Pound-for-pound performers that are hard to beat.
These are the best mountain bikes under £2,000, boasting top-quality frames, these bikes deliver performance surprisingly hard to beat.
Are you wanting to wash away those post-summer blues by treating yourself to a new bike? Well, if so you’re looking at the right price point because we’ve got a theory at mbr that the sub £2,000 full-suspension category is where it’s at these days.
The reason is simple: the frames on mountain bikes under £2,000 are often identical to the more expensive flagship models. Frame geometry and suspension play the biggest part in differentiating machines, so if these are dialed then everything else should fall into place.
Spend more and you’ll gain benefits in weight but you’re unlikely to find huge leaps in overall performance.
Mountain bikes under £2,000: Full-suspension or hardtail?
Almost certainly most folk will at least be eyeing up full suspension at this price level (£1,200 to £1,999), as well they might. The rise in particular of direct sales brands and own-brand marques from the bigger retailers mean you can have your cake and eat it ie. you can have full-suspension for £2k and not suffer too many compromises.
If you want to check out what you can get in the front-suspended world, go check out our famous Hardtail of the Year test as well as the bikes here in this round-up.
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 140-150mm travel full-suspension bikes. With a broad spectrum of freshly designed or updated models to choose from, the good news for riders is that performance is better than ever.
You can expect well-damped shocks and suspension forks that can easily be adjusted to different rider weights and riding styles. It’s also the price at which components become light enough that they can be used to make longer-travel bikes viable as all-day companions.
The best mountain bikes under £2,000
We’ve picked our favourites, some of which are £2,000 on the nose and the rest will leave you with enough change for a helmet, knee pads or even a dropper seat post. As you can see, we’ve listed hardtails and full-suspension bikes, just so you can compare notes.
In creating the Beastnut, Calibre has proved once again that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a truly standout trail bike. With great geometry and a jaw-dropping specification the ride quality of the Beastnut 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 Beastnut.
Marin Hawk Hill
Suspension performance shouldn’t be considered secondary to geometry. Not only does it iron out the bumps, it’s what allows a rider to effortlessly pop over a root or spring out a corner. So in many ways it defines how a bike rides. And, it’s the X-Fusion rear shock that robs the Marin of sensitivity and gives it a somewhat lacklustre ride. With a RockShox Monarch R the Hawk Hill could easily have given the Beastnut a run for its money, as everything else about the bike is pretty much spot on.
Norco Optic A9.1
Norco has the sizing of the Optic dialled in, the weight distribution sorted and the specification is on point, but something is missing and the Optic A9.1 feels like it’s not firing on all cylinders. A lighter shock tune and better tyres are probably all that’s needed to resuscitate the Norco’s from its slumber and with the recent price drop, these changes wouldn’t leave you out of pocket. It is a bit of a gamble though, as they may not be the kiss of life that we anticipated, and why take the risk when the Trek Fuel EX is such a safe bet?
It is not a calm ride and it’s not a cross-country bike. So don’t buy this bike if you want to go touring or crossing Ordnance Survey maps in your full-length bibtights. But you know what? It IS a kind a trail bike. It destroys trail centres faster than anything else. And if your natural trails offer either high velocity or high gradient, you’re in for a treat.
Nukeproof Scout 275 Comp
After taking it on the chin for two years straight, the 2018 Nukeproof Scout has come out swinging. The completely revised frame design and fatter 2.6in Maxxis tyres totally transforming the bike. Gone is the eyeball-rattling ride of old, replaced instead by a smooth, reactive, playfully bike that still punches hard out of every turn. And with a full Shimano SLX groupset in its corner, the Scout easily stood toe to toe with the Whyte 905. And much as we were rooting for the underdog, Whyte’s polished performance left nothing to chance.
Orange Crush S
There’s no denying that the Orange Crush is still a great hardcore hardtail. With regular size tyres its alloy frame has a relatively forgiving ride, and combined with good sizing it’s easy to see why it won this test back in 2016. So if you have a shed full of quality 2.3in rubber it could be the perfect partner. If you’re starting afresh however, the advantages of higher-volume 2.6in and 2.8in tyres are simply too great to ignore. It’s not that the Orange Crush has taken a step backward, in fact it better value than every before, it’s just that fatter tyres have moved everything forward.
