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  1. #1
    mtbr member
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    Apr 2007

    Clear A Few Things Up For Me Please

    Hello All,

    So yeah, I'm new at this. But despite my constant reading and learning, a few things are still escaping me.

    1.) Pedals. Could someone please tell me the difference between various pedal styles? I've heard clipless and straps mentioned. What about the ones that clip to the bottom of bicycle shoes? And what do you call the ones that come stock on most bikes....the once that are just flat platforms with spikes on them. What's the benefit/drawback of each kind?

    2.) Components. I read about shifters, derailers, cranks, shocks, forks etc...but how do I figure out which ones are better than others? For example, I have Shimano Altus rear and Shimano SIS derailers on my bike. Now, from what I understand, these are basicly bottom of the line derailers. Is there some sort of list somewhere that shows them in order from cheapest to best? Like where do Deore and XTRs comes in? What about Sram? Same goes with shocks and forks. What are them bottom of the line, whichs ones are mid grade, and which are "best". I'm sure someone has made a list somewhere. A link would be greatly appritiated.

    3.) Freeride, XC, All Mountain, DH....what does it all mean??? DH is pretty much self-explanitory, but what about the others? I ride mostly single track, hardpack with some roots/logs and various technical stuff in the beginner to intermediate range. There are some drops, ranging from 1-6 feet, but I've been going around those for right now till my skills develope more. Equal amounts of uphill and downhill. WHat catagory would this fall under?

    Thanks guys and gals!


  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation: nachomc's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    1. Pedals: clipless are the kind that your shoes clip to. Straps are standard pedals (that your shoe doesn't clip to) that have a strap to secure your foot to the pedal. Then you have other pedals that your foot is not secured to.

    Each has its own place. clipless pedals are great for cross country (xc) as they allow increased pedaling efficiency and work with good cycling shoes that have stiff soles for better power transfer. Straps, in my opinion, are bad news. Beginners seem to use them out of fear of clipless, but in my experience straps are more dangerous when you need to get out of the pedal (harder to remove your foot than with clipless) and they just plain look dorky. Platforms are great for downhill, dirt jump, urban riding, trials, basically anything where you'd want to be able to get off your bike/pedals fast or often, and/or if you need a good platform for your feet.

    2. Components. A huge area. Altus are at the bottom end. They're heavier, less precise and less durable. As you go up the chain of derailleurs, you'll find exactly the opposite: greater reliability, less weight, more efficient, etc. SRAM is a brand name (like Shimano is).

    A run down of the main setups by brand?

    Shimano                          SRAM
    deore                              x-5
    LX                                   x-7
    XT                                   x-9
    XTR                                 x-0
    One thing to mention is that "Deore" is not only an individual component, but its also used as the name for a family of components. So you have the Deore derailleur, brakes, shifters, etc. But when they refer to LX or XT, you'll see "Deore LX" or "Deore XT".

    3. Freeride, XC, All Mountain, DH...

    Freeride is mostly downhill and flats with jumps, stunts, riding planks, etc. It's an awesome form of riding and takes a ton of skill. All Mountain is a style that is what it's named after: all mountain. These guys do some of the hardcore downhill stuff, and then they climb themselves back up. DH is downhill. These guys typically ride down steep hills at high speed, but their bikes aren't made to go up hill and they will usually shuttle, which means to have another friend/rider drive them to the top of the hill for another descent. You didnt' ask, but XC means cross country, which are typically associated with spandex-wearing weight weenies (like myself..actually I don't yet wear spandex. You don't have to be a weight weenie or spandex wearer at all, that's just the stereotype) and the riding is moderate descents, lots of climbing, flats. It can be technical but isn't always, there is a lot of climbing in most cases, a lot of singletrack, etc.

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Reputation: alexandros's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Agree with all of the above.

    Would just like to add that XC involves many varying aspects of terrain from flat smooth trails to rocky difficult stuff, can be very challenging and very exciting. Also involves learning a whole array of skills such as dealing with switchbacks, holding it together on steep rocky descents or dealing with finding the 'right 'line' on fast flowing and varying singletrack.
    Not much for a man to ask I dare say.. the simple maturity to ensure a limitless supply of clean socks.

  4. #4
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    Reputation: masshysteria's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    Clipless pedals (the step-in/attach to your shoe kind) are so called, because the old pedals with the straps were called toe-clips. The straps/clips went around the toes. So, getting rid of the straps/clips resulted in clipless pedals.

    I really like clipless pedals for trail and xc riding, so I'd recommend them.

    Shimano's true mountain bike range begins at Deore. Anything below that can work, but isn't designed to handle true off-road riding. It will eventually give you trouble and will definitely give you trouble when gummed up with mud.

    SRAM's true mountain bike range starts at X.7. Below that is the SX5 which will work, but when gummed up with mud and debris, not as nice as the true mtb components.

    The XTR and X.0 levels are designed for racing, with lightweight components and as a result may need more attention and service. XT and X.9 are supposed to be the best compromise between price and performance with tough parts and good performance. LX and X.7 deliver great performance at a reasonable price. These are considered entry-level mtb components and will do just great for all but the most demanding riders.

    Components (rear derailleur, front derailleur, shifters) within the X series or Deore series are interchangeable. So you could run XT shifters and FD with an XTR RD. Or you could run X.0 shifters with an X.9 RD.

    I'll add to sonicsuby's list to make this (from best to worst):

    SX 5
    SX 4

    To make things even more complicated each company offers two kinds of shifters. SRAM has trigger shifters and twist shifters. The triggers are operated by using just your thumb. You push on one of tow levers to change gears. The twist shifters mount next to your grips and change gears by twisting the shifter forward or backward, think motorcycle throttle.

    Shimano offers rapid-fire and dual-control. Rapid fire is a trigger shifter that operates with a thumb and index finger, although the latest generation (XTR only?) also allows for all thumb shifting. Dual control integrates the brake lever and the shifting. Pull on the brake lever and your brake, push up or push down on the brake lever to shift.

    To go into forks and brakes and such requires many more lists. You best bet is to go to the manufacturer's website and they will list their products.

    subysonic already laid out a pretty good explanation, but let me expand some. The categories can help steer you to the right bike purchase based on intended use and amount of travel (meaning the amount of compression the shock and fork can handle) you need.

    As a result, things are seen similar to this:
    Cross-country/XC - Has become geared more towards racing. Lighter weights less travel (80-100mm front and back). Still probably has the best bang for your buck in the hardtail category.

    All-mountain/Trail - The catch all category. Has to be able to climb and conquer technical descents. Has a bit more travel than XC and usually seen as a full-suspension bike. Travel moves up to 100-160mm.

    Freeride - These bike have slacker geometry, so you are sitting lower and and a bit more upright. Pedaling is still a concern, but the emphasis becomes long travel and a bike that is able to take drops and technical descents. Bikes start to weigh a lot more and travel is 160+ mm.

    Downhill - All about getting to the bottom as fast as possible. Slack geometry and a lot of travel. Usually beefier than freeride bikes resulting in a lot of weight.

    Urban/Dirt jump/Bike park - These are often times beefy hartails that are able to take a beating. Pedaling and climbing isn't much of a concern. The freeride equivalent of the xc hardtail.

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