Voodoo Hoodoo (2012)
The Voodoo Hoodoo’s RRP is a penny under £600, but it’s been available at £100 less for quite a while now. It would be a good buy at £600, so £500 for a bike ﬁtted with one of SR Suntour’s best mid-range air forks is a bargain. The fact the frame and its associated kit are good too is a double bonus.
The Hoodoo offers a comfortable ride thanks to its big-proﬁle Maxxis Ardent rubber, plush fork and comfy saddle. The 2.25in tyres are great – grippy but fast rolling, which adds conﬁdence as well as speed – and the superb fork gives you conﬁdence to attack the sort of rough terrain that challenges most bikes at this price.
Click here to read our full review of the Voodoo Hoodoo
B’Twin bikes from French sports superstore Decathlon are always good value, despite the fact that the sterling-euro exchange rate is in the doldrums. The Rockrider 9.1 is the cheapest of their performance range full-suspension bikes.
While most budget full-suss bikes trade rear end travel for weight and singletrack wallow, the Rockrider 9.1 doesn’t. It’s light and sprightly, given its price, and it’s great fun on pedally trails. With a shock lockout lever, it’d be a five-star bike. As it is, it's a proper full-suspension bike for the price of a decent hardtail.
Click here to read our full review of the B’Twin Rockrider 9.1
Boardman HT Team R (AKA Boardman Urban Mountain Bike Team)
Weighing 10.6kg (23.5lb), this is one of the best equipped, and lightest, mountain bikes we’ve tested for under £1,000. Its ‘Urban’ tag comes from its skinny slick tyres and ﬁxed blade fork but it’s otherwise the same as Boardman’s identically priced Team model with a RockShox Recon fork.
While it’s fun to see how well you can ride on dry trails with slick tyres, the beauty of this carbon-forked Boardman, once you’ve treated it to proper mountain bike treads, is the way its low weight makes it feel so sprightly, tight and direct. Be generous with tyre size and it’s forgiving even without suspension. In fact, it comes close to feeling like a cross-country race bike, but at half the price.
Click here to read our full review of the Boardman HT Team R
KHS Alite 2000SL (2012)
If you’re looking to hit the sub £1,000 mountain bike market this is one of the pricier options out there. But we suspect most enthusiast trail riders will be happy to pay the premium to get an 11.6kg (25.5lb) bike with a RockShox Reba fork.
The fact that it has light wheels and fast tyres will boost its appeal to anyone who values floaty cross-country speed, but the 120mm (4.7in) of fork travel means it’s not averse to taking a few dodgy lines on the fast technical stuff.
Click here to read our full review of the KHS Alite 2000SL
Carerra Fury (2012)
Carrera’s Fury has been the entry-level hardtail to beat in the UK for a while. It’s a burly cross-country bike that’s well equipped and good enough to hit the majority of trails. For the 2012 model, rather than inﬂate the price, Halfords have adjusted the equipment spec.
Is this Fury still the bike it was before? Not quite. The introduction of 10-speed gearing doesn’t compensate for the downgraded suspension fork. But it’s a measure of how good the Carrera was before that you can subtract something from it and still be left with a bike that eclipses most of its rivals. If you’re after a do-it-all entry-level hardtail, for everything from bridleways to black routes, the Fury should still be on your shortlist.
Click here to read our full review of the Carrera Fury
Cannondale Trail SL 3 29er (2012)
Cannondale’s Trail SL 3 29er deﬁes cost, materials and tyre tread convention to create an enjoyable and highly amusing trail bike. Sizing needs care, but otherwise this is an outstandingly agile, smooth, naturally fast and entertaining bike that’s a blast straight from the box, but well worth upgrading in the future.
While ‘vibration reducing engineered ﬂex’ is a very fashionable frame claim, few bikes – particularly alloy ones – achieve a noticeably softer feel. The back end of the Cannondale, however, is remarkably resilient, with a spring in its step that many steel bikes would be envious of. This stops your backside getting bludgeoned by blocks, drops and trail trauma and gives the compact Trail SL 3 an agile and lively feel.
Click here to read our full review of the Cannondale Trail SL 3 29er
Merlin Malt 4 (2011)
Lancashire-based mail order specialists Merlin Cycles have quietly been doing a busy trade in their own-brand Malt series of aluminium hardtails for well over a decade. They’ve long been a good choice for sharp handling, well built and decently equipped bikes that come at a very fair price. This 2011 range-topper combines a seriously impressive aluminium chassis with a spec list crammed with big brand components.
The Malt 4 strikes a balance between pace, comfort and fun that makes it, for our money, a genuinely versatile all-rounder. It’s a tad shorter and more upright than an out-and-out cross-country racer, and for heavy-duty trail riding, its 100mm-travel (3.9in) fork starts to feel stretched, but for most riders most of the time, it's all the bike you'll ever need. We’ve experienced better aluminium hardtails, but not at this price.
Click here to read our full review of the Merlin Malt 4
Revolution Triad Zero (2012)
The Triad Zero is the top bike in Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative’s own-brand hardtail range. It’s not simply an upgrade from the cross-country orientated Triad 1 but a different kind of bike: a long-travel trail hardtail with a short stem and wide handlebar. Its fantastic RockShox fork makes it a spirited descender and a capable all-round trail bike.
Low bottom bracket aside, the Triad Zero does everything you'd want from a hardtail at this price. And it does so with aplomb thanks to its superior fork, which gives the bike smooth running as well as bigger hit capability. It's not a full-bore play bike – it’s a bit steeply angled and low-slung for rock gardens and jackhammer hazards – but feels totally at home on most technical routes.
Click here to read our full review of the Revolution Triad Zero
Ridgeback Storm (2011)
The Storm is one of the few rigid forked mountain bikes left on the mainstream market. Its semi-slick tyres hint at its intended users – riders who spend most of their time on blacktop or easy trails, but with a range of gearing and hydraulic disc brakes it wouldn’t take much to upgrade it to full trail status.
Apart from the low bottom bracket and the obvious limited traction of the tyres in the mud, the Storm handles itself extremely well on all but the toughest trail rides. We spent part of the test period with 2.25in knobbly tyres ﬁtted, and the obvious boosts to pedal clearance and wet trail traction was complemented by enough extra comfort to add speed and handling conﬁdence on rough terrain.
Click here to read our full review of the Ridgeback Storm
YT Industries Romp (2012)
YT Industries are a German brand who pack a serious punch in mainland Europe. Only selling direct to the customer makes their prices super-low, so although the Romp dirt jump/four-cross bike looks expensive, it isn't. It punches well above its price, with a stiff, light and well made frame, and decent finishing kit.
The low weight of the bike and the lightweight wheelset combine to make the YT more air-friendly than EasyJet, and the spec for the money on the Romp could almost be described as bonkers. SRAM’s 10-speed X9 shifter and mech aren’t usually seen until bikes get considerably more expensive.
Click here to read our full review of the YT Industries Romp