One of the most common questions I get is, “What is the best mountain bike to buy?”. It is a really broad question and it is very rare that you can say, “buy this one”. So, in this post I am going to help you answer the question for yourself. This is because there are a few factors you need to consider when buying a mountain bike.
What is the best mountain bike?
The best mountain bike for you may not be the best mountain bike for me. This is because we may have different styles of riding, tastes, budgets and we may ride on different terrain. Therefore, we may need bikes of completely different types. To make things a bit more complicated, there are variations within each type of bike too. This means we have a huge choice of mountain bikes to consider. Personally, I think it is fun weighing up the pros and cons of each bike. I suppose that is why I started this website.
With this huge range of mountain bikes to choose from, there is one for everybody. Whether you are a cross-country racer, looking for the fastest bike to go up hill, or if you are a looking for something that will get you from top to bottom as fast as possible, there is something for you.
I have put together a list of mountain bikes that you may be interested in. These all have travel between 120mm and 170mm. This makes them trail or enduro bikes, meaning between them, they are suitable for pretty much any trail
Trends for 2019 Mountain Bikes
Keeping it simple
Well kind of. Front derailleurs are on their way out. This is because there is a rise in popularity of 1×11 and 1×12 drivetrains. These have great gear ranges, while giving reliable chain retention. The space where you would have found the front derailleur, is now being used it to make frames stiffer and lighter. It also allows improved design of the rear suspension pivot. One of the advantages of this, is that bikes are simpler with regard to the drivetrain. This means there is less to go wrong with it and the chain has less opportunity to jump off on bumpy terrain.
The reaches and front centres of mountain bikes are growing, and head angles are getting slacker. Therefore, mountain bike manufacturers are starting to use a shorter offset fork (usually 44mm, but some are shorter) on their 29ers. This helps offset the increased front centre and wheelbase length caused by the longer reaches and slacker head angles. This makes the steering feel more responsive.
As I said above, reaches are getting longer and angles are getting slacker. This lengthens the bike’s front centre and wheelbase. This means that your weight is between the wheels more, giving your bike a more stable and smooth feel. It also makes it more secure when you ride steep stuff. However, a longer from centre and wheelbase can make the bike less stable at slower speeds, harder to manoeuvre in tight terrain, and requires the rider to be more committed about putting weight on the front wheel when cornering.
Plus Tyres are on their way out
The plus width tyres we saw a coming in a couple of years ago (2.8 and 3.0 inch width) seem to be less popular. However, 2.6-inch “mid fat” tyres are gaining in popularity. There are still lots of mountain bikes that you can fit plus sized tyres on, but there appear to be less 27.5+ builds. But, there are more companies building 27.5+ compatibility into their 29ers.
Steep Seat Angles
Back to new trees in geometry, Mountain bikes are starting to get seat tube angles. They are as steep as 76 degrees, or more. The idea behind this, is to give the rider a more favourable climbing position. This also means the seat tube is further out of the way as they try to to increase travel, decrease chainstay length, and fit bigger wheels and tires in their frames. Steeper seat tube angles also prevent dropper posts from binding at the top of their travel.
Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29"
This bike can do it all. It was originally brought out with 26″ wheels, but has evolved with the times and grown some 29ers. It doesn’t have much rear suspension travel, with just 115mm. But, the larger wheels and updated geometry make it feel lively and fast with great handling. This new version of the Giant Trance follows the new trends of 2019 with a slacker head angle, a shorter fork offset and a longer reach making more capable than older versions. The shorter chainstay makes it more stable at slower speeds. This is a full carbon bike with some great components on it, which is reflected in the price.
The new Trance comes with a great set of components. You will find that SRAM’s 1×12 Eagle is hard to beat. It has very light carbon wheels, already with Maxxis DHF and DHR tubeless tyres.
The top of the range version comes with the excellent RockShox Reverb dropper post. If you opt for less expensive versions, you will get a bike with Giant’s own post. The Pro 29 also comes with a 800mm-wide Truvativ Descendent carbon handlebar. This a fantastic touch and is pretty rare on a bike with just 115mm of travel.
The Giant Trance Advance 29″ Pro is a very well thought out bike with some great details. These details make the Giant Trance feel special. You will find it light, fast, and very capable. You will be reminded about the short suspension travel, when taking drops. However, it is a very exiting bike that will keep you entertained when shredding the trails.
