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Best Mountain Bikes in 2022

In Tech / Gear, Cycling
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When it comes to getting out in the fresh air and enjoying some of the best rural scenery, whilst simultaneously getting fit and buzzing from a big adrenaline boost, mountain biking is right up there with surfing, rock climbing and skiing.

If you are new to the sport or looking to upgrade your current mountain bike for a better model, you would be forgiven for feeling a bit overwhelmed by the lingo, the amount of choice and the level of technical detail available for every single bike out there.

Our comprehensive guide to the best mountain bikes available in 2022 will help you get to grips with the jargon and find your perfect bike. We've split the results by price range; Budget (up to £1000), Mid-Range (£1001 - £4000) and Premium (£4000 to super expensive bikes) to help you navigate to models that are an affordable price for your budget. The selection includes a mixture of hardtails and full-suspension bikes but does not include electric mountain bikes, as the intricacies of pedal assisted off-road bikes is another article in its own right (this article from Mountain Bike Rider is good place to start if you are considering an electric mountain bike). 

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  1. Things to Think About Before Buying Your Next Mountain Bike
  2. Best Budget Mountain Bikes in 2022
  3. Best Mid-Range Mountain Bikes in 2022
  4. Best Premium Mountain Bikes in 2022

Trek Marlin 6 - Image 2

Things to Think About Before Buying Your Next Mountain Bike

The most important factor to consider when buying your next mountain bike is what you want to use if for. Are you likely to be down at the bike park every weekend or do you have your sights set on tackling rough terrain and technical trails in some of the world's most challenging destinations? Once you have identified the most likely terrain for your rides, consider which of the following types of mountain bike is best suited to your requirements. 

There are four different types of mountain bikes:

Trail 

A trail mountain bike is usually a bit more comfortable than the other types of mountain bikes, with thicker tyres for greater traction and more relaxed frame geometry to handle a variety of terrains. Trail bikes are the best choice if you are looking to keep your options open, but they won't be as nippy as a XC and won't give you the maximum downhill speeds that a DH would. 

Cross Country (XC)

Agile, light and speedy, XC machines are built to cover terrain as quickly as possible. They  offer the best pedalling efficiency for both ascents and descents. 

All Mountain (Enduro)

Designed for riders whose main focus is their decedents, but who need to get up a few hills under their own steam too. They are made for Enduro racing, in which riders have to pedal up and downhill, but only the descents are timed. 

Downhill (DH)

If you want to don't want anything more from your bike than a thrilling downhill, a DH bike is perfect for you. Longer, heavier and with a less upright riding position than the other types of mountain bike, it is purpose built for technical downhills. Bear in mind that DH machines are difficult to ride uphill or even on the flat, so are better suited to trails that have chairlifts to carry you back to the top after each downhill dash. 

If you know that the only thing you will want to do on your new bike is go as fast as possible on technical downhills, then look for a the DH machine for your budget. If you know that you wont have the luxury of chairlifts for most of your routes, then maybe an Enduro bike will be the best choice. If you are just getting started in mountain biking or are keen to keep your options open when it comes to terrain, XC and Trail mountain bikes are the most versatile in the class. 

Best Budget Mountain Bikes in 2022

When it comes to creating affordable models, bike manufactures tend to compromise on the weight of both the frame and the components, so expect a cheaper bike to be heavier and therefore require more effort to pedal up hills and be a bit trickier to manoeuvre on the trails. 

Mountain Bike Frame Material 

You are unlikely to find a carbon frame at the budget end of the spectrum. An aluminIum frame or alloy frame are pretty standard in budget mountain bikes. Most large bike manufactures make their core range with the option of an aluminium or carbon fibre frame, so if you fall in love with the look of an expensive model, check to see if they do it with an aluminium frame option. The main difference between the two will be the difficulty of ascents, which will always be easier on a bike with a lighter-weight carbon fibre frame.

Mountain Bike Suspension

Dual suspension is more costly than front suspension and will make your ride more comfortable. It will also make your bike easier to handle on technical climbs and descents, particularly when you are travelling at speed. However, if you don't intend to tackle really rough terrain, you can still have loads of fun and be pretty comfortable on a bike that only has front suspension. 

Mountain Bike Wheels 

As with your mountain bike frame, aluminium is usually the material of choice for a budget bike, but you can always upgrade these to lighter-weight carbon wheels at a later date. 

Mountain Bike Tyres 

There is no right answer when it comes to picking the best tyres for your affordable mountain bike. The wide range of options and combinations available means that there will be an optimum solution for your requirements, you just need to work out what it is! There are specific tyres for every type of terrain, but you may find that you want to compromise a bit and opt for a versatile tyre that can deal well with a variety of terrains.

