Created: 24 September 2018 by Sam Millers
Mountain biking is fun and it is a great excuse to spend some time in nature. You can do it recreationally, or you can do it professionally. These are the 15 best mountain bikes for all riders, occasions, and purposes. So, take a look and find out about BikeXchange’s favorite picks!
You can buy all of these bikes online easily and all of them will serve you well if you’re the right rider for them, no matter the price tag.
So, let’s start with the best mountain bikes on the market.
Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.1
Best Mountain Bike For Beginners
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: 100mm | Gears: 24 | Head Tube Angle: 69
Why should you buy this? Thanks to great balance, this bike has both – a good price and great specs for the value.
How much will it cost? It’s around $500.
Who is it for? The DRT 1.1 is meant for entry-level mountain bike riders.
Why did we choose the DRT 1.1?
We liked the whole concept around Co-Op. It’s owned by REI, a famous bike seller.
It has a pretty nice selection of components for beginners. Let’s start with the front SR Suntour XCT fork which is lighter than the XCM model. 100mm travel is just enough for your trail rides.
Gears are changed by Shimano Altus and Acera derailleurs. Yes, they are entry-level on the production line and so is the bike.
What I like about this bike are the hydraulic disc brakes. Every time I ride a bike with mechanical disc brakes, I see the difference. It just needs a lots less power to stop the bike. The tire width of 2.1 inches is definitely suitable for forests, giving you a nice grip. It’s quite knobby, so the bike should not under-perform ever.
This is a unisex bike, and there’s also a women-specific version (DRT 1.1W) of this model, which you can read more about below.
Diamondback Atroz 2
Best Full Suspension For Beginners
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: 120mm | Rear Travel: 184/44mm | Gears: 9 | Head Tube Angle: 66.5
Why should you buy this? Experience the benefits of the added control and comfort of a full suspension bike at an affordable price.
How much will it cost? Around $900.
Who is it for? Diamondback Atroz 2 was made with beginner riders in mind.
Why did we choose the Atroz 2?
The Atroz 2 came to our mind because finding a good full suspension bicycle with decent components and not paying through the nose is not an easy task.
What sticks out the most on this Diamondback’s model is the SR Suntour XCM fork with 120mm of travel, which is plenty if you want to ride aggressively. The SR Suntour Raidon-R rear air shock will help you with this. It has a rebound adjust, so it won’t feel like a pogo stick, like many other entry-level forks.
I especially liked the 9-speed drivetrain, which keeps shifting simple and effective. The rear derailleur is a Shimano Acera, which is expected on beginner mountain bikes.
The 2.3″ wide tires coupled with Shimano hydraulic brakes means that you’ll feel added control and confidence in stopping power, perfect for tricky terrain.
I also love the attractive paint of the Atroz 2, which makes it suitable both for men and women.
Raleigh Tokul 2
Best Recreational Hardtail Bike
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: 120mm | Gears: 9 | Head Tube Angle: 69
Why should you buy this? The Raleigh Tokul 2 is a great buy because of the Shimano Alivio derailleurs which are not often seen in this price range.
How much will it cost? It costs around $700.
Who is it for? It’s intended for occasional riders who like a more relaxed geometry.
Why did we choose the Tokul 2?
The Tokul 2 has some fantastic surprises when it comes to the components fitted on it. When we saw the price and analyzed the parts, we had no second thoughts about including it in this best mountain bikes overview.
First of all, what sticks out is the SR Suntour XCR fork with 120mm of travel, a lockout function, and rebound. SR Suntour has decided to become more competitive in the industry, and this is their take.
I was also pleasantly surprised with the Shimano Alivio rear derailleur when most bikes at this price come with Altus or Acera. Shimano Alivio leans more toward the mid-range production line. There are 9 gears in total, which will be enough for any recreational trail rider.
Other than that, I like that Tokul 2 brakes using Tektro hydraulic brakes, which provide a much better braking experience than mechanical brakes. Finally, the 2.2″ knobby Kenda tires inspire confidence, and grip like their life depends on it.
Cannondale Trail 3
Best Hardtail Trail Explorer Bike
Wheel Size: 27.5″ and 29″ | Front Travel: 100mm | Gears: 11 | Head Tube Angle: 68 – 68.5
Why should you buy this? The Cannondale Trail 3 comes with tubeless ready WTB rims which are not often seen at this price range.
