Do you have more than £1,000 to spend? Want to know what is the best mountain bike under £2,000? Answer: decent parts, good geometry, rewarding handling.

Two grand used to be the sweet spot for mountain bikes. It was such a hotly contested price point for brands that they would climb over each other to go one better than their rivals on spec, or £1 cheaper on price. It was a lion’s den of competition. But in the last few years, COVID and inflation have pushed a lot of brands out of this space, and competition has dwindled. Having said that, there are still plenty of the best mountain bikes on the market available for less than £2k – particularly as oversupply to the market has forced brands and retailers to discount excess stock. So without further ado, here’s our run-down.

Best mountain bike under $2,800/£2,000: hardtails

We’ve picked our favourites, some of which are £2,000/$2800 on the nose and the rest will leave you with enough change for a helmet, knee pads or even a dropper seat post.

Nukeproof Scout 290 Elite

BMX styling gives a clue to the Scout’s playful character

1. Nukeproof Scout 290 Elite

Best for playful handling

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: M, L, XL, XXL | Weight: 14.03kg | Suspension travel: 140mm front | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Stellar specification
  • Compliant ride
  • Size-specific geometry

Reasons to avoid:

  • Fork lacks support
  • Would benefit from a fatter rear tyre

The Nukeproof Scout started life as a burly, dirt jump bike. But over the years Nukeproof has broadened the Scout’s horizons, and it has matured into a capable trail bike. But don’t worry; it’s still a child at heart, with a playful character that guarantees big grins. Updated in 2022, the new Scout is bang up-to-date with improved sizing, increased standover clearance, and mod-cons such as a UDH mech hanger and tool strap mount.

With the Scout you can choose your wheel size; there are specific frames designed for 29in or 27.5in wheels. Most models come with a 140mm fork, but we think the RS model with a 150mm fork is a good choice as the front end is quite low as standard. Adding the longer fork and running it firmer raises the front end a touch and keeps the handling more consistent. Whichever wheel size and fork travel you choose, the Nukeproof Scout is a blast on the descents, and surprisingly efficient on the climbs.

Read our full review of the Nukeproof Scout 290 Elite

Whyte 909 X Enduro hardtail mountain bike

Whyte 909 X Enduro hardtail has stacks of comfort and control thanks to those fat 2.8in tyres

2. Whyte 909 X

Best for comfort and control

Wheel size: 27.5in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.61kg | Suspension travel: 130mm front | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Superb ride quality
  • Dialled geometry
  • Neat details

Reasons to avoid:

  • It’s expensive for a hardtail

Whyte pretty much defined the modern trail hardtail, and has managed to stay ahead of the baying pack ever since. Sure, brands such as Nukeproof are catching up, but the Whyte 909 X proves this British marque still has an edge. Why? Well, the small wheels with big volume Maxxis tyres fitted to the 909 X take the edge off rough trails, allowing you to go faster for longer. You get more grip, more control, and less fatigue.

And it’s not just the wheels. The geometry on the Whyte is dialled, and the frame boasts a number of clever features to improve practicality and comfort.  Up front is an excellent RockShox Pike Ultimate fork. Capped at 130mm travel, this means the geometry remains stable when descending steep tracks and braking into corners, so the bike is more predictable. The main drawback is the high price, which reflects the top spec, but the smart money is on the cheaper 905 model, which gets all the key features and less glamorous components.

Read our full review of the Whyte 909X

Giant XTC

Giant’s XTC SLR 29 1 is dressed to impress

3. Giant XTC SLR 29 1

Perfect for XC racing or long-haul marathon munching

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 12.29kg | Suspension travel: 100mm | Rating: 10/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Giant Crest forks adds accuracy

Reasons to avoid:

  • Needs lock-on grips
  • Tall top tube height

Giant claims the XTC Aluxx SLR aluminium frame is the lightest it has ever made. That’s impressive since the Taiwanese brand has been at the forefront of aluminium frame manufacturing for decades. And its claim is reflected in the 12.29kg weight of our test bike, which is impressive given it was a size XL and the complete bike costs less than £2k.

The class of the frame was immediately noticeable on the trails. It gives a smooth ride, feels rapid and efficient on the climbs, and delivers laser-accurate steering on tight singletrack thanks to the excellent Giant Crest suspension fork. Whether you’re looking to rack up the miles off-road, or hit the start line at a local XC race, the Giant XTC will make an excellent companion.

