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Mountain Bike vs BMX

Mountain bikes and BMX are two different types of bikes and were built for their purpose. Read this article about Mountain Bike and BMX and their differences.

Cyclist in the BMX doing stunts.

Bicycles are among the most gifted items. As a kid, all one wanted was a bicycle, since every other kid in the block had one – some two. But then the question comes up. What kind of bicycle is the best gift? Is it a mountain bike or a BMX bike? As an adult, maybe you want to dive back into the adventure.

Instead of running on a treadmill, you want to put in some solid exercise by riding a bicycle. What is the best bicycle for you? Is it the mountain bike or the BMX?

What is BMX?

A person doing stunts with his BMX.

BMX is not an acronym but represents motocross. It is the bicycle version of motocross. Therefore, a BMX bike is made for short sprints and big stunts. Inspired by the motocross superstars in the 1970s, kids in Southern California started using typical road bikes to perform motocross riding and stunts. They would modify these bikes to enhance their performance and improve the bicycle’s handling.

Towards the mid-1970s, the BMX phenomenon was catching on. After a national movement of kids exploring BMX, bicycle manufacturers started creating bikes designed for BMX.

Nowadays, BMX is an all-encompassing term referring to dirt bikes, vert bikes, park bikes, street bikes, flatland bikes, and the BMX freestyle bikes.

These Are the Different Bmx Bike Models

  • Dirt – These bikes have thicker tread tires which increase grip on loose surfaces. They are the closest version to the original BMX bikes.
  • Flatland – Flatland bikes differ from typical BMX bikes because of their geometry. Stunts related to flatland bikes require riders to balance the bicycle on multiple parts.
  • Park – These are BMX bikes without brakes. Park BMX bikes are also known as vert bikes. They are very light. To make them light, the structural strength of certain parts of the bike is reduced. But they can still perform well because they ride in parks.
  • Race – Racing BMX bikes require speed. Therefore, their front sprocket is larger than a typical BMX bike. They also have brakes.
  • Street – Modern BMX street bikes have sleeves attached to the axle that enable the rider to balance the bike on various obstacles. Typically, a street BMX bike is stronger and heavier than a regular BMX bike.
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What Is a Mountain Bike?

A person cycling downhill.

A mountain bike performs in rough terrains. However, it is heavier than other bikes because of the modifications to improve its performance to handle rough terrain. 

The modifications include a suspension system, wide knobby tires, wide-ratio gears, and wide handlebars. 

In addition, more modern bikes have droppers that allow the rider to adjust the seat position while riding.

Mountain bike trails can be single-track, unpaved surfaces, or fire roads. These terrains are full of loose dirt, rocks, roots, and steep grades. 

To enhance the adventure of these mountain bike trails, there can be additional wall rides, gap jumps, skinnies, rock gardens, log rides, and log piles. The additions are known as technical trail features (TTF)

Mountain bikes come in four different designs, including:

  • Rigid – A large mountain bike with straight handlebars and knobby tires. Typically, these bikes do not have any suspension.
  • Hard Tail – The bike has a typical frame similar to the rigid mountain bike but also has a front fork suspension.
  • Soft Tail – Usually used as cross country bicycles. They do not have rear shocks. Instead, they have pivots in the frame that help absorb the shock.
  • Full suspension – Also known as dual suspension. A full-suspension mountain bike has suspensions both at the front and rear wheels. Suspensions used for either of the wheels are not the same, though. The telescopic fork is used for the front wheel, whereas the rear wheel suspension is a mechanical component linkage that enhances shock absorption.

Mountain bikes vary in design because they fit specific competition disciplines. These disciplines include:

  • Cross country
  • Trail
  • Enduro
  • Downhill
  • Freeride
  • Dirt jumping urban and street
  • Slopestyle
  • Trials
  • Single-speed
  • Gravel cycling
  • Design Differences
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BMX Vs. Mountain Bike

A cyclist with bmx bike doing stunts.

Now that we understand what the two bikes are about, it is time to pay more attention to the specific areas they differ in to give you more clarity when deciding between them.

Both bikes serve different purposes. The BMX is strong and allows instant speed changes and extreme mobility. On the other hand, the mountain bike is built for demanding terrain, climbs, and steep descents. It’s crafted for shock absorption.

The Frame

Parts of a BMX bike in a store.

A BMX frame needs to be very strong because of the nature of stunts and the riding style of BMXers. A BMX bike suffers significant aggression, stop-start maneuvers, and much balancing. Therefore, their frame is built for strength.

The mountain bike’s frame is strong, focusing more on shock absorption. Due to the rugged terrain mountain bikes endure, the ability to absorb as much shock as possible is critical. 

