Downhill mountain biking and racing inspired the design of modern mountain bikes.
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Freeriding is a term originally coined by snowboarders who took advantage of the mountain's endless possibilities to create their own names for technical stunts and the traversal of difficult terrain. Mountain bikers interested in downhill racing decided to take a similar path, and freeriding was born. Freeride mountain bikes are different in several ways from downhill mountain bikes, although both bikes share several similarities. Choosing a freeride bike over a downhill bike depends on what you intend to use it for, as each bike is specialized for a specific type of mountain biking.
Since freeriding bikes were originally designed as a branch of downhill style mountain bikes, the two distinct styles have a lot in common. Both freeride and downhill bikes are usually full-suspension bikes, although hard-tail versions are not uncommon. Full suspension bikes combine shock absorbers in the front fork and underneath the rider for a smoother ride, which is important for comfort and control on difficult terrain. Both bikes can have frames made from a variety of different materials like steel, carbon fiber, aluminum and occasionally titanium.
Downhill Mountain Bikes
Downhill mountain bikes are designed specifically for traversing downhill sections of trail, as their name suggests. This sport involves a lot of technical skill and is often centered around racing; the ability of the rider allows him to push higher speeds on downhill sections. Downhill bikes are built to withstand a lot of punishment, with heavy-duty rims that won't lose true under the stress of drop-offs and errant boulders. They have a large travel distance in their shocks to dull the jarring action of the terrain, and feature a geometry that puts the rider far back over the rear wheel, with an extremely upright sitting position to maintain balance on steep declines.
Freeride Mountain Bikes
A freeride bike is a downhill bike that has been redesigned for greater versatility on the mountain. The bikes usually feature different gear ratios that allow the rider to comfortably ride both uphill and downhill. The position of the rider is closer to the center of the bike, with a normal posture. Freeride mountain bikes are made with less heavy-duty frames and wheels to reduce weight so they can be effectively ridden uphill, and usually feature a reduced level of travel in the shocks to allow more precision, depending on the rider's personal preference.
Choosing a Mountain Bike
The differences between these two bikes make each one uniquely suited to a specific activity. A freeride bike is designed to approach all challenges with the same level of versatility and competence, rather than displaying a specialization in a specific type of trail or obstacle, making it one of the most popular mountain bike styles for general riding. However, the specialization of the downhill bike make it superior when it comes to the fast-paced demands of downhill racing. The additional travel, specialized geometry, and increased durability make it uniquely suited to the speeds and inclines in steep mountain trails. Choose the bike that best reflects the type of mountain biking you're interested in, with the knowledge that both bikes make for fantastic outdoor exercise.