The Best Mountain Bikes Reviewed
Mountain biking is a thrilling sport which is making your adrenaline rush through your body and it is allowing you to play with the natural kinetic laws. However, choosing the best mountain bike for your needs is rather difficult and it is something that requires a lot of research and knowledge. Mountain bikes have a complex construction and design and their components are very important to their travel performance.
For this reason, we have made an extensive research on the subject and made your task a bit easier by making a complete guide with all the required information included. This guide will guide you through the process of purchasing a mountain bike and it will explain the features offered. In addition, we have reviewed and rated some of the best products on the market and we have shared with you the downsides and their advantages of each product.
Our Top 3 Picks
5 Best Mountain Bikes
GHOST RIOT LC 8 27.5
If you check the components of the Ghost mountain bike you will notice that they are all made from top manufacturers, including the pedaling system. This suggests that your uphill ride will be as fun as the descending part. It uses Shimano derailleurs which is the best supplier of cogs and pedaling system components. And since the suspension system is making the ride comfortable and secure, there is no need to slow down when descending as well.
The main frame is made from carbon fibers material which is great for absorbing shock and vibrations. There is also a Riot system that is responsible for compressing the shocks that come to the rear. The front suspension system is composed of a Rock Pike Dual fork which is allowing the user to adjust the travel settings for climbing and descending in order to optimize the travel performance. Overall, it has a great suspension that will save you from the minor bumps on the trail; however, it is not built to endure larger rocks. If a situation such as this occurs it might not feel as pleasant as other downhill top performers.
Climbing and downhill performance
This shifting through the gears is required for less steeper terrains and the Ghost has a Shimano shifting system that consists of 22 gears. It operates very smoothly and it provides the user excellent climbing and descending experience. However, the Ghost is not a mountain bike that is designed for steeper terrains and you could feel this if you decide to challenge it on such way.
The brakes are of course hydraulic disc which allow you to instantly decrease the speed. However, one should be careful when using them since you can easily be tossed off the bike if your speed is too high.
Pedaling and tires
The wheels are 27.5, they are easily maneuverable and they provide the user an option of gaining speed very fast. Although the pedaling system is not to be compared with the Pivot’s, it performs rather well and it assists you in conquering those hills more easily. The tires are made for harsh weather conditions and muddy areas. Although they perform well on small rock terrains, they have a hard time maintaining balance when the rocks are larger.
REI is an exclusive distributor of the Ghost bikes and they have an excellent customer service system and warranty tune-ups which is certainly a plus.
- Great derailleur system
- Smooth pedaling system
- Good suspension
- Convenient for moderate trails only
Pivot Mach 429 Trail
Although the speed depends on many factors, it is undeniable that the Pivot Mach 429 has a smooth uphill ride. It will definitely challenge you to think fast in order to avoid obstacles since it rolls very fast. However, its downhill possibilities do not match the uphill ones. Even though it is fast, it is not as smooth when descending. The speed though, is not something that it lacks if you manage to stay on the saddle. Although the entire construction is built to help you conquer that hill, when descending, you will absolutely be using the brakes more than you wish. Because of this, we recommend the Pivot as a great uphill performer that will share the pain with you, however; it is too aggressive when descending and this is something to be considered before purchase.
Trail biking requires an excellent suspension system that will absorb most of the shock and leave you enjoying the ride. The Pivot has a specific design that is low volume which means that on first sight, the suspension system doesn’t seem much. However, it is particularly important that the Pivot doesn’t bottoms out which happens to the best trail bike designs. Although it will definitely allow you to feel the bumpy road, it will endure the big hits bravely and it will not let you down. That said, the Pivot is not very well known for standing up to small rocks and bumps on the road. In fact, even small rocks put it into the temptation of deflecting the front wheel, which could result in not so pleasant ride.
The front suspension though, the fork, is very well designed and its performance is as effective. The rear and front are also very well aligned which feels like an important feature on the trail.
