Trail Bike Vs. Cross Country Mountain Bike: What’s The Difference Between The Two?

Mountain bikes usually are grouped by the type of suspension AKA rigid, hardtail, and full suspension. Something you might not have known before is that there are many types of mountain bikes, specifically 5. Depending on your goal, they can give you a significant competitive and performance advantage.

In this guide, we get into the differences between trail and cross-country mountain bikes. We have broken everything down to what makes them different and special from one another. Do yourself a favor and follow through!

What is a Trail bike?

This is mountain biking’s equivalent of a Swiss army knife. Trail bikes are strong climbers and proficient at descending. In order to increase their versatility on a variety of terrain, trail bikes include more suspension, more gravity-oriented components such as bigger tires for greater grip, bigger brakes, and more relaxed geometry than their cross-country counterparts.

On woodland walks, bumpy roads, jumps, large rocks, and generally everywhere that pumps up the excitement, trail bikes are preferred. A very good trail mountain bike that we would highly recommend is the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2.

What is a Cross-country Mountain bike?

Cross-country AKA XC mountain bikes are designed for riders with a great deal of focus on pedaling performance. These are lungs-busting, steep hill conquering mountain bikes designed for endurance and output. 

Cross-country bikes’ geometry is most comparable to that of road bikes. The drawback of cross-country bikes is that they trade away downhill performance for efficiency and weight. These mountain bikes are excellent for riders who want to pedal for long distances and who prefer the climb over the drop.

A suitable option for a cross-country mountain bike that we would highly recommend is the Diamondback Hatch 3.

Cross-country Mountain bikes vs. Trail Mountain bikes main differences

The handlebars

Trail bikes have broad handlebars that provide you with adequate leverage to get over difficult terrain. Remember that trail bikes’ are a jack of all trades. The ability to press your weight forward or backward on the handlebar is important. When navigating rocky paths, it helps you avoid being flung around.

The handlebars on cross-country mountain bikes are slim. The cross country bikes’ thin handlebars allow you to feel what the front wheel is encountering. This direct feedback is extremely helpful since they are designed for maximum speed and agility. Additionally, it is easy to navigate on tight turns since they are highly responsive. 

The stem length

The stem of a trail bike is shorter, measuring between 40 – 80 mm or 1.5 – 3.1 inches. When riding steep downhills, a short stem makes you position yourself more hunched back for improved stability.

The stem of the cross-country mountain bike is longer, measuring between 90 – 100 mm or 3.5 – 4 inches Basically means you are positioned with your torso pushed further forward by the long stem for better traction on flat ground and maximum speed.


Mountain bikes that only have a front suspension are known as hardtail bikes that include a rear suspension along with a front suspension are known as full suspension bikes. The suspension travel of a cross-country mountain bike is less than that of a trail bike. Trail bikes’ suspension travel ranges from 4.7 – 6 inches or 120 – 150 mm (front and back), while cross country bikes don’t cross the 4.7 inches or 120 mm mark.

A rapid uphill ride benefits from less suspension travel. The comfort of the rear suspension has been removed from fast cross-country mountain bikes to increase pedaling effectiveness. 

Head angle

Trail bikes feature a broader head angle than other types of bikes, which is advantageous for downhill riding since the front suspension travel is greater. It makes the bike stable even during steep downhill moves by positioning the front wheel way ahead of you, and their head angles usually range from 65 – 68°.

A cross-country bike’s limited suspension travel compels it to have a smaller head angle, which makes it more unstable during steep drop-offs. Their head angles usually range from 69 – 71°.


When it comes to brake systems for mountain bikes, especially for trail and cross country bikes, disc brakes are the only practical choice. Mechanical disc brakes are the most common form of disc brakes. They use a steel cable that slows down the bike, and it has a pretty remarkable performance. You can easily maintain them, as switching the steel cables is rather simple. 

On the other hand, Hydraulic disc brakes have the most constant braking power, that’s yet to be matched by other systems. Hydraulic fluid travels down the tube, which closes the pads and slows you down. Practically these are your only options, and that’s a good thing.


Wheel sizes for trail bikes range from 27.5 – 29 inches, while cross country bikes stubbornly have 29-inch or 700c tires. 

