Many people these days are pursuing healthier, more active lifestyles. These people are discovering the benefits of having a strong fit body. One of the ways people are choosing to exercise is bike riding. On-road or off, bicycling is a great way to have some fun and get into better shape.

The fastest growing segment of the bicycle market is that of the mountain bike. Mountain bikes are multi-geared bicycles designed specifically for trails and any other non-paved surface. Even if you don't plan on doing much trail riding, you'll appreciate the mountain bike's design next time your speed over a pothole or surmount a curb.

When shopping for a mountain bike you'll encounter a wealth of options. It can be a little overwhelming but we'll break it down for you to make your decision easier. First of all, you need to determine your budget. How much are you willing to spend? Everything starts here. You should budget as much as you possibly can because costlier bikes perform better than cheaper ones.

When it comes to mountain bikes, it's not just a name you're buying. Higher priced mountain bikes really are worth it in the long run. They're lighter, stronger, more comfortable, more reliable, and have more features than a cheap bike. Related to cost is where you're going to buy the bike. We recommend purchasing your bike from a bike store as opposed to one of those "big box" retailers. The employees at your local bike shop will be far more knowledgeable about their products than the people at those sprawling, impersonal cathedrals of capitalism. A bike from a local bike shop might cost more but your overall experience will be significantly better.

After deciding how much you want to spend, you need to figure out what features are important to you. This is where things can get a little confusing and where you'll find the added value in patronizing a local bike shop where all these details can be explained and elaborated upon.

Many mountain bikes today feature full suspensions. This means that both the front and rear wheels are cushioned with some sort of system which will give you added comfort and control when negotiating tricky terrain. Of course, this adds to the price of the bike. Many bikes are made with just a front suspension. This cuts down on cost and is quite suitable for most riders. You can get a mountain bike without any sort of suspension. The choice is yours.

Try out all different sorts of bikes and see which one you like best. Again, listen to the advice you get from the pros at the shop, and do some research online. There's a wealth of helpful information on mountain bikes available on the web. Mountain bike magazines are also an excellent resource. Of course, there are many other things to consider when purchasing a mountain bike, but for the beginner, it's best to just narrow it down to how much you want to spend and what kind of suspension you're going to want.

Remember to test-ride any bike you're thinking about buying because the feel of the bike is all-important. Read reviews and heed the advice of experts. In no time you'll be cruising through the woods and getting into great shape.

Gregg Hall is an author living in Navarre Beach, Florida. Find more about this as well as cycling shoes at http://www.cyclinggearplus.com