Until recently, there was little point in shopping for the best budget full-suspension bikes. The extra cost of adding pivots, a rear shock and a more complex frame design always meant that even the best full-suspension mountain bikes for those on a tighter budget had too many component compromises compared to the best hardtail mountain bikes under $1000, which delivered a really well-sorted ride. Often the suspension components or the frame were so poor or outdated, the bikes themselves didn’t work too well either.
Thankfully, there are now some bikes out there that genuinely make riding more controlled and more fun than a hardtail and are good enough to be worth upgrading into something really good. So here’s our pick of the best budget full-suspension bikes to start your full suspension riding experience. Skip to the bottom of the page if you are looking for the best budget full-suspension bike but don't know what to look for?
Best budget full-suspension bikes
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Vitus has a long history of really good affordable suspension bikes but the second season of the Mythique looks like the performance peak so far. The range actually starts with either the VR or the female friendly VRW which both get the same 130mm travel frame, four-bar linkage with progressive 29-inch wheel geometry as the rest of the Mythique range. There’s also a 27.5-inch 140mm travel version of the bike but we’ve recommended 29er here as the smoother rolling wheels help offset the occasionally clunky feel of the X-Fusion fork and rear shock. The 27 is lighter, lower and more agile if you want more of a raver than a roller though. Either way, you get a very upgradeable frame with a trunnion shock mount and 148x12mm Boost rear axle. You get most of a Shimano Deore transmission (the 10-speed cassette is SunRace, the chain is KMC) and a soft compound Schwalbe Magic Mary tire for impressive grip and control through the Nukeproof bar and stem. You’ll need to get a dropper post though and with the next tier VRX getting Marzocchi Z2 fork, RockShox Monarch R shock, Shimano SLX/Deore stop and go kit and a Brand-X dropper post it’s definitely worth digging deeper into your pockets if you can.
While most of the bikes here now have decent geometry, Marin’s Rift Zone bikes set the benchmark for bringing proper no-holds-barred rough play numbers to the affordable bike rankings. 65.5-degree head tube locks the front wheel into the terrain with a 35mm stem at the end of the extended 480mm reach top tube on a large-sized frame. A 76-degree seat angle still gives it attacking poise on climbs while the 425mm chainstays give a super responsive rear-end feel.
The 'Multitrac' frame gives 125mm of travel and while it comes with a 141mm QR rear it can be upgraded to a full 148mm width Boost bolted thru-axle. The steel legs of the RockShox Recon fork are heavy but mean it isn’t too stretched at 130mm travel. The short 42mm offset makes the most of the instant short stem steering. Vee Tire dual compound Crown Gem tires are good all-round performers with broad tubeless-ready rims for stability and easy upgrading.
The Shimano Deore 11-speed gears are super reliable and while they feel very numb the Shimano MT200 brakes have 180mm rotors front and rear for a vague sensation of stopping. You’ll need to pay more for the Rift Zone 2 to get a dropper post as standard, but overall value is good for a shop-bought, globally available bike.
The parent company of Polygon manufactures bikes and frames for a big list of other brands including some real premium names. Buying its own bikes gets you the same quality at a much lower price though and the Siskiu T7 is a thoroughly modern trail bike at a great price. Like Norco, you get the option of 27.5-inch wheels in smaller frame sizes and then 29er on the bigger bikes. That gets you either 150mm forks and 140mm rear travel or 140mm fork and 135mm rear. Either way head angles are around 65-degrees with a 76.5-degree seat angle and a long 480mm reach on the large for excellent self-correcting stability. Super-short seat tubes keep the center of gravity low and you get long-stroke dropper seatposts as standard. You get a super-short 35mm stem for super-responsive steering with a RockShox Deluxe Plus Select shock and lightweight Recon RL fork. Add a 12-speed Shimano gearing mix and 2.4in wide Schwalbe Addix compound tires on wide tubeless-ready rims and you’ve got a seriously comprehensive spec for a total bargain price. Especially considering it comes from proper bike shops not just delivered in a box for you to build. If you want a lighter, XC format then the Siskiu D7 and D5 deliver a slick-looking 120mm suspension performance, making Polygon a bargain bike powerhouse.
The cheapest Fluid bike from Canadian brand Norco, the FS3 still gets the same ‘size-scaled’ double-butted alloy frame with Boost axles, a decent 47cm reach on a large and a trail-ready 66.5-degree head angle and 76-degree seat angle. It comes in both 27.5in (XS, S, M sizes) and 29er (M, L, XL sizes) and either way you get Goodyear Newton and Escape tires. The good news for 2021 is that the company has fitted slimmer, lighter 2.4in and 2.35in versions (2020 bikes had 2.6in versions) so it doesn’t feel as sluggish under power. The SRAM SX Eagle gears make winching back up easier too and the Tektro brakes get 180mm rotors front and rear for a useful dose of extra power. You get a dropper post as standard and the X-Fusion rear shock works well through the 120mm of wheel movement, too. The X-Fusion RC32 isn’t as smooth or convincing upfront though so we’d be tempted to save up for the Fluid FS 2 which gets a basic but well-performing RockShox 35 fork and an unbelievably good Maxxis Dissector triple compound tire spec.
While many of the best cross-country mountain bikes on the market are moving to flex-stay suspension designs, the reason for this is that by removing some pivots it saves weight and reduces the amount of things that need serviced. That said, Giant's budget Stance has been using its Flex Point design for years to create a rocker activated single-pivot system to deliver decent trail performance at a lower price.
