- Best Freeride Mountain Bike
- Best All-Mountain (AM) Bike
- Best 29er Mountain Bike
- Best Budget Mountain Bike
- Best Trail Mountain Bike
- Best Downhill (DH) Mountain Bike
- Best Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bike
- Best Kids Mountain Bike
Best Mountain Bike
Mountain bikes come in a wide variety of sizes, styles, and price ranges. However, you should be aware that there are bikes that are pretenders — they look like mountain bikes but shouldn’t be used the way a true mountain bike should be used. When you make a decision to buy a mountain bike, it is important to buy the right bike for the kind of riding you want to do.
If this is your first mountain bike and you are on a tight budget, check out the great bikes on the budget friendly list. You’ve decided that mountain biking would be a great way to get the kids outside and enjoying the fresh air. Take a look at the best mountain bikes for kids. Whatever your riding style, there is a mountain bike that fits you and your budget. These lists are a way for you to begin your search with the bikes that will get you the most for your money.
Best Freeride Mountain Bike:
Following the carefree vibe sown by snowboarders back in the day, freeriding is about endless creativity to go your own way. It’s all in a name, and a freeride bike does just that, turning you loose to do whatever you want. Try new tricks or hone your skills on old ones or fly off a big jump and nail technical features. Freeride bikes are super durable, heavy duty machines, made to last and handle plenty of abuse.
Freeride rigs are no lightweights, typically with around 30 pound heft or more, so some of the steeper pitches will slow you down. With all that weight, it’s also common to see large diameter (7+ inches) brake rotors to slow ‘er down when you need to, and full-bike suspension. The fork and shock are major players in a freeride bike’s design. Look for plenty of rebound and compression, in addition to preload settings to tailor the bike to whatever you’re riding that day.
These bikes are great for stunts and strutting your stuff at bike parks, and offer very precise handling at lower speeds for control when hucking jumps and sticking narrow lines. The beasty selections on this list come with 5.5-7 inches of travel for sticking big jumps and manhandling gnarly trails, are built with burly aluminum tubing for its stiffness and affordability, as well as boasting high spoke count wheels to endure constant thrashing.
Take it anywhere. Do anything. The Intense 951 EVO DVO is an all-around trail tamer, equally adept at downhill thrashing, launching big air, and hammering rock gardens. The 951 is a gorgeous bike with a look that says it’s ready to get out there and tear it up. The rig is super fun to ride on fast and flowy trails but isn’t afraid to jump into the rough with verve. Perfectly dialed geometry out of the box gives the 951 a peppy yet solid ride feel, easy to flick into corners and float berms with reckless abandon. Read Full Review
The world’s best 24-inch dual-suspension bike" is a bold statement but the legendary Kona Stinky 24 has ushered in legions of shred-happy kids to the freeride/XC world, and this sweet bike shines in both realms. Like all Kona models, the Stinky is designed with performance and inspiration in mind, to get a kid out riding. Whether in their backyard or off on some deep woods singletrack, the Stinky takes them there. Read Full Review
Slopestyle mojo blended with easy-ride comfort for all day play. The Transition Scout is one of the most versatile freeride bikes out there, able to thrown down on park features and tame all manner of tricky trails. Bombproof frame construction makes the Scout a force on downhills, and balanced geometry and suspension keeps the bike a contender on climbs. Drive it hard into turns and get ready to fly off jumps. The Scout is brawny and playful at the same time as well as just plain fun to ride. Read Full Review
Trek’s Session 8 Park is a designated freeride ripper made for long hours of hucking jumps, turning out midair tricks and otherwise merrily frolicking on any kind of trail shape or obstacle you can find. Instead of focusing on warp speeds, Trek designed this tight and responsive rig to go big, with a compact and coiled build and lively personality just itching to power into most any trail challenge. Read Full Review
Spawned from the DNA of their venerable hardtail P.3 series frames, Specialized introduced the dual-suspension P.Slope as a dual-suspension upgrade to the freeride crowd. The Slope is designed with the same agility and pop with confidence-boosting control from the rear suspension setup. This bike loves big air and pulling out all the tricks from your magic, fat tire hat. Read Full Review
Best All-Mountain (AM) Bike:
Mountain biking tends to happen in the sport’s namesake terrain, and that means challenging climbs, crazy fast descents, flowing forest trails, and obstacles of varying size and/or crash-potential. To handle everything the mountain puts in front of you and have a great time doing it, you need a bike with the chops to perform in all conditions. All-mountain bikes let you do just that, from gnarly singletrack, to rock gardens, to steeps. With so many great bikes out there, the decision on which one is right for you can be tough to make. We selected five all-mountain bikes that stand out, offering the best all-around options for rookies to expert riders. These bikes were chosen for their dual suspension adjustability, frame geometry built for versatility on the mountain, and aluminum or carbon frame material options to fit your budget as well as ultimate riding ambitions.
