Good entry-level full-suspension bikes for proper mountain biking start at around this price point. Here's our pick of the best on the market.
The sole purpose of the best cheap full-suspension bike is to provide the highest-performance bike at the most competitive prices. In many ways it’s at the entry-level that design is truly cutting-edge, the constraints of tighter budgets making every component choice that much more critical to ride quality.
Selling direct keeps costs down; whether that’s through high street multiples, in the case of retail-specific brands like Boardman, or by shipping direct to your door, as Vitus does. But it is no coincidence that there aren’t any bikes under £1k that we’d classify as being amongst best full suspension mountain bike candidates.
High performance trail bike at an unbeatable price
Wheel size: 27.5in or 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 15.54kg | Suspension travel: 150mm f/140mm r 27.5in, 140mm f/135mm r 29in | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Brilliant frame quality and handing
Reasons to avoid: Honestly can’t think of any!
There are four different models in the newly refreshed Vitus Mythique range for 2023, with prices starting at £1,599.99 (and topping out at £2,399.99) it just sneaks into this guide. All models use the same alloy frame with four-bar linkage suspension, but wear different components depending on the price point. Like Polygon, Vitus uses both 27.5in and 29in wheels for the Mythique range, but in this case all four frame sizes and three spec levels are available with either wheel, so you don’t have to compromise on your ultimate combo. Cheaper bikes get X-Fusion suspension and a 1×10 drivetrain, but there’s still grippy Maxxis tyres and an indispensable dropper post on the entry-level model. Further up the range you’ll find 1×12 drivetrains and better suspension, with Marzocchi forks and RockShox shocks, so you’ll find yourself going faster with greater control. New for 2023 is also a AMP model with a RockShox Pike Select fork and other choice upgrades.
Speed, smiles, and style; the new Vitus Mythique VRX has all in equal measure. It’s a trail bike that covers a huge remit without the hefty price tag to match. And while every price-point bike is a compromise, Vitus has emphasised the things that matter most to ride quality, without leaving any glaring holes in the specification. The fact that the frame looks every bit as polished as high-end bikes, just adds to the overall appeal. So whether you’re starting out in mountain biking or are a seasoned rider looking for a trail bike that offers unbeatable value, we simply can not recommend the Mythique highly enough.
The legendary Calibre Bossnut by a different name
Wheel size: 27.5in or 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 15.6kg | Suspension travel: 150mm f/140mm r 27.5in, 140mm f/135mm r 29in | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Progressive sizing and geometry, great value for money
Reasons to avoid: Needs a Shimano chain
Calibre Bikes, sold exclusively through outdoor giant, Go Outdoors, blew the entry-level full-suspension bike market to smithereens when it launched the original Bossnut back in 2016. And it continued to be the benchmark full-suspension bike until the pandemic hit. Supply issues have meant the Bossnut has disappeared from showroom floors recently, but while we wait for Calibre to launch a new range of bikes, there is another option. Calibre’s frames were made by Polygon, and the Indonesian manufacturer has adopted the geometry and suspension tuning that made the Bossnut head and shoulders above the competition, and applied it to the Siskiu. Also sold through Go Outdoors, the Siskiu is available with 29in or 27.5in wheels depending on the frame size, with the larger frames using 29in wheels and the smaller ones getting 27.5in hoops.
With the Siskiu T8 29, Polygon has proven that entry-level pricing does not have to equate to entry-level performance or a lacklustre frame finish. And thanks to the thoroughly modern geometry and sizing, the Siskiu T8 is a bike that can be ridden hard straight from the get go. Yes, there are some weaknesses in the build kit, but fitting a new chain and better tyres are easy and affordable fixes. As such, the Siskiu T8 can evolve with you as your riding progresses, without it ever making you feel like it’s the equipment that’s holding you back.
Polygon Siskiu D5
The remarkable Calibre Bossnut with a different head badge
Wheel size: 27.5in | Travel: 120mm | Frame sizes: S, M, L | Frame: 6061 T6 Aluminium | Weight: 15.43kg (34.02lb) | Rating: N/A
Reasons to buy: Same frame and five star handling as the old Calibre Bossnut. Even cheaper too.
Reasons to avoid: Some of the parts are not as good. Doesn’t get a single-ring 1x drivetrain.
Sky Ineos would be proud of Calibre’s ability to aggregate marginal gains. Continual updates to sizing, geometry, shock tune and specification helped make the Bossnut the benchmark entry-level suspension bike. While Calibre has struggled with supply issues over the last couple of years – and Bossnuts have been off the shopping list as a result – Polygon (who manufactured the bikes for Calibre) still sells the frame as the Siskiu model through retailers Blacks and Go Outdoors. If you want a quality full-suspension bike that’s fast, fun and ridiculously good value, the Polygon Siskiu is a serious contender.
Speed freak that also enjoys a party
Wheel size: 27.5in or 29in | Travel: 130mm | Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL | Frame: Aluminium | Weight: 14.63kg (32.25lb) | Rating: N/A
Reasons to buy: Hyper-fast. Friendly yet rewarding geometry. Excellent value.
Reasons to avoid: Seat tube could be a bit shorter. Saddle is a bit too racy.
