Cheap full-suspension bikes – bargain or waste of money?

By Mountain Biking UK | Monday, September 12, 2011 7.00am

Cheap full-suspension bikes often look like the real deal, complete with shocks, forks and disc brakes. For a beginner bike buyer it’s hard to see why you shouldn’t have the technology of a £1,000 mountain bike for a fraction of the price.

Unfortunately many of these budget bikes are nothing more than copycat cosmetic exercises that aren’t actually fit for off-road use. That's why we normally advise buying a hardtail if you're in the market for a sub-£500 or sub-£1,000 mountain bike.

But is this advice still up to date? After all, there have been all kinds of technical advances over the past few years. We decided to round up a selection of full-bounce bikes ranging in price from £170 to £600 to see whether you really do get what you pay for.

The result was a bruising month of testing, and not just when our budget bikes gave up staying rubber side down. Even when we stayed on, the ‘suspension’ of several of them was enough to batter wrists, ankles and hands into an aching pulp even on relatively short rough rides.

These are the bikes we tested; look out for reviews on BikeRadar throughout the week:

Boss Hammerhead

  • Price: £169.99
  • Weight: 19.39kg (42.75lb)
  • Verdict: "Vastly heavy catalogue of component failures. Only fit for a paper round, not proper off-road use"
  • From: Argos
  • Boss Hammerhead review

Boss hammerhead:

Muddy Fox Reflex

  • Price: £199.99
  • Weight: 14.38kg (31.7lb)
  • Verdict: "Limited suspension movement and small sizing but a clatter-free budget bouncer that's light enough to enjoy"
  • From: Universal Cycles
  • Muddy Fox Reflex review

Muddy fox reflex:

Apollo Paradox

  • Price: £299.99
  • Weight: 18.03kg (39.7lb)
  • Verdict: "Creditably detailed chassis, but a deafening, self-destructing disaster off-road"
  • From: Halfords
  • Apollo Paradox review

Apollo paradox:

B'Twin Rockrider 6.3

  • Price: £349.99
  • Weight: 15.99kg (35.25lb)
  • Verdict: "The fork, tyres and flexy frame limit rough terrain performance, but it's a bouncy bargain for gentler trails"
  • From: Decathlon
  • B'Twin Rockrider 6.3 review

B'Twin rockrider 6.3:

Mongoose Salvo Sport

Mongoose salvo sport:

Jamis Dakar XC Sport

Jamis dakar xc sport: jamis dakar xc sport

Buying advice

If you've got your heart set on buying a full-suspension bike but have a limited budget, it's always a good idea to take it for a test ride. Here's what you should be watching out for:

  • The suspension shouldn’t slam to a metal-on-metal clang, pogo endlessly after every bump or seize solid
  • You should be able to pick the bike up or pedal it uphill without it busting your back
  • It should steer and stop with some kind of authority and urgency

Useful links

BikeRadar's best mountain bikes under £500

BikeRadar's best mountain bikes under US$1,000

BikeRadar's best mountain bikes under £1,000

Buyer's guide to mountain bike suspension

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