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Best Mountain Bikes

Best Overall
Diamond back Bicycles Overdrive Hardtail Mountain Bike

Best Full-Suspension
2020 Gravity FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Best Aluminium Mountain Bike
Mongoose Status Mountain Bike

Written by James Cooper
Last Updated
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The best mountain bikes are made to deal with difficult terrain. The Diamondback Bicycles Overdrive Hardtail Mountain Bike and the 2020 Gravity FSX 1.0 are the leading bikes for these demanding terrains. Made with a hardtail and full-suspension designs, the bikes are ready to tackle all types of obstacles. Available in all sizes, the bikes can also be upgraded and serviced when needed. The following bikes are the best for rough mountainous terrain.

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  • 1

    Diamondback Bicycles Overdrive Hardtail Mountain Bike

Made from 6062-T6 aluminum alloy bike comes with modern frame geometry and it offers one of the best experiences on off-road terrains. The bike is not made for cruising and it’s not efficient for commuting purposes. But off paved roads, it shows its true potential.

Made with 27.5” wheels, the bike is ready to tackle the most demanding terrains. Even with its hardtail suspension, it’s still one of the leading names in the industry in terms of ride comfort, within off-road limits.

24 speeds power the bike uphill. Gear changes are smooth and hands don’t have to leave the flat handlebar to adjust the speeds. Uphill, this is going to be very practical. While there’s no dropper seat post, the bike’s aggressive geometry suits both uphill and downhill riding.

Sun Tour 4-in suspension absorbs most shocks on the front wheel. While there’s no suspension on the back, the bike rides well. Furthermore, the front suspension can be adjusted depending on user weight for custom responsiveness.

Disc brakes are added to the bike. While they are not hydraulic disc brakes, they are reliable. Offering extra responsiveness, the brakes are ready to deal with the most demanding terrains. Minimum assembly is required for the bike. All that users need to do is to add the front wheel to the bike and fine-tune it for optimum performance.

PROS

Available in 27.5” and 29.2” versions

It includes pedals

Only weighs 35lbs

CONS

No internal routing

  • 2

    2020 Gravity FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The full suspension aluminum frame is specifically made to offer a comfortable ride. With a clear off-road profile, it feels the best on gravel and other unpaved surfaces. Wide tires give it extra stability and traction and it represents one of the main full-suspensions Amazon options today.

A Suntour long-travel adjustable fork makes this bike easy to use. Both on trails and city streets, this fork absorbs shocks leading to a more comfortable ride. The cyclist feels fewer shocks and if the suspension is properly adjusted during bike assembly, it can dampen most other small shocks as well.

Shimano shifters with EF51 24-speed have been added to the bike. As the most popular brand for bike shifters Shimano is internationally recognized for its smooth shifters from entry-level to high-end designs together with SRAM.

Both the front derailleur and the rear derailleur are also Shimano-made. They’re not the best from the brand but they support thousands of miles of clear performance. Little to no maintenance has to be done to these shifters.

The 26in alloy wheels are among the best compact Amazon wheels on amazon. Smaller in diameter, these are perfect for a bit more freestyle riding. They aren’t the fastest wheels but they come with extra maneuverability.

An alloy non-dropper post is added to the bike. It’s a lightweight seatpost with plenty of adjustabilities. To mount the seatpost, cyclists only need a 5 Allen wrench. The height of the seatpost can be adjusted as needed.

The bike is also practical. It includes 2 water bottle holder locations which mean it can be useful for long rides out on the trails. But the bike also works with small racks for those who want to use it for long adventures.

The hybrid tires might be its weak point. More suited for tarmac use, the tires are good but they don’t offer the best off-road traction. As a result, they might need to be upgraded to a set of tires ready to deal with mud and gravel.

