The Best Mountain Bike – Disproving the Myth

by Robb Sutton

You are on your favorite mountain biking forum or local mountain bike trailhead. You hear a friend or fellow rider start talking about a new bike purchase, and like any obsessed cycling fan…they ask the opinions of other riders in search of their best and perfect mountain bike that will carry their riding to new extreme levels. The first rider to pipe up and offer their intense information for this fortunate rider is normally the mountain biker that is going to tell the potential mountain bike purchaser why the mountain bike they ride is the best thing ever. Not only is it the best mountain bike on the market, it is going to be the perfect mountain bike for them too! You’ll see…just go buy it…

The Best Mountain Bike – The Myth and the Truth

I am going to dispel the myth right now. There is no such thing as the perfect or best mountain bike for everyone and I am sick and tired of hearing riders trying to prove others that there is one. Every rider has a different structure, style, ability and specific taste. When other riders try to justify their purchase by pushing it on others…it is bad for the sport. You can give your objective opinion on why you picked your mountain bike and why it works best for your needs…but it is not going to be for everyone…and that is a good thing!

When the mountain bike community has a wide variety of different riders, that brings a multitude of bikes, parts and trails that gives the community more options than ever. If we all had one perfect mountain bike that was the same…life as a mountain biker would be pretty boring.

While you read mountain bike reviews and editorials…

The information I am about to give you applies to Mountain Biking by 198 as much as it does to any print mag or casual rider. You HAVE TO treat every review an opinion objectively in your search for YOUR perfect mountain bike for YOUR needs. Most of the time, they only way to truly find out if a mountain bike is going to work for you is to narrow down your list and start test riding. Just because Joe Mountain Biker said his bike is the best thing on the market and you should not even consider anything else…that does not mean that it will be the correct bike for you.

On Mountain Biking by 198, we try to provide you with as much information as possible to help you in your search for your next mountain bike or component part purchase. We try to answer the questions that you will ask during the purchasing process in an attempt to spell out who is the “perfect” rider for that particular bike, part or piece of apparel. When you read our reviews and others on the net, you should try to look at them objectively to figure out if it will be perfect for you as a rider.

When you hear the self proclaimed experts that just have to give their opinion every time a mountain biking question is presented, I would discount their voice the most. Typically, the loudest rider is the one that you should listen to the least. If you really want an honest opinion, search out a skilled rider who rides with a similar style on similar trails. Talk to this mountain biker about what they like and don’t like about their current mountain bike and what bike they would like to try next. Through calm dialogue, you are able to get a truer since of how that particular bike rides and…just maybe…that rider will let you take a spin on a trail to get a feel of the bike’s ride characteristics (given that it is your size).

198 and Self Proclaimed Experts

As you can probably tell…I am holding back from completely ranting on this article a little bit. Just about every trailhead I visit lately has a self proclaimed expert that is always telling other riders to buy bikes and components. I know…a little ironic given that you are reading this article on my site that just happens to review products for mountain bikers, but I do have a point. How many times have you heard “you have to go get a 29er”, “you have to buy this bike”, “you have to switch to Shimano (or SRAM)”? The truth is…you DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING other than enjoy riding your mountain bike.

So…next time you hear the self proclaimed expert that gives opinions without questions…smile, clip in and go ride. When you really want some advice, ask the skilled rider that is not getting a high off of sharing what he thinks with every rider that he comes in contact with. That information will be far more credible in the long run.



Debbie July 21, 2011 - 11:45 am

I have been shopping around for new mtbs for the family and am very overwhelmed. We live in Florida (not too many mt trails) but we do vacation in NC and TN. We are looking for mtbs to accommodate 5 of us, ages ranging from 10-47. We all have treks, my hubby and I have very old models and the kids have just outgrown theirs. I’ve been to 4 different bike stores that all carry different brands. How does one pick a good bike that is affordable? All the stores have limited outside biking areas (off of busy main roads) for us to try them out. My husband and I would like disc brakes. Shocks for us all (kids ride more aggressively than I do). Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Looked at Trek, Giant, Jamis, Cannondale and specialized. Mostly 2011 models. We would all be on 26 wheels and stay below the $500 range for kids and $600 for us if possible. Thanks for listening 🙂

