Rear suspension amplifies the fun off-road. Here's our pick of the best XC, trail, and enduro full-suspension mountain bikes.
Choosing the right full-suspension bike can be a complex and nerve-wracking process, with a mind-boggling array of options on the market. We have tested all of the following bikes. Tested them properly against their peers, backed up with years of experience reviewing thousands of mountain bikes since MBR was launched back in 1997. This isn’t some shortlist pulled together from browsing brochures and brand websites – these are the best mountain bikes, ridden and rated by some of the most experienced testers in the business, all with a shared passion for mountain biking and giving you the best buying advice possible.
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
Sold through Go Outdoors, the Polygon 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.
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. All use the same alloy frame with four-bar linkage suspension, but wear different components depending on the price point, and all four frame sizes and three spec levels are available with either 27.5in or 29in wheels, 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.
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. We simply can not recommend the Mythique highly enough.
Fluid suspension feel and agile handling
Wheel size: 27.5in or 29in | Frame sizes: S (27.5in only), M, L, XL | Weight: 15kg | Suspension travel: 160mm f/140mm r 27.5in, 150mm f/130mm r 29in | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Previous winner of our Trail Bike of the Year. Superb suspension and versatile handling.
Reasons to avoid: Seat tubes could be shorter for improved standover clearance.
With 140/130mm travel the 29er Reactor ticks the basic boxes of a great trail bike, but it’s so much more than that. Incredibly supple suspension allied to a frame shape that’s not too radically slack or low, so cuts across flat singletrack with scalpel-sharpness, yet still has the composure to feel at home on rougher enduro tracks. Also available with a carbon frame and 27.5in wheels, the Reactor range has something for everyone. Which is why it was our Trail Bike of the Year in 2020 and the more expensive Pro version secured a 9/10 rating in the latest 2022 TBoY test.
Affordable mixed wheel fun factory
Wheel size: 29in f/27.5in r | Frame sizes: S1, S2, S3, S4, S5 | Weight: 15.75kg | Suspension travel: 160mm f/160mm r | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Killer value for money. Inspiring handling.
Reasons to avoid: Sluggish NX shifting, lack of official product info is frustrating
If you’re starting to see a few grey hairs appear then you may well remember the iconic Specialized Big Hit. Although not the original mullet bike, it was perhaps the most successful mixed wheeler before the trend’s recent resurgence. Why was it such a big hit, if you’ll excuse the pun? Well, it wasn’t designed for long distances or going racing, it was built to put a smile on riders’ faces. And it succeeded in spades. The Status invokes the spirit of that classic Big Hit, with a mixed wheel set-up, an affordable price and the ability to generate fun at every turn. For 2022 there are two models on offer, one with 140mm travel and the original version with 160mm travel. Whichever one you pick, you’re in for a great time.
Blends big bike geometry with small bike travel
Wheel size: 29in | Frame: Turq carbon, 120mm | Weight: 13.3kg (29.3lb) | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: All round overachiever with superlative suspension
Reasons to avoid: Agile rather than ultra aggressive
Rather than push a specific agenda down your throat, Yeti sells the SB120 with the slogan “definition ready”. It’s a very apt undersell for a bike that’s quite happy to take a back seat in terms of obvious character traits while simultaneously being efficiently fast, comfortably forgiving, hyper grippy and effortlessly controlled. Playing with the compression settings proves it’s got the muscle and support to be rallied properly hard too, while a lighter wheelset unlocks its full speed and distance potential. So as long as you don’t insist on internal storage or geometry adjustment, Yeti ticks all of the boxes in terms of ride quality and all round versatility.
Blends big bike geometry with small bike travel
Wheel size: 29in | Frame: Carbon CC, 120mm | Weight: 13.08kg (28.84lb) | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Outstandingly fast and focused full-send aggression
Reasons to avoid: Needs a pretty skilled rider to avoid prat-falls. Uncomfortably uncooperative on technical off piste trails.
With the Tallboy, Santa Cruz has created a deliberately divisive bike. The bristling in your face aggression of the brutally stiff frame, ‘fast or F-off’ suspension and progressive geometry creates a whole new level of ‘short-travel bike syndrome’ that hard charging hooligans will love. But it’s not as soft and easy going as the Yeti SB120.
Hilarious speed freak
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 11.25kg | Suspension travel: 120mm f/120mm r | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Perfect speed/capability ratio.
