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Mountain Bike

A mountain bike or mountain bicycle (abbreviated MTB or ATB [All Terrain Bicycle]) is a bicycle designed for mountain biking either on dirt trails or other unpaved environments. In contrast, road bicycles are not designed for such rugged terrain.

Mountain bikes have wide, knobby tires for extra traction and shock absorption. In recent years, front wheel suspension has become the norm and full front and rear suspension is becoming increasingly common. Some mountain bikes are also fitted with bar ends on the handlebars, but with the increase in popularity of riser handlebars (as opposed to a flat, straight handlebar) fewer riders use bar end extensions. The bikes normally have 26 in (559 mm) wheels, but since 2002 some models have been available with 29 in (622 mm) wheels, which is the same diameter most commonly used for road bikes (also known as 700c). Note: The name given to a rim diameter in inches is different from the rim's actual size.

Riding bicycles off-road goes back to the beginning of cycling itself. Road racing cyclists have long used cyclo-cross as a means of keeping fit during the winter, eventually becoming a sport in its own right with the first world championship in 1950. The French Velo Cross Club Parisien (VCCP) comprised about 21 young cyclists from the outskirts of Paris who, between 1951 and 1956, developed a sport that was remarkably akin to present-day mountain biking. The Roughstuff Fellowship was established in 1955 by off-road cyclists in the UK.

However, the mountain bike has its origins in the modified heavy cruiser bicycles used for freewheeling down mountain trails in Marin County, Cali., U.S.A. in the mid to late 1970's. At the time, there was no such thing as a mountain bike. The earliest ancestors of modern mountain bikes were based around frames from cruiser bicycles such as those made by Schwinn. The Schwinn Excelsior was the frame of choice due to its geometry. Riders used balloon tired cruisers and later modified them with gears and motocross style handlebars. They were called Klunkers. The term was also used as a verb since 'mountain biking' was not yet in use. They would race down mountain fireroads causing the hub brake to burn the grease inside, requiring the riders to repack the bearings. These were called "Repack Races" and triggered the first innovations in mountain bike technology as well as the initial interest of the public. The sport originated in the state of California, on Marin county's famous mountain, Mount Tamalpais.

It was not until the late 1970's and early 1980's that road bicycle companies started to manufacture mountain bicycles using high-tech lightweight materials. Joe Breeze is normally credited with introducing the first purpose-built mountain bike in 1978. Tom Ritchey then went on to make frames for a company called MountainBikes which was a partnership between Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelley and Tom Ritchey. With his skills in frame building, Tom Ritchey built the original bikes. The company's three partners ran into rough times and finally fell apart at the 1983 trade show. The designs were basically road bicycle frames (with heavier tubing and different geometry) with a wider frame and fork to allow for a wider tire. The handlebars were also different in that they were a straight, transverse-mounted handlebar, rather than the dropped, curved handlebars that are typically installed on road racing bicycles. Also, some of the parts on early production mountain bicycles were taken from the BMX bicycle.

The first mass-produced mountain bikes were produced by Specialized in 1983 and were copies of Tom Ritchey's frames, but they were not fillet-brazed, and were made in Japan. They were configured with 15 gears.

Cross Country (XC)
Cross Country is (by far) the most common form of mountain biking. Cross country terrain typically is considered as having as many, or more, ascents than descents and does not include any kind of stunt riding. Mountain bikes tend to have only a small amount of suspension travel (usually 80-100 mm) on the front and/or rear, and are fairly light. This is achieved via the use of lightweight materials in both frame construction and components. As a consequence of their lightweight material they are often weaker than other bikes.

Suspension, both front and rear, is typically provided by pneumatic (air) shocks and forks, which saves weight. Some XC bike models have no suspension at all and use a rigid front fork, saving weight and relying more on rider skill to negotiate rough terrain. XC bikes are often as light as 20 pounds (9 kg), or as heavy as 30 pounds (14 kg). XC riding is one of the more common types of riding and in its extreme form can be entirely uphill, hence the lightweight rigs.

