Best mountain bikes of 2021, from budget to top of the range

·5-min read
 (Canyon)
(Canyon)

A mountain bike – also known as an MTB, for short – is designed for riding on uneven off-road tracks and trails. With chunky tyres and an upright riding position, they’re a lot slower than their slimmer sister: the road bike. But with a wider range of gears and powerful breaks, mountain bikes are great for climbing and ascending steep hills. And they’re crazy amounts of fun, too.

But when it comes to choosing a mountain bike, it all gets a bit confusing. There are trail mountain bikes and cross country mountain bikes, full-suspension and hardtails, so how do you know which one to buy?

Ideally, you want something that’s capable of handling tough terrain but also nimble when tackling hills and climbing. The most common types of mountain bikes – trail bikes and cross country bikes – can either have full suspension with both front and rear shocks or hardtails with no rear shock.

Neither is better than the other – it really just depends on the type of terrain you’re going to be tackling. Hardtail mountain bikes are the simplest and most affordable mountain bikes – they usually have front suspension, but no rear shock, which makes them lighter and easier to maintain. But, without rear shock to absorb bumps, it can take more effort to stay totally in control. That’s why full-suspension bikes – with wider tires, more grip and both front and rear shocks – are arguably more comfortable over rough terrain.

From cross country-ready hardtails to full-suspension downhill MTB machines, here are some of the best mountain bikes for tackling any type of terrain.

Canyon Spectral 29 CF 7

“This is your perfect everyday trail bike,” claims Canyon. With a lightweight full-carbon fancy frame, long reach and steep seat angle, this bikes’ very up-to-date shape and geometry makes it fast both up and down the mountain. Easy to ride and stable over the largest of bumps, there’s also an impressive ‘Flip Chip’ on the rear suspension – which means you can alter the bike’s geometry to suit your particular riding style. The Spectral is a versatile all-rounder – ready for anything and just plain old fun.

 (CANYON)
(CANYON)

£3,599 | Canyon

Trek Marlin 7 Mountain Bike

If ‘marigold to radioactive red’ doesn’t make you want to tackle some cross country trails, we’re not sure what will. For aspiring cross country racers, this reasonably priced hardtail bike is great for beginner mountain bikers. In fact, hardtails in general are ideal for recreational mountain bike riders as they tend to have fewer moving parts than full-suspension bikes (read: also cheaper). Although, once you’ve experienced how much fun the trails are, you’ll likely be seeking an upgrade to satisfy your needs as you grow as a rider.

 (TREK)
(TREK)

£800 | Evans Cycles

Trek X-Caliber 7 Mountain Bike

This high performing yet affordable cross-country mountain bike is also an ideal entry point into riding off-road trails and mountain bike tracks. The light, responsive aluminium frame looks smart with its neat internal cable routing and features a RockShox fork, Shimano drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes. The Trek X-Caliber is your one way ticket to adventure – from fast flow trails or weekend mountain excursions, the choice is yours.

 (TREK)
(TREK)

£900 | Leisure Lakes Bikes

Saracen Mantra LSL Elite

If you want something that will make light work of the toughest trails then this aluminium hardtail is the ideal choice for rides out in nature. Pairing a lightweight aluminium frame with progressive geometry, 140mm of responsive suspension and a wide-range 11-50 cassette for better handling up those hills, the Saracen Mantra is a capable, quick-footed, hardcore hardtail.

 (Saracen)
(Saracen)

£1,399.99 | Freewheel

Norco Fluid FS 3 Mountain Bike

There’s nothing quite like riding a full-suspension mountain bike. Offering 130mm of suspension travel, the Norco Fluid gives you everything you need to jump into particularly challenging trails. Glide over rocky singletrack and fly through corners with newfound traction. Featuring a durable alloy frame, precise hydraulic disc breaks and plush X Fusion suspension, it offers the right balance between climbing efficiency and descending prowess – and all at such value.

 (Norco)
(Norco)

£1,599 | Tredz

Orbea Laufey H10 29" Mountain Bike

A hardtail without limits, the Orbea Laufey blends great all-around performance in a durable and affordable package. Sleek, internal cable routing adds protection from the elements and reduces maintenance, while 140mm of responsive suspension will give you an edge on the most challenging terrain. The result? Excellent Maxxis tyres, Shimano gears and powerful disc brakes that boost control all come together to make this a capable and confidence-inspiring hardtail.

 (ORBEA)
(ORBEA)

£1,699 | Leisure Lakes Bikes

Boardman MTR 9.0 Mountain Bike

Boardman’s MTR 9.0 is their flagship bike in the range, providing a balanced and confident ride for all-mountain riders. The new 29er platform features full suspension with RockShox fork and rear shock, 145mm of plush travel and a ​​Shimano SLX drivetrain. Happiest heading downhill, the Shimano SLX four-piston brakes provide serious stopping power. It’s great on the downs, and its unique look make it pretty eye-catching too.

 (BOARDMAN)
(BOARDMAN)

£2,200 | Halfords

Santa Cruz Bronson C S Mountain Bike

With such an eye-watering price, we expect exceptional things, and this tough yet lightweight mountain bike does not disappoint. Boring is not in this bike’s vocabulary, so you know you’re in for a lively ride. Generally speaking, the more technically demanding the terrain the more suspension travel you will need. So pairing 150mm of smooth suspension with a lightweight carbon fibre frame, makes the Santa Cruz Bronson C S Mountain Bike a real do-it-all mountain bike.

 (SANTA CRUZ)
(SANTA CRUZ)

£5,299 | Leisure Lakes Bikes

Verdict

The best mountain bikes are the ones that let you tackle tough trails in total control. With confidence-boosting geometry, meaty tyres and smart engineering – the Canyon Spectral 29 CF 7 lets you attack rocky singletrack, steep uphill and sketchy downhill at speed and without fuss. Playful, snappy and versatile, this is the bike we’d prefer to be on when manoeuvring through technical trails.

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