cross country bike

What is a Cross Country Mountain Bike

There are various disciplines for mountain biking. These disciplines each require unique designs, kits, and trail types. Cross Country Mountain biking is one of these disciplines. With what has been said, it’s expected that you can’t help but ponder, what is a mountain bike cross country?

Cross country mountain biking is a popular and least extreme discipline of mountain biking. It involves several competitors racing from point to point as fast as they can on trails which mainly consist of hills, flat paved paths or both.

 It can either be an intensive short competition or a long enduring one. The cross country bike’s design favors climbing and it’s great for threading on flat surfaces due to its slightly smoother tire than the regular trail bike.

Should I Get a Cross Country or Trail Mountain Bike?

It depends on your preference. Here’s how you can decide:

  • Speed

If it’s speed you prefer then the cross country mountain bike is the best option. Why? The bike is designed to suit the discipline which in fact demands speed. This is so as it’s trails are usually forest paths with hills, single tracks or paved roads. So there are smoother tires, narrower head angle, a longer stem range, a shorter suspension travel, a hardtail and narrower handlebar.

Whereas the simple trail bike has its own unique design that focuses on adrenaline rather than speed as it’s trails usually descend down hills or mountains. So therefore the tires are heavily threaded, the handlebar is wider, it has a shorter stem range, a longer suspension travel and a stronger braking system.

  • Maneuvering

All Styles of mountain biking require a good handling technique so maneuvering is a big factor. Due to a narrow handlebar and short front suspension travel, cross country bikes allow the rider to get a good feel of the front tires. Thus, enabling the rider to make sharp turns quickly and effectively.

Trail mountain bikes on the other hand, ensures the comfort of the rider, given it’s designed specifically for downhill travels.   The handlebar is wider to prevent the rider from being thrown around by a rocky path but it’s not as fast cross country in terms of making sharp turns. Also, It’s front and rear suspension travels longer for better shock absorption, which makes the trail bike slow on smooth surfaces and ascending hills.

  • Braking System

The best braking system is found in a trail mountain bike because it’s designed mainly to descend which is quite risky if you don’t have a powerful braking system. The cross country bike has a decent braking system but it’s not at the same level as the trail bikes.

This is intentional because a light weight fast bike such as the cross country will be dangerous with a powerful braking system as the trail bikes.

  • Competition

If you’re competing in a downhill trail then the mountain trail bike is for you. If you’re competing on a long trail that involves a lot of uphill rides then the cross country is for you.

What Is The Difference Between A Cross Country and Trail Mountain Bike?

Differences between a trail mountain bike and a cross country:

The Stem Length

The cross country mountain bikes possess longer stem lengths because it helps to distribute the rider’s weight in such a way it postures him to adopt a more forward position that encourages both upward and flat surface sprint. The stem length in cross country bikes ranges from 90-100mm.

Trail mountain bikes on the other hand have shorter stem lengths because the rider gets to maneuver better as he/she descends downhill with much more stability. This is so as the shorter stem length postures the rider in a more relaxed sitting position to ensure safer downhill threading. short stem length can go zero or fall within a decent range of 40-80mm. Depending on your preference.


The wheels on a cross country bike are Large (usually between 27.5″-29″) and narrower (usually less than 2.2″), with less threads for ample traction and rolling resistance. These features enable the cross country bike to climb obstacles easily or just simply thread on a smoother surface.

Trail bike wheels aren’t the same as they possess regular sized wheels(usually within 27.5″-29″) with wider tires(usually within 2.3″-3″). They also have heavily threaded tires which provide the traction and rolling resistance needed to ensure stability as the rider travels downhill.

Suspension Travel

Cross Country

Front forks are either made of steel or carbon fiber and they usually utilize air springs. Cross Country bikes generally have shorter suspension travels (usually between 100 to 120mm) and sometimes they can be completely rigid to ensure a more precise handling.

Cross country bikes usually have no suspension. Or In other words, cross country bikes usually possess hardtails. This feature encourages the riders to put more energy into rolling the rear tire.

Trail Bikes

Unlike the cross country, trail bikes have a well-developed frontal fork. It consists of a normal suspension fork which utilizes air springs or coil springs. This suspension fork travels longer with a range of 130-170mm. The fork also possesses stanchions (usually between 34-26mm) which help to improve stability and ensure precision while handling technical terrains.

Trail bikes also possess rear full suspensions that can travel long within a range of 120 -160mm. This is enough to handle descent on technical terrains while maintaining speed.

The Handlebars

The reason why cross country mountain bikes have narrower handlebars is due to the increased steering sensitivity it provides. Thus, allowing the rider to make sharp turns comfortably and quickly. The only downside is that with great sensitivity it is very easy for the handle to be manipulated by extremely rocky or any rough paths which can be bad when going downhill.

Handlebars on trail bikes are a lot wider and they give more comfort to the rider as he goes downhill. The wider handlebar coupled with the trail bike’s well-developed suspension forks can take on any technical terrain. But the downside to this feature is that it’s slower at making turns when compared to the narrower handlebars.


Cross country bikes possess a steeper head angle(usually between 69-71°). This is an important feature that helps to put the rider in a riding posture which puts him/her literally in front of the bike. Another part of the cross country geometry is the shorter tube which enhances the rider’s handling.

Unlike the cross country bikes, they possess a much slacker head angle(usually between 65-68°) and longer top tubes. These set of features makes the trail bike stable enough to prevent falling over while descending down a hill or mountain trail.

Brake Rotor

The cross country mountain bike braking system contains a small brake rotor while the trail bike contains a larger brake rotor. Neither of them are at a loss because both have their perfect fit. Why? The brake rotor of the cross country braking system is supposed to be small to give the rider more control while he/she is braking. Given the cross country bike is light-weight.


Trail bikes on the other hand will require more control since it will be going downhill. So the braking system has a larger rotor which offers a powerful stop that can hold the heavy trail bike.

How Do I Choose The Right Mountain Bike?

Here are factors to look out for when you’re on the market for the right mountain bike for you:

Biking Style 

Before shopping for any mountain bike model you should consider how you plan to bike. Do you plan to thread on far trails or short ones? Do you prefer to bike uphill or downhill? Are you after maximum acceleration or complete comfort while you maneuver around unstable terrains? Or what style of mountain biking do you compete in?

Unique Features 

Once you’ve already determined the style you prefer, there are some key features you should consider that should match the style of mountain biking you wish to go for. 

 For instance, if you’re looking to thread on terrible and rough terrains then you’ll need a fat bike. Its unique design includes special features such as fatter tires which are heavily studded for better traction.

 The same logic works for cross country bikes and trail ones as well. In a cross country mountain bike you discover shorter suspension travel, narrower hand-bars, and head angles. Trail bikes are the opposite as they have longer suspension travel, wider hand-bars, and longer head angles.


When shopping for any mountain bike find the one that fits your height. That way you can determine if a bike is too tall or too short for you.

 Note: if you’re within 5’6″ – 5’10” then a bike of either 17″ or 18″ is best for you. If you’re within 6’1″ – 6’4″ then a bike of 21″ or 22″ is for you.

What Is A Cross Country Mountain Bike Used For? 

The cross country mountain bike is generally used to climb hills and thread on smoother surfaces at maximum acceleration. It’s build along with its defined trails tests the handling skills, endurance and speed of the rider. 

Final Thoughts

Out of all the mountain bike disciplines, Cross country is the most popular one. It’s even featured in the Olympics. And just like every other mountain bike discipline it has its unique design of a mountain bike which is light-weight, possesses an overall on-the-go build that climbs and threads very fast.

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