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Best mountain bikes for around £1,000 in 2023 | Top-rated bikes for mountain biking on a budget

Got a grand to spend on a mountain bike? These are the ones to look at…

A black Calibre Line 29 hardtail mountain bike

Few of us are lucky enough to be able to splash £1,000 on our first bike. Instead, this tends to be the price range for people who’ve already spent some time on a mountain bike and have decided they want something a little more serious to take their riding to the next level.

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While budget is still a priority, the bikes in this price bracket are a little more trail-focused. So you can expect to find suspension that’s a bit more heavy-duty and equipment that’s better at handling the rigours of off-road riding.

This price range is dominated by hardtails, but you can get a good full-suspension bike if you’re prepared to spend close to the £1,000 mark, and it’s not unheard of to see some full-sus bikes under £1,000 among the best trail mountain bikes.

Hardtails tend to be lighter and easier to maintain, but the benefit of having both front and rear suspension is that it’ll give you more confidence and traction on steep descents.

The industry also seems to have settled in terms of wheel size, meaning the majority of bikes at this price will now use 27.5in/650b wheels.

At this price point, dropper posts are becoming more common, introducing extra versatility to a bike and consequently opening up a far wider range of riding.

Hydraulic disc brakes are also almost standard at this price. We’d go nearly as far as saying you should avoid bikes that don’t have them, because they offer better and more confidence-inspiring performance than cable brakes.

A good tip is to look for a bike at this price point that uses the Boost mountain bike axle standard. Upgrading wheels is an easy way to improve the performance of a bike and this standard will open up a whole plethora of lighter and stronger mountain bike wheels to you.

Every machine here can be pushed into service at any trail centre, in most types of cross-country races and for any sort of general off-road exploration.

No matter which bike you choose in this price bracket, it is going to help get more out of you and your riding – which, after all, is why we ride bikes.

Best mountain bikes for around £1,000 in 2023, as rated by our expert testers

Boardman MHT 8.9

5.0 out of 5 star rating
We dubbed Boardman's MHT 8.9 an instant classic when it arrived earlier this year.
We dubbed Boardman’s MHT 8.9 an instant classic when it first arrived.
Russell Burton
  • £1,000 as tested
  • A ride that performs far beyond what the price would suggest
  • Great kit makes the most of the sorted frame
  • Versatile frame means it can switch to commuting duties

If you’ve got £1,000 to spend on a quick trail hardtail then this absolutely has to be on your shortlist because its ride is capable of outclassing nearly everything else in its category.

As a rework of Boardman’s fast trail 29er, the MHT is more evolution than revolution. It’s blisteringly fast, with a lot of that pace coming directly from the Boardman’s lack of overall weight. Pop it on the scales and you’d see it actually comes in at around 2kg lighter than most similarly priced bikes.

Its understated alloy frame is paired with a very capable RockShox Reba RL fork, while a sorted Shimano SLX 1x drivetrain with 46t crawler cog should see you up the steepest of inclines.

The MHT can even lend itself to commuting duties thanks to its rack mounts, low overall weight and hardwearing tyres.

It’s a different proposition from the full-suspension bikes you’ll find in this list, but if you like going quickly and don’t suffer from a bad back then it could be the smarter choice.

Voodoo Bizango

5.0 out of 5 star rating
Pack shot of the Voodoo Bizango hardtail trail mountain bike
The Voodoo Bizango belies its price.
Steve Behr / Our Media
  • £750 as tested
  • Sorted geometry and good choice of components
  • Could do with a dropper post

The Voodoo Bizango offers fantastic performance for its £750 price tag. It’s a sorted trail bike ideal for beginners or as a second bike for more seasoned riders.

The aluminium frame is specced with a Shimano drivetrain and disc brakes, which offer impressive modulation and stopping power.

Heading downhill, the Bizango’s large wheels roll over small bumps easily and the slack head angle makes for a fast ride. The Suntour Raidon front fork with 120mm of travel has a big part to play in how good this bike feels.

While fantastic in the dry, the Ardent tyres do struggle on muddy descents.

Its downhill performance doesn’t stop the Bizango from feeling sluggish on the climbs, with the short chainstays keeping the feel of the bike snappy.

The Bizango would be better with a dropper post, but really that’s splitting hairs.

Calibre Line 29

4.5 out of 5 star rating
A black Calibre Line 29 hardtail mountain bike
Calibre has made a name for itself as the brand to beat when it comes to affordable bikes in the UK.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media
  • £905 as tested
  • Stable geometry inspires confidence on tough terrain
  • Great spec list includes a dropper post
  • Short seat tube might not be suitable for tallest riders

Building on Calibre’s fantastic success thanks to its top-value and high-performing Rake, Line 10, Bossnut and Sentry models, the Line 29 takes the brand’s well-known formula for success and applies modern, progressive geometry to the mix.

