It’s easy to spend a lot of money on a mountain bike. With the advent of electronically controlled suspension and drivetrain shifting, plus just about every frame and nearly all components available in lightweight (and expensive) carbon fiber, trail tamers in the $10,000 range are commonplace. But what if you’re not a member of the doctor/dentist/hedge fund manager club? Can you still get a decent MTB for say $2000? The answer is an emphatic, yes, provided you know what to look for.
But before you pull out the credit card, the No. 1 tip is simply to make sure your new bike fits you well. Because if a bike fits you well it’s going to be a whole lot more fun to ride. And while a professional bike fit is expensive, the majority of bike shops can help you get dialed, adjusting saddle height and swapping on the best size stem. Also, because the various bike manufacturers track each other closely on price and component spec, you’re not likely to find huge parts differences from one bike to the next, meaning fit and feel will often be the biggest differentiators when making your buying decision when shopping the best mountain bikes under $2000.
What to look for
But that doesn’t mean that some bikes don’t have better components than others. The key is knowing what to focus on. When it comes to mountain bikes, suspension, wheels, brakes, and drivetrain deserve the most attention. Ideally you want to buy a bike that’s spec’d with parts from a respected component brand such as Shimano, SRAM, Fox, and RockShox. All these companies make a wide array of products, meaning that their lower-priced options typically benefit from trickle down technology. They also have reputations to uphold, so it’s unlikely that they’ll put out parts that are going to fall apart in a couple months.
A great example is SRAM’s Eagle series of drivetrains. While an XX1 group costs more than many budget priced mountain bikes, SRAM’s Eagle NX group has brought the technology to a much lower price point, and you’re really just giving up weight savings, as general functionality is essentially the same.
The other big decision is hardtail versus full suspension, which at the $2000 price point will make a significant difference in component spec. Ride off with a hardtail, and you’ll likely get better parts, but sacrifice the benefits of a rear shock’s bump absorbing abilities. Go the other direction, and you’ll reap the rewards of dual suspension, but the components won’t be as good. And while there is no one right answer to this conundrum, a good rule of thumb is that it’s better to buy a good hardtail than a bad full suspension bike.
The other big advantage of choosing a hardtail, especially for beginners, is that they can help you become a better rider because they force you to develop your skills and make better line choices instead of just being a passenger and plowing through things. And once you’ve mastered the basics (and saved a little more money) your second bike can be a full-suspension model. In the end, though, it comes down to what type of rider you are and what type of terrain you’ll be riding. Thus we’ve included both types of bikes in this round-up of best mountain bikes under $2000, detailed here in alphabetical order.
Canyon Dude CF 8.0
German direct-to-consumer seller Canyon has great deals on bikes across the board, including the Dude CF 8.0 fat bike. Highlights include a full carbon frame (a rarity in this price range), quality DT Swiss wheels, and capable Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 4.0 tires that are perfect for churning through snow, but can also hold their own when the trails are dry. The drivetrain is a blend of SRAM NX 11-speed paired with a Shimano 11-42 SLX cassette, which is ample gear spread for most fat bike excursions, when you don’t need the exceptionally low gearing found on wider range set-ups. Head tube angle is a reasonable 68.5 degrees, which is steep enough to keep steering quick without being overly twitchy. And at just 27 pounds, you’ll be able to maintain momentum even when the trail (or ski slope) turns skyward.
More info: www.canyon.com
Diamondback Catch 1
Forget the old notion that Diamondback only makes crappy big box bikes (which once was the case). These days the brand is cranking out some impressive road and mountain bikes, and because they sell consumer direct, you can get some truly impressive deals. Just know, that as with Canyon, the bike is shipped directly to your door, meaning you’ll need to handle final assembly, or pay your local bike shop to do it for you. The good news is that if you have even the most basic of bike mechanic skills, you’ll be off and riding in 30 minutes or less, as all Diamondback bikes come nearly fully assembled.
The Diamondback Catch 1 is a full suspension 27.5+ rock crawler with 130mm travel front and rear, and superb traction thanks to Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II 2.8 tires that can be run at low air pressure for better trail grip. Drivetrain is Shimano Deore 10-speed, which while not overly sexy, is sure to be reliable and durable. Same goes for the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and X-fusion 02 shock and SR Suntour Aion fork. Our advice if you pull the trigger on this bike is to spend a few hundred dollars more and upgrade to a dropper post. There are some great budget priced options out there from the likes of e*thirteen and OneUp among others.
Fezzari Abajo Peak
Yet another bike that’s sold consumer direct (yes, we have a theme here), the Fezzari Abajo Peak utilizes the Utah-based bike maker’s proven Tetra-Link suspension, which provides a solid pedaling platform and has a progressive leverage curve for better bottom out resistance. Rear travel is 130mm and is provided by the capable the X-Fusion 02 Pro shock. Up front is an X-Fusion McQueen RCP 140mm fork, and the bike can be set up with 29er or 27.5+ wheels. Other notable features include fully internal cable routing, boost spacing for improved tire clearance, and adjustable geometry to maintain consistent BB height when swapping between wheel sizes. The Fezzari Abajo Peak also has a shorter seat tube for improved standover and allowance for longer travel dropper posts. And yes, it has a threaded bottom bracket, which dramatically lessens the chance of your bike developing an annoying creak.
