So you’re committed to mountain biking and want to either upgrade or replace your bike, and you’ve around £3,000 to spend. Well, you’re in luck, as 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.
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 XC 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 bikes will be lighter and will 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.
Scott Spark 730
Scott’s range of Spark bikes is as comprehensive as they come Bikeradar
- Lightweight alloy frame
- On-the-fly adjustable rear suspension
Nino Schurter has dominated XC this year, winning every round of the World Cup, the World Championships and the Cape Epic, frequently aboard his tricked out Spark. Fortunately, for a lot less money, you can get your hands on a bike with the same DNA.
And if you think the Spark is just for XC, you’d be wrong. The 730 has 120mm of travel, and geometry and kit that makes it just at home on the trail, too — real race heads will want to look at the RC versions.
The TwinLoc feature is a bar mounted lever that controls the damping of the rear Fox Nude shock — there’s a fully open 120mm mode, a tauter, pedalling efficient 85mm mode, and a locked mode for road spins.
The Spark family is extensive, with numerous 27.5″ versions, as well as 29er and plus options, and the aforementioned racey RC models — there’s likely something to keep you happy in that selection.
Commencal Meta Trail V4.2 Essential
The Commencal Meta V4.2 Essential is an aggressive yet truly capable bike Bikeradar
Price: £2,851 (exchange rate dependant)
- Aggressive alloy trail bike
- Boost hub spacing, metric shock length
Commencal designs its bikes from its Andorran office with plenty of input from its owner, Max Commencal, who still shreds the steep, rocky and technical trails in Andorra.
As such, while the firm’s trail bikes, such as the Meta Trail V4.2, do climb relatively well, they’re built with descending in mind, and that’s apparent when you jump on the Meta Trail. It has long, low and slack geo that’s suited to descending as fast as you can.
That’s made easier with a well thought-out spec list that spends money in the right places, while the direct-sale model means it’s good value, too.
Those looking for an even longer travel bike should look at the Meta AM version!
Focus Jam Lite
Smart suspension suspends the Focus Jam Bikeradar
- Great suspension, sorted geometry
- X01 Eagle drivetrain at a great price
Focus’s latest trail bike uses the brand’s latest take on suspension design, and while the FOLD system is different to most, it’s definitely effective.
The design gives a regressive, then progressive suspension curve, which takes a minute to get your head around, but on the trail, performs excellently.
With large economies of scale, Focus has put a great spec on the bike — it was one of the first under £3,000 with SRAM’s 12 speed X01 Eagle group, and this is paired with excellent suspension components.
Once you’ve changed the sketchy tyres (budget an extra £100 for these), you have a really capable, well-shaped, decent spec trail bike.
Whyte G-160 S
UK designed but ready to go anywhere – the Whyte G-160 Bikeradar
- Progressive descent orientated geometry
- Super grippy and confidence inspiring wheel package
Whyte designs its bikes in the UK and has been at the forefront of geometry design for a number of years now. The G-160 is the company’s longer travel enduro bike, with 160mm of travel.
This means you get a super-long reach figure, a slack head angle and steep seat angle — rewarding an attacking attitude when the trail points you back down the hill, and not punishing you too much when you have to go back up.
Wide rims and chunky tyres mean loads of air volume, smoothing out the bumps a little and increasing traction in nadgery situations.
If you’re looking for a bike to hammer down the hills and still get you to the top, this has to be worth a look.
Canyon Strive AL 5.0 Race
Canyon’s Strive is ubiquitous on the enduro circuit Bikeradar
- ShapeShifter tech lets you change geometry on the fly
- Part of a wide range of Strives to suit almost every pocket
Canyon is a massive German direct-sales brand, who largely disrupted the bike buying market in the UK a number of years ago now.
Direct sales means you buy the bike over the internet, and it comes in a big box. Outside of specific demo events you don’t get to try before you buy, but the flip side is great value for money. Canyon has a UK sales and warranty office, though, so consumer support is UK based.
So, the Strive. It’s the brand’s 160mm enduro bike, with a large part of the design influence coming from the legend that is Fabian Barel. You therefore know that its performance in an enduro setting is going to be top-notch.
The Strive has been around for a number of years now, but it continues to impress in testing. The geometry is good (though no longer ahead of the curve), and the specifications are always on point.
The ShapeShifter is a small bar-actuated piston located within the main rocker link that shifts the shock’s position within the linkage. This raises the BB, steepens head and seat angles and changes the suspension’s character for better performance up hill.
Merida Ninety-Six.9 XT
Want to cover ground, fast? Merida have you covered Bikeradar
- Proper XC race geometry
- Stiff chassis which lets you get the power delivered right to the back wheel
Sometimes you just need to get a bike that’s designed to get you from A to B as fast as possible, and Merida’s Ninety-Six does just that.
Merida offers the bike in both 29″ and 650b versions, so there should be something to work with most rider sizes and styles. We tested the bigger wheeled version and were impressed with both its climbing and descending capabilities, once you get used to the relatively retro geometry.
No XC bike is going to do well if it can’t climb, and the Merida’s light weight and taut suspension means that the Ninety-Six is very happy on those XC course climbs.
However, when pointing back down with the suspension fully open, the Merida also impressed, with suspension that takes the kick out of bigger hits and minimal pedal kick-back interference when things get rowdy.
Orbea Occam TR H10
Orbea’s Occam TR is a do-it-all machine from Spain Bikeradar
- Versatile Spanish trail bike
- Online purchasing means plenty of component swapping is possible
The Occam sits in the middle of Orbea’s mountain bike range, and comes in both 29″ and 650b versions, meaning you can choose what character your bike has.
Orbea’s online shop gives plenty of customisation options, too — if you want to change the stock brakes, wheels, forks etc., you generally have a couple of options. That’s ideal if you know what you like, or want to tailor exactly how much the bike will cost.
Orbea will then ship it to your local Orbea dealer for a final tune-up before you get your hands on it — internet prices, with LBS support. Or you can buy the bike direct from dealers, giving you the opportunity to take it for a test ride.
The 29er Occam TR has a bias towards the more XC side of the trail bike spectrum, meaning it’s a great bike for riders who want to spend long days out in the hills, but still want to have a heap of fun on the descents, without piloting a sketchy bike.
The chassis is stiff and responsive, with a suspension kinematic that’s efficient. With top quality Fox dampers front and back, though, when you’re returning to the bottom of the hill, you’re in safe hands.