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What to Look for in a Mountain Bike Frame

Your mountain bike frame is the backbone of your bike. The frame will dominate your riding experience. It will dictate how the bike rides.

If there is one aspect of your bike you shouldn’t cut corners in, it’s the frame.  Engaging in trail riding, cross-country, and off-road activities will put considerable strain on the bike’s frame. Although most frames are durable and can withstand incredible beating and punishment, it is vital that you choose a frame that will suit your needs.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade your current bike or you’re buying your first bike, choosing a frame is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. With dozens of models, styles and brands to choose from, shopping for a mountain bike frame can be daunting.

This blog will tell you everything you need to know about finding the right frame. Read on, so you know what to look for in a mountain bike frame.

Frame size

The first and most important thing to consider when choosing a frame is the size. Although a bike is made with many adjustable parts that can be moved, altered or changed to fit you better, these alterations will not help if you chose a frame size that is too big or too small for you.

If the mountain bike frame is too big, you may experience a lack of control over the bicycle and sore back due to overreaching on long rides. Things like top tube length, saddle height, and standover height should be taken into consideration to fine-tune how well your bike fits you.

Top tube length

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Top tube length is the distance between the seat and the handlebars. This is important as it dictates the comfort and efficiency of your body on the bike. Choose a larger frame if you prefer to ride down low or you’re longer in the upper body.

Saddle height

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Comfort and riding position is an important consideration when it comes to mountain bike frame size. As such, you want to make sure that you get the saddle height right. Getting your seat height right will help prevent long-term injuries, enhance the comfort of your ride, and boost your pedaling efficiency.

Your hips would rock from side to side as you pedal if the saddle is too high. But if it’s too low, you will struggle to get all the power out of your legs. Since every one of us is different, there is no one way of determining the right saddle height. The best way to know which size is perfect for you is by sitting on the seat. Ideally, you want a slight bend at your knee, about 30 degrees, when your leg is at the bottom of a pedal stroke.

Standover height

 

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Standover height is the distance between the ground and the top of the top tube. This is one of the most important elements to consider when deciding whether or not the bike frame is of the right size.

Wear your bike shoes when evaluating standover height. You want to make sure that you can straddle your bike with your feet flat on the floor. Otherwise, you are an accident waiting to happen. You run the risk of hurting yourself when you stop quickly. The last thing you want is to land hard on carbon fiber, aluminum or steel tubing.

Mountain bike frame material

The heart of a good bike is its frame. Mountain bike frames are available in different materials. However, not all of these materials are created equal. Use this as a guide in determining the right frame material for you. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each frame material.

Carbon fiber

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Carbon fiber frames are more expensive than aluminum and steel frames. This is mainly because they are durable, rust resistant, and exceptionally lightweight.

Despite being durable, carbon fiber frames cannot take a lot of abuse. They are susceptible to damage when scratched or chipped. The good news is that you can quickly cover the scratches and get that shine back. But before anything else, you need to do a thorough inspection of the frame. Look for deep scratches and cracks. If you notice a deep gouge, take it to the local bike shop to ensure that it doesn’t have any structural damage. Although the damage can still be touched up, it will never be as tough as it used to.

Aluminum alloy

 

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Aluminum alloy frames have been in existence for a while. In fact, the earliest widely available aluminum frames were made in the 1970s. They rose to the pinnacle of the sport until 2003, when the carbon composite craze took hold. Today, however, aluminum is back in demand. The frames are smoother than ever.

Aluminum alloy frames are made of aluminum and a few other elements such as silicon, manganese, zinc, chromium, copper, iron, titanium, and magnesium. They are added to improve properties like stiffness or strength. Aluminum frames are tough, but they can’t take as much abuse. They are not recommended for extreme riding with jumps or large drop-offs since they can crack if they crash. Alloy frames are lighter than steel frames and more affordable than the carbon fiber frames.

Steel

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Steel frames are durable and affordable. This is why they are often used in entry-level mountain bikes. The downside to this type of frame is that they are heavier as compared to the others. They also tend to rust easily. Serious mountain bikers won’t touch them.

If you have the budget and you are serious about entering this sport, we highly recommend that you opt for carbon fiber or aluminum alloy bike frames.

Get a professional bike fit

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Everyone’s body is different. Some women have small hands, which makes it difficult for them to reach the brake levers. There are also individuals with short torsos and long legs. As such, it is important to get a professional bike fit to ensure comfort throughout the ride.

Bike fit is the key to comfort and efficiency. If you are suffering from shoulder discomfort, lower back pain, knee pain, numb hands or toes or any aches and pains, there’s a good chance that your mountain bike isn’t the right fit for you. If you want to ride happily and pain-free for many miles and years to come, we highly recommend that you get professionally fitted. This is an investment that will pay off as long as you ride your bike.

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