Reasons to avoid: Business-like way it keeps wheels on the ground.
Did someone say down-country? The Spur is so on trend it hurts. Transition as a brand is typically a leader rather than a follower and this short travel, progressive geometry ripper is right at the forefront of modern mountain biking. The Spur is not designed for hitting chunky enduro tracks blind at warp speed; the Spur is all about maxing out the fun on trails that are more familiar and/or calmer. It’s not cheap, but that’s the price you pay for being on the cutting edge of speed and handling.
The ultimate trail bike!
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6 | Weight: 14.6kg | Suspension travel: 160mm f/150mm r | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: A truly versatile trail bike with addictive handling, adjustable geometry and internal frame storage
Reasons to avoid: Uses a smaller 30t chainring, so you can run out of gears on descents.
Our Trail Bike of the Year for 2022, the Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Comp effortlessly blends pleasure and performance and boasts the ultimate adjustability of any trail bike, with head angle, BB and chainstay adjustment. Select either an alloy or carbon frame, depending on your budget, and there’s a comprehensive range of sizes to choose from, all offering a super-low standover height. Part enduro shredder, part trail ripper, the Stumpjumper Evo makes every ride better and even boasts somewhere to store your snacks.
Trail bike perfection at a bargain price
Wheel size: 27.5in or 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 15.12kg | Suspension travel: 150mm f/140mm r | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Fast, quiet and killer value.
Reasons to avoid: Stiff dropper remote action. Missing an upper chain guide.
Modern geometry, impeccable handling and a min-blowing spec make this the ultimate direct-sales trail bike. It offers a smooth and silent ride that lets you focus on shredding as hard as you can. An efficient climber, it’s real forte is long, flowing descents, where it almost rides itself. Choose from 27.5in or 29in wheels and three levels of spec – all with carbon frames.
Explosive trail weapon
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, M/L, L, XL, XXL | Weight: 14.89kg | Suspension travel: 130mm f/120mm r | Rating: 9
Reasons to buy: Poppy, playful and efficient. Available in six frame sizes. Internal down tube storage. Mino Link flip chip allows geometry tweaks.
Reasons to avoid: Needs a 180mm rear rotor. Accurate rear shock set up is crucial. A solid build so not the lightest in its class.
At 14.89kg (32.83lb), the Trek Top Fuel 8 isn’t that much lighter than a 150mm bike. So if you want one bike to conquer all trails, it wouldn’t be our first choice. It’s still a great 29er trail bike though, and if bike park laps and enduro racing don’t fall under your trail bike remit, the Trek Top Fuel 8 offers a fast, fun and engaging ride. Its poppy playful nature, combined with generous sizing means you never feel limited by the travel for regular trail riding. Yet, it still feels more energetic and efficient under pedalling than than most 150mm bikes. It’s a heady combination that manages to keep both the tempo and fun factor high, without any apparent lows.
Next level performance with integrated data logging
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.65kg (30.09lb) | Suspension travel: 150mm f/130mm r | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Fast and capable, built-in suspension data acquisition, excellent on-trail performance.
Reasons to avoid: You need a 4G connection to keep the MIND engaged.
With Forward Geometry, Mondraker revolutionised how we think about mountain bike sizing. Ten years on and it’s revolutionising suspension set-up. With MIND, Mondraker’s built-in suspension data acquisition, suspension set-up and analysis has never been easier or more accurate. On its own, the Raze RR is a great package, with MIND it offers next level technology and performance for a small up-charge. More importantly, Mondraker has nailed the balance of speed, compliance and capability with the Raze RR to perfectly capture the essence of the short-travel trail category.
Vitus Rapide FS CRX
Bargain speed machine
Frame: UD Carbon | Weight: 11.34kg (25lb) | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Rapid up and down. Typical Vitus value.
Reasons to avoid: Only one bottle mount.
The Vitus Rapide is a pure XC race bike, just not in the traditional sense. Yes, it’s got 100mm travel and the full carbon frame weighs only 2,080g, but take a closer look at the rest of its vital stats and you’ll instantly see that the Rapide FS is heavily influenced by the progression of modern trail bike geometry. It’s competitively light given the price, and if Vitus was to release an AMP version, it would easily seek in under the 11kg threshold. It’s also a blisteringly fast bike and not just in a straight line. The modern geometry and generous sizing allow you to attack harder or recover more easily on the descents, but the Rapide still climbs and sprints with the best of them, thanks to its stable but supple suspension so going fast has never been as much fun.
