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 some of the best, well-made, and durable mountain bikes around, have a look!
What Is Downhill Riding?
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 mountain bikes are also 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.
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
Dual Crown Fork
One of the key features of 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″ or 29″ Wheels
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 Mountain Bike Differences
Why is Enduro better than the Downhill bike?
– Enduro and Gravity/Downhill bikes share the same purpose of descending 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 bikes. Also, the overall robust and ultra-durable build quality to withstand the stress the DH bikes are built for.
- You may also like: 15 Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes for 2023
10 Best Gravity / Downhill Bikes of 2023
#1. Rocky Mountain – Slayer Alloy 50
#2. Norco – Range C3
#3. Santa Cruz – Nomad C R
#4. Niner – WFO RDO 4-Star
#5. GHOST – Riot AM Essential
#6. Devinci – Spartan A29
#7. Cannondale – Jekyll 2
#8. SCOR – 4060 LT
#9. Rocky Mountain – Altitude Alloy 50
#10. Norco – Sight A1
1. Rocky Mountain – Slayer Alloy 50
Rocky Mountain is known for its exceptionally made mountain bikes and the Slayer Alloy 50 is their ultimate downhill machine in a more affordable aluminum build.
The RockShox Zeb Select RC fork provides an ample 180mm of travel, and a 170mm RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Select+ shock has been paired with a world-class linkage design. The aluminum construction of the frame keeps everything playful.
With a wide-range Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain, the Slayer is ready to climb and adapt to different types of riding. Shimano SLX four-piston brakes add legendary stopping power and reliability.
- HT – 63.2° / ST – 75.2° / Chainstay – 443mm
- 12-speed Shimano XT/SLX
- RockShox Zeb Select RC fork, 180mm
- RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Select+ shock, 170mm
- Maxxis Assegai 2.5″ / Minion DHR II 2.4″
2. Norco – Range C3
Best 29er for enduro and downhill
The Norco Range C3 is a 170mm travel bike that’s downhill-capable but can still handle enduro riding.
This bike comes with an impressive range of parts. A RockShox ZEB Charger R fork provides 170mm of travel in the front, and a Fox DHX2 Factory Coil softens things up in the rear.
A Shimano SLX/Deore drivetrain with a 10-51t cassette makes for smooth shifting with plenty of gear options on the climbs. A good choice for those searching for a bike that’s burly, bold, and capable of handling the hairiest of descents.
- Fork: RockShox ZEB Charger R 170mm
- Rear Shock: Fox DHX2 Factory Coil 170mm
- Maxxis Assegai 2.5″ DoubleDown / Dissector 2.4″ DoubleDown
- Shimano SLX/Deore 12-speed
3. Santa Cruz – Nomad C R
A mullet downhill bike
The Nomad is a versatile DH bike with top-shelf components ready to shred hard and adapt to variable terrain.
Santa Cruz designed the this bike for mixed-size wheels offering riders a super nimble rear end and the speed and stability of a 29er in the rear. A 170mm RockShox Zeb R fork graces the front of the bike and provides top-quality suspension.
RockShox also provides the Nomad with a Super Deluxe Select shock, and when you factor in Santa Cruz’s premium VPP suspension linkage, these components perform exceptionally providing a bottomless feel and excellent pedaling efficiency.
Other notable features include strong SRAM G2 RE four-piston brakes and an SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain that shifts smoothly and is built to shrug off high-impact collisions.
The Nomad is fast, confident, lightweight, and still burly strong. It is the result of years of design evolution and a lot of experience in MTB design and engineering.
- RockShox Super Deluxe Select 170mm
- RockShox Zeb R 170mm
- Brakes: SRAM G2 RE 4-Piston
- Tires – Maxxis Assegai 3C MaxxGrip 29″ x 2 .5″ / Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C MaxxGrip 27.5″ x 2 .4″
- HT: 63.5° / ST: 77-77.6°
4. Niner – WFO RDO 2-Star
When Niner first came on to the scene, they quickly revolutionized DH geometry and appeared on many podiums across the globe.
They are offering their iconic WFO RDO 2-Star 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 and handlebar.
SRAM SX Eagle components provide quiet, bomber shifting as well as immediate braking power designed around the needs of downhill MTB riders. The 29-inch Niner WFO RDO has a tweaked geometry and CVA suspension that encourages riders to tackle the climbs whenever necessary.
If you’re in search of a machine that straddles the line between DH and enduro geometry, look no further than Niner’s WFO RDO 2-Star.
- Rear Shock: Fox Float X2 Performance EVOL
- Fox 38 Float Performance GRIP EVOL, 180mm
- SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain
Suspension type: CVA
- 29×2.6″ Schwalbe Magic Mary EVO / Hans Dampf EVO
5. GHOST – Riot AM Essential
Oftentimes the highest quality bikes don’t come from the biggest or most well-known brands. Such is the case with Ghost, who has been quietly making top-quality mountain bikes for years.