Scott nailed it with the 2015 Genius lineup, and the LT 700 Tuned performs at the highest level on all fronts. With nearly as much travel as a straight-up DH bike and plush suspension, the 700 is primed for any terrain. Read Full Review
Balancing on the gravity-trail bike line, the Giant Reign 27.5 1 crushes fast descents and handles technical trails with aplomb. The low-slung frame is equal parts iron-man tough and subtle efficiency to match wits with white knuckle, obstacle course trails or long, grinding climbs. Ringing the cash register at thousands less than a fancy carbon rig, but still with show-worthy technology, the Reign is a lock for backcountry epics or bike park romps. Read Full Review
Santa Cruz christened the Bronson in honor of the street the company grew up on in its earliest days. This bike does its namesake proud, with the ideal mix of frame stiffness, suspension, and balanced geometry for a sublime ride. A couple of decades of refinement shine through on this lively trail bike, and riders are sure to feel the passion that started it all. Barrel down the steeps and claw uphill with ease, or frolic in a singletrack wonderland; whatever the setting, the Bronson takes you to center stage. Read Full Review
A women’s-specific bike with proven, race-winning performance? It’s for real, and its name is Beti. Yeti produced this bike with influence from some of Colorado’s top women riders and the result is a nimble, trail-loving machine, kitted with gear specific to its pilot. The Beti offers a plush ride with an aggressive attitude to meet the challenge of any terrain, and is tested tough in Colorado’s alpine proving grounds. Read Full Review
The Camber Comp Carbon is a do-it-all bike that floats up hills and descends with reckless abandon, with a lightweight and stiff frame, rock solid component spec, and speedy Roval wheels that carve through turns. The Camber is cross-country quick with the bite to tackle gnarly singletrack, and fast-twitch handling guides it through obstacle-heavy trails. The bike also boasts an affordable price tag for both the aluminum and carbon builds. Read Full Review
Best 29er Mountain Bike:
29er bikes deliver a confident ride over roots, rocks, and a number of other trail challenges thanks to their stability and traction, due in large part to less rolling resistance and a lower center of gravity in the frame. The bigger wheels shine best while you’re descending and help smooth out the nastiest trails, and once up to cruising speed on both hills and flats, the 29er holds its momentum like a 70s Eldorado on a wide open road. Belying their tallboy size, these big bikes maneuver with just a twitch of the bars or lean in your weight, even on spaghetti-tangle trails. These best 29er mountain bikes were chosen for their adjustable dual suspension, 100mm or more of travel for soaking up the big hits, and responsive, aluminum or carbon frames that offer performance and comfort in the same package. The bikes on this list will set you alight in a whole new fat tire world so if you haven’t yet ridden one, make tracks to your local shop and get tall.