Whyte has never been afraid to follow the path less travelled. And while it’s not the first brand to go down the Plus size hardtail route, it’s one of the only bands to implement the more extreme geometry that make hardcore hardtails so much fun to ride. The combination of the chunky 2.8in Maxxis tyres, custom offset RockShox Revelation fork and dialled geometry made the new 905 an instant hit. Whyte claims that this is the best 905 it’s ever built and we wholeheartedly agree. It also the best hardtail we’ve ridden period and easily deserving of a perfect 10 rating.
Norco Fluid 1 HT
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 the 35mm Revelation, but it’s still sensitive and composed even on the roughest trails and it certainly won’t hold you back.
Great sub-£2k bikes from previous years
You might still be able to find these. Failing that, you can be fairly certain the updated 2018 model will be very, very similar. Eiother way, well worth sticking these on your short list too…
Ragley Blue Pig
One of the most progressively geometry bikes available – in either hardtail or full-suspension. The Blue Pig is unique in its uncompromising fun-first, gravity-fed aspirations. Not the comfiest of rides but this is a bike is like a rally car mixed with a wrecking ball.
Vitus Escarpe 29 VR
A great example of what you can get from an own-brand marque (Vitus are exclusive to Chain Reaction Cycles). But a well-specced bike is nothing if the geometry and handling are below par. Thankfully this is very far form the case with the Escarpe 29 VR. Reliable spec combined with capable and ripe-for-upgrading fundamental shape.
Giant Trance 3 2017
And here’s something not from a small brand or a brand you can only buy online or from a specific retailer. You can get Giants in loads of places. And for a big (huge) bike brand Giant are cracking out some amazing bikes these days. Sure you’ll need to get the bar and stem swapped at time of purchase but that’s not a big problem. A fabulous modern trail bike.
- Read the full review of the Giant Trance 3 2017
- Buy Now: Giant Trance 3 2017 at Cycle Store from £1,823.99
Trek Fuel EX 5 27.5 Plus 2017
One of the few Plus tyre full-suspension bikes available for less than £2,000. Thankfully, it’s also fundamentally one of the best. Increased travel over previous versions and a revised geometry brings it bang up to date. A high quality frame that makes for a prime base for upgrading over the months and years to come.
- Read the full review of the Trek Fuel EX 5 27.5 Plus 2017
- Buy Now: Trek Fuel EX 5 27.5 Plus at Evans Cycles from £1,850.00
Marin Mount Vision 5 2017
Marin have hit it out of the park with the new Mount Vision. There is nary a weak link on it. No dodgy narrow handlebar or massive stem. No out of date geometry or lackadaisical suspension design. They’ve got everything right on this bike and have made some really wise component choices that mean this bikes is set to shred for a good couple of seasons with no major changes.
- Read the full review Marin Mount Vision 2017
- Buy Now: Marin Mount Vision 2017 at Rutland Cycling from £1,199.99
Cannondale Habit 5 2017
Cannondale have come on leaps and bounds and their 2017 bikes are utterly contemporary and modern when it comes to sizing and rider fit. The Habit is no cramped and stuttering affair. It may only sport a modest 120mm of travel but its geometry ensures a lively but confident ride that is further bolstered by its efficient suspension.
- Read the full review of the Cannondale Habit 5 2017
- Buy Now: Cannondale Habit 5 2017 at Evans Cycles from £1,999.99
Transition TransAM 29
Made from good ol’ 4130 cromoly steel the Transition TransAm 29 is never going to win over any weight weenies. But that stout frame results in a bomber ride that offers a sure-footed feel on even the rowdiest of trails. Relatively slack and long, it’s one of the few 29er hardtails that can be hurled around like a modern trail bike should be.
Conclusion on shopping for a mountain bike under £2,000
We’re more than happy to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. The real question is: should YOU have to? We don’t think so, which is why a lot of the bikes that scored low could be improved with a bit of tinkering, especially where suspension is concerned.
Bikes that are easy to set up are easy to ride and even easier to love.
Let’s not pretend that looks aren’t important. Sure, a cool looking bike that rides like a dog is a no-no but if you’re drawn to the styling of one particular bike even if it scores the same as – or even a point lower than – another bike, we reckon you should go for the bike you actually want to ride.
Try not to be overly put off by the weight of a bike if it appears to be a pound or two heavier than a rival. Chances are the weight won’t translate to much on the trail and all it may take is a couple of choice component changes further down the line (in a year or so basically) to hack some weight off it.
Sure, you can study the geometry charts and go through the specs with a fine-tooth comb, but even experienced testers can’t predict how a bike is going to ride.
A trained eye can possibly spot a dud a mile off, but you can never tell how a bike will perform until you actually ride it. Yes it’s our job, but it’s also big part of why we all ride.