If you’re in the market for a new — or another — mountain bike, we’ve got you covered. From high-end, full-suspension bikes built for racing to the latest affordable 650b Plus rigs, these bikes are the some of the best around.
ENTRY LEVEL ($1,500 AND UNDER)
1. NORCO FLUID 2 HT
Somewhere between a fat bike and a more traditional mountain bike, 650b Plus bikes are perfect for beginners. They’ll roll over just about anything, handle well and are faster than you might think. While it won’t break any speed records, the Fluid 2 HT from Norco is plenty capable of riding just about any trail — from loose technical climbs to rocky descents. The one-by drivetrain also makes shifting simple and regular maintenance as easy as it’s going to get.
2. SURLY KARATE MONKEY 27.5+
Known for its affordable and well-built bikes, Surly has a small but loyal following. The solid steel-frame Karate Monkey is a bike that’s been around for a while, and while the characteristics that made it famous are still there, Surly switched the 29er wheels for 27.5+ for a slightly altered ride experience. The result is a bike that can still survive any ride but with a faster, more modernized geometry. Overall, it’s a fun bike that’s perfect for the not-too-serious mountain biker looking for a weekend trail machine that should absolutely last forever no matter what hell you decide to put it through.
3. MARIN HAWK HILL
If you want a full-suspension rig without breaking the bank, the Marin Hawk Hill offers great value. The air suspension can be adjusted quickly and the 11-42t cassette still gives you plenty of gearing to tackle climbs despite the one-by drivetrain. What’s surprising about the Hawk Hill, though, is how well it corners, which is not a common characteristic of full-suspension mountain bikes in this price range.
4. DEVINCI DJANGO 29 NX
Whether you’re a novice mountain biker or an expert, the Django 29 NX is a bike that won’t let you down. It moves efficiently under power, is easy to handle on descents and accelerates like a race bike. The 29er wheels make it easy to roll over just about everything, too, which makes picking the absolute perfect line a little less scientific. The component package provides excellent value and won’t require a ton of upgrades if you’re looking to use this bike in an upcoming event.
5. TREK FUEL EX 9 29
If your top priority is a comfortable XC bike that’s built for taking a beating, this bike is for you. While it isn’t the fastest bike on this list or the best climber, it is one of those mountain bikes that you can ride all day long on almost any type of terrain without too much of a problem. It’s also a confident descender, features a redesigned frame for improved strength and has a bombproof wheelset that can really take a pounding. While it might not be a top pick if you’re into racing, it’s a perfect bike for just about everyone else.
6. SCOTT SPARK 930
While it isn’t quite as light or fast as the higher-end carbon bikes in the Spark family, the 930 is no slouch. Other than using aluminum instead of carbon, the 930 is awfully similar to the near $10K 900 Ultimate in geometry and performance out on the trail. It’s agile going downhill, climbs well and accelerates like a bullet. The Shimano XT components, Fox 34 fork and Maxxis Forekaster tires offer excellent overall value for the price.
READ MORE > MOUNTAIN BIKE LINGO | CYCLING 101
7. SANTA CRUZ TALLBOY XX1
With the move to 27+ tires, the new Tallboy rides like a dream on the trails. But what we like most is this bike’s versatility, which is compatible with different tire sizes (including 29ers) — meaning you’ll get a completely different bike with a wheelset switch. While not an all-out race bike due to its lack of top-end speed, you won’t find a better handling bike on the trail. Overall, the Tallboy is perfect for anyone looking to tackle a variety of terrain, likes to climb and likes to hit rough trails aggressively. While this carbon version falls on the high-end of the spectrum, you can also purchase this bike with an aluminum frame and more affordable components to lower the overall price.
8. YETI SB5.5C
$5,500 to $10,599
The knock on 29ers is that they can often feel sluggish. The Yeti SB5.5c is one of those rare exceptions, and you’ll notice how lively it feels out on the trail when you decide to kick things up a notch. The real star of the show, though, is the Switch Infinity suspension design, which is supportive without neglecting handling or responsiveness. It’s also lightweight, climbs well and really hauls going downhill. The cost of the SB5.5c varies depending on the choice of your components and wheels, with the frameset alone coming in at $3,400.
9. SPECIALIZED S-WORKS EPIC XTR DI2
For an all-out race bike, it doesn’t get much better than the S-Works Epic. In fact, Specialized claims it’s the fastest XC bike on the planet — and judging from the number of world championships and Olympic medals riders have won using this bike, it’s hard to find an argument against their claim. This new, more modern version of the Epic increases the reach for better handling, has a stiffer, lighter frame for improved speed and Brain 2.0 technology, which moves the suspension system closer to the rear axle for superior damping performance on the trail. The feathery Roval carbon wheels and Shimano XTR Di2 also provides one of the best component packages on the market.