Unsurprisingly, the utilitarian but highly functional frame is loaded with fantastic kit including SRAM’s NX 11-speed drivetrain, Guide T brakes and a 122mm-travel dropper post from KS. It’s also specced with a RockShox Recon RL fork with Motion Control damper.

On the trail, the great geometry combines with the generous spec to form a bike that feels confident and composed on techy descents, riding predictably and demonstrating that a circa £900 bike needn’t be ridden conservatively.

With a few spec changes, such as the tyres, the Line 29 will be just as handy riding XC as it is on the descents. For the money, it’s a truly impressive performer.

Kona Kahuna

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Pack shot of the Kona Kahuna hardtail mountain bike
The Kahuna rewards you with a lively, engaging ride and there’s plentiful acceleration on tap.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media
  • £1,199 as tested
  • A balanced and intuitive ride
  • A good-quality frame
  • Shimano Deore 1×12 drivetrain

Kona’s Kahuna name has been around for decades and this current iteration doesn’t disappoint.

With its butted aluminium frame and splayed rear stays for increased mud clearance, the Kahuna’s an easy bike to ride. It accelerates excellently when cranking hard and the frame is smooth enough to dampen mellower off-road trails.

It’s a fast climber and the grippy Maxxis tyres have your back on loose dirt. You can get in over your head though, if you’re not careful, because the bike handles so well.

Shimano’s 12-speed Deore drivetrain is an inspired spec choice and shifts felt smooth with its broad range.

The lack of a dropper post limits some capability on more technical terrain and our only other gripe is that the geometry veers towards being more traditional.

Voodoo Bizango Carbon

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Voodoo Bizango Carbon
With a carbon frame and solid spec, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Bizango was twice the price.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • £1,000 as tested
  • Superb XC performance and good weight for the price
  • Modern geometry makes it trail-capable
  • Good choice of top components

The carbon-framed Bizango looks like a much more expensive rig thanks to its internally routed cables, modern geometry and sleek, uninterrupted lines. It’s 1x specific – so no front derailleur – and this helps improve its stiffness.

The great-looking frame is specced with top-choice parts, too. Shimano’s MT-400 brakes, SRAM’s 12-speed XS Eagle drivetrain and a RockShox Judy fork combine to propel the Bizango beyond cross-country rides.

It gives more expensive XC bikes a run for their money and leaves its rider with few excuses for not keeping up.

The geometry helps it descend confidently, but the carbon frame lacks comfort when riding. However, for the price, there’s very little that rivals the Bizango Carbon.

Voodoo Bizango Pro

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Voodoo Bizango Pro
The Voodoo Bizango Pro is only missing a dropper post.
  • £950 / $1,258 as tested
  • Trail-capable modern geometry
  • Great spec list

The Voodoo Bizango Pro offers great value, with a spec list featuring a 130mm RockShox FS-35 Gold fork and a Shimano Deore 1X12 drivetrain married to Shimano MT401 hydraulic disc brakes.

With a modern geometry, featuring a 66.5-degree head angle, the Bizango Pro feels confident and controlled out on the trails, with the air fork providing support uphill and finding grip on descents.

Unlike some bikes in this price range, the Bizango Pro features thru-axles as opposed to quick-releases skewers. This adds lateral stiffness and makes the bike compatible with wheel upgrades.

The decent spec list extends to the tyres, where a Maxxis High Roller II and Rekon combo enables you to push the bike to the limit in various conditions.

Vitus Sentier 29

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Vitus Sentier 29 hardtail mountain bike for Bike of the Year 2023
Vitus Sentier 29 hardtail mountain bike for Bike of the Year 2023
Ian Linton / Our Media
  • £949.99 / $1,199 / €1,299
  • Highly specced
  • Great value for money

The Vitus Sentier combines quality parts with an impressive price, with development money seemingly spent on areas that enhance ride quality for all levels of rider.

A progressive geometry sees the bike ready to tackle tough terrain, while keeping a natural playfulness thanks to 439mm chainstays lengths.

The bike features a RockShox Recon Silver RL fork was easy to set up, while the Shimano Deore drivetrain initially shifted well but the exposed inner cable on the frame lead to stiff shifting after wet rides.

The Sentier 29 allows for huge upgrade potential, and shares its frame with the more expensive VR, VRS and VRX models.