The RIP 9 Carbon line is a posse of scrappy, do-it-all rigs that love the siren song of the trail. One tough member of the bunch is the 3-Star XT, a rough and tumble, speedy trail tamer with over 5 inches of travel and a sublime ride on any terrain out there. It’s a quick-handling gem in tight spots, with a stellar component build at an easy to swallow price. Read Full Review
This is simply a bombproof downhill bike as well as a climb-happy, downhill trail bike. Get the best of both worlds with Yeti’s ASRc lineup, a stellar cast of all-trail rigs with right-off-the-floor performance and spec’d with killer component packages. The 25-pound Enduro is super-versatile and fully capable of throwing down in a race at an attractive price point to boot. Check the X01 and top end XTR for even lighter weight and component upticks. Read Full Review
Trek’s Fuel lineup has been winning awards since the bike’s introduction and the Fuel EX 9 29 is a Bicycling magazine Editor’s Choice winner again for 2015. With runway model good looks (dare I say elegant?) the Fuel rides with the same flair, and comes standard with race-proven tech. The bike is balanced like a gymnast on a beam and catlike quick, with bonus points for all-day trail comfort. Read Full Review
Taking cue from its long name, the Stumpjumper FSR Comp EVO 29 is packed with highlights to take it to the dirt for all day shredding. This Stumpy is smooth as aged rum with a nose for eking the most from every ride. Intuitive to ride and spec'd for effortless setup, the Comp EVO summons every bit of fun from the trails as it climbs like a mountain goat and flows downhill like liquid. Read Full Review
Year after year, Giant’s Anthem continues to be a rider favorite. Quick and agile, the Anthem’s 29er setup brings stability and superb control for navigating your favorite line. This ruggedly plush rig accelerates like an Olympic sprinter and scoots up hills with ease, then looks for tight, technical challenges and skips through them with poise and a palpable confidence that only leaves its rider yearning for more. Read Full Review
Best Budget Mountain Bike:
If you are new to mountain biking or an avid recreational rider, you want a bike you can count on for fun and fitness, and one built to handle regular (but not extreme) rigors of the trails out there. You want a relatively lightweight but strong bike which can reliably take you across town or into the woods, all without emptying out your wallet. This best-of list is not suited to fast racing, white-knuckle obstacle fields, or steep, technical downhills, but all of these rigs are solid performers that will get you out there where you want to be.
These budget-friendly machines all retail for under $1,000 and were selected for their ability to excel on smooth singletrack and tight turns, with solid climbing prowess and comfort on flats or paved trails, they include disc brakes for confident stopping power, and are upgrade-accommodating should you wish to swap stock components to tailor the bike to your specific style of riding. The lightweight aluminum frames also provide added agility on the trail and comfort for the rider.
The Diamonback Line is designed for riders who like to roll over everything on the mountain. The Line uses custom formed and butted tubing to stay burly strong but light enough for quick moves. It loves to plummet down descents, climb sky high with equal verve, and is the ideal choice for riders eager to experience mountain biking for the first time or seasoned riders looking for a hardtail with zip. Read Full Review
The X-Caliber 7 is a super smooth and solid beginner hardtail with Shimano components and a high quality build inspired from Trek’s winning Superfly model. G2 geometry provides a lively ride and spot-on handling. The frame’s striking good looks complement the bike’s performance on virtually any terrain, with bonus points for rear rack mounts and versatility to swap in 700c tires for a speedy commuter or bike path rig. Read Full Review
With triathlon roots dating back to the late 80s, Felt continues to design and produce some of the winningest bicycles on earth. Uncompromised performance is in the DNA of every Felt bike, from entry level rides to Tour de France speed weapons. The 7 Eighty W capitalizes on that quality as a high-performing all-arounder with geometry and components dialed to excel on any terrain, while comfortable enough for all-day riding. Read Full Review
A stalwart in the industry since its origin in the early 1970s, Giant boasts an impressive lineup of bikes from small-fry first rides to high zoot, pro level race rigs. The ATX 27.5 2 is a can’t-go-wrong choice for brand new or enthusiastic recreational riders to get the most from off-road adventuring. A plush front shock and grippy disc brakes highlight this solid all-around performer. Read Full Review
Specialized is synonymous with quality, and the Rockhopper name has been in the venerable Morgan Hill, CA company’s lineup since its earliest days. Decades of beginner and early intermediate mountain bikers have turned to the Rockhopper to cut their teeth on a neighborhood hill, a true to life mountain ascent, or grizzled gully. The latest Rockhopper is the best yet, a competitively-spec’d bike with an affordable price tag to boot. Read Full Review
Best Trail Mountain Bike:
Your go-to choice for a do-it-all rig, a trail bike is versatile enough to race, carve up challenging mountain routes, or cruise through a flowery meadow on a lazy summer day. Most will sport 27.5 inch wheels for great rolling speed and agility, and come with around 120-160mm of suspension travel. Their relaxed geometry makes for solid climbing prowess and stability on descents, along with a comfy and efficient ride on full-day excursions. Trail bikes are what happen when you mix the speed of a cross-country machine with an enduro bike’s adventuresome spirit to go anywhere. They’re light enough to make uphills comfortably challenging, with durability to handle the abuse of most any terrain out there.
