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Best mountain bikes under £1000: how to choose the best budget mountain bike

Canyon Grand Canyon AL SL 7.0: Best mountain bikes under £1000
(Image credit: Canyon)

The best mountain bikes under £1000 market is awash with options that suit all types of rider - from the hardtail to full suspension. Cheap to buy and easy to maintain with a happy-go-lucky riding attitude it's the humble hardtail however, that offers riders the most value. 

Not only is the hardtail more capable than ever before but they offer an unbeatable money-to-fun ratio when compared to any other bike. Considering there are £1000 hardtails that now feature modern progressive geometry, dropper posts and 12-speed drivetrains, it is becoming hard to justify spending much more on a bike.

While there are some notable exceptions, a £1000 budget is too limiting to produce a functional full-suspension bike. 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.

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, skip to our guide covering what to look for when buying a mountain bike

The best mountain bikes under £1000

Ragley Marley 2.0

(Image credit: Ragley)

Ragley Marley 2.0

The Marley’s playful character embodies the hardcore hardtail ethos of messing around in the woods with your friends

Wheel size: 27.5-inch | Travel: 130mm | Weight: Unpublished | Sizes: 15”, 16.5”, 18”, 19”

Playful descender
Poorly behaved on steep or technical climbs

Ragley hasn’t forgotten what makes hardcore hardtails popular in the UK. Short chainstays, snappy steering and 27.5 wheels give the Marley an agile and lively ride. Because of the short rear end, steep climbs will require more finesse to keep the front wheel in check but the Marley was designed for attacking trails not conquering technical climbs. The Marley will reward riders who enjoy getting over the front to throw the bike through corners or playing on the back wheel.

A 10sp Shimano Deore drivetrain and MT400 brakes offers plenty of functional performance, as does the Rockshox Recon RL fork with 46mm offset. Wheels are WTP Serra and the 2.6 Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR II Maxxterra tyre combo are plenty grippy enough to offset the rolling speed sacrifices.

Commencal Meta HT AM Origin

(Image credit: Commencal )

Commencal Meta HT AM Origin

Rowdy enduro hardtail

Wheel size: 27.5-inch | Travel: 150mm | Weight: 13.6kg | Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Capable descender
Requires fortitude to get back to the top of the hill
No dropper post
Single pot brakes

Commencal isn't messing around with the Meta HT AM Origin and has given it one job, to descend quickly. The stout aluminium frame is built around tried and tested geometry figures, uses boost spacing and can be run with the standard 27.5 option or upgraded to 29er if prefered.

Componentry is definitely aimed at playing with gravity not against it. The Rockshox Recon RL has 150mm of drop and rock garden absorbing travel. The wheels use massive WTB ST i35 rims, with an internal rim width of 35mm, which spread the 2.6 Vee Tire Flowsnap tyres out for maximum cornering grip. Single pot Tektro brakes seem like an odd choice but the 200mm and 180mm rotors bolster the braking power. The one thing missing is a dropper post, if you're a push-up and ride down this won't be missed however when riding between trails it will add on faffing time. The frame does feature routing if you do decide to upgrade to a dropper post in the future.

Cube Reaction TM

(Image credit: Cube)

Cube Reaction TM

A trail bike for those who aren’t interested in full gas and big hucks

Wheel size: 27.5-inch | Travel: 130mm | Weight: 13.9kg | Sizes: 16”, 18’, 20”, 22”

Well mannered ride
Dropper post
Flexy fork

When looking at the geometry numbers you would be excused of thinking the Reaction is a little dated or conservative. Where bikes like the Ragley Marley 2.0 or Sonder Transmitter encourage you to seek the steepest and roughest trails, the Reaction TM 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 130mm fork and chunky 2.6 tyres, the Reaction TM becomes a calm and collected trail centre machine.

The Reaction TM comes with an NX Eagle 12sp drivetrain and Magura MT Thirty brakes. Cube have specced their own branded dropper post which is a welcome luxury for a bike in this price bracket.

Specialized Fuse 27.5

(Image credit: Specialized)

Specialized Fuse 27.5

Specialized’s geometry updates to the Fuse means it rides better than ever

Wheel size: 27.5+ | Travel: 130mm | Weight: Unpublished | Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

Smooth descender
Dropper post
Heavy wheels
Square taper BB 

Specialized has made some big changes to the Fuse for 2020. Geometry has been tightened up with Specialized making everything slacker, longer, lower and steeper where needed without going crazy. Although the basic Fuse comes with 27.5+, it will fit 29x2.6 should you wish to upgrade in the future.

The old Fuse was a keen descender and 2020’s updates further reinforce this. Slender tubes and plump 2.8 Specialized tyres make for a smooth ride. Combine this forgiving nature with a long trail number and heaps of traction results in a bike that feels in control on technical downhills. Heavy wheels don’t promote speedy climbs but a 74-degree seat angle and 30T chainring will get you there.

The RockShox Judy fork is a mainstay at this price point and performs well. The drivetrain is 10sp Shimano Deore except for the Specialized crankset and SunRace cassette. The Fuse is finished with Tektro brakes, Specialized finishing kit and a TranzX dropper post.

Trek Roscoe 7

(Image credit: Trek)

Trek Roscoe 7

Lively yet stable, the Roscoe is a plump tyred trail cruiser

Wheel size: 27.5+ | Travel: 120mm (100mm XS) | Weight: 14.71kg | Sizes: XS, S, M, M/L, L, XL XXL

Plus bike stability
Dropper post
Awkward 141mm QR rear wheel spacing

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 were 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.

