The Lowdown on Mountain Bike Frames
Stronger and heavier than most other bike type frames, mountain bike frames are like the all-rounder in the biking family; they will just as easily take you off-road as they do on-road. When it comes to mountain bike frames, there are three options, each of which revolves around the level of suspension provided.
Rigid & Hardtail Mountain Bike Frames
The rigid frame does not come with any built-in suspension. As such, it tends to be the preferred option for beginner mountain biker riders given it is less expensive but also fairly good for everyday riding. In contrast, the hardtail mountain bike frame has front suspension forks. This makes them the preferred option off and on-road riding, as well as racing.
Dual Suspenion Mountain Bike Frame
Otherwise referred to as full suspension frames, dual suspension frames suffered in the past from a lack of technology surrounding the suspension. Those days are now long gone however, and dual suspension frames are now arguably the best frame for certain terrains. Unlike other frames, when you ride over bumps on a dual suspension bike it will absorb the impact so you can maintain your speed. Priced above rigid and hardtail frames, dual suspension frames are ideal for off-road and downhill riding.
As the general rule of thumb goes, a bike will be ridden faster the lighter it is. The catch for mountain bikes being that they need to be heavy so as to deliver optimal structural integrity (with all those changes in terrain). As such, it therefore becomes important for mountain bikes to save weight where possible – hence why the choice of materials becomes increasingly important for this type of frame!
The pros - steel frames are relatively inexpensive, strong and easy to work with. The con – steel frames are quite heavy, making them less competitive for those seriously into their mountain bike riding.
The beauty of carbon is that it can be shaped into almost any form and is super lightweight yet strong. These features are in part why carbon is one of the more expensive option in terms of materials for bike frames.
Compared to steel frames, alloy frames have a lower density and strength however, they do have a better strength-to-weight ratio, which makes them the usual preferred option over steel frames.