MBA’s Budget Bike Buyer’s Guide

Budget Bike

Buyer’s Guide

As many of you know, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of people throwing a leg over a bike to stay active while enjoying some much-needed time outdoors. As new riders have quickly found out, however, mountain biking can be a very expensive hobby. There are many worthy bikes to pedal that are available between $4000 to $6000, but that does not even come close to being the high end of the market. Fortunately, there are just as many exceptional bikes for right around $2000.

Unfortunately, since the cycling boom, bikes have become hard to find. In some cases, it is impossible to even know when they will become available. Now that we are in the spring of 2021, however, companies should be on track to receive more inventory to meet the high demand. We made a list of our top picks, which range from light hardtails to all-mountain trail machines, while keeping budget and quality in mind. We cover some of the important specs and reasons you might want to choose a particular model.

NINER SIR 9 2-STAR

Contact: www.ninerbikes.com

Price: $2399

Category: Hardtail/adventure

Drivetrain: SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed

Brakes: SRAM Level

Fork: Marzocchi Bomber Z2 Rail, 120mm travel

Frame material: Reynolds 853 steel

Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic 29×2.6″ (f)/Schwalbe Nobby Nic 29×2.35″ (r)

Wheels: Niner Alloy 30mm Internal

What stands out: We had lots of test time on this frame last year. We loved how the steel frame rode and appreciated all the attachment points on this bike to outfit it for bikepacking. If you are not into that, this is still a great hardtail to progress your riding skills.

What could be changed: This build does not come stock with a dropper post. A dropper post would be a noteworthy upgrade.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN GROWLER 50

Contact: www.bikes.com

Price: $1999

Category: Trail Hardtail

Drivetrain: Shimano Deore 12-speed

Fork: RockShox 35 Gold RL, 150mm travel

Frame material: 6061 alloy

Tires: WTB Vigilante 29×2.6 (f)/WTB Trail Boss 29×2.6″ (r)

Wheels: WTB ST i30

What stands out: The Growler is a great option for someone who wants to ride a hardtail aggressively downhill. The slacked-out head tube and long wheelbase make the Growler function as more of a trail bike through the terrain.

What could be changed: It has updated standards throughout the frame design, so riders can upgrade as they go. To start, we would ride the bike exactly as it comes out of the box and perhaps upgrade the fork down the road.

MARIN PINE MOUNTAIN 2

Contact: www.marinbikes.com

Price: $2099

Category: Hardtail/adventure

Drivetrain: Shimano SLX 12-speed

Fork: RockShox FS 35, 120mm travel

Frame material: Double-butted and heat-treated chromoly

Tires: Vee Tire Flow Snap 29×2.6″ (f and r)

Wheels: Alloy double-wall

What stands out: This was another adventure rig that we did some testing on. Similar to the Niner, we enjoyed the way the steel frame carried itself on the dirt. Marin blends a classic hardtail with modern trail capabilities.

What could be changed: If we were specifically buying this bike to load up for bikepacking, we might consider upgrading the wheels to something a bit sturdier.

CANYON NEURON 5

Contact: www.canyon.com

Price: $1899

Category: Trail

Drivetrain: SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed

Fork: Rock Shox Judy Silver TK, 130mm travel

Frame material and travel: Aluminum, 130mm travel

Tires: Maxxis Dissector 29×2.4″ (f)/Maxxis Rekon 29×2.4″ (r)

Wheels: Shimano MT410

What stands out: This direct-to-consumer brand has delivered an impressive trail bike build for under $2000. It’s a great bike if you are looking for a new way to experience any trail.

What could be changed: This is a personal preference, but we eventually upgraded the fork to save weight at the front of the bike.

CO-OP CYCLES DRT 2.2

Contact: www.rei.com

Price: $1799

Category: Adventure/hardtail

Drivetrain: SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed

Fork: RockShox Recon RL, 120mm travel

Frame material: Aluminum

Tires: WTB Ranger 27.5×2.8″ (f and r)

Wheels: WTB ST i35

What stands out: This is an ideal option for someone who wants to go on adventures. It’s not our first choice to crush downhills with, but it is very much a stepping stone that could be used for more than just enjoying the mountains.

What could be changed: Although the plus-sized tires are forgiving over terrain, we would recommend trying a 2.6-inch for less rolling resistance once the stock compound is used up.

GIANT STANCE 29 1

Contact: www.giant-bicycles.com

Price: $2000

Category: Trail

Drivetrain: SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed

Fork: RockShox Recon Silver RL, 130mm travel

Frame material: Aluminum, 120mm travel

Tires: Maxxis Forekaster (29×2.35″)

Wheels: Giant AM 29 alloy

What stands out: The Stance’s modern full-suspension geometry is a great example of how a rider can experience the latest trail-taming technologies. This bike is a solid value for a rider looking to take on more technical terrain than a cross-country bike can handle comfortably.

What could be changed: Some riders might blow through the travel pretty quickly if the bike’s limits are overstepped. If that is the case, we would swap to a higher-performance front and rear shock.

CANYON EXCEED CF 7

Contact: www.canyon.com

Price: $1999

Category: Hardtail

Drivetrain: SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed

Fork: RockShox Recon RL, 100mm travel

Frame material: Carbon

Tires: Maxxis Ikon 29×2.35″ (f)/Maxxis

Aspen 29×2.5″ (r)

Wheels: RaceFace AR25

What stands out: This is the same hardtail frame used by Canyon’s race teams but with a more affordable component package. Again, Canyon’s direct-to-consumer model is tough to beat with a complete carbon-framed bike right at $2000.

What could be changed: This is an exceptional option for someone who wants to get involved with racing cross-country and still have some money left over to upgrade components if he or she gets more into it.

SANTA CRUZ CHAMELEON D

Contact: www.santacruzbicycles.com

Price: $1949

Category: Hardtail

Drivetrain: SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed

Fork: RockShox Recon RL

Frame material: Aluminum

Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF 29”x2.3″ (f)/Maxis Ardent 29×2.35″ (r)

Wheels: WTB ST i30

What stands out: Santa Cruz designed the Chameleon to be adaptable to suit its environment. It can be run as a 29er or 27.5+, and there is even the option of running gears or single-speed with a swappable dropout design. It is also optimized to run 130mm of front travel.

What could be changed: Simple answer—anything a rider wanted, depending on preference and style.

MARIN RIFT ZONE 29 2

Contact: www.marinbikes.com

Price: $2049

Category: Trail

Drivetrain: Shimano Deore 12-speed

Fork: RockShox Recon Silver RL, 130mm travel

Frame material: 6061 aluminum, 125mm travel

Tires: Vee Tire Flow Snap 29×2.35″ (f and r)

Wheels: Double-wall alloy

What stands out: The Rift Zone has long, low and slack geometry. This makes the bike much more aggressive than a cross-country race bike while providing more stability at high speeds and more smiles through technical terrain.

What could be changed: The frame alone is worth the investment, but for $2000 you get a complete bike to rip before even thinking about changing out components.

HUDSKI DOGGLER MOUNTAIN

Contact: www.hudskibikes.com

Price: $1999

Category: Rigid hardtail/adventure

Drivetrain: Shimano SLX 12-speed

Fork: Hudski full carbon

Frame material: Doggler alloy

Tires: Maxxis Rekon EXO

27.5×2.6″ (f and r)

Wheels: Jalco i30

What stands out and what could be changed: Check out the full review on this new Northern California bike brand here.


SUBSCRIBE & RENEW HERE

Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.

buyers guideCanyonGiantHUDSKImarinrocky mountainSanta Cruz BicyclesSpecialized