PROS

Made with a Suntour crankset

Frame sizes vary from XS to XL

Uses a narrow 8 chain

CONS

Hybrid tires

  • 3

    Mongoose Status Mountain Bike

Made from hydro-formed aluminum, the bike is lightweight and durable. Its full-suspension construction is made for those who want extra comfort off-road. Both the front and the rear suspension are adjustable and there’s a bit more room for user customization.

21-speed Shimano derailleurs have been installed on the bike. Ready to ride for thousands of miles, the bike is among the most durable in its class when it comes to shifters. Lightweight V-brakes are added both to the front and the rear wheel. Made for immediate stopping power, these brakes are also lighter than many similarly-priced disc brakes.

Long 5-year frame warranty and 1-year parts warranty back the bike. The frame enjoys one of the most extensive warranties and it represents a durable option for those who might fear potential quality issues coming from entry-level alternatives.

PROS

Made with a Shimano rear derailleur

Designed with a riser handlebar

5-year frame warranty

CONS

30-day tubes warranty

  • 4

    Vilano 26" Mountain Bike Ridge 2.0 MTB 21 Speed with Disc Brakes

Agile 26” wheels have been used on this lightweight performer. The bike features full disc brakes ready to deal with some of the most demanding braking conditions such as those in downhill rides. Shipped pre-assembled, the bike can be up and running under an hour.

Made from 6061 aluminum, the bike responds well to off-road terrains. Made to meet high standards in terms of frame durability, it handles all that off-road conditions have to throw at it. With included pedals, the bike is ready to be ridden without extra investments as with its alternatives.

A 21-speed drivetrain is added to the bike. It makes the life of the rider easier when it comes to dealing with steep climbs or with serious descents. The drivetrain is a Shimano Tourney TZ50 ready to deal with demanding conditions from the start.

A quick assembly is supported by the bike. It only requires users to install the front wheel, the handlebar, and the saddle. The bike can be fitted at home or a local bike shop. The parts which require the most technical knowledge are derailleur and brake adjustments.

PROS

Made with mechanical discs

Based in 26” Mag Alloy wheels

Made with a lockout suspension fork

CONS

Needs better tires on mud

Types of mountain bikes

Before buying a new mountain bike, it’s important to understand their differences and what makes them unique. Some of the bikes are easy to use while others are only easy to use in specific terrains, as are downhill bikes. With fat bikes and even e-bike making a name for themselves, it might be complicated to choose the right option.

  • Trail

Trail riding is a bit different from general off-road exploration. A new segment of bikes has emerged for this objective. Trail bikes are a mix between cross-country bikes and downhill bikes. If you look at many YouTubers recording trail rides, most of them now choose trail bikes for the extra shock travel.

The shock absorption capacity on trail bikes is a bit higher compared to cross-country bikes. It’s not unusual to see a trail bike with suspension travel between 120 and 140mm. This suspension works well with wide tires and they often reach the 2.3-inch mark.

Riding trails often needs better traction than general cross-country trail. But trails are not limited to the bikes’ performance as its wide tires might take cyclists even further. The wide tires are great for all types of descents. Both tubed and tubeless, these bikes can handle the shocks which normally come with obstacles on the trails.

  • Cross-country bikes

Also known as XC bikes, they are made to tackle long terrains and hill climbs. As a result, these bikes don’t come with rear suspension. Made to represent the versatile performer on smooth ground, it can be compared to the gravel bike in approach.

Cross-country bikes are now seen with different componentry at different prices. It’s safe to say they start at a few hundred dollars and they move up to over a thousand dollars for most entry-level performers.

The bikes come with powerful fork suspension. Typical suspension in this range varies from 80mm to 100mm. The tires that go best with the bike and the suspension have a width of up 2.25inches and a minimum of 2.1 inches.

But these bikes are also recommended for anyone looking to get adventurous on a bike and start exploring mountains and off-road locations. Long weekend rides are going to be comfortable on XC bikes as they are made primarily to cover ground.

  • All-mountain bikes

All-mountain bikes are normally made for enduro fans. Filming themselves in crazy descents, we all know who these cyclists are. Their all-mountain bikes are made to deal with the extra shocks encountered on descents.

