Are Downhill Bikes Good For Trail Riding? Advantages & Disadvantages

In order to handle all the twists and turns that come with riding on a trail, people need the right type of bike that will help them out. That means relying on an actual trail bike that will take control of the surfaces and go from there for many people. Others will be more than satisfied with any type of mountain bike, as it can be a solution that works in any scenario.

Now that downhill bikes are on the market and seemingly here to stay, are they actually good for trail riding? The question mostly depends on how downhill the trail is, as it could be pretty tough riding on flat ground or inclines.

What Is a Downhill Bike Built For?

Before taking a downhill bike on a trail, it is important to know specifically what a downhill bike is built for. These are full suspension bikes relatively new to the scene, but they are built specifically for steep descends.

More and more riders are loving the thrill and challenge of riding downhill, and that means companies are building options specifically to cater to these riders.

Downhill bikes can take a lot of hits and still stay extremely durable. Those who are riding also love the stability that a downhill bike brings.

As far as riding on other parts of the trail, they do not have to worry about that for the most part. In many locations, people get to the top by using a lift, or a motorized vehicle. Trying to climb such a steep incline is next to impossible.

More and more companies are getting into producing downhill bikes for the masses. Like any type of discipline, there is a range of bikes that add different prices for people to get into the sport.

There are also various customization options that people can lean on if they want to see where that goes.

Disadvantages of a Downhill Bike For Trail Riding

There are quite a few disadvantages to using a downhill bike when riding on the trail. It is not meant specifically for this type of riding, so it puts people at a disadvantage if they are going on flat ground, or they are riding around and trying to climb hills.

These are a few of the main reasons why riders should stay away from a downhill bike on the trails.


A downhill bike is significantly heavier than any type of trail bike that is out there. Even comparing a high-end downhill bike to an entry-level trail bike will show just how much of a difference there is.

Weight makes it very difficult for riders to handle even the slightest of inclines for too long.

Yes, there is a way to push through, but it is significantly going to tire a rider out compared to using a different type of bike.

Weight is something that everyone can notice right away when they pick up a downhill bike, which is why most people will go no further once they hold it in their hands.

They know right then and there that a challenging trail will be an overall nightmare when it is all said and done as far as getting through a ride is concerned.


The geometry of a downhill bike has some slight changes to what people are fine with on a trail bike. This can make riding around any more traditional manner a little bit difficult for the body.

For starters, downhill bikes have very slack headtube angles and long wheelbases. This is going to cater towards going fast downhill with many different types of setups.

The wheelbases are great for those who want to switch out their tires and get the right fit for them overall.

If a person is finding themselves riding on trails a lot more than usual, they might make some tweaks to customize the bike a little bit more.

However, with all that being said, there comes a point in time where even so many changes will make it a bit more frustrating than just going ahead and buying any bike that does not need so many changes.

Since the base of a downhill bike is still very heavy, there is only so much a person can do.

Injury Risks

Riding on a bike that is not meant for a certain type of discipline can put riders at significant risk. Downhill bikes are built with durability and stability in mind when going downhill.

Still, there are several different ways that people can put themselves at an injury risk by riding these in other situations.

The most obvious problem comes when a person is trying to climb with a downhill bike. Even riders in great shape are going to find it very difficult to go uphill for too long with this.

It truly is a battle that no one wants to face, and those who pushed themselves too much might end up hurting themselves.

Riding on a trail and becoming too tired is just not a fun way to go. It can put a lot of stress on the body that is hard to bounce back from.

It just does not make a ton of sense if there are plenty of miles ahead. This type of bike can cut a ride in half easily, and maybe even more.

Finally, any time a person is using a bike for something different from what is it meant for, they are putting unneeded stress on the bike in general.

That means that if a person is not careful, they could end up doing some damage to the downhill bike in one way or another.

Anytime a bike ends up being compromised, it can put the rider at an injury risk. These are pretty durable bikes that do not break down too easily, but using them in different ways can keep them a little more vulnerable than one would like.


Shopping for a downhill bike can be an eye-opening experience for those who are on a budget. Simply put, these are expensive options that do not seem to be coming down in price like many of the other disciplines out there.

This means that anyone using a downhill bike for trail riding is not only increasing the overall physical challenge, but they are spending more money as well.