How much will it cost? Around $1,300.
Who is it for? Riders with a bit of experience who nurture different style and want a bike that will fit their budget.
Why did we choose the Trail 3?
The Cannondale Trail is a series of hardtail mountain bikes diverse in prices and components. We chose the Trail 3 because it is the best deal of the series, which riders can benefit the most on when investing their hard-earned money.
Riders can choose between 27.5″ and 29″ wheels, depending on their height and what they intend to do with the bike. The headtube angle is larger for the two larger frame sizes, so riders of all heights will get a responsive frame geometry.
I love the whole Trail series because of the light and high-quality CAAD aluminum frames, but the Trail 3 is my favorite because of the Shimano SLX components. The Trail 3 comes with high-end 1×11 gearing, which has the best ratio between weight and gearing variety.
As you’d expect, the Trail 3 has Shimano hydraulic brakes, and the tires are 2.25″ in width, so Cannondale didn’t mess around when they wanted to create a good all-rounder trail bike.
Cannondale Habit AL 5 27.5
Best Trail Mountain Bike
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: 120mm | Rear Travel: 120mm | Gears: 11 | Head Tube Angle: 67.5
Why should you buy this? The Cannondale Habit AL 5 combines RockShox full suspension with Shimano SLX components.
How much will it cost? Around $2,200.
Who is it for? Trail riding enthusiasts who wish to start racing or check out some awesome descents.
Why did we choose the Habit AL 5?
The Cannondale Habit AL 5 is a mid-range bike with a trail-focused geometry and many characteristics leaning toward high-end FS bikes.
The Cannondale’s SmartForm C1 alloy frame is lightweight and offers nimble and responsive handling, especially on tricky descents.
The combination of RockShox front and rear suspension with 120mm of travel on both is superior to any bumps and rocks you encounter on the trail. I would feel free to try and reach my potential.
Shifting is one of the most critical points on a trail bike for me, and the 11-speed Shimano SLX derailleur means you will have no headaches on the trail.
No matter how good the rest of the bike is, if the brakes are not exquisite, I will not feel comfortable descending and riding fast. Well, the Shimano Deore hydraulic brakes certainly clear that doubt out of my mind.
Yeti SB130 TurQ XX1 (2019)
Best High-End Carbon Trail MTB
Wheel Size: 29″ | Front Travel: 150mm | Rear Travel: 130mm | Gears: 12 | Head Tube Angle: 65.5
Why should you buy this? The Yeti SB130 is a high-end carbon trail bike with the best components, capable of anything.
How much will it cost? It costs around $9,000.
Who is it for? The Yeti SB130 is perfect for professional trail riders who want to start winning races.
Why did we choose the SB130?
The SB130 is a brand-new bike coming from Yeti, featuring a light, stiff, and responsive carbon frame, that can win any Enduro podium.
I’d feel confident taking it to its and my own extremes with the Fox Factory 36 150mm fork and the Fox Factory DPX2 130mm rear shock. This means you can start practising on terrains unimaginable to you before.
For $9,000 that you need to pay, you will get top of the line SRAM XX1 Eagle 12-speed rear derailleur, which is the best you can find on the market right now.
I was also quite excited about seeing the Maxxis Minion 2.5″ tire in the front and a Maxxis Aggressor 2.3″ in the back. This combo will make you fast on the harder flats and offer more grip in tight turns.
Simply, the Yeti SB130 speaks for itself. It’s a bike you fall in love with and finally, start winning.
Specialized Epic Expert
Best XC Bike
Wheel Size: 29″ | Front Travel: 100mm | Rear Travel: 51x257mm | Gears: 12 | Head Tube Angle: 69.5
Why should you buy this? Thanks to the Brain Technology, the Specialized Epic was the first FS bike to win an XC World Championship.
How much will it cost? It’s priced around $5,500.
Who is it for? Professional riders who want to race or enthusiasts who want to break personal records.
Why did we choose the Epic Expert?
With all of its high-tech features, starting with the full carbon frame and the Brain technology enabled suspension, it is hard not to include the Specialized Epic Expert on any list.
