We've tried and tested a whole load of mountain bikes for women, and unisex bikes, to find the best options for a range of riding styles and budgets. Plus, what to look for, and we answer the question 'do women need a women's mountain bike?'

Looking for the best women’s mountain bike? Whether it’s a women’s full suspension mountain bike you need, or you prefer a beginner-friendly and low maintenance hardtail MTB, we’ve tried and tested what’s available on the market to bring you the pick of the bunch. 

If you prefer unisex mountain bikes, check out our overall guide to the best mountain bikes. We can also help you find the best hardtail mountain bikes, or the best enduro mountain bikes if you prefer something burlier.

Juliana Maverick CC XO1

Best women’s full suspension mountain bike

Photo of the red women's Juliana Maverick mountain bike

The Maverick is a capable, confident and incredibly fun bike to ride

  • Price: £7299
  • Sizes: Small, medium, large
  • Suspension travel: 150mm front, 140mm rear
  • Wheelsize: 29er
  • Pros: Very capable, confident descender, playful agile ride
  • Cons: Expensive
  • Women’s specific: Yes

If you’re looking for a truly superb mid-travel trail or all-mountain bike, you really can’t go wrong with the Juliana Maverick. In fact, its sibling the Santa Cruz Hightower, which shares frame geometry and design with the Maverick, won the MBR Editors Choice Award and scored a rare and coveted perfect 10. 

The Juliana Maverick a bike that feels planted when you start taking it on rougher terrain. In fact, it loves rough, steep stuff. It manages to smooth it out without taking the fun out of it, and remains playful and agile, confident and capable. It’s the kind of bike that makes you feel like going for it on those features you’ve been nervous about before. 

It climbs remarkably well for a mid-travel trail bike, thanks to a nice modern steep seat angle that makes each pedal stroke that much more efficient and comfortable. That said, it does start to feel draggy if you’re on undulating terrain. 

It’s perfect for riders who want versatility towards the trail and all-mountain end of the spectrum; it’s at home at bike parks, big mountain adventures, or your local technical runs. 

Built around a premium carbon CC frame, this version boasts Fox 36 Float Factory forks, RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock, SRAM X01 Eagle 12spd groupset, SRAM Code RSC brakes, Industry Nine/RaceFace wheels and a RockShox Reverb dropper seat post. 

Reviewed by Aoife Glass.

Note: The model pictured above is the 2020 model, which has a different frame colour, plus the testers own wheels, though it was tested with Santa Cruz Reserve carbon wheels. It is the current model. 

Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Expert

Best full-suspension mountain bike for adjustability

Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Expert

Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Expert

  • Price: £5800
  • Sizes: S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6
  • Suspension travel: 160mm front, 150mm rear
  • Wheelsize: 29er
  • Pros: Next-level adjustability, capable beyond it’s travel
  • Cons: Suspension rattle
  • Women’s specific: Unisex

Winner of the 2022 MBR trail bike of the year, the Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Expert sits at the cutting edge of trail bike development.

The Stumpjumper is a unisex bike; Specialized’s approach to bike design is based on thousands of data points collected from men and women, that takes into account their body dimensions via the Retul bike fit system it owns, as well as their riding preferences, and uses these to create bikes that work for everyone.

It also has it’s own sizing system, which is partially based on height but also riding preference; want something more nimble? Go for a lower number. Prefer larger and more stable? Go up. That said, the advised height range only goes down to 4’11”, which rules out shorter riders.

There is a hell of a lot of adjustability built in to this bike, which is perfect if you like to tweak things to get the perfect ride feel. In fact, it’s as close to a custom frame as you’ll get from a mainstream manufacturer. The frame offers a resilient ride, so the bike feels more capable than its 150mm travel suggests. However freehub engagement is a little bit sluggish, and there’s a rattle emanating from the rear suspension. Otherwise, top marks all round for the Stumpjumper Evo Expert.

Read the full review of the Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Expert

Juliana Wilder C S TR

Best for trail riders and marathon race fans

Photo of the purple Juliana Wilder women's trail mountain bike

The Juliana Wilder TR is light, capable and fun to ride

  • Price: £5,399
  • Sizes: Small, medium, large
  • Suspension travel: 120mm front, 110mm rear
  • Wheelsize: 29er
  • Pros: Lightweight, efficient, confident handling
  • Cons: No XS option for smaller riders, expensive, some suspension bob
  • Women’s specific: Yes

The Wilder is 29er short travel trail bike, and the Juliana counterpart to the Santa Cruz Blur, a bike which scored an impressive 8/10 when it was tested and reviewed by MBR’s resident bike expert Alan Muldoon. 

This Wilder build is still pricey for its parts – it’s an investment, whatever way you look at it – but like the Blur it punches well above its (impressively low) weight. 

This is the TR or trail version of the bike; there’s an XC version for the race whippets out there, but for more leisurely rider who likes to explore, cover distance, climb and descend for hours at a time, this is a great choice. 

The combination of low build weight and the SRAM GX Eagle gearing with its large 10-50t cassette makes short work of climbs, through there is some bob in the suspension which makes it less efficient than it could be. All is forgiven on undulating terrain and descents though, as the Wilder offers a fun, poppy, smooth ride that allows you to work with the terrain, gripping well in corners and offering confidence-inspiring control. 

