Best mountain bikes for under £1000 in 2023 - top-rated budget mountain bikes
There is no need to spend thousands to get a good mountain bike ripe for razzing the trails. Spending under £1,000 will get you a capable hardtail and even a good full susser. With top technology trickling down to entry-level budgets, the best mountain bikes are fast becoming more and more capable, ensuring big smiles on the trails without bankrupting you.
- Gravel bike vs mountain bike: what are the differences?
- The ultimate buyer's guide to hardtail mountain bikes
- Buyer's guide to mountain bikes - get the best MTB for you
With the current cost of living crisis many of us won't have the disposable income to purchase of a new mountain bike but it's not all doom and gloom. The entry-level mountain bike category is mostly dominated by hardtails but with the odd full suspension bike. While the best mountain bikes under £1,000 offer a fun entry point to tearing up the trails, it's important to understand what to look for and what to avoid before you drop your hard-earned cash on a mountain bike.
A hardtail mountain bike is a perfect proposition, whether you are new to mountain biking or looking to replace an old steed. They offer the best bang-for-your-buck in the category, their simplicity will help you to learn the trail basics and are the easiest to keep rolling with minimal maintenance required.
Bikes are now more enjoyable and capable than ever thanks to the component technology trickling down, combined with modern sizing and geometry that will increase rider confidence. You will find even the most affordable bikes sporting dropper seatposts and some offerings even have fashionable tan walled tyres.
Keep reading for offroad.cc's best choices or skip to our guide on how to choose the best mountain bike under £1,000.
- GT Aggressor Expert — £550.00 | Find out more
- Carrera Fury — Buy Now for £665 from Halfords | Find out more
- Forme Curbar 1 — Buy Now for £700 from Paul's Cycles | Find out more
- Marin Bobcat Trail 3 — Buy Now for £695.00 from Winstanleys Bikes | Find out more
- Voodoo Bizango — Buy Now for £750 from Halfords | Find out more
- Carrera Titan X — Buy Now for £950 from Halfords | Find out more
- Whyte 605 v4 — Buy Now for £950 from Balfe's Bikes | Find out more
GT Aggressor Expert — £550.00
The GT Aggressor Expert is the top-end bike in the Aggressor range that’s built for recreational off-roaders who want the best in value. With that in mind, the brand has done a solid job of the bike’s spec and geometry, making it a bike that’s welcoming, capable and comfortable enough for entry-level singletrack jaunts.
GT’s Aggressor Expert is built around an alloy frame that employs the brand’s simple but rather clever Triple Triangle design. Instead of mounting the seat stays to the seat tube, which we see on almost every hardtail frame on the market, the seat stays are welded to the top tube. This means that the seat stays are much longer and able to flex easier, with the aim of adding a touch of compliance to the rear end.
- Read the full review of the GT Agressor Expert here
- Buy the GT Agressor Expert from Tredz for £399 here
Carrera Fury - £665
Carrera's Fury offers such amazing value for a £650 mountain bike that it's fair to wonder how they make any money on them, with the 10-speed single-ring drivetrain, air-sprung fork with through-axle and dropper post fitted usually only being seen on substantially more expensive machines. The only flaw is the tall seat tube relative to the reach. Nevertheless, it's excellent fun, with the well-sorted kit allowing you to focus on your riding, rather than being filled with fear about plasticky tyres or a twangy fork trying to kill you. The impressively low weight of 14.2kg means that it'll skip along the flat or up climbs quite merrily, though you'll need to perch forward to keep the front end down.
The Carrera Fury is absolutely stunning value and all the kit is frankly exceptional for the cash. It's not quite perfect but it still knocks the socks off most of its competition at this price.
Forme Curbar 1 — Buy Now for £700 from Paul's Cycles
Forme's Curbar 1 offers a load of fun for not a lot of money, with respectably modern handling and kit that does the trick largely without issue. Serious off-roaders will need some more aggressive rubber in the short term to make the most of the trail geometry and long term upgrades should include the fork and brakes, but it's a solid platform to start with.
While the Curbar 1 has some stiff competition - Voodoo's £750 Bizango being the particular elephant in this room, along with Calibre's budget offerings - the bike acquits itself well on handling and performance, meaning it's a worthy option if you want to have a lot of mountain fun without spending a whole lot of money.
Marin Bobcat Trail 3
Marin's Bobcat Trail 3 manages to both look and ride like a much more expensive bike than it is, with a quality frame and geometry that comes from the 'proper trail bike' book to deliver a really capable ride. Compromises in the drivetrain and suspension to get it on budget are apparent, but it's still a solid machine that delivers a lot of fun for not much cash.
