Devoted fans of Motocross who follow certain riders throughout the season tend to check in on their favorite stars off the track.

They find that pro riders typically don't spend their week prepping for a race or even an entire season by simply spending hours in a dirt bike seat riding around and around on a track. In fact, many riders withstand an aggressive conditioning program much of which is off a dirt bike but which also incorporates another type of bike.

Mountain bikes offer an alternative to conditioning off the dirt bike but keeping the same basic principles to balance and control intact. Many motocross professionals ride mountain bikes to increase stamina, grip, leg and upper arm strength, and help with balance and dexterity.

In fact, Aldon Baker, the former trainer for some guy named Ricky Carmichael, another rider named James Stewart, and who is currently training Ryan Villopoto, was a professional mountain bike racer for five years, and incorporates bicycle riding in his training workouts with his clients in the pro motocross circuit. Another interesting tidbit is Eli Tomac's father John Tomac is a retired cyclist who was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1991.

Ryan Villopoto and his Mountain Bike - Photo: VitalMX

Yes, there is one thing mountain bikes offer that a dirt bike can't - you can ride them just about anywhere! No need to pack up the trailer, just put on some gear and close the garage on your way out.

If you're looking to invest in a mountain bike, options are plenty. Choosing the right mountain bike depends on what you want out of it. We won't get into the nuts and bolts of every bike out there but for a frame of reference mountain bikes generally fall into one of four categories:

  • Cross Country
  • All Mountain
  • Downhill
  • Freeride

Other more specific categories exist but unless you're a serious hardcore mountain biker and possibly considering entering races you're best to narrow your choices to the above.

Cross Country Mountain Bike

The Cross Country Mountain bike is ideally suited for trail riding. They are light and provide efficient pedaling and are best for rides where you'll be constantly pedaling. Because of their lighter frame, these bikes are not well-equipped to handle large jumps or drops and other forms of aggressive riding. You might find a bit a variety in the Cross Country Mountain bike category with bikes designed for speed or longer endurance races.

Typical Specs:

  • 9 kgs
  • Carbon or aluminum
  • 26 to 29 inch-wheels

Image Courtesy of Competitive Cyclist

All Mountain

All Mountain bikes, or trail bikes or even enduro bikes, are heavier than Cross Country style bikes but are the most versatile and rugged of the bunch and tend to be popular among mountain bike enthusiasts. The All Mountain bike can handle technical trails and those daring obstacles you might enjoy to give you a taste of what's to come this weekend on your dirt bike.

Typical Specs:

  • 13 kgs
  • Carbon or aluminum
  • 26 to 29 inch-wheels

Image Courtesy of Competitive Cyclist

Downhill and Freeride

The Downhill Mountain bike is built specifically for downhill racing and is built for going downhill at high speeds. The Freeride Mountain bike is very much like the Downhill Mountain bike but is built for stunt riding usually on downhill slopes with jumps, steep descents and other gnarly obstacles.

Unless you plan on entering downhill racing events these style of mountain bikes probably won't do much to help your strength and overall performance on a dirt bike. Either bike could be an option if you're trying to nail down some of the more technical aspects to dirt bike riding but remember you're not going nearly as fast and the mechanics are a bit different.

Downhill Specs:

  • 15 kgs
  • Carbon or aluminum
  • 26-inch wheels

Image Courtesy of Competitive Cyclist

Freeride Specs:

  • 18 kgs
  • Aluminum
  • 26-inch wheels

Image Courtesy of Competitive Cyclist

When choosing a mountain bike to benefit your ability on a dirt bike you need a bike that helps strengthen those muscles used to ride a dirt bike. Pedaling is a great form of exercise that is easy on your joints but also replicates the stance used on a dirt bike.

One thing to consider in choosing a mountain bike is hardtail or full suspension. Dirt bikes are full suspension so if you are trying to replicate riding a dirt bike with your mountain bike it's one thing to consider. Keep in mind the hardtail mountain bike is the style most often used in racing because it is generally lighter and allows you to climb hills faster.

Finally, consider cost. The mountain bike industry is huge and many brands exist. Cost varies from under $1,000 to as much as your dirt bike. If you're considering a mountain bike to include in your exercise repertoire, to benefit your dirt bike riding, factor this into your decision. But don't be surprised if you discover the joy of maintain biking similar to how you fell for dirt bike riding. Mountain bikes are different but similar in so many ways!

Photo: Transworld Motocross

No one bike is right or wrong. Road bikes and Cyclocross bikes are other styles you'll find when shopping. The best bike is what's right for you based on where you plan to ride and what your goals are in terms of bettering your form and ability on a dirt bike. You likely won't be able to take the bike home for a weeklong test ride however you'll probably be able to ride it around the parking lot to at least get a feel for the bike. Some shops rent bikes so that's an option if you want to try out more than one style before purchasing.

Check out a complete selection of Mountain Bikes from our friends over at Competitive Cyclist.

Top Photo: RedBullUSA - Cole Seely Mountain Biking

Written By: AndrewT