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. 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.
Capable all-rounder that’s sure to make you smile
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 specify geometry
Reasons to avoid: Fork lacks support
The Nukeproof Scout started life as a burly, dirt jump/4-cross bike. But over the years the Scout has broadened its horizons, maturing into a capable trail bike, without ever losing sight of its more playful past. And with the latest round of frame revisions in 2022, the Scout is more capable than ever before. It’s also bang up-to-date.
With the latest round of revisions, the Nukeproof Scout 290 Elite is a seriously accomplished trail bike. And even though it was the cheapest bike in our group test by quite some margin, it still managed to hold its own on the descents while nudging ahead on the climbs. So in that respect it makes for a seriously good allrounder, especially if you’re looking to cover some serious ground with minimum effort.
A UK designed hardtail with a sublime ride quality and dialled handling
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
Who said Plus size tyres were dead? Clearly Whyte doesn’t think so and after testing the 909 X we wholeheartedly agree that they still have a seat at the wheel size table. Combine the high quality frame with the high volume 2.8in Plus size Maxxis tyres, and the Whyte 909 X offers unparalleled levels of comfort, grip and control. Now, we’re not talking full suspension levels here, as it’s only the difference between a 2.4in tyre and a 2.8in, but it is a noticeable improvement and it’s really appreciable in rougher trails.
And taken with the dialled geometry and finely tuned flex in Whyte’s alloy frame, the 909 X is the closest thing here to riding a soft-tail.
Perfect for XC racing or long-haul marathon munching
Frame: ALUXX SLR aluminium | Weight: 12.29kg (27.09lb) | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Giant Crest forks adds accuracy
Reasons to avoid: Needs lock-on grips. Tall top tube height
First impressions are important, and after the very first ride we knew the Giant XTC SLR would be earning a place on our list of the best hardtails. Just like the Scott Scale, there’s a feeling of racing pedigree that’s trickled down from the pro-level models.
Add Giant’s excellent Crest fork for laser sharp steering accuracy, a purposeful wheelset and some fast rolling tubeless rubber and you have a recipe for a startlingly fast yet forgiving aluminium XC hardtail. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than rivals, but it’s also the most focused. So as an XC race bike or long-haul marathon mile muncher, Giant’s latest XTC is a winner.
Fun, fast trail bike with excellent sizing
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: Poor wet weather brake performance.
Merida’s Big Trail 600 boasts an engaging ride quality and feature-packed frame that instantly impressed us – making it a very compelling choice whatever your skill level. With its low weight and sweet handling the Big Trail 600 ripped, especially in drier conditions. It’s also worth taking an in-depth look at the geometry chart. So if you’re 6ft or taller we’d recommend taking advantage of the short seat tubes by going up a frame size (yes, they make a XXL…) and with it the added stability of a longer reach and front centre.
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. Maybe Specialized needs to roll out a Fuse Evo, just like it did with the Stumpy.
Impressively balanced handling
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.98kg | Suspension travel: 140mm travel f | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Superb balanced handling.
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. Would it be even better in a mullet configuration with a 2.6in rear tyre? Probably, but it’s still a great trail hardtail that can also hang with the hardcore crew.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.