Mountain biking is broken down into four disciplines: cross country, downhill, freeride, and trials/street riding.
Cross-Country Mountain Biking or XC Mountain Biking is probably the most well-known discipline of Mountain Biking. It is also fairly simple to get into and the least extreme compared to other styles. The variety, adventure, and the feeling of freedom and being with nature are all facets of Cross-Country Mountain Biking.
These are probably some of the reasons why people are so attracted to it. Being in the countryside automatically means that you need to bike on a lot of different terrains and you need several important skills. For instance, you might need to climb and descend on various types of terrain, ranging from open fire roads to tight, twisty single track in the bush.
Below is the Rocky Mountain Vertex RS50 2009 – this could retail at around $2,000 so it is a major investment – you definitely want to research the subject and don’t make any hasty decisions. But don’t worry you can buy cheaper bikes – they can start at under $500.
Downhill mountain biking is an extreme sport in itself. Riders race against the clock, usually starting at intervals of 30 seconds (seeded from slowest to fastest), on courses which typically take two to five minutes to complete. Riders are timed with equipment similar to that used in Downhill skiing. The placing is determined by the fastest times to complete the course; races are often won by margins of under a second. As the name of this discipline implies, downhill races are held on steep, downhill terrain with no extended climbing sections, resulting in high speed descents with extended air time off jumps and other obstacles.
In the video below from cosrd you can see the current world champion, Steve Peat, from Great Britain, demonstrating what downhill mountain racing is all about and, we suggest, why he is the world champion.
Freeride mountain biking combines different aspects of the sport including dirt jumping and downhill. Freeride is, by definition, a much broader realm of riding. For example, a freerider may often ride a very narrow wooden plank raised as many as twenty five feet above the ground, drop off of cliffs, raised platforms, or other man-made or natural objects onto a landing, or “transition” up to forty feet below. This may involve jumping over a structure below, such as a road or highway. Many aspects of freeriding are similar to downhill riding, with wide open speed and technical and very steep sections, or dirt jumping, with a series of man-made jumps and landings. Another key difference is the emphasis on performing tricks or stylish riding stances while airborne.
As can be seen in this great video from ToEjaMxD freeride is the most extreme element in the mountain biking world and why it is therefore so popular – the music score accompanying is by saliva – superstar2 – lets just say the language is very colourful – warned ok.
Trials/Street riding is a discipline of mountain biking in which the rider attempts to pass through an obstacle course without setting foot to ground. Trials riding is an extreme test of bicycle handling skills, over all kinds of obstacles, both natural and man-made. It now has a strong — though small — following worldwide, and is still primarily a European sport.
In the video below from tigroubdb you can see what it is all about.
We hope this has given you a rudimentary understanding of mountain biking’s disciplines.