Ok - so I am relatively new to MTB so go easy on the numpty question here!
I want to understand the real differences between various types of bike and to understand how to make the correct choice as a next bike (once I find my new job!). At the moment, I ride everything on a fairly basic Trek 6500 aluminum hard tail. I have hired a few bikes in Wales and the Lakes but really have no terms of reference to compare bikes with or to understand what makes them suitable to what type of terrain.
So I understand that there are the following basic types:
XC - according to WMB these are: designed to pedal fast and efficiently on all terrain but are not meant for nerve shredding trails. What does the last bit mean in numpty terms - for Southerners, does that mean not suitable for harder trails on Surrey Hills?
Trail/All Mountain - again WMB says: basically ride anyway, more hard hitting than XC (what does this mean?). But why do they add a category for aggro trail/AM (eg, a Whyte 146 works)?
Free-ride/Downhill - full suspension, intended specifically for "big fun" downhill terrain. Limited gearing vs XC. OK - so rel, clear here. For one purpose - not for generally all day riding with up and downhills
Ok - so I guess for most people it comes down to choosing between XC, trail and all mountain. My rides tend to be either 2-3 hours including some more technical singletrack stuff, the odd Adventure Race/Trail Plus event, XTT triathlon or simply messing about around the Surrey Hills. Happy on most well-known trails but I am still developing skills on tighter bomb holes, drops and off-camber stuff. But most days, I am going up and down one of the Surrey Hills (Leith, Hombury, Pitch or Winterfold, Gibbet Hill, Puttenham etc) riding singletrack. Tend to leave the more agressive jumps (Quarries, J&J) to the youngsters. I also go to the Lakes for the occassional longer day on the Fells.
I have been reading the WMB tests across all categories but still find it odd that they are all tested in the same place (The Lakes) and all seem to cope reasonably well with the same conditions.
For simplicity lets take the Specialized range:
XC - something like the EPIC sounds good: " super lightweight, efficient and ultimately fast, for explosive climbing and nimble handling. Though the Epic is an ideal bike for racers, it’s also appealing for riders who want a short-travel bike that shreds rugged singletrack." I guess perfect for AR/XTT tri's - less so for other things?
Trail - then you get the Stumpjumper: "balanced bike that performs well on everything from steep climbs to flowy singletrack to technical descents... be lightweight, durable, and stable for efficient climbing and high-speed descending." Sounds even better, or am I missing something?
All Mountain: the Enduro: "Climbing or descending. No matter the location or terrain, Enduro riders just like to rip it up. They’re happy climbing winding singletrack as long as it leads them to where they can fly—often literally—down a deep forest, North Shore-style trail. Five-foot drops, huge baby heads, and mossy log bridges, all satisfy their never-ending craving for All-Mountain terrain." Again sounds even better (although am I good enough?)
So they all sound good to me. In Noddy and Big Ears terms, how would you choose between the types.
p.s. sorry for the long winded intro!
p.p.s. I know I haven't talked about sizing/fit yet!!