Mountain bike pricing runs the gamut from downright cheap ($299) to eye-wateringly expensive ($10,000). Luckily, a very capable and more fun bike can be had for under $2,000.
Bikes in this price-zone feature trail-worthy designs and parts. It’s the price bracket that offers more than poorly riding, entry-level bikes and is much nearer to high-end bikes ready for off-road ripping.
Watch our buyer’s guide to find out more about mountain bikes
The trickle-down effect plays a huge role in making sub-$2k bikes so good. It varies from brand to brand, but it’s not unheard of for the starting model to share the same geometry (aka: the fit and feel) and rear suspension as its upper-end sibling that costs three to four times as much.
Another major benefit of trickle-down tech is these bikes are often specced with the latest standards such as thru-axles, single-ring drivetrains and dropper post internal routing. Simply put, they’re ideal for upgrading as parts wear out or as your bank account allows.
Taking the plus-size concept a step further is Trek’s Stache 5. It tackles terrain with massive 29×3.0 tubeless Bontrager tires. Trek manages to keep it light and lively, however, with an impressively packaged, short rear end and a rigid fork for weight savings.
With a single-ring Race Face/Shimano 10-speed drivetrain and not much else in terms of maintenance intensive parts (no suspension, no dropper post), the Stache 5 should be utterly reliable and always ready to charge whenever you are.
Fast, light and fun, the second coming of hardtails can be found aboard Scott’s Scale 720 PlusRussell Burton
Frame material: Scale Plus custom butted aluminum
Fork: Suntour Raidon RL-R
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore/XT
Wheels: Syncros X-40
Tires: Schwalbe Rocket Ron Performance, 27.5×2.8in
The Scale 720 Plus from Scott is a fine example of how plus tires have revitalized the common hardtail. With increased traction and a larger margin for getting rowdy, plus-size rubber can make once-challenging sections of trail into areas worth seeking out. Add a 12.61kg weight and you’ve got an outstandingly floated and trail smoothing ride that’s rapid and responsive enough to leave conventional hardtails standing.
One nitpick we noted was the Suntour fork, which is commonly found on lower budget bikes. However, due to the cushy, plus-size tires, its lack of performance wasn’t as noticeable as it would be on a standard mountain bike.
Cannondale’s Habit 6 is a leading example of super fun, lower cost mountain bike worthy of upgrades when the time comesSteve Behr / Immediate Media
Frame material: SmartForm C1 aluminum, 120mm
Fork: RockShox Recon Silver RL Solo Air, 120mm
Rear shock: X-Fusion O2 RL
Drivetrain: SRAM X5 / GX, 2×10-speed
Wheels: WTB STP i23 rims / Formula hubs
Tires: WTB Beeline Comp DNA, 27.5×2.0in
Pegged right at the top of the price limit is Cannondale’s Habit 6. With 27.5in wheels and suspension on both ends, the Habit 6 is all about a fun, playful ride. Fast-rolling WTB tires and a decently light overall weight also means this 120mm travel bike is ready to get up and go as well.
The parts spec is a bit dated with a quick-release front wheel and non-clutched rear derailleur, but it’s all kit that’s more than eager for most trail outings.
With an impressive overall ride quality out of the shop, it’s not hard to envision a few key upgrades down the line really unleashing what this bike is capable of.
Whyte’s aluminum 801 hardtail puts the good stuff where it matters most, in the frame, not the componentsSteve Behr / Immediate Media
Frame material: Multi-butted 6061 aluminum
Fork: RockShox 30 Silver TK, 120mm
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore, 1×11-speed
Wheels: Whyte Trail 21 rims / alloy hubs, 27.5in
Tires: Maxxis Ardent / CrossMark II, 27.5 x 2.25in
When picking a mountain bike there’s often the choice between getting a good frame with lower-end components or a budget frame with a nicer build kit. For most folks, the first option is the correct one as the bike’s frame dictates the ride more than any part fitted to it.
Whyte’s 801 front-suspension bike follows this mantra. It’s long, low and slack alloy frame rides impressively and is replete with the current stable riding position that dominates modern mountain bikes.
The outstanding frame is offset by a bargain kit that can make itself known when pushing the bike harder and faster. But as mentioned above, this is a prime example of an affordable bike that’s worthy of nicer components as needed in the future.
Full-suspension doesn’t have to cost a fortune, Polygon’s Siskiu D7 is proofSteve Behr / Immediate Media
Frame material: ALX aluminum, 120mm
Fork: RockShox 30 Silver Solo Air, 120mm
Shock: SR Suntour Epixon LO-R Air
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore, 2×10-speed
Wheels: Araya DM-650 rims / Shimano hubs
Tires: Schwalbe Smart Sam, 27.5×2.25
There’s a hard and fast rule in mountain biking that at lower price points hardtails (bikes with only front suspension) are better than full suspension (you guessed it, bikes with suspension on the front and rear).
Polygon’s Siskiu D7 is a rare exception to the rule. The aluminum frame rig not only looks the part but is right up to date with 27.5in wheels, a dropper post ready frame, and a rear thru-axle. For the paltry dollar amount the ride is surprisingly efficient while the air-sprung suspension delivers a supple, smooth ride.
As expected, there are a few trade-offs. The main one being the skinny RockShox fork being overworked when speeds pick up. The other one — the tires are pretty low-end — is easy to fix.
Here’s a very good example of getting a lot of bike for the money. The Trance 3 is the starting point for Giant’s hugely popular Trance line and it carries most of the technology and performance.
Giant’s renowned Maestro rear end handles the hits out back, a RockShox Sektor fork tames the front, and Shimano graces the shifting and braking bits. Giant’s own house brand parts make up the rest of the build, but it’s the frame and rear suspension that matter here — letting the 27.5in wheeled Trance 3 ride in the big leagues.