Where full-sussers get serious and technical choices proliferate
Here are the best mountain bikes under £1,500. For trail bikes, £1,500 marks the point where full-sussers get serious and technical choices proliferate.
With direct sales brands making everyone tighten their margins, there’s never been a better time to choose from the best mountain bikes under £1,500.
No longer is it enough for bricks and mortar stores to rely on service alone. Price-savvy shoppers want value for money too. For £1,500 it might be worth visiting a high street near you to buy a bike you can touch, sit on, eyeball for size, squidge the suspension and even ride straight out of the door, all on the very same day.
Given that full-suspension bikes start at around £1,000, but can go all the way up to £10,000 for Gucci custom-builds, it’s fair to say that the full suspension bikes in this test still represent entry-level models.
The benefits of spending a little more than the bare minimum, however, are many. Not only do you get properly damped shocks and forks, £1,500 bikes are considerably lighter too.
Adding rear suspension obviously provides a massive leap in terms of comfort, but it also brings the security and confidence to take on bigger terrain and ride harder, more technical, trails. Yes, some purists will argue that it’s cheating, but for most of us mountain biking is a hobby to be enjoyed, not a test of your mettle, so who cares?
The added complexity of a full-suspension bike is a genuine concern though, where the learning curve with suspension set-up can be dauntingly steep. Which is why these bikes all need to be ‘plug and play’. In line with this idea of instilling confidence and making the ride easier and more fun, one of the key aspects we’ll be looking for is ease of set-up and rideability straight out of the box.
We’ve stated it often enough, but it’s worth mentioning again: we’re indifferent to wheel size and enjoy them all. That’s because a great bike is simply a great bike, regardless of the dimensions printed on the sidewall of the tyres.
It will be interesting to see how the amount of travel and choice of wheel size plays out, but given that some bikes tested blur the line between trail riding and more traditional XC, we’ll be looking to find a bike that’s fast, fun and capable on everyday singletrack.
The best mountain bikes under £1,500: hardtails
Here are our favourite hardtails for under £1,500…
mbr review: “Would I buy this bike? Yes. Why? As a winter thrasher or a trail centre slaying alternative to my regular bike, for sure. There’s nothing that comes close, especially at this price. As a one bike for everything, I think its singularity and rallycar-firm ride might outstay its welcome after a time. Ragleys are for ragging, not sightseeing.”
Marin San Quentin 2
mbr review: “The slack 63.5° head angle gives you the confidence to blast down every descent, while the genuinely steep seat angle means spinning your way back to the top for another run couldn’t be easier. The Marin is a really fun bike. It’s more engaging than most when the trails get steep and technical, and it feels right at home blasting jumps and railing berms. With its 2.35in tyres it’s also less likely to come unstuck when the weather finally takes a turns for the worse.”
Norco Fluid 1 HT
mbr review: “The uprated version of one of our Hardtail of the Year bikes.You even get a dropper seat post, and the same WTB Ranger tyres found on the Sonder Transmitter, so it’s ready to shred straight out of the box. OK, so the spindly 32mm RockShox Recon fork is no match for 35mm Revelation, but it’s still sensitive and composed even on the roughest trails and it certainly won’t hold you back.”
Trek Roscoe 8
mbr review: “If you only looked at the geometry of the Trek Roscoe 8 is would be easy to write it off as being too steep and too short. Ride it however, and it’s clear that this bike is a total ripper; the 2.8in Plus size tyres providing comfort and control that no amount of complex tubing manipulation could ever match. That’s not to say the Trek wouldn’t be even better with a 130mm travel fork and extra length in the frame, so much as we love the addition of the SRAM Eagle drivetrain, it’s not quite enough to elevate the Roscoe’s status.”
The best mountain bikes under £1,500: full suspension
And here are our favourite full suspension mountain bikes for under £1,500…
Calibre Triple B
mbr: “With great geometry and a jaw-dropping specification the ride quality of the Triple B belies its price tag. In fact, it’s so good, the performance is comparable to bikes costing almost double the money. Sure it’s going to be a little bit heavier than those £2k bikes, but given that the half a kilo is the only real compromise it’s one that we’re more than happy to accept. Especially given how much heavier your wallet will feel if you get the Triple B.”
Jamis Dakar A2
mbr review: “The Jamis Dakar A2 frame has everything in place to be the ultimate £1,000 full suspension bike. It has great sizing and geometry, and it looks standout, but it’s not there yet. It needs a stiffer fork even if that means forgoing the 142x12mm rear end to get a bolt-thru up front. It would also benefit from a softer tune on the Monarch shock to give the rear suspension a lighter initial touch, boosting traction and comfort. For now though, we’d settle for better tyres than the Vittoria Gomas.”
mbr review: “With progressive geometry and sizing the Voodoo Canzo is right up there with the Calibre and Jamis. The sturdy fork gives you all the confidence you need to hit rougher sections of trail flat out, while the relaxed steering geometry and stubby stem stop it being a white-knuckle ride. Sadly the rear suspension can’t quite keep pace with the fork, the combination of the Suntour shock and suspension linkage being too progressive to tackle the biggest hits.”
Marin Hawk Hill
mbr review: “With the saddle slammed forward on the head of the seat post, and the brake levers positioned for maximum stopping power the Hawk Hill offers a very commanding riding position. On loamy, fresh cut trails the stiff frame and great geometry allow you to slam turns and ride much more aggressively than on the Norco. The frame is solid, the sizing is on point and the specification is competitive.”
The best mountain bikes under £1,500: verdict
The best hardtail mountain bike under £1,500: Ragley Mmmbop.
The best full suspension mountain bike under £1,500: Calibre Triple B.
Without a crystal ball, it’s impossible to guess what every rider looks for when buying a new bike. With so many different styles of riding and types of terrain, there’s simply no telling what they’ll use them for either. But that doesn’t stop the speculation.
One of our testers has a theory that these £1,500 short-travel rigs are perfect for the ‘7-11 gang’ — people with busy lives who only get to ride between these hours on a Sunday morning or weekday evening.
It’s a scenario that will ring true for many, and requires us getting our singletrack fix with minimal fuss
A key takeaway message from this test is that components are always just the icing on the cake of any bike. And while we all want to get the best possible value for our hard-earned, no one remembers whether they had more gears or an XT rear mech when reminiscing about their favourite rides. If, however, the suspension, geometry or balance of a bike is bugging you, the experience is never going to be great.