So you’re looking to buy a new mountain bike and you’ve got between £2,000 and £3,000 to spend. Well, you’re in luck because we’ve put together our pick of the best mountain bikes under £3,000.
The most popular bikes in this sub-£3,000 category are full-suspension machines, featuring suspension for both front and rear wheels. This boosts control and speed on rough terrain, and at this price point, shouldn’t impact too much on pedalling efficiency and weight.
The bikes here largely cover trail and cross-country riding, with between 100mm and 160mm of travel. Longer-travel bikes tend to perform better when the trail descends and gets technical, at the cost of a bit of weight and climbing prowess. More XC-orientated bikes will be lighter and pedal better uphill, but won’t be as confident on the descents.
The one you choose should depend on what kind of riding you tend to do. If you go out for long days in the hills, covering many miles, then a cross-country mountain bike – or one of the best downcountry mountain bikes – might be a better shout.
However, if you prefer the winch-and-plummet side of riding, going for one of the best trail mountain bikes with longer travel will ensure you have a blast on the way back down.
Buying new from a bike shop should guarantee a properly built bike, and will often mean some included bonuses such as free tune-ups, deals on parts – or, even better, new riding friends to show you the trails. Buying new also keeps your bike up to date and lessens the chance of obsolete parts or components.
If you’re still unsure what you’re looking for, check out our guide on how to choose the best mountain bike for you.
Best mountain bikes under £3,000 in 2022
Marin El Roy
- £2,295 / $2,499 / €2,799 as tested
- Competent on steep descents
- Smart component choices and geometry
- Can be a drag on smooth, mellow climbs
The Marin El Roy is a steel 29er that happily sits among the best hardtail mountain bikes on tough terrain.
The bike pushes the limits of the long, low and slack approach to the extreme. It has 140mm of suspension travel with a 44mm offset and a 78-degree seat tube angle.
This geometry comes into its own on stupidly steep descents and technical trails. The bike seems to move as quickly as you want it to.
It’s not a particularly capable climber and can be a drag on smooth, mellow climbs. But this isn’t too much of a surprise given its descending prowess, grippy downhill tyres and steel frame.
The El Roy features a meaty Marzocchi fork and a Shimano Deore 1×12 drivetrain. Shimano also supplies the brakes. Marin provides most of the finishing kit.
Specialized Status 160
- £2,399 as tested
- Geometry is great at high speeds
- Plush suspension
- Not so balanced in the corners
The Specialized Status 160 is one of the best enduro mountain bikes out there. Said to be a solid machine, Specialized has specced the bike with hard-wearing components and uses metal, rather than any carbon fibre, throughout.
The Status 160 is a so-called mullet bike, with a 29in wheel in the front and a 650b one out back. The smaller rear wheel keeps the chainstays short, making for a lively ride. But the short back-end paired with the longer front does impact balance in the corners.
However, there’s no denying the Status 160 is a real bruiser and seriously fun to ride. It’s well-suited to big days in the bike park.
Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Alloy
- £2,500 / $3,500 / €2,999 as tested
- Excellent on the downhills
- Premium-feeling package without the price tag
- Fork holds it back on steeper trails
The Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Alloy is a seriously capable bike that also delivers excellent value for money.
This version of the bike has been given the long, low and slack treatment, with 130mm of travel that has been tuned to perform on a wide variety of trails.
The bike is a hoot to ride on trail centre loops and singletracks, with the geometry inspiring confidence and the SRAM G2 brakes providing plenty of stopping power.
The suspension is poppy and works well, regardless of how hard or fast you ride. But the Fox 34 front fork does hold this bike back because it twists when loaded up in tight turns or steep descents.
On climbs, the Stumpjumper does have some pedalling bob, but not so much that it hinders progress.
Overall, the bike rides impressively well. Upgrade a few components down the line and you’ll have a seriously capable machine.
Vitus Escarpe 29 CRS
- £2,700 / $3,200 / AU$4,800 as tested
- Geometry and suspension make it a fun all-rounder
- Great spec for the price
- Could do with a longer dropper post
The Vitus Escarpe 29 CRS is one of the best trail bikes around and a genuine do-it-all, one-bike quiver.
The bike pairs a carbon front triangle with an alloy rear one. The geometry is more versatile than the previous model, with a steeper seat tube and updated four-bar linkage suspension, helping you clock up plenty of miles in comfort.
The bike isn’t the fastest on climbs, but point it downhill and it’s loads of fun, letting you tackle technical trails with confidence.
The updated suspension design with 140mm of travel provides decent support and is never harsh on big impacts.
The bike offers great value for money with its DT Swiss E 1900 wheels and RockShox fork and rear shock.
Boardman MTR 9.0
- £2,000 as tested
- Shimano SLX drivetrain and brakes offer performance and durability
- Contact points could be better
The MTR 9.0 is Boardman’s flagship mountain bike. It has an upgraded alloy frame, RockShox rear shock and front fork, and a groupset comprising Shimano SLX components.
The bike climbs fairly well with the steep seat-tube angle and wide-ranging 10-51t cassette helping you up the toughest inclines.
It is though happiest flying downhill, where it feels stable with the four-piston Shimano SLX brakes providing heaps of power. The dropper post is a nice addition considering the bike’s downhill performance, although it could do with a bigger lever for easier use.
