How to Choose the Best Mountain Bike for You

October 4, 2019
Coach Cho with his Mountain Bike
Head Mountain Bike Coach, Aramy Cho

If you’re in the market for a new mountain bike your choices are seemingly endless. The mountain bike industry is growing fast, as is the number of venues and biking styles available to you. The technology is moving at a high speed, not to mention the intentional pitfalls of planned obsolescence. Fear not, Gould Head Mountain Biking Coach, Aramy Cho can help take the guesswork out of a daunting task, and get you off your device, and back on the trail.

At Gould, we know a thing or two about Mountain Biking. There are over seven miles of single-track trail on campus at the race venue, eight miles of trail adjacent to campus at the Bethel Inn Resort, loop trails six miles away at Bacon Hill, as well as our own technical practice loop, and dedicated bike facility.

The Mountain Bike team is one of the biggest programs at Gould, at 36 student-athletes, with four former-racer, expert coaches. Our team competes in the Northern New England High School Mountain Bike Race Series, and has finished in the top two spots for the past six seasons.

Mia riding a mountain bike

Come ride with us!

Aramy Cho is not only the head coach of the Mountain Bike team, he’s also a science teacher at Gould. He’s a dedicated educator, committed to the discipline of mountain biking and cycling, and is also generous with his students and his time. When asked to share his top mountain bike buying tips, he graciously agreed.

Mountain Bike Buyers Guide

Tip #1: Know what type of riding you’re going to be doing.

It sounds obvious, but one of the biggest mistakes people make when purchasing a bike is picking out the wrong style bike for their trail type. A gravity bike intended for downhill parks isn’t going to perform well in a cross-country distance event. Just as an enduro bike isn’t well suited for a technical course with lots of tight turns and features.

“There are so many different styles and disciplines in mountain biking now, and so much differentiation in the marketplace, that it can be a little bit bewildering. You want your bike to fit the terrain that you’re going to be riding,” says Coach Cho.

Kyle hits a bump on his progressive frame mountain bike

One of the fastest-growing segments in mountain biking is trail riding, which falls between downhill racing and long-distance cross country biking. “That middle segment is really where we’re seeing the popularity growing in mountain biking,” says Cho.

Trail bikes are some of the most versatile on the market—and the type that most Gould students are currently riding. They’re built for both speed and handling. There’s no such thing as “future-proof” in a rapidly evolving industry, but a good trail bike should last you several seasons.

Tip #2: Find a Mountain Bike Geometry that suits you.

Mountain bike innovations and trends make each new model seem like a must-have upgrade. It’s important to separate the worthwhile from the inessential. For example, it’s hard to find a bike without hydraulic disc breaks these days, and 1X drivetrains are becoming the standard for gearshifting. One area that’s currently seeing a lot of transformation is bike geometry or the shape of the frame.

Mountain Bike progressive frame
Kyle ’21 models his progressive frame geometry.

“The analog in mountain biking is that the bikes are getting longer so that you are in a different body position. They’re becoming slacker. The front wheel is moving way out in front of the bike. That makes it more stable at higher speeds versus the more traditional kind of steeper fork.” says Cho.

Speed and stability are welcome innovations, but it’s important to try out some bikes to see what you are comfortable with and how progressive you can be.

Tip #3: Consider Adding a Dropper Post

Another recent advancement in mountain bike technology is the dropper post. Think office-chair hydraulics, controlled by a lever on the handlebars. Having the ability to raise and lower the saddle during a race allows riders to quickly adapt to various terrain. Being able to shift your center of gravity while navigating big drops and technical features is a game-changer for serious competitors.

Mountain Bike dropper post
Coach Cho demonstrates his dropper post.

Final Tip:

One of the best things you can do to ensure that you and your mountain bike are well matched is shopping at a local bike shop you trust. Our coaches can turn around small maintenance jobs with unmatched efficiency in our bike barn to get athletes back on the trail quickly, but for big purchases and bigger repair jobs, we rely on the experts at Barker Mountain Bikes. Getting the right fit is essential, and bikes are a substantial investment, so consult the pros.

Mountain Bike athletes after a competition
Happy Gould bikers post-competition

Have more questions? If we didn’t cover everything, you can reach out to Coach Cho directly for more advice and tips, or schedule a visit and come ride with us in person.

See you out on the trail!


3 Responses

  1. Avatar Tedd Brown says:

    Mr. Cho, this is a really great article that you have written. You have presented lots of good information about mountain bikes and the ever changing upgrades they go through. Back in 1983, when we started the cycling club at Gould, we also had a few “original” type of mountains bikes on campus. One being the Peugeot Canyon Express (yes they made bikes too). I would borrow it from a class mate and ride the xc trails at the Bethel Inn. No one was even thinking of this back then. I felt like I had discovered something new and different from road riding. Nice to see this segment of the curriculum growing!

  2. Greg Gilman Greg Gilman says:

    So if I’m reading this right, Tedd, I can market that Mountain Biking was invented at Gould? Excellent work!

  3. Avatar Tedd Brown says:

    Well, I’m certainly not taking credit for that! However, the cycling team did originate during the Spring of 1984. Road bikes were the only game at that point. Mountain bikes were just entering the market place. They were long wheel based bikes that were being used on fire roads out west. Quickly over a few years they figured out that shorter wheel base lengths and sharper angles to the front fork allowed for more “East Coast” types of terrain–Bethel Inn style trails. Bike of choice back then was Fat Chance.
    Thanks! Tedd

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