Mountain biking can be as fun and challenging as you make of it. It is a priceless activity and a great excuse to spend some quality time in nature.
Choosing a bike is an investment for at least 5 to 10 years. Once you are certain in your decision to choose a mountain bike as your next bicycle – whether it’ll be an upgrade or you are simply starting out on the trails, you’ll find a selection of the latest and best value mountain bikes in this article. There are quite a few different disciplines of mountain bikes to choose from, so follow our guide if you are not entirely sure which one to get.
What components to expect on a good mountain bike in 2020?
- 27.5″ / 29″ wheels
- Lockable/adjustable suspension
- Dropper seat post
- Internal cable routing
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- 1x front chainring
- Preferably 11/12-speeds
- Tubeless-ready wheels & tires
Prices & What To Expect
- Mountain bikes for $1,000 – A selection of entry-mid hardtail models
- Mountain bikes for $1,500 – A mid-range hardtail bikes with all the bells and whistles
- Mountain bikes for $2,000 – A good quality trail bike
- Mountain bikes for $2,500 – Entry full-suspension trail mountain bikes, carbon hardtail mountain bikes
- Mountain bikes for $3,000 – Variation of entry-mid full-suspension bikes
- Mountain bikes for $3,500 – The widest option of bikes to choose from
Where to look for the best Mountain Bike deals online?
Co-op Cycles – DRT 2.1
Best Value Mountain Bike For Beginners
Wheel Size: 27.5″+ | Front Travel: 120-140mm | Gear(s): 12 | Head Tube Angle: 68°
MSRP $1,299 REI.com
To Whom? The DRT 2.1 is a mid-entry range mountain bike for both beginner and intermediate riders alike.
It is a perfect bike for those who are looking to hit the trails and want a fully-adjustable set-up to choose from. The dropper seat post, 120/140mm suspension travel with 1×12 drivetrain are something a beginner trail-rider would want to get a glimpse of the mountain-bike world. Internal cable routing and TLR wheels have also ticked some of the most crucial boxes in terms of longevity and comfort on the trails.
Check out the rest of the DRT-series by Co-op Cycles!
Cons: Even though the 1×12 drivetrain is believed to be most efficient among the 1x chainring drivetrains out there, Shimano Tourney still remains an entry-level component, best suited for beginners or for those who go easy on the bike.
Weight of the bike: Approx 34lbs / Max weight capacity: 300lbs total including the bike and rider.
- 1×12 SRAM Eagle drivetrain for superior variety
- The SR Suntour XCR fork with 120mm(XS, S) and 140mm (M-XL) travel operates well in moderate conditions.
- Shimano Tourney rear derailleur
- X-Fusion Manic dropper seat post
- Tektro AURIGA Hydraulic Disc Brakes
- WTB ST i35 TCS 2.0 Tubeless-Ready wheels
Santa Cruz Bicycles – Chameleon A D 2021
Best Trail Mountain Bike
Wheel Size: 29″ | Front Travel: 120mm | Gear(s): 12 | Head Tube Angle: 67.1°
MSRP $1,949 evo.com
One of the newest addition to the Santa Cruz Bicycles hardtail mountain bikes range – The Chameleon. As the name reveals, 2021 Chameleon is SC’s vision of that one bike to rule them all! It simply adapts to most environments with a flick of a thumb – whether it’ll be single tracks, rocky downhill descents, or XC marathon trails – you can count on this bike to be your best companion.
Equipped with essentials you can combine in that price range – the bike is built to reach destinations!
- Aluminum frame
- RockShox Recon RL 35
- SRAM NX Eagle Shifters & Derailleur
- SRAM Level brakes
- Cane Creek 10 IS integrated headset
- SGD Tellis dropper seat post
- WTB i30 TCS 2.0 rims
- Water-bottle mounts on/under downtube
- Threaded bottom bracket
Cannondale – Habit AL 5 29″ 2020
RockShox full suspension with Shimano SLX components
Wheel Size: 29″ | Front Travel: 140mm | Rear Travel: 130mm | Gear(s): 12 | Head Tube Angle: 66°
MSRP $2,700 REI.com
The Cannondale Habit AL 5 is a mid-range mountain bike with a trail-focused geometry. You’ll notice many characteristics leaning towards many high-end full-suspension bikes, too. The SmartForm C1 alloy frame is lightweight and offers nimble and responsive handling, especially on tricky descents.
