Guide to Down-Country Mountain Biking

By Rob Savin

Combine short travel, progessive geometries and lighter weights  and you get a bike that lets you ride far and have serious, serious fun. This is down-country! Here’s everything you need to know about this new mountain biking discipline.

What is Down-Country?


Down-country mixes cross-country, trail, and all-mountain riding. It’s a discipline where riders cover big distances and ride trails with seriously fun features on the way. Imagine an XC ride on steroids. Or a trail ride that goes on and on and the fun doesn’t stop. Go far, have fun, don’t try too hard. When we put it like that, it’s pretty obvious why we’re all so interested!

Down country forest trail riding

What is a Down Country bike?


Down-country bikes are short-travel 29ers with progressive geometry. They’re good at covering longer distance quickly and also taking proper trail bike abuse. They’re a super-capable XC bike and a pedal-all-day trail bike at the same time.

The best down-country bikes are fairly lightweight and agile, which keeps them fun and easy to handle on technical trails. This is all made possible by using the elements that make XC bikes quick and combining this with smart component choices. Progressive shocks and stiff forks inspire confidence while big wheels mean they carry good speed and cover ground quickly.

Mainly, down-country bikes are a lot of fun!

Sonder Cortex Down-Country


The Sonder Cortex is a down-country bike released before its time! It’s a short-travel 29er with progressive geometry that makes us feel like much, much better riders than we really are.

Neil Sutton, Head of Sonder, designed the Cortex after speaking to customers who wanted a bike they could ride all day and still take on big trails with confidence. So Neil set about creating a bike for epic days over mixed terrain.

120mm of rear travel delivered through a stiff frame and metric rear shock gives an incredibly plush with a feeling of endless travel when you need it. You can ride this bike on really big trails and it’s confidence-inspiring, stable and forgiving. And when you point it uphill, the angles set-in just right to give an efficient pedalling position to climb quickly and easily (depending on how fit you are! Some of us just want a motor…). It’s consistently the bike we choose for big days out on big trails. Or to be fair, on big days out when we don’t want to feel too fatigued and battered by the terrain.

So while the industry has just come up with the term, we’ve had the bike for it for years!

Here’s what Guy Kesteven has to say about the Sonder Cortex. Spoiler alert: he rather liked it…

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