Choosing the right bike for you can be a daunting task, but choosing the best bike is not going to be easy. There are hundreds of different mountain bikes available on the market, all with different price tags (and some looking pretty different too) and all with different features and capabilities. So, how can you choose the best mountain bike? It’s all down to your own preferences and what you’re looking for.

Have you ever wondered how to choose the right mountain bike for you?

Choosing a mountain bike is not as simple as it sounds. There are so many models to choose from that it can seem like a daunting task. When you start looking at hardtails, trail bikes, and full suspension bikes, it can be difficult to pick out the right one for you.. Read more about best mountain bikes 2021 and let us know what you think.

This buyer’s guide will walk you through the process of selecting the finest mountain bike for you. This article covers everything from how much you should spend on a mountain bike to which mountain bike is ideal for you.

We’ll also direct you to our rankings of the best bargains at each price range, as well as the most essential spec elements to look for on a mountain bike.

The best mountain bikes in terms of price

The finest mountain bikes of 2021, according to our comprehensive purchasing guide

Choosing the finest mountain bike may seem to be a difficult task. The sheer number of different bike models, not to mention the confusing array of technology and language that surrounds them, may be daunting.

When it comes to buying a new bike, though, most people’s money is the most important consideration, particularly when they’re just starting out.

The amount you’re prepared to pay has a significant impact on what’s available, and it’s easy to be turned off by the exorbitant price tags on many mountain bikes while shopping in a store or online.

However, just because you have the financial means to do so does not imply you should. Although competent motorcycles are available at nearly any price range, there are certain fundamental characteristics that you should anticipate at various price points.

Cheapest mountain bikes

Male cyclist riding silvery blue full suspension mountain bike through woods

When you go out on the trail with the Nucleus, it simply feels natural. Burton, Russell

A well-built, off-road competent bike may be had for about £400 / €450 / $520, but there are certain stipulations.

Any full suspension motorcycles — that is, bikes with suspension at both the front and back wheels — should be avoided at this price point.

They’ll be a much heavier than either front-suspension equipped ‘hardtails’ or suspension-free ‘rigid’ bikes, and the cheap and unstable suspension units they’ll be supplied with will probably hurt rather than help off-road performance.

While a fully rigid bike may seem simple, the simpler design implies that more money will have been spent on the frame and components in the long run, possibly making it a better bargain.

However, there are plenty of bikes at this price point with functioning front suspension forks, and they may come from surprising places.

Blue hardtail mountain bike from Marin being ridden through woodland

It has a well-balanced, snappy feel to it, allowing for quick turn-to-turn handling. Burton, Russell

You’re unlikely to obtain the most up-to-date components at this pricing range. Bikes may, for example, be equipped with 26-inch wheels (rather than the more contemporary 25.7 or 29-inch) and more basic drivetrain components. As a result, when your bike’s components wear out, there’s typically no attractive upgrading route. It does, however, make buying and riding your first mountain bike a lot more attainable.

If at all possible, use a frame constructed of lightweight aluminum rather than heavy steel. Look for a bike with disc brakes rather than rim brakes, since disc brakes will stay functioning in the rain and offer more constant power.

If you want to ride the bike off-road, check sure it has the right gearing – many inexpensive bikes are designed for mainly on-road use and lack a low enough gear to get you up hills. Look for a compact chainring with 22 or 24 teeth on the front wheel, coupled with a cassette with 34 or 36 teeth on the largest sprocket on the back wheel.

Again, at this price point, you’re more likely to find double and triple chainsets than a contemporary 1x drivetrain.

Best mountain bike for less than £500

Voodoo's Aizan is a great budget 29er.

The Aizan from Voodoo is a fantastic affordable 29er. Immediate Media / Andy Lloyd

Spending more money gets you a bike with a lighter frame and more tuned components.

Hydraulic disc brakes, rather of cable-operated brakes, should be expected at this pricing point. They need much less upkeep and are often more powerful.

At this price range, 1x drivetrains — which provide less maintenance, complexity, and, in many cases, better performance than multi-chainring systems — are popular.

