The original mountain bike. These come in many sizes shapes and forms, and are the basis upon which the wonderful world of off-road racing began. These are separated into different categories based on their suspension– the defining feature of a XC bike is a short/medium amount of suspension travel.
Hardtails are the perfect bike for general purpose trail riding. They are the most efficient type of MTB because there is no rear suspension sapping your energy as you ride up hills in your local trails.
However, they lack control in fast, rocky or rooty descents because they do not have a rear suspension to soak up the bumps. Many MTB purists believe beginners are better off with hardtails because they learn the importance of picking better lines through the trails and to develop better handling skills.
They feature tight geometry for quick, responsive handling out on the trails and race course.
Get one if: You want maximum raceday pedaling efficiency OR you are on a tight budget.
Dual suspension XC bikes are pushing the limits of versatility. These bikes come in a wide range of suspension options with different amounts of travel but are designed to do one thing: smooth out seriously rocky and rooty trails for maximum grip and maximum fun.
They are the most expensive type of XC bike, so beginners typically do not start with dual-suspension.
They typically feature the tight race geometry of hardtails for snappy handling at all speeds.
Get one if: your local trails are very technical and have the bank to splurge on a versatile bike.