If you are looking to spend a grand and a half on a brand spanking new mountain bike, we check out just what you get for your money in the model year 2020/21. There used to be a rule of thumb, in the £1,500 and under category, which meant you might be better off buying a well-specced hardtail rather than a cheaper full suspension bike. That's rapidly changing now and there are some notable exceptions to the rule which we list here. Read on for the best mountain bikes we have ridden that you can buy for under £1,500, or check out the video directly below.
(Updated7th June 2020)
The best bikes under £1500
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The Vitus Mythique 29 VRS is a solid performer at the budget end of the scale. The 1x12 drivetrain is a real advantage and the geometry suits whatever kind of riding you fancy, while the tyres are a great spec for UK use. While some components underperform – the X-Fusion fork and Shimano brakes most notably – they're okay for the price. What's more, the Mythique is a bike worth upgrading, and for new riders looking for their first full suspension trail bike (without destroying the bank account), it’s a sensible choice.
The 2020 Calibre Bikes Bossnut 3 hit the Go Outdoors shelves in August this year boasting new geometry, better components and dare I say it, even better value. Here at off-road.cc, we love this budget busting trail bike, it's fun, it's upgradable and in it's full suspension form it’s a great, accessible introduction to mountain biking.
The Sonder Transmitter in this NX1 Revelation spec is an aluminium trail hardtail with impressive geometry and some good looks, with some obvious thought put into the frame. It is beaten by other bigger brands when it comes to value though, leaving us to make a decision between aggressive geometry or better parts.
Specialized's Chisel Comp X1 is a cross-country racing machine that delivers a solid spec for the money. On paper, it might struggle to match direct-sales rivals, but it makes up for that with a truly impressive ride quality and sorted, if old-school handling for anyone that wants to cover ground, quickly.
Not long launched, we’ve had a new 2019 Vitus Sentier 27 VRS for test as the first of a long list of winter hardtails to review. This one proved to be a fun trail bike at a very reasonable price, it’s not the most aggressive bike you’ll ever sit on but it's an entertaining ride and the spec updates for this year are great upgrades.
If you want a light and fast hardtail for getting into mountain biking that can handle everything from just riding to cross-country racing, and don’t want to spend an absolute fortune, the Rose Count Solo 3 is a very appealing choice. It’s also, in our opinion, a very good looking bike with a cracking paint job.
The Rose Count Solo delivers a very impressive performance for the price but it’s not exactly very progressive when it comes to geometry. If you’re in the market for a hardtail for cross-country and gravel riding and not railing descents, there’s a lot to like. If you want more aggro there are more suitable choices. If you are feeling flush, the Count Solo 4 (£1,269.69) gets an upgraded Shimano XT groupset, and propping up the range is the cheapest Count Solo (£725.15) with Shimano Deore, all using the same underlying frame and key features.
The Canyon Grand Cayon range has been updated for 2018 and we have just reviewed the Grand Canyon AL SL 7.0. It's a cross-country racer with winning intentions that will be easier on your wallet than its competitors and can provide you with just as much speed.
If you are set on pushing your limits on the cross country course then the Grand Canyon will be a good partner. It’s not radically different from other XC bikes on the market and it doesn’t break the mould in terms of geometry, but with the help of the 110mm fork on the Grand Canyon, its slacker than other XC hardtails which I think can only be a good thing and with the release of the Canyon Lux it appears the brand is thinking in terms of more progressive geometry. As ever with Canyon, though, the spec list and price is the thing that will make it stand out from the crowd.
Genesis' top-tier Core 30 trail hardtail showed some real potential and got our tester excited to push its limits, with progressive geometry and a stiff but not cumbersome frame that eggs the rider on. The Core hardtail range is Genesis’ recreational trail offering, with 120mm of travel up front paired with straightforward aluminium frames.
A quick glance at the geometry chart is encouraging too, the head angle is a pleasingly slack (for this type of bike), its 68º meaning descents are confidence inspiring and tight corners aren’t as intimidating. The 73º seat angle is slightly on the slack side but its comparable to other mainstream hardtails. The sub-optimal spec for the money can’t be overlooked, however. You can also buy the Genesis Core 20 for £849.
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The 120mm full suspension Marin Hawk Hill model's start at a low price of £1,350 for the Hawk Hill 1. The bottom of the range bike gets a RockShox Recon RL fork, an X-Fusion O2 Pro R, Shimano Deore kit (1x10 spd) and Marin 29mm wide rims shod with Schwalbe tyres. We have just received one of these Hawk Hill's for test - we've got the £2,100 Hawk Hill 3 which is the range-topping model in the lineup. Marin's more affordable full suspension range has seen something of a renaissance in recent years, with the Hawk Hill at the forefront of that.
The alloy Scout is available in both 27.5 and 29er guises, it's the former we have here, opting to test the base model bike, the 275 Comp, coming in at £999.99. For 2019 the geometry stays the same as the 2018 bikes but there are spec updated across the range. 2019 bikes Rockshox forks all-round (this bike got a Suntour fork last year) and the smaller wheeled bikes, such as our test bike get larger 2.6" tyres.
Also in the range and under £1,500 is the Scout Race (also in 27.5 and 29) which is priced at £1,349 and gets a dropper post, a RockShox Sektor RL fork and 11 speed added to the spec list. We have a Nukeproof Scout 275 Sport in for review.
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