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.....
[Updated 12th April 2019]
The Calibre Sentry has rewritten the rule book where full suspension enduro bikes are concerned; it's the full package, incorporating progressive geometry, spot on component choices and a price so low that you’ll need to sit down before you read it. The Calibre Sentry will make riders and bike manufacturers rethink the rulebook where bike design and pricing is concerned. The geometry of this bike makes it a perfect platform for more aggressive riders and racers alike, it’s very well specced for the money and a bike you can jump on and ride straight away and have an absolute blast at the same time. It’s a hard bike to fault, my gripes with the shock are personal and different rider weights and rider style may not feel the same issues. If you are looking for your next bike upgrade? Look no further than this bike and remember you can also buy the Sentry Pro, which at a mindblowing £2,800 gets you a Lyrik fork, a coil shock and SRAM GX Eagle. Read the full review of the Sentry here.
Marin Hawk Hill 3
The Marin Hawk Hill 3 is a 120mm full susser that can hold its own with the big bikes, is well specced and comes in at a very reasonable price too. It’s hard to fault this versatile bike, whilst not groundbreaking in terms of design or geometry it does its job of being a fun and capable trail bike very well indeed. Read the full review 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. Read the full review here.
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! Read our full review here.
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. Read the full review here.
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. Read the first ride report here.
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! Read the frame review here.
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. Read the full review here.
Shand Shug frame
The Shand Shug is an aggressive short travel, steel hardtail hero that we’d be very happy to have in our bike stable. The progressive geometry will see you tackling techy terrain and the beautifully made frame will no doubt be the awe of all your friends. If you have the cash to spare the Shug will be an excellent trail bike for those who love the feel of riding steel and like to thrash a hardtail on any type of trail. Read the review here.
Ritchey Ultra hardtail frameset
The Ritchey Ultra is a gorgeous steel hardtail that operates as a lithe and engaging cross-country and trail bike. It’s fast and fun on all sorts of trails from fast and flowing to tight and technical, the steel frame looks after you on rough terrain but isn’t negatively flexy, and the big tyres provide stacks of traction and bump absorption. It’s just a huge amount of fun. Read the full review here.
Cotic Soul Longshot frameset
Cotic's Soul trail hardtail has a rich history and somewhat of a cult following, but this fifth-generation model brings it bang up to date with stretched-out 'Longshot' geometry and all mod cons, despite the retro skinny steel looks. It's extremely versatile, hugely capable and a proper hoot to ride, though a steeper seat angle would really help it shine on climbs. Read the review here.
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