Read our full test review of the Giant XTC SLR 29 1

Merida Big Trail 600

Merida Big Trail 600 is available in a comprehensive five frame sizes

4. Merida Big Trail 600

The widest size range and impeccable handling

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL | Weight: 13.86kg | Suspension travel: 140mm f | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Lighter than most rivals

Reasons to avoid:

  • Not the most alluring brand

When Merida looked to improve its hardtail range, it turned to the UK, mining its dealers for feedback and advice. The result is the excellent Merida Big Trail, a hardtail that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Whyte and Nukeproof when it comes to value and performance. Starting with the frame, the Big Trail gets shorter seat tubes and sloping top tubes for maximum standover clearance, while the five frame sizes means you’re covered whatever your height. The rest of the geometry is also dialled, and all models (except the Big Trail 200) come with dropper posts as standard.

All bikes use 29in wheels and 140mm travel forks, and along with the modern sizing and geometry, this means that the Big Trail loves to be flicked between turns and thrown around in the air over jumps. It also rolls fast and covers ground with minimal effort, climbing with an eagerness that makes you feel 10 years younger.

Read out full review of the Merida Big Trail 600

Specialized Fuse Comp 29

Specialized’s Fuse Comp 29 is a sleek hardtail, but the geometry is not quite as cutting-edge as the frame design

5. Specialized Fuse 29

High tech hardtail masterwork

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.12kg | Suspension travel: 130mm f | Rating: 8/10

Reasons to buy:

  • High-tech frame design

Reasons to avoid:

  • Front end is too low

The Fuse 29 is a fast, fun and efficient alloy hardtail, but best of all it doesn’t shake the life out of you on rougher trails. But rather than simply making up the numbers in the trail hardtail category, Specialized could tweak them and lead the way. With a slacker head angle, lower BB height and extra length in the front end, the Fuse would have the attitude to match the ride quality of its superbly engineered frame.

Read our full test review of the Specialized Fuse 29 Expert

Canyon Stoic 2

Canyon Stoic 2 is a superb starter bike – the only thing missing is a dropper post

6. Canyon Stoic

Impressively balanced handling

Wheel size: 27.5in & 29in | Frame sizes: XXS, XS, S (27.5in), M, L, XL (29in) | Weight: 13.98kg | Suspension travel: 140mm travel f | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Superb balanced handling
  • Great geometry and comprehensive size range
  • Excellent tyres and brakes

Reasons to avoid:

  • BB could be lower

We’ve been asking for a trail hardtail from Canyon for years, and had almost given up hope of ever seeing one when the Stoic arrived. Yes, the geometry on the Stoic isn’t as progressive or as hardcore as some, but the bike is all the more versatile for it. The alloy frame makes it light, agile and ultra-fast to accelerate, while the competitive build kit leaves nothing wanting. And with the split wheel size range, both frame and wheels step up in proportion. Would it be even better in a mullet configuration with a 2.6in rear tyre? Probably, but even without it’s still a great trail hardtail that can also hang with the hardcore crew.

Read our full test review of the Canyon Stoic 2

Polygon Siskiu T8

Polygon Siskiu T8 was flying high in our budget full-suspension test

Best mountain bike under $/£2,000: full-suspension

Now it’s the time of the full-sus shortlist. Any of these five best mountain bike under £2,000 full-sussers will be a blast to ride if your terrain or riding style is better suited to full sussers.

Polygon Siskiu T8

Polygon Siskiu T8 builds on the game-changing Calibre Bossnut

1. Polygon Siskiu T8

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. 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.

Polygon might not be a household name among mountain bikers, but the performance it has packed into the Siskiu T8 means it deserves recognition far and wide. Factor in the price, and it has done a much better job at making an affordable full-suspension bike than most big name brands. It’s not quite as polished as the Vitus Mythique, but it’s still a standout bike that will nurture your riding skills, whatever your level.

Read the full review of the Polygon Siskiu T8

Cannondale Habit 4

The Cannondale Habit 4 puts a smile on your face, as well as your bank manager’s

2. Cannondale Habit

Best for bike parks and playing about on jumps

Wheel size: 27.5in (XS) and 29in | Frame sizes: XS (27.5in), S, M, L, XL | Weight: 15.2kg | Suspension travel: 140mm f/130mm r | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Agile and easy to ride, the Habit 4 handles like a much more expensive machine
  • Shock tune feels perfect
  • Fun and flicky ride that keeps rider weight well-balanced on all trail gradients
  • SRAM DB8 brakes feel solid and have a smooth action for a budget brake

Reasons to avoid:

  • RockShox’s Recon RL fork lacks finesse and precise tuning
  • Deore drivetrain shifts can be slightly clunky, especially with the KMC chain
  • Maxxis Rekon tyres use harder compound with less wet weather grip

The new Cannondale Habit offers both carbon and aluminium frames, a broad range of sizes, and even a longer travel option if you’re heading into bigger terrain. But perhaps its key selling point is a focus on creating the same ride and handling across the whole size range, so a 5ft 5in rider should enjoy the same experience as someone who’s 6ft 3in.

