The sub $1000 / £1000 mountain bike is an important purchase for those wanting to take riding more seriously, but with lots of hardtail and full-suspension options on the market, it's not easy deciding which is best.
Simply put, the best Hardtails are the way forward when it comes to bikes under $1,000. Due to their simple construction, bombproof reliability and fun-enhancing nature they're brilliant for anyone wanting a fuss-free way to enjoy the trails and perfect their skills. Without the complications of rear suspension, a hardtail can offer a superior ride quality that is not compromised by frame design or poor quality components.
But why not full-suspension? While there are some exceptions, a $1,000 budget is too limiting to produce a functional full-suspension bike and most full-sus options around this price bracket will have several flaws. For the money, hardtails are still king. Without the complications of rear suspension, a hardtail can offer a superior ride quality that is not compromised by frame design or poor quality components. If you're front and rear suspension is an absolute must for you then make sure to check out our guide for the best budget full-suspension bikes.
Keep reading for Bike Perfect's choice of the best mountain bikes for under $1000 or if you are not sure what to look for, check out to guide covering what to look for when buying the best mountain bikes at the bottom of this article.
Best mountain bikes under $1000
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It would be amiss for a guide on the best mountain bikes under $1000 to not feature a bike from Vitus. Vitus has been making bikes that are not only packed with trail performance but are some of the most keenly priced offerings at every price point. Vitus has nailed the geometry for Sentier to make a bike that's fast and capable on a whole range of trails, whether you ride trail centers or natural singletrack.
A 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain and Clarks M2 brakes offer plenty of functional performance. Wheels are WTP ST i30 which give a good wide platform for the Schwalbe Magic Mary/Nobby Nic tire combo which are plenty grippy enough to offset the rolling speed sacrifices.
For more info on this mountain biking bargain, check out our full Vitus Sentier 29 review.
The Stoic really hits the mark when it comes to a great value and capable hardtail which is guaranteed to easily put a smile on your face out on the trail. The Stoic 2 is based around a high-quality alloy frame which has loads of neat features that we come to expect from Canyon. Internal routing is a nice touch on a bike at this price point and in general, the frame has a really clean finish that is going to be a great base for future upgrades as you ride more.
The spec features some really durable kit too. The SR Suntour fork might be basic but it does the job and is air sprung so you can tune it for your weight. Shimano takes care of the drivetrain and braking too, its good to see Canyon fit big rotors to amplify braking power however we would like to see a larger cassette for some extra low range when climbing. The wheels use Shimano hubs and Alex rims and are wrapped in grippy Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35-inch tires.
The frame features internal routing if you do decide to upgrade to a dropper post in the future and, considering the keen pricing, you can upgrade to a dropper post and still almost stay under a $1000 budget.
When looking at the geometry numbers you would be excused of thinking the Reaction is a little dated or conservative. Where bikes like the Charge Stoic urge you to seek out the steeper and rougher trails, the Reaction Analog isn’t so interested.
However, point it down some swoopy trails and the steeper head angle and shorter wheelbase start making sense. Combined with the 100mm fork and fast-rolling 2.25 tires, the Analog is a nippy little singletrack cruiser.
Cube has chosen 27.5-inch wheels for the smaller sizes for a better fit for shorter riders which is a nice touch. The Analog comes with an SX Eagle 12sp drivetrain and Clark's brakes. Unfortunately, Cube's spec choices have taken a hit with Brexit as the previous Cube Reaction TM had a far better spec for the money, including a dropper post.
Mid-fat, plus or whatever you want to call it has proven to be popular with beginner riders and dirt tourers looking for a little extra comfort and offering increased stability and predictable traction when riding trails.
Trek knows how to make a high-quality frame and the Roscoe comes with all the features and additions that you would expect on a modern hardtail. Well almost, the 141mm quick-release rear axle which, in a world where stiff thru-axles are basically standard, seems like an oversight. However, if you aren't fussed about upgrading wheels in the future this will likely never be an issue.
The specification is what you would expect from the Wisconsin brand, a good quality Rockshox fork and SRAM drivetrain paired with a Bontrager wheelset and finishing kit. You even get a dropper post which is a rare touch at this price point.
It must be noted that Trek updated the Roscoe range with new geometry, however, the Roscoe 6 still uses the old frame. Although it's almost 50 percent more expensive, If you can stretch the budget, the Roscoe 7 is far more capable and is a significant upgrade over the Roscoe 6.
Whyte is well known for its slack, long and progressive geometry and while the Whyte 429 V2 might not be as slack as some other bikes in its range, the 429 V2 still has great numbers for beginner and intermediate riders that are seeking speed out on the trails.