Enduro / All-Mountain (AM)
Enduro bikes are generally heavier than XC bikes, typically weighing between 30 and 35 pounds (14 to 16 kg). These bikes tend to feature greater suspension travel, often as much as 150 mm of front and rear travel, which can be adjustable on newer mid and top range bikes. Enduro bikes are effective on technical downhill trails. The frame angles are typically steeper than those found in downhill bikes. This enhances maneuverability over and around small objects. These bikes are designed to be able to ascend and descend mountains, integrating the climbing abilities of XC bikes with the suspension technology of freeride bikes.

Freeride (FR)
Freeride mountain biking requires heavier-duty bikes to perform jumps, drops and technical features. Though freeride bikes are typically heavier than cross country bikes, they are lighter than downhill bikes to allow the rider to complete difficult climbs.

Freeride mountain bikes are similar to Enduro bikes, but with less emphasis on weight and better suspension. Freeride bikes tend to have ample suspension, with eight or more inches of travel fairly commonplace. The components are built from stronger (and consequently heavier) materials.

Freeride bikes are designed to be more versatile than any other bike. They are somewhat capable of being ridden uphill; however, their moderately steep head tube angles make them difficult to maneuver while angled uphill or traveling at a low rate of speed.

Freeride bikes typically range in weight from 30 to 45 pounds. Freeride biking usually includes some degree of natural terrain stunts such as hucking (ramping) and is usually more comprised of downhills and stunts, with uphill travel usually for the purpose of reaching this terrain, hence the necessity for a freeride bike to be able to travel uphill somewhat efficiently.

The most durable (and expensive) freeride bikes are designed almost solely for hucking and are incapable of any comfortable level of uphill travel. It is common for freeriders to frequent lift accessed riding terrain, offered at ski resorts during the off season, or simply walk their bikes uphill.

North Shore
North Shore is a subset of Freeride biking. North shore biking includes man made elevated bridges. North shore biking often includes extremely technical terrain including jumps and drops.

North shore mountain biking originated in the slick, rocky hills of Vancouver, Canada's north shore, thus it was coined "north shore" riding. Because of the almost, if not completely unridable terrain, riders began building bridges over swampy or muddy areas. These bridges evolved into complex, often times extremely challenging, man-made stunts. Because stunts are often narrow and may require the rider to move very slowly regardless of width, north shore riding requires intense balance and bike handling skills.

North shore bikes, such as those by manufacturer Norco, are much like freeride bikes in their geometry and downhill bikes in their components. North shore stunts have evolved to not only include simple and complex bridges, but also large drops and high speed descents through a series of stunts. North shore bikes commonly have as much travel as downhill and freeride bikes.

Trials involve jumps, hops and balance to navigate obstacles while performing tricks. Trial competitions award style and originality. The competitions are held both off-road and in urban environments.

Mountain bikes are set up very specifically for the purpose of bicycle trials. They typically have no suspension at all, though some still make use of some form of it. Competition rules require bikes to have multiple gears for competition, but most riders never use their shifters. Many non-competitive riders run single-speed, choosing a fairly low-speed, high-torque gear. Most modern trials' bikes have no seat at all, as the rider spends all of his time out of the saddle. These bikes are significantly lighter than almost all other mountain bikes, ranging from 15 to 25 pounds. This makes maneuvering the bike much easier.

Downhill (DH)
Downhill riding is common during the summer at ski resorts or other areas where riding uphill is not required (due to ski lifts, trucks, etc.). Downhill courses involve massive jumps and drops as well as technical terrain. Downhill riders wear body protection. Downhill bikes are heavy (40-50 lbs) and are not designed to be pedaled uphill.

Mountain bikes typically have eight or more inches (200 mm) of suspension travel. They are built as light as possible for racing. They are very strong and due to the typically large, high gears and long, soft travel, they are suitable only for riding dedicated downhill trails and race courses. The suspension is set to sag around 30% front and 50% rear of full travel, creating ample traction around bumpy corners. The head angle is often as slack as 64 degrees.

Competition downhill mountain bike racing is where most mountain bike technology is innovated, as most bike manufacturers sponsor a number of riders. Downhill biking is just as it sounds. Most riders who ride exclusively downhill do so in competitions or ride almost exclusively on lift accessed terrain. Due to the high speed nature of downhill riding most bikes only have one chain ring, a large bash guard and a chain guide. Downhill mountain biking is the most high profile category of competition biking.
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