You will also need to consider if you want tyres with tubes or whether are willing to invest some of your precious budget in tubeless technology. These are less likely to puncture, but if they do get damaged when you are out and about, they are very hard to fix on-the-go. Serious mountain bike enthusiasts sometimes opt for different front and rear tyres to get the best performance out of their bikes, but if you are new to the sport, you aren't going to know what works for you at this stage. Our best advice is to do a bit of online research and the take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of staff at a good bike shop.

Ultimately, provided that you have a frame you are really happy with, many of the features of your new bike, including the wheels, tyres and drive train can be upgraded when you have a bit more cash to spare. Without further preamble, here's our pick of the best bikes in the budget price range. 

Vitus Nucleus 29 VR

Vitus Nucleus 29 VR - £599.99

Weight: 14.3 kg

Wheel Size: 29"

Frame Material: 6061-T6 Aluminium Alloy

Features: 1×10 Shimano Deore drivetrain, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, WTB 29er rims and tyres

Overview: With its promising spec and its aggressive geometry the Vitus Nucleaus is ideally suited to trail riding. Featuring a Suntour XCR32 air-sprung fork and an excellent tyre combo for your money, it can cope with the majority of trail terrains with ease. 

Room for Improvement:

  • There is no dropper post, so it's not possible to move the seat up and down easily while you are on the go (there is a cable port though, should you want to add one later). 
  • Wheel upgrade options are limited due to the 9×135mm quick-release rear axle. 
  • Stiff-feeling ride isn't to everyone's taste.

UPDATE: There is a shiney new version of the Nucleus launching in March 2022. Keep an eye on the Vitus Bikes website for more information. 

Trek Marlin 6

Trek Marlin 6 - £600

Weight: 14.4kg

Wheel Size: 29" (XS frame comes with smaller, 27.5" wheels)

Frame Material: Alpha Silver Aluminum

Features: Shimano Altus M310 (7 speed), Tektro HD-275 hydraulic disc brakes, SR Suntour XCT 30 fork, Bontranger components, 

Overview: A budget XC bike packed with features you would expect on a bike with a far bigger price tag, the Trek Marlin 6 is a brilliant beginners mountain bike. It is available in XS and S frame sizes, which makes it a great option for smaller riders. It also comes with a rack and a kickstand mount, so can double as a commuter bike if needed. The technical spec is outstanding for a bike in this price range, providing efficient breaking, a great drive train and a dropper post included as standard. It is also very customisable, so the seat, tyres, rims and groupset can be upgraded at a later date if you wish. 

Room for Improvement: 

  • The frame can handle small jumps with ease, but may struggle with more challenging mountain terrain.
  • The Suntour XCT 30 fork is a decent budget option but the ride quality is not as smooth as a high-end fork can offer. 
  • Rims don't come tubeless ready.
  • Ride is a bit stiff and unforgiving.

Carrera Fury

Carrera Fury - £650.00

Weight: 13.93kg

Wheel Size: 29" (XS frame comes with smaller, 27.5 inch wheels)

Frame Material: Alpha Silver Aluminum

Features: Shimano Deore M4100 shifter, Shimano MT200 brakes (180/160mm rotors), SR Suntour suspension fork 

Overview: Another great bike from bike-making giant, Halfords, the Carrera Fury compromises as little as possible to give you a solid, stable ride experience ideal for beginner to intermediate level. This hardtail bike is not the prettiest mountain bike around, as the frame is a rather tall and ungainly, but the Carrera Fury corners well and comes with a dropper seatpost as standard, which flexes enough during rides to smooth out a lot of the bumps that go with rough trails. This bike is frequently customer reviewed as the best mountain bike available in this price bracket and other bike manufacturers struggle to match the spec. 

Room for Improvement:

  • The Suntour fork does not absorb bumps as well as more expensive forks and this makes ascents and descents less comfortable than they should be. 

Best Mid-Range Mountain Bikes in 2022

Giant Stance 29 2 - £1,699

Weight: 13.86 kg

Wheel Size: 29"

Frame Material: ALUXX-Grade Aluminium

Features: FlexPoint Suspension, Shimano Deore Shifters, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, 29-inch Giant XCT tubeless-ready rims, 

Overview: This bike has been around for a couple of years now, but it is still a reliable mid-range, full-suspension trail bike that offers some of the best finishing kit for a bike of it's value (this is probably due to the huge purchasing power that a brand like Giant can wield). Lightweight, manoeuvrable and versatile, the Stance 29 2 is a great machine for image-savvy beginners and wallet-savvy veterans alike. 

Room for Improvement:

  • Dropper post doesn't come as standard.
  • Tyre tread is not aggressive enough to deal really well with any non-firm surfaces that your mountain bike adventures may throw your way. 

