The popularity of mountain bikes certainly has taken off over the last few decades. They are built to endure punishment while out on the rugged trails due to their tough frame and wide tires. While they are slower than road bikes, they are typically more comfortable and durable.
Buying a mountain bike isn't all that easy even for those who are more experienced. One of the reasons for this is the wide selection of bikes that are available. Asking others for advice can certainly be helpful, but may only cause more confusion. If you asked 10 people what mountain bike you should buy, you might get at least 3-4 different answers. The key is to know what you're looking for.
What first has to be decided is your budget. What is your limit? When it comes down to it, you can spend as much as you really want to. Some bikes cost upwards of $5000, while the entry level models are in the $300 range. It's easy to go to a bike store or shop online and get enamored with the most expensive bikes. If you know your limit, then it will narrow down you selection right away.
Also, shop from stores that specialize in bicycles, whether it be online or offline. The reason is because the quality of bike and service is superior at these stores.
Suspension is an important consideration. Some bikes only have front suspension, while others have full suspension. The amount of suspension could be anywhere from 1-4 inches, and some are even adjustable. Full suspension is ideal if you do plan on riding in rough terrain. It won't pedal as efficiently and will be heavier than a hardtail, but you will gain comfort and control.
The size of the mountain bike must be a good fit. A typical road bike is much bigger. If you already own a road bike that fits you well, then look for a mountain bike with a frame about 3-inches smaller. Size impacts comfort and your performance. Be sure you know what size is best before buying, particularly online. Also consider what components matter to you the most. Then, look for the bikes that have what you want.
The prices of mountain bikes varies throughout the course of a year. The best deals usually come in the fall and winter, since the spring and summer is when most choose to buy. Some stores may even throw in a few accessories for free as well.