The Mountain Bike Category Known as All-Mountain

Man mountain biking
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All-mountain mountain bikes, also known as trail bikes, are the workhorse category of mountain bikes. An all-mountain bike is designed to handle almost everything a mountain biker will run into on a full day of riding, including steep ascents, rough descents and all the unexpected discoveries that make mountain biking so great

A Little Bit CX, a Little Bit Downhill

Along the spectrum of the main categories of mountain bikes, all-mountain bikes fall between cross-country (CX) bikes and downhill bikes. Cross-country bikes are the lightest and stiffest. They usually have only front suspension. They're optimized for climbing and long cross-country rides. 

Jumping to downhill bikes, these are machines with full suspension typically with about 7 inches (180 mm) of travel. They're heavy, beefy and geared for descents, not climbing. Most riders on downhill bikes get a ride to the top of the hill. 

The all-mountain category sits in the middle (although there are more than three categories). A typical all-mountain bike has full suspension with about 4 to 6 inches (100 to 160 mm) of travel. Popular gearing for these bikes is 1 x 11 (1 chain ring in front, 11 gears in back) or 2 x 12 (2 chain rings, 12 gears). Wheel size may be 26-inch, 27.5-inch or 29-inch. While all-mountain bikes are designed to climb hills very efficiently, they are generally heavier and a bit more stout than the typical CX bike. They can handle a lot rougher terrain as well. 

The All-Purpose Mountain Bike

Trail bikes are what most people should be riding because they offer an excellent balance between efficiency, comfort, and control. All-mountain bikes are light and efficient enough to get you to the top of the hill, they have enough squish in the suspension to keep you isolated from rough terrain, and they have enough travel to suck up the bigger hits that can leave a cross-country racer tasting the dirt.

I can take my all-mountain bike for all-day rides without coming home feeling like I've spent the day in a washing machine.