Mountain bike

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Front and rear suspension (full suspension, "Fully") mountain bike
Front-sprung ( hardtail ) mountain bike only
Dirt bikes
Fat bike

A mountain bike ( MTB , English for mountain bike ) or all-terrain bike ( ATB ) for off-road bikes is a bike that is especially designed for off-road use. Basically, the off- road bike, like the racing bike, is more of a sports device than a means of transport , which is why it is usually not equipped with the components required by the German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (StVZO) (such as lighting , bells and reflectors ).


The early years

Even if there have been earlier attempts to make bicycles more robust and suitable for off-road use, today the year 1973 is generally regarded as the hour of birth and Mount Tamalpais in Marin County , California , as the birthplace of the mountain bike. The first mountain bikes were Schwinn Cruiser bikes, which were used by a group of cyclists around Gary Fisher , Joe Breeze and Charles Kelly to speed down the gravel roads on Mount Tamalpais. The cruisers from the manufacturer Schwinn, which originated in the 1930s , were - as the name suggests - anything but sports bicycles, but rather designed for leisurely rolling ("cruising"). The Schwinn Cruisers were sturdily built and had thick balloon tires on 26-inch rims, which made them far more suitable for the fast descents on the gravel roads of Mount Tamalpais than the light racing bikes, which were the only type of bike for sporting purposes at the time. The Schwinn Cruisers were very heavy bikes, which is why they were actually only used for descents by Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze and the other riders. The first mountain bikers were pure “ downhillers ”.

The first regular mountain bike races were held in 1976 and they were also organized by the above-mentioned group on Mount Tamalpais. These races gave the impetus for a whole series of technical modifications that represent the beginning of the development of today's mountain bike technology. When looking for more resilient parts, the early mountain bikers used motorcycle parts such as handlebars and brakes.

The first mountain bike

Joe Breeze manufactured the first “real” mountain bike in 1977 for Charles Kelly. Even if Breeze was strongly based on cruisers in terms of frame geometry, it was the first mountain bike that was not a cruiser that was retrofitted for use as a mountain bike and that was built entirely from new components.

Two years later, Tom Ritchey joined the group and made other frames, initially on his own and later for Gary Fisher. The frames differed from the previous models in that their geometry was more suitable for touring and was also suitable for riding uphill. It was around this time that the term “mountain bike” came into being: A customer in Ritchey's sales room pointed to the bike with the big tires and said, “Hey, this is a mountain bike”. Ritchey liked the name and decided to sell the bikes he built under the brand name “Ritchey Mountain Bike”. As a result, Gary Fisher and Charles Kelly took over the construction of the frames made by Tom Ritchey into complete mountain bikes and the sale of these bikes. Gary Fisher was also the first to put a modern gear shift on one of the old bikes. He introduced the thumb gears and the quick release on the saddle. That was a big help, because the first few riders put their saddles all the way down when they were pedaling down downhill stretches. In addition to Ritchey and SunTour , the first manufacturers in the still young market also included Shimano (components) and Specialized (complete bikes).

Many small manufacturers emerged, which have largely disappeared from the market today:

  • Tom Ritchey with the second (after Joe Breezes "Breezer") frame made of tubular steel, specially built for mountain biking. With the advent of aluminum frames, he continued to reduce the weight of his steel frames with self-developed tube sets manufactured by the Japanese manufacturer Tange .
  • Charles 'Charlie' Cunningham, co-founder and owner of Wilderness Trailbikes (WTB), with one of the first aluminum MTB frames.
  • Keith Bontrager with many detailed solutions and fork constructions.

Developing into a global industry

Mountain biking saw strong growth in the 1980s. It spread all over the world and became so popular in Europe that sales of mountain bikes surpassed all other types of bikes. The frames were further developed by using, in addition to thin-walled steel tubes, alternative materials such as aluminum, titanium and later also carbon fiber reinforced plastic ("carbon"). The equipment components have also been further developed, especially by the Japanese manufacturers Shimano and SunTour with ratchet gears , handlebar shift levers, oval Biopace chainrings and cantilever brakes .

