When the going gets tough, get going on one of these rugged off-road bikes.
STEP ONTO THE PEDALS of a mountain bike, point the front wheel down a trail, and you’re in for a dose of freedom and speed that might make hiking boots forever after feel obsolete.
The sport of mountain biking—now more than three decades old—has become mainstream. There are mountain-biking leagues. National Parks may soon add the activity in areas long off limits to two wheels. And this summer, Scouts and Scouters will build mountain-bike trails in West Virginia that will connect to The Summit high-adventure base.
Here are five models, from entry-level to high-end, that represent a spread of price ranges and features.
Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of gearjunkie.com.
With good customer reviews—”Lots of bang for the buck!”—and an unbeatable price, the Mongoose Deception, sold at Walmart, is available for less than $200. For the price, you get a beginner bike that will not last for years. Its components are low-end, and at 38 pounds the bike is ridiculously heavy. But it’s capable of riding moderate trails, and with its disc brakes, front suspension, and 29-inch wheels, a bike like the Deception offers an adequate introduction to the sport.
Mid-Grade: Diamondback Response Sport
Ready for almost any trail, the Response Sport’s 4.7-inch front suspension fork will smooth out the bumps. And its mechanical disc brakes provide dirt-skidding stoppage. The result is a solid, affordable mountain ride.
Cross-Country Rider: Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29er
Built for speed, the latest in the Specialized Rockhopper series offers fast-rolling 29-inch wheels and a durable component set. Its aggressive frame puts a rider in a position to crank hard and roll fast for miles in the woods. And when it’s time to stop, the bike comes standard with hydraulic disc brakes. The Rockhopper Comp 29er is an entry point into the realm of high-end bikes built to last for years and thousands of miles on the trail.
Long-Distance Cruiser: Salsa Fargo
Created for long distances and multiday tours, the Fargo is a unique mountain bike with drop-bar-style handlebars and attachment points for gear racks, fenders, and up to five water bottle cages. Though it has no suspension, the Fargo provides a cushy ride with 29-inch wheels and a shock-absorbing seat post. The company calls the Fargo an “off-road touring bike,” and its unique design places the bike at home on long mountain trails or 100-mile days on a gravel road.
Freeride Expert: Giant Bicycle Faith 1
Big air. Ramps. Drops. Technical downhill runs. A bike like the Faith 1 can take on the gnarliest terrain imaginable on two wheels. This model has seven inches of shock absorption in its suspension system, letting advanced aerialists boost big jumps and land in cushioned bliss. Its aluminum frame is stout and made to take a beating. It has geek touches, too, like an asymmetrical head tube and replaceable dropouts for adapting the bike’s wheelbase for varying terrain.