You can get a proper trail-ready mountain bike for £700 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 August 24, 2021]
What to look for in a £700 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 £700
Carrera-Fury-2021-review-100.jpg, by Jon Woodhouse
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 Fury is built around an aluminium frame that gets a rather nice matte finish and subtly profiled tubing, rolling on 650b wheels and sporting a 120mm fork at the front. It's a good combination for a fun trail hardtail, with the smaller wheels keeping the handling lively and engaging while there's sufficient fork travel to offer plenty of comforting cushion when the trail gets rough. With wide-range Shimano gears and hydraulic disc brakes, the whole spec is very far from shabby too. For most riders starting out on their mountain bike adventure, this is all the bike you'll need.
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.
You can get this great looking Kona Lava Dome for just under £700. 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 Rockhopper is the most affordable mountain bike in Specialized’s massive 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 nimble 27.5-inch wheel size. There is a mix of Shimano and microSHIFT in the drivetrain and Radius CX7 disc brakes take care of and stopping. The Suntour XCE fork provides up to 100mm of travel and uses coil springs with custom Multi-Circuit Damping to keep things controlled.
It's a very decent package for the money, with an eminently upgradeable frame as your skills and ambition grows.
The Trek mountain bike range starts at £450 but we’ve picked the £625 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 Deore single-chainring gearing and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes.
Based around the bigger 29-inch wheelsize, this Voodoo Braag 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 XCM 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 a wide-range 1x9 drivetrain from Microshift.
The replacement for the old Boardman Comp, the Boardman MHT 8.6 is a serious contender for any £700 mountain bike shortlist. The budget has been well spent, with a triple-butted 6061 aluminium frame and an easily adjustable, air-sprung Suntour Raidon fork with a lockout option. Shimano provides the gearing in the form of a 10 speed cassette and a single chain ring up front, and there are Tektro hydraulic disc brakes to provide the stopping power.
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