Many riders initially think that the more suspension travel a mountain bike has the better it is but after some research on the internet they find out that many veteran riders will choose to ride a short-travel mountain bike. Confusing right? So which one is better?
Short-travel MTBs will perform better on smoother trails and are ideal for cross-country riding while long-travel MTBs will give you the necessary traction and stability to ride technical trails filled with big rocks, roots, and big drops which makes them ideal for enduro and downhill riding.
In this article, I will tell you if more travel is better when it comes to mountain biking, we will explore the advantages of short and long-travel MTBs so by the end of the article you will know which of the two bikes is the right choice for you.
What Is Considered to Be a Short/Long-Travel MTB?
As a general rule, a short travel mountain bike is a bike with 80-120 mm rear suspension travel and a long travel MTB will have 150+ mm travel.
Mountain bikes with 130 and 140mm rear suspension travel are considered to be mid-travel.
Is More Travel Better for a Mountain Bike?
More travel isn’t always better because the suspension will add weight and will absorb some of your pedaling power.
So if you are riding soother trails a long-travel bike will feel sluggish compared with a short-travel one and more suspension will not give you any benefits if you don’t ride over big rocks and roots.
On technical trails, more suspension is always better because it can absorb the impact when you ride over big rocks, roots or when you land those big drops/jumps.
If you like to ride aggressively stiff and technical downhill trails then the more suspension travels your bike has the better, and the less chance of crushing you will have (so you can enjoy the adrenaline pump).
Advantages of Short-Travel Vs. Long-Travel MTBs
Now let’s see what are the advantages of riding a short-travel compared to a long-travel mountain bike:
|Short-travel MTB||Long-travel MTb|
|Better for climbing||Better on technical terrain|
|Better for sprinting||More stability downhill|
|Lighter||Gives a boost of confidence|
|Faster on smooth trails and country roads||Better for stiff descents|
|More efficient on the road||Faster on very rough terrain|
|Less pedaling power reduction||Easier to ride over big rocks and roots|
|Makes bigger drops and jumps more manageable|
As you can see the more technical the trail is the more suspension travel you need.
Where Do Short-Travel MTBs Excel?
Short-travel mountain bikes are very efficient when it comes to riding on smoother trails and on long and stiff climbs.
Now let’s examine where short-travel MTBs will perform better than long-travel ones:
- Cross-country trails: less technical, XC trails will not require much suspension travel
- Gravel roads: having more peddling power is a big plus on gravel roads
- Stiff climbs: bike weight, efficient power transmission, and geometry are the three big things that will influence the climbing capabilities of your bike,
- Rides that will combine road and trail portions: the smoother the terrain is the more efficient a short-travel MTB will be (compared to a long-travel MTB).
- Less technical and flat trails: you guessed it, no need for much suspension travel and more pedaling efficiency will improve your riding experience.
Where Do Long-Travel MTBs Excel?
Long-travel mountain bikes are unbeatable on very technical trails filled with big jumps and drops.
Nothing compares with the feeling of pushing yourself on stiff descents and smashing the trail as hard as possible, but in this case, the more suspension travel you have the more fun you will have.
But let’s see exactly where long-travel bikes excel:
- Long and stiff descents: nothing will compare with the stability and the boost in confidence that a long-travel bike offers,
- Bikepark riding: conquering the big obstacles from bike parks is a ton of fun, you will bottom out a short travel bike too often when riding on most bike parks (except the trails made for beginners),
- Big jumps and drops: landing big jumps and drops is a much smoother experience on a long-travel bike,
- Enduro: if you want to push yourself on enduro trails then you need a long travel bike, you will be heavily underbiked on a short-travel MTB,
- Downhill: if you strive to be a downhill rider then you need as much travel as possible on your mountain bike.
Is a Short or a Long-Travel MTB the Right Choice for You?
If the trails in your area aren’t too technical and you always find yourself spending much more time climbing then a short-travel mountain bike may be the best choice for you.
To make things simple, if you will ride XC trails (less technical), country roads, forest roads, or paved roads then a short-travel MTB is the right bike for you.
Now if you are an adrenaline junkie and you like to push yourself every ride on the most technical trails possible you need a long-travel bike.
If you strive to be a downhill or enduro rider then a short-travel bike is out of the question, a long-travel MTB is the best choice here by far.
To be short and precise, how technical the trail is (big rocks, roots, big drops, very stiff downhill sections, etc.) will determine the type of bike, for smoother trails a short-travel bike is the best choice while a long-travel bike is necessary for technical trails.
I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.