Built around a carbon C frame, the slightly less premium carbon that Santa Cruz offer, which comes at a slight, but only very slight, weight penalty, it’s built up with SRAM Level TL brakes, Fox 34 Step Cast Performance 120mm forks, Fox Float Performance DPS shock, RockShox Reverb seatpost and DT Swiss 370/RaceFace AR wheels. 

Reviewed by Aoife Glass.

Note: some elements of the bike pictured above have been customised such as the saddle, grips and spacers which are not standard on retail models.

Liv Intrigue X E+ 1

Best women’s electric mountain bike

The Liv Intrigue E+ is our pick for the best women’s eMTB

  • Price: £5,799
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L (L not available in the UK)
  • Suspension travel: 150mm front, 140mm rear
  • Wheelsize: 29er (27.5″ on XS)
  • Pros: Size range caters to smaller riders, good value, powerful motor
  • Cons: Charging port tricky to open
  • Women’s specific: Yes

Scoring a perfect 10 out of 10, the Liv Intrigue X E+ 1 is a women’s specific eMTB with 150mm front travel, 140mm rear suspension travel and a whole lot of attitude.

First things first – if you’re a smaller rider, you’re well catered-to here. Liv has ensured the XS size rides like all the other sizes, which means it comes with size-specific components like shorter cranks, and also with smaller 27.5″ wheels so handling will be nimbler.

The geometry is also women’s specific – Liv  only build bikes for women – which in this case means a shorter reach. Again, great for shorter riders, but those on the upper end of sizes or taller riders may need to size up, if there’s a larger size available.

The Liv not only fitted me better, it handled better too thanks to its superior suspension. In the slacker geometry setting, it feels incredibly composed when straight- lining rough tracks, but it’s still agile when you want to nip in and out of tight singletrack turns.

Reviewed by Alice Burwell.

Read the full Liv Intrigue X E+ 1 women’s electric mountain bike review 

How to find the best women’s mountain bike for you

How we tested

Each of the bikes above have been tested by one of our resident MBR bike testers or a trusted contributor. The bikes are ridden extensively on terrain that the bike has been designed for, and are judged against others in their category. So for example, cross-country bikes will have been ridden on cross-country trails, and considered against other cross-country bikes. The best in each category is listed here. 

What’s the difference between a men’s and women’s mountain bike? 

First things first; most mountain bikes these days are unisex, and designed using information and data from both men and women. Some brands also produce women’s mountain bikes, but the approach to designing bikes for women has evolved a LOT.

In the old days, women’s mountain bikes had features like sloping top tubes, and were also often smaller and bedecked in ‘feminine’ colours and decorations. Happily, things have progressed since then. 

Currently, brands making women’s bikes take one of two approaches. 

The first is to base the bike around a unisex frame, then add a suspension tune designed to suit the lighter on average weight of women, and add women’s specific contact points – this usually means a saddle designed for female anatomy, with a central pressure relief channel. Brands like Juliana, sister company to Santa Cruz, do this; each of its models is based around the same frame as its Santa Cruz counterpart. 

The second approach is to design the entire bike using only body morphology and fit data from women, which leads to a bike with distinct frame geometry to its unisex counterpart in the same functional niche. These will also have women’s specific contact points and suspension tune. Liv is a good example of this; it has a team of women engineers and designers, and athletes that provide feedback in bike development. 

Women’s bikes also tend to have smaller size options available to suit shorter riders.

The goal of women’s specific bike design is to get the bike as close to what the average rider would find comfortable without them having to do extra work or spend extra money. So for example they might have a shorter reach to the brake levers to suit smaller hands on shorter riders. 

Do women have to ride a women’s mountain bike? 

A big no to this one! Women can and should ride any bike they feel comfortable on, and that offers them the performance and fit that suits the type of riding they want to do. 

What size women’s bike do I need?

Mountain bikes are usually sized in terms of extra small to extra large. Women’s mountain bikes typically have an extra small to medium or sometimes large size range. 

Some brands, like Specialized, offer their own sizing system. This will be partially based on height, and partially based on riding terrain and type preference. 

To find what size bike you need, have a look at the retailer and/or manufacturers website. They’ll provide a rough estimate of what size to go for based on your height. If you’re on the cusp of two sizes, it can be helpful to take each for a test ride to see which feels more comfortable. 

You might also want to size up or down depending on the type of riding you do. Larger bikes with a longer wheelbase are more stable on technical descents. Shorter bikes are more nimble, especially on climbs, and are great at whipping along tight twisty trails. If you can take any bikes your interested in for a test ride on your preferred terrain, you’ll get the best idea of what you need.

Can a woman ride a man’s mountain bike? 

Or to rephrase the question, can a woman ride a unisex bike? Yes, there’s no reason that women can’t ride unisex bikes. Although some feel that a women’s specific frame suits them better, others get on much better with unisex frames. 

However, one sticking point might be the contact points; the saddle and brake reach on a unisex bike will generally be set up for a man, so women may prefer to switch out the saddle and adjust elements like the reach on the brakes. These are easy changes to make, but may involve additional cost – for example, purchasing a new saddle. 

Can a man ride a women’s bike?

Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. They might find the saddle and contact points uncomfortable, but these can be changed. The suspension tune might be too ‘light’ for them, meaning that it doesn’t provide the performance and support required for their weight, but again this is something that can be changed.