Whyte 805

(Image credit: Whyte)

Whyte 805

With such stable geometry, Whyte encourages harder, faster riding to get the best from the 805 V2

Wheel size: 27.5-inch | Travel: 120mm | Weight: 12.9kg | Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Quality fork and front tyre keep the front end planted
Aggressive geometry may expose limits of the components

The Whyte 805 V2 is by far the slackest and longest bike on this list. With numbers that make some enduro race bikes look conservative, it’s clear that the 805 V2 was concocted with some serious descending in mind. This stable ride characteristic may feel a bit sedated on slower trails but if your riding involves letting off the brakes and cannonballing descents then the 805 V2 is going to come into its own.

To handle all this aggressive riding Whyte has specced a RockShox Recon RL with 120mm travel and a custom 37mm offset for greater stability. Gearing comes in the form of Shimano’s dependable 10sp Deore groupset and a Sunrace cassette. Wheels are WTB ST i27 wheels with a notable addition of a Maxxis High Roller II 3C Max Terra to maximise front wheel grip. The rear tyre is a dual-compound Maxxis Forekaster for durability and lower rolling resistance. 

Sonder Transmitter

(Image credit: Sonder)

Sonder Transmitter SX Eagle Recon

The Sonder Transmitter’s modern, aggressive geometry encourages wild riding with a sensible price tag

Wheel size: 27.5-inch | Travel: 150mm | Weight: 13.8kg | Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Aggressive geometry 
Heavy wheels

The Sonder Transmitter shows you don’t have to pay top dollar if you're looking to get rowdy on the trail. With 150mm of travel and a modern long and slack approach to geometry, the Transmitter will have you pushing your limits. Once the trail has finished, a steep seat angle puts you in a good position to winch back up to the top for another run.

The Transmitter is boost spaced, dropper post ready, has through-axles and internal cable routing resulting in a frame that will be worth future upgrades. Sonder offers a decent spec with a RockShox Recon RL fork, SRAM SX 12sp drivetrain with SRAM Level brakes. Wheels and finishing kit are supplied by Sonder's in-house brand Love Mud.

Canyon Grand Canyon AL SL 7.0

(Image credit: Canyon)

Canyon Grand Canyon AL SL 7.0

A sporty cross-country bike hungry for miles with a spec that punches well above its £1000 price tag

Wheel size: 29-inch | Travel: 120mm | Weight: 13.45kg | Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

Outstanding value for money
Fork lockout
No dropper post

While many other hardtails are projecting a hardcore riding image of looser and wilder, the Grand Canyon AL SL 7.0 is sticking to its cross-country roots. With geometry that places it firmly in the classic trail category, this is a bike that is most at home covering miles quickly and efficiently.

This makes the Grand Canyon AL SL 7.0 a perfect bike for riding local singletrack, trail centre laps or even as an entry-level XC race bike.

The component list is almost unmatchable thanks to Canyon’s direct-to-consumer selling model. A 120mm RockShox Judy with adjustable compression has plenty of travel to keep you out of trouble. The 12sp drivetrain is a well thought out assortment of SRAM NX and GX. A fast-rolling combo of Alex wheels and Schwalbe tyres work well in most conditions and keeps the bike feeling spritely up punchy climbs.

CALIBRE Bossnut

(Image credit: CALIBRE)

Calibre Bossnut

The best budget full-suspension bike available

Wheel size: 27.5 | Travel: 130mm front and rear | Weight: 15.2kg | Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Full suspension
Impressive ride 
Decent specification
The fork can become overwhelmed
Water bottle cant be mounted inside the main triangle

Ok ok, we know this is meant to be a guide for the best mountain bikes under £1000 but the Calibre Bossnut is too good to miss out on if you have a little extra pocket money to play with.

Somehow while most companies are being celebrated for including a dropper post on a sub £1000 bike, for an extra £100 Calibre is offering the full suspension experience. While most budget full suspension bikes are pretty woeful, the Bossnut will shake it with trail bikes that are twice its price. Decent geometry, an effective suspension system and a Rockshox shock offers impressive performance for razzing up and down your local trail centre.

Componentry isn't bad either, your common or garden SRAM SX Eagle groupset handles drive and SRAM Level T's bring everything to a stop. WTB rims and tyres should give miles of rolling reliability as well.  

What to look for when buying a mountain bike?

1. Geometry

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 riders 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.

2. Components

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. However, it is important to consider what has been sacrificed to afford 12-speed. A bike with fewer gears and a smoother fork, grippier tyres or better brakes will serve you better than an extra one or two gears. 

Bikes will vary in travel with most settling around the 130mm mark as a good balance for trail riding. Suspension experts RockShox are now commonplace and models featuring motion control dampening and compression give options to customise suspension feel.

3. Tyres and wheel size

With the choice between 27.5- and 29-inch wheelsets further diluted with the introduction of plus-sized tyres, 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. Tyre sizes usually range between 2.35 and 2.6 inches. 

The third option is for 27.5+, this uses a 27.5-inch rim size with a much larger tyre between 2.8- and 3 inches. The chunkier tyre increases the effective wheel size to almost the same circumference as a 29-inch wheel. Plus-size tyres roll very well over obstacles with enhanced traction and vibration absorption thanks to the high volume tyres ability to deform to the trail surface making them popular with beginner riders. There are disadvantages, all that extra tyre 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 tyre clearance can be limited.