With increasing distribution and demand, on the one hand, established bicycle manufacturers got into mountain bike production, on the other hand, some previous small-series manufacturers grew into mass manufacturers. The pioneers in mass mountain bike production included:

  • Specialized as the first large-scale manufacturer ever
  • Cannondale as the first high-volume manufacturer of aluminum bicycles

At the beginning of the 1990s, manufacturers began to outsource their production to Japan and a short time later to Taiwan . By the mid-1990s, Taiwanese manufacturers had become so well established that they entered the market under their own name and were able to offer high-quality frames and components at comparatively low prices.

Despite the great competition from Asia, there are still some smaller companies in the market today, which have mostly specialized in small series and custom-made products and which are usually more expensive than the big manufacturers.

In addition to the frame builders, there are companies - also in German-speaking countries - that have specialized in individual components with which mountain bikes can be built or retrofitted or that are subject to wear and tear and have to be replaced, such as the chain or chainrings .

Many components of modern bicycles of all types were originally developed for mountain biking or were further developed there. In particular, V-brakes, disc brakes, suspension forks, rear suspension and hub gears should be mentioned here . The suspension forks known from motocross first caught on with extreme downhill riders. Today, rear suspension is standard in downhill and freeriding. Fully suspension bikes are also available for cross-country today. In 2010, Endorfin presented the first mountain bike with an 18-speed Pinion transmission at the Eurobike bicycle fair .

Touring bike

The early mountain bikes, which were still generally designed for robustness, have also proven to be well suited for cycling trips , in the mountains as well as in the plains. This offered itself on the one hand to transport heavy luggage, on the other hand the bikes were suitable due to their off-road suitability. For this purpose, they were retrofitted with modified gears, luggage racks and roadworthy. They thus continued the tradition of heavy but "unbreakable" bicycles of the early 20th century, as they found their heyday in military bicycles . With the popularity of long-distance bike tours and the development of specialized mountain bike sports, the touring bike ( trekking bike , to trekking , 'long-distance hiking') began to develop as an independent design alongside the mountain bike. One of its peculiarities is that a stable women's bike variant has also been developed. Under hybrid bike but is today understood general higher-quality everyday and leisure bikes with 28 "wheels, wheels for longer tours with a focus on resilience as well as ride comfort are today - they are retrofitted mountain bikes, trekking bikes or custom made - as a touring bike called.

The trekking bikes were then also increasingly accepted as everyday utility bikes, especially from the 1990s, when young city dwellers basically did without a car. The Allwetterauglichkeit, which is also driving easier in the winter season, and luggage capability were beneficial, both as a pure shopping in emerging also at this time Radkurierdienst was also extended (the order of the express delivery, are well suited for the road bikes on goods transport - During this time, bicycle trailers also spread , for which converted mountain bikes were also particularly suitable as towing vehicles). The low off-road ratios are also helpful in urban stop-and-go traffic, and the wide tires especially in cities with pavement pavement or tram tracks (a real source of danger for narrow, earlier tires). From this the city ​​bike developed , today mostly unisex with a wave frame.

The common origin can be seen in the fact that “touring bike” in German today primarily means city bikes and all-purpose bikes designed for comfort, not trekking and touring bikes designed for off-road and long-distance tours. However, all of these delimitations are constantly changing with the development of new technologies (such as shock absorbers, disc brakes, electric drives). These utility bikes no longer fall under the term of the mountain bike in the sense of sports equipment. But they take over the innovations that are mostly developed in sports bikes.

A modern hybrid of mountain bikes and city bikes is the urban bike as a recreational sports device . The type of trekking bike, which again approximates the mountain bike, is also called cross bike (not to be confused with the racing bike of bike cross ).

Special events

Structural differences

Despite some similarities, mountain bikes differ considerably from each other, although some basic types can be listed depending on the intended use:

All Mountain (AM)

An all mountain is often a full suspension mountain bike that offers a wide range of uses. These range from simple tours in the flatlands to crossing the Alps. In contrast to cross-country mountain bikes, weight is less of a focus. Reliability, comfort and more spring travel reserves in the chassis are important. The seating position is sporty - less stretched than on a cross-country mountain bike, but not as upright as on an enduro .

