“Value” is not synonymous with “cheap.” Even the least expensive bike on this list costs more than $1,000, which we know is a lot of money to spend on a bike for a lot of people. But the reality is that real trail riding is hard on bikes, and there aren’t many out there that are up to the task for less than $1,500. Even then, you’re sacrificing some performance and durability in order to get on the trail.
What we’ve compiled here is a list of what we think are great deals, ranging from a $1,350 plus-size hardtail all the way up to a carbon-framed trail bike for just under $4,000. What they hold in common is that they’re all trail-ready, needing no immediate upgrades in order to be fit for trail riding. There are some great deals to be had on used bikes, but this is the place to start if you’re after something new. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments.
Plus-size tires have done wonders for making hardtails more capable, significantly improving the riding experience on bikes costing less than $2,000. The Norco Fluid shown here is a downright insane value, but it’s just one example of plus-size hardtails that bring a lot of bang for not a ton of bucks. Other examples include Specialized’s Fuse Comp ($1,550) and Kona’s Big Honzo ($1,700).
This plus-size rig manages to offer a SRAM NX drivetrain, 125 millimeter TranzX dropper post, RockShox Recon RL fork and SRAM Level T brakes. The array of parts is so impressive given the bike’s price that we’re willing to overlook the quick-release rear axle.
If you absolutely have to have a full-suspension bike and can’t pony up for something in the $2,500 range, well, we’d still recommend that you stick with a plus-size hardtail. But if you’re going to be stubborn, the 120-millimeter-travel, 27.5-wheeled Hawk Hill is probably the way to go.
Marin is a trustworthy brand, and the Hawk Hill has a pretty trustworthy spec, including a 10-speed drivetrain with a clutch-equipped Shimano Deore rear derailleur that shifts the chain on a SunRace 11-42 cassette. One-by doesn’t get more budget than that. Suspension is provided by a RockShox Recon Silver RL fork and an X-Fusion O2 Pro R shock, and Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires provide some added cushion.
If you’re looking for an all-mountain bike on a budget, this might be the one. Okay, the Precept 150 isn’t the prettiest bike around, what with its externally-routed dropper and all, but this thing has the spec of a fully capable mountain bike for under $2,200. It rolls on grippy 27.5 Maxxis High Roller II tires powered by an 11-speed SRAM NX drivetrain. The KS ETen post, which makes frequent appearances on bikes that pursue value, is specced here. The Precept’s 150 millimeters of travel is served up by a RockShox Monarch RT in the rear and Suntour’s Pike-like Aion fork up front.
The Precept also sports modern, aggressive geometry–a size large has a roomy 460 millimeter reach, a 66.5 head angle and tight 425 millimeter chainstays. Given this bike’s aggressive stance, we’d say that the component most in need of upgrading will be the Shimano Acera brakes.
Giant makes a lot of other brands’ bikes, so its no surprise that their own prices are pretty good. The Anthem is Giant’s 27.5 cross-country rig, specializing in quick acceleration and snappy handling. This version comes with an aluminum frame and Fox suspension in the form of a 34 Rhythm fork up front and a trunnion-mount Performance EVOL shock. Shimano’s slick-looking SLX 11-speed group puts the Giant-branded wheels to motion. A trustworthy pair of Shimano Deore brakes slow the Anthem’s roll, and Giant specs its own Contact SL dropper.
This frame is well-worth upgrading, and we’d recommend that riders first consider switching the 11-42 SLX cassette out for the range-expanding 11-46 XT cluster. The steps on the XT cassette are somewhat awkward, but riders with very long or very steep climbs will appreciate the lower gear.
Here’s our review of the Anthem from the 2017 Bible of Bike Tests.
Commencal went with the polarizing no-dropper-post, low-price spec on this $2,450 build of its recently announced Meta AM V4.2. Like all Commencals, this one is built around a high-quality aluminum frame. The updated frame takes advantage of metric shock sizing with a RockShox Deluxe RT, which is paired with a Yari up front. Drivetrain duties are cared for with a SRAM NX eleven-speed setup, while the wheels are a budget-friendly WTB i25 rim and Formula hub setup.