Climbing and downhill performance
The uphill performance is praised previously in the speed section and the downhill performance could only be rated as a bit aggressive. However, what gives you a great riding performance is the confidence you have in your bike on corners. That said, if the terrain is smooth, the Pivot will provide you the confidence in the corners, although not as much as some competitive models with a bit of a higher price. The cornering knobs on the Pivot’s tires are large enough to keep you stable on the steeps and corners, however, larger ones will absolutely keep your hands of the brakes for a longer time.
For this reason, it is safe to assume that this is a great bike made for moderate trails instead of hay wiring it downhill. The steering is very predictable and precise, although it is not recommended that you take it slow. If you are a slow descending type, it is better that you check among our other suggestions since the Pivot gets twitchy when maneuvering too slowly downhill.
It is also great at hairpin corners regardless of whether you are descending or climbing. If you keep the speed at the right level, keeping on the trajectory should represent no problem.
Although most trails bikes prefer that you treat it with a steady pace, the Pivot doesn’t mind starting and stopping more often. What makes it a great climber is the pedaling system which is specifically designed for a fast transfer of power to the gear with much less effort comparing to other competitive trail bikes.
The seat tube angle is also adjusted well for pedaling and it allows you to climb extreme terrains with ease. Since a trail is made from bumps and rocky terrain, it is important for a bike not to sag when they get on your trail. The Pivot is made for such terrains and it handles these slight obstacles with ease.
All in all, it is a bike made for climbing and because of this, its most efficient feature is the pedaling power transfer platform which is indeed impressive!
- Great uphill ride
- Nice pedaling system
- Great suspension
- The descending performance doesn't match its uphill ride
Trek Fuel EX 9 29
In terms of speed, the Trek Fuel is a fast descender and it performs pretty well comparing to other suggested bikes. Even though it is known for its fast descending, its uphill speed is not quite as impressive. And when it comes to smooth uphill movements, it is also not an overachiever. Overall, it is a great ride if you don’t mind putting an extra effort on your way up. Its solid downhill skills definitely compensate for the pedaling system. It is able to do so, because of its active tune which is absorbing most of the rock impacts and they are only slightly felt by the user himself.
With its tough frame construction and full suspension system, the Trek will spare you from feeling the big rocks that you come across. All in all, it has a great suspension feeling and it is one of the reasons why this bike has come to this list.
Climbing and downhill performance
Its descending performance is as good as it gets and it even allows you to pedal downhill if you have the abilities to do so. Even when sprinting, the large bumps are not throwing you off balance and the smaller bumps are almost insensitive. However, this is a rough terrain bike and if used on smoother surfaces, it might slow you down a bit. The climbing skills of the Trek Fuel are mediocre and if you are looking for a better climber, the Pivot is the best choice for you! Overall, the Trek Fuel feels stable and it proved himself as a capable descender.
Pedaling and tires
The pedaling system performs smoothly although it does not have top of the notch technology. In fact, it is not making it easier for you on your way up, although to be fair, pedaling down is as smoothly as hoped for. The tires are okay, although they would be a lot better with more corner bites.
- Great descending performance
- Nice suspension system
Better at descending than climbing
Cannondale Trail 4
The bike has a front suspension system only which makes it suitable for usage in milder trails rather than more extreme ones. For this reason, it is best to avoid larger rocks since bigger impacts could cause loss of balance.
Climbing and downhill performance
The Cannondale features aluminum frame that is absorbing part of the impacts and it is making your ride smoother than competitive models from this price range. This type of frame is the same one that is used on 7000 dollars mountain bikes, which is proof enough to its quality. The bike is quite stable on corners, although it is not the ideal choice for rough terrains.
Pedaling and brakes
The pedaling system makes the Cannondale a great climber and its weight adds to this feature. It is also suitable for carrying weight on it, both downhill and climbing. Even though the pedaling platform is quite comfortable, it does not feel light to the feet. Nevertheless, you will be able to build downhill speed with it with ease and keep the climbing fun.