The variability of the chassis is essential for an All Mountain. The spring travel is in the range from 120 to 160 mm. On many models, the fork travel can be reduced or completely blocked in order to better ride uphill. Some models even offer a spring travel adjustment for the rear suspension.

The tires are often a little wider and more profiled than on cross-country mountain bikes, as they have to meet different requirements over the course of a tour and the supply of spare tires can become a problem during a long tour as opposed to a short competition.

Specialized Turbo Levo, a full-suspension pedelec

The weights start at around 10 kg for race-oriented (marathon) models and end at around 14 kg for particularly robust designs.

Since 2015, some manufacturers have also been producing full-suspension All Mountains with electric drive. These often have a dropper post (a control unit on the handlebars that can be used to regulate the saddle height) in order to be able to change the posture of Enduro or CC riding styles while riding. These bikes often weigh around 21 kg. Due to the high weight and the support of the motor, the driving technique changes very much compared to all other categories. When approaching an obstacle z. B. the "wrong pedal" facing the front of the stem, this step then activates the motor and can be controlled more sensitively with the following "right pedal".

Cross Country (XC / CC)

The cross-country mountain bike is designed for (racing) use on unpaved paths and roads, less so for use in difficult terrain. It is mostly a hardtail, but fullys are now also being designed for cross-country use (race fullys). Many riders still rely on hardtails in this area for weight, cost, stiffness and durability reasons. The suspension fork has a relatively small suspension travel of 80 to 120 mm.

V-brakes are hardly ever installed today; disc brakes are state of the art . A low weight (less than 10 kg) is aimed for with cross-country mountain bikes. A typical cross-country mountain bike in popular sport weighs less than 13 kg, depending on the effort, ambitious athletes can achieve weights of less than 8 kg.

After there were already considerations about the wheel size of mountain bikes in the 1980s, the established manufacturers have increasingly been developing so-called 29er (Twentyniner) since the beginning of the 2000s, which instead of 26 ″ wheels (ISO 559 mm) with ISO 622 mm ( in the German linguistic area for racing and touring bikes also referred to as 28 ″ wheels). The 29er mountain bikes are a kind of hybrid between classic 26 ″ mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes, as they use their wheel size but retain the more agile geometry typical of mountain bikes. These mountain bikes, which are designed for a higher racing speed, are often hardtails, but full-suspension versions are also available. The advantages of 29er mountain bikes are, for example, in some cases lower rolling resistance and the easier way to overcome obstacles. Disadvantages are a higher weight and thus the inertia of the wheels, as well as reduced maneuverability and a higher seating position (especially relevant for people <175 cm).

Downhill (DH)

Main article: Downhill

Downhill Zauberberg (Semmering, Austria)

Downhill mountain bikes are mainly designed for downhill races (the fastest possible descents on the most difficult terrain). Since downhill mountain bikes are only moved downhill and the ascent is very rarely managed on one's own, a mass of up to 18 kg is considered acceptable for these bikes. The high mass is due to the stable construction, which is necessary because of the high loads that occur on the descents. However, it is now possible to assemble a DH bike with a mass of 16 kg without any loss of stability. This is very beneficial to the handling and the acceleration possibilities. The frames are fully sprung and have spring travel of 180 to 250 mm, the lowest possible center of gravity and a smooth-running geometry. The suspension fork is almost always designed as a double bridge fork in order to achieve the necessary torsional rigidity . The brake of a downhill mountain bike is designed as a disc brake with hydraulic actuation, but because of the higher load it is larger than on other mountain bike classes. The systems are equipped with 4-piston calipers and brake disc diameters of around 200 mm. The tires are provided with a double carcass (thicker-walled) to prevent punctures in rough terrain and the resulting punctures. They are typically between 58.5 and 68.4 mm (2.3-2.7 inches ) wide  . Since 2017, 29 "wheels have been used for racing on downhill mountain bikes, but 27.5" wheels are more widespread in popular sport. The rider wearing a helmet (which is often of a neck protection is supplemented), knee, and often Protector jackets. Especially in top-class sport, however, an excess of protectors is dispensed with in favor of low air resistance and improved mobility.