These best trail mountain bikes we’ve selected are built around aluminum or carbon frames to eke out the highest performance while remaining lightweight and very tough. These rigs will let you blast full speed into a gnarly trail without flinching, with agility to take on your favorite spaghetti-tangle singletrack. Feel like going long? These bikes are all built to be comfortable so climb on for a six-hour foray far into the hills. Like each of the bikes here, be sure yours has a quality fork with plenty of rebound, and preload settings. Nearly all mid- to high range trail bikes are also spec’d with dropper seat posts, a superb component highlight for on-the-fly saddle height adjustment to match your chosen terrain; seriously, don’t leave home without one. Check this lineup of trail-ready rigs, head out there and have fun.
The new kid in the esteemed Intense line, the Spider 275 is a thoroughbred trail bike with revised suspension and geometry reminiscent of longer travel bikes. The Spider is lots of fun to ride on winding, squiggly trails and loves to scramble up hills, with just enough fearlessness to dominate not-too-crazy descents. The mid-tier Expert build described here is kitted with much of the same showcase components as the pro-level bike. Read Full Review
The Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon nails the trail bike fun factor like sticking a sweet jump landing; it all just feels really good. For experienced riders who demand supreme technical handling, rocket acceleration, and slingshot climbing talent, the Mach 5.7 delivers. This do-it-all flyer can shred most any terrain and its stiff, lightweight frame bombs downhills with the best of em. Go out there and hit the trails at Mach speed. Read Full Review
The Santa Cruz Nomad means business. Refined in every detail for 2015, this bike is dialed in to throw down a challenge to Mother Nature’s gnarliest terrain. With geometry unheard of for trail bikes only a few years ago, the carbon fiber Nomad combines crisp handling at speed with descending prowess typically reserved for straight-up downhill rigs, as well as a roomy cockpit for efficient positioning on the climbs. With a pair of frame build choices (C or CC) and several kit configurations, you can create the perfect bike to complement your inner wanderer. Read Full Review
Testers rave about Scott’s Genius line of bikes, and with 16 models to choose from, it’s a given you’ll find the perfect fit for your riding style. The 910 is easily one of the most versatile 29er trail bikes out there, tailor made to welcome the challenges and rewards of your favorite and well-traveled trails or discovering unknown gems. A superlight carbon frame, on-the-fly suspension adjustability and a trio of geometry settings make this pick, well, pure genius! Read Full Review
The newest iteration of the Giant Trance retains the same great ride feel as models from years past, with redesigned geometry for all-around performance. The Trance is engineered to eke out optimum power from the frame and wheels for confidence on any type of trail, with spot-on control in tough terrain and plenty of power for climbs. Read Full Review
Best Downhill (DH) Mountain Bike:
Fearlessness, it's embedded in your DNA and you want the same from your bike, to reach that singular goal of plunging down a big hill at warp speed. Downhill bikes are the self-propelled spawn of motocross, with nearly identical long-range suspension and performance that lets you float over boulders, dips, drops, shrubbery, and most other trail obstacles. World Cup-winning racing technology is available to the rest of us on this list of trail-taming machines. These bikes made the best-of cut for their ability to adapt to different courses and conditions with adjustable geometry, allowing riders to tune the bike to perfectly match their riding style. The bikes also boast 8 inches of fork travel to smooth out the bumps, and stop-in-a-heartbeat disc braking reliability to keep your confidence redlined. Embrace gravity.
