Best mountain bikes under $3,000

Looking for fast, hard charging fun without breaking the bank? This is it

Who says you need spend loads of money to get a capable mountain bike? Many brands offer a wide range of models, often with the same frames and suspension designs, just with different parts packages. Under $3,000 is where the smart money bikes can be found.

One of the best aspects of these bikes is that often the frames are worthy of upgrades as you go through the trials and tribulations of learning how to ride mountain bikes.  

That means should you crash, or simply wear something out, replacing the components with something better or lighter is a viable and worthy choice. 

Take a look at these five bikes that fall short of the $3,000 limit, they're all ready for hitting the dirt, having fun on the trails and justifying the optional performance upgrade.

Ragley Bluepig

BikeRadar score4.5/5

With a riding position like a downhill bike, Ragley's Bluepig is far from a swine
With a riding position like a downhill bike, Ragley's Bluepig is far from a swine

  • Price: $2,150
  • Frame material: custom triple-butted 4130 steel
  • Fork: RockShox Yari RC, 150mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano SLX
  • Wheels: WTB STP i23 27.5in rims on Novatec Boost hubs
  • Tires: WTB Vigilante/Trail Boss
  • Weight: 29.8lbs / 13.53kg

Coming in way under budget is a rowdy steel hardtail that while not a common brand on US shores, has a devout following in the land of sloppy, muddy trail centers.

Ragley is a UK brand through and through and those traits shine despite the mud with a seriously long (1,200mm wheelbase) and low (64-degree head angle) geometry, bombproof steel frame, and plenty of clearance around the tires.

The extreme geometry and burly frame rewards competence and gutsy riding when things get wild and zesty. When touching the edge of your abilities, the Bluepig amplifies the fun. 

It's clear that the specs were chosen by someone who understands riding. Shimano's best bang-for-the-buck SLX bits handle the shifting and braking.

The same could be said for the big 35mm stanchioned Yari fork up front. About the only nod to climbing comes from the WTB rims and tires with obvious concessions to weight and pedal ability. 

Norco Fluid 7.1 FS

BikeRadar score4/5

Norco's Fluid 7.1 FS comes in way under budget yet is still ready for loads of singletrack action
Norco's Fluid 7.1 FS comes in way under budget yet is still ready for loads of singletrack action

  • Price: $2,099
  • Frame material: aluminum
  • Rear suspension: ART, 120mm
  • Shock: RockShox Monarch R
  • Fork: RockShox Recon Gold, 120mm
  • Drivetrain: SRAM NX 11-speed
  • Wheels: WTB STP i25 27.5in rims on Novatec hubs
  • Tires: Maxxis Ardent 2.25in

Despite coming in way under the $3k budget, the Norco Fluid 7.1 FS has some serious components as well as trail chops. 

Built on the fact the Fluid's frame and capable ART rear suspension has been around a while, Norco can afford to load up this 120mm travel trail bike with some impressive kit for the money. 

Suspension duties are deftly handled by RockShox air-sprung units, a SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain delivers modern 1-by range and simple chain management, and up-to-date 27.5in wheels and tires are on board. 

The penny pinching is apparent with the quick-release rear wheel and externally routed dropper post, but in reality it's light years better than no dropper at all.  

Best of all, with the Fluid coming in so under budget, any upgrade you want or need can be tacked on. 

Orange Crush S

BikeRadar score4/5

Orange's Crush S shows you don't need full suspension for full-on fun
Orange's Crush S shows you don't need full suspension for full-on fun

  • Price: $2,100
  • Frame material: 6061 custom butted aluminum
  • Fork: RockShox Yari RC, 150mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano SLX
  • Wheels: Formula + Alex MD25 27.5"
  • Tires: WTB Vigilante/Trail Boss

Modern trail and enduro mountain bikes are all about the low, long and slack frame angles, and Orange's hard-charging Crush S is too.

With a geometry made for going fast and bouncing through questionable lines, the Orange comes with proper specs to keep up.

The RockShox Yari fork may be a big budget item, but it shares the same stout chassis as the genre-defining Pike.

The WTB tires come gunning with Tough casings to fend off hits and sidewall damage as well. 

Despite all this aggro talk and bravado, the Crush S doesn't punish the rider with a brutally stiff ride meaning heading out for a day in the hills won't leave you feeling rattled to bits at the end. 

Santa Cruz 5010 Alloy R1

BikeRadar score4/5

The 5010 from Santa Cruz comes with the company's lauded VPP3 rear suspension
The 5010 from Santa Cruz comes with the company's lauded VPP3 rear suspension

  • Price: $2,999
  • Frame material: aluminum
  • Rear suspension: VPP, 130mm
  • Shock: Fox Float Performance
  • Fork: Fox 34 Rhythm, 130mm
  • Drivetrain: SRAM NX
  • Wheels: WTB STP i23 27.5in rims on Novatec Boost hubs
  • Tires: Maxxis Minion/Crossmark
  • Weight: 30.7lbs / 13.9kg

Santa Cruz bikes are highly regarded and for good reason, they blend an impeccable ride with impressive aesthetics. Thankfully, for those not willing to put up half a year or more worth of rent or mortgage for a bike, the California company offers aluminum models of its most popular trail bikes. 

The 5010 is truly a do-it-all trail bike clocking in with 130mm of travel front and rear. Controlling that squish are Fox dampers on both ends; they work so well most riders will have a hard time telling the difference with their high-end counterparts.

A SRAM 11-speed single ring drivetrain provides the range and is easily upgradeable should the need arise. 

Possibly best of all, this frame features Santa Cruz's VPP3 rear suspension. It's quick when on the gas, yet playful and willing to blast into the air when called upon. 

Giant Anthem 2

Giant's Anthem 2 does an impeccable job blurring the abilities of an XC and trail bike
Giant's Anthem 2 does an impeccable job blurring the abilities of an XC and trail bike

  • Price: $2,575
  • Frame material: Giant Aluxx SL aluminum
  • Rear suspension: Maestro, 110mm
  • Shock: Fox Float Performance Evol
  • Fork: Fox 34 Rhythm, 120mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano SLX
  • Wheels: Giant XC-2, 27.5in
  • Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic/Racing Ralph

Giant's Anthem line of bikes highlights how far cross country bikes have come in recent years. With the inclusion of a bit more travel (120mm front/110mm rear) and better performance out of the rear suspension, and the dampers controlling the squish, chunkier trails, faster descents and pushing harder are all now fair play. 

XC riding isn't out of the question though, the Anthem 2 is still plenty fast with with a lightweight frame that's within a half a pound to its carbon brethren.

Fast, low tread Schwalbe tires lean towards the XC side of the spectrum and the large frame tubes are sure to direct your power into go-fast motion. 

With up-to-date Boost axle standards, a renowned rear suspension and the inclusion of a dropper post, the Anthem 2 beautifully blurs XC and trail.

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