How much you spend on a mountain bike is up to you and your bank balance. If that sum happens to be at the 3K mark, you are in for a treat. There are plenty of great specced bikes on sale that are far more capable than their price belies. Here are the best mountain bikes we have tested that come in under three thousand pounds. All the bikes here have received four stars or above on our scoring system, dig in, your next bike could be here.....
Merida One-Sixty 600
Our most recent review bike in the category, the Merida One-Sixty 600 is the most affordable model in Merida’s 160mm travel range but there are no shortcuts. It’s packing some decent equipment and the performance is nothing short of impressive, though it could stand to lose a bit of weight if we are being super critical and we’d love to see a compression/climb switch on the rear shock. It might not have the desirability or cool factor of many rivals in this category, but judged solely on its performance the One-Sixty 600 has a lot to offer. Add in the excellent value for money and easy availability in the UK, and you have a thoroughly appealing choice.
Specialized Enduro Comp 29/6 Fattie
The iconic Specialized Enduro 29er has always been a good bike for hard riding, but this long-legged classic just got better thanks to tweaked frame geometry. We still have a little bugbear in that the short chainstays almost certainly contribute to the requirement for the still-too-long seat tube. Acquiring room for that big wheel to move without contacting the seat tube means an obtuse-angled kink is required. With the seat tube measuring 467mm on the large, its still way too long for the trails we’re now riding and entirely unnecessary given the myriad of long travel droppers now available. Still, the bike climbs like a mountain goat and descends like the brawler you want it to be, you won't be disappointed!
Marin Rift Zone 3
The Marin Rift Zone is a dark horse with an unassuming character, it’s a trail slayer with new geometry for 2018 that has moved this bike firmly into trail bike territory. At a humble price the 120mm bike will turn frowns upside down without the need to rob a bank. The Rift Zone is a great all-rounder, this is a bike that will be equally happy on all day cross country adventures as it will razzing laps of your local and finding your limit. Sure, we could stretch or alter the geometry to suit our personal choices but Marin has settled into a safe middle zone of trail bike angles, it is slack enough, it is long enough and it is low enough. Yes, it could be more of each of those things but when making bikes for the masses, maybe sticking down the middle line is the most sensible thing to do. Whatever the reason, in doing so Marin have created a lively, fun little bike that will do many an owner proud.
Mondraker Factor RR
The Mondraker Factor RR is a true all-rounder trail bike and despite some minor niggles and imperfections, it sports trump cards of supportive, progressive suspension and well-balanced, modern geometry that makes it easy to forgive the flaws. Superb suspension kinematics and generally ace geometry make the Factor immensely versatile. Bung a token in those forks and ditch the tyres and you have a bike just as happy sending laps of the black as it is on a 50-mile weekend exploration ride. The crux of it? A genuine all-rounder and one that sets a high precedent for other brands to aim for. Mondraker doesn't list these on their website for 2019 but you can still grab one from Evans.
Trek Fuel EX 5 Women's 27.5 Plus
While this Trek Fuel EX 5 may look like a roller skate on wheels, complete with disco-tastic 'anthracite' metallic grey finish and chunky platform shoes reminiscent of the Spice Girls’ heyday, it does cover a particular niche between ‘trail’ and ‘cross-country’, and it does it very well on a respectable budget. The only disadvantage with the Fuel EX Plus was that the “high geometry” and upright position felt a little vulnerable on steep technical descents. That, however, was overshadowed by its willingness to tackling long days in the saddle with little fuss or discomfort.
Also worth a look:
Bird Cycleworks Aeris 145
This is in the category 'also worth a look' as we have only had time for a 'first ride' on this bike rather than a full review. From our first impressions though, we reckon this bike might score highly with our tester saying "the Aeris 145 is some serious bang-for-your-buck bike. WIth far superior (than many) geometry, the ability to customise your ride, a lifetime warranty and at a significantly cheaper price point than many other, sub-par, big boy brands, the Aeris 145 should certainly be on your radar for a real world trail slaying weapon."
With builds starting at £2,082 it's well within the under 3K price bracket too.
Bird Cycleworks Zero AM Boost MK3 Hardtail
Another Bird that we loved - the Zero AM hardtail. This build will set you back £2,045 but for that, you get a bike with progressive geometry that will keep you safe all day long, however hard you like to rumble, all for a wallet-friendly sum. If the favourable sales model, cracking value for money and reassuringly progressive geometry isn’t enough, Bird even offer a lifetime, transferable warranty too. Pretty good from a bike brand with such humble beginnings. So, If you’re in the market for an anarchic hardtail and feel you can hold on when that bull really starts bucking, you’ll do far worse than to pop in and see the guys for a coffee and take one for a spin, who knows, we may see you in a rodeo one day!
Boardman MTR 8.9
The Boardman MTR 8.9 slides into the 'also look at' category as it is a fair bit cheaper than 3k at just £1,600. Our Jon reckons, Boardman's new MTR 8.9 manages to deliver the amazing value their full suspension range has always offered, but performance is now a step up thanks to revised geometry and suspension. It's not just a good bike for the money; it's a bike that's more than capable of shaming machines double or triple the price making it well worth a look.
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