Specialized and winning have been synonymous with mountain biking since the sport’s earliest days, and with the Demo 8 on the circuit the company aims to keep it that way. The bombproof and dialed in geometry lets you crush rocky trails and nail jumps with confidence. This full-on gravity race bike is a lock for future podium appearances near you. Point it downhill and let this bike rip. Read Full Review
You love flying downhill at high velocity but still want to carve a berm or flick a tail over a drop. The Trek Session Park 8 is your go-to, with adjustable geometry to dial in a perfect ride over all kinds of terrain. Shorter stays keep the bike lively, responsive, and itching to go airborne. Read Full Review
Transition bikes are born and tested in Washington's mountainous proving grounds and the TR 500 comes with the downhill world’s most versatile setup options. Adjustable geometry allows riders to build a DH speed racer with over 200mm travel to a coiled and ready trail tamer. The 500 is an out of the gate gem with built with passion. Read Full Review
Ridden to multiple wins by the likes of hyper fast pro riders like Danny Hart, Giant honed its Glory 27.5 over several years of testing and the bike is dialed and ready for speed. The world's largest bicycle manufacturer has a long history of winning products and the new Glory lives up to the standard, being even more comfortable and flowey than previous models. Read Full Review
Canyon's German roots date back to the late 70's and this year's Torque DHX does its lineage proud in an amped up DH bike at a great price. Highly adjustable with the versatility to fly at high speed or cling to flowey trails, the Torque is a detail-packed rig with the style and chops to satisfy rookie and expert riders alike. Read Full Review
Best Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bike:
Sinuous paths of buff-colored tread curve along the contours a hillside riddled with aspen in glowing orange fall colors, inviting you to come on in and discover whatever might lie within. Your choice of travel is a cross-country mountain bike that seems as excited as you to get out there, and you plunge along the trail on a day of exploring and fresh-air exercise.
A mountain bike’s predominant personality trait is versatility. Ride one to the grocery store or ball game, cruise a local bike path, or load up and take off on a month-long epic. Look closely though, and the root of a fat tire bike’s DNA is adventure, preferably with elevation gain and dirt trails involved. From base model beginner bikes to hardtail performance and high zoot full-suspension rigs, there are as many to choose from as there are trails to ride. Question is, which bike is best? You know your riding ability, likely trail destinations, and budget. We put together a list of bikes to help choose the best one to fit all of those parameters.
The bikes here all offer carbon or aluminum frame builds for all-around performance in handling a variety of trail conditions and are adept at climbing. Built for endurance and efficiency, these rigs are lightweight for day-long journeys, each weighing in at 28 pounds or less. With tight and trail-bred geometry and fast-rolling wheels, they dart through tight singletrack and sail down hills. Choose what fits you and your trails the best and get out there because discovery awaits you.
For well over a decade, any legitimate discussion of cross-country racing most likely included mention of the Cannondale Scalpel. Riders worth their weight in mud in their teeth know the Scalpel is one sweet bike. The full-suspension 29 Carbon 2 is a feather light, wildly efficient rig with a decorated race lineage that flows all over the trail. Rocket-fast and catlike agile, this mid-range model of the Scalpel clan is an eager and tireless competitor for the race course or speedy trail rides. Read Full Review
Bred specifically for all-day XC riding and endurance epic racing, the Spearfish Carbon 1 is Salsa’s salute to the cross-country world of adventure and challenge. Power transfer, stability, and balance top the list to make this a comfortable, highly efficient and fun bike. A lightweight frame and short chainstays deliver superb ride quality, and the Spearfish comes standard with an affinity for speed and agility. Read Full Review
Named for legendary pro Juli Furtado, Santa Cruz Bicycles introduced the Juliana back in 1999. Today there is a four-bike lineup of Juliana models to choose from, all specifically designed for women riders, with features like a compact bar and grip system for a better fit with smaller hands. The Nevis is a nimble hardtail with a compliant, comfortable frame for long days on the trail. With three different available build levels and frame material choices, it’s easier than ever to score the perfect cross-country ride. Read Full Review