There are four carbon models and four alloy to choose from, with prices starting from £1,849 for the Neuron 5 and going up to £5,749 for the Neuron CF LTD. There’s also a kids’ Young Hero model with an XS frame and 27.5in wheels for £1,499, and women’s versions of the Neuron 6, Neuron 7 and Neuron CF8 available at no extra cost.
As with the previous bike, all XS and S frames come with 27.5in wheels, while the M upwards come with 29in wheels. As with most Canyons, you’ll need to factor in a bike box at £18.99 and delivery at £37.99 to all of the headline prices. Whichever you choose, the latest Neuron is versatile, affordable and a total blast to ride, as happy hitting enduro tracks and sending jumps as racking up the miles on a multi-day ride.
High performance trail bike at an unbeatable price
Wheel size: 27.5in or 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 15.54kg | Suspension travel: 150mm f/140mm r 27.5in, 140mm f/135mm r 29in | Rating: N/A
Reasons to buy: Exploitable handling, whatever your level. A bike that can grow with your skills. Fun to ride. No gimmicks.
Reasons to avoid: Overweight. You’ll find better spec from a direct-sales brand. No dropper post.
Marin’s new Rift Zone captures the essence of agile handling and an engaging ride and slaps on a price tag that doesn’t just appeal to hedge fund managers. Consumers get to choose between three wheel sizes; 27.5in and 29in obviously, but there’s also a 26in JR model for the groms. Build kits start at £1,695 and go up to £2,995 for the XR model.
In a world of sagging scales, bottomless travel and stratospheric price tags, the Rift Zone is as refreshing as plunging your face into a glacier-fed stream. It reminds you that it’s fun, rather than frills, that’s important in a mountain bike. if you prefer to let your riding do the talking rather than strut about preening your feathers on something that cost the equivalent of a house deposit, then the Rift Zone won’t disappoint.
Wheel size: 29in | Travel: 140mm | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Frame: 6061 T6 Aluminium | Weight: 15.23kg (33.58lb) | Rating: N/A
Reasons to buy: Good fit and geometry
Reasons to avoid: Lacklustre rear suspension
When we last tested Boardman’s full-suspension platform, in MTR 8.8 guise, we had high hopes, but it didn’t quite deliver. The geometry and sizing were both on the money and it looks stunning, but the rear suspension on the MTR 8.8 felt stodgy and congested, robbing the bike of grip, pop and control. This MTR 8.8 is the new updated model, and it gains bigger wheels and a redesigned frame with more rear wheel travel and different geometry. Much more modern in sizing, components such as the bar and stem have been updated to allow riders to really exploit the more aggressive angles and generous fit. It also came up short on its claimed travel, 131mm instead of the advertised 140mm. If Boardman has woken up the shock tune to give the suspension more grip and the bike a more dynamic ride, then this could be a stone-cold trail bargain. There’s also the MTR 8.6, which saves you a few hundred quid, but lacks a dropper post and misses out on the RockShox suspension fork.
What to look for in a cheap full-suspension bike?
In our experience, it’s rare to find a good full-suspension bike for less than £1,000, but it is possible. So if you’re in the market for one, then try to budget accordingly. Look to direct-sales brands like Voodoo and Boardman (sold through Halfords), Vitus (sold through Chain Reaction Cycles/Wiggle), Polygon and Calibre (Go Outdoors) and B’Twin (sold through Decathlon) as they can cut margins and bring a decent bike in on budget.
What frame material should I chose? What about suspension travel?
The frame will almost certainly be made of aluminium and boast between 120mm and 140mm of travel. This is plenty for most trail mountain biking. Ideally you want air-sprung suspension, as this will let you set the bike up to your body weight without needing to buy new springs. All you need is a shock pump and some know-how. For suspension set-up advice check out this article.
There are many different suspension designs, but don’t get hung up on the system used as they all have their pros and cons and it’s just one factor of many that influence the ride and handling of a bike. Check out our detailed reviews for more insight and try and get a test ride if you can.
Which is the best wheel size?
In terms of wheel size, you may find either 27.5in or 29in, but it doesn’t matter too much which you choose. 29ers can roll a bit better, but 27.5in bikes can be more agile – although that’s only a rough rule of thumb. If you’re under 5ft 8in tall, you may feel more comfortable with smaller wheels, while taller riders may enjoy more confidence with larger wheels.
How do I choose the right size?
Frames come in multiple sizes and it’s crucial to pick the right one. You want decent length in the frame so you don’t feel cramped when seated, and have a stable bike when descending, but plenty of clearance over the top tube to inspire confidence in technical sections. For more advice, check out our guide to choosing the right frame size.
How many gears do I need?
For components, look for a single-ring drivetrain, with just one chainring up front and between 10 and 12 sprockets at the back. A wide range cassette (10-46t or 10-51t) will make it easier to spin up climbs and help you save energy. Hydraulic disc brakes are a must. These will be powerful and need less maintenance than cable-operated discs.
Anything else I need to look for?
Dropper posts let you get the saddle out of the way for descending without having to stop. Simply press the lever on the handlebars and use your body weight to push the post down. They are a genuine game changer, but don’t fret if your chosen bike doesn’t come with one. It’s easy to add one later for around £100 upwards.
Tyres are one of the most important components off-road as they make or break your grip in the dirt. But they are also relatively economical to upgrade, and they will wear out eventually anyway.