The shifting system is Shimano and it is not made for steeper sections. Its efficiency is best proved on mild terrains and dirt trails.
The bike has a lifetime warranty and a free tune up warranty. It has 27 gears powered by Shimano derailleurs and shifters. The seat is flattened and not so comfortable, like most mountain bike model seats.
- High quality frame
- Front suspension only
- Heavy pedaling system
Diamondback Overdrive Comp 29
The suspension system consists of a front fork RockShox which absorbs the impacts and allows the user to face smaller rocks without any discomfort. However, there is no rear suspension system, although this is the practice for all lightweight hardtail bike designs.
Climbing and downhill performance
The Diamondback bike comes with an aluminum frame which is responsible for its lightweight design. This improves its downhill performance since a lighter bike could stop faster and more efficient. However, this also decreases its downhill speed which is much higher in heavier bikes. Nevertheless the Diamonback is made for climbing.
Pedaling and brakes
The pedaling and braking systems are extremely durable and they are manufactured with the well established Shimano brand. The gear shifting is smooth and it performs well in all weather conditions. The braking system uses hydraulic disc brakes and they are able to stop the bike from moving even on rainy weather.
The tires are a bit larger than average, which enables the rider to handle the obstacles on the road with ease and without losing his stability. It has a relatively lower price than competitive models with the same features, although it has high-quality parts.
- Wide tires
- Great uphill performance
- Front suspension only
- Lower speed
Criteria for Evaluation
If you are an adrenaline addict or you simply enjoy sports activities in nature, mountain biking is the right kind of activity for you. It will definitely raise your adrenalin and it will make your life much more amusing. However, choosing a mountain bike could be confusing, especially if you are a beginner. For this reason, in addition, we are presenting the things we have taken into consideration when choosing the mountain bikes that we have suggested and reviewed in the previous section.
Even though this is not a bike feature, it is important that you consider it since the prices of the mountain bikes vary from 500 dollars to 10.000 dollars. In our suggestion list, we have included mountain bikes from the affordable price range, that is bellow 5000 dollars, but there are also some that cost bellow 1000 dollars. However, the price is directly correlated with the level of your biking experience.
If you are a beginner, there is no point of getting a 5000 dollars bike because you are probably not going to take it to the limits. If you have been doing this for a while though, you probably want to have a reliable product and every little difference between models will be a big deal for you. That said, before even thinking about purchasing a mountain bike, it is important that you set your budget. When deciding the budget, it is important to consider the additional equipment that is a necessary part of this sport. It is essential that you purchase your own apparel, gloves, and helmet.
Since you are doing budget calculations, it is important to mention that mountain bikes require maintenance. In fact, you would probably have to change the tires, maybe even the brakes, some of the chain etc. All in all, the yearly maintenance budget should cost you no less than 100 dollars. However, there are some bikers that are pretty handy and have learned to change the parts by themselves.
A mountain bike without any suspension does not deserve the attribute “mountain”. Although most bikers agree with this statement, there is a group of them who want to experience the mountain biking without any suspension with so-called rigid bikes. There are also mountain bikes with front suspension only – hardtail, with a mechanism, called a fork that is placed on the front wheel and there is full suspension which is something to look for especially if you are a beginner. And the best is that the suspension does not go proportionally with the price. In fact, you can find a perfectly good full suspension mountain bike for 500 dollars only.
Different Types of Mountain Bikes
You have already decided that you want a mountain bike. However, there are various types of mountain bikes and they are all built for different purposes. You should choose the type of bike that will meet your needs. If you don’t know which type of mountain bike you prefer, it might be better to postpone the purchase and make a small research on the trails around you and the terrains, so that you get an idea of your personal preferences.
That said, there are cross country mountain bikes that are lightweight bikes that are mostly used for moderate trails. They are quite rigid and they are intended for mild corner angles and not so steep terrains.