Enduro mountain bikes are mostly full suspension. Compared to cross-country and touring mountain bikes, they have greater suspension travel - from 150 to 180 mm -, an adjustable chassis, and wider, more profiled tires and a different frame geometry. The handlebars are often bent and the sitting position is more upright. The weight is between 12 and 16 kilograms. The difference to a freeride bike is that enduros, similar to all-mountain bikes, are much more suitable for touring than the freeriders, which are more geared towards downhill skiing. Depending on the area of ​​use, the enduros form the "gray area" between all-mountain and freeride, sometimes with chain guide and only one chainring 1 × 11/1 × 12, sometimes as a 2 × 10 version or similar. Large suspension travel offers reserves in downhill or drops and Jumps, with the suspension fork lowered, the enduro climbs much more comfortably.

Four Cross (4X), Biker Cross

Main article: Biker cross

4X bikes are similar to dirt bikes , they usually have a rigid frame ( hardtail ) or in rare cases, depending on the route, also fully frames with little suspension travel (max. 140 mm), but the special frames are a little longer so that they run smoothly at high speeds to stay. The route is mostly sloping and provided with various jumps, bumps and berms. In a race, four drivers always start from a start gate at the same time, analogous to ski cross . Most races are held in the knockout system .

Freeride (FR)

Main article: Freeride

Freeride bike fuel F1

Like downhill mountain bikes, freeride mountain bikes are designed for use in difficult, sloping terrain, have full suspension, have long spring travel of 165 to 200 mm and weigh about as much as downhill mountain bikes, which is why they are also called Dh / Fr bikes. In contrast to downhill mountain bikes, not all freeride mountain bikes are designed exclusively for descents. The type of freeride mountain bikes that can also be ridden uphill are called touring freeriders or superenduro mountain bikes. In freeride mountain biking, you sometimes jump more than 10 meters high and more than 20 meters wide. Accordingly, freeride mountain bikes are robust and also use components from downhill mountain bikes. Freeride mountain bikes have a more playful handling than downhill mountain bikes and are therefore only partially suitable for downhill races.


Trials are skill tests in difficult terrain or on artificially created obstacle courses that are generally driven with hardtails. The essential features of a trial mountain bike include the very low frame height, the missing or only hinted at seating, which allows more freedom of movement, a rigid fork and few gears, as only small gear ratios are required.

Dirt Jump (DJ)

Main article : Dirt Jump

Dirt bikes are stable mountain bikes with small, agile frames. Since the suspension fork is primarily only required to dampen the landing, suspension forks with a travel of 65 to 110 mm are used. Rigid forks are also still used in dirt jump. The wheel size is not limited to 26 inches, and 24 "wheels can also be found here and there. There is almost always no gear shift. The weight of a dirt bike is usually kept low in order to have to apply less force for jumps. In addition, the low weight favors rotations of the rider or the bike. Dirt bikes are mainly used for jumping over so-called kickers or dirt jumps. These are built entirely from earth or clay.

Fat bikes

The fat bikes introduced in Europe in the 2010s are similar to mountain bikes and are designed for surfaces such as sand and snow. They have extra wide tires from 4.0 to 4.8 ″ that reach a diameter of approx. 30 ″. This means that extra wide rims (65 to 100 mm) with a diameter of 26 ″ are necessary. Due to the particularly large wheels, the frame often uses 29 ″ -like geometries and modified forks, cranks and hubs.