A full-suspension all-mountain or endure bike is made with some of the toughest materials in the MTB world and as a result, it can cost thousands. The tires on such bikes are normally wider than on an XC bike. With tires between 2.4 and 2.6 inches, the bikes offer an immersive ride and one of the best profiles for descends.

These bikes are normally very aggressive as well. Their geometry changes every year and it’s worth investing in the latest geometry. For clear safety purposes, cutting corners and saving on materials and specs is not recommended with these types of bikes.

  • Donwnhill bikes

Donwhill bikes are specialized in dealing with rough terrain and steep descents. They’re so specialized that they’re even hard to ride on flat surfaces and almost impossible to ride uphill. Normally,  cyclists use a cable lift to get to a higher point with these bikes.

With aggressive construction, there are no rocks or ramps that can stand in the way of this bike. Known for its resilience, the downhill bike has to come with top of the line shock absorption, excellent for bike parks. As a result, these bikes often come with minimum shock travel of 180mm. But it’s not unusual to see the suspension of up to 200mm travel with 2.5” wheels on these bikes either.

The main rider of this bikes lives in an area with mountains and steep heels. This is not the type of bike to buy for an odd commute or to go shopping with as it’s difficult to pedal on any other surface which isn’t steep.

  • Fat bikes

As their name suggests, fat bikes are characterized by wide tires. But why would a cyclist want a larger contact area with the ground? The answer to these questions lies in the ground itself. The wide tires are best for soft surfaces such as on snow or even sand. As a result, they glide better and they don’t sink.

Fat bike tires are not fast. The extra materials often stop them from reaching maximum speeds. These bikes are not recommended for group rides with friends as they prove nearly impossible to pedal just to keep up with the group.

  • E-bikes

E-bikes have exploded in the past years. Made by most serious bike manufacturers, they are ready to revolutionize the mountain bike world. These bikes are easily recognizable with their thick frame which houses the electric mountain bike’s battery. This battery is very large and it adds considerable weight to the bike.

While these bikes won’t win any aerodynamics contests, they offer the pedaling assistance which makes them very easy to live with. All of a sudden, hills that couldn’t have been cycled before are now easier to ride on. Uphill rides on e-bikes are impossible to match. Even on steep uphill climbs, it’s clear these bikes are made for pedaling assistance.

While there are bikes that don’t require the cyclists to pedal, most e-bikes do require pedaling. They only assist with a bit of pedaling power. But among their disadvantages is the battery life itself. When the battery is completely drained, the heavy bike is considerably harder to pedal.

Another major issue of e-bikes is its price point. Even the cheapest e-bike is very expensive for most riders. This makes them purchase hard to justify. In the conditions in which electric motorcycles are cheaper, e-bikes are still a long way to become a mass product. However, e-bike technology and geometry are improving every year.

Full suspensions and hardtail mountain bikes

The full suspension bikes vs hardtail bikes are one of the cycling community’s biggest debates. It represents a point of interest to anyone looking to cycle off the beaten path.

  • Full suspension benefits

Full suspension bikes are more comfortable. They come with shocks both in the front and in the rear of the bike. This means them excellent for certain types of rides such as downhill. In rare cases, these rides can also be made with hardtail bikes. But in most situations, the full-suspension bike is going to be the best for ride comfort.

Not all bikes need full suspension. But those normally thinking of mountain bikes prefer double suspension as the bikes are suitable for all types of riding conditions.

  • Hardtail benefits

Hardtail bikes only come with fork suspensions. Seen as simpler lightweight alternatives, these bikes are generally more affordable as they’re easier to manufacture. But these bikes might be all that’s needed for certain riding surfaces. For example, those living in areas with smooth trails might not need to invest in full-suspension bikes.

But hardtails are also easier to maintain and to service. There’s no maintenance work to be done outside the basic cassette and oil lubrication. Spoke adjustments might be needed on occasion. But hardtail bikes are very easy to service and most of these tasks can be made at home without the help of a mechanic.

