Freeriding is a relatively new category in the world of mountain biking. It combines the speed and adrenaline of downhill riding with the technical prowess of a trials rider. A freeride mountain bike is designed to not only be able to easily navigate through a hardcore downhill run, but they must be light and agile enough to enable them to perform slow-speed maneuvers as well. The infinite variability of terrain and riding situations that are inherent to this type of riding have made it one of the most popular mountain bike events in the sport.
A freeride mountain bike can be hard to distinguish from a typical downhill bike, at least for most people. Like most quality mountain bikes that are made today, they typically feature suspension components for both the front and back of the bike, use lightweight alloys for the frames and wheels and incorporate a system of gears designed for ease of climbing and downhill speed. There are, however, some subtle differences that can greatly affect the performance of the bike.
The frame of the bike is one of the primary distinguishing features of a freeride mountain bike. Unlike most downhill only bikes, freeride bikes typically have a slightly more lightweight frame design. This is because the bike needs to be light enough to make climbing feasible, which is something downhill bikes don’t have to take into consideration. The frames for a freeride bike are often designed with a steeper angled head tube, which has the result of creating a slightly shorter wheelbase making the bikes much more maneuverable at slow speeds. In addition, this head tube is often made oversized to accommodate the newer, heavier-duty forks.
An interesting aspect of a freeride mountain bike is that they are almost always built by the person riding them. This is another reason for their explosion in popularity. In most cases, a basic model will be purchased from a reputable mountain bike dealer and will then be customized as needed. Suspension systems are often one of the first items to be replaced or enhanced. An overtly aggressive rider will usually prefer a suspension system with a stiffer feel, but with a much more available fork travel then will a rider that just wants to cruise some trails.
Gears are also a commonly customized option on a freeride mountain bike. A rider that does a lot of climbing will want to create a gearing system that is designed to make climbing easier. However, a bike with gears specifically designed for climbing will suffer when speed is required. For this reason most freeriders opt for either a gearing system that incorporates the two extremes, or a system that finds a happy medium. In some instances, a rider will utilize two different gearing systems by installing one set of gears on the existing back wheel, then purchasing a second rear wheel with a different set of gears. This gives the rider the option of switching back and forth depending on what kind of riding they want to do that day.