are the sizes of bike that will suit each rider:
- An extra small bike will be for someone 135-150cm
- A small bike will be for someone 150-165cm
- A medium bike will be for someone 165-173cm
- A medium/large bike will be for someone 173-176
- A large bike will be for someone 173-176cm
- A large/extra large bike will be for someone 180-184cm
- An extra large bike will be for someone 184-195cm
You should also check out if the manufacturer of the bike has their own size chart, and remember, just because you’re a small in t-shirt size doesn’t mean you’re a small bike size as well!
Choosing Your First Mountain Bike: Frame Materials & Geometry
There are three common kinds of mountain bike frames available across the range. They are:
- Steel: The traditional material for mountain bike frames, steel is brilliantly durable and rust resistant, though it is heavier than many of the alternatives.
- Aluminium: This has become the most popular material for making mountain bike frames. Aluminium is not as durable as steel, but it is significantly lighter, and again resistant to rust.
- Carbon: Carbon frames came onto the market relatively recently but have revolutionised the mountain bike frame. Designers are able to shape the material and form different shapes that impact the dynamics of the bike. Carbon frames are super lightweight while also stronger than steel frames. The drawback is that they cost a lot more.
Traditionally, women’s bikes will be largely similar to the man’s – certainly in terms of suspension, wheels, brakes, chainstay, etc – but where they do differ is in frame.
Women’s frames tend to have shorter top tubes, meaning the saddle and handlebars are closer together to accommodate the average build of a woman. The saddle will also be set up differently.
The head angle on the frame of the bike is also something worth looking out for. The head angle is the angle between your head tube/fork and the floor.
The closer the fork is to being parallel to the ground, the easier it’ll be to go downhill, but the tougher the steering will be. The steeper the head angle on the bike, the better the bike will be at climbing.