Between the lightweight, two-piston SRAM Level T brakes and the absence of the piggyback on the Deluxe shock, hard-charging riders–especially those with lengthy local descents–will probably want to save up a few hundred more for the Ride model, which at least comes with a higher-end Lyrik fork and SRAM Guide R brakes. Neither of the spec levels mentioned here come with a dropper, but if you’re buying a bike online, you can probably find yourself one of those, too.
YT offers some insane value for money across its entire range thanks to its consumer-direct sales model. Under close inspection, though, it’s clear that the German brand’s aluminum models are the truly unbeatable ones. Case in point: the Capra AL. Based solely on value, this aluminum-framed, 165-millimeter travel machine even has YT’s own Jeffsy beat.
Where more expensive bikes like the Enduro are saving a few Benjamins with their less-expensive Yari forks, the $2,800 Capra comes with a buttery Lyrik RC up front. The frame hasn’t been updated for metric shock sizing, though, so you can’t get it with the excellent RockShox Deluxe. Still, the build is undeniably impressive given the sub-$3,000 price tag, with its complement of SRAM Guide R brakes, e*thirteen dropper post, Maxxis High Roller II tires and primarily SRAM GX drivetrain. It even comes with a chainguide (not pictured above).
What you might not get with a Capra is the appreciation of your local bike shop.
You might not expect a small brand like Transition to pack much value into their models, especially since you can’t buy its bikes direct. But its aluminum Smuggler and Scout models both ring in at $3,000 with SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrains, RockShox Yari forks and Monarch Debonair RT shocks. KS ETen Integra dropper posts are stock, and while we wish larger sizes weren’t stuck with 100-millimeter-travel posts, we like that Transition outfitted the WTB/SRAM wheels with grippy and durable Maxxis Minion DHR and DHF tires.
At $3,100, there really isn’t a component on the Django 29 NX that needs upgrading. This aluminum 120-millimeter-travel 29er gets a Performance level shock and 130-millimeter-travel Rhythm fork from Fox, a SRAM NX drivetrain and Level T brakes. The tires are a smart combination of a Maxxis Ardent in the rear and a High Roller II up front. Check out our review of the Django 29 from the 2017 Bible of Bike Tests.
The Enduro Comp can be had with either 27.5 or 29-inch hoops, and like many other bikes highlighted here, sheds some dollars off its price tag with a RockShox Yari fork instead of a higher end, Charger Damper-equipped Lyrik or Pike. Also specced are SRAM Guide R brakes, a hodgepodge of reliable one-by-eleven drivetrain parts and Specialized’s own Command Post dropper in 100- or 125-millimeter travel lengths depending on frame size. The build is rounded out with Specialized Butcher and Slaughter tires, and the 27.5 version will entertain plus-curious riders with its 2.6-inch-wide rubber.
As one of the big kids on the block, Trek is expected to make a convincing value proposition with all of its models. The Remedy 8 doesn’t disappoint in that respect. This aluminum-framed version of the freshly redesigned all-mountain jester boasts a RockShox Pike RC Solo Air fork, Deluxe DT3 shock (read: über supple), SRAM GX one-by-eleven drivetrain and KS eThirty Integra dropper posts.
The stock Shimano Deore stoppers will do fine for all but the most aggressive or weight-conscious riders, and those XR4 tires that you’ve probably never heard of are actually really, really good. Let’s also just take a moment to appreciate that Trek chose a simple black-and-white paint job for this popular model instead of pulling the old make-it-ugly-and-they’ll-upgrade trick.
You could save a few hundred bucks with the Remedy 7 ($3,000), but you’d miss out on the Pike’s more sophisticated Charger damper in exchange for a Yari and its Motion Control damper. The 7 also has a front derailleur. Pass.
The Optic is offered in multiple builds with either 29 (C9 models) or 27.5 (C7 models) wheels. They’re all somewhere between cross-country and trail bikes, sporting moderate travel (the 29er is 110/120 and the 27.5 is 120/130) and geometry to match. The base level models are specced with a pennywise spec that relies on a SRAM GX 11-speed drivetrain, a Fox Float DPS shock and a RockShox Revelation fork. The KS ETen Integra makes yet another appearance, coming internally routed through the Optic’s carbon front triangle. SRAM Level T brakes slow this Norco’s roll.
Aggressive riders will want to upgrade the RockShox Revelation for a Pike or Fox 34, but let’s not get too picky–this thing costs less than $4,000 and has a carbon frame, after all.
Think we missed something? Tell us where you think the value is.
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