How Mountain Bikes Work – ( Everything Simplified – 2022 )

Bicycles are a mode of transportation that is more effective because it consumes relatively less source, i.e., petrol, and has a minimum contribution to air pollution as compared to other vehicles. According to statistics, a bicycle has 90% efficiency because it accelerates with the workforce, i.e., the force of your legs. Many of us already have traditional bikes and know how it works. But in this blog, we will be discussing how mountain bikes work.

Generally, mountain bikes come with additional gears and advanced sprocket technology, although you can build your own too. Such bikes have a special lever mechanism and the best hydraulic braking system that provides maximum stability when you are going up or down. All these high-end features are compacted in a beautiful design that will make your journey more comfortable and exciting. It is always a great idea to know the functions and mechanisms of your vehicle before riding it. This way, we have gathered all the necessary information related to working on mountain bikes.

How Mountain Bikes Work?

Gears of Mountain Bike

As we mentioned earlier, mountain bikes come with extra gear compared to conventional bicycles. In today’s market, you may see mountain bikes with up to twenty-seven gear ratios. Mountain bikes come with a combination of three differently sized sprockets arranged at the front and back to produce the different gear ratios. The purpose behind these gear ratios and sprockets’ arrangements is to allow constant pedalling to riders regardless of the pathway and slopes coming in their way. This system makes it a one-gear vehicle on which, if you rotate a pedal once, the rear wheel also rotates simultaneously.

Particularly, if the rear wheel’s diameter is 26 inches, then with having 1:1 gear, one complete pedals’ revolution can cause the wheel of the bike to cover 81.6 inches of ground (26×3.14=81.6 inches). Pedaling the same mountain bike at 50 rpm means covering 4,080 inches of the ground surface in just 60 seconds (81.6 x 50= 4,080 inches). These figures are great for climbing a mountain, but covering a level ground with this product is not a good idea!

However, if you are a professional biker or want to move faster, you can surely do it with a different gear ratio. Like, you need a 6:5:1 gear for riding downhill at 25 miles per hour (MPH) with 50 RPM cadence. If you purchase a bike with numerous gears, you get many increments between 1:1 and 6:5:1 gear, which allows you to pedal at the same pace at 50 RPM (regardless of your bike’s speed). Overall, the gears in mountain bikes are twice or thrice than that in a normal bike, making it more efficient and user friendly.

Derailleurs of Mountain Bike

The Derailleurs is a system that fluctuates gears by moving the bike chain from one sprocket to the other sprocket. There are two kinds of derailleurs in a mountain bike, i.e., rear derailleur and front derailleurs. The highest gear ratio is produced when the biggest sprocket chain is on the front, and the smallest one is on the back. In this condition, bikes can move the fastest. In contrast, the lowest gear ratio is produced when the smallest sprocket chain is on the front and vice versa. In this situation, the bike is easy to pedal, and the speed is prolonged.

Shifter Design in Mountain Bikes

The shifters used in mountain bikes identify the “point/spot of shifting” to balance a constant pace of cadence. It means that to increase or decrease the cadence, you will be making smaller adjustments in the gear ratio. In the mountain bike, switches are attached with the front and rear shifters, which allows you to shift the gears to high or low.

Each adjustment that you made depicts the derailleur’s position. Both derailleurs had strong springs, which forced them side by side. The shift lever works in two possible ways: either it pulls against springs to move the derailleur in one way or pulls up the cable to move the derailleur in the other way.

Mountain Bike Suspension

Mostly, mountain bikes have both suspension systems: Front and Rear. The suspension system basically lets the wheels move up and down and absorb all the small bumps. In general, the suspension system contains the shock-absorbing components that are called spring and a damper. The spring in the suspension system allows the mountain bike to move up easily when a bump comes in contact with the wheel. Then, the damper dissipates that energy and keeps the bike in control.

Both spring and damper work with each other. If the suspension system lacks the damper, then it would bounce several times after every bump in its way. The spring stores the energy, and the damper releases it. This system helps in providing better control to the bike when tires come in contact with the ground. This makes the landing jumps is easier for riders and bikes by absorbing the large shocks.

Brakes in Mountain Bike

Brakes of mountain bikes have evolved greatly with technology. The predominant brake design is a variation of “Cantilever Brakes,” found in most bikes. There is a cable running over a lever on handlebars that pulls out both levers on brakes collectively. This results in the squeezing of brake pads against the outer side of the wheel.

The mountain bikes with suspension systems mostly use the “Disc Brakes”. These brakes are similar in function to that of the car. The brake lever utilizes the hydraulic fluid to transmit the input, i.e., the force from the rider’s hand, to the brake shoes. The small piston applies pressure to the fluid when pressed by the handle in line. At the wheels of a mountain bike, a large piston squeezed the brake pads on the disc. As this piston is larger in size, the force is also multiplied at the wheel’s point.

The handle has a device that works like a master cylinder equipped in the car brakes. This device makes sure the fluid quantity is enough in the reservoir. If the fluid expands or contracts, there will be enough to actuate the disc brakes in the system. Overall, the disc brake system works really well and is not present in the roads’ typical bikes.

Tires of Mountain Bike

As we have written earlier, mountain bikes are best suited for climbing mountains only. This is never an option to ride a mountain bike on pavements. Let us tell you why! The reason is that mountain bikes are specifically made to serve the purpose of riding over mountains where the pathways are not smooth but uneven terrain. For serving that application, the tires of a mountain bike are thicker in width than that of a conventional bike.

According to statistics, the width of a mountain bike’s tire is almost three to four times more than that of the road bikes. Moreover, a mountain bike’s tires are made of more rigid and durable materials and have a pronounced grip to provide more stability and balance. Lastly, they are the toughest one’s out there but if you travel a lot then you might need a foldable bike to make your life easy.

Safety Guide: How to Descend Safely on Bike | Hybrid vs Mountain Bikes


How to avoid crashing while mountain biking?

Safety should be the priority of every biker. Make sure that you have your first aid kit with you before riding. Always ride your bike with full concentration.

What do I need to know before buying a mountain bike?

Consider the size of the bike and wheels or hardtail. Never go for flashy trinkets or extra-fancy options, and make sure to keep little budget back.

Is it ok to use a mountain bike on the road?

Mountain bikes are generally slower on pavement and harder to pedal. It is never a good idea to use a mountain bike on the grounds.


In conclusion, mountain bikes have totally different mechanics than that of a normal road bike. So if you are expecting that both are the same and don’t need to learn how a mountain bike works, you are totally wrong. This article clearly explains the mechanisms and functioning of a mountain bike, including its gear systems, derailleurs, suspension systems, and different kinds of brakes.

These different and modified technology and systems are installed in a mountain bike to provide more stability and grip. You will be enjoying the mountain riding without any fears or risks once you go through this blog!

Happy Mountain Biking!

Photo of author
Sonia Seale loves to take her bike to the mountains near her place, the bike track has provided her the opportunity to go mountain biking since she was a child. That's where she developed a great deal of interest in cycling, no matter if it's electric or mountain bike, she's all over the place and loves to fix her own bikes along with exploring the new features coming along in the industry. That's why she's here, sharing her experience and learnings with you guys.