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. 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.
Bikes in this price range offer anything from 80 to 140mm suspension travel. The type of riding you plan to do will determine how much travel you really need – in simplest terms, the more travel a bike has, the more it’ll have been optimised for descending or rough terrain.
Mid-range shifters and derailleurs are the order of the day on bikes of this price. This is good news, because mid-range components like this benefit from trickle-down technology from higher-end models – expect Shimano SLX, XT or SRAM X7. It’s the range of gears that counts, not the number.
Most bikes for £500 to £1,000 will come with hydraulic disc brakes – we’d almost go so far as to say you should avoid bikes that don’t. They offer better and more confidence-inspiring performance than cable brakes. You need wheels that can stand up to the rigours of off-road riding.
Pedals and shoes
If you’re spending this much on a bike, you’re going to be a relatively serious rider. In which case, ditch the pedals your new bike comes with – they’re usually pretty rubbish – and invest in (or ask the shop to throw in) a decent set. You have the choice between flat (platform) or clipless pedals. Check out our full guide to mountain bike pedals here.
Wheels and tyres
Tyre choice has a big effect on your riding. A good set on a new bike is a bonus, but a good set of wheels is arguably more important as tyres will eventually wear out anyway.
Buy to fit
A bike that is comfy is more fun to ride something expensive and ill-fitting. A well fitted bike will also save you from unnecessary aches and pains. Follow the BikeRadar guide to buying a mountain bike that fits and ask shop staff to help you out too.
The wheel size conundrum
Yup, the nagging question of mountain bike wheel size now needs consideration for bargain hunters – most brands are offering 26in, 650b and 29ers. Go for larger 29er wheels if you’re riding on open cross-country style trails and hard surfaces, 26in wheels if you’re a traditionalist wanting lots of spares and tyre options and 650b if you want the best of both worlds and an agile, trail centre orientated bike.