The tyres installed should have a prominent tread profile intended for appropriate off-road usage and be constructed of a softer rubber composition than standard tyres, which will provide greater wet traction.

A smooth and regulated suspension fork should also be installed. Give the fork a nice bounce to see whether it compresses readily and returns smoothly. Give it a wide berth if it makes obnoxious sounds or returns quickly, like a pogo stick.

At this budget, it’s best to avoid full suspension bikes since they’ll be heavy and ineffective off-road.

Best mountain bike for less than £750

Pack shot of Vitus Nucleus 29 VR hardtail mountain bike

The Nucleus 29 is trail-ready right out of the box and comes with everything you’ll need. Burton, Russell

At this pricing point, bikes begin to get more specialized to suit various riding styles. We’ll go through the various types of bikes later, but you can count on a hardtail to handle nearly everything you can throw at it.

Although the frame will most likely be made of aluminum, innovative manufacturing and shaping methods will be used to make it lighter and more comfortable for long days on the saddle.

Hydraulic disc brakes from a reputable manufacturer like Shimano or SRAM are also likely to be installed.

Suspension forks are standard on most motorcycles priced at £750 / €850 /$975 or above. This should preferably be air-sprung, since it is lighter than a coil spring and enables you to adjust the fork to your weight more readily.

At this budget, the most well-equipped versions will feature a thru-axle fork and wheel rather than a quick release or QR system. A wide diameter axle is used, which provides a stronger connection between the wheel and the fork, greatly increasing steering precision.

Look for a fork and frame with a tapered head tube and a bigger diameter lower bearing, as well as a matching fork crown. These provide increased rigidity and let you to pick from a larger variety of forks when it comes time to upgrade.

Look for a rear derailleur that has a clutch, such as Shimano’s ShadowPlus or SRAM’s Type 2 models. On difficult terrain, they assist keep the chain from falling off.

Many manufacturers are now offering tyres and wheels that do not need the use of an inner tube. These tubeless systems may help you save money and weight by reducing punctures. On the tyre sidewall, look for the phrases “tubeless ready” or “tubeless compatible.”

To avoid sounding like a broken record, full suspension bikes at this price are likely to be severely compromised, and we would not suggest them.

Best mountain bike for less than a grand

We dubbed Boardman's MHT 8.9 an instant classic when it arrived earlier this year.

When Boardman’s MHT 8.9 debuted earlier this year, we called it an instant classic. Burton, Russell

Full suspension bikes with fairly lightweight frames and well-controlled, adjustable shocks start to become available at this price point.

For the additional speed, capability, and comfort on rocky descents, you’ll probably incur a small weight or equipment penalty compared to a comparable priced hardtail.

At this price point, all bikes should feature air-sprung forks that are well-controlled and adjustable, ideally with a thru-axle design and a tapered steerer.

Adjustable rebound damping will most likely be found to fine-tune how quickly the shock expands after a bump, and some forks will feature a lockout lever to keep the suspension from moving for better efficiency on flat climbs.

For added rigidity, certain motorcycles may include a thru-axle at the back wheel.

We’d anticipate a contemporary 10-speed drivetrain with a clutch-equipped derailleur, as well as higher-end components that are lighter, last longer, and perform perfectly.

Best mountain bike for less than £2,000

At £2000, you can start to expect capable full-suspension models

You may start to anticipate competent full-suspension bikes from £2000. Immediate Media / Andy Lloyd

There are still some sacrifices on full-suspension bikes at this price, but they’re beginning to fade.

You’ll start to see some hardtail bikes with lightweight carbon fiber frames, while aluminum-framed hardtail bikes will come with high-quality components as standard.

Short-travel cross-country bikes intended for long distance riding will be light enough to ride all day, while longer-travel trail bikes will be capable of tackling really rough descents and getting you back up to the top without difficulty.

Suspension components will be of better quality, with a greater range of damping adjustment. At this pricing range, a 1x drivetrain is a foregone conclusion.

Some bikes even have a dropper seatpost that enables you to lower the saddle without stopping. These are excellent for riding difficult terrain and are a must-have for the majority of riders.

