Cheap full-suspension bikes – bargain or waste of money?

We put six sub-£600 mountain bikes to the test

Cheap full-suspension bikes often look like the real deal, complete with shocks, forks and disc brakes. For a beginner bike buyer it’s hard to see why you shouldn’t have the technology of a £1,000 mountain bike for a fraction of the price.

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Unfortunately many of these budget bikes are nothing more than copycat cosmetic exercises that aren’t actually fit for off-road use. That’s why we normally advise buying a hardtail if you’re in the market for a sub-£500 or sub-£1,000 mountain bike.

But is this advice still up to date? After all, there have been all kinds of technical advances over the past few years. We decided to round up a selection of full-bounce bikes ranging in price from £170 to £600 to see whether you really do get what you pay for.

The result was a bruising month of testing, and not just when our budget bikes gave up staying rubber side down. Even when we stayed on, the ‘suspension’ of several of them was enough to batter wrists, ankles and hands into an aching pulp even on relatively short rough rides.

These are the bikes we tested; look out for reviews on BikeRadar throughout the week:

Boss Hammerhead

  • Price: £169.99
  • Weight: 19.39kg (42.75lb)
  • Verdict: “Vastly heavy catalogue of component failures. Only fit for a paper round, not proper off-road use”
  • From: Argos
  • Boss Hammerhead review
Boss Hammerhead
Boss hammerhead:
Steve Behr

Muddy Fox Reflex

  • Price: £199.99
  • Weight: 14.38kg (31.7lb)
  • Verdict: “Limited suspension movement and small sizing but a clatter-free budget bouncer that’s light enough to enjoy”
  • From: Universal Cycles
  • Muddy Fox Reflex review
Muddy Fox Reflex
Muddy fox reflex:
Steve Behr

Apollo Paradox

  • Price: £299.99
  • Weight: 18.03kg (39.7lb)
  • Verdict: “Creditably detailed chassis, but a deafening, self-destructing disaster off-road”
  • From: Halfords
  • Apollo Paradox review
Apollo Paradox
Apollo paradox:
Steve Behr

B’Twin Rockrider 6.3

  • Price: £349.99
  • Weight: 15.99kg (35.25lb)
  • Verdict: “The fork, tyres and flexy frame limit rough terrain performance, but it’s a bouncy bargain for gentler trails”
  • From: Decathlon
  • B’Twin Rockrider 6.3 review
B'Twin Rockrider 6.3
B’Twin rockrider 6.3:
Steve Behr

Mongoose Salvo Sport

Mongoose Salvo Sport
Mongoose salvo sport:
Steve Behr

Jamis Dakar XC Sport

  • Price: £599.99
  • Weight: 15.34kg (33.8lb)
  • Verdict: “Potentially good frame and stop/go combo are undermined by the narrow cockpit and bad fork”
  • From: Evans Cycles
  • Jamis Dakar XC Sport review

Jamis Dakar XC Sport
Jamis dakar xc sport: jamis dakar xc sport
Steve Behr

Buying advice

If you’ve got your heart set on buying a full-suspension bike but have a limited budget, it’s always a good idea to take it for a test ride. Here’s what you should be watching out for:

  • The suspension shouldn’t slam to a metal-on-metal clang, pogo endlessly after every bump or seize solid
  • You should be able to pick the bike up or pedal it uphill without it busting your back
  • It should steer and stop with some kind of authority and urgency

Useful links

BikeRadar’s best mountain bikes under £500

BikeRadar’s best mountain bikes under US$1,000

BikeRadar’s best mountain bikes under £1,000

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Buyer’s guide to mountain bike suspension