We have seven of the best cheap full suspension bikes that are evenly matched and that won’t break the bank. But which one delivers the best bang for your buck?
The sole purpose of the best cheap full suspension bikes is to provide the highest-performance bikes 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 Calibre and Jamis, or by shipping direct to your door, as Vitus does. But it is no coincidence that there aren’t any proper full-suspension mountain bikes under £1k.
It’s not by chance either, that most of the best cheap full suspension bikes come with 27.5in wheels. Not only are they lighter and stronger; because the fork can be shorter for a given amount of travel, they are also stiffer, so handling can be improved without having to fit a more expensive suspension fork. It’s primarily why we chose the 27.5in version the Vitus Mythique, even though there’s also a 29in option for the exact same money.
Best cheap full suspension bikes in 2021
Here are what we rate as the current best cheap mountain bikes.
- Calibre Bossnut, £1,100
- Vitus Mythique 27 VR, £1,249
- Jamis Dakar A2, £1,100
- Boardman MTR 8.8, £1,200
- Merida One-Twenty 400, £1,500
- Giant Stance 2, £1,399
- Marin Rift Zone, £1,350
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Price: £1,100 | Travel: 130mm | Frame: 6061 T6 Aluminium | Weight: 15.43kg (34.02lb)
Pro: Still the best budget-baller
Con: The price has gone up by £100
Sky Ineos would be proud of Calibre’s ability to aggregate marginal gains. So even though subtle changes to the sizing, geometry, shock tune and specification aren’t anything like as obvious as the band new look, taken together they all add up to appreciable benefits. And given how good the previous Bossnut was, we were shocked by how far Calibre has moved things forward again. If you want a quality full suspension bike that’s fast, fun and ridiculously good value, the Calibre Bossnut should be your first choice. It’s certainly ours.
Vitus Mythique 27 VR
Price: £1,249 | Travel: 130mm | Frame: 6061 T6 Aluminium | Weight: 14.24kg (31.39lb)
Pros: Cutting-edge sizing and geometry
Cons: Needs a better shock tune and a dropper post
Vitus has done an amazing job on the Mythique 27 VR frame. Not only does it look the business, the sizing and geometry wouldn’t look out of place on a bike costing three times the price. That goes for the top-end Schwalbe tyres too. Obviously the 10-speed drivetrain raises a red flag, but in practice the weight saving and durability help offset the slight reduction in gear range. And while Vitus should be commended for thinking outside the box when it comes to suspension components, the X-Fusion rear shock doesn’t deliver the same ride quality from the 130mm suspension as the RockShox equipped Mythique VRX or Calibre Bossut.
Jamis Dakar A2
Price: £1,250 | Travel: 120mm |Frame: 6061 T6 Aluminium | Weight: 14.52kg (32.01lb)
Pros: Great geometry, sizing and finish
Cons: Needs better suspension and tyres
With the latest Dakar A2, it’s as if Jamis has taken one step forward and two steps back. Sure the 15mm dropouts on the Suntour XCR fork boost stiffness, but the fork’s distinct lack of small bump sensitivity compared to the RockShox unit it replaces makes for an altogether more jarring ride. Taken with the 10 per cent price hike, with no real movement on easy fixes like better tyres and a softer shock tune, two changes that would instantly unlock the frame’s underlying potential, it’s easy to see why the Dakar A2 slips back in the overall ratings.
Boardman MTR 8.8
Price: £1,250 | Travel: 140mm | Frame: 6061 T6 Aluminium | Weight: 15.23kg (33.58lb)
Pros: Good fit and geometry
Cons: Lacklustre rear suspension
We had high hopes for the latest Boardman full suspension bike, but it didn’t quite deliver. The geometry and sizing are both on the money and it looks stunning, but a rear suspension on the MTR 8.8 felt stodgy and congested, robbing the bike of grip, pop and control. It also came up short on its claimed travel, 131mm instead of the advertised 140mm. With a different shock tune and better tyres we’re confident that the Boardman would have shown the hardtails who’s boss. It really was a missed opportunity though, and because Boardman runs a two-year product cycle it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Merida One-Twenty 400
Price: £1,500 | Travel: 120mm | Frame: Lite Aluminium | Weight: 14.94kg (32.94lb)
Pros: Solid and fast
Cons: Needs a dropper post and better tyres
We were seriously impressed by the overall pace of the entry-level Merida One-Twenty 400, and with a couple of simple changes to the specification is could be a total trail blazer. The rapid initial gains would come from a smaller 30t chaining to keep your legs spinning on the ups, and better tyres to keep the One-Twenty on the fasted lines going downhill. Given the restricted range of saddle height adjustment it also needs a dropper post, which ups the initial layout further, leaving us no choice but to mark the Merida down a point in the ratings on value alone.
Giant Stance 2
Price: £1,449 | Travel: 120mm | Frame: Alluxx Aluminium | Weight: 13.73kg (30.27lb)
Pros: Fun, fast and efficient
Cons: Chain rattle is deafening
When we tested the Stance 2 back in 2016 we said that all it needed was a burlier fork, shorter stem and a much, much wider bar; and Giant could definitely be back in the mix. Well, Giant has certainly delivered. In fact, it has over delivered. With the wide 2.35in Maxxis tyres, QR Boost rear end and revised geometry the latest Stance is a completely different proposition. Yes, it’s still light and efficient, so it covers ground effortlessly, but the new version will have you smashing every turn, boosting jumps and buzzing with adrenalin, rather than simply beating your riding buddies up the climbs.
Marin Rift Zone 1
Price: £1,445 | Travel: 125mm | Frame: Series 3 Aluminium | Weight: 14.74kg (32lb)
Pros: Great riding position and handling
Cons: Needs a shock to match its attitude
Being the cheapest bike in this test the Marin Rift Zone 1 was always going to be the underdog, but at every step of way it proved its worth. At the weigh-in it turned out to be one of the lightest entry level full suspension bikes we’ve tested. And even though it does have one of the longest reach measurement, thanks to the low BB height and balance geometry it offered by far the best fit, making it agile, fast and very capable. There’s nothing quirky about the Marin that you need to ride around, it’s just a solid, well-designed bike with great handling.
Best cheap mountain bikes’ stablemates:
Calibre Triple B
Price: £1,499 | Travel: 130mm | Frame: T6 6061 Aluminium | Weight: 14.5kg
With the Calibre Triple B, Calibre has taken the Bossnut platform and spiced it up by sprinkling in some key upgrades. The extra £400 gets you a 125mm KS Rage-i stealth dropper post, 10mm more travel from the RockShox Sektor fork, more powerful SRAM Guide RE brakes, and the higher volume 2.4in WTB Trail Boss rear tyre. All in, it’s a killer package.
Price: £2,000 | Travel: 150mm | Frame: 6061 Aluminium | Weight: 16.19kg (35.7lb)
If you want more suspension muscle than the test winning Bossnut, then the 150mm travel Calibre Sentry with 29in wheels and cutting-edge geometry is guaranteed to take your riding to the next level. Worried about keeping this monster truck under control? Don’t be, powerful SRAM Guide four-piston brakes and thicker casing tyres will help keep your speed in check.