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Mountain biking surged in popularity over the lockdown - with mandated daily exercise in local mountains, dirt trails and off-road locations providing solace to millions of bikers up and down the country.
With lockdown now becoming a memory, many people will be looking to continue their mountain biking habits, developing their skills and practising newly acquired ones on the increasing numbers of maintained routes across the UK.
What to look for in a mountain bike?
There is no one size fits all approach to choosing the right mountain bike - they come in all shapes and sizes so we’d recommend speaking to a mountain bike expert to discuss your biking style, the kinds of terrain on which you’ll be looking to cycle and how to navigate other factors such as your height, weight and frame, which will all have a bearing on what kind of mountain bike you’ll feel comfortable on.
How much to spend on a mountain bike?
There’s no getting away from the fact that some of the best bikes out there are expensive, but it’s worth remembering that spending more doesn’t always absolutely guarantee you increased quality, and it isn’t always a direct sliding scale.
Generally, most mountain bikes are made up of a number of parts from suppliers and manufactures, and the more customisation options you get generally the more you’ll be paying. You can find a reasonable bike for between £400-£500, and upwards of £1000 you get more bespoke parts added as stock from more reputable brands.
If you’re lucky enough to have upwards of £2000 to spend, you’re entering into the realms of carbon fibre frames and custom lightweight components.
Interested in touring with your bike? Look at our guide to touring bike essentials. Or if you’re interested in commuting, we have a guide to the best hybrid bikes, or the best electric bikes.
There’s also a guide to great bike panniers.
This option is a bit of an all-rounder.
E-Trends have certainly got one eye firmly fixed on the future with their Trekker bike, and we liked the fact that even though it has been designed as a mountain bike first and foremost, it felt just home on the roads of our home city.
It has up to 17 miles electric power on a full charge (which takes around 5 hours to complete), and the boost is applied as you pedal, which makes making progress easy. A sturdy frame, 27.5in wheels and tough tyres also make it easy to feel confident on uneven or mountainous tracks.
Expensive, but the electric power will appeal to some.
Vitus have made a name for themselves crafting lightweight, versatile and easy to use mountain bikes – we like the Sentier 275 VR as it feels fast, comes with a good amount of specification options for its price and doesn’t shy away from attacking the trails or being ridden aggressively both up and downhill.
Definitely one of the more confidence-inspiring bikes we’ve had experience of.
A great option here on the affordable end of the scale – the Pinnacle Kapur 1 is a cross country hardtail bike and even though it won’t break the bank, it’s still designed to cover big distances on unforgiving terrain, which we’re pleased to say it does with great success.
We liked the fact that for the price, you still get hydraulic disk brakes and post routing options for fork upgrades, which means the bike will grow with you.
The Shimano Altus 9 speed gearing also works really well and transfers up and down with ease and crispness.
New to Halfords, mountain bike manufacturer Voodoo bring their Braag to market for the 2021-2022 range.
This affordable, entry-level unit impressed us with its alloy frame and good-quality accessories such as a padded saddle from WTB Volt and Clarks Clout 180/160mm brakes.
It’s a budget hardtail, offering a very comfortable saddle, a brilliant riding position and those aforementioned tidy components.
Pedal it, and the gears shift beautifully: descend downhill, and it corners confidently. It’s a genuine hoot to ride.
Did we say this was a list for beginners? Well, you’ve got to have a bike to train towards using, right? This is the serious mountain bikers’ dream bike.
Designed to be the ‘ultimate aggressive trail bike,’ the Nukeproof Reactor features a super-lightweight carbon frame, offering fully separate setups for 27.5” or 29” wheel sizes.
Fork travel is 10mm more that the rear – generally 130mm married to 140mm travel, which makes a unique and reactive setup that wants to be thrown around.
It has won numerous awards, including Mountain Bike Rider Magazine’s Editor’s Choice and Trail Bike of the Year.
Expensive, premium and worth considering for ultra-serious riders.
An excellent lightweight option that won’t break the bank, we liked the Saracens Zenith Pro for everyday and weekend riding.
It’s a bike that allows high performance and excellent handling ability, and if you can cope with the fact that it’s a few years old now, there are some excellent deals to be had out there.
The RST Omega fork travels to 120mm and is friction damped and coil sprung.