Check out our beginner’s guide on adjusting forks and shocks for the fundamentals on getting the most out of all the bells and whistles of your suspension.

Best mountain bike for less than £3,000

The 6066 alloy frame is almost as light as the carbon fibre Jam C Factory

The 6066 alloy frame is almost as light as the carbon fiber Russell Burton Jam C Factory frame.

At this price point, you’ll probably have to choose between a high-quality carbon frame with somewhat lower-end components and an aluminum frame with high-end components.

You may choose between a carbon frame with components that you can update as they wear down or an aluminum frame with top-of-the-line components as standard.

Bikes will be tailored to their intended use, with a variety of travel choices and frame geometry, although full-suspension versions are becoming more prevalent.

Hardtails should have top-of-the-line components, such as Shimano and SRAM’s newest 11-speed (or 12-speed) drivetrains.

Except for the most devoted cross-country bikes, dropper posts will be standard. Specialized rubber compositions are likely to be used in tyres, and tubeless compatibility is a certainty. The wheels will be robust yet light.

Best mountain bike for more than £3,000

The Commencal Meta 29 TR Brit Edition is our 2019 Trail Bike of the Year

Our 2019 Trail Bike of the Year is the Commencal Meta 29 TR Brit Edition Dan Milner / Immediate Media

Around this point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, since you’ll have to spend a lot of money to lose a lot of weight, and performance gains are more likely to be restricted by the rider’s skill than by the bicycle itself.

More carbon fibre equals less weight, and components will most likely be high-quality, lightweight, and durable products from reputable producers. Aside from the big-name brands, there are a slew of smaller companies that produce high-quality, niche motorcycles.

Extremely high-performing and adjustable dampers, typically with unique low-friction coatings, will be used in suspension units.

The tyres will be well suited to the job, with lots of traction and speed. To offer low weight and strength, wheels may begin to utilize new manufacturing techniques and more exotic materials like as carbon fiber.

What kind of mountain bike should I choose – various mountain bike types explained

There are many various types of bikes, each intended to do a certain job flawlessly. Here’s a brief rundown of what they are and what they do.

What is the difference between a cross-country (XC) mountain bike and a regular mountain bike?

Cross-country bikes (abbreviated as XC) are designed to cover a lot of territory fast, whether in a race or on a long day in the mountains.

Many people still favor hardtails for racing, but full suspension versions are becoming more popular. They typically feature 80–100mm of travel on each end and are fitted with a lockout mechanism to prevent the suspension from sapping pedaling energy on smoother trail sections.

For maximum speed, cross-country bikes often utilize bigger diameter 29in wheels with lightly treaded, low-volume, and fast-rolling tyres.

The Specialized S-Works Epic is a very high-end XC machine

The Specialized S-Works Epic is a top-of-the-line XC bike. Immediate Media / Joe Norledge

For fast responding handling and to put the rider in an effective pedaling position, they prefer to utilize steeper head angles coupled with longer stems and narrower bars.

On steeper descents, this kind of shape may make bikes difficult to handle, particularly when coupled with shorter-travel suspension and skinnier tyres.

Alloy frames are used on lower-cost cross-country bikes, while carbon frames are the standard for high-end racing bikes. They usually feature a large number of gears to enable difficult climbs while maintaining a high maximum speed.

If you like riding for hours on end and pushing your heart rate as high as it will go, this is the bike for you.

  • £750 (hardtail), £1,000 (softtail) (full suspension)
  • Good: £1,500 for a hardtail, £2,500 for a softtail (full suspension)
  • Brilliant: £2,500 (hardtail) and £3,500 (softtail) (full suspension)

What is the difference between a trail mountain bike and a road mountain bike?

Because it can be used for almost everything, this is the most common bike type.

Trail bikes feature more relaxed angles for better confidence while descending, as well as equipment that is built to withstand more abuse. They feature shorter stems and broader handlebars to assist with speed control, and more aggressive tread on the tyres.

