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!
Related: 9 Unusual Mountain Bikes
Related: Best Women’s Mountain Bikes
Table of Contents
↓ FAQ – Extended
A good MTB should have a lock-out feature on the suspension fork, with plenty of adjustments to be made according to the trail and rider.
DROPPER SEAT POST
They say if you don’t have a dropper seat post, you are doing it wrong!
INTERNAL CABLE ROUTING
Internal cable routing is obviously another must these days, alongside with
SINGLE FRONT CHAINRING
1x front chainring with 11- or 12 speed rear cassette.
TLR WHEELS & TIRES
Also, the majority of mountain bikers have turned to tubeless-ready wheels and tires.
SRAM & SHIMANO COMPONENTS
SRAM has been dominating the MTB industry, while higher-end Shimano components are present on many bikes.
Best Hardtail Men’s Mountain Bikes of 2021
Related: Best Mountain Bike Brands
Related: Best Hardtails of 2021
1. Yeti – ARC Carbon C1 Factory 🏆
MSRP $3,900 JensonUSA
As you can read from the title – here you’ll find a selection of the best mountain bikes 2021 and the number one bike in this list is here for obvious reasons.
Yeti Cycles is a boutique mountain bike brand whose line of bikes is dedicated to performance riders. Those bikes are easily capable of winning races, therefore the geometry and set-up might be a little too much for an intermediate, Sunday cyclist. Unless you really like to charge hard and take no exception in quality, this 29er mountain bike is a beast to have fun with. Pushing those boundaries will now be up to you on this tool.
The Yeti ARC is a carbon hardtail mountain bike with a 130mm suspension fork, a 12-speed drivetrain, and 29×2.6″ tires. The C1 model boasts a Shimano SLX drivetrain, Fox Factory 34 FIT4 fork, WTB Silverado Custom saddle, and Shimano Deore 2-piston brakes. The dropper post is made by Fox Transfer.
Depending on how hard you shred, the ARC range has quite a variety of set-ups to choose from, while the geometry of the bike is suitable for top-class riding in all bikes throughout the range.
Related: Yeti vs Ibis vs Santa Cruz
- HT angle: 67° / ST angle: 76° / Chainstay: 433mm
- Weight: 26.7lbs
2. Santa Cruz Bicycles – Chameleon AL D R 2021
Best Trail Mountain Bike – Switch the dropout from 27.5″ to 29″
MSRP $2,149 Mikes Bikes
As the name reveals, the 2021 Chameleon is SC’s vision for a bike to blend into the most surroundings!
It simply adapts to most environments with a flick of a thumb – whether it is a rugged single track, rocky downhill descents, or XC marathon trails – you can count on this bike to be your best companion. The Chameleon comes in either aluminum or carbon frame, 27.5″ plus-sized tires which accommodate a 130mm travel fork while 29ers come with 120mm travel. The bikes start as low as $1,949 for aluminum frames and go up to $5,000 for the limited edition.
Santa Cruz Chameleon – Full Overview
- Aluminum frame (Carbon available as well)
- Fits 27.5″+ and 29″
- RockShox Recon RL, 120mm
- SRAM NX Eagle Shifters
- 12-speed SRAM SX derailleur (Can be run as single speed mountain bike)
- SRAM Level brakes
- Cane Creek 10 IS integrated headset
- SGD Tellis dropper seat post
- WTB i40 TCS 2.0 rims
- Water-bottle mounts on/under downtube
- Head Tube Angle: 67.1°
This is simply one of the best value high-end aluminum hardtail mountain bikes you can get!
3. Orbea – Laufey H10
140mm travel all-mountain hardtail, wow
MSRP $2,199 JensonUSA
You are looking at one of the hardest-charging aluminum all-mountain/trail hardtail mountain bikes – the Laufey by Orbea bikes.
The military-green color obviously refers to military-grade components, and it truly is like that. With 140mm travel in the front and built on an aluminum frame, the Laufey H10 rocks a Shimano SLX 12-speed derailleur with Deore shifters, Orbea OC1 29c wheels, 2.6″ Maxxis Forecast and Rekon TLR tires. This trail beast is being stopped with Shimano M6100 hydro disc brakes.
We are talking about a two-thousand-dollar hardtail mountain bike with an aluminum frame. Where’s the catch, why isn’t it carbon? Well, because the front-end is represented by the Marzocchi Bomber Z2 forks, which is the cornerstone of the bike. There’s an interesting combination of components you’ll see on many high-end customs builds such as the Selle Royal 2043 HRN saddle, SunRace 11-51T cassette instead of the two main giants. The dropper-post is made by the OC2!
