How much mountain bike suspension travel do I need?

Titus Racer-X
Titus Racer-X - About 4" travel. Titus Cycles

Question: How much mountain bike suspension travel do I need?

Mountain bikes come with all sorts of suspension travel options. If you know you want a full suspension mountain bike, the amount of suspension travel you should be riding with depends on two main factors. First, the style and type of riding you want to do, and second, the type of terrain you ride in.

Answer: There are now about five main categories of mountain bikes and suspension travel.

Some bikes certainly blend the borders but most can be fit into the categories listed below. We'll start from the bottom and go up.

Cross country mountain bikes usually have less than about 4.5 inches of suspension travel. These bikes are built for efficiency, low weight, and self-propelled speed. While they can handle most trails, they do not suck up the rough stuff as well as longer travel bikes.

So, if you want to win a cross country race, get to the top of the hill first, or if you ride on relatively smooth trails these bikes are for you.

All Mountain and/or Trail Bikes usually have about 4 to 6 inches of suspension travel. These bikes are built for more aggressive terrain than cross country bikes but are generally slightly heavier. They aren't exactly cross country race bikes, but they are perfect for aggressive trail riding as well as long epic rides.

If you are looking for an all-around mountain bike that can take you almost anywhere without busting a lung, these bikes are for you.

Freeride bikes usually have about 6 to 8 inches or more of suspension travel. These bikes are built for abuse. Big drops, jumps, long shuttle rides, and other stunts are where these bikes shine. While most of them are still designed to get you up the hill as well, you will notice the extra weight.

If you want to spend most of your time in rough terrain, big drops, jumps, and manmade stunts, and you don't care how long it takes to get you there, these bikes are for you.

These are also great bikes for riding the lifts at your local mountain bike park.

Downhill bikes usually have about 7 to 10 inches of travel. These bikes will suck up almost anything you throw at them, but pedaling up a hill can be quite a challenge. Downhill bikes are designed for high speed and highly technical downhill racing and little else.

If you think you might want to get into downhill racing, get a freeride bike. If you're really serious about it, a dedicated downhill bike is for you.