Boardman MTR 8.6

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Boardman MTR 8.6 full suspension mountain bike
The MTR is Boardman’s full-suspension range.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media
  • £1,150 as tested
  • Superb value with a sorted spec
  • Modern ‘relaxed’ geometry
  • Shimano Deore 1×10 drivetrain

Boardman’s MTR 8.6 makes for a compelling option at £150 over-budget. The Suntour fork at the front delivers 140mm travel, while an air-sprung RockShox shock features 145mm out back.

Although there are only 10 speeds, at least Boardman has used a Shimano Deore 1x drivetrain, which offers smooth and consistent shifting. We’re also fans of the Maxxis Minion tyres specced, given how brands can often skimp on this area. The Tektro brakes don’t have much grunt though.

Despite being weighty, the MTR 8.6 puts you in an ergonomic position and carries its speed well. It descends calmly too.

We’d like to see Boardman smooth out some of the rough edges of the frame because it’s not the most elegant. A fork that matches the quality of the RockShox shock would be good too.

Cannondale Trail SE 4

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Pack shot of the Cannondale Trail SE4 hardtail mountain
The Cannondale Trail SE 4 has sleek looks.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £900 as tested
  • Potential to upgrade
  • Smooth climbing and descending
  • Shimano Deore groupset

Designed for low-impact trials, the Cannondale Trail SE 4 still has potential for bigger things thanks to Boost spacing and dropper-post compatibility.

The Boost spacing means you can upgrade the wheels down the line and the tapered head tube makes the Trail SE 4 compatible with lots of forks.

But built as it is, the bike still delivers a smooth ride. Part of the smoothness results from the dropped seatstays, but the coil-sprung Suntour front fork also feels supple.

The bike has an XC-inspired geometry. It is fairly low and aggressive when seated, but you feel much more upright out of the saddle. It takes a lot for the front wheel to lose traction on ascents and downhill it’s easy to control.

Shimano Deore gives the bike a good range of gears and the Shimano Alivio brakes do a good job of helping this bike achieve its easy ride feel.

Carrera Titan X

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Pack shot of the Carrera Titan X full-suspension mountain bike
The Titan X has great suspension and parts for the price, but dated geometry holds it back.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media
  • £850 as tested
  • Better equipped than virtually anything else at this price
  • Rear suspension is good for the money
  • Offers a genuine advantage over hardtails on rough terrain

When Halfords originally developed this bike, the goal was to make a full-suspension mountain bike with a 12-speed drivetrain and a dropper post for less than £1,000.

Needless to say, we were left scratching our heads as to how the brand would do it. Even more astonishingly then, it not only achieved that goal, but for £850.

How exactly has Halfords achieved it? Well, it’s certainly not the most refined-looking package, but this doesn’t affect performance on the trail, so we think that’s one compromise worth making.

The geometry might not be as progressive as pricier options, but it’s by no means a throwback and it impresses on both climbs and descents.

The dropper post is a big performance gain too, and while the handling over technical terrain isn’t the best available, there’s no getting past how good the kit is on this bike for the price.

Our only major concern is that the three-size range won’t accommodate the smallest or tallest riders out there. But for people around the middle of the curve, this won’t be an issue.

Marin Bobcat Trail 5

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
The Bobcat Trail 5 offers a playful, confident ride.
Ian Linton / Our Media
  • £985 / $999 / €1,149
  • Modern playful geometry
  • Well-rounded spec

The Bobcat Trail 5 sits at the top of Marin’s Bobcat Trail range, and features a 120mm Suntour XCR 32 fork and a Shimano Deore 1X11 drivetrain.

Having a coil-sprung fork made it difficult to set the suspension up, and it performed worse when compared to air-sprung counterparts. The geometry makes up for this, providing good handling across the board, with the long reach offering high levels of stability.

The 67.5-degree head angle remained composed on the climbs, while inspiring confidence on the descents. It allowed for aggressive riding past the bike’s intended use.

Wheel size changes with frame size, with the small bike using 27.5in and the rest using 29in wheels. This enables the Bobcat to be better proportioned to different riders’ heights.

Our test bike didn’t arrive with the WTB tyres that were specced, instead featuring unbranded tan walls that lacked performance. Marin said this was due to supply-chain issues.

Specialized Fuse 27.5 (2021)

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Pack shot of the Specialized Fuse 27.5 hardtail mountain bike
The Fuse is a good companion for cruising pace.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £1,149 / $1,500 / AU$2,000 as tested
  • Comfortable contact points and a dropper post
  • Low front end limits descending potential

The Specialized Fuse 27.5 is the most affordable Fuse in Specialized’s range, but it still features chunky 650b tyres, 1×11 gearing, a dropper post and a sleek aluminium frame.