How to choose the right mountain bike

There’s more to mountain biking than the type of bike to consider. Materials, wheel size and tires impact the ride quality and the overall feel of the bike. Even with these variables, many others could also come into play such as design. But here’s the basic information a new rider should start from.

Frame

Frame material impacts rigidity, shock perception, and even the design of the mountain bike. As with other bikes, aluminum, steel, and carbon frames are the most popular options, each with their pros and cons.

  • Aluminum

Aluminum bikes are the most popular today. Together with other materials such as carbon fiber, aluminum is versatile. But most importantly, aluminum is affordable and easy to cut. This makes it an excellent choice for frame construction.

Aluminum is also used on seatpost production. Power transfer is excellent in aluminum mainly with thick tubes. This means the material is seen across most types of mountain bikes. Aluminum is also used in bike components. For example, it is one of the lightest and most affordable materials for rims

  • Steel

Steel is one of the most affordable bike frame materials. In mountain bikes, it is used for its extra rigidity and low cost. The extra weight is not such an issue as with road bikes. As a result, steel mountain bikes are popular even today. The extra weight is not such an issue as with road bikes. As a result, steel mountain bikes are popular even today.

Corrosion is an issue with steel. However, given the correct construction, steel bikes may last for decades. With proper care, steel can also last for years even without showing signs of wear. However, there are other disadvantages of steel bikes. For example, the material is harder to work with and to cut than aluminum. Molding steel requires higher temperatures. As a result, the know-how and the effort put into steel bikes frames becomes a skill which is only mastered in years.

  • Carbon fiber

Carbon fiber is directional by nature and very easy to work with. The material offers the lightest option for modern bikes and final results can be very lightweight, even twice as light as aluminum. But at the same time, carbon fiber is very expensive to manufacture and such bikes are sold at such a high price.

The main disadvantage of carbon fiber is its cracking nature under pressure. The material doesn’t bend under pressure, it breaks. This means excessive force can destroy a bike. However, the occurrence of such events is very rare in the first place. The endless discussions on the fragility of the materials are rarely backed by real-world examples.

  • Titanium

Resilient titanium is the premium choice for many bikes, this includes MTB frames. Titanium is very hard by nature and it’s hard to crack or even bend. However, the material is not the lightest. At the same time, a titanium frame is never going to be too affordable due to the rare nature of the material.

Most mountain bikers see titanium as a lifetime material. It makes the bike last for decades and except parts that might need changing, the frame remains the same after years of use.

Wheel size

Wheel size is also important in mountain biking. Not all bikes are made with the same frame size, which depends on the height of the user. But wheel size is also different from one case to another.

  • 27.5”

The 27.5” tires are still popular in mountain biking. Agile, fast, responsive and fun to use, the smaller wheels are hard to replace on busy trails. When there are a lot of obstacles to avoid, the wheels offer the best performance at an incredible value. The physics is different for smaller wheel and the tallest riders might not like them. But the average rider is going to have a lot of fun on smaller wheels.

  • 29”

The large 29-inch wheels stay in motion with small obstacles better than smaller wheels. Momentum is considerably better and as a result, they might prove useful in climbs and descents alike. The extra motion power generated by the wheels means there’s more traction to the bike. This might mean they’re not as agile but that they can start and keep moving a bit better than smaller wheels.

The tubeless debate

Riding with or without tire tubes is often debated in the cycling community. Both of these riding methods have their pros and cons.

Tubeless tires are a bit easier to handle as they come with less weight. They also save a bit more time when assembling the wheel which is the case of those who change tires frequently, especially while traveling.

But riding tubed tires has its benefits as well. It allows the tire to be cleaner with less sealant and also save riders in certain situations where the tire needs to be inflated to its maximum capacity. But tubeless tires are also subject to punctures or pinches. Hitting a rock hard with a tire and a tube can pinch the tube and eventually lead to a flat tire. Both options need to be tried with test rides at some point by every cyclist.