Cheetah (or should that be cheater?) bike
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 10.4kg | Suspension travel: 100mm f/100mm r | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Punches well above its weight.
Reasons to avoid: Rear suspension is too active when pedaling
At 10.45kg in size large, the Blur delivers effortless speed. Whether you’re sharpening your elbows on the XC race scene, or wanting the ultimate gravel bike killer for smashing long distance epics, the Blur will get the scenery shifting at unbelievable velocity. Capable enough to hit jumps and rip turns, it also has the efficiency to maximise every joule of energy.
The original down-country bike is now a real head turner
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 11.12kg | Suspension travel: 120mm f/120mm r | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Ruthless in its efficiency. Hidden shock should need less maintenance.
Reasons to avoid: Suspension could be more supple in Descend mode.
Scott’s Spark has won more trophies than any other race bike, with double Olympic gold back in 2016. Redesigned recently with a sleek new frame and more modern geometry, the Scott Spark has lost none of its potency, but it has become even more versatile. It also gets a hidden shock for reduced maintenance, and remote suspension control for uphill efficiency without compromising on downhill confidence.
Trek Slash test winner
Actual one bike quiver
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, M/L, L, XL | Weight: 15.02kg (33.11lb) | Suspension travel: 170mm f/160mm r | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Fast, fun and efficient. Tight, reactive ride. Progressive geometry. Versatile, composed. A do-it-all bike
Reasons to avoid: XL would benefit from a steeper seat angle
For an enduro bike with progressive geometry, the Trek Slash 9.8 XT is incredibly versatile. Get on the gas and it responds with a sense of urgency that’s usually reserved for shorter travel bikes. Land deep of a drop, or jump, however, and the rear suspension graces you with a featherlight landing. Cool and composed in every situation the Trek Slash is not the outright plushest bike we’ve ever tested, but the suspension response is always proportional and measured, so you never feel under or over-biked. It’s what makes the Slash the ideal choice for anyone looking for that one do-it-all ride.
Devours the roughest tracks yet climbs with poise and efficiency
Wheel size: 27.5, 29in or mullet | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL | Weight: 15.4kg | Suspension travel: 180mm f/170mm r | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: All of the travel, none of the drawback.
Reasons to avoid: Michelin tyres are temperature sensitive.
The Giga is testament to the adage that you can have your pudding and eat it. You can all of the all-ness all of the time. Loads of travel. Slack AF head angle. The biggest of wheel sizes. And the most remarkable thing? It rides just like a normal mountain bike when the gradient tips up. The Giga really is a race-worthy enduro bike that doesn’t feel like a chore to pedal around on your Sunday Social rides. Poppy and playful, the Giga is no passive plough.
Race-ready 29er enduro bike that blows the doors off everything else at this price point
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 15.75kg | Suspension travel: 170mm f/160mm r | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Neutral handling, killer build.
Reasons to avoid: No low-speed adjuster on rear shock.
In the same vein as the Trek Slash or Yeti SB150, the Vitus Sommet CRS is a 29er enduro bike that is designed for big days in the saddle, not just sitting on your ass on a ski lift. And by simply swapping the sticky Maxxis MaxxGrip front tyre for a faster rolling MaxxTerra, it can easily serve double duty as a fast, efficient big-hitting trail bike. The fact that the complete bike costs less than the most boutique enduro frames and weighs under 16kg, goes to show that you don’t need to sell your car to have a really nice bike.
Looks like a beast but rides like a gentle giant
Wheel size: Mullet | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 16.25kg | Suspension travel: 170mm f/170mm r | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Fast and effective in every situation.
Reasons to avoid: Not the lightest.
Based in Halifax, and with over 25 years of manufacturing knowhow, it is arguably the quintessential British bike brand. The Orange Switch 7 is its latest model, a 170mm mixed-wheelsize enduro bike that justifies being rated as one of the best enduro bikes out there. The weight distribution on this MX bike is perfectly balanced, so you always feel composed and ready to attack the trail. It’s fast everywhere too, so for a bike with such extreme numbers it’s way more versatile than you ever could have imagined.