Boardman has created a bike with more confidence than you might expect, and while there are a couple of flaws, these wouldn’t be too costly to rectify.
Merida Big Nine XT
- £2,500 / AU$3,699 as tested
- Best suited to XC and light trail riding
- Impressive comfort, even on longer rides
- Well-specced for the price with top-performing Shimano XT gears
- Geometry is very XC-biased
There are plenty of models in Merida’s Big Nine hardtail range, to cater for every budget. This XT model sits roughly in the middle and represents great value for money, and while it’s not got the most modern geometry out there, it impressed us again and again out on the trails thanks to a host of fantastic kit.
It climbs proficiently and makes you feel each one of your pedal strokes being transformed into forward propulsion, thanks to the BB92 bottom bracket, which provides ample stiffness. The XT drivetrain has a great range of gears and our testers were never left wishing for more, or modified ratios.
The cross-country bias unsurprisingly does make itself known on the descents, but the Big Nine is a precise bike to ride that still managed to feel impressively capable, smoothing out the terrain. Considering its XC credentials, our testers were impressed with how well the Big Nine managed to tackle tech descents.
Ragley Blue Pig (2019) custom build
- £2,850 as tested
- Best suited to all-mountain and trail riding
- Capable and calm over rough terrain
- Exudes quality despite £550 frame-only asking price
- Better with a shorter travel fork to help keep handling snappy
With modern geometry and updated tubing, the newest Blue Pig has fantastic levels of rear-end compliance balanced with stiffness where it’s most needed.
The geometry encourages the bike to be ridden hard over even particularly gnarly terrain and there’s plenty of space to move around to get it pointing in the right direction. Down steep sections or over rough ground it handles well, thanks to the tubing dulling hard vibrations that would be sent through to the rider on less well-damped frames.
It is worth trying to keep travel to around 140mm, though, because our nonstandard 160mm-travel test bike’s dynamic geometry changed a lot with the long-travel fork up front.
Saracen Ariel 30 Pro
- £3,000 / €3,499 as tested
- Stretched-out geometry
- Efficient pedalling
- The back end isn’t so smooth on the fastest, roughest tracks
The Saracen Ariel 30 Pro is great for long adventures and for picking your own path down steep terrain.
Numbers-wise bike sits at the extreme end of the spectrum with a long reach and slack head angle. The stretched geometry provides plenty of straight-line speed. It requires a little more effort to move it around than peers with shorter wheelbases, but does that demonstrate that longer bikes can have finesse on tight, tricky trails.
The Ariel 30 sits high in its travel and feels efficient on longer climbs. The roomy feel of the bike lets you move your body weight around and, combined with the grippy tyres, lets you take on steeper climbs with ease.
Four-pot Shimano Deore brakes provide the stopping power and there is a mix of Shimano Deore, XT and SLX components.
The following bikes scored less than four stars or have only been given a first ride review. This means we have not included them in our main list, but they are still worth considering and might tick the right boxes for you.
Bergamont Contrail Pro
- £3,000 as tested
- Best suited to trail and hardcore XC riding
- Fantastic performing rear suspension
- Frame is well finished and has onboard tool storage
- Maxxis Forekaster tyres are a letdown except for in some conditions
- Long stem limits handling
- Read our full Bergamont Contrail Pro review
GT Force 29 Expert
- £2,799 / $3,700 as tested
- Best suited to enduro and all-mountain riding
- Well-considered geometry and good-performing suspension
- Fork and shock are suited to the bike and each other
- Dropper post needs more travel and TRP brakes weren’t great
- Read our full GT Force 29 Expert review
Sonder Evol GX Eagle
- £2,599 / $3,149 as tested
- High-performance parts
- Well-suited to descending
- Rear suspension lacks mid-stroke
- Some might find the shock and fork tricky to set up
- Read our full Sonder Evol GX Eagle review
Specialized Epic Hardtail
- £2,250 / $2,120 / €2,099 as tested
- Aggressive geometry
- High-volume tyres boost comfort and grip
- Low quality of components
- Fork feels less refined through its stroke than others
- Read our full Specialized Epic Hardtail review
Cube Reaction C:62 SL
- £2,299 / €2,299 as tested
- Instant acceleration helps on hills
- Impressive spec
- Harsh ride chokes descending speed
- Thin tyres which need high pressure
- Read our full Cube Reaction C:62 SL review
Norco Optic C3
- £2,995 / $3,749 / AU$4,799 as tested
- Best suited to light enduro, all-mountain and trail riding
- Great modern geometry gives the bike a good look
- Top-performing wheels and tyres
- Fork and shock damping needs a rethink
- Read our full Norco Optic C3 review
Cube Stereo 170 Race 29
- £2,999 / $3,899 / AU$4,899 as tested
- Best suited to enduro and all-mountain riding
- Great spec for the money
- Larger sizes could do with a longer reach figure, but overall geometry is good
- Read our Cube Stereo 170 Race 29 first ride review
Ribble HT 725 Pro
- £2,199 / $2,429 / AU$3,800 / €2,151 as tested
- Hugely capable and fun, steel hardtail
- Excels on steep and technical terrain
- Dropper post was sticking during testing
- Read our Ribble HT 725 Pro first ride review