Weight

The weight of the bike is crucial for pleasant riding experience. Many aspects come into place with weight. With the biggest impact on final weight, the frame is the most important. Frame weight can considerably slow down even the most agile wheels.

Enduro bikes can be lightweight since they don’t need to come with rear suspension. Between 20 and 30lbs, these bikes are normally considered lightweight. E-bikes are the heaviest mountain bikes due to the extra battery and thick tubing to fit the battery.

Long rides tend to be the most troublesome with a lot of weight. Users also need to consider components as they also add to the final weight. Brakes and the groupset design and materials can add sensible weight to the bikes.

Groupsets

Mountain bike groupsets come with brakes and the drivetrain. The drivetrain is made out of the cranks, chainrings, chain, cassette, shifters, and derailleurs. The chain is crucial in mountain biking as it transmits pedaling power. However, the chain can bounce around on uneven terrain leading to all types of shifting problems. A chain tensioner can solve this issue.

Groupsets are normally complex on mountain bikes compared to road bikes due to the demanding nature of the rides. They come with single, double or triple cranksets. Here’s how to read and interpret their codes. A 44/34/24 groupset shows the number of teeth on each cog.

Price

The price of the mountain bike can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The more expensive a bike is, the more likely its components are made with high-quality materials and finishing.

Basic versatile mountain bikes start at $1,000. At this price, the basic mountain bike that only costs a few hundred dollars. Better components include higher-quality groupsets, thru-axles, and quick-release mechanisms. Many of these components were not around a decade ago and they can make bikes seem a lot different to many people stepping up from old mountain bikes.

FAQ


What is the best brand for a mountain bike?

There are many good mountain bike brands. Giant and Trek are among the best. Other known brands include Specialized, Cannondale, Santa Cruz, Konam, Scott, Yeti, Cube, Merida, Rocky Mountain, KTM, Marin, Fuji, Raleigh, etc.

Other mountain bike brands include small brands that make custom bikes. Titanium mountain bike brands can also come with specialized frames which only use this material. But bike brands are now seen across the world at various retailers.

Why single speed mountain bikes?

Single-speed mountain bikes are easier to maintain. There are no complicated groupsets to worry about. In an event of a crash, a single speed mountain bike is much more likely to keep ongoing. The simplicity of its system without a range of gears makes it perfect for all types of rides.

Particularly, single speed mountain bikes are great on flat terrains where no gearing is required. Going up steel heels with fixed speed bikes is not easy. Going downhill with a single-speed bike is not considerably easier either. There are plenty of new single speed mountain bikes being manufactured today.

Is Trek better than Giant?

Both Giant and Trek offer similar components. The main difference is going to be made in the price of the mountain bike. A similarly priced Giant is going to be very similar to a Trek bike in performance. Both manufacturers have strong components and strong frames.

Both companies heavily invest in research and development. But the 2 brands are also expected to go head to head with new bikes in 2020 and 2021 as new groupsets emerge in the mountain bike world and the gravel bike world.

How much faster are road bikes than a mountain?

In general, a road bike is 20% faster than a mountain bike. Its extra speed is based on its aerodynamic performance. Road bikes have thinner profiles and thinner tires. They are calculated for the lowest amount of wind resistance. Mountain bikes are made for the best traction. Relying on wider wheels for enhanced traction, mountain bikes become heavy. They then become even heavier simply by adding full-suspension on the bikes.

But in both cases, they can’t compete directly. A road bike cannot compete in off-road cycling conditions as a mountain bike cannot compete on paved surfaces for speed. Most cyclists will need to own one of each to get maximum speed on both paved and unpaved roads.

A hybrid is now becoming popular under gravel bikes. But even these bikes are still in their early days and there’s a lot of research to go into them to make them as efficient as road bikes or as mountain bikes in its riding objective.