This is the first in a series of stickys, designed to give an insight into the world of mtb. They are intended to help new riders to the mtb scene progress and hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls they maybe likely to encounter. Mtb is a diverse code ranging, from gentle towpath riding, trail riding, mtb centres, off road touring, wild hills to technical downhill . It is important to define what it is you intend to do with your mtb, as this is going to determine your choice of equipment. A word of warning here, there are a lot of cheap mtbs available today that are not going to be suitable for serious off road riding. Having said that there are plenty that are, at decent prices, if you know where to look, both new and S/hand, but more of this later. Framesets: There are basically three types of framesets that are used in mtb today. Rigids, Hardtails (HT) and Full Suspension ( Full Suss, Bouncers) each type has its pro s and cons depending on your situation and the use you are going to put it to. Rigids: Material ; aluminium (ali), steel, titanium (Ti) Back in the mists of time when Mtb first arrived from the U.S.A, these were the only frames available on the mass market. Based on the traditional cycle design but using 26” wheels (the standard for wheels with fat tyres in the States ). One of the problems in the early days was not everybody sang from the same song sheet in regards to fittings, something to bear in mind if buying S/hand. Cannondale being a prime example (this continues to the present day in some respects). The beauty of the quality rigid is, its simplicity, lightweight and relative ease of serviceability and running costs. The rigid is not to be discounted out of hand, as they are perfectly capable of coping with terrain a lot of people would wish to use an mtb for. The downside to a rigid in any serious terrain is its stiffness and lack of suspension (obviously). You will feel everything the trail has to throw at you, fatigue brought on by vibration can be an issue with a rigid. Buying; If you are not quite sure if mtbing is for you, a s/hand rigid could be a good way to go. There are plenty of good examples around ( recently a Cannondale M800 beast of the east in mint condition sold for under £300 on ebay ). If you found mtbing was not your cup of tea, you wouldn t lose much, if anything on resale. Likewise if you found it was for you, sell it then upgrade to something else. There are still some quality rigids available from new. Van Nicholas make some lovely examples in Ti, but you would have to be sure a rigid was for you before spending upwards of £1500 on one! As with buying any second hand frame, care is needed. Steel frames can rust from the inside out and you will only discover it when it breaks. Aluminium frames can also crack through use and age. They also offer a much stiffer ride which can compound some of the issues in regards to ride quality already mentioned. Original components can be unavailable or very expensive. Fortunately old style Mtb crank spiders have the same BCD as road compacts. It is also quite simple to convert to a 9 speed drive train especially if you have friction shifters. Good examples are: Spesh Rockhopper and Stumpjumper Kona Explosif and Kilauea GT Zasker Cannondale M2000 M1000 M800 Fuji Steelite. Hardtails: Material; Various ali compounds ,Carbon, Steel, Titanium. With the introduction of front suspension the hardtail was born. With it, the hardtail brought sloping top tubes, V brakes and the 1 1/8 A Headset (Developments that had started to creep in the later days of the rigid.) . Front suspension came in various lengths of travel depending on the intended use. Adjustable Damping and Lockouts came later.Two exceptions to the traditional front fork were Cannondales Headshock and leftie fork. The rear end is usually a conventional triangle although there have been some exceptions. Another signifcant development to later hardtails was the disc brake. For many years the hardtail has been the weapon of choice for many mtbers, and its not hard to see why. With a tuneable front end and better braking they make a nimble mount for when the going gets tough. The main disadvantage with hardtails is front end ‘bob’ ( the movement of the forks occurring during the pedalling action this can be negated to a certain extent with practice) Lockout can alleviate this also but is by no means ideal in an off road situation. The only extra service work on a hardtail over a rigid are the forks. Disc brake pad replacement can be awkward until you get the knack . Buying; Unless you are looking for a bargain at the top end buying S/hand may not be worth the hassle. New hardtails of good quality are now available for around £500-£600.Bargains are to be had if you are not fussed to own this years model. As with buying any bike trying before you buy is always a good idea, especially when it comes to sizing. More about buying and sizing here ; Full Suspension: Materials; Various ali compounds and carbon are the most common although other materials are and have been used. The most recent addition to the mtb fold followed shortly after the introduction of the Hardtail. Although the concept of rear suspension was a good one, in practice it proved difficult to perfect. There have been all sorts of weird and wonderful designs tried then discarded. Modern rear suspension designs are the result of years of development. Even today there is no ideal or perfect rear suspension. Im not going to go into the various designs here, there a couple of good articles here; http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/article/buyers-guide-to-mountain-bike-suspension-part-1-28367/ And here; http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/article/buyers-guide-to-mountain-bike-suspension-part-2-28438/ Top quality Full Sussers are a joy to ride on the rough stuff, cheap ones are awful. Here lies the main drawback with full sussers, price. If you re serious about your mtb and are prepared to maintain your steed the full susser could be the mount for you. If on the other hand you get one to look the part, you may well be wasting your hard earned cash. That may seem harsh, at the end of the day its your money. Buying; As has been mentioned, good Full Sussers don’t come cheap. You won t usually get much change out of £1500, unless you happen on a bargain from a slightly older model, someone has in stock. At the top end,.... well think of a number and double it ! Buying S/hand can be a bit of a minefield if you don’t know what you are looking at. Suspension units ( shocks and forks) Bushes in pivots and links need careful examination. Links and mounting points are particularly liable to fracture and damage and again need careful examination. If your determined to buy secondhand try to take someone with you who can examine and advise you on condition. Repairs even if they are possible can be expensive. Its definitely a case of buyer beware. While this is only a basic guide, hopefully it will point you at least in the right direction to the type of bike to look at. Comments and further advice are welcomed, but please keep it factual and to the point. Please check out the guides to components buying and sizing and riding tips that accompany this article. May I take this opportunity to wish you all many miles of happy and safe riding.