More info: www.fezzari.com
Giant Trance 3
Though the Giant Trance 3 resides at the lower end of the bike maker’s expansive MTB line, it benefits from the company’s mammoth production capabilities. Indeed, as the world’s largest bike maker, Giant is able to use lightweight and stiff ALUXX SL aluminum for the frame of this budget-priced bike. The Trance 3 also features updated Maestro rear suspension with a trunnion-mount RockShox Deluxe R shock and forged rocker arm to soak up bumps. Rear suspension is 140mm, delivering the traction and control you need. Frame geometry is designed around its 27.5 wheels, which deliver both quickness and control on rugged terrain. Up front, is a Suntour Aion 150mm suspension fork for even more confidence, while the drivetrain is a solid blend of Shimano and Praxis parts. And just so there’s no confusion about this bike’s rowdy intentions, tire spec is a 27.5×2.5 Maxxis High Roller II up front and the same model in 27.5×2.4 form in back. Perhaps most impressive of all, though, is that this bike comes with a dropper post. Add it all up and you get a ton of value for under $2000.
More info: www.giant-bicycles.com
Marin Pine Mountain 1
Sure the Marin Pine Mountain 1 utilizes a classic steel frame, but this is not your father’s (or mother’s) hardtail. With plus-sized tires and modern geometry, it’s a playful and confidence-enhancing fun machine that will have you laughing (and railing) around every corner, confident that tacky Vee Crown Gem 27.5×2.8 tires are hooking up and digging in. Spec highlights include a plush 120mm RockShox Recon fork, and the always reliable Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. And the frame comes stock with rack and fender mounts, plus appropriation for three water bottle cages, making it an ideal choice for long distance adventures or your next bikepacking overnighter.
Niner Air 9 2-Star
Highly innovative and forward thinking, Niner was one of the first brands to embrace the promise of 29er wheels for mountain biking. Today, that premonition has proven correct, as wagon wheel-sized bikes dominant the two-wheeled landscape. The Niner Air 9 2-star build is a speedy aluminum XC-oriented hardtail spec’d with SRAM’s wide range NX Eagle drivetrain, meaning you’ll never run out of gears no matter how steep the climb. Other features include a low bottom bracket and short rear end, which together conspire to make the bike nimble and quick. It also has compatibility for up to 29×2.4 tires or 27.5×3.0 for maximum traction in loose conditions. Add it all up and this is the perfect first bike for an aspiring young racer — or anyone who wants to add a little more shredding to their life.
Santa Cruz Chameleon
Just as the name implies, this bike can do a lot of things — and do them well. Set it up as a 29er with a 120mm fork and gears, and you’re ready to tackle the local Wednesday night cross-country race. Swap on a set of 27.5+ wheels, toothy plus-sized tires, and a 130mm fork and there’s little the Santa Cruz Chameleon won’t claw its way up. Or set it up singlespeed just because. Whatever you choose, this bike comes with a suite of swappable dropouts that allow conversion from capable trail charger to strong-willed bikepacking mule. Spec highlights include a RockShox Recon SL fork, SRAM NX rear derailleur, and traction enhancing Maxxis tires.
More info: www.santacruzbicycles.com
Scott Spark 970
Blurring the lines between cross-country and trail, the Scott Spark platform is one of the most versatile on the market today. You can gain easy entry into that realm with the budget-friendly Scott Spark 970. With 120mm of suspension front and rear, and a somewhat slack 67.2-degree headtube angle, it can tackle a wide variety of rugged terrain. But engage the remote front/rear suspension lockout, and it instantly becomes an efficient climbing machine. Frame is hydroformed aluminum and has clearance for up to 2.6 tires for maximum traction. Notable parts spec includes RockShox Judy fork, X-Fusion shock, and a 2x Shimano drivetrain, which while not the norm these days, still offers the widest gear range on the market today.
More info: www.scott-sports.com
Specialized Stumpjumper ST Alloy 29
Arguably the most famous (and certainly one of the most iconic) bike models in the history of our sport, the latest version of the Specialized Stumpjumper is a rowdy-ready trail bike that comes in a wide variety of builds. The ST Alloy 29 version is our choice for best bang for buck. The X-Fusion Metric rear shock features rebound adjustment, lockout, and the bike maker’s well-regarded Rx Trail Tune. Reach is a rangy 455mm (size large), allowing you to comfortably settle into this bike’s sweet spot for added confidence and stability when rallying techy singletrack. It also has short 437mm chainstays for a more playful ride, and a middle-of-the-road 67.5-degree head angle, which strikes a nice balance between capable climber and descending demon.
More info: www.specialized.com
Trek Roscoe 8
Dubbed a trail hardtail for its playful and capable nature (see the very first photo at the top of this post), the Trek Roscoe 8 comes stock with trail munching 27.5×2.8 plus-sized tires, a wide range 1×12 drivetrain, and 120mm RockShox Judy Silver fork that delivers just enough plush to keep you out of serious trouble. Other spec highlights include Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires, Bontrager Line tubeless ready wheels, SRAM NX Eagle groupset, and even an internally routed dropper post, which is a luxury in this price range.
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