Tester, Jon says, "If you're on a tight budget but still have big dreams of ripping around in the dirt, there's an awful lot to like about the Bobcat Trail 3. Yes, it's hampered by the budget drivetrain and tyres and if you're just focused on parts then there are better value options out there, but it delivers a ride that's a disproportionate amount of fun, with proper, trail-ready geometry and genuine capability when you want to let rip."
The Voodoo Bizango is the totally sorted hardtail that’s ruled the roost for a few seasons at this price point. Over the years, Voodoo has added a smaller 16in size to fit shorter riders, lowered the top tube for more room to move, and changed the aluminium frame’s blend for a smoother ride. One thing the brand has never done though is mess with the excellent value and impressive ride quality.
For the money, you'll be hard pushed to find something as confidence-inspiring as the Voodoo Bizango. Its excellently balanced geometry makes for a quick, easy, and pleasurable ride up a hill and an impressively capable blast back down. Its componentry is well sorted from the get-go but thanks to a few forward-thinking choices, it's futureproofed if you end up looking to upgrade the bike as your riding progresses. For 2022, it remains the bike to beat at this price.
Carrera Titan X
The Titan X from Halfords brand Carrera offers the benefits of a full-suspension mountain bike for a very modest sum. It boasts all the mod cons with the spec of bikes twice its price, but while its suspension platform is a shining aspect, its geometry could be tweaked to cater to a wider audience.
As a bike new riders may be eyeing up as their first, the Titan X is great. On flatter trails its short wheelbase makes for an agile ride, and the short reach means it's easy to weight the front wheel in the corners. The handling is welcoming and easy to get on with overall, and it's well prepared to take on much of what the UK's trail centres can offer. It’s quick in the corners too, thanks to its short wheelbase and 650b hoops, and the impressive rear suspension keeps it reasonably composed at speed.
Whyte 605 v4
Whyte’s 605 hardtail might not break the bank, but when it comes to on-trail performance it blows most rivals out of the water thanks to a frame sporting bang-up-to-date geometry and well-chosen components. All in all the Whyte 605 is hugely impressive for the money. Yes, you can buy bikes at this price point that come with much better bits bolted to them but if you’re looking at as the bike as a complete package then it’s bloody hard to beat.
If you want a bike that’s going to allow you to push your riding onwards, boost your confidence both uphill and down and you aren’t fussed about what’s written on the components then the Whyte is a superb machine - and not just by the standards of ‘budget’ bikes.
How to choose the best mountain bike under £1000: everything you need to know
What size bike do I need?
We recommend that you try and test ride as many bikes within your budget as you can. Whether you are spending bags of your hard-earned on the best mountain bike under £3,000 or at the entry-level end of the spectrum, the bike's size is a significant factor, and getting it wrong will negatively affect your experience.
In 2022, brands have a far better understanding of geometry. Following the recommended size charts on their website should see you on the right bike. Your local bike shop can assist and will often arrange demo days for you to determine which size bike is right for you.
Geometry which was once considered "progressive" has landed in the budget market. The longer, lower, and slacker traits have trickled down from the top, producing bikes that have astounding handling and will mean a better experience for more riders.
The progressive bike sizes and geometry provide stability at speed and in the rough, As always the trade-off is they could feel laboured and need some muscling when not at speed. A steep head angle paired with shorter chainstays results in a lively ride characteristic, perfect for twisty trails. Longer chain stays will give more stability. A good place to start would be a conservative middle ground to provide a predictable feel at speed while still being able to flick through the tight trails.
Here is a basic frame-size guide to help give you an idea :
Height Under 157cm (5ft 2in) - Frame size 13in to 14in (XS)
Height between 157cm to 167cm (5ft 2in to 5ft 6in) - Frame size 15in to 16in (Small)
Height between 167cm to 178cm (5ft 6in to 5ft 10in) - Frame size 17in to 18in (Medium)
Height between 178cm to 188cm5ft 10in to 6ft 2in (5ft 10in to 6ft 2in) - Frame size 19in to 20in (Large)
Height 182cm+ (6ft 2in+ ) - Frame size 21in to 23in (XL/XXL)
If you find that you are falling between sizes the recommendation would be to size up rather than down.