This supreme XC bike won the World Championship thanks to the Brain tech that differentiates between rider’s pedal strokes and bumps and does not allow for your power to be wasted through suspension. It’s something you’d expect in a sci-fi movie.
The Epic Expert comes with 29″ wheels, which I personally prefer on XC rides, as it gives me a lot more responsiveness and stability when I go fast on descents or over rocks.
There’s no doubt the SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed rear derailleur will be on par in any situation when you need to maintain your cadence.
The Specialized engineers really thought about everything, especially with the wider 2.3″ tire on the front and the 2.1″ on the back and the exquisite SRAM hydraulic brakes.
Santa Cruz Highball
Best Carbon Hardtail XC Bike
Wheel Size: 29″ | Front Travel: 100mm | Gears: 12 | Head Tube Angle: 69.5
Why should you buy this? The Santa Cruz Highball combines style and speed due to an aggressive geometry and nimble suspension.
How much will it cost? It costs $5,400.
Who is it for? The Santa Cruz Highball is good for XC enthusiasts who like speed.
Why did we choose the Highball?
Santa Cruz took all of their skills and everything they know about cross-country riding and put it into the Highball. That’s how we got one of the fastest and most responsive carbon XC bikes out there.
It’s most jaw-dropping features for me are definitely the CC series carbon frame that Santa Cruz is extremely proud of – and they should!
Next, the Fox Performance Elite suspension with 100mm of travel, coupled with 69.5 degrees head tube angle, means the bike is sharp and full of temperament when cornering.
Apart from that, another reason I included the Highball is the SRAM X01 drivetrain, which gives you a large gear-range, and I just know it will never fail me.
I also can’t disregard the gravel-gobbling 2.25″ Maxxis Aspen tires and the SRAM Level TLM brakes which stop on a dime with very little power input. The Santa Cruz Highball has it all!
Niner RKT 9 RDO 2
Best for all terrain
Wheel Size: 29″ | Front Travel: 120mm | Rear Travel: 210×50-65mm | Gears: 12 | Head Tube Angle: 69.5 – 70
Why should you buy this? The Niner RKT 9 RDO is a do-it-all trail machine that can both climb hills efficiently and tackle fast flats and downhills.
How much will it cost? The price is right around $4,300.
Who is it for? It’s intended for experienced, versatile trail riders.
Why did we choose the Niner RKT 9 RDO?
The Niner RKT 9 is built around an RDO Carbon Compaction technology, which makes it amazingly lightweight, stiff, and resilient. The frame is made complete with the Fox 34 Float Rhythm fork with 120mm of travel and the Fox Float DPS rear shock with three possible positions. These make this Niner a true XC bike, but give it some trail traits as well.
This frame is Di2 ready with internal cable routing and has a constant Varying Arc which I love as it makes pedaling much more efficient.
Today’s bikes generally do not lack gearing, so the Niner solved that with a lightweight and quick 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain.
Hydraulic disc brakes are a must on a bike of this caliber, so a more than ample braking is provided by the SRAM Guide R hydraulic brakes.
It’s one of the most versatile bikes and best looking, as it’s available in two colors – Orange and Carbon Green.
Salsa Beargrease Carbon NX Eagle
Best Fat bike
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: None | Gears: 12 | Head Tube Angle: 68.5
Why should you buy this? Salsa Beargrease should make it to your list because of the wide tires that roll over any obstacles and incredible specs for the price.
How much will it cost? Around $2,900.
Who is it for? For trail enthusiasts who want to ride in the extremes or travellers looking for long yet comfortable rides.
Why did we choose the Beargrease Carbon NX Eagle?
A list of the best mountain bike would simply not be complete without a fat bike. And what better contender for the place than the amazingly light carbon Salsa Beargrease. I had no doubts to include it. Plus, it’s a bike with one of the best paint jobs out there, in my opinion!
Apart from great looks that scream, “Ride me!” Salsa Beargrease can boast of having top of the line SRAM components. Starting from the SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, to the SRAM Guide T hydraulic brakes.
The Maxxis Minion 27.5″ x 3.8″ tires are just monstrous! I always feel more confident when riding on wide tires, and this is as good as it gets! If you deflate them enough, you can even ride on sand.
