Best Downhill Mountain Bikes
The mighty speed demon in the world of mountain bikes – Downhill bikes are purpose-built machines.
Having the slackest of geometry and the most durable set of components to withstand the harshest ruts, jumps, and rocks, DH bikes are not for the fainthearted, that’s for sure.
The mountain biking industry is an advancing field, and there is no room for errors. We have selected one of the best, well-made, and durable mountain bikes around, have a look!
The first downhill race started on a fire road in the early seventies. Riders used rigid frame Schwinn bikes (bicycle suspension hadn’t been invented yet).
Since then the technology in downhill bikes and the courses that go with it have rapidly evolved. Now professionals are riding things that would have never been considered possible 50 years ago: scree fields, mountainsides, and even moderate rock climbs.
Downhill biking disciplines
Park / Freeride / Big Mountain
The term Gravity
Downhill mountain bikes are otherly known as Gravity bikes due to the momentum provided by the gravitational direction from high elevations. Therefore, downhill mountain bikes are exclusively used to ride down the hill which makes riding those bikes on the horizontal ground rather difficult.
Choosing a DH MTB
Check out DirtMountainBike‘s overview 🏆 to get a full understanding of how to choose a downhill mountain bike.
Downhill mountain bike must-have components
- Double-crown fork
- Coil-shock with 180mm+ travel
- Super slack geometry
- 4-Piston hydraulic disc brakes with 203mm rotors
- A chain guide
One of the key features on the majority of DH bikes is a dual crown fork. Instead of connecting to the bike via one junction on the underside of your frame’s head tube, a dual crown fork runs parallel to the head tube and makes an extra connection via a second junction above the head tube. Dual crown forks are more rigid and heavy-duty than regular single crown forks, and they typically provide more travel as well.
27.5″ vs 29″
It is possible to pick up downhill bikes built around both 29 and 27.5 wheelbases.
The size you choose will affect the performance of the bike in different ways. 29-inch wheels roll over obstacles more easily while 27.5-inch wheels provide better handling around sharp corners and are more nimble on jumps. Ultimately, there is no consensus on which wheelbase is better as it entirely depends on your personal preference and riding style. Back in the day 26″ was a standard size, and 27.5″ has been the most popular so far.
Enduro vs Downhill MTB
Why is Enduro better than the Downhill bike?
Enduro and Gravity/Downhill bikes share the same purpose of descending down those fast, steep, and technical tracks. Although, an enduro bike has the advantage on the climbs, and it rides well on flatter / horizontal tracks.
Why is a downhill bike better than an enduro?
A coil rear suspension and double-crown fork are the main differences between DH and Enduro bike. Also, the overall robust and ultra-durable build quality to withstand the stress the DH bikes are built for.
Best Gravity / Downhill Bikes of 2021
1. Yeti – SB 165 ‘2021 🏆
Enduro / DH
MSRP $7,400 JensonUSA
Yeti is known for two things – funky turquoise powder-coatings and exceptionally made mountain bikes. The SB165 ticks both these boxes.
The Fox Factory single crown fork provides an ample 180mm of travel, and a Fox Factory DHX shock has paired with a world-class linkage design. The carbon construction of the frame keeps everything playful. With a wide range Shimano XT drivetrain, the SB165 is ready to climb and adapt to different types of riding. Shimano XT four-piston brakes add legendary stopping power and reliability.
As a pure DH bike, the SB165 isn’t as burly as some of the other bikes on this list. However, for enduro-style riding and more casual downhilling, it outperforms other single crown MTBs and takes drops with ease.
- HT – 63.5° / ST – 77° / Chainstay – 433mm
- 12-speed Shimano XT
- Fox Factory 38 GRIP 2 fork, 180mm
- Fox Factory DHX2 rear shock, 165mm
- TURQ Carbon frame
- 27.5×2.5 & 2.4″ Maxxis Assegai & Minion
2. Santa Cruz Bicycles V10 Carbon 29 S Mountain Bike
Best 29er downhill mountain bike
MSRP $5,999 Backcountry
The V10 from Santa Cruz Bicycles comes in several versions. You can get a V10 with 27.5 wheels, 29, and a mixture with 27.5 in the back and 29 in front.