Componentry is an almost standard-issue affair for a mountain bike under $1000. Gearing comes in the form of Shimano’s dependable 10sp Deore groupset and a Sunrace 11-46t cassette. Wheels are Whyte own branded with Maxxis Forekaster 29 x 2.35-inch front, Maxxis Recon Race 29 x 2.25-inch for durability and lower rolling resistance.
Kona's Mahuna is an XC bike that performs better on the trail than you might expect from looking at the numbers. The head angle and seat angle aren't anything to write home about, however the longer reach of 465mm (large) really helps enhance the responsiveness and maneuverability of the Mahuna over similarly shaped XC bikes.
The frame looks great as well with its low-slung swoopy shapes and strong color choice. The frame has internal routing and all the other features you would expect from a modern frame with one exception, there is no rear through-axle. With through axles now standard across almost all bikes, the Mahuna's quick-release rear end is going to limit wheel upgrade options.
Beyond the frame, Kona has specced Shimano's superb Deore 11-51t 11spd groupset although depending on your location you may get Microshift XLE 11-46t 11spd instead. WTB ST i27 wheels are paired with Maxxis Forekaster 29 x 2.35-inch tires for decent rolling performance.
For more info, check out our full Kona Mahuna review.
If you’ve read our very recent recent review of the Rockhopper Elite 29 you’ll see that during the testing period we were left in a conundrum between excellent ride-feel attributes and several upgrade limiting design features; as a result the Rockhopper is brilliant for some riders, but a total non starter for others.
On the trail the Rockhopper’s low weight provides an energetic and lively ride feel that encourages you to stamp on the pedals with enthusiasm – A characteristic which when paired with the smooth RockShox Judy air sprung fork, low bottom bracket and fantastically well modulated Shimano MT200 brakes make the Rockhopper ooze confidence on the trail.
The shine of these quality ride attributes quickly started to vanish as we took a deeper look into the Rockhopper’s construction though, and its the straight non-tapered head tube that’s the major flaw here. With the all the best aftermarket suspension forks in 2022 featuring tapered head tubes there’s no room for the Rockhopper’s front end performance to grow as time goes on.
If it wasn’t for the upgrade limiting design overlooks the Rockhopper has the potential to be one of the best performing bikes in it’s category, so if you’re not bothered by future upgrades its a great performing and feeling option.
Don’t stop reading here though, make sure to check out Bike Perfect's in-depth dive into all areas of the Specialized Rockhopper Elite’s construction and performance.
Specialized offers the Rockhopper in a wide range of specifications, so regardless of budget there's likely to be a Rockhopper for you.
Not all mountain bikes are designed to shred rock gardens and not all mountain bikers are out to get gnarly. If the idea of multi-day adventures is more your thing then the Sonder Frontier is a great option for bikepacking. The durable alloy frame keeps weight down, has boost spacing and there are three bottle cage mounts on the frame, plus triple bosses on the forks to mount bottle or accessory cages. While the complete bikes all come with 29er wheels, the frame also has the capacity to clear 27.5x3-inch tires for those looking for a bit more comfort.
Taking to the trails on a rigid mountain bike is certainly an acquired taste that will test your skills, although the Frontier geometry should mean it's still a blast on smooth flow trails. The rigid fork can also be swapped out for a 100mm suspension fork and there is even internal routing for a dropper post.
Beyond simplicity and mounting options, another advantage of a rigid fork is it frees up some budget for Sonder to spec some better parts. That means you get a full Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed groupset including a wide range 10-51t cassette which will make light work of steep gradients when loaded with camping kit.
While Canyon's Stoic sits amongst the more radical of the best mountain bikes under $1000, the Grand Canyon 6 caters for the XC rider and is designed for covering miles quickly and efficiently.
Canyon has always been known for its stellar value and the Grand Canyon offers something no other mountain bike under $1000 can offer. The Grand Canyon 6 comes specced with a Shimano XT 12-speed derailleur which is paired with a Shimano Deore 10-51t cassette for slick shifting performance. A fast-rolling combo of Canyon own-brand wheels and Schwalbe tires work well in most conditions and keep the bike feeling spritely up punchy climbs.
While the XTRADA 7 only comes in at a smidge under $1000 its sleek lines and comprehensive specification make it great value. The standout feature to us is the air sprung 120mm travel SR SUNTOUR fork which allows for an accurate set up and a composed ride on the trial.
Shimano's Deore 12-speed drivetrain provides slick shifting and the huge 10-51T cassette means there's a gear for any gradient.