When you look at the whole picture, the Salsa Beargrease is a real bargain. It will certainly make you fall in love with cycling over and over again.
Diamondback Lux 2
Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes for Women
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: 100mm | Gears: 18 | Head Tube Angle: 68
Why should you buy this? Lux 2 is a great choice and one of the best women’s hardtail bikes because it gives the most bang for the buck!
How much will it cost? It costs around $700.
Who is it for? Lux 2 should be considered by entry-level female riders who like occasional trail rides.
Why did we choose the Lux 2?
The Diamondback Lux 2 is an affordable bike that is fun to ride! Diamondback sells their bikes directly to customers over the Internet, so they’re able to offer a lot more at a lower price.
This particular model won me over with the butter lightweight 6061-T6 aluminum frame and the SR Suntour XCM fork with hydraulic lockout and 100mm of travel. Don’t worry, it will provide plenty of comfort, even on tough trails.
The 9-speed Shimano Acera rear derailleur is not a jaw-dropping solution, but it is what is expected on a bike in this price range and will do an excellent job if you use it properly.
The definite winner on the Lux 2, if you ask me, is the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, which are a true cherry on the cake! Since this is a women’s mountain bike, it’s important to note that hydraulic brakes require much less power to engage than mechanic ones.
Ghost Lanao 2.7
Best Full-Suspension for Women
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: 130mm | Rear Travel: 130mm | Gears: 20 | Head Tube Angle: 69
Why should you buy this? Ghost Lanoa 2.7 is an affordable full suspension women’s bike with good Shimano components and a great color-scheme.
How much will it cost? The cost is around $1,400.
Who is it for? The Ghost Lanoa 2.7 is made for ladies who are falling in love with mountain biking and want to ride more demanding trails without breaking the bank.
Why did we choose the Lanoa 2.7?
First of all, the Ghost Lanoa 2.7 has a really light aluminum frame, so it weighs only 32 lbs, even though it’s a full suspension bike, which is important for a women’s bike.
The front and rear 130mm travel suspension are enough to absorb anything the trail throws at you. The fork is an RST Aerial Air, while the shock is an X-fusion O2 RL, with two additional platform settings between open and locked.
When we go a bit lower, we can see Shimano Deore parts on the drivetrain, which is a decent mid-range solution. You get 20 speeds in total, on a wide range 11-42 cassette, which is more than you can ask for on any uphill.
Finally, a couple more things that caught my eye are the 2.2″ Continental X-King tires, which in my experience are wide enough to provide a great grip, and the Tektro hydraulic discs which are low-maintenance and high-power.
Diamondback Haanjo 5C
Best Gravel Grinder
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: None | Gears: 27 | Head Tube Angle: 69 – 72
Why should you buy this? Gravel bikes are sweeping the industry right now due to their versatility and, speed, and comfort – everything the Haanjo 5C has.
How much will it cost? It’s priced right around $2,000.
Who is it for? Diamondback Haanjo 5C is for cycling or travel enthusiasts who like to wander off the beaten track.
Why did we choose the Haanjo 5C?
The Diamondback Haanjo 5C is the most optimal choice from the Haanjo line, that would meet the requirements of most mid-experienced riders. However, depending on your preferences, you can also choose the same-priced Haanjo 4 or the higher-priced Haanjo 7C. They are a good buy as well.
What, if you ask me, makes Haanjo 5C a great buy is the extremely light and stiff carbon frame and everything that is fitted on it. That goes especially for the 3×9 Shimano drivetrain, combined from Deore, XT, and Dura Ace parts. A Shimano’s monster that will be your best friend on the gravel.
I also have a very high opinion of the HED Tomcat wheels, which are tubeless ready and the WTB Byway 47mm tires fitted on them. The only let-down is the mechanical disc brakes. However, they still brake quite well, so you’ll have no problems stopping.
Raleigh Kodiak Pro IE
Best Electric mountain bike
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: 130mm | Rear Travel: 130mm | Gears: 8 | Head Tube Angle: 72
Why should you buy this? The Kodiak Pro IE has some of the best components from the most proven companies and a mighty strong Bosch motor.
How much will it cost? It’ll cost you around $5,000.