Trail bikes offer a great compromise between climbing ability and descending prowess

Trail bikes are an excellent balance between climbing and descending abilities. Immediate Media / Matt Wragg

Trail hardtails, also known as hardcore hardtails, have robust frames that are paired to a fork with 130–150mm of travel. At either end of the travel range, full-suspension trail bikes will utilize 130–150mm.

For more inexpensive bikes, aluminum is the preferred frame material, whereas top-of-the-line bikes utilize carbon fiber. Steel may be used by certain boutique frame manufacturers.

Double chainrings have mostly gone out of favor in favor of 1x-drivetrains, which provide a wider gear range while requiring less maintenance and providing greater performance.

Trail bikes may have 29-inch or 650-millimeter wheels. In general, 29-inch wheels are more stable, while 650-inch wheels provide a more engaging and dynamic ride.

Plus tyres, which combine a 650b wheel with a larger rim coupled with a high volume (usually 2.8-inches or greater) tyre, are also available. It goes by the names of ‘6Fattie,’ ‘27+,’ and ‘650+,’ and is said to provide much increased grip.

If you like hitting descents as much as climbs and need a machine that can handle both, this is the machine for you.

  • £750 (hardtail), £1,000 (softtail) (full suspension)
  • Good: £1,500 for a hardtail, £2,500 for a softtail (full suspension)
  • Brilliant: £2,500 (hardtail) and £3,500 (softtail) (full suspension)

What is the definition of an enduro mountain bike?

Enduro is a racing style in which the descents are timed but the route is still pedaled around. That is, these bikes are built to operate well down steep and tough terrain while being light and efficient enough to ride back to the top.

Enduro bikes will offer significant amounts of travel to get you through any terrain

Enduro bikes have a lot of travel to help you through any kind of terrain. Orbea Bicycles / Matt Wragg

Enduro bikes are nearly always full suspension and have greater travel than ‘normal’ trail bikes. The majority have 160-170mm of travel on either end, with robust wheels and reinforced tyres.

They typically utilize air-sprung suspension systems that are higher duty and have a broad range of dampening settings to tailor their downhill performance.

Coil shocks are regaining popularity because to their dependability and consistency during extended periods of heavy riding.

Some bikes come with remote controls that enable you to alter the geometry of the bike and switch between downhill and uphill modes. Keep in mind that this adds weight, complexity, and more possible failure spots.

Most bikes nowadays feature a 1x transmission with a chain guide to prevent the chain from slipping off. Enduro bikes are sometimes known as “all mountain” bikes since they are designed to be used in hilly and difficult terrain.

For additional information and suggestions, see our guide to the best enduro motorcycles.

If you want your descents to be as technical and difficult as possible, but don’t mind winching yourself to the top, this is the gear for you.

  • £1,300 is the entry fee.
  • Excellent: £2,600
  • £4,000 is fantastic.

What is the difference between a downhill mountain bike and a cross-country mountain bike?

As the name implies, these bikes are designed to accomplish one thing: speed down steep and difficult courses.

They feature approximately 200mm of travel on each end and are usually equipped with coil-sprung suspension that is designed for traction and support rather than pedaling ability.

Downhill bikes are designed for one things — getting you down the hill as quickly as possible

Downhill bikes are built with one goal in mind: to propel you down the hill as fast as possible. Immediate Media/Seb Stott

The forks of a ‘double-crown’ or ‘triple-clamp’ fork have legs that extend over the head tube and are then braced together to withstand the massive forces that the bikes are subjected to.

Again, lesser bikes will be made of aluminum, while pro-level bikes will be made of carbon.

If you simply want to ride downhill quickly over the toughest terrain and largest jumps you can find, and you’re willing to push or get a lift to the top, this is the bike for you.

  • £1,500 is the entry fee.
  • Excellent: £3,000
  • £5,000 is fantastic.

What is an e-mtb (electric mountain bike)?

Electric mountain bikes are becoming more popular, and versions for all of the disciplines mentioned above are now available.

An e-bike in disguise? E-bikes aren't as easy to spot as they once were

Is it an e-bike disguised as a bicycle? E-bikes aren’t as visible as they used to be. Millner, George

E-bikes have a motor and a battery that assist you in pedaling more efficiently. A control device mounted on the bike’s handlebar is typically used to alter the amount of assistance.