Components of a hardtail MTB

Typical features of a mountain bike are wide, mostly coarse tires . The original rim diameter of 559 millimeters (tire diameter 26 ") is increasingly being replaced by 622 mm (tire diameter 29") and 584 mm (tire diameter 27.5 "). Also typical are derailleur gears with mostly 21 to 30 gears, occasionally hub gears with wider ones unfolding encountered. Common translations in triple chainrings at the front are 44/32/22 to 46/36/26 and rear 11 to 32, 34 or 36 at 7 to 10 sprockets , which mountain bikes are translated less than racing bicycles. More recently, mountain bikes with 1 × 11 or 1 × 12 circuits, which reduces mass and maintenance.

Compared to Dutch , touring or racing bikes, mountain bikes have relatively small frames (frame height about 10 cm lower than a comparable racing bike), often with the top tube sloping backwards. Shorter tubes with larger cross-sections increase strength and rigidity . Aluminum and carbon frames in particular usually have large tube diameters. Today, aluminum alloys are predominantly used as frame material. For weight reasons, frames are increasingly being made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic (KFK). Steel is now rarely used, and titanium is even more rarely used . Steel frames are often less stiff than aluminum, but this is less noticeable than with racing bikes, as the wide tires of mountain bikes already cushion most of the shocks.

Manufacturers of high-quality mountain bike frames are now partially doing without cantilever bases for attaching cantilever , V-brakes or hydraulically operated rim brakes. Most mountain bikes are equipped with disc brakes. Suspension forks are often part of the standard equipment. A full suspension mountain bike is also known as a fully (short for "full suspension"). In contrast, a mountain bike with an unsprung rear wheel is referred to as a hardtail .

Suspension systems

The elastomer suspensions used at the beginning were later replaced by steel springs (some with oil or air damping) and finally by air suspension. Air suspension is mainly used in areas where the weight of the bike is important (for example cross-country races, marathons). Steel springs are preferred if the material is exposed to very high loads - as is the case with downhill - or a high level of reliability is required. Examples of suspension brands: Fox Racing Shox, Rock Shox, Marzocchi, X-Fusion, Developed Suspension (DVO), Manitou, and others.

Front wheel

A so-called suspension fork is used to suspend the front wheel , in which the suspension is usually installed in one fork tube and the damping in the other fork tube. Most forks contain oil as a damping medium. An air or steel spring in the other fork tube usually serves as the spring. Forks with air springs have the advantage that they are usually lighter and the spring stiffness can be adjusted via a valve. The steel spring has a more linear force-displacement characteristic and responds more easily because it has less friction - the fork tube does not have to be sealed as elaborately. There are numerous suspension fork systems on which the suspension travel can be adjusted manually (U-Turn system from RockShox , the Talas fork from Fox, the ETA system from Marzocchi ).

Rear end

The rear spring element is usually referred to as a damper and is linked via the rear end. There are numerous designs for the rear end, which differ in terms of their kinematics, weight and price. The most popular designs are:

Single-joint , the chain stay is firmly connected to the dropout. There is a joint between the chainstay and the frame around which the rear axle rotates during compression. Some of these designs have additional joints on the spring element that are not counted as they only serve to support lateral forces (supported single-joint).

Four- joint, between the chain stay and the dropout there is another joint, which is called the Horst-Link . The additional joint should reduce the influence of the drive and brake on the movement of the rear triangle. At the same time, the rear wheel should describe a more harmonious compression movement. The disadvantages of this system are the greater wear on the bearings, the higher price and the higher weight.

VPP rear triangle ( Virtual Pivot Point ), this system has two bearings between the chainstay and the frame, creating a virtual, wandering pivot point around which the rear wheel rotates during compression.

In addition to increasing comfort, the suspension of the rear end also brings numerous problems. By separating the rear triangle from the frame, the entire bike basically loses its rigidity. In addition, full-suspension frames are heavier compared to unsprung frames and require more maintenance. In addition, the movement of the rear end during compression and rebound influences the drive, including what is known as “pedal kickback”, which can occur when a pull acts on the drive chain and thus on the cranks due to the extension and compression of the rear end. The manufacturers of suspension elements and frames try to counteract these problems with a series of design measures.


