We bring you the rundown of the very best mountain bikes under £3,000/$4,000. Trail bikes with 27.5in, 29in and MX-style mixed wheel sizes.
The absolute best mountain bikes for under £3,000/$4,000 are serious bits of kit. It’s at this level that you start to see carbon frames enter the fray, and sophisticated suspension with adjustable compression damping. There will be wheel size options, including 29in and 27.5in front and rear as well as mixed wheel ‘mullet’ bikes. Choose from direct-sales models for the best value, or shop sold brands for the personal service and expertise of a good bike shop. Options at this price point include XC or down-country bikes that are lightweight and fast-rolling, heavy-hitting enduro bikes for racking up bike park laps and the multi-talented all-rounder that is a trail bike. At this price point we’d recommend most riders should look at full-suspension options, but if you don’t need rear suspension then look at our buyer’s guide to the best hardtail mountain bikes.
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
Pros: Previous winner of our Trail Bike of the Year. Superb suspension and versatile handling. Cons: Seat tubes could be shorter for improved standover clearance.
After a good few years (decades?) of arguing amongst ourselves, the MTB world has pretty much settled on what constitutes a modern trail bike: a mid-travel 29er. With 140/130mm travel the 29er Reactor ticks the basic boxes, 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
Pros: Killer value for money. Inspiring handling. Cons: 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.
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
Pros: Ruthless in its efficiency. Hidden shock should need less maintenance. Cons: 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.
Explosive trail weapon
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.46kg | Suspension travel: 120mm f/120mm r | Rating: N/A
Pros: Sublime suspension, playful handling, fantastic size range, internal storage. Cons: Not particularly light for the intended use, inconsistent Shimano brakes on our test bike.
Not as sharp or ruthlessly efficient as a YT Izzo, softer and more approachable than a Transition Spur, this new Trek Top Fuel brings high-octane entertainment and understated performance to the type of trails most widely ridden in the UK. Even if the looks might not leave a lasting impression, it’s unforgettable to ride.
Sweet suspension without the sour price
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 16.4kg | Suspension travel: 150mm f/150mm r | Rating: 8/10
Pros: Supple suspension. Good shape. Safe handling. Good value. Cons: Heavy. Internal cable routing through the stem is a pain. Suspension lacks support.
Props to Focus for doing something different with the Jam. Despite the suspension not feeling particularly balanced, the bike does have a neutral riding position and a long reach, so we felt pretty confident hammering the rough chop. It’s not as manoeuvrable as the Nukeproof Reactor, but it does feel reasonably agile changing lines through twisty singletrack. Gravity is your real friend though. At least on the way down.
Should I buy a full-suspension bike or a hardtail for under £3,000?
Weight conscious cross-country riders are arguably still better served with a hardtail, but everyone else is probably better off on full-suspension as it brings much more comfort and control, especially on rough terrain. Modern full-suspension bikes pedal very efficiently now, so you won’t waste much energy through the suspension ‘bobbing’ either.
Should I get a carbon or alloy frame for under £3,000?
Carbon enters the arena here, mainly with direct-sales brands, but choice is still limited and we wouldn’t say that carbon is a deal breaker. In fact we’d usually recommend sticking with an alloy frame, as the weight disadvantage is often only around 500g, but it will mean you can enjoy much better components, such as better damping in the fork and shock, and lighter wheels, which can make more of a difference to the way the bike rides than a lighter frame. Either way, most platforms use the same frame on all models, so the top bike will have an identical frame as the cheapest model. The advantage with this system from a consumer’s perspective, is that you know the heart of the bike is the same quality, whatever the price, and that any upgrades will be worthwhile investments.
What components should I look out for under £3,000?
Make sure the bike has a dropper seatpost, as this will really help your descending. The suspension fork and rear shock should have compression damping adjustment as well as rebound adjustment. Look for easily serviceable parts, such as threaded bottom brackets and bearing kits for all the suspension pivots. In terms of drivetrain, SRAM GX or Shimano XT (or better) are preferable, but SLX and NX Eagle may well be used in places. Try to avoid SRAM’s NX Eagle cassette (designated PG-1230) as it is very heavy and uses a different freehub body that isn’t compatible with the lighter cassettes used further up the range.