These bikes are considerably heavier than their non-motorised counterparts, yet they can easily climb even the steepest of slopes.

Don’t be fooled into believing that riding an e-bike is easy; these bikes can provide a challenging exercise that many professionals utilize to prepare for competition. Indeed, e-bikes allow you to travel places and ride things you wouldn’t normally consider on a non-powered bike.

  • Entry: £2,000
  • Good: £4,000
  • Brilliant: £6,000

But wait, we’re not done yet!

While it may seem to be a large number of distinct types, mountain biking has even more specializations. Here are a couple others you may come upon…

What is a fat bike, exactly?

Fat bikes are pretty easy to recognise

Fat bikes are very simple to see. Immediate Media / Josh Patterson

To provide traction on snow or sand, these vehicles utilize massively large tyres that are operated at very low pressures.

They’re popular among adventure riders who want to travel off the beaten path or those who want to try something new.

They’re typically stiff, with many rack attachments for hauling goods.

What is the definition of a dirt jump bike?

Dirt jump bikes will generally use smaller wheels and a compact frame for optimum manouevrability

For maximum maneuverability, dirt jump motorcycles will often have smaller wheels and a compact frame. Ashelford, Jonny

These are designed to be used on jumps or pump tracks, as the name implies.

For simplicity, they utilize robust frames that are simple to maneuver in the air, short-travel forks, and typically just have one gear.

What is the difference between a singlespeed mountain bike and a dual-speed mountain bike?

Singlespeed bikes are few and far between, but those who like them tend to really like them

Single-speed bicycles are few and far between, but those who like them do so passionately. Immediate Media / Josh Patterson

These motorcycles, which only have one gear, are popular among masochists.

Because they don’t have any moving parts, they’re easy to maintain, and many people choose to use them throughout the winter to avoid wearing down another bike.

They may be very inexpensive, but many are also extremely costly, exotic motorcycles manufactured by specialized custom framebuilders. Hardtails or completely stiff hardtails are the most common.

What mountain bike size do I require?

By now, you should have a good notion of how much you want to spend and what type of bike you need.

Make sure to go through our reviews to discover which bikes have received the top ratings in each area, and after you’ve narrowed down your options, make sure you buy the appropriate frame size. This is an important stage that may determine how much you like your new bike.

While we suggest reading our advice, it’s frequently preferable to visit your local bike store and test out the bike you’re interested in. Keep in mind that bike sizing varies by brand, so just because a medium-sized bike from one brand fits you well doesn’t imply another brand’s medium would.

If at all feasible, schedule a test ride to get a sense of how the bike handles on the terrain. Many companies have demo days when they bring their full line of products for prospective consumers to test out.

If you’re looking for a high-end bike, many shops will be willing to change key components like the seat, tyres, or grips to the ones you like if it means they can close the sale.

Although you can’t test before you purchase with online or direct sales bike stores, most offer a generous return policy if you’re unhappy with the fit of your new machine.

Above all, keep an eye on our reviews to discover which bikes we recommend and why, as well as a lot more.

Choosing a mountain bike is often a difficult task, in that there are so many options out there. It is easy to be confused by the multitude of features that are available, or by the lack of a single solid, consistent approach from manufacturer to manufacturer. This guide will help you make an informed decision to help when choosing a new bike. We will be looking at specific aspects of a mountain bike such as the type of riding intended, the type of terrain and trail, and the intended price range.. Read more about best mountain bike brands and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose the right mountain bike?

There are many different types of mountain bikes, so it is important to know what you want. If youre looking for a bike that will be used mostly on trails, then a cross-country bike would work well. However, if youre looking for something more durable and sturdy, then an all-mountain bike would be better.

What mountain bike size is right for me?

That depends on your height, weight, and riding style.

What is the best mountain bike in 2021?

The best mountain bike in 2021 is the Trek Fuel EX 9.8.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • best mountain bike brands
  • best mountain bike 2019
  • best full suspension mountain bike 2017
  • 2018 mountain bike reviews
  • best mountain bikes for the money
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