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Cross-Country Mountain Bikes vs Trail Mountain Bikes

Cross-Country Mountain Bikes vs Trail Mountain Bikes

April 24, 2018

Cross-Country Mountain Bikes vs Trail Mountain Bikes

  Differences between Cross-Country Mountain Bikes and Trail Mountain Bikes


    A lot of people usually find it hard to identify the correct mountain bike for them. Although choosing a bike may all depend on your riding style, the terrain you will be riding on and who you will be riding with, getting the right bike that fits your style is tricky. The trail mountain bike and the cross-country mounting bike are quite identical and can easily be confused at first glance.  There are several areas where you can find a significant difference between the two bikes. Physical features of the bikes such as the length of the stems, the width of the handlebars, the braking system, the suspension travel, and tires are normally taken into consideration when identifying these types of mountain bikes.  You can find all your mountain bike parts and accessories below on the Blue Sky Cycling website.  


The Handlebars - The cross country mountain bike has a narrow handlebar.  Since the cross country bikes are built for maximum speed and agility, a narrow handlebar enables the rider to get a feel of what the front wheel is doing. It is also quick to steer around corners. A wide handlebar on trail bikes gives the rider enough leverage to maneuver technical terrain. It helps the rider not to be thrown around when going through rock gardens. 



The Stem length - The cross country mountain bike features a longer stem length of approximately 90mm - 100mm. The long stem positions the rider in a posture that pushes the rider's body further forward for enhanced grip on flat terrain, and maximum acceleration. On the other hand, the trail bike has a shorter stem length of approximately 40mm -80mm. A short stem keeps the rider's posture laid more backward for better stability during steep downhill riding.

The Suspension Travel - A cross country mountain bike has a shorter travel of suspension than the trail bike. A shorter travel of suspension enhances a quick uphill sprint. For real fast cross-country mountain bikes, the comfort of the rear suspension has been eliminated to boost pedaling efficiency.  A longer suspension travel provides comfort and easy crawling capabilities over obstacles. 

The Head angle - Due to a longer suspension travel in the front, trail bikes also have a wider head angle which is good for down hill riding. It positions the front wheel far much ahead of the rider making the bike stable even on steep downhill maneuvers. On the other hand, the short suspension travel on a cross-country bike forces it to have a narrower head angle which makes a cross country bike more twitchy when riding on steep down hills.

The Brake Rotor - A trail bike has a relatively large brake rotor compared to the cross country bike. A large brake rotor of about 140mm - 160mm is key to a more powerful braking system, which is essential when down hilling at a fast speed. Due to its wide surface area, a large brake rotor is less likely to overheat and cause brake failure than smaller brake rotors. Since cross-country mountain bikes are quite twitchy on the downhill ride, a powerful braking system will only make things worse. Therefore, its brake rotor is much smaller and less powerful.

Tires - A Cross-country bike has smoother tires to enhance faster rolling for maximum speed while the trail bikes feature wide and heavily threaded tires for better grip and stability on unstable grounds.


     Apart from the physical features of theses mountain bikes, they can also be identified by their capabilities, or what they can do better than the other. For example, cross country mountain bikes are slower on the descent and faster on climbs and flat surfaces. Trail mountain bikes are slower on climbs and fast and fun to ride on down hills. Considering the overall speed, the cross country bikes are far much faster than trails bikes. While the trail bikes can take a corner quite aggressively with more grip, the cross country is able to maneuver sharper corners with more agility. The trail bikes do break faster and more precisely. The cross country bike is lighter and quicker in acceleration and steering while the trail bikes are heavier and optimized for descends. Today's mountain bikes have become extremely specialized in terms of their intended use. On one extreme you will find the cross-country racing mountain bikes. On the other extreme, you will find the downhill racing mountain bikes. The trail mountain bike sits in between the two types of bikes and tries to serve the purposes of both ends but to a limited extent.  How to set up your mountain bike is important.  Click to check out how to set up a mountain bike.  Or you can watch a quick video below that will show you the steps...

     You can tell the difference between them by having a closer look at the handlebars, the stem length, the suspension travel, the brake rotor, the tires, and the head angle. The handle bars vary in length with the shorter ones for cross country bikes and the longer ones for trail bikes. Long stem length creates the appropriate body posture for cross country bikers while short stem lengths pull the cyclist backward for safer down hill riding on the trail. A long suspension travel is fit for trail bikes while cross country bikes feature a shorter travel on the suspension. Trail bikes have a large brake rotor for a more powerful breaking experience while cross-country bikes have smaller brake rotors. The tires on a cross country mountain bike are thinner relatively smoother for maximum speed compared to trail mountain bikes which have rougher and wider tires for better grip on technical terrains. With all these features in mind, you can easily tell the two types of mountain bikes apart.  If you have any questions please feel free to leave us a comment.  Thank you! 

Blue Sky Cycling
2530 Randolph St.
Huntington Park, Ca 90255
(323) 585-3934




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