Trail bike tires are meant for technical trails, which means they are quite heavy. They are designed to grip dirt, not smooth asphalt, and feature large, knobby tires. On the road, trail bikes struggle to keep up with other types of bikes and are quite sluggish.

While trail bikes have wide, highly threaded tires for increased grip and stability on uneven terrain, cross-country bikes have smoother tires to enhance rapid rolling for maximum speed.


Mountain bike frames nowadays are constructed from a variety of metals and composites. The four most often used materials are steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, and titanium.

The most common type of bicycle frame material is steel. In the case of a trail bike, it is preferred because of its affordability and durability. Lightweight cross-country bikes are necessary for achieving maximum speeds. As a result, many committed mountain bikers drop quite a bit of loot on carbon fiber frames, which have a low weight and strong strength. 

Aluminum is the next most likely option, if not the main overall choice. If you were to look at most mountain bikes, aluminum is the standard issue frame material.

Trail bike vs. Cross country Mountain bike: Which bike is better for Off-roading?

Trail bikes are made for off-road riding but also for extremely tricky terrain, steep drop-offs, and jumps. Trail bikes are frequently seen in the most challenging off-road tournaments. Cross-country mountain bikes are designed for off-road riding for long distances, and they are not as good as trail bikes for the obstacle tackle ability. Trail bikes are often the best option for off-road riding.

Trail bike vs. Cross country Mountain bike: Which is better for road riding?

Compared to trail bikes, cross country bikes often have fewer components and are lighter. Additionally, they are made for less difficult terrain. Because they feature smoother tires, less suspension, and are by nature quicker and lighter on pavement, they often perform considerably better on roads than trail mountain bikes.

Which is more comfortable, a trail bike or a cross country mountain bike?

While cross-country mountain bikes are meant for long-distance riding, naturally, you can’t achieve that if you aren’t in a comfortable position. Considering the fact that these bikes don’t have very thick tires or a suspension system with significant travel measurement, and they aren’t all that comfortable as, say, trail bikes.

When navigating obstacles with a trail bike, your posture is ideal. They are typically full-suspension; they have a much greater bounce. Smaller wheels make it considerably more nimble, and wider tires let them absorb bumps better. In this case, trail bikes are the most comfortable because of all the cushioning effects.

Which one is cheaper?

Trail mountain bikes, on average, will run you a higher bill. Since they are meant for competitive mountain biking, where speed performance, precise braking, and suspension systems give you an advantage, they require special components not available on your typical bike. A trail bike can easily start at $2000 and go over $10K.

Cross country mountain bikes are more affordable as they aren’t intended for the same purpose as trail bikes. Naturally, they take the liberty to cut costs with components, which makes them a great option for beginners. This is a good way to get started without a huge commitment. Cross country mountain bikes can cost around $1000, but you can expect a $2000 – 4000 price tag on high-end models.

Which one is lighter?

Cross-country riders frequently use extremely light bikes. The key factor is speed. Despite being significantly lighter than trail bikes, they do not have the same capabilities. Plus, they don’t need the same components as a trail bike, and those components just mean more added weight.

Who is a trail bike for?

Trail bikes are best for those who are adrenaline junkies. Since they are best suited for the roughest and toughest terrains or technical trails, naturally, there’s an element of danger when navigating such environments. 

These bikes are also your only way of getting into competitive mountain biking sports where performance is the name of the game. If you want to perform bike braking stunts, jumping off ramps, and actually landing without a scratch, and your bike not braking in half then trail mountain bikes are your best bet.

Who is a cross-country mountain bike for?

Cross-country mountain bikes are best for people who want to do deep exploration. If you want to ride along the peaks of mountains, go into places where not many people have been before, or cover a tremendous distance over days worth of trips, then cross-country mountain bikes are your best bet. After all, it’s in the name.

These types of bikes will serve you well even if you decide to commute with them. Granted, that’s a bit underwhelming, but nevertheless, it’s part of its many uses.

The Finish Line

While mountain bikes will seem the same, on further inspection they offer significantly different types of performance on off-roads. While you can have the most amount of stimulation from jumping ramps with a trail bike, you can go on a long adventure with a cross-country bike. 

Naturally, they have different components that make these things possible; depending on where you find yourself leaning the most, it makes a choice easier. Do be part of the pack and check out some more articles if you liked this one and found it helpful!