You can get a proper trail-ready mountain bike for £600 or under these days, and there's plenty of choice out there. Here's our simple guide to what to look for, and some suggestions for where to spend your hard-earned cash.
[Updated 26th March 2020]
What to look for in a £600 mountain bike
Mountain bikes at this price will mostly be hardtails, with a rigid frame. While you might be able to get a cheap full-suspension mountain bike from a supermarket, we’d urge you to steer clear because, quite simply, it won’t be much cop. A hardtail frame provides the manufacturer with more budget to stick some quality parts onto the frame, such as a good suspension fork, decent tyres, brakes and finishing kit, parts like the handlebar and saddle.
Look for a lightweight aluminium frame, disc brakes (preferably hydraulic), and a really good suspension fork. Those are the parts that are going to most heavily influence the quality and performance of the ride. You’ll pay more for a good frame and suspension fork, but they are really important parts of the bike so that’s what we would look for rather than some glitzy components that will eventually wear out anyway.
The geometry of the bike dictates how it rides and behaves, and how well it fits. The bigger the size range a manufacturer offers, the more likely you are to get one that fits you. Geometry is also a measure of how the bike will ride, and longer and slacker generally means a bike that is more playful and capable on the fun trails when the speed is high and smiles broad.
Best bikes under £600
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.
The Two³ is the updated version of the Two2, with not just a new spec but also a new geometry and bigger wheels too. It’s half a degree slacker at 67.5. Specwise the alloy Two³ looks to be as equally good value as the previous bike with 100mm Rockshox XC30 forks, a Shimano 9 Speed Altus 3x drivetrain, Shimano MT100 brakes, Schwalbe tyres. It’s all big name kit for the £400 price tag. We've reviewed the new bike and gave it 5 stars!
You can get this great looking Kona Lava Dome for just under £600. Kona is a brand steeped in history, it pioneered the radically sloping top tube that provides loads of standover clearance, making it easier to throw the bike around through the corners. This bike gets an aluminium frame, coil-sprung Suntour fork with 100mm travel, 24-speed Shimano Altus gearing and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes.
The Pitch is the most affordable mountain bike in Specailized’s massive bike range, and it ticks the boxes if you’re shopping for your first mountain bike. Firstly, there’s a well designed aluminium frame with butted tubes to save weight, and Specialized has used the popular 27.5" wheel size. There is a mix of Shimano Acera and Altus in the drivetrain and there is Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes take care of and stopping. The Suntour XCT fork provides up to 100mm of travel and uses coil springs with custom Multi-Circuit Damping to keep things controlled.
The Trek mountain bike range starts at £400 but we’ve picked the £475 Marlin 6 because it looks a great bike. Like many bikes at this price, the Marlin takes its inspiration from cross-country bikes and Trek has tried to replicate that in the geometry and the build, which centres around an aluminium frame and 29er wheels. You get a Suntour 100mm fork with coil spring internals, Shimano Altus gearing and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. The range has had an overhaul in 2019 and is looking good!
German brand Canyon has built up an enviable reputation in the UK over the past few years, offering really well designed and specced bikes for attractive prices. This model gets one of the best equipment lists of any bike at this price, including a RockShox XC 30 coil-sprung fork, Shimano Alivio gearing and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, with the fast-rolling Schwalbe Rocket Ron tyres. At 30.4lbs it’s one of the lightest bikes at this price. Price is a tad over £600 and geometry is a little different to the AL 3.9 we reviewed last year but we still think it's great value.
Based around the bigger 29in wheelsize, this Voodoo Aizan from Halfords is a decent looking package, and the brand has a habit of making well designed entry-level mountain bikes. An aluminium frame keeps the weight low, the Suntour XCR fork provides front-end cushioning and extra control, and Clarks hydraulic brakes provide all the power you need to rein back the speed. Elsewhere there is an 18 speed drivetrain from Shimano and even dropper post routing for a later upgrade.
Just scraping into the guide by account it costing just over £600 at £650, this Boardman MHT 8.6 is a serious contender for any £600 mountain bike shortlist. It is the replacement for last years Boardman Comp. The budget has been well spent, an air-sprung Suntour Raidon fork is easily adjustable with a lockout option. Shimano provides the gearing in the form of a 10 speed cassette and a single chain ring up front, there there is Tektro hydraulic disc brakes to provide the stopping power.
You might also like: