With top-end mountain bikes carrying price tags touching five digits, there are tons of options at fraction of the cost that greatly benefit from trickle-down technology. They might not earn you a podium on the World Cup, but will make for nothing but smiles on the trail.
Bikes costing between the £1,000 and £2,000 mark the lower price point where the benefits offered by full-suspension bikes are no longer vastly outweighed by the compromises in the quality of suspension and components. Hardtails in this price range will have higher spec components and may even graduate to a carbon-fibre frame.
BEST MOUNTAIN BIKES UNDER £2000: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
When you hit this price point, many brands are offering an alloy version of their flagship frame, that means the same geometry and linkage for full-suspension models.
Hardtails at this price range may graduate to carbon fibre, but with recent improvements in aluminium manufacturing, the alloy version of a frame may offer better ride performance.
Expect to find an air spring which allows for dampening and rebound adjustment. Forks should have tapered steerer tubes, and full-suspension frames may even have adjustable geometry via flip chips.
Most of the bikes in this price range will be cross country or trail bikes, meaning that travel numbers will range from 100mm to 150mm.
3. Componentes and build kit
Around the £2k mark, you should expect to find 1x drivetrains. While it may seem counterintuitive to have fewer gears, with wide-range cassettes with up to 12-cogs being the norm, it's possible to achieve the same or even wider gear range as double or triple chainrings with fewer parts, better chain security and more intuitive operation.
Bikes in this price range should have thru-axles connecting both wheels to the frame and expect to find Boots-hub spacing — 110mm front and 148mm rear. Boost spacing allows for stiffer wheels and creates a better chain line for 1x drivetrains, plus if you're looking to upgrade your crank or wheelset down the line, you'll be plush with choice.
Wheels and tyres should be tubeless-ready, with some brands even sending bikes out from the factory with airtight rim strips, valves and a bottle of sealant.
In this price range, we are tarting to see some bikes come stock with dropper posts, though it’s not yet standard.
THE BEST MOUNTAIN BIKES UNDER £2,000
Specialized Fuse Expert 29
Hardy hardtail for those on a budget
Frame material: Aluminium | Travel: 120mm | Wheel size: 29-inch
As the saying goes, you're better off buying a good hardtail than a bad full-suspension mountain bike, and this is exactly what you get with the new Specialized Fuse. Made from the brand's M4 aluminium, the frame features a low-slung top tube, beefy downtube, short chainstays and a long and slack geometry for a fun and flickable ride.
Rolling on 29-inch wheels, there is a sliding dropout at the back for those that want to run a single speed or play with the wheelbase to customise handling characteristics.
At the front there's a 130mm Rockshox 35 Gold fork and a SRAM NX 12-speed eagle drivetrain clicks through the gears. Specialized also spec the bike with a TranzX dropper posts (100mm S, 120mm M, 150mm L/XL) for when the descents get rowdy.View Deal
Giant Stance 29 1
A well-rounded, full -suspension aluminium steed
Frame material: Aluminium | Travel: 120mm rear, 130mm front | Wheel size: 29-inch
Giant's Stance had remained unchanged for a little over half a decade, but for 2020 it has bigger wheels a steeper seat angle and slacker headtube. Available in two models, the Stance 1 comes with a 130mm RockShox Recon RL complete with 34mm stanchions, 120mm RockShox Monarch R shock, and a SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain.
Giant doesn't give the Stance Maestro rear linkage, instead opting for what the brand calls its Flex Point rear end; basically, a single pivot four-bar link that relies on flex in the seat stay instead of a dropout pivot.
For a bike that costs less than some wheelsets, the Stance is well rounded, climbing surprisingly well even with the heft it carries with it. It's a bike that needs to be ridden on top of the trail, not ploughed through it, but the handling characters and suspension are well-tuned to achieve this ride.
Trek Fuel EX 5
Tweaked geometry and 1x10 drivetrain make for a superb-value mountain bike
Frame material: Aluminium | Travel: 130mm rear, 140mm front | Wheel size: 27.5- or 29-inch
The previous iteration of the Fuel EX was widely loved, so when Trek went back to the drawing board to design the new model it slackened the head angle by a hair, steepened the seat angle a bit, and increased the front travel by 10mm.
The wheel sizing is size depending with the smallest two rolling on 27.5mm wheels and tires to maximise standover height while the rest see bigger 29er hoops both with 2.6in tyres. With a full alloy frame, the Fuel EX sees a flip-chip in the linkage which allows for changes in head angle and BB height to customise handling characteristics without affecting the suspension.
Trek has changed the linkage slightly from its full floater design, now with the rear shock-mounted to a fixed eyelet on the mainframe, which allows for a stiffer frame, shorter chainstays and better tyre clearance.