Trek Slash 8

Trek Slash 8 - £3,7000

Weight: 15.25kg

Wheel Size: 29"

Frame Material: Alpha Platinum Aluminium

Features: SRAM GX Eagle drive train, Super Deluxe Thru Shaft air shock suspension, SRAM Code R brakes

Overview: Winner of the Bike Radar Enduro Bike of the Year Award 2021, the Trek Slash 8 can reach impressive speeds even on really tricky terrain. A long travel 29er, the Slash has been the bike of choice for various big names, including Katy Winton and Pedro Burns. Great for enduro racing and downhill, the Slash 8 features modern geometry, ace suspension and impresses top level riders in both climbs and downhills. 

The Slash 8 is fully customisable (including the paint job) and its finishing touches are worthy of a much more costly bike. The internal frame storage compartment, located underneath the water bottle cage, is perfect for a spare tube an some essential tools and Trek even include a tool roll to stop your stowed goods rattling around while you are on the go. 

Room for Improvement:

  • The tyres aren't the best at handling muddy conditions

Ibis Ripley AF

Ibis Ripley AF - £3599.00

Weight: 14.8kg (without pedals)

Wheel Size: 29"

Frame Material: Aluminium 

Features: Fox Float 34 Performance Series 130mm fork, Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain (possible to upgrade to Shimano SLX or SRAM) , 7 year warranty 

Overview: You have to love the natural colourways of this bike and the wonderfully descriptive names that go with each one (Pond Scum Green, for example). However, the creative colour chart is only the beginning, as this aluminium-framed version of the hugely popular Ibis Ripley CF this short travel, single track bike offers aggressive geometry, decent suspension and precision handling. It's easy to get to grips with and has been carefully constructed to include good quality components where it matters most and to skimp elsewhere to achieve the pricepoint.

Room for Improvement:

  • Ride is quite rattly

  • Though generally quite capable on ascents, it is not easy to ride this bike up really technical, rocky terrain. 

Best Premium Mountain Bikes in 2022

Santa Cruz Bronson CC MX X01 AXS RSV - £8599.00

Weight: 14.32kg 

Wheel Size: 29-inch wheel at the front and 27.5-inch wheel at the back (AKA a mixed mullet wheel set up)

Frame Material: Carbon CC

Features: RockShox Super Deluxe suspension, Reverb dropper post, Fox’s 36 Factory fork, SRAM X01 Eagle AXS derailleur, Cane Creek 40 headset

Overview: A great all-round 150 mm travel trail bike, the Santa Cruz Bronson is versatile and offers a firm, supportive ride on most terrain types. If you have a big budget and want to get stuck into a variety of different mountain bike terrains, then the Bronson from Santa Cruz Bicycles could be a good bet. It won't be as good at handling the most technical terrain as an enduro bike or a thoroughbred trail, as it lacks the engineering specifics required to take on the most extreme environments, but it's great if versatility is your key requirement. 

Room for Improvement:

  • Some cost-saving kit compromises (such as the use of GX Eagle AXS shifter as opposed to the X01 Eagle AXS) impair the over all ride experience of the Bronson, which is a shame at this price point. 

Devinci Troy Carbon GX 12S - £5,387

Weight:  14.27 kg

Wheel Size: 29"

Frame Material: Carbon DMC-G

Features: GX Eagle groupset, SRAM Code R brakes, Fox Float 36 Performance Grip 150 fork, FSA Orbit headset, fully internal cable routing

Overview: Having been extensively tested in Devinci's native Canada and in numerous locations around the globe, this latest iteration of the Troy has improved clearance, refined geometry and longer reaches across all the size options. A trail bike that is also a downhiller's dream, the Troy copes with a variety of terrain without breaking a sweat (or whatever the bike equivalent of sweat is). It is one of the best all-rounders out there and there are few situations in which it will seem out of its depth. 

Room for Improvement:

  • Seat-tube angle could be steeper

Canyon Spectral 29 CF 9 - £5199.00

Weight: 13.60kg

Wheel Size: 29"

Frame Material: Carbon Fibre 

Features: RockShox Pike ULT RCT3 fork, SRAM G2 RSC brakes, SRAM GX Eagle AXS shifters, Canyon G5 dropper seatpost, adjustable geometry, 6 years warranty on frame and Canyon components. 

Overview: One of the main rivals to the Devinci Troy in the quest to be the best one bike quiver, Canyon’s Spectral 29 CF 9 is marketed as a "true all-rounder for all off-road conditions". Kitted out with ultra high-end components, this 29" carbon frame full suspension enduro bike is light, fast and versatile. It not as fast as cross-country bikes or able to take the shocks of downhill bikes, but if you have decent money to spend and dreams to take on a wide range of trails from rocky mountain to gravel track, you can't really go wrong with the Spectral 29 CF 9. 

Room for Improvement: 

  • A more affordable option would be lovely!

Disclaimer - Many bike manufacturers and stockists are currently experiencing supply chain issues, due in part to Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst we have endeavoured to select bikes that are currently available or are due back in stock imminently, there may be a waiting list for some models and spec changes in others. 

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