Review: Ramped Riding by Rob Sutton ( | December 2, 2009 - 4:11 pm

[…] first few topics and the corresponding webpage: The Perfect Mountain Bike… here What Kind of Rider are You?… here 14 Must Have Items for Every Ride… […]

John August 8, 2009 - 11:27 am

I get my best advice from regular, avid riders. What bike is the best – the one I’m riding today. Like many of us, I’ve had many bikes – SS, 26er, 29er, FS, HT, etc. I do not have 1 favorite. If they fit properly and if I ride them for their built purpose – man – I love them all.

Dennis Davis July 29, 2009 - 11:33 pm

Right on article. I grow tired of all the chest puffing and boasting at the trailheads. Whenever someone starts with the blah blah blah, I look at them and say “the best mountain bike is the one you spend your hard earned money on.”

In my opinion (and I’ve seen it time and time again) it’s the rider that makes the bike, not the other way around. Same goes for guitars. 🙂

Jamie Hamilton July 28, 2009 - 7:31 pm

I agree it’s about getting out there and “riding” your bike. The more you ride the more you learn. Especially what works for you as an individual. The perfect bike is one that fits your wants and needs and performs how YOU want it too.

Once you have an understanding and comfort level with adjusting and experimenting with bike setup you will eventually find what works for you.

From then on any advice you give to others should be based on what works for you not them.

At the end of the day it’s all about creating that riding environment that puts a smile on your dial, you, a bike, a trail, a positive attitude and friends… Well at least that’s what works for me!

Geoff Harris July 28, 2009 - 6:56 pm

My Cannondale Super V 1000 now some 12 years old was upgraded with a Delta gas headshock, Hope discs F&R (a little engineering needed for rear fitment)& now the bike is just wonderful..
Having had a long ride with an new DW Ibis which did a nice job but for the extra money it wasn’t that much faster around my favourite loop..oh well…

CRAZY FRED July 28, 2009 - 10:40 am

This was a great read..This made me take a real good look at myself…Well done…CF.

jmilliron July 20, 2009 - 3:09 pm

I’ve had the perfect bike on a few different rides! Love it when everything clicks. And really, that’s what it’s all about.

Jay July 20, 2009 - 3:10 pm

I hate when my bikes click. 🙂 Seems like I can never find where those noises originate… 😀

Lawrence July 21, 2009 - 5:16 am

Great article. Just came back from a ride and my bike is clicking too.

sslove July 20, 2009 - 1:49 pm

Very well put! I have three different mountain bikes and on any given day I will prefer anyone to the others. It doesn’t only have to do with skill, or trail sometimes it is just a frame of mind. I have an AM, a XC FS and a HT Single-speed and sometimes I will pick which one I ride based on how I am feeling and the type of riding I want to do. Finding that perfect balance if you only have one rig is tough. All that being said, it is tough to be passionate and objective when presenting our opinion on something we are all so intense about.

Thanks for a great article!

Jay July 20, 2009 - 9:50 am

There’s a specific term for this mindset you describe, but I can’t think of it at the moment… but this article describes it pretty nicely. I’ll call it the “psychology of ownership”.

It’s interesting how owning something makes us feel it’s more valuable. So we pimp it to our riding buddies.

So let me ask this: who “has the right” to tell us a bike would be good for us? We can research it, right, but then should we just not trust our buddies, or should we trust our LBS?

198 July 20, 2009 - 10:11 am

Jay…I think we should take all opinions from people we trust (LBS, riding buddy or otherwise) and then start test riding like crazy. Even with all of the opinions…there is no substitute for trying one out for yourself. The only issue there would be availability.

Hani July 20, 2009 - 9:30 am

I have to agree. Finding the perfect mountain bike is possible, but only relative to a narrow set of rider-specific variables such as riding style, frequently ridden terrain(s), psychical ability, etc.

Marketing and peer “jamming” often makes making purchase choices difficult though. A lot of recreational riders do not ride enough and experience various riding varieties to narrow it down to their own specific needs.


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