The best bikes from £500 up to £5,000
Here’s a round-up of what we think are the very best bikes of 2016. Hardtails, full suspension, 27.5in wheels, 29in wheels, direct sales, bike shop classics – they’re all here.
The ways in which they are all jaw dropping do vary. Some a jaw droppingly good fun, some are jaw droppingly pretty, some are jaw droppingly mould breaking.
But the common theme here is one of bikes that are jaw droppingly good value.
No matter what your budget is, if you have more than a few hundred quid to spend on a mountain bike – get one of these bikes and you’ll have a blast.
Up to £500: Vitus Nucleus 275 VR
One of our Hardtails of The Year. Vitus brings a lot of firsts to the £500 category. The Nucleus 275 VR is the first bike with a lightweight air-sprung fork and adjustable rebound damping. It’s also the first to come with front and rear specific tyres.
Given the dialled geometry and superb component package it’s hardly surprising that it’s also the first £500 bike we’ve tested that didn’t feel compromised in any shape or form. Yep, the cables rub the fork, and that grates, literally, but this is easily fixed with a zip-tie so we’ll forgive Vitus for such a minor oversight on what is a truly groundbreaking bike.
Up to £750: Voodoo Bizango 29
Another winning Hardtail Of The Year. In the £750 category there are better made frames than the Bizango, better components, lighter wheels and suspension forks with better damping, but the Bizango is our test winner because it has the best frame shape and feels like a proper trail bike.
Even the 725mm handlebar on the Bizango is fairly narrow, but the 60mm stem is the shortest here, so you’re never fighting for control when you’re trying to pick your way down a technical trail. Despite the name, there’s no black magic going on here; VooDoo has just got the basics right and it really shows in how the bike feels. Killer value with a great ride quality, this bike easily deserves top marks.
Up to £1,000: Calibre Bossnut
Bike tech, geometry and sizing are always evolving, but with cutting edge geometry and a build kit that rivals similarly priced hardtails, the Calibre Bossnut is still well ahead of the development curve. For a penny shy of a grand, the price tag is certainly entry-level for a 130mm-travel bike; the ride quality however, is anything but.
From local lunchtime loops, to bike park blasting, the Bossnut proved time and time again that it’s a trail bike without compromise. It’s not just about going fast, however, it’s also guaranteed to put a massive smile on your face every time you take it for a blast.
Up to £1,500: Whyte 901
Every once in a while, a bike comes along that defines a category. The Whyte 901 is one such bike; it’s the best trail hardtail bar none. What makes it so good? In a nutshell it’s the geometry.
With it’s long, low-slung top tube, the reach feels perfect with the short 50mm stem that comes fitted as standard. The slack steering angle complements the short stem, and combined with the low BB height, the 901 feels sure-footed and confident in every situation. It’s basically got the same angles and attitude as the best 140mm suspension bikes at sag, which means it can be ridden every bit as hard.
Up to £2,000: Cannondale Habit 4
Okay, it’s £99 over budget. Sorry! It’s worth it though. As a trail bike, Cannondale’s new Habit 4 perfectly straddles the divide between XC speed and all-day capability. It’s got everything you need from a sorted 120mm bike; it carves singletrack beautifully and even the most experienced riders will find it solid enough to hammer on.
The icing on the cake is the superb Lefty 2.0 fork. Not only does it bring precision and control that the others here can’t match, the damping is superior too. In fact, the only criticism we can levy at the Habit 4 is that the drivetrain quality has taken a hit to make way for the superior fork. As compromises go, however, it’s a good one.
Up to £2,500: YT Industries Capra AI Comp 1
Once again, YT has proved that you don’t need to drop the best part of £4k to get a race-ready enduro bike. In fact, with the Capra AL Comp 1 you’ll have plenty of change left over for race entries and travel expenses.
Be warned though, this bike has a lot of firepower, so if you’re not hunting down abandoned DH tracks or tearing up every descent, you’d probably be better off on the more efficient Canyon Strive. With that caveat out of the way, we can’t recommend the Capra AL Comp 1 highly enough. What a bike!
Over £3,000: Whyte T-130C RS
This here T-130… you can’t actually buy it. Not for love nor money. The model has sold out, on the strength of excellent reviews, drop dead gorgeous looks and of course excellent ride characteristics.
So by now you’re probably asking yourself, am I wasting my time reading this and are these five minutes of my life I’ll never get back? Categorically, no. Next year’s T-130C RS is already up and listed on the Whyte website, with the same identical frame as last year, albeit disguised under a stealthy black paintjob, and bristling with all the latest spec. The best bike Whyte has ever made.