With curvaceous, flowy lines and dressed in a satin finish , the Felt Edict 3 is a gorgeous bike just to sit and stare at. Aside from runway-model good looks, the Edict emits an aura of speed, simply leaning against a wall. An easy-riding carbon frame blazes through tight, technical trails and goes the distance on endurance epics. Power-happy rear geometry rockets the 29er into fat tire-shredding nirvana, with agility to bob and weave through singletrack and eat up elevation wherever you find it. Read Full Review
Every part of the Trek Superfly 9.7 is designed for speed. Its race-inspired, long and slack geometry brings riders lower on the bike, positioned to hammer the trails at a moment’s notice. Trek’s line of Superfly hardtail rigs all borrow features from the top-end SL model, and the 9.7 parlays that trickle-down tech into a frisky and fleet ride on a race course or long and twisty paths in the hills. Read Full Review
Best Kids Mountain Bike:
It’s the best of everything for a kid: a bike, playing in the dirt, being outside in the woods or a park, and getting some great exercise. Just watch a young kid’s eyes light up and their smile grow wider with each pedal stroke when they weave down the road for the first time. It’s great for parents of those kids to inspire that delight, and all the better to do together as a family. Mountain bikes take us into places of adventure and discovery, and there has never been a better time to find the perfect bike for your child. Bicycle manufacturers big and small collectively produce dozens of models for all sizes of young riders. Riding is fun, and choosing the right bike directly affects that fun factor.
Of all the things to consider when selecting a rig, size matters most. Your child will have a much better time and ride more often with a properly-sized machine and this is your chance to give kids an unforgettable experience on a bike. Keep in mind that kids’ bikes are measured by wheel size and not frame measurements. Bring your youngster to the shop with you to try several bikes for the best fit. The options on this list offer benefits for several different sizes with wheels from 20 to 24 inches.16 inches and below usually sport single gears and are fit so legs can reach the ground while 20-inchers have gears and hand brakes, some with suspension.
Weight is also big factor and today’s rigs, including those on this list, are largely constructed of aluminum alloy for better handling and confidence-boosting momentum going up and down inclines. Durable manufacturing also ranks high on a quality children’s bike’s list of essentials with these five selections more than capable of handling the off-road rigors which will stack up as your child grows in size and riding ability.
For young riders with adventure on their minds and wonder in their eyes for what might be around the bend or over that hill, the Islabikes Beinn 20, suited for kids 6 and up, will set them free. Islabikes makes bikes that look great, offer versatility to ride over a wide range of conditions, and boast long-lasting durability to appease your child’s appetite to get out there and ride. Read Full Review
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more innovative company than Specialized, and that tradition extends through their entire line of bikes, from the very top end all the way to models for little tykes. The Hotrock 24 XC is packed with grown-up bike tech and quality construction for bigger kids yearning to rip the trails. Specialized offers a full size range of Hotrocks for each age group, with geometry specific to kids’ rapid growing and better confidence-boosting stability. Read Full Review
Kona wants their bikes to inspire, and with the Shred 24 your young superstar has the ultimate tool for adventure. Built with performance and longevity in mind, the Shred is a versatile workhorse your kid will love to ride on singletrack, forest trails, and urban adventures. With easy-shifting gears, hydraulic brakes, and an overall comfortable ride, this bike has what it takes to keep kids fired up to ride from one day to the next. Read Full Review
Trek bikes are renowned for their quality and performance with their kids’ collection being no exception to the rule. Loaded with features inspired by their race-proven grown-up bikes, Trek’s small fry rigs are built for great ride feel, durability and safety. Fitted with choice components and radiating a high coolness factor, the light and nimble Superfly 20 is ready for a local race course or your child’s first forays into the off-road world. Read Full Review
If your kid is not already beating you, he might just very well take the lead with this bike. A super light junior size race rig, the Scott Scale RC Junior is essentially a shrunken version of the adult Scale, with the same race-proven DNA and primed for hard riding. The compact frame and a top-shelf component package targets 8-12 year old riders eager to mix it up on their local race course or push limits on aggressive trail riding. Read Full Review