The Riot AM Essential is an enduro aluminum 29er built with mostly aftermarket parts. Like any legendary enduro bike, the Riot AM Essential’s frame has an impressive linkage system. If you are a serious park rider or racer who wants solid parts at an affordable price, the Riot AM Essential more than fits the bill.
- Travel: 160mm (f), 165mm (r)
6. Devinci – Spartan A29
The Devinci Spartan A29 is one of the most bombproof designs for an enduro/DH mountain bike around.
You can see that Devinci was serious about creating a ride that can handle huge impact forces with ease by using their Aluminum Optimum G04 frame material.
Both the fork and rear shock come from RockShox and are standout features amongst many great components. SRAM provides drivetrain components, with DH-specific cranks.
The Spartan A29 is rounded out with high-end features like the flip-chip adjustable geometry, SRAM Guide RE hydraulic disc brakes, and Split Pivot HP suspension linkage.
There is a good case to be made that Devinci is producing one of the world’s best-value enduro/downhill bikes with the Spartan A29.
- HT: 62° / ST: 76.8°
- RockShox Zeb Select Charger RC DebonAir, 170mm
- RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Select R Trunnion 160mm
- RaceFace AR35 Offset TR Rims
- Maxxis Minion DHF 29×2.5 MaxxTerra, EXO+ / Minion DHR II 29×2.4 MaxxGrip, DoubleDown
7. Cannondale – Jekyll 2
A podium-worthy style bike, the Cannondale Jekyll 2 boasts an array of high-quality components and a competitive price that set it apart in the world of carbon DH/enduro bikes.
An adjustable 165mm Fox Float DPX2 Performance EVOL shock is paired with a 170mm RockShox Zeb Select fork with a 4-bar, high-pivot, and size-specific kinematics suspension system for great handling and a satisfying squish to ease hard landings.
A 12-speed drivetrain made up of select Shimano Deore M6100 components provides the perfect amount of flexibility for riding up and down different grades. The underside of this bike’s frame has a replaceable rubber casing that protects against scratching and dents.
This bike rates well on value for money, as you get some of Cannondale’s exclusive features like an idler pulley and proportional response geometry at a highly competitive price.
- HT: 64° / ST: 77.5°
- Fox Float DPX2 Performance EVOL 165mm
- RockShox Zeb Select fork 170mm
- WTB STX i30 TCS rims
- Front tire: Maxxis Assegai, 29 x 2.5″ Dual compound EXO+
- Rear tire: Maxxis Minion DHR II 29 x 2.4″ EXO+
8. SCOR – 4060 LT
The SCOR 4060 LT is perfect as an enduro or downhill bike. This bike is packed full of features that help you pull off big jumps and offers a good balance of value and tech.
The 4060 LT uses a RockShox ZEB Select 170mm fork in combination with a 1600mm RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ shock for great suspension.
SRAM NX drivetrain parts put this bike on the same level as many other high-end bikes in terms of smooth shifting. The same goes for the SRAM Code R hydraulic disc brakes.
While not optimized for DH racing, the SCOR LT bridges the gap between entry-level and professional downhill mountain bikes and has a full carbon frame which is surprising for this price.
- SRAM NX Eagle 1×12-speed
- RockShox ZEB Select fork 170mm
- RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ shock 160mm
- Maxxis Assegai 29 x 2.5″ EXO+ (F) / Maxxis Dissector 29 x 2.4″ Double Down (R)
9. Rocky Mountain – Altitude Alloy 50
The Rocky Mountain Altitude Alloy 50 is an aggressive downhill capable enduro bike that happily eats up park courses and maneuvers nimbly through rough terrain with its 27.5″ wheels.
The frameset is Rocky Mountain’s FORM alloy providing an excellent ride feel. A Shimano XT/SLX 12-speed drivetrain allows for more versatility on uphill and flat rides, and Shimano SLX Trail four-piston hydraulic disc brakes give great braking power on steep and technical trails.
For those who are interested in all-mountain riding but still want to retain the functionality of an enduro build, the Altitude Alloy 50 provides a great combination of DH and enduro capabilities.
- Shimano XT/SLX 12-speed drivetrain
- Fox 38 Float EVOL GRIP Performance 170mm fork
- Fox Float X Performance 160mm shock
- Maxxis Assegai 2.5″ EXO+ / Minion DHR II 2.4″ EXO+ tires
10. Norco – Sight A1
The Norco Sight A1 is a go-to choice for those who like performance, affordability, and a product made by a mountain-specific brand.
The latest model meets high-end standards and geometry. This bike offers a one-way ticket to the ride of your life – it is up to you to show its way. The devil on the left shoulder says it is built for speed, and the angels on the right shoulder speak for the brakes, ultra-durable yet lightweight aluminum frame, E*Thirteen LG1 wheels, and all the rest.
Long story short – Norco is a name you can count your money in, and they haven’t cut any corners on the construction.
- Aluminum frame
- SRAM GX 12-speed
- Brakes: SRAM Code RSC
- Front fork: RockShox Lyrik Ultimate RC2 160mm
- Rear Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ RT 150mm
- Maxxis Assegai 2.5″ / Maxxis Dissector 2.4″ tires
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 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.