Features and Specifications
|Frame:||Advanced-Grade Composite front and rear triangles, 115mm travel|
|Fork:||DVO custom-tuned Sapphire D1 34 29, 130mm travel|
|Rear Shock:||DVO custom-tuned Topaz 2 T3|
|Stem:||TruVativ Descendant, 35mm, 0mm rise|
|Bars:||TruVativ Descendant carbon, 800 x 35mm, 20mm rise|
|Front Brake:||SRAM Guide RSC 180mm, hydraulic disc|
|Rear Brake:||SRAM Guide RSC 180mm, hydraulic disc|
|Brake Lever:||SRAM Guide RSC|
|Rear Mech:||SRAM X01 Eagle|
|Shifters:||SRAM X01 Eagle, 1×12|
|Rims:||Giant TRX 0 29 WheelSystem, hookless carbon, 30mm inner width|
|Front Hub:||Giant TRX 0 29 WheelSystem|
|Rear Hub:||Giant TRX 0 29 WheelSystem|
|Spokes:||Giant TRX 0 29 WheelSystem|
|Front Tyre:||Maxxis Minion DHF 29×2.3, 60 tpi, 3C, EXO, TR, tubeless|
|Rear Tyre:||Maxxis DHR II 29×2.3, 60 tpi, 3C, EXO, TR, tubeless|
|Seat Post:||RockShox Reverb, 30.9mm|
|Saddle:||Giant Contact SL Neutral|
|Chainset:||SRAM X01 Eagle Dub, Boost, 32|
|Bottom Bracket:||SRAM GXP Dub Press Fit|
|Chain:||SRAM XO1 Eagle|
|Cassette:||SRAM XG-1295 Eagle, 10×50|
Scott Genius 730 27.5"
I chose the Scott Genius 730 as it is the closest thing to a modern version of my old bike. I loved it, but it was getting a bit too tired for what I was doing with it. The 2019 version has aggressive geometry and great climbing characteristics. It has now been equipped with the new NUDE TR shock and an improved spec. This new shock has twin-loc adjustment, more sensitivity and a know allowing you to adjust how progressive it is, without taking it apart. This makes it really easy to tweak to your liking and for different terrain or moods. The braking is taken care of using four-piston Shimano XT brakes with 180mm rotors.
This bike is designed to take on anything you throw at it. It is also quite “reasonably” priced, as these components are found on much more expensive bikes. One of the unique things about the new Scott Genius, is that you can put either 27.5″ or 29″ wheels on it. This gives you the option to plat with mixing up wheel sizes if you fancy an experiment.
Features and Specifications
|Frame:||Genius Carbon / IMP technology / HMF Mainframe BB92 / Alloy SL 6011 swingarm VLK Virtual 4 Link kinematic 27.5″ (2.6 & 2.8) and 29″ (2.4 & 2.6) tire compatible with Geo -BB adj. SW dropouts for Boost 12x148mm TBC Trunnion box construction|
|Fork:||FOX 34 Float Performance Air Grip 3 / 3-Modes / 15x110mm QR axle / tapered steerer 44mm offset / Reb. Adj. / Lockout / 150mm travel|
|Rear Shock:||FOX NUDE T EVOL Trunnion SCOTT custom w. travel / geo adj. 3 modes: Lockout-Traction Control-Descend custom large Airvolume / DPS / Reb. Adj. Travel 150-100-Lockout / 185X55mm|
|Headset:||Syncros FL2.0 Press Fit E2 / Tapered 1.5″-1 1/8″ OD 50/62mm / ID 44/56mm|
|Stem:||Syncros FL1.5 / Alloy 2014 integrated Spacer & Top Cup / 31.8mm / 6° / 1 1/8″|
|Bars:||Syncros FL1.5 mini Riser / Alloy 7050D.B. 12mm rise / 9° / 760mm Syncros Pro lock-on grips|
|Front Brake:||Shimano MT520 4 Piston Disc 203/F and 180/R mm SM-RT66 Rotor|
|Rear Brake:||Shimano MT520 4 Piston Disc 203/F and 180/R mm SM-RT66 Rotor|
|Rear Mech:||SRAM NX / Eagle 12 Speed|
|Shifters:||SRAM NX Eagle Trigger|
|Rims:||30mm Tubeless ready rim 28H|
|Front Hub:||Syncros Revelstoke 2.0 6 Bolt / 15x110mm / 30mm Tubeless ready rim 28H / XD Driver|
|Rear Hub:||Syncros Revelstoke 2.5 6 Bolt / 12x148mm Boost / 30mm Tubeless ready rim 28H / XD Driver|
|Front Tyre:||Maxxis Rekon 27.5×2.8″ / 120TPI Kevlar Bead / EXO / TR Tubeless ready / 3C Maxx Terra|
|Rear Tyre:||Maxxis Rekon 27.5×2.8″ / 120TPI Kevlar Bead / EXO / TR Tubeless ready / 3C Maxx Terra|
|Seat Post:||Syncros Dropper 2.0 / Remote 31.6mm / S size 100mm / M 125mm / L & XL 150mm|
|Saddle:||Syncros Tofino 2.0 / CRMO rails|
|Chainset:||SRAM NX Eagle DUB Boost 32T|
|Bottom Bracket:||SRAM DUB PF integrated / shell 41x92mm|
|Chain:||SRAM CN NX Eagle|
|Cassette:||SRAM NX / XG1230 / 11-50 T|
|Weight:||Approx 13.80kg / 30.42lbs|
Cannondale Habit Carbon 3
The Cannondale Habit 3 is is a cracking 130mm travel trail bike As Cannondales go, it is quite understated, as there’s no Lefty “fork” and no in house trickery. But, what you do get, is tried and tested suspension, modern geometry, and great components. All this gives you a mid-travel 29er that excels when you are taking on rough, fast, and technical terrain.
