The Difference Between MTB Disciplines | Blog | Bike Glendhu
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Learn the difference between MTB disciplines

Back in the day (we’re talking waaay back), biking was a simple means of transportation – just getting from Point A to Point B. Well, mountain biking sure cracked that notion wide open: now there’s just about every root, rock and roll between Point A and Point B.

And as the sport has evolved, so too have the disciplines in order to cater to the diverse tastes and preferences of two-wheeled fans. From the gravity-defying stunts of freeride to long distance-busting cross-country, each mountain biking discipline brings its own unique flavour to the event world.

In this blog, we’re going to break down a few of these disciplines, highlighting the key differences that set them apart as well as talk about where you can experience them for yourself, both locally and globally.



Maybe one of the fastest growing disciplines, freeride has quickly become one of the most watched disciplines in MTB. It’s the epitome of gravity-defying stunts and jaw-dropping maneuvers, with tracks that often make use of natural features in tandem with manmade components.

Freeride is all about creativity, flow and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on two wheels; which might be why so many riders from other disciplines have transitioned. It takes the hallmarks of old-school mountain biking (gnarly jank), but supersizes it. The terrain is varied, ranging form steep descents to technical rock gardens where speed isn’t always the winning factor. Instead, comp winners are usually the most skilled at line choice and creativity.

Riders are usually on downhill bikes kitted out with beasty suspension, but in recent years we’ve seen a surge of smaller bikes with single crowns coming onto the scene.

On a global stage, you’ll want to watch Redbull Rampage for the ultimate in freeride. The riders are next level and even their bikes are part of the show; often customized with durable components and artistically painted and styled.

Locally, if you’re wanting to dip your toes into the freeride waters, check out Fernhill Bike Park in Queenstown, where you’ll find Wynyard Jump Park and Dream Track, where McGazza Fest is held every year as part of the Queenstown Bike Festival.

At Bike Glendhu, we’ll be hosting the Midpoint Jump Jam on March 3rd and are welcoming any riders that want to come and throw down on the Midpoint Jumps. Find out more about that event here.

Midpoint Jump Jam, a freeride MTB discipline at Bike Glendhu.



Slopestyle takes the artistry of freeride to another level, placing more emphasis on aerial maneuvers and precision. Departing from freeride, competitions are usually held on purpose-built courses that feature and array of manmade jumps, ramps and obstacles (just take a peep at Red Bull Joyride and you’ll see what we mean – some of these features are insane).

Riders usually ride slopestyle-specific rigs that are built small. They’re judged on creativity, execution and overall style, as the link together sequences of tricks or throw down massive corks, flips and spins.

Slopestyle can be considered a true test of rider skills, requiring a perfect balance of technical skills and creativity. Indeed, riders who are primarily slopestyle athletes are regarded as some of the best in the world.



Downhill mountain biking is the purest expression of gravity-driven speed and technical skills. Riders hurtle down steep, rugged descents, navigating rock gardens, drops and jumps on heavy, monster truck-esque rigs.

While some downhill tracks make use of natural obstacle, many of the best trails in the world are machine-built, making for smooth berms, big tabletop jumps and hips.

Downhill bikes are built for speed and stability, with long-travel suspension to absorb the impacts of rough terrain. Protective gear such as full-face helmets, body armor and kneepads are common practice in downhill racing, emphasizing the high-speed nature and inherent risks.

Internationally, we’re stoked to see the Redbull Hardline DH race paying a visit to our mates at Maydena Bike Park in March.



Enduro mountain biking strikes a balance between the technical challenges of downhill and the endurance demands of cross-country. Enduro races typically consisted of multiple timed downhill stages, linked together by untimed climbs. The key is complete the downhill sections as quickly as possible, while maintaining the stamina to complete the overall race.

The POC Glenduro, an MTB discipline at Bike Glendhu.

Enduro bikes are the most common that we see out here at Bike Glendhu. They are designed to handle a variety of terrain, from technical or flowy descents to long climbs. Enduro riders will often prioritize bikes with efficient suspension systems and durable components to navigate a race. It’s a discipline that demands a well-round skillset, which makes it a favourite among riders who enjoy both the thrill of descents and the satisfaction of conquering climbs.

The POC Glenduro, an MTB discipline at Bike Glendhu.

Locally, the POC Glenduro will be happening at Bike Glendhu on March 9th, which is the perfect race for both enduro beginners and seasoned pros. With 4- and 5-stage options, it’s an epic day on the trails, complete with our “Hype-dration Station” at Jack’s Spot and apres + awards at Base 334 after the race ends.



Cross-country (or XC) is a test of endurance. XC races usually cover long distances with lots of climbs and flat sections and fewer descents than its other MTB discipline counterparts. They are also generally less technical, with more of an emphasis on cardio fitness and efficiency.

The BGXC, an MTB discipline at Bike Glendhu.

XC bikes are designed to be lightweight, with suspension systems optimized for climbing and smoother trails. XC is a discipline that rewards consistent effort and hard work, making it great for riders who enjoy the Type 2 Fun of long-distance races.

At Bike Glendhu, out annual XC race is the BGXC and we think it’s the best XC race this side of the Cook Strait (we may be a bit biased though). Usually, the race consists of 5 laps of a 7km loop – making for a 35km day. This year, we’re opening up a 3-lap option as well as relay, in order to make the event more accessible to potential entrants who are just trying XC for the first time or are more keen on a fun day out with a team atmosphere.

The BGXC, an MTB discipline at Bike Glendhu.

The world of mountain biking is diverse and there’s something out there for every type of rider. If you’re keen to find out more about the MTB events we host at Bike Glendhu (even the more social ones), check out our upcoming events here.