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Last updated on
June 7, 2024

Mountain biking is a thrilling sport that combines the rush of speed with the beauty of nature.

For newcomers, the jargon can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s a handy glossary of basic mountain biking terms to help you get started and feel more confident on the trails.


All-Mountain (AM): A type of mountain biking and bike designed for all-around trail riding. All-mountain bikes are versatile and can handle a variety of terrains and descents.

A-Line: A main trail or the fastest, most direct line through a section of trail or over an obstacle.


Bail: To intentionally jump off your bike to avoid a crash or fall.

Berm: A banked turn in a trail, often built up with dirt, that allows riders to maintain speed through corners.

Brake Lever: The lever on the handlebars used to engage the brakes. Mountain bikes have two brake levers, one for the front brake and one for the rear.


Chainstay: The part of the bike frame that runs from the bottom bracket to the rear axle. It helps support the rider’s weight and aids in transferring power from the pedals to the rear wheel.

Clipless Pedals: Pedals that attach to cleats on the bottom of the rider’s shoes, providing a secure connection and efficient power transfer. Despite the name, they clip in and out using a mechanism.

Cross-Country (XC): A type of mountain biking focused on endurance and speed over varied terrain, typically involving long-distance rides and races.


Dropper Post: A seatpost that can be adjusted up and down with a handlebar-mounted lever. This allows the rider to lower the seat for descents and raise it for climbs without stopping.

Dual Suspension: A bike with both front and rear suspension, providing better control and comfort over rough terrain.


Enduro: A style of mountain biking and racing that emphasizes descending with timed downhill sections and untimed uphill transfers. Enduro bikes are built to handle rough descents and are capable climbers.

E-bike: An electric mountain bike equipped with a motor to assist with pedaling. E-bikes make climbing hills easier and extend the range of rides.


Fat Bike: A mountain bike with oversized tires, typically 3.8 inches or wider, designed for riding on soft surfaces like snow and sand.

Fork: The part of the bike that holds the front wheel and connects it to the handlebars. Mountain bikes usually have suspension forks to absorb shocks.


Gnarly: Slang for difficult or technical trail sections. Often used to describe challenging terrain.

Grip Shift: A type of gear shifter that is twisted to change gears, usually located on the handlebars.


Hardtail: A bike with front suspension but no rear suspension. Hardtails are generally lighter and more efficient for climbing but less forgiving on rough terrain.

Hydraulic Brakes: Brakes that use fluid to transfer force from the lever to the brake caliper, providing more consistent and powerful braking.


Inverted Fork: A suspension fork where the thicker part of the stanchions is at the bottom, offering increased stiffness and improved small bump compliance.


Jumps: Features on a trail designed for riders to become airborne. Jumps can vary in size and difficulty.


Line: The chosen path or route a rider takes through a trail section or over an obstacle.

Lockout: A feature on some suspension forks and shocks that allows the rider to “lock” the suspension in place for more efficient pedaling on smooth surfaces.


Manual: A riding technique where the front wheel is lifted off the ground while the rear wheel remains on the ground, typically used to navigate over obstacles.

Mudguard: A shield attached to the bike to protect the rider from mud and water splashed up by the tires.


Niner: A bike with 29-inch wheels, which provide better rolling efficiency and stability compared to smaller wheel sizes.


Pedal Strike: When the pedal hits the ground or an obstacle, often occurring on rocky or uneven terrain.

Pump Track: A small, looping trail system with rollers and berms designed to be ridden by pumping the bike rather than pedaling.


Rock Garden: A section of trail filled with rocks of various sizes, requiring careful navigation and control.

Root Section: Part of a trail where tree roots are exposed, presenting a technical challenge for riders.


Sag: The amount of compression on the suspension when a rider is sitting on the bike. Proper sag is crucial for optimal suspension performance.

Singletrack: A narrow trail that is only wide enough for one bike at a time, often winding through forested or rugged terrain.


Tabletop: A type of jump with a flat top, making it safer and easier for riders to land.

Trail Bike: A versatile mountain bike designed for a variety of trails, balancing climbing efficiency with descending capability.


Wheelie: A riding technique where the front wheel is lifted off the ground while the rider continues to pedal, often used for show or to navigate over obstacles.

Whip: A stylish maneuver where the rider kicks the rear wheel to the side while in the air and then brings it back before landing.


Mountain biking is an exciting and dynamic sport with its own set of terms and jargon. Familiarizing yourself with these basic terms will enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the sport. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced rider, knowing the lingo can help you communicate more effectively with fellow bikers and get the most out of your rides. Happy trails!

For more detailed information and resources, check out IMBA, Singletracks, and Pinkbike.

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