So you’re committed to mountain biking and want to either upgrade or replace your bike, and you’ve got around £3,000 to spend. Well, you’re in luck because there’s a wide range of bikes on offer in that price point which should suit whatever your needs.
Read on for BikeRadar’s pick of the best mountain bikes under £3,000.
- Best mountain bikes under £1,000
- The best mountain bike pedals
- Best mountain bike tyres | The best trail and enduro tyres
The most popular bikes in this sub-£3,000 category are full-suspension machines, featuring suspension for both front and rear wheel.
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. The more XC-orientated bikes will be lighter and pedal better up hill, 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 bike further towards the XC side of things might be a good shout.
However, if you prefer the winch and plummet side of riding, one with longer travel will be a blast on the way back down.
Buying new from a bike shop should mean a properly built bike and will often include some 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.
Best mountain bikes under £3,000, as rated by our expert testers
- Merida Big Nine XT: £2,500
- Ragley Blue Pig (2019) custom build: £2,850
- Bergamont Contrail Pro: £3,000
- GT Force 29 Expert: £2,799
- Norco Optic C3: £2,995
- Cube Stereo 170 Race 29: £2,999
Merida Big Nine XT
- 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 that 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 it feel like every one of your pedal strokes is transformed in forward propulsion thanks to the BB92 bottom bracket providing plenty of stiffness. The XT drivetrain has a great range of gears and our testers were never left wanting for more or modified ratios.
The XC bias 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
- 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 really 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 160mm travel test bike’s dynamic geometry changed a lot with the long travel fork up front.
Bergamont Contrail Pro
- 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
The Contrail Pro has plenty of potential to score higher and perform better with a few choice upgrades such as a shorter stem or more aggressive tyres. In it’s standard guise, it’s best-suited to trail centre loops and flowy natural trails rather than rougher, more technical and steep tracks.
GT Force 29 Expert
- 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
The Force is a great all-rounder, especially considering the price. The standard spec means that you won’t be trawling the web for upgrades right away and our expert testers thought the bike would easily keep up with other rigs costing double its price.
And as you grow and improve beyond the capabilities of its standard spec, the frame’s still got plenty to give and will respond well to upgrades. It’s a great enduro bike at a cracking price.
Norco Optic C3
- 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 need a re-think
On paper, the Optic has everything going for it: great geometry, RockShox fork and shock, and soft compound tyres wrapped around sorted wheels. Unfortunately, the compression damping in the fork and shock contributed to a harsh-feeling ride that was hard to overlook.
Get the rear shock re-tuned to have lighter damping and upgrade the fork damper to the new Charger unit, and the Optic C3 is a real category-winning contender.
Cube Stereo 170 Race 29
- This bike was reviewed in Mountain Biking UK magazine as a first ride review and is currently un-scored, although the more expensive Cube Stereo 170 SL 29 bike scored 4.5 stars
- 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 the Cube Stereo 170 Race 29 first ride review