The rear suspension on the Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 is smooth and very sensitive with great progression. It climbs and brakes easily thanks to this supple shock. it has a more lazy feel to other short-link bikes you will find out there, but that may suit your style of riding.
The component list is a exceptional. It is equipped with the SRAM GX/NX Eagle drivetrain and the SRAM Guide R brakes with 180mm rotors for excellent stopping power. The Maxxis tubeless ready DHF and High Roller II tyres cover Stans NoTubes rims which is a great combination for a trail bike. The FOX suspension is as good as you would expect and the Cannondale-branded dropper post works great.
This isn’t the most bold bike in Cannondale’s range, but it could possibly be the best. There are a few different levels of build too, so there are cheaper options.
Features and Specifications
|Frame:||ALL-NEW Habit Carbon|
|Fork:||Fox Float Performance 34, 130mm, Grip Damper, 3-Pos adj., 15×110, tapered steerer, 51mm offset|
|Rear Shock:||Fox Float Performance DPS EVOL, 130mm, 3-Pos adj.|
|Headset:||Integrated, 1-1/8 to 1.5″, sealed angular contact bearings|
|Stem:||Cannondale C3, 3D Forged 6061 Alloy, 1-1/8″, 31.8, 0°|
|Bars:||Cannondale C3 Riser, 6061 Alloy, 15mm rise, 8° sweep, 4° rise, 780mm|
|Front Brake:||SRAM Guide R hydro disc, 180mm Centerline rotors|
|Rear Brake:||SRAM Guide R hydro disc, 180mm Centerline rotors|
|Brake Lever:||SRAM Guide R hydro disc|
|Rear Mech:||SRAM GX Eagle|
|Shifters:||SRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed|
|Rims:||Stan’s NoTubes Arch S1, 32h, tubeless ready|
|Front Hub:||Formula 15×110 front|
|Rear Hub:||Formula 12×148 rear w/ HG driver|
|Spokes:||DT Swiss Champion (Ai Offset dish – rear)|
|Front Tyre:||Maxxis Minion DHF 29 x 2.5″ WT front, Dual compound, EXO puncture protection, tubeless ready|
|Rear Tyre:||Maxxis High Roller II 2.3″ rear, Dual compound, EXO puncture protection, tubeless ready|
|Seat Post:||Cannondale DownLow Dropper Post, internal routing, 31.6, 100mm (S), 125mm (M), 150mm (L-XL)|
|Saddle:||Fabric Scoop Shallow Sport, steel rails|
|Chainset:||Truvativ Stylo 6K, 30T|
|Bottom Bracket:||Cannondale Alloy PressFit30|
|Chain:||SRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed|
|Cassette:||SRAM PG-1230, NX Eagle, 10-50, 12-speed|
Ok this one is pretty special in my book. Just look at it! Of course there will be haters, but I like this a lot and I’m not alone. In fact there was one outside Rhodos in Morzine a couple of weeks ago, I was admiring it and so was another guy and we walked in to each other.
The idea behind the HB160 is for a bike that is not pigeon holed in to a category. It is designed to be a “mountain bike” and to show off Hope’s engineering prowess. With that said, who is it for? For a start, it is for someone with some cash, as it isn’t particularly cheap. However, there is only one level of build, so this should narrow things down a bit.