- Head Tube Angle: 65.5°
- Seat Tube Angle: 75°
4. Cannondale – Trail 1 SE
Cannondale’s special edition
MSRP $2,200 REI
The Trail 1 SE is a great men’s mountain bike for intermediate & advanced cyclists by having a proper set-up of components you’d want to expect in 2021. The geometry of the bikes is also great for mountain biking in challenging tracks, and it can also be used as a perfect all-rounder bike due to the 120mm travel fork on the front.
What stands out most about the bike is obviously the 12-speed drivetrain by SRAM NX Eagle, TRP Slate G4 4-piston hydro disc brakes, a RockShox 35 Gold air suspension fork with a lockout feature, and Maxxis Minion tires.
- 120mm travel
- Head Tube Angle: 68.5°
5. Co-op Cycles – DRT 2.2
Best value trail & all-mountain hardtail
MSRP $1,799 REI
The DRT series 2.2 is a mid-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 a 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.
This is a plus-size tire technical trail bike with plenty of going/stopping power. Co-op Cycles have been super popular during 2020 and have gathered a ton of positive feedback. Their bikes offer awesome value at a lower price compared to many other big brands on this list!
- 120-140mm travel by RockShox Recon RL
- 12-Speed SRAM NX Eagle
- Head Tube Angle: 68°
Weight of the bike: Approx 34lbs / Max weight capacity: 300lbs total including the bike and rider.
More hardtails by Co-op Cycles
DRT 1.0 – MSRP $549
DRT 1.1 – MSRP $599
DRT 1.2 – MSRP $999
DRT 2.1 – MSRP $1,299
6. Surly – Karate Monkey
Made by an iconic bike brand – Surly
MSRP $2,299 Aventuron
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 it out so there’s no need to worry about re-tightening the crank or pedals!
- 4130 Chromoly steel frame
- Clearance for 27.5″ x 3″ or 29″ x 2.55″ tires
- Head Tube Angle: 67.5°
7. Diamondback – Sync’R 29
29x.2.5″ & 29×2.4″
MSRP $3,650 Backcountry
Look no further when you want THE hardtail to conquer any single trail with the best possible speed and confidence.
The 29-inch Sync’R is Diamondback’s top-of-the-line carbon hardtail with a massive 140mm on the front. The rather slack geometry is best for all-mountain blasting, while the large 29-inch Blanchard 32R wheels complement the ones who dare to steer this beast on a regular basis.
We believe that hardtail MTBs have a solid place to stay, and they can easily make a comeback among both new and experienced mountain bikers alike. As hardtails offer the least ‘frame flex’ compared to full-suspension mountain bikes, the Syncr’ has a nice value at high-end features.
- Sram GX Eagle 12-speed
- Fox 34 Performance, 140mm
- Head Tube: 66°, Seat Tube 74°
8. Raleigh – Tokul 2
SRAM NX Derailleurs offers fantastic value for this amount of money
MSRP $1,430 Raleigh USA
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. The Tokul 2 is as tough as it looks. Equipped with solid components, funky looks with a 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!
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 the best-of-mountain-bikes list. First of all, what sticks out is the RockShox Judy Silver Solo Air fork featuring:
- 130mm of travel
- Lockout & Rebound
While this is a 650b mountain bike made by Raleigh, it boasts quite a good set-up for intermediate mountain bikers.
- 27.5″ Wheels
- Head Tube Angle: 67°
Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes of 2021
9. Ibis – Ripmo
Big wheel, big travel speed demon
MSRP $4,399 Jenson USA
The Ibis Ripmo V2 Deore is a full carbon trail bike with an aggressive frame geometry that combines longer reach with a steep, 76-degree seat tube angle. This places the rider more forward over the pedals for better control on steep, tricky descents. In addition, the slacker 65.9-degree headtube and 44m reduced-offset fork make climbing less wobbly, resulting in an excellent all-round trail bike.
The front fork is a DVO Onyx D1 with 160mm of travel and the rear suspension features a DVO Topaz T3 Air shock that features a compression adjustment lever with three settings. Both these parts can be upgraded to Fox Float Factory parts or a DVO Jade X Coil on the rear. For downhill riding you also get a Bike Yoke Revive dropper post and on the wheels are Ibis rims and Maxxis Assegai 29×2.5″ tires.
- 29″ Wheels
- Front Travel: 160mm
- Rear Travel: 147mm
- Head Tube Angle: 64.9°
10. Salsa – Blackthorn Carbon
MSRP $4,999 REI
The new 2021 Salsa Blackthorn Carbon 29″ is a military-grade mountain bike. The desert-camo-inspired pastel color can tell that away, and its there for a reason. It is a bomber bike! The 160mm/150mm travel categorizes this bike under the All-Mountain level while having the capability to increase the travel up to 165mm on the rear and 180mm on the front!