This bike has a storied history in different World Cup competitions and comes with an impressive parts build. A Fox 40 Performance fork provides 203mm of travel in the front, and a Fox DHX2 Performance Elite Coil softens things up in the rear. An SRAM GX derailleur, SRAM Descendant crankset, and E*Thirteen chain guide keep everything running smoothly. A monster for park riding, the V10 performs as the flagship DH bike from a brand like Santa Cruz ought to. A good choice for those searching for a bike that’s burly, bold, and capable of handling the hairiest of descents.
- Carbon CC
- Fork: FOX 40 Performance 200mm
- Rear Shock: FOX DHX2 Performance Elite Coil,
- 29.5×2.5 Maxxis Assegai
- SRAM GX DH 7-speed drivetrain
3. Specialized – Demo Race
A mullet downhill bike
MSRP $6,800 Specialized
The Demo Expert is a versatile DH bike with top-shelf components ready to shred hard and adapt to variable terrain.
Specialized designed the frame to be able to fit both 27.5 and 29 wheels on the rear, offering riders the option to swap wheels out for different situations. A RockShox BoXXer Select fork graces the front of the bike and provides top-quality suspension. RockShox also provides the Demo Expert with an adjustable Super Deluxe Select Coil shock, making for a great suspension system all around. Other cool features include wicked strong SRAM Code RS 4 piston brakes and an SRAM GX drivetrain that’s built to shrug off high-impact collisions.
The Specialized Demo expert is fast, confident, lightweight, and still super burly strong. It is the result of years of design evolution and a lot of DH bike wisdom.
- RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH Coi
- RockShox BoXXer Ultimate 29
- Brakes: SRAM CODE RSC 4-Piston
- Tires – 29×2.3″ (f) / 27.5×2.3 (r)
- HT – 62.8° / ST – 76.8°
4. Pivot Phoenix 29 Carbon Saint Mountain Bike
MSRP $7,699 Backcountry
When Pivot first came on to the scene, they quickly revolutionized DH geometry and appeared on many podiums across the globe.
Now, they are offering a version of the iconic Phoenix with 29-inch wheels and a super sleek carbon frame. The time-tested geometry allows for tight cornering and great stability, made lighter and faster by the inclusion of carbon in the frame, seat post, and handlebar. Shimano Saint components provide quiet, bomber shifting as well as immediate braking power designed around the needs of downhill MTB riders. The 29-inch version of the Phoenix has a tweaked geometry that allows for a lower bottom bracket, while also offering the ability to run both coil and air shocks.
If you’re in search of a machine that’s made with an uncompromising commitment to perfect DH geometry, look no further than the Pivot Phoenix 29er in carbon.
- Rear Shock: Fox Factory Float X2, 190mm
- Fox Factory 40 GRIP2, 203mm
- Shimano Saint drivetrain
Suspension type: DW-Link
- 29×2.5″ Maxxis Assegai 3C, Maxxgrip with DH casing
5. Intense – M29
MSRP $7,699 IntenseCycles
Oftentimes the highest quality bikes don’t come from the biggest or most well-known brands. Such is the case with Intense Cycles, who have been quietly making some of the world’s best mountain bikes since 1993. The M29 is their downhill-specific carbon 29er, built with mostly aftermarket parts. Like any legendary DH bike, the M29 frame has an impressive linkage system that has been repeatedly
improved after years of feedback from professional riders. An E*Thirteen Carbon wheelset sets the M29 in a class of its own among DH completes and also makes it one of the lightest options available. If you are a serious park rider or racer who wants top-of-the-line parts across the board, M29 more than fits the bill.
- Travel: 203mm (f), 208mm (r)
- HT angle: 62,65 ̊
M16 – 27.5″
M29 – 29″
6. Canyon – Sender CFR FMD
MSRP $5,799 Canyon
The Canyon Sender AL is one of the most bombproof designs for a DH mountain bike around.
One look at the crankset configuration and you can see that Canyon was serious about creating a ride that can handle huge impact forces with ease. Both the fork and rear shock come from Marzocchi and are standout features amongst many great components. SRAM provides drivetrain components, with DH-specific cranks from their subsidiary brand Truvativ. The Sender is rounded out with high-end features like the adjustable geometry, a replaceable frame guard on the underside of the down tube, and CR linkage.