Yes, it technically does save money instead of buying another bike for trail riding, but this applies mostly to the people who are making an initial purchase.

There are better, more well-rounded options at a more affordable price for riders to count on. They do not have to go in this direction by any means.

“Hike-A-Bike” Tendencies

There is nothing more defeating than being on the trail and having to dismount to hike with a bike. It is usually only reserved for the steepest climbs, but it happens more frequently with a downhill bike on trails than one would like.

It can be difficult for anyone to hop off their bike like this, but it is embarrassing for those who have a lot of pride and nothing but a downhill bike to count on.

Nobody likes having to dismount, and it becomes pretty normal with a downhill bike on tough trail terrain.

If there is any consolation, people do get a pretty decent workout with their bike even when they are hiking with it since it is so heavy.

However, most people do not go on a bike ride to hike along with their bike for a good amount of time. It just becomes an extremely frustrating experience for users overall.

Advantages Of Riding a Downhill Bike On a Trail?

By now, most people have a pretty good idea that a downhill bike is not particularly great for trail riding. However, it is worth mentioning some of the benefits of going in this direction and using a downhill bike.

A Ton Of Descending Opportunities

If a trail has a ton of descending opportunities without many, if any, inclines, it is worth going with a downhill bike.

There might be some rough stretches here and there, but for the most part, people are still going to be happy with all of the downhill riding. After all, that is what people invest in with downhill bikes in the first place.

Since every location is different, it is hard to say where there are the best opportunities to ride with a downhill bike on the trail.

It is really up to what a person feels like they can handle, but keep in mind that any incline is probably going to mean that a person needs to jump off the bike and walk it up.

Very Occasional Rides

It might make sense as a cost-cutting move to use a downhill bike on the trail as opposed to making another bike purchase. Most people do not want to spend thousands of dollars on a brand new bike, only to use it very sparingly.

Those who enjoy downhill biking the vast majority of the time will find a way to make do with a downhill bike once in a while.

As long as there are no significant inclines, a downhill bike is not the worst thing in the world to ride on. It will require a little more effort, but it is very doable for anyone in pretty good shape.

It all just comes down to what a person actually wants to go through when they are riding consistently.


Not every single trail rider is looking to go as fast as possible when they are exploring. Some want to be very comfortable and stable the entire time, and there is no better way to do that than with a bike that is built to do exactly that.

It is true that a downhill bike is going to be very safe and robust, which is great news for people who might just be starting out as far as riding is concerned.

Along with the bike itself, wearing all the downhill gear can be beneficial as well. It really just comes down to what a person is comfortable with, and if they are willing to put up with some of the drawbacks of this type of bike.

Can a Trail Bike Be Used For Downhill Riding?

After looking at how a downhill bike works for a trail ride, What about the other way around?

Can a trail bike actually be used for downhill riding? It is much like using a downhill bike for a trail, as it will work in a pinch, but some people feel like it lacks quite a bit.

When compared directly to a downhill bike, there really is no way for a trail bike to provide the same level of stability and control.

A lot of riders going downhill do not want to risk it too much with a bike that is steering them more than the rider is steering the bike.

Best Buying Option For Those Wanting To Ride Downhill And On Trails?

Ultimately, those who love riding downhill as well as on the trails will have two distinct options. The first is to buy a downhill bike, as well as a bike for the trails.

This is going to cost more money, but it ensures that a person has everything they need to tackle anything safely.

If just one bike is purchased, look for a trail or Enduro bike for a solution. It is just going to be a more well-rounded option instead of a downhill bike for those who enjoy riding both disciplines.

In fact, there are some people who really like the way they can jump on trail and Enduro bikes compared to downhill bikes. It is not the best of the best in both disciplines, but it does a much better job than a downhill bike posing as a trail bike.

Ultimately, it will come down to how people feel when they try out bikes in different situations. Everyone is slightly different, but most will find the downhill bike not to be versatile at all.

It is better to get a less specialized version of a mountain bike for those wanting to do everything.

One thought on “Are Downhill Bikes Good For Trail Riding? Advantages & Disadvantages

  1. Pingback: Why Are Downhill Bikes So Expensive? 7 Reasons Why! - Fat Bike Planet

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