For trail enthusiasts who wish to start racing or check out some awesome descents
A perfect alternative to much pricier carbon frames seen on that price range. The combination of RockShox front and rear suspension with 140mm of travel on front and 130mm on the rear is superior to any bumps and rocks you encounter on the trail. I’d feel free to try and reach my potential with this kind of set-up.
Also featured on Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes Under $3,000
Shifting is one of the most critical points on a trail bike for anyone, and the 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle derailleur means you will have no headaches on the trail. Shimano MT200 hydraulic brakes (w/ 180mm on front & rear) certainly clear that doubt out of my mind.
Raleigh – Tokul 2
SRAM NX Derailleurs which offer fantastic value for this amount of money
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: 130mm | Gear(s): 11 | Head Tube Angle: 67°
MSRP: $1,430 Raleigh USA
The Tokul 2 has some fantastic surprises when it comes to the components fitted to it. When we saw the price and analyzed the parts, we had no second thoughts about including it to mountain bikers. First of all, what sticks out is the RockShox Judy Silver Solo Air fork featuring:
- 130mm of travel
1×11 Drivetrain with SRAM NX rear derailleur is known for being light, reliable, and easy to maintain. Shimano MT200 hydraulic brakes, with 180/160mm rotors. Extra-wide 2.8″ knobby Maxxis Minion tires inspire confidence, and grip like their life depends on it.
Trail enthusiasts who enjoy a slacker geometry
The Tokul 2 is as tough as it looks. Equipped with solid components, funky yet durable geometry and a massive, 130mm travel fork in the front gives you a ton of freedom when you’d really like to push the bike to its limits!
Surly – Karate Monkey
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: 120-140mm | Gear(s): 12 | Head Tube Angle: 67.5°
MSRP $2,200 Aventuron.com
When it comes to ultra-durable, funky, and well-thought-out mountain bikes – you can surely count on Surly. The ‘Karate Monkey‘ is equipped with the latest technologies that are proved to be the best-optimized for the best hardtail mountain bike experience.
Anyway, this truly is a hardtail trail mountain bike to consider when you are looking for a performance race’ companion. Just look at the list of components, and tell me what’s there to upgrade? The only downside about this bike is that you’ll need to climb up some gnarly hills to enjoy those rugged terrains on your way down. Another great thing about this deal is that Aventuron pre-assembles and tunes the bike before shipping out so there’s no need to worry about re-tightening the crank or pedals!
- 4130 Chromoly steel frame
- TranzX Sp15 Dropper-post
- SRAM DB Level brakes
- SRAM NX Eagle derailleur
- SRAM Powerspline bottom bracket
- RockShox 35 Gold RL forks
- 160/180mm brake rotors
- Surly Dirt Wizard 27 x 3” 60 tpi TLR tires
- Clearance for 27.5″ x 3″ or 29″ x 2.55″ tires
Yeti – SB130 Line
Best High-End Carbon Trail Bike
Wheel Size: 29″ | Front Travel: 150 – 160mm | Rear Travel: 130mm | Gear(s): 12 | Head Tube Angle: 65.1° – 65.5°
MSRP: from $5,399
Why Consider? The Yeti SB130 is a line of high-end carbon trail bikes with the best components, capable of anything.
To whom? The Yeti SB130 is perfect for professional trail riders who want to start winning races.
The SB130 is a premium line of bikes coming from Yeti, featuring a light, stiff, and responsive carbon frame, that can win any Enduro podium.
6 of the different builds:
- Yeti SB130 Carbon Lunch Ride
- Yeti SB130 Turq Lunch Ride
- Yeti SB130 Turq T1
- Yeti SB130 Turq T2
- Yeti SB130 Carbon C1
- Yeti SB130 Carbon C2
Fox Factory 36 and Performance 36 150mm to 160mm forks and the Fox Factory DPX2 130mm rear travel which means you can start practicing on terrains unimaginable to you before. For the $5,399 that you’d need to pay for the cheapest build – you will get one of the top trail bikes with SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed rear derailleur, which is the best you can find on the market right now. Maxxis Minion 2.5″ tire in the front and a Maxxis Aggressor 2.3″ in the back is a combo which will make you fast on harder flats and perfectly optimized grip in tight turns. Simply put, the Yeti SB130 line speaks for itself – It’s a selection of bikes you’ll fall in love with and finally start winning some races.