  • Florian Haymann, Ulrich Stanciu: Everything about mountain bikes . 2nd edition, Delius Klasing Verlag, Bielefeld, 2007, ISBN 978-3-7688-1652-6
  • Thomas Rögner: The ultimate bike workshop. 13th edition. Delius Klasing Verlag, Bielefeld, 2011, ISBN 978-3-7688-1639-7 .
  • Guy Andrews: Mountain bike. Maintenance and repair . 1st edition, Delius Klasing Verlag, Bielefeld, 2010, ISBN 978-3-7688-5295-1
  • Florian Haymann: Freeride. Moves, bikes and parks . 2nd edition, Delius Klasing Verlag, Bielefeld, 2011, ISBN 978-3-7688-3159-8
  • Karen Eller, Christoph Listmann: Mountain biking for women . 1st edition, Delius Klasing Verlag, Bielefeld, 2010, ISBN 978-3-7688-3161-1
  • Rob van der Plas: Mountain bike maintenance - care and maintenance . Transferred and edited by Udo Stünkel, 6th edition, Delius Klasing Verlag , Bielefeld 2012, ISBN 978-3-7688-5338-5

See also

Web links

Commons : Mountain Bikes  - Collection of Images
Wiktionary: Mountainbike  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Detailed description of the history
  2. Article on Joe Breeze . In Bike Magazin , December 30, 2008. Retrieved March 4, 2013
  3. Frederic Savre, Jean Saint-Martin, Thierry Terret: From Marin County's Seventies clunker to the Durango World Championship 1990: A History of Mountain Biking in the United States . In: The International Journal of the History of Sport . tape 27 , no. August 11 , 2010, ISSN  0952-3367 , p. 1942–1967 , doi : 10.1080 / 09523367.2010.491624 .
  4. Origin of the term “mountain bike” in: Lesewitz, H. (2017), “If I want something, I'll do it” - Interview with Tom Ritchey. In: bike (magazine) , 02/2017, p. 93.
  5. a b cf. Ulf Hoffmann: The bicycle book: purchase, technology, maintenance, repairs, e-bikes and pedelecs. Verlag Stiftung Warentest, 2013, Chapter What types of bicycles are there? Das Mountainbike , p. 16 ff ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  6. a b c d Hoffmann: Das Fahrradbuch 2013, Das Trekkingrad , p. 10 ff and Das Reiserad , p. 19 ff ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  7. cf. Holger Dambeck: The perfect bike for travel. In: Spiegel online, May 16, 2013.
  8. Hoffmann: Das Fahrradbuch 2013, Das Citybike , p. 13 ff ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  9. Hoffmann: Das Fahrradbuch 2013, Das Urbanbike , p. 18 f ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  10. Hoffmann: Das Fahrradbuch 2013, Das Crossrad , p. 13 ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  11. Timeline of Cycling . In Exploratorium . Retrieved March 4, 2013
  12. ^ Championnat du Monde de VTT ( Memento of March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). In My Switzerland . Retrieved March 4, 2013
  13. Cycling: History and Rules . On ARD , January 31, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2013
  14. Mountain biking: from fun sport to Olympic discipline. Archived from the original on August 8, 2011 ; Retrieved March 4, 2013 .
  15. ^ Database ,, accessed March 4, 2013
  16. About Wembo | World Endurance Mountain Bike Organization. Retrieved February 19, 2020 .
  17. Previous Results | World Endurance Mountain Bike Organization. Retrieved February 19, 2020 .
  18. Article on carbon hardtails . In: Mountainbike Magazin , December 2009 issue
  19. ^ Tire Sizing Systems , Sheldon Brown, accessed March 4, 2013
  20. Article about 26- and 29-inch mountain bikes . In mountain time . Retrieved March 4, 2013
  21. Bike magazine : Kaufberatung: Fatbikes , August 28, 2016, accessed on February 14, 2018
  22. The fat bike in the SPORTaktiv technology check. In: Retrieved March 23, 2016 .
  23. ^ The Virtual Pivot Point . In Kenneth M. Sasaki: A Bicycle Rear Suspension Analysis Method , 2001. Retrieved March 4, 2013