As you can see from the specifications below, there is nothing cheap on it. It is all great quality stuff. The specifications will get Hope fans exited, especially when they can choose one of seven colour options, including the Hope team green.
However, the geometry isn’t as modern as the other bikes on this list. It hasn’t got a crazy long reach or super steep seat tube angle. The frame was designed before things went slack and long, and Hope has stuck with it. It has fairly traditional geometry, but it has been subjected to many new standards. The Hope SB160 is designed from scratch to work as a holistic system. It challenges the norm, but is not intended to upset the market.
The Hope SB160 mountain bike is not a mega aggressive bike. It is designed to a be balanced and sure-footed mountain machine. The Fox X2 makes the rear nice and progressive, making it nimble. It has a shorter reach, giving the rider a more upright seated position, making it more comfortable on long climbs.
On the descents, the geometry gives you a feeling of confidence and versatility, making it seriously good fun, as does its performance in short, hard corners.
But, just look at it!
Features and Specifications
|Fork||Fox 36 Grip 2 160mm|
|Shock||Fox X2 Air|
Hope Carbon 780×20
Fox Transfer 125/150mm
SDG Duster HB Special Edition
Hope AM 35/50mm
|Brakes||Hope Tech 3 E4|
Hope Floating 180/180mm
SRAM Eagle XO1 12sp
|Rear Mech||SRAM X01 12sp|
|Chain||XO1 Eagle 12sp|
Eagle XO1 10-50
|Crank||Eagle XO1 DUB|
XO1 Direct Mount
Hope Pro 4 Hubs on 35W Rims
Maxxis High Roller 2.4 3C EXO
|Seat Clamp||Hope 36.4 bolt|
|Grips||Hope Black SL|
Hope Grip Doctor
Hope 1 1/8” – 1.5” Bearings
The Nukeproof Mega is one of my favourite bikes. I’ve ridden a few different versions and they have all been great. I like that they are fantastically well made and there are a few versions to choose from, so there is more chance that there is one to suit your budget. You can click here for a rundown of the 2020 Nukeproof Mega range. But, in short the frame is the same geometry as the enduro race bike Sam Hill rides. You can get this bike in allot or carbon and you also get a choice between 27.5″ and 29″ wheels. They are very capable bikes and great on any terrain, thanks to its balanced handling and excellent suspension. It is an EWS contender for everyone and great value for money.
Features and Specifications (Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro)
- Frame: Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy, custom triple butted hydro-formed tube set, custom tuned rear shock configuration, internal dropper seatpost cable routing, threaded bottom bracket, boost 148mm rear axle spacing, 3D contoured frame protection
- Fork: RockShox Lyrik Charger 2 RC 160mm, 51mm Offset, Debonair, Diffusion Black
- Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe RC3 ML1S 210x55mm (Comes with 2x bottomless tokens fitted so you have them if needed)
- Front Wheel: Mavic Deemax Elite, 29″, 15x110mm
- Rear Wheel: Mavic Deemax Elite, 29″, XD, 148x12mm
- Tyres: Michelin Wild Enduro 29″ x 2.4, Gum -X TS TLR
- Crankset: SRAM Descendant 7K Alloy Eagle 12-Speed, 170mm, 30T, B148, DUB
- Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle 12-Speed
- Chain Guide: MRP AMg V2, 26-32T, ISCG-05, black
- Brakes: SRAM Guide RE
- Front Rotor: SRAM Centreline, 200mm
- Rear Rotor: SRAM Centreline, 180mm
- Handlebars: Nukeproof Horizon AL 800mm, 25mm
- Stem: Nukeproof Horizon, 50mm, 31.8mm Clamp, black
- Saddle: Nukeproof Horizon SL, Black
- Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth; S: 390mm length, 125mm drop; M: 440mm length, 150mm drop; L/XL: 480mm length, 170mm drop
- Headset: Nukeproof Warhead, 44-56 IITS
- Grips: Nukeproof Sam Hill Signature
Santa Cruz Megatower
Some say that Santa Cruz bikes are all marketing and no substance. Personally, I think maybe the marketing bumps the price up a bit, but they make some very good bikes. The Megatower, is the replacement for the Hightower making it Santa Cruz’s enduro bike.
The geometry of the Santa Cruz Megatower is in keeping with the modern trends, but isn’t extreme. It is also adjustable, so you can have more reach and less wheelbase or vice versa. I have written a run down on the Megatower range, with all the details you need here. But. I want a green one 🙂
This obviously isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will gov you an idea of what is out there and what they cost. Let me know what other bikes should be on this list in the comments section below.