Specialized – Epic (Expert)
Best XC Bike
Wheel Size: 29″ | Front Travel: 100mm | Rear Travel: 51x257mm | Gear(s): 12 | Head Tube Angle: 69.5°
MSRP: $5,500 Specialized.com
Why consider? Thanks to Brain Technology, the Specialized Epic was the first FS bike to win an XC World Championship.
To whom? Professional riders who want to race or enthusiasts who want to break personal records.
With all of its high-tech features, starting with the frame of carbon 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-inch wheels as it allows to get a lot more responsiveness and stability when I go fast on all-terrain, 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.
Salsa – Beargrease Carbon NX Eagle
Best Fat Bike
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Front Travel: None | Gear(s): 12 | Head Tube Angle: 68.5°
MSRP: $3,049 REI.com
To whom? For trail enthusiasts who want to ride in the extremes or travelers looking for long yet comfortable rides.
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 the top of the line SRAM components. Starting from the SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, to the SRAM Guide T hydraulic brakes. The 45NRTH Dillinger 4 27.5″ x 3.8″ tires are just monstrous! Not all fat bikes have these. 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 the sand. When you look at the whole picture, the Salsa Beargrease is a real bargain for all types of terrain. It will certainly make you fall in love with cycling over and over again.
Niner – RKT 9 RDO
Best MTB For All Terrain
Wheel Size: 29″ | Front Travel: 120mm | Rear Travel: 210×50-65mm | Gear(s): 12 | Head Tube Angle: 69.5° – 70°
MSRP from $3,900
The Niner RKT 9 RDO is a do-it-all terrain machine that can both climb hills efficiently and tackle fast flats and downhill.
To whom? It’s intended for experienced, versatile trail riders.
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 Performance Elite fork with 120mm of travel and the Fox Float DPS rear suspension 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 SX 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 Level hydraulic brakes. It’s one of the most versatile bikes and best looking, as it’s available in two colors – Orange and Carbon Green.
Co-op Cycles – REV 24 Plus
Best Kids’ Mountain Bike (24″ Wheels)
Wheel Size: 24″ | Front Travel: none | Gear(s): 7 |
Why consider? It’s a low-priced entry-level kids MTB, with decent components, perfect to show your kid what mountain biking is all about.
To whom? Co-Op Cycles REV 24 Plus is made for children who are making their first pedal strokes on tame forest trails.
The Co-op Cycles REV 24 Plus 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 $379 you spend, your kid will get the budget bike with decent Shimano components on a drivetrain with 7 speeds – more than enough for most moderate trails. It even has mechanical disc brakes, which is not common at this price, and the difference is enormous compared to V-brakes. The REV 24 is a good buy for a first mountain bike that your kid will thank you for.
Check out the full REV-series review for kids
Diamondback – Haanjo 5C
Best Gravel Grinder
Wheel Size: 27.5″ | Gear(s): 20 | Head Tube Angle: 69° – 72°
MSRP: $2,000 Diamondback.com
Why Consider? Gravel bikes are sweeping the industry right now due to their versatility and, speed, and comfort – everything the Haanjo 5C has.
To Whom? Diamondback Haanjo 5C is for cycling or travel enthusiasts who like to wander off the beaten track.
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 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 2×10 Shimano drivetrain, combined from Deore, XT, and Tiagra parts. A Shimano’s monster that will be your best friend on all terrain. HED tubeless-ready Tomcat wheels are fitted with WTB Byway 47mm tires. However, what many would think that the only let-down is the mechanical disc brakes – might be wrong here. It is common to fit gravel bikes with mechanical, instead of hydraulic disc brakes due to the fact you don’t want that razor-sharp stopping power on uneven terrains on a road-bike frame geometry!
What Else Do I Need To Know?
Suspension / Gravel / Wheels
- 26″ – XS bike frames, older mountain bike frames, fat-tire bikes
- 27.5″ Common among S/M frames and on down-hill bikes
- 29″ – L/XL frames and on many hardtail mountain bikes
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.
How many gears are enough on a bicycle?
Gears are generally not a problem on today’s mountain bikes. These days mountain 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 to some extremely steep hills.
- 1x chainrings = Option among mid/high-end bikes.
- 2x chainrings = Mid-range bikes
- 3x chainrings = Often on cheaper or gravel bikes.
Head Tube Angle
The head tube angle is important because it affects handling.
- XC – Cross Country bikes have steeper head angles (69-71 degrees) which makes the fork more upright and provides sharper 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
- Downhill bikes have slacker head angle (62 degrees and up)
To Wrap It Up
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!