Cross the £1,000 barrier and the biggest choice you’ll face is whether to stick with a hardtail (a bike with front suspension only) or take the plunge and go for a full-susser. Because at this price point you can find outstanding examples of both.
If £1,500 is the top of your budget but ideally you’d want to spend less, then we’d encourage you to take a look at our best mountain bikes under £1,000 list, which features several superb value bikes that may well surprise you.
Updated October 2016
Of course, there are plenty more bikes for plenty more money, but from £1,500 every extra penny is only really buying you slightly less weight and slightly fewer compromises.
Frames at this price, whether hardtail or full-sus, are mostly aluminium. All brakes will be hydraulic and the suspension systems will be adjustable air-sprung units. The gears and drivetrain will typically come from the mid-range groupsets with a few fancier items mixed in — Race Face or FSA cranksets, for example.
Speaking of gears, the growing preponderance of single-chainring or ‘1x’ (one-by) set-ups in this price category means less is often more. Without a second, or even third chainring, you can do away with a front derailleur, cable, cable housing and shifter unit, which not only simplifies your set-up it also saves you a fair chunk of weight. And with wide range sprocket cassettes to compensate for the single ring, you’re unlikely to find yourself short of gears.
In short, you can expect your money to buy a ‘serious’ mountain bike, whichever form it takes, and while the components may not be the top-of-the-range versions, they’ll be good pieces of kit that are more than up to the task.
Bird Zero AM2
The Bird Zero AM2 has a 780mm bar and super-long top tube
- Transferable lifetime warranty on the bike’s aluminium frame
- Customisable build options from direct-sales model
- Slack front end comes into its own on rough downhills
The Bird feels long, low and comfy as soon as you jump on board. The 780mm bar certainly helps (there’s an even wider 800mm option too), but the super-long top tube is the key.
The long wheelbase (1,223mm on the XL size) and planted front end help the Zero AM rip through rooty, technical sections with a confidence and verve that make it feel more like a full-sus than other aggro hardtails from Kona, Ragley and Commencal.
That long wheelbase also helps to inspire confidence when you’re airborne. When combined with the superb parts list, this translates into an astoundingly fast, confident and fun trail bike. Put simply, the Bird gives you the best shot at keeping up with your fully-suspended mates on gnarly trails, or even stealing their Strava KOMs.
Bird Zero AM2 review
Marin Nail Trail 7
Marin’s Nail Trail 9 now sets the performance benchmark in its segment Russell Burton
- Low overall weight
- Quality spec
- Ideal for aggressive trail riding
Marin’s Nail Trail 7 is a 29er hardtail that — thanks to aggressive angles and a wide footprint — can cut it down some seriously heavyweight trails. Its low overall weight also makes it a great option for clocking big miles.
Plenty of this bike’s capability can be traced back to its sure-footed 33mm wide wheelset and excellent Schwalbe tyres. Also worth a mention is the Rockshox Yari fork, this stout-legged, smooth operator puts the Nail Trail leagues ahead of some of its skinnier-forked opponents. Put simply, it holds the benchmark for a technical trail hardtail at this price.
Marin Nail Trail 7 review
Boardman Pro FS
Boardman’s Pro FS used to be one of the UK’s best full-sussers, now it’s even better Russell Burton
- Great specification for the cash
- Proven frame with a few tweaks
- Light and nimble
The Pro FS has been a favourite among the budget conscious UK rider for a while now, but this latest version sure takes some beating. Spec updates mean there’s a slightly longer fork than the bike it supersedes, so it’s now a 140/130mm bike with 650b wheels.
Its quality Rockshox suspension, SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain and Guide four piston brakes could easily lead you into thinking the price is a misprint. Swap out the sketchy OE tyres and you’ll be left with a remarkably sorted trail bike for the money. Taller riders may find the largest size cramped, and that’s a real shame.
For those who like the look of this bike but want to spend a little less, Boardman also offers a £999 Team FS model that tops our ranking for the sub £1,000 price bracket, you can read more into that bike here.
Boardman Pro FS review
Whyte’s 901 is an excellent DH-focused hardtail Russell Burton
- Ready to handle tough trail riding
- Large tyres boost smoothness
- Single-ring SRAM NX transmission
If you want XC agility and speed but the ability to take on the occasional black run then Whyte’s 901 could be the ideal bike for you. The 901 has taken a wider stance with its frame and tyres this year, using boost spacing and tubeless 2.4in tyres paired to 29mm rims also from WTB.
From the slack head angle to the 1x SRAM NX transmission and 750mm stock handlebars, it’s clear the 901 has been made with downhill enjoyment in mind. Our testing found that it does indeed thrive on steep and technical trails, but push harder and you’ll find the RockShox Yari fork doesn’t always keep up with the action.
Whyte 901 review
650b wheels and some exciting frame changes give the Orange Crush definite fun factor
- Huge grin-inducing fun factor
- Burly but easily chuckable
- Great frame geometry and strong reliable kit
Orange’s most recent 650b-wheeled incarnation has had some exciting frame changes to modernise its geometry, further increasing its functionality and fun factor. The rear triangle has been made slightly shorter with 430mm chainstays and features a 142×12 bolt thru-axle as well as more tyre clearance for wider rims and chunky tyres.
At 12.8kg (without pedals) it’s no flyweight for a hardtail, but its lengthy front centre does result in the ability to climb up gradients well beyond the range of the 11-36t rear cassette.
However, stand at the start of the first trail and the Crush is like an eager pup straining on its lead and gagging to be let loose. With such a low standover and relatively low bottom bracket height of 310mm, all formed from industrial-looking custom-butted 6061-T6 aluminium, the Crush is definitely not designed to be a cross country whippet. It’ll do it, happily in fact, but that’s not the purpose of the Crush. It’s more of a gravity-biased trail slayer.
Orange Crush review