Hardtail mountain bikes and full-suspension mountain bikes – are also types of bikes that we have explained before in the suspension section. These types of bikes are used for bumpy and rocky terrains.
Downhill mountain bikes – are a bit more expensive than the previously mentioned models and they have elements that are of high quality. Even though part of the mountain biking is the climbing, the downhill ride is the main reason people get addicted to this sport. Downhill mountain bikes come with extra suspension, high-quality brakes and a bit of danger.
Freeride mountain bikes – are the universal bikes that could be used for any terrain type. This is a very versatile type of bike that is equipped to handle any terrain and situation. However, its features are all moderate. This means that you won’t be getting the highest brakes quality, or the best suspension, but you will be getting a mediocre quality of every feature. This is the perfect type of bike for beginners that have not figured out their type of trail. Usually, this is a temporary bike that once a certain level is reached, bikers tend to exchange it for another type.
The frame of a mountain bike affects its weight and the overall quality of the product. However, it also affects the price since lighter materials tend to come at a higher price than heavier ones. This considered, there are four different types of frames you could choose from.
Although it seems unbelievable, there are still bikes that are manufactured with steel frames. This is a tough but very heavy material that is replaced over the ages with more effective materials. Steel frame mountain bikes are significantly cheaper than other materials, but they are also more difficult to transport and maneuver.
Titanium, as you might already know, is not a cheap material, but it is also a high-quality material. For this reason, it is used in the production of the highest quality mountain bikes. It features durability and it is even lighter than aluminum. However, getting a titanium mountain bike online is a bit tricky and if you do so, it is recommended that you choose a reliable company known for its quality work. Titanium is a material which is pretty difficult to shape. For this reason, there are many poorly made frames that are not as durable as the material itself.
Aluminum frames are most commonly used in the production process of mountain bikes. Aluminum is extremely strong material that is also lightweight, and it has become cheaper over the years. Aluminum frames are good for every type of mountain bikes because this type of frames is making the vibration conduction better; therefore, the ride is more comfortable and less bumpy.
Carbon fiber is a material right next to the titanium both in quality and price. However, in order to get this kind of frame you should be a professional biker, or be ready to invest a couple of thousands of dollars in a mountain bike. Carbon fiber frames have statistically lowest chances of breaking, even though it is not impossible, it is very difficult to break them. For this reason, if you have the choice between a carbon fiber frame and any other material, it is recommended that you choose it because it exceeds in performance.
Buying a new or used bike
Getting a used mountain bike can seem pretty tempting. Especially since the price is half lower than getting a new bike. However, there is a good reason for this. Even when buying a new bike, it is important that you take into consideration the warranty terms and whether the company offer spare parts. Even though this might not seem as necessary at the moment, it will pay off after a couple of years. Also, there are some manufacturers or distributors that offer free tune-ups for a certain period of time. This is particularly significant, especially for beginner users.
As for used mountain bikes, there is a low possibility that your bike will come in perfect condition. We are not suggesting that the seller would try to manipulate you, but we are simply stating that there might be cracks in the frame that are not visible. This is not something that could be predicted and it does not depend on the age of the bike or the usage. If you have already decided on spending a couple of hundreds of dollars on a bike, we recommend that you stretch further and if possible, spend a few hundred more on a new mountain bike that you will use for years to come.
It is not possible to choose the best components of a mountain bike and expect to find such model. There are simply too many features and components and they all vary in quality and price. Even if you do manage to find your perfect bike, it certainly will not come at the expected price. For this reason, it is better that you inform yourself about all of the components a mountain bike has and their quality and focus on few of them. For instance, if your favorite part of the mountain biking is climbing you should probably focus on the paddling system.
That said, there are many components that affect the quality of performance of a mountain bike such as brakes, tires, wheels, derailleurs and many others. Wheels for instance mostly come in two variations such as steel ones that are used in cheaper versions and aluminum ones that are used in the more expensive ones. Needless to say, aluminum ones are more durable and much lighter than steel.
