What is cross country riding?
Cross country riding (also often referred to as XC riding and XC bikes) focuses on riding fast everywhere, and not just downhill. Unlike enduro or downhill, cross country riding is all about riding fast up climbs, on flats, and downhill. Mountain biking has its roots in cross country riding and racing, and the scene is still going super strong today.
The right bike for cross country riding is a light mountain bike. But because even full suspension cross country bikes optimize for weight and efficiency, it also means they’re less able to handle super burly descents and features like an enduro or trail bike.
Are cross country bikes only good for racing?
Cross country bikes are fantastic for racing and riding fast, but they’re also awesome for weekend riding and day-in, day-out use. Light bikes are fun to ride fast, and that goes for racers and the rest of us. They’re also way more efficient than bigger full suspension bikes on flats, hills, or paved/dirts roads in between trails. So while many cross country bikes and builds will be made in-part with racing in mind, they can make for fantastic everyday bikes for riders looking for efficiency and pace across constantly changing terrain. Just don’t try to go too big on it. Generally, cross country bikes will feature shorter suspension (the 100-120mm range instead of the 140-160mm range).
Why should I pick a cross country bike over a trail bike?
If you’re looking to race or ride competitively on fast, flowing, undulating trails—go for a cross country bike. It will be able to handle similar trails to a trail bike, but will climb much faster and hold better speed on flats. A cross country bike is also a great option if you prefer mellower, flowy trails over burly and steep trails. You’ll still have excellent handling manners and competence when trails get a bit rough or wild, and you’ll save energy and feel fresher at the top of short’n’steep climbs or long steady ones. But if you enjoy charging fast and hard downhill and railing a bike hard through corners and the odd jump or feature, consider a trail or enduro bike.