Mountain bikes are made for riding over rough terrain. They’re made to go fast and cover lots of ground.
Trials bikes are made for negotiating technical obstacles. They’re geared low and made for maneuverability.
BMX bikes are made for doing tricks and riding skatepark. They’re built to be and indestructible.
Let’s start with the mountain bike. I’d say this is the most popular of the three when you go across all age groups. If you can only have one bike, I’d choose this. Why? Well first of all it’s comfortable and makes great transportation. This means you’ll definitely get use out of it, especially if you’re not old enough to drive. Mountain bikes are of course great for riding trails, and you can even use them to do jumps. While they’re not the best for tricks, you can ride a little street and get creative on a mountain bike.
Mountain bikes have powerful brakes, capable drivetrains, plus big tires to take the shock and vibration out of rough terrain. For when things get really rough, mountain bikes also have suspension. So it seems, the mountain bike is a fast, comfortable, and capable vehicle which can do a lot of things. This makes it the winner of the three in terms of practicality and versatility, but that doesn’t mean you should choose it over a trials or BMX bike. Let’s take a look at the trials bike next.
While this is considered a street trials bike, it’s still useful for our comparison. The tires are fat, the bars are wide, and it has powerful disc brakes just like the mountain bike. It seems like you could ride trails on this, except for a few problems. First of all you can’t really sit on it, and second of all there’s only one ridiculously low gear. In fact the gearing on a trials bike is so low that you’re better off using a skateboard for transportation. So, to get around town or ride trails, the trials bike is off the table.
So what about doing jumps and riding skateparks? After all, it looks a little like a dirt jump bike, and seems maneuverable enough to replace a BMX. Again, the devil is in the details. The fork on a trials bike puts the wheel dead center, as opposed to dirt jump and BMX forks, which are offset towards the front. This makes them sketchy for landings. Also, the head tube angle is more upright, making it poor for maintaining control at speed. The trials geometry is optimized for tight maneuvers, not for speed. Trials is a cycling discipline that puts your bike handling skills to the ultimate test. For this reason, only get a trials bike if you’re really sure you want to do trials, because it won’t be useful for anything else. Don’t take this as a jab at trials, it’s just that trials really isn’t for everyone. If you want to learn more about trials, check out my playlist which I’ve linked to in the description.
Lastly we have the BMX. Like the trials bike, a BMX bike isn’t any good for sitting on and pedaling through mountain bike trails. With that said, it’s actually not the worst transportation. When I was a kid on Long Island, I rode my BMX all over town. As an adult, I still grab it to run to the coffee shop. The high tire pressure, moderate gearing, and huge riser bars make BMX bikes pretty fun to get around on.
As a sport, BMX is very popular, so it’s easy to find people to ride with no matter where you live. The dead simple construction makes BMX bikes the most reliable thing on two wheels, so for kids with a low budget and no tools, it might be the perfect option. With the same bike, you can ride street, skatepark, and dirt jumps. Even if you just have a driveway to ride in, there’s no shortage of fun things you can do on a BMX.
So, what about cross training and doing some trials on a BMX? Nope. The lack of powerful brakes, and a super short wheelbase make BMX bikes pretty bad for trials. The gearing is also way too high to perform any trials technique. So, if you can’t decide between BMX and trials you’ll probably be stuck with two bikes. The more you watch BMX and trials videos, the more you’ll notice how radically different the sports are from each other.
So if this video hasn’t given you a clear path towards what’s right for you, then look at your surroundings. What do your friends ride? What’s popular where you live? What is there to ride in your immediate vicinity? If you don’t have anyone to ride with, don’t have anything to ride on, or can’t get to the place you plan on riding, then the bike will likely sit in your garage.