In recent years, as manufacturers have moved away from frame sizes and rather quote seat tube length in inches, reach has arguably become the most important figure. It is the measurement from the bottom bracket to the centre of the head tube. It can be tricky to get this measurement yourself from the bike but this measurement will be listed by the brand in their size charts. It is the measurement that tells you whether you will be too stretched out on the bike or too cramped hampering your comfort and control.
Swapping the stem out will help perfect the fit but might change the ride characteristics simultaneously by making the steering too twitchy and nervous, or slow and lazy. Moving the saddle forward or back will also adjust the fit but this changes the efficiency of your pedaling power.
Frame stand-over height or clearance is the last point worth noting when you are deciding which is the best mountain bike size for you. It is the height of your top tube as you straddle the bike when standing with both feet on the ground. Make sure you measure your inside leg before sizing up a mountain bike frame.
What components can I expect?
The level of componentry on the best mountain bikes under £1,000 is impressive. The reliable coil-sprung forks are prevalent in this price range and 130mm of travel is considered the perfect amount for trail riding. Hydraulic disc brakes from big brands like Shimano are right across the market with them specced on mountain bikes with a price tag as low as £665.
Depending on the brand, there is the simplicity combined with the chain security of a Shimano 1x drivetrain and rear mech sporting a clutch. Affording to squeeze a 12-speed drivetrain into the budget end of the market will usually result in a compromise elsewhere in the build. Picking an extra gear over reliable brakes and grippy tyres might not be the wisest move unless you intend to upgrade those areas soon after your purchase.
The finishing kit will mostly be sourced from unbranded or in-house parts. Don't let that put you off - the frame's modern geometry means short stems and wide bars are often specced ensuring confidence and control when you are hurtling at speed.
If the bike doesn't have a dropper seat post installed, then it is worth upgrading (if possible) but we will touch on this in the next section.
Can I upgrade the components?
If you are new to mountain biking, spend time getting to know your new bike and the trails you ride before deciding to drop more money on upgrades. Just because these bikes sit at the lower end of the range it doesn't mean that they are not fun and are not up to the task.
They often share the same frame material and geometry as more expensive stablemates such as the best mountain bikes under £1,500. A few key upgrades to the componentry can transform your bike and ride experience. The main reason to upgrade would be to shave weight, increase the durability or make adjustments in areas such as braking and suspension, You might even want to add a dropper post.
What wheel size is best?
There are three choices of wheel size on the best mountain bikes - 27.5-inch (650b) and 29-inch dominate the genre but 26-inch wheels are still about. The choice comes down to a compromise in size and handling.
The smaller 27.5-inch wheel size usually makes for a more poppy and lively ride, great for smaller frame sizes and for riders looking to get expressive with their riding style. If you are looking for getting some wind under your wheels and blasting out of corners then you will want to consider the 27.5-inch option.
The larger diameter 29-inch wheel size is a faster rolling option. Where speed and efficiency are needed, the 29er will roll over trail obstacles and features with ease. The trade-off is a bike that is slower to get up to speed and will take some muscling to get around the tight and twisty trails.
Then there's 27.5+ which uses a wider 27.5 inch rim to seat a larger-volume tyre between 2.6- and 3in wide. With the tyre size increase, you will see an outer circumference that is effectively the same as a 29er. This allows some frame designs to offer the ability to swap between 27.5+ and 29.
The idea with this newer wheel size is to take all of the rollover prowess of the larger 29-inch wheels and combine it with more traction and bump absorption. The added volume allows the rubber to deform to the trail. These have been aimed squarely at the novice rider but the inevitable trade-off is a greater risk of punctures as the tyre manufacturers attempt to shave weight from the carcass. They notoriously lack grip in the worst muddy conditions causing a vague wishy-washy feeling when the trail gets slimy.
1x or 2x - what should I choose?
The answer to this will come down to where you ride and what type of terrain is on offer. A two-by drivetrain will offer you a crawler gear for those days in the big hills. Alternatively, a 1x drivetrain will allow for better chain security, keeping the chain on the front ring through the roughest sections of a trail littered with rocks and roots This is key on a budget hardtail, just as much as the best mountain bike under £2,000.
Very happy with my Calibre Two Cubed, recommended as an entry level bike if you can find one. Spec has moved on a little since the review though - now a 9-speed double with a 22/36T easiest gear combination and WTB Trail Boss tyres. Also dropper friendly with internal routing and a 30.9mm seat post (350mm as standard so plenty of space for a 150mm drop). Still a single bottle cage and square taper BB. Ripe for an attack of upgraditis