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What Is the Difference Between a Downhill Bike and a Freeride Bike?

author image Philip Foster
Philip Foster has been writing professionally since 2010. His work has been featured in the literary-arts magazine "The PEEL" and the weekly newspaper "The Mountain Xpress." Foster is an expert in various extreme sports. He cooked in a restaurant that offered organic and vegetarian cuisine for over three years. Foster received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Appalachian State University.
What Is the Difference Between a Downhill Bike and a Freeride Bike?
Mountain bikers on a ridge Photo Credit Domus/Photodisc/Getty Images

Downhill and freeride are both prominent disciplines within the sport of mountain biking. While the downhill and freeride bikes may appear similar at first glance, a few key differences set them apart. If you prefer to ride on many different terrains, the freeride mountain bike may be the right choice for you.


One of the key differences between the downhill and freeride bikes is the overall weight. The downhill mountain bike is equipped with a heavier frame that helps to increase your speed capabilities. Downhill mountain bikes can weigh upwards of 40 lbs. The bulky construction of the downhill bike makes it very difficult to pedal uphill. The freeride bike features a more versatile design and weighs 25 to 30 lbs.


While the downhill mountain bike often features a hardtail construction, freeride mountain bikes are generally equipped with a dual-suspension. Unlike the full-suspension models, a hardtail mountain bike does not feature a rear suspension. The lack of rear suspension gives the downhill bike a more rigid feel, which offers increased handling at high speeds. The front and rear suspension of the freeride mountain bike allows you to participate in a riding discipline known as "dirt jumping."


Another key difference between the downhill and freeride mountain bikes deals with the tire tread. Due to the fact that most downhill racing courses feature a groomed terrain, the downhill mountain bike is generally equipped with tires that have a smooth tread pattern. The freeride mountain bike is outfitted with tires that feature a medium amount of protruding tread. These knobby tires offer increased traction on technical trails that have rocks and roots embedded into the terrain.


The frame geometry of the freeride and downhill mountain bike varies slightly. Compared to the freeride model, the downhill mountain bike features a longer top tube. The extended top tube allows you to maintain an aerodynamic riding stance while participating in downhill races. While the freeride mountain bike often features conventional V-brakes, the downhill mountain bike generally has high-powered hydraulic disc brakes. These fluid driven disc brakes help to provide increased stopping efficiency at high speeds.

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