When we tested it, we were impressed that it comes standard with a dropper post, so you can get the saddle out of the way easily on descents, and the brakes were smooth and powerful, with a light action. Cannondale has also nailed the rear suspension performance, helping to boost confidence however chunky the terrain. Ultimately we loved how it rode, with really active suspension and dynamic handling. To sum up, we said: “As a pure trail bike, it nails the fundamentals of geometry, suspension and efficiency and has an engaging, responsive ride quality that feels anything but budget”.

Read the full review of the Cannondale Habit 4

Marin Rift Zone 1 29 2023

Marin Rift Zone 1 is the entry-level bike in the range, but shares the same frame as the more expensive bikes.

3. Marin Rift Zone

Fun ride and a name steeped in history

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. As we said in our first ride: “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”.

Read the full review of the Marin Rift Zone XR (2023)

Canyon Neuron 6

The Canyon Neuron 6 really impressed us with its versatility and turn of speed

4. Canyon Neuron

Best for pure speed

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

The Neuron is Canyon’s back-to-basics trail bike, newly updated for 2023, There are four carbon and four alloy models 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 Medium 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. The alloy frame has a comfortable, compliant ride that’s never jarring, and the choice of fast-rolling Schwalbe tyres means it rolls along almost effortlessly.

Read our full test review of the Canyon Neuron 6

Budget full-suspension bikes test

The speed of trickle down has exceeded the pace of inflation when it comes to the best budget full-suspension bikes

Should I buy a full-suspension bike or a hardtail mountain bikes for under £2,000?

That’s a difficult question to answer definitively at this price point as it depends on your priorities. Full-suspension makes the most sense for most riders as it gives greater comfort and control and allows you to ride further and faster with less energy on proper mountain bike trails. But extra complication and more parts mean the bikes are more expensive than an equivalent hardtail, so you will either pay more or get a full-sus bike with a more basic specification. The rise of direct sales brands and own brand marques from the bigger retailers mean you can have your cake and eat it to a degree, but you will still have to accept some compromises. However, the full-sus bikes we’ve recommended here are excellent starter models and can easily be upgraded over time with better parts, so it still makes financial sense. The bottom line remains; you can’t add rear suspension to a hardtail, but you add better parts to a full-suspension bike.

If you want to check out what you can get in the front-suspended world, there’s our comprehensive guide to the best hardtail mountain bikes.

How much suspension travel do I need?

The term ‘trail bike’ is as generic as mountain biking itself. It is synonymous with singletrack shredding, but with as many styles of bike as there are varieties of terrain; it’s easy to see how you could drown in a sea of choice. And that’s without even considering all of the different wheel sizes on offer.

Budget full-suspension bikes test

The best budget full-suspension bikes don’t require you to corners on performance

One category that has always hit the trail bike sweet-spot, at least in terms of suspension, are 120-150mm travel full-suspension bikes. Broadly defined as trail bikes, at one end 120mm models will be better at covering ground – mile munching, if you will – with tight, efficient response to pedalling inputs and sharper handling that requires a light touch from the rider. Obviously they won’t isolate you as well from bigger bumps and rougher tracks, so are less at home in enduro-rated terrain.

As you move up towards 150mm of travel, the trail bike becomes almost a mini-enduro bike, with slacker angles that work better at higher speeds, suspension that is able to absorb bigger hits and heavy landings. The frames will be heavier and stronger, but also more tiring to accelerate and decelerate and a touch less agile. Think carefully about where you ride and your fitness and skill levels. Look at what other riders are using. Then decide what the minimum you can get away with is.

What components should I look out for under £2,000?

Make sure the bike has a dropper seatpost, as this will really help your descending by letting you get the saddle out of the way and your body weight lower. The suspension fork and rear shock should have adjustable rebound damping and the option to add or subtract volume spacers to tune how progressive the suspension feels. Look for easily serviceable parts, such as threaded bottom brackets and bearing kits for all the suspension pivots.

In terms of drivetrain, SRAM NX or SX or Shimano Deore are preferable. Make sure the bike has a single-ring drivetrain – one chainring at the front and 11 or 12 sprockets at the back. This gives a wide range for climbing and descending, it saves weight, simplifies shifting and helps stop the chain from falling off on rough descents. Make sure the wheels are tubeless compatible, so you can ditch the inner tubes and add some sealant instead. This also saves weight and reduces the chance of punctures from things such as thorns.