Mountain Bike Disciplines

Mountain Biking has become a fairly diverse and complex sport. It might be based on riding up and down, off road trails, single tracks but there is much more to it – depending on your bike, the terrain you are riding and the actual purpose of your riding. Mountain biking can be defined into a number of different disciplines; Cross Country, Trail riding, All Mountain and Enduro (there is also Downhill and Freeriding but we don’t cover these disciplines on our tours). All these terms can seem a bit complicated at first, so we’ve come up with a helpful guide to explain the above disciplines and discuss the key factors that differ between each one.

Cross Country (XC)

For those who like a mix of thrill and adventure, cross country is where you’ll find it. It’s the most common form of mountain biking, involving off-roading through a variety of terrain. XC riding and racing requires a high level of endurance fitness and bike handling skills. In a non-competitive world Cross Country can also mean riding less technically demanding trails and fire roads. Long distances and long hours in the saddle are common.

In terms of bike setup, XC strongly favours short-travel hardtails and full suspension bikes, usually with up to 120 mm of travel. It is important to have a lightweight bike, which makes climbing easier. The bike does not need to be the best at descending as XC descents are usually fairly easy and flowing in comparison to other disciplines.


Although the two mountain biking disciplines are similar. Like cross country, trail riding covers a range of terrain, but it can present bigger obstacles. This type of mountain biking is a more aggressive type of XC riding. It generally means riding less fire roads and easy tracks and replacing them with more technical single tracks both up and down.

Trail riding favours descending a bit more than climbing, but it is essential that you’re prepared to ride uphill as it allows you to explore further and ride more interesting trails. We recommend either a full suspension or a hardtail bike with around 120 – 130 mm of travel. A full suspension bike will obviously give you more comfort and confidence on technically demanding trails. On the other hand, a full suspension bike will not be as efficient at climbing as a hardtail.


All Mountain (AM)

100% pure mountain riding – this discipline entails overcoming extreme natural obstacles. AM trails get the adrenaline pumping with big jumps, daring drops and other challenges you’d expect from a mountain. This is a riding style that basically means riding in the mountains. We all know how challenging and unpredictable this type of riding can be.

Every mountain adventure tests the bikes and riders to their limits and this is why you need a bike you can rely on. We recommend a dual suspension bike for this type of riding, having at least 140 mm of travel is recommended. Your bike has to be light to allow you to ride whatever trail or weather conditions you encounter. Strong wheels and puncture-proof tyres are recommended, to withstand big rock gardens, natural jumps, small drops and any other unexpected terrain riding in the mountains might throw at you.



Of all the mountain biking disciplines, enduro is the most multifaceted, blending the physical endurance of XC, the steel nerves of downhill and the power to climb. This kind of off road riding is a lot of fun and often means riding very fast. Modern enduro bikes are basically downhill bikes with an ability to climb back uphill once the descent is finished.

Enduro bikes can be ridden in the most challenging terrain, natural downhill trails, epic loops and at purpose built single track bike parks such as Derby in Tasmania. Enduro bikes usually have between 150 and 170 mm of travel and are full suspension, allowing you to make the most of demanding trails. Enduro is often orientated around racing and it’s getting more popular each year, it’s no surprise since enduro is based on what the majority of mountain bikers already do, riding uphill and then racing against friends back downhill.