If you're in the medium to large size range there's a choice of either playful 27.5-inch hoops or 29-inch speed-demons, but riders at either end of the size range don't get a choice with the small frame being exclusively 27.5-inch and the XL 29-inch only.
Tubeless ready rims and grippy WTB TRAIL BOSS tires give the XTRADA 7 grip and confidence across a wide range of trail conditions.
The biggest brands might have a bulk buy advantage but sometimes they aren't as quick to respond to the latest trail trends. Online brand Vitus certainly uses its direct sell status and focused design team to its advantage with the bang up to date Nucleus though. Featuring a 1x drivetrain, air-sprung 120mm Suntour fork, and a frame with with really well thought-out geometry, it's great value for the money and a great ride too. 27.5-inch wheels are more responsive than 29ers for jumping, flicking off fun bits, and generally playing around too. WTB branded wheels and rubber mean fewer worries about heavy handling or unreliable tire grip too.
If you prefer 29er wheels, well Vitus has a Nucleus 29 VR (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab) with the same spec bike with bigger wheels for the same price.
The fact this is the second Vitus in this guide just shows what a brilliant job they do when it comes to fantastically performing bikes at great prices.
What to look for when buying best mountain bikes under $1000
What size of MTB do I need?
In the past, there was a trend for sizing up or down to achieve a certain ride quality. Now that brands have a far better understanding of geometry, following the manufacturer's size guides should see you on the properly sized bike.
With geometry becoming more and more progressive, the trend for longer, lower and slacker has now reached the budget market. This has produced bikes with a wider range of handling characteristics to suit different rider's requirements.
Longer slacker bikes give better stability over rough and fast terrain, however, they will feel sluggish and hard work at slower speeds. Steeper head angles and shorter chainstays give a bike a lively ride. Suited to tight and twisty trails they will begin feeling overly twitchy and overwhelmed when ridden at pace.
Chainstay length plays a big part in how a bike feels. Longer chainstays increase stability, while shorter chainstays give the bike a playful quality and allow a rider to get their weight over the back easier.
Beginner riders should look for something conservative that balances wheelbase length for confidence-inspiring stability and a head angle around 67-degrees for nimble handling at lower speeds. These bikes will ride well on a range of trails allowing new riders to try new routes and test themselves.
What components should I look for?
These days, the level of equipment that you can get for $1000 is incredible. 1x drivetrains now feature prominently and anything with less than 10-speed should be ignored. In fact, many companies spec 12-speed in the form of SRAM’s SX and NX groupsets or Shimano Deore. However, it is important to consider what has been sacrificed to afford 12-speed. A bike with fewer gears and a smoother fork, grippier tires and better brakes will serve you better than an extra one or two gears.
Bikes will vary in suspension travel with most settling around the 130mm mark – as a good balance for trail riding. Suspension from renowned manufacturers RockShox has become more commonplace, with certain fork and shock models featuring Motion Control dampening and compression give options to customize suspension feel.
What MTB wheel size is best?
With the choice between 27.5- and 29-inch wheelsets further diluted with the introduction of plus-sized tires, it can be tricky to settle on what's best suited to you and your riding. A 29er wheel suits hardtails as their larger diameter will smooth out bumps on the trail and increase stability. However smaller 27.5-inch wheels allow shorter chainstays and have less rotational forces for a nimble and playful ride. Tire sizes usually range between 2.35 and 2.6 inches.
The third option is for 27.5+. Though less common these days, this wheel setup uses a 27.5-inch rim size with a much larger tire between 2.8- and 3 inches. The chunkier tire increases the effective wheel size to almost the same circumference as a 29-inch wheel. Plus-size tires roll very well over obstacles with enhanced traction and vibration absorption thanks to the high volume tire's ability to deform to the trail surface making them popular with beginner riders. There are disadvantages, all that extra tire comes at a weight penalty, higher risk of punctures and poor performance in muddy conditions.
Most 27.5+ frames allow interchangeability between 27.5+ and 29er should you wish the versatility. It is worth checking before you buy as not all frames can swap and 29er tire clearance can be limited.
What do I need before I hit the trails?
It goes without saying, but buying the best possible helmet you can afford is an absolute must before you even thing about hitting the trails.
Getting pedals with your new bike isn't always a certain either, and due to them being a vital contact point getting the right ones is crucial. If you're a new rider looking to hone your skills, or a seasoned rider who values playing in the woods then the best flat pedals are what you need. But if XC is your vibe and maximum efficiency is a priority, the best clipless pedals will deliver.
Some general spares like a chain link, small chain tool, spare inner tube and pump are great things to carry on any ride too.