Who is it for? For anyone who wants an electric bike that can still crush the most rugged of terrain.
Why did we choose the Kodiak Pro IE?
Have you seen the “I Robot” movie? Well, the Kodiak Pro IE looks like something Will Smith would fight in that movie. Jokes aside, it’s a high-tech two-wheeler with full 130mm suspension and a 250W motor.
The motor will support you until you reach 20MPH, and after that, you’re left alone with the SRAM EX1 8-speed drivetrain. It’s specifically made for eMTB’s, so you know it will work perfectly.
I simply love the way those burly 2.8″ WTB tires suit this bike. With the help of your legs and the motor, they will be unstoppable on any terrain.
The battery on this bad boy has 500W, and an estimated range of around 35mi/56km – 65mi/104km, depending on how gentle you are with it. I recommend you don’t be and take it to its limit, which is what it’s made for!
Cannondale Trail 24
Best Kids mountain bike (24″ wheels)
Wheel Size: 24″ | Front Travel: 63 | Gears: 8 | Head Tube Angle: 70
Why should you buy this? It’s a low-priced entry-level kids MTB, with decent components, perfect to show your kid what mountain biking is all about.
How much will it cost? It costs only $400.
Who is it for? Cannondale Trail 24 is made for children who are making their first pedal strokes on tame forest trails.
Why did we choose the Trail 24?
The Cannondale Trail 24 was an obvious choice for us because we could not let down the youngest mountain bike lovers.
When you’re buying your child their first bike, it’s a good idea not to overspend, because you do not know if they will like it or not. Their first bike should be simple, to show them the best sides of this sport.
With the $400 you spend, your kid will get decent Shimano components on a drivetrain with 8 speeds – more than enough for most moderate trails.
The 63mm of travel on the Suntour XCT-JR fork will give them more confidence and absorb most of the bumps, so they can go faster each time.
It even has mechanical disc brakes, which is not common at this price, and the difference is enormous compared to V-brakes.
The Trail 24 is a good buy for a first mountain bike that your kid will thank you for.
What you need to know about mountain bikes
Buying a mountain bike is not difficult if you know what you need it for. Take a look at the section below to find out more.
Wheel Size – Which is best
There isn’t really the best wheel size.
The two most popular sizes for mountain bikes are the 27.5″ and 29″. Both of them are good for different things.
29ers have better traction, smaller attack angle (therefore smoother ride), and more efficient acceleration. However, these wheels are slower than 27.5″ ones and add more weight. Moreover, 27.5″ wheels are easier to maneuver, because of better responsiveness.
As you can see, both have advantages and disadvantages, so learn more to decide which is better for you.
Read more on MTB Buying Guide >
Suspension travel – Short, mid vs long-travel
Short suspension travel is less than 120mm and is best for all-around performance, as well as for smoother trails and uphill rides.
Long suspension travel is between 120-200mm and is best for high-speed descents on rough terrain. The larger the travel, the more suitable the bike is for descending.
We can also combine these traits in mid suspension travel, but we lose some of the advantages of both worlds this way.
Gears – How many should it have?
Gears are generally not a problem on today’s mountain bikes. These bikes usually have between 9 and 27 gears on 1x, 2x, or 3x cranksets. All of these setups will provide you with plenty of gearing. The only time you might need to get off your bike is up some extremely steep hills.
Head Tube Angle
The head tube angle is important because it affects handling. Aggressive enduro and trail bikes have sharper head tube angle (65-68 degrees), which makes the fork more parallel to the ground. This provides more stability, but it affects handling.
On the other hand, XC bikes have a steeper head tube angle (69-71 degrees), which makes the fork more upright and provides sharper handling.
What do you need to know before buying?
I must say that all of the bikes listed above are top-notch bikes for the money. They will serve you well and you will be happy with them if they are right for the type of riding you are doing.
Therefore, before buying a mountain bike, you need to ask yourself what you want to do with it and how serious you are going to be about it.
Are you planning to go for relaxed forest rides on trails, ride long cross-country rides, or do downhill descents? All of these categories require a different bike. After that, determine your budget and you can finally pick your perfect bike!
This way, you’ll ensure that you’ll end with the best mountain bike for your needs!
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