Mountain Bikes 101: Racing Categories Explained

If you’re new to mountain biking, or even if you’re an experienced rider, you may be confused by the different types of mountain biking styles. It can be challenging to know what kind of bicycle to purchase here in Utah. Electric bikes are opening up this sport to a lot of people that may have been intimidated by the high-adventure of off-roading.

Manufacturers design electric mountain bikes using the same type of classifications, for the same purposes, as the traditional styles. But we’re seeing that the electric motor is opening a lot of exciting options for these long-established categories.

Woman’s Electric Mountain Bikes
Know How You’re Going to Use Your Electric Mountain Bike
CLICK HERE to see an infographic on mountain bike race categories.

Finding the right e bike means understanding these different classifications of mountain bike and matching your bike choice with the use-type that you’re planning. Most mountain bikers aren’t interested in competitive racing, but it’s valuable to understand the type of races to know the kind of recreational uses you’ll see in the mountains.

Many e bike brands don’t perfectly adhere to these categories. There’s some overlap in the different styles with the race categories. So, take these categories with a grain of salt. The entire system of bike racing is in flux. There may be new categories arise in the next few years, especially as electric bikes become more mainstream with competitive mountain bikers.

Read this informative article about why you should switch from a conventional mountain bike to one with an electric motor. CLICK to read.

Watch for Competitions in the Future with Electric Motors

Off-Road E Bikes in Salt Lake City

It used to be that you could only compete with traditional mountain bikes. But we’re starting to see electric bike racing in some categories. We assume that eventually there will be competitions that are exclusively for e bikes in each classification.

The Classifications of Mountain Bike Races

Cross-Country XC

These are the most extended types of mountain bike races. An average cross-country race may be about 2 ½ hour rides. They’re less severe and require more endurance than other kinds of racing categories. Cross-country mountain biking is the most common, so you have the most model options for electric bikes if you’re considering this style.

Competitive cross-country mountain bikers tend to be endurance athletes, often thin, and drawn to long-distance running as well.

E Bike Brands for Cross-Country Mountain Biking

You’ll notice that the e bikes designed for cross-country riding have a short rake on the front wheels. The angle of the forks is shorter, where more rugged mountain bikes will have a more extended angle-length.

Trail Riding

Trail riding is very similar to cross-country races. But it’s often shorter in duration and a little more rugged. Usually when people refer to “trail riding” they mean recreational mountain biking, whereas “cross-country” relates to racing.

E Bike Brands for Trail Riding

  • Haibike FullSeven
  • Haibike FullNine
  • Haibike FullLife iZip Peak
  • Haibike HardFour (Kids Size)
  • iZip E3 Peak Ds
  • iZip E3 Peak Plus
  • Magnum MI5


Mountain Bike manufacturers build the all-mountain-style bikes more robustly than trail bikes. These off-roaders feature more suspension than trail-riding bikes. They’re heavier and have a wider rake (angle of the fork to the wheel).

Electric Bikes for All Mountain Riding

  • Haibike All Mountain

Enduro Mountain Bike Racing

Enduro is an exciting style of off-road racing. They are sort of like triathlons in that you have 4-5 stages of the race. The judges time only the downhill sections of the race. They can be multi-day races.

Enduro mountain bikes have more suspension than all-mountain bikes and are typically heavier than many of the other off-roaders. They also have a wider angle on the front fork than most of the other mountain bikes, to manage the downhill portions.

Electric Enduro Mountain Bikes

  • Haibike Nduro
  • HPC Enduro

Downhill Free Riding

Downhill racing on mountain bikes is probably the most rugged of all the off-road races. Riders only go downhill on very steep race trails. It’s very fast. Downhill riders need to be exceptionally strong, able to ride fast in short races. They tend to have more muscle mass than the cross-country riders.

Downhill racers also tend to be more addicted to the thrills and risks of off-road racing.

Downhill mountain bikes are heavy. And they have the most extended rake on the front wheel.

Electric Bikes Designed for Downhill Riding

We’re seeing a lot of excitement in the downhill mountain biking world over e bikes. Typically, a rider training for a downhill race needs to pay to ride a ski lift up a mountain to the starting point for their ride. But with an electric bike, you can increase the pedal-assist and scale any challenging hill to get back to the top of the trail.

This fact is making electric bikes more and more popular for downhill lovers. The extra weight of the motor isn’t a concern on a downhill ride as most of these types of bikes are heavy anyway. And with the motor, the extra weight isn’t an issue when going back uphill to start the race.

We recommend the two following models of electric-motor downhill bikes, available for purchase at High Country E Bikes:

  • Haibike Downhill
  • HPC Revolution

Dirt Jumping

Dirt jumping is BMX-style biking, where the competitors do tricks, except that the riders use mountain bikes.

CONTACT US today if you’re interested in buying a dirt jumping e bike

Fat Tire Mountain Biking

Fat Tire Electric Bikes in Salt Lake City

Fat tire riding is a crossover between cross-country and all-mountain-style biking. This is less about the type of track and more about the conditions. Trailer riders use fat tire mountain bikes when they are riding in snow and mud.

Start Mountain Biking Today

Mountain biking is such a great way to get out, stay active, and enjoy the beautiful state of Utah. Whether you ride up in the ski-slopes, down in Moab, or in other exceptional outdoor areas throughout the United States, you’re going to love this sport. We strongly recommend riding with an electric motor. Everything is better on an e bike. But regardless of what type of bike you choose, get out and start.

$100 off KÜAT bike racks with ebike purchase! Dismiss