The derailleur is a component that is often underestimated. It is the transmission system that consists of sprockets and a chain. It works with the help of the biker who while he is pedaling; he is derailing the chain, therefore driving the sprockets. This pedaling system is very important and it creates a big difference in the effort you are going to provide when climbing a hill. In order to get a high-quality derailleur system, it is important that you choose the right manufacturer. However, it is good that there are not many manufacturers of these components and the most common one is Shimano. This is a company that is producing derailleurs for decades and their components come at all grades and prices.
Closely connected to the pedaling system are the speeds of a mountain bike. Although most people prefer bikes with more speeds, in this case, more is not always better. In order to better understand this feature, it is important to know that the low gear gives you the torque that is required in order to climb to a steeper terrain. A high gear on the other side is allowing the user to get a higher speed on smoother roads. Taking this into consideration it is pretty clear that the climbers should focus on the low gears and the adrenaline addicts on the higher gears. Understanding this will allow you to choose a specific range instead of simply looking for more speed. This might significantly eliminate some pricier choices since you would be focusing on a smaller range of choice.
Seat of the bike
It is logical that when you are performing an activity as intensive as riding a bike on a mountain trail, a comfortable seat is not your first feature you should focus on. However, if you are doubting between options, a feature such as this one might help the decision. When it comes to seats, the general rule applies that if the seat is lighter; it is not the most comfortable one. You also should not choose a seat that is too wide since it would be too comfortable for seating, but not so much for riding. Nevertheless, if you don’t like the seat that comes with your mountain bike, you could always order a new one and change it.
The choice of tires depends on the trail. A mountain bike which is ridden on smoother terrains such as leaves and mud should have knobbier tires in order for the knobs to provide better traction. However, if you ride this bike on regular terrains, it will cause you to lose more energy and have a lower speed. Smooth tires on the other side are not convenient for use on mountain trails since they provide less vibration, therefore less rolling resistance. Although this might seem tempting because it creates that you get a higher speed, it is not safe to have smooth tires on a mountain bike.
However, there are tires that are perfect for beginners since they have the advantages of both tire types. They are called hybrid tires and they can be used for all terrains, without having to change them all the time. This type of tires could be recognized by their smooth center and treads on the sides of the tires. Nevertheless, this type of tires usually comes with the bike and they cannot be changed since they also require different types of wheels.
Q: What size of frame will I need?
The same way you are choosing a bike that is specifically designed for mountain ride, it is important to be familiar with the fitting basics before purchasing a bike for you. If it fits you right, the ride will be easier and you will enjoy it. A proper bike fitting is important for every type of bike, but for a mountain bike, it is necessary. A proper fit will give you greater confidence out on the trail and it will improve your riding skills. What’s more, if you don’t get the frame size of a mountain bike, it will never feel comfortable, no matter if you make adjustments or not. For this reason, it is important to choose the right fit.
Mountain bikes come in three sizes that are directly correlated to your height. If you are not sure which size you need, you can also contact the distributor or manufacturer. And if by any reason, you don’t get the size right, it is better that the frame is smaller rather than bigger. Adjustments could be made to a smaller frame, but a larger frame will simply feel uncomfortable all the time. Indicators that influence which size you will choose are the height of the seat, the length of the top frame tube, the stand over height and the reach. As you’ll see, your height is the only variable that will solve the equation. That said, in addition, there are some guidelines that will help you choose your perfect bike frame fit that you can feel comfortable with:
If you are not sure which size you need, you can also contact the distributor or manufacturer. And if by any reason, you don’t get the size right, it is better that the frame is smaller rather than bigger. Adjustments could be made to a smaller frame, but a larger frame will simply feel uncomfortable all the time. Indicators that influence which size you will choose are the seat height, the top tube length, the stand over height and the reach. As you can see, your height is the only variable that will solve the equation. That said, in addition, there are some guidelines that will help you choose your perfect bike frame fit that you can feel comfortable with:
- XS – 13″-14″: For heights between 5′ and 5′ 4″
- S -Bike size 14″-16″: For heights between 5′ 4″ and 5′ 7″
- M – Bike size 16″-18″: For heights between 5′ 7″ and 5′ 10″
- L – Bike size 18″-20″: For heights between 5′ 10″ and 6′ 1″
- XL – Bike size 20″-22″: For heights over 6′ 1″
Q: How to choose mountain bike tires?