British engineering brilliance
Wheel size: 29in or mullet | Frame sizes: H1, H2, H3, H4 | Weight: 15.28kg | Suspension travel: 170mm f/160mm r | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Fast, smooth ride. Beautiful frame quality.
Reasons to avoid: Limited seat stay clearance at bottom out.
The HB916 is Hope’s third full suspension bike, it’s a bike designed for enduro racing, and it’s one of the best enduro bikes we’ve tested. The Lancashire brand hasn’t used the idler suspension design to create a mini-DH bike. Instead the HB916 benefits from the improved rollover of the more rearward axle path while still retaining the ability to sprint and climb with the best of them. As such, Hope has produced an enduro race bike with quality ride characteristics at a price that’s equally competitive.
Hardtail or full-suspension?
It’s easy to assume that everyone would be riding full suspension bikes instead of hardtails if there was no price difference. This isn’t really true. Hardtails do have some advantages over full-suspension bikes regardless of price tag.
Hardtails are lighter. Hardtails have less to go wrong or require servicing. Hardtails are easier to clean. Hardtails can be faster and more fun on smoother trails. Adding to this the fact that hardtails are cheaper than their full-sus counterparts means that hardtails aren’t going to be extinct anytime soon.
What are the benefits of going full-suspension? First and foremost, control. Full suspension bikes track the ground better and as such offer greater traction. Full-suspension bikes are more composed and not as sketchy to ride as hardtails. The fatigue and comfort benefits are also important, particularly over longer distances. Being less beaten up and less tired on longer rides is an added bonus of bounce.
What are the drawbacks of full-suspension? They’re heavier than hardtails. They usually have a lower component spec (compared to hardtail of the same price). They have bearings and pivots that will eventually wear out and cost money to replace/service. They can be mud traps. They can be difficult to clean properly. And if you don’t understand the basics of how to setup suspension, then a full-suspension bike can ride really badly, inefficiently and sketchily.
Carbon or aluminium?
At the mid to high end level there’s something of a crossover point where you can sometimes choose between a carbon framed bike (with lower end parts) or an aluminium framed bike (with better bits) at around the same price point. We’d always recommend going for the better specced aluminium model.
Is carbon worth the extra money? For most riders, no it isn’t. Just how much extra does it cost anyway? To go carbon will cost you approximately an extra £1,000 (for the similarly equipped bike).
What does this £1,000 get you? A lighter frame for sure. But not that much lighter, maybe 700g or so at the absolute most. The more convincing argument for going carbon is not weight, it’s ride feel. Carbon bikes ride differently to aluminium bikes. Stiffer. Sometimes with a damped (dead) sort of feeling. And these days carbon bikes are often stronger than their aluminium counterparts.
The carbon feel and strength is what it’s all about. This is not to say that this racy, rally-car ‘carbon feel’ is going to suit everyone. Some riders prefer the feel of aluminium bikes over carbon.
Which wheel size is best?
This old chestnut. Again, we’re going to be mildly controversial and say that the difference between 27.5in bikes and 29er bikes isn’t as pronounced as it was back in the mid ’00s.
Nowadays you can get 29ers with decent amount of suspension travel (up to 170mm – more for DH) and with decent geometry, so the wheel size debate has fizzled out. Some brands even offer two versions of each model, one with 27.5in wheels and one with 29in wheels, so you can just choose the option that suits you.
29ers are more stable and have better grip. But they have unavoidably higher front ends and the rear tyre can hit your bum on steep stuff if you’re under 6ft tall. The higher wheel axles can make the bike feel taller in tight switchbacks and thus require more leaning over. 27.5in bikes can be stiffer, can have lower front ends and the rear tyre won’t boot you up the behind on steep drops and chutes. The lower wheel axles require less body English in tight hairpins so the bikes can feel more nimble for a given rider input.
If you’re 6ft tall or over, you’re probably going to better served by a 29er. If you’re under 5ft 6in then a 29er is likely going to feel too big. Which is where the mullet bike, or MX, fits in. These models use a 29in wheel up front (for maximum stability, speed and rollover) paired with a 27.5in wheel at the back (to improve agility and bum clearance). They’re a great option for riders who want a fun, playful bike or have shorter legs.
Which suspension design is best?
