Beginner bikes, £399 £499
We love doing tests of affordable bikes for several reasons. For a start, a rider