The Carbon Blackthorn rocks a 10-51T 12-speed Shimano SLX drivetrain, carbon frame, 2.4 & 2.5-inch Assegai and Dissector tires by Maxxis. RockShox Lyrik Select+ is what represented the front-end, which is a solid frontman for this 5k beast. The split-pivot+ suspension system and carbon frame offer a great combination at the following angles:
- HT: 64.9º
- ST: 76.5 – 76.9º
- Chainstays: 432/431mm
- Rear shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+
11. Cannondale – Habit 4 29″ 2021
RockShox full suspension with Shimano SLX components
MSRP $3,000 REI
Cannondale never fails to surprise.. The Cannondale Habit 4 is a mid-range mountain bike with a trail-focused geometry. High-end features packed in an affordable price tag.
Built for trail enthusiasts who wish to start racing or check out some awesome descents in and around the county – The new Habit 4 is built around a SmartForm C1 alloy frame that is lightweight and offers nimble and responsive handling, especially on tricky descents.
A perfect alternative to much pricier carbon frames seen in that price range. The combination of RockShox front(140mm) and rear(130mm) suspension with is superior to any bumps and rocks you encounter on the trail. We’d feel free to try and reach our potential with this kind of set-up. 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 last doubt from your mind.
- 29″ Wheels
- Front Travel: 140mm
- Rear Travel: 130mm
- Head Tube Angle: 66°
12. Yeti – SB130 Line
Best High-End Performance Carbon All-Mountain Bike
MSRP $5,399 JensonUSA
The Yeti SB130 is a line of high-end carbon trail bikes with the best components for performance riders. Yeti mountain bikes are perfect for professional trail riders who want to start winning races, therefore the bike might be too much for a casual cyclist. 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!
The 6 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 that 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.
- 29″ Wheels
- Front Travel: 150 – 160mm
- Rear Travel: 130mm
- Head Tube Angle: 65.1° – 65.5°
13. Specialized – Epic (Expert)
Best XC Bike
MSRP $5,500 Specialized
Thanks to Brain Technology, the Specialized Epic was the first FS bike to win an XC World Championship. The bike is ideal for 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 getting 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.
- 29″ wheels
- 100mm travel
- Head Tube Angle: 69.5°
14. Niner – RKT 9 RDO
Best XC MTB
MSRP $5,900 JensonUSA
The Niner RKT 9 RDO is a do-it-all terrain machine that can both climb hills efficiently and tackle fast flats and downhill. 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 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.
- 29″ Wheels
- 120mm travel
- Head Tube Angle: 69.5° – 70°
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!
What Else Do I Need To Know?
Suspension / Gravel / Wheels / Price
29″ vs 27.5″ vs 26″ mountain bike wheels, 27.5” or 29″ wheels are basically a must these days.
XC, Trail, All-Mountain, Enduro
- Best for going fast on straight lines
- Great rollover capabilities
- Preferred by taller riders
XC, Trail, All-Mountain, Enduro, Downhill
- Better on technical sections
- Allows to fit plus-sized tires 2.4-2.8″ wide
- Faster acceleration
Park, Trail, XS frame sizes
- Often seen on older mountain bikes
- Available in XS, S frames
Prices & What To Expect
- Mountain bikes for $1,000 > A selection of entry-mid aluminum 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 mountain bike, carbon frames starting to come along.
- Mountain bikes for $2,500 – Entry full-suspension trail mountain bikes, carbon hardtail mountain bikes.
- Mountain bikes for $3,000 > Variation of entry-mid range full-suspension bikes.
- Mountain bikes for $3,500 – The widest option of bikes to choose from.
Mountain bike tire pressure recommendations
+/- 5PSI depending on weight
- 29er with tubes – 28PSI
- 29er tubeless – 24PSI
- 27.5″ (650b) with tubes – 28PSI
- 27.5″ (650b) tubeless – 24PSI
- 27.5″+ size tires with tubes – 17PSI
- 27.5″+ size tubeless – 15PSI
Short, mid vs long-travel
Short suspension travel is anything less than 100-120mm 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 bikes, 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 used 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 angles (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)
Women’s Mountain bikes vs Men’s Mountain bikes?
The main difference in women’s mountain bike geometry is the shorter top tube, which also has a lower angle for easier on- and off. It is also the aesthetics, obviously.
Related: Best Women’s Bikes of 2021 (Mountain bikes included)
What are the best mountain bike brands?
Bike brands that are specialized in the mountain bikes scene are – Ibis, Santa Cruz Bicycles, Yeti, Orbea, Evil. Many other popular mountain bike brands are Giant, Trek, Mongoose, Cannondale, Diamondback, GT Bicycles, Rocky Mountain, Scott, and many others.
Read more from our Best Bike Brands article to find out more!
Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes – Under $3,000
Best XC / TRAIL MTBs (100-130mm)
Best TRAIL / AM (130-160mm)
Best ENDURO MTBs (150-180mm)
Best Gravel Bikes of 2021
Groupset Comparison – SRAM vs Shimano vs Sunrace