This is obviously not a beginners’ question since your first bike should definitely come with tires. However, there is no fault in knowing how to choose tires for your mountain bike. Traction is, of course, the most important feature when it comes to choosing a new set of tires. It will bring you more confidence on the trail and greater safety, although safety is not guaranteed in this sport. Although greater traction is better for the “safe riders”, the ones that require speed might want to leave aside this feature in order to get a greater rolling.
The weight of the tires is just a small percentage of the weight of the entire bike. However, saving some weight on the tires could leave you with some benefits. The size of the tires is also important. Wider tires will be heavier, but they will provide the user greater traction if he chooses to focus on this element. Wider tires also mean more comfortable ride because they absorb part of the shock the rocky terrain is causing. If you choose to go with wider tires, make sure you check the compatibility with your frame since this is something that might represent an issue.
Even though there are as many benefits as downsides for going tubeless, the fact remains that it will nearly solve the flat tire issues. Even though these situations will continue to occur, they will be much less frequent and annoying than previously. Going tubeless will also lower the pressure inside the tire which will absorb the impacts up to some point and it will provide you a smoother ride that will feel more comfortable on rocky trails.
That said, for mountain biking, it is recommended that you get tires with moderate traction and speed. Although the climbing part is just as important, the descending is what’s driving the focus on mountain biking. For this reason, you will need tires that grip well on the trail and that could endure impacts. Descending could start with a moderate speed and end up with a high speed which is why this feature is necessary but often underestimated.
Q: Which mountain bike is best for beginners?
In order to decide which model of bike is best for your new sports interest, it is important that you know the terrain that you are going to ride on. Even if you have already decided that you are going to be a mountain biker, there are still additional questions correlated with the steepness of the trail, the corner angles, ground texture, whether it is rocky, grassy terrain or ground. Each one of these terrains requires different bike features. Even though you can get a universal one that will work just fine, if you want to get the best of the product, it should be carefully selected.
That said, the most important thing which is universal for all mountain trails is the back suspension. It is something that could not be compromised since it provides the comfort of the ride. The back suspension is called hardtail, while the front suspension is a feature which is common in almost every mountain bike on the market. A mountain bike with a nice hardtail suspension will be the obvious choice for every beginner. These types of bikes are easier to maintain, they are much lighter and they perform very well in most mountain trail types. However, the most important feature that many beginners get wrong is the size of the frame. However, we have explained that in the previous question and if you are one, make sure you read it and choose your size accordingly.
Q: Will a mountain bike fit in my car?
This might seem surprising for some bikers, but every beginner biker is wondering this question at some point. Once you have chosen the right mountain bike model, the question remains how you will transport it to your favorite location in order to take it for a ride.
Not everyone is fortunate enough for his favorite mountain trail to be reachable without additional transportation. For this reason, it is important that you know that with minimal dissembling of your mountain bike, you could be able to fit it in your trunk but only if you fold down the seat. The other option of transporting it, which you might already know is by purchasing add-ons and attaching them to the outside of your car.
The options for add-ons are numerous and they all have their own downsides and advantages. However, if you wish to ignore this more expensive option you could simply disassemble the front wheel and your bike will be able to fit inside your car without additional elements. Nevertheless, this option of transport is not very convenient since it takes up your whole trunk and you won’t have space for anything else. Although, it is great that your bike will be as safe as it possibly can be. However, it takes more time to load it and unload it since you have to disassemble and reassemble the wheel every time you want to transport it anywhere.