The impressively low price is further aided by Giants massive economies of scale and that almost every component is also sourced inhouse, even the forks are Giant's own design. The Suntour shock, Shimano drivetrain, Praxis cranks, Tektro brakes and Maxxis tires are the exclusions to this. The only missing piece is a dropper post, although the frame does feature routing for an internally routed dropper post should you wish to add one yourself.
The decent selection of parts and quality frame production is paired with some fairly neutral geometry which will be best suited to cruising flow trails and new riders looking for fun rather than going full send through steep rock gardens.
GT's Sensor has been around for several years and uses a really well-executed take on a classic suspension layout rather than the unique designs of GT’s past. Combine the four-bar linkage with a large-volume X-Fusion 02 Pro RL trunnion shock and you’re getting a really smooth and neutral 130mm travel rear end that competes with much more expensive bikes. The RockShox Recon Silver RL fork is usefully smooth too and while the skinny steel legs are heavy they are stiffer under load. You get a fully up to date 148x12mm Boost rear axle and the geometry can be set high or low. That gives a 65.5- or 66-degree head angle and 76- or 76.5-degree seat angle so the angles are totally on point for technical riding. The bottom bracket is still very high even in the low setting which can make it feel precarious rather than grounded. Reach is reasonable and you get a short stem and wide bar for control. The 11-speed Shimano Deore gears work well, but the brakes are very wooden and numb. The WTB rims are relatively narrow too and the DNA compound WTB tires are better in the dry than the wet. You get a dropper post though which is a definite win.
German online bike brands are smashing the value-for-money comparison game these days and Radon reaches down lower on budget than Canyon or YT.
The headline spec on the Radon is so good we had to actually rewrite the intro to this buyer's guide as we’d previously said you’d never get Fox suspension at this budget! As well as the excellent Fox 34 Rhythm fork and Fox DPS rear shock you get mid-range SRAM NX/GX Expanded Eagle 12-speed gears, powerful Magura brakes, a proper post as standard and Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires on quality Sun Ringle wheels. According to Radon that makes it nearly two kilos lighter than most of the bikes here at 13.6kg.
The only downside in what looks an unbeatable deal is that the frame is relatively old (it still has tabs for a front derailleur) and that’s reflected in the short and relatively steep geometry. If you’re not after slack and long then save your pennies and your effort on the climbs with the super-value Skeen.
Canyon mountain bikes are well known for their incredible ride quality, so no matter whether you are paying top dollar or penny pinching, you should expect a bike that has a dialled ride quality out on the trail. Canyon's top-of-the-range Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD really impressed us when we tested it and the Neuron 5 should have much the same suspension efficiency, lightweight and lively ride on twisting XC trails.
As to be expected on a bike that is really pushing the boundaries of what 'budget' means, it's unsurprising that the Canyon Neuron 5 has one of the best specs out of all the bikes in this guide. Reliable suspension from RockShox, gearing from SRAM and braking by Shimano should see you through plenty of trail miles without fuss.
Best budget full-suspension bike: what to look for
Does geometry matter?
The only thing you can’t upgrade on a mountain bike is the shape of it. Some manufacturers (not the ones featured here) just use old, outdated steep-and-short frames as the basis for their cheap bikes. Others make new frames but weirdly seem to think that the fresh riders likely to be buying at this price point would benefit from something that’s twitchy and sketchy rather than stable and confident.
As a rough guide, 120mm travel bikes should have a 67-degree head angle, moving towards 65-degree as travel extends to 150mm and you’re getting faster on descents. Reach figures should be 460+mm on a large, with a 50mm or shorter stem and a 760mm or wider bar for decent power steering.
What about suspension?
At the lower end of the price range, you’re almost certainly going to take a hit on suspension quality. That means 32mm steel legs rather than 35mm alloy legs on forks and simple rear shocks with limited adjustment and potentially less than perfect damping. You can expect to get equipment from Manitou, Suntour, X-Fusion or own branded gear rather than RockShox or Marzocchi dampers although you can get them or even Fox in this list. That doesn’t mean that cheaper forks and shocks etc. can’t work well, but read our reviews to guide you in the right direction and potentially be more prepared to do more servicing and general TLC.
What components should I look for?
The real surprise with this list is how good the rest of the spec on several of these bikes is, with comparable brake and gear setups to hardtail bikes. The days of super long stems and narrow bars ruining the ride are thankfully behind us too and even saddles and grips are generally sorted. The thing you probably won’t get and will have to upgrade to is a dropper seat post but make sure that the frame you choose is at least ready for an internally routed setup.
Whether you get a hardtail or a suspension bike, swapping tires is a great way to make real performance gains at a reasonable price. So if you’re buying from a shop and have a bit of cash left in your budget then ask if they can swap them (or set the existing ones up tubeless) before you get the original ones dirty.
How much is a good full suspension bike?
It all depends on the type of trails you plan on riding, although almost all of the best budget full-suspension bikes focus on trail riding. Pricing starts at around $1,500/£1,500 for a bike that is going to give decent performance on the trail. That said it can vary between different brands and the price points they choose.
The amount of extra kit and performance you get on the next bike up in the range - and the price gap - can alter significantly. In some cases, brand managers will sacrifice some profit to create a really killer value entry-level bike. In other cases, it’s you who’ll be making those sacrifices. It’s certainly always worth checking what saving a bit longer or digging deeper into your budget will get you and where relevant we’ve flagged up whether the ‘next bike up’ is the better deal here. If you can stretch your budget, check out our pick of the best mountain bikes under $2500.