A bonus debate for you. Sorry! Although there’s less hype and grand claims made about different suspension frame designs these days (compared to the slanging matches and OTT marketing of yore, anyway) there is still a valid interest in how the designs differ from each other. The mountain biking market is now mature and experienced enough to admit that there is no single Best Suspension Design. The four-bar (or Horst Link) used to be the Holy Grail. Single pivots used to get ragged on for being crude. Neither of these stances are correct.
To be frank, pretty much all suspension designs are good. But they are not all the same. They do differ in how they feel and respond (to both the trail and to the rider onboard). Some are fussy in how precisely they’re set up, some are more forgiving. Some also require more maintenance than others. The rear shock – and how you can tune it – is arguably more important than frame suspension design these days. It is now possible to do an awful to with a rear shock to alleviate any frame design niggles you may encounter. Bike too bob-prone, or wallowy, or harsh bottom out? Chances are something can be done with the rear shock to address this.
Basically, bike companies have got most of the kooky, bad designs out of their system now. The differences between them are now extremely subtle. Learning about suspension theory and setup is more important.
By gum it’s good to be back! We’ve waited long months and hunted down the best trail bikes to finally put together another annual edition of the UK’s ultimate trail bike test.
Geometry, geometry, geometry
The angles and lengths of the frame tubes governs almost everything in how a bike will ride. The best suspension in the world counts for nought if the geometry is poor. Similarly, a bike with great geometry can often overcome any suspension shortcomings and ride just fine.
What’s the best geometry for a mountain bike? This is a tricky area and one which is still full of old myths and prejudices. But here’s our take on it…
Long reach (the distance between saddle and handlebars, in layman’s terms) is good. Steep seat angles are good. Slack head angles are good. And we’re not talking just ‘good for descending’. This geometry is good everywhere. Slack head angles don’t cause front end wandering on climbs (that’s caused by slack seat angles and/or short top tubes).
Low bottom bracket heights are generally good (for stability and for cornering), but riders who pedal in rutted/tufty/stumpy terrain, or like to be challenged by rocky, trials-style terrain, may get bored with frequent pedal strikes and so prefer a higher bottom bracket height and accept the compromise in handling.
Chainstay length is another area full of cliché. Short chainstays are seen as highly desirable. Long chainstays are seen as bad. Why is short good? We’re not sure it is particularly. It makes bikes easier to manual but that’s about it. They can be problematic on climbs if the seat tube is too slack, making it difficult to keep the front wheel weighted. Long chainstays offer greater stability and climbing prowess, but there is a trade-off in agility.
Another aspect these days is the return of standover as being high on the important list. The advent of dropper posts with 150mm+ of travel has meant that bike designers are factoring shorter seat tube lengths in their bikes now so that they can fit in long drop dropper posts. Truth be told though, you still can’t judge how a bike will ride by looking at its geometry chart. Geometry is a combination of multiple factors that all interact with each other. One isolated measurement doesn’t govern everything.
How much should you spend?
If you have less than £1,000 to spend then we still think a hardtail is the way to go. Sub-£1k full-sussers are going to be overly hefty and sport low-end kit that will impair your ride experience.
These days you can get capable and fun full-suspension bikes for between £1,000 and £2,000. They aren’t especially light but they aren’t restrictively heavy either. And the parts package on a good £1k susser will feature perfectly good stuff from recognised brands. Sure there’ll be some cost-cutting here and there, and some no-name finishing kit, but it won’t overly affect the bike’s ride.
What size bike should you get?
A lot of people are riding around the wrong size bike.
The first myth to bust is that smaller bikes are more nimble/playful/manoeuvrable. Nope. Smaller bikes are less stable, more sketchy and uncomfortable. Don’t buy a bike that’s too small thinking it’ll be alright. Don’t get suckered into buying the wrong size bike because it’s at a bargain price. A cheap bike that’s big enough for you and has good geometry will be infinitely better than a half-price bling bike that’s too small for you.
The best way to do it is consult a size calculator (most bike brands have them), confer with other owners, and (if you’re in the 5ft 10in – 5ft 11in height range) check out our reviews. We always add the rider height and size tested information in the specification table and we will usually comment on the sizing within with review. You should also check out our guide to choosing your mountain bike frame size. Remember that there is a degree of adjustability when it comes to fit with any frame size – you can slide saddles fore and aft on the rails, you can run longer or shorter stems, high-rise or low-rise bars – but you can never change the length of the seat tube.