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What Are the Different Styles of Mountain Biking?

By  November 17, 2022 5 min read
Kid on bike doing tricks on back wheel.
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Mountain bikers explore diverse terrain that ranges from craggy mountains to lush forests. It can be a form of leisure, a way to exercise, and is often a little of both. The sport offers ways for everyone, from adrenaline junkies to pleasure riders, to enjoy the outdoors.

There are various styles of mountain biking, but today we’re going to look at five that are most popular and the types of bikes they require.

Styles of Mountain Biking


Downhill, also known as park style, is described by its name. In downhill you start at the top of a mountain and ride down it. This type of riding is often found at lift-serviced bike parks at local ski areas during the summer.

Downhill is not for the faint of heart. It’s the most thrilling and risky style of mountain biking, and the risk for injury can be high. That’s why downhill riders wear full body armor and helmets with face shields to maximize protection. Downhill bikes are designed with full suspension and big knobby tires, which makes them heavy.


Cross-country (or XC) is the type of mountain biking most people are familiar with because you can watch it at the Olympics every four years. This style is all about long rides in the backcountry that rely on a biker’s fitness and stamina for climbing and speed.

Cross-country bikes are designed for low weight and smooth shifting. While they struggle on more technical terrain, they make up for that in rolling efficiency and pedaling. Extremely light full-suspension bikes are often extremely expensive. More economical hardtail mountain bikes offer suspension shocks on the front fork, but not the rear.

All-Mountain / Enduro

This style of riding evolved from leisure mountain biking, but is more aggressive, downhill, and technical. Rides in the backcountry are typically on single-track and eroded double-track trails. Enduro is similar to cross-country, but focuses more on endurance—daylong and multi-day rides include climbs and technical descents. 

Traveling uphill is easier on enduro bikes than it is on downhill bikes, but they offer less versatility than trail or cross-country bikes. They also have more travel in the front suspension and are brawnier overall.


Trail is the most common type of mountain biking, and how most mountain biking beginners get their start in the sport. Trail focuses equally on technical downhill riding and uphill/rolling cross-country terrain.

Trail bikes are the most popular mountain bikes, offering decreased weight, mid-range front fork travel, and bike geometry that prioritizes rider comfort over bike performance. These bikes usually feature full suspension.

Fat Biking

Fat biking is the newest style of mountain biking. It focuses on four-season cycling and less traditional terrain types, like snow and sand. As you can probably guess from the name, fat biking got its name from fat bikes’ big, five-inch-wide tires. Larger tires maximize grip on terrain that other mountain bikes can’t handle.

Mountain Biking at Hale

Hale has more than 20 miles of rugged multi-use bike trails with varied terrain suitable for both beginners and more experienced mountain bikers. Located just miles from Boston, its trails cater to riders who practice cross-country and enduro styles, with plenty of hilly and technical terrain to challenge all skill levels.

Those looking for a post-Thanksgiving mini bike festival—one that includes guided rides and arrowed loops for folks to ride at their own pace—will be interested in the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA)’s annual Turkey Afterburner. Learn more and register for this family friendly event on NEMBA’s website.

Whether you visit Hale to mountain bike or enjoy a quiet walk in nature, its trails are open every day. With camps and programs for kids and adults, there’s no shortage of fun, outdoor excitement year-round!

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