There is a good case to be made that Canyon is producing one of the world’s best value DH bikes with the Sender AL.
- 27.5″ (f) / 29″ (r)
- HT: 63° / ST: 78°
- 200mm FOX Performance Elite 40 Float, 200mm
- FOX DHX2 EVOL Performance Elite, 200mm
- Canyon Sender CFR
- DT Swiss FR2020 Boost
7. Trek – Session 8 27.5
Trek bikes can be bought in-store only
MSRP $4,800 Trekbikes
A podium-worthy park-style bike, the Trek Session 8 boasts an array of high-quality components alongside frame upgrades that set it apart in the world of DH bikes.
An adjustable Fox Performance shock is paired with a 200mm RockShox BoXXer Select fork for great handling and a satisfying squish to ease hard landings. An adjustable Mino linkage allows you to fine-tune the frame geometry to fit the needs of the moment. A 7-speed drivetrain made up of select Sram GX components provides the perfect amount of flexibility for riding down different grades. The underside of the Session’s frame has a replaceable debris shield that protects against scratching and dents.
This bike rates well on value for money, as you get some Trek exclusive features at a price that’s highly competitive.
Related: Trek bikes overview
8. Norco – Shore A Park
MSRP $4,699 JensonUSA
A park-style downhill bike packed full of features that help you pull off big jumps, the Norco Shore offers a good balance of value and tech.
The Shore uses a RockShox BoXXer Select fork in combination with a RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate DH rear shock for great suspension. SRAM GX drivetrain parts put this bike on the same level as many other high-end DH bikes in terms of bomber shifting. The same goes for SRAM Code 4 piston hydraulic disc brakes.
While not optimized for DH racing or extreme endeavors, the Norco Shore offers a more accessible entry into the world of park riding and downhill mountain biking.
- SRAM GX DH
- (f) RockShox Boxxer, 200mm
- (r) RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate DH, 225 x 75m
9. Rocky Mountain Slayer
Enduro / All-Mountain
MSRP $4,999 Jensonusa
The Slayer from Rocky Mountain is an aggressive dual suspension enduro bike that happily eats up park courses and maneuvers swiftly through rough terrain.
The frame is a mixture of carbon in the main triangle with aluminum in the rear – providing a balance of lightweight and great durability. A Shimano SLX 12 speed rear transmission allows for more versatility on uphill and flat rides, and SLX 4 piston brakes give great braking power on steep and technical trails.
For those who are interested in park riding but still want to retain the functionality of an all-mountain build, the Rocky Mountain Slayer provides a great combination of DH and all-mountain capabilities.
- Shimano SLX 1×12
- Travel: 170mm f & r
What is Downhill Mountain Biking?
Downhill mountain biking (DH for short) is the practice of riding down steep and technical terrain, often with large drops. Many ski parks operate as MTB downhill courses during the summer, and other DH parks operate year-round. There are also downhill races on singletrack, as well as in urban settings. As the technology of DH components evolves, professional riders are pushing the limits of what can be ridden on a downhill mountain bike towards ever steeper and more treacherous terrain.
What is a downhill mountain bike?
Modern downhill bikes are all dual suspension, with shock absorption on both front and rear wheels. The design of DH bikes is focused on maximizing stability, allowing you to ride them faster over rough terrain with less vibration coming through to the saddle and cockpit. Because of their intended purpose, DH bikes are overbuilt when compared to other mountain bikes, and are heavier as a result.
Is downhill mountain biking a dangerous sport?
Every type of cycling comes with a certain amount of risk. However, because downhill riding involves large jumps and high speeds, it is certainly more dangerous than other types of riding. Virtually all DH riders use full-coverage helmets, knee pads, shoulder pads, and armored gloves. Many downhill parks require riders to have this personal safety equipment in order to use their lifts. Luckily, there are many different levels of downhill runs to choose from. Modern 4-cylinder hydraulic brakes remarkably elevate the level of safety and confidence on steep trails.