Choosing a mountain bike is more than looking at features and styles. It's all about getting on and being comfortable while maintaining control.
1.Decide on a suspension type, which are rigid, hard tail or full suspension. Rigid mountain bikes have a solid frame with no suspension. These are usually the lightest, work well for smoother trails, but will give you a bumpy ride on rough trails. Hard tail mountain bikes are the most popular and have suspension on the front fork of the frame with a rigid back fork. Hard tails give you a good balance between weight and control. Full suspension mountain bikes have suspension on the front and rear tires. They offer the most control and a smooth ride but can be quite heavy and expensive.
2.Check your stand over height. The stand over height is how much clearance you have from the top bar of the frame when standing with the bike between your legs. To check the stand over height, straddle the frame of the bike about half way between the handlebars and the saddle. Grab the bike at the front stem with one hand and below the saddle on the rear of the frame with the other hand. Lift the bike up off the ground. You should be able to lift it up about 2 to 3 inches before it touches you. Some mountain bikers prefer a stand over height of 4 to 6 inches.
3.Make sure the saddle will adjust to the proper height. When the saddle is at the proper height, your knees should bend slightly when your foot is on the lowest point of the pedal rotation. This means you will not be able to stand with both feet flat on the ground when on your saddle. Be sure your saddle will adjust to the correct height without negatively impacting your reach.
4.Feel out the reach of the bike. Your reach is the distance it takes you to reach your handlebars. A comfortable reach for many mountain bikes is about 45 degrees. If you hunch over too far you will lose some control, while if you lean too far back, you lose some ability to get your front tire off the ground and navigate obstacles. Make sure it is comfortable to you.
5. Choose some added features. There are many personal features that some bikers swear by. Things like how many gears you have available and what type of brakes the bike has, are good considerations. Just remember that added features like disc brakes will drive up the price so be prepared to pay more for the luxuries.