What Are The Different Types of Mountain Biking?

What Are The Different Types of Mountain Biking?

There's four main approaches to mountain biking. Push yourself to the limit and beyond with these mountain biking challenges
When it comes to outdoor activities and sports that give you that extra thrill, mountain biking can be just the right fit. This popular, off-road discipline takes you exploring rugged landscapes and heart-racing, downhill slopes to next world mountain biking parks and challenges. Mountain biking has a lot of variety, with many different types, from downhill and cross country mountain biking to enduro and 4X racing.

All these disciplines of mountain biking test your fitness, mind, endurance and balance to the next level, with their own unique challenges and terrain. When choosing what mountain biking activity best suits you and the level of intensity you want to aim for, it’s important to understand a few important factors about the disciplines. In this guide, we’re going to explore the main four different types of mountain biking and what you can do as you push yourself to peak performance.

Downhill Racing

One popular type of mountain biking is downhill racing. Downhill racing is where riders bike down a course from the top of a hill and mountain until they reach the bottom. The course is fully-taped so riders compete individually, and the competitor with the fastest time in each category wins. Downhill racing is a real test of skill, and can vary in difficulty and size, requiring competitors to have skill and true dedication, with the confidence to tackle trails where gravity is just as much a friend as a foe.

When starting out on the scene, it’s important to check what event options are available. Most events offer safer course options that avoid the more high level, difficult obstacles of the terrain. Another benefit of downhill racing is that riders compete against the timer first and foremost, creating a friendlier and less adversarial competition where you focus on your own performance instead of others.

Downhill racing is excellent for riders to test themselves to the limit and pull some real miracles, with a chance for the last one to set off always to be first across the line with the right moves.

Cross-Country Mountain Bike Racing

Explore the countryside at heart-racing speeds and fight for the top spot with Cross-Country mountain biking. Cross-country mountain biking has a mass start, where bikers race around a taped circuit. With a more varied terrain with challenging up and down hills and mounds, this is an excellent way to test your biking skills, reflexes and general fitness, as you see how you stack up against competitors.

As long as you feel confident riding down and uphill, this can be the sport for you. When it comes to starting out right on the track, there are a few things to consider. Ideally, your mountain bike should be a short-travel or hardtail, full-suspension bike with fast-rolling, durable tires with high-grade traction and a sufficient range of gears for the rough up and down terrain. When it comes to ascending and descending, a bike dropper post to quickly adjust your seating and height can also be a lifesaver.

For the longer haul, it’s important that you also wear a mountain bike helmet and clothing that ensures comfort, protection and body mobility.

Enduro racing

Another popular form of mountain biking is enduro racing. Enduro is made up of multiple downhill stages broken up by uphill sections known as 'liaisons'. Generally, the downhill stages are timed to generate the event's result, although in more intense events the liaison stages will be timed as well. You race these stages individually, although you can ride with other bikers in-between the timed stages for a chinwag.

With a longer time on the bike for that ultimate test of skill, enduro is a great balance between downhill and cross-country racing, giving you the best of both worlds. Letting you spend a longer time biking, challenging your bike-handling as well as your endurance and fitness. Due to the rough terrain, it’s recommended your bike be a long-travel bike, like a dedicated enduro, trail bike or hardtail bike with a front suspension fork. While riding a hardtail can be more difficult and less comfortable, it pushes the mountain bike rider’s speed closer to their actual skill level as a safety measure.

When it comes to your helmet, a full-face mountain biking helmet that’s fairly lightweight is ideal as it will protect your head while preventing overheating.

4X racing

A relative newcomer to the mountain biking arena, four-cross or 4X racing keeps things quick, heart-racing and fun. This discipline of mountain biking involves four riders competing head-to-head on the same BMX-style track, which contains obstacles and challenges like jumps and cambered corners. The name of the game is speed, and the objective for the riders is to beat out the competition and get to the end with the quickest total time.

Compared to other disciplines, the bikes for 4X racing can be cheaper in comparison. 4x race bikes are often short-travel, with better handling for high-speed corners.

Regardless of the discipline, it’s always important to get the technical clothing for biking right for your next mountain biking escapade. Mountain biking gear like quality men and women’s base layers helps keep bikers cool and collected when battling those slopes, moisture-wicking irritating sweat away and letting you focus on your game whatever the weather. For more information, explore our guide on what to wear when mountain biking for extra tips. And, if you're an experienced mountain biker looking for the ultimate challenge, check out the top 5 toughest mountain biking events across the globe to join.