Commencal Meta TR 29 Origin
Best for the point and pray descender on a budget
Frame material: Aluminium | Travel: 130mm rear, 150mm front | Wheel size: 27.5- or 29-inch
Direct to consumer brands hit price points with their bikes that brands sold it bike shops just can't quite match, and the Commencal Meta TR 29 Origin is the perfect example. For a hair under £2,000, the Meta comes with a 150mm RockShox 35 Gold RL fork with a Debonair damper, Rockshox Deluxe Select rear shock, full SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed groupset and WTB ST 130 rims wrapped in skin wall Snap Tyres from Vee Tyre Co — the only thing missing is a dropper post.
It's not particularly lightweight at 16kg, but the geometry is dialed with a 76.5-degree seat angle it climbs better than bikes weighing many kilos less and cost three times as much.
Despite the relatively simple linkage design and a reach of 455mm in a size M, there is no energy lost to pedal bob on the ups, but the 66.5-degree head angle allows the bike to plough through just about anything on the way down.
Norco Fluid 1 HT
Flickable and fun hardtail
Frame material: Aluminium | Travel: 120mm | Wheel size: 27.5- or 29-inch
Hailing from British Columbia's storied North Shore, the Fluid HT is made with 6061 alloy and will accept both 27.5+ and 29-inch wheels and tyres. It's spec'd with a 120mm RockShox Sektor RL, which features the brand’s highly tunable Debonair air spring and a mix of Sram NX and GX eagle drivetrain components.
With a 130mm dropper at the back, the slack 67.5-degree head angle and 425mm reach and short chainstays the Fluid HT feels a bit like a dirt jumper on the descents, and you can hop over trail obstacle or lean into a manual with easy. On the ups the handling is sharp, and the front wheel stays planted through tight switchbacks.
For this year Norco has ditched the quick release rear end and opted for boost hub spacing.View Deal
YT Jeffsy Al Base
A 2k bike you can push to the ragged edge
Frame material: Aluminium | Travel: 140mm rear, 140mm front | Wheel size: 27.5- or 29-inch
Yes, we know technically the YT Jeffsy AL Base is £99 pound over our £2,000 limit, but it's one of those bikes that so good it would be rude not to include it. With 140mm of travel front and back, the Jeffsy is a hoot to ride in just about any terrain you can throw at it — the handling is responsive and finds the right balance between stability and agility.
The geometry is adjustable with a flip-chip, but in the low position the head angle measures 67-degrees, the seat angle is 75 and the stack and reach measure 610 and 425 in a size medium frame. These numbers aren't all that progressive but paired with a Fox 34 Float Rhythm fork and Float DPS Performance shock are a winning combo.
The Jeffsy also gets a full SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, Guide T brakes, SDG Tellis dropper post, and DT Swiss M1900 Spline wheels wrapped in Maxxis Minion DHR tyres. View Deal
Scott Spark 960
Cross-country speed with surefooted descending for all-day fun
Frame material: Aluminium | Travel: 120mm rear, 120mm front | Wheel size: 29-inch
We're seeing quite a few XC bikes bumping the front suspension up to 120mm, blurring the lines between what we used to consider a trail bike and something you can pin a number plate onto. Not to be confused with the Spark RC, which Kate Courtney and Nino Schurter have ridden to the top step of many World Cup podiums, the Spark is a tad slacker, thanks in part to the longer 120mm RockShox Judy fork at the front and sees wider bars and a shorter stem.
Backed by a 120mm X-Fusion Nude shock, the Spark gets the brands TwinLoc suspension system which allows for three travel settings controlled from a bar-mounted remote.
Rolling on 29-inch wheels, the bike sees an alloy frame, an asymmetric linkage and is built with a Sram SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, Shimano Hydraulic disc brakes and a Syncros dropper post.
Canyon Spectral AL 5.0
Long travel party bike for those
Frame material: Aluminium | Travel: 150mm rear, 160mm front | Wheel size: 27.5-inch
Canyon Revamped the Spectral for 2019 with a bigger 160mm fork and longer 150mm shock out the back, the German direct-to-consumer brand scores high marks on the value-for-money meter with a Fox 36 Rhythm paired to a Float DPS performance at the front. Clicking through the gears is a SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, and Guide T brakes keep your speed in check.
The Alloy frame is top knotch, and it sees Canyon's Cable Tunnel, which is basically a bolt-on cover that hides the cables, but still makes them easy to access and doubles as a downtube protector.
It's not likely you'll be claiming climbing KOMs on the Spectral, but it's at home when things get rough and rowdy and eats trail chunder and brake bumps as a snack before breakfast. Short chainstays, a low bottom bracket and smaller 27.5-inch wheels keep it agile in the corners and its comfortable and predictable in the air, even for riders who prefer to keep their tyres on the ground.