While the geometry is pretty up to date, the short stack height means the bike can struggle on steep descents, but it is calm and proved fun to ride on mellower downhill sections.

When climbing, the bike is comfortable, but it feels a bit cramped when you’re standing out of the saddle. The generous gearing makes it easy to get up steep climbs and the finishing kit makes the bike comfortable.

The bike is a good companion for cruising pace. If you want something a bit more capable, there’s a 29in-wheel version, but it does cost a bit more.

For 2022, the frame and most of the build remains the same, but Specialized has now specced an X-Fusion fork, rather than the RockShox Judy found on the 2021 model.

Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29 hardtail mountain bike
The Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29.
Ian Linton / Our Media
  • £949 / $1,150 / €975 / AU$1,300
  • Fast rolling with zippy ride feel
  • Well-refined with decent spec

Specialized’s Rockhopper Elite 29 is eager on the climbs and performs well all-round.

The RockShox Judy Solo Air fork provides good damping and confidence on the descents, with the travel lengths changing through the sizes, from 80mm to 100mm.

The short travel means there’s more work for the rider on technical descents, but the large wheel size smooths the trail out well.

A lightweight frame and fast-rolling 29in wheels make the Rockhopper a mile muncher, and put a smile on your face when climbing.

The 74.5-degree head angle and Shimano Deore drivetrain leave little room for excuses on steep climbs, and reward you with fast-paced ascending.

Vitus Sentier 27

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Pack shot of the Vitus Sentier 27 hardtail mountain bike
The Sentier has a smart paintjob.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £900 / $1,100 / AU$2,250 / €1,300 as tested
  • Smooth ride with plenty of grip
  • Impressively specced
  • Geometry might not suit everyone

The Vitus Sentier 27 has a look and overall spec that would be at home on a significantly more expensive bike.

You might only get 10 gears, but the generous gear range will get you up most climbs. Wide, 27.5×2.6in Schwalbe tyres work in tandem with the 130mm X-Fusion RC32 fork to provide a comfortable and grippy ride. The Tektro brakes lack power though.

The short reach does make standing on the pedals while climbing a little less stable than some other bikes and twitchier at high speeds or on steep descents, too. But on flatter, lower-speed trails, this bike is still a hoot to ride.

The long seat tube made it difficult to get the saddle out of the way. Adding a dropper post to the bike would mitigate this for some riders, but those with short legs might struggle.

It’s hard to argue with the Vitus Sentier 27’s value and performance, or with its good looks and decent spec. Just make sure the geometry suits you.

Vitus Sentier 29

4.0 out of 5 star rating
A light and dark blue hardtail Vitus Sentier 29 mountain bike
By combining well-chosen parts with balanced geometry, Vitus has created a fun and versatile bike in the Sentier.
Steve Behr
  • £850 as tested
  • Great-performing, well-chosen spec for the price
  • Good geometry and plenty of space make the bike comfortable on a wide range of terrain
  • The fork might need upgrading as your abilities improve

The Sentier’s frame is fairly basic and doesn’t have full-length outer-gear cable routing – the inner gear cable is exposed under the top tube and seatstay. However, it does have internal dropper post cable routing for future upgrades.

With a 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain that uses a SunRace cassette, Tektro brakes and WTB tubeless-ready wheels wrapped in Schwalbe tyres, it’s easy to forgive the Sentier for its lack of dropper post.

The X-Fusion RC32 fork performs okay once it’s into its travel, but struggles with off-the-top suppleness. However, the headline 13.26kg weight makes this one of the lightest bikes in the sub-£1,000 category.

The geometry isn’t as progressive as Calibre’s Line 29, but still looks pretty good for a trail bike. The ride confirms this, with snappy handling making it fun to take sharp turns or just ride mellower trails.

Going for a slightly larger size than recommended should improve handling if you’re looking to shred, but the Sentier is better suited to tamer trails.

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Have you found what you’re looking for? 

If £1,000 is a bit too much money, the best mountain bikes under £750 and the best mountain bikes under £500 still offer great performance and are ideal if you’re just starting out or buying for someone who is.

Otherwise, if this list has whetted your appetite and you think you could stretch your budget a little further, check out our list of the best mountain bikes under £2,000 and the best mountain bikes under £3,000

Still need a bit more info to help you decide? Make sure to check out our guide on how to choose the right mountain bike for you, with tips on what to look for in a mountain bike, from suspension and gears to different types of riding.