Mountain bike frames also allow room for attaching lights, air pumps, and drink bottles. A BMX frame must be very simple yet strong and rigid. It does not accommodate such luxuries.

In addition,the frames come in different sizes; hence a rider can easily pick out their size, but the BMX frame is the same.

Here is a guide on how one can go about choosing the most fitting frame size for a mountain bike.

  • A height between 4’ 10” and 5’2” – the appropriate frame is between 13” – 14”
  • A height between 5’3” and 5’6” – the appropriate frame is between 15” – 16”
  • A height between 5’7” and 5’10” – the appropriate frame is between 17” – 18”
  • A height between 5’11” and 6’1” – the appropriate frame is between 19” – 20”
  • A height between 6’2” and 6’4” – the appropriate frame is between 21” – 22”
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Wheels

A man riding a BMX in a park.

The wheels on a BMX and a mountain bike vary in size, make and design.

Mostly, BMX wheels range between 20 to 24 inches. The most popular ones are 20 inches. On the other hand, mountain bike wheels range from 26 to 29 inches. The most popular wheels are 26 inches. Therefore, the preference for mountain bike wheels varies depending on a person’s height.

Furthermore, BMX tires are designed to work well on smooth surfaces but also be capable of withstanding the sudden high impact from given stunts. In contrast, mountain bike wheels are large and knobby to enhance grip on different terrains.

Braking

Technician fixing a v-brake of a bmx.

Mountain bikes and BMX bikes do not use the same braking system.

First, BMX bikes enable the riders to perform stunts. BMX riders need to spin their handlebars. The braking system should not interfere with the stunts. Therefore, BMX bikes use the V-brake, which squeezes the rear tire slowly and brings the bike to a halt.

Mountain bikes use disc brakes because they are stronger and would work well under extreme situations like mud, water, and heat. While going down steep hills, these brakes come in very handy.

Gears

BMX is a single-gear bike. The gear can be matched to a sprocket size favorable to the rider, but it’s only one gear.

Mountain bikes on the side have up to 24 gears. The multiple gear provision is to enable the bike to traverse different terrains. For example, lower gears come in handy while climbing steep slopes, while higher gears engage when speed is needed.

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Suspension

BMX bikes do not have suspensions. They’re rigid bikes. Adding suspension would make them bulkier. That would be counterproductive. Therefore, BMX riders absorb most of the shock from their stunts.

A mountain bike can either have a hardtail suspension or a full suspension. The hardtail suspension has the suspension on the front, while a full suspension bike has suspension at the front and the back. 

Suspension is essential for mountain bikes because these bikes thrive on irregular terrain. If the rider was to absorb all the shock, it would not be healthy or sustainable.

Pros and Cons of BMX Bikes and Mountain Bikes

A boy with skate board and BMX bike.

Both bikes fit the functions they are created for. However, they each have both sides of the coin. Let us explore those.

BMX bikes are meant for short sprints and tons of stunts. Making them this way presents good qualities and foregoes some.

Pros of Bmx Bikes

  • Lightweight – They are easy to handle, even for children. In addition, they are easy to transport.
  • Affordable – A good BMX bike can cost half the price of a decent mountain bike
  • Low maintenance – It is easy to service them as they do not have gear and complex suspension.
  • Fun and Urban – BMX bikes are fun to ride and carry out stunts. Also, they are compatible with urban areas where there are BMX tracks and skate parks.

Cons of Bmx Bikes

  • Short distance – They are not built for long-distance riding.
  • One speed – lack of gears makes it difficult to ride them uphill.
  • No suspension – The lack of suspension exposes the rider to many shocks.
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Mountain bikes are designed for individuals who seek thrill in the woods and rough terrain.

A person cycling with mountain bike.

Pros of Mountain Bikes

  • Gears – It is easier to ride up hills and control speed on level terrain with gears.
  • Versatile – You can use a mountain bike for various purposes, including commuting.
  • Comfortable – Mountain bikes are very comfortable because of the suspension and the size variations that suit an individual.

Cons of Mountain Bikes

  • Pricey – Mountain bikes can be quite costly, especially for beginners.
  • Heavy – They have a lot of components that add to their weight, making them difficult to transport.
  • Maintenance – Mountain bikes require a lot of maintenance to ensure the gears, the suspension, and the bike are operational.

Final Word

Both the BMX bikes and the mountain bikes are phenomenal two-wheeled vehicles that are fun. Despite both being curated for specific environments, they perform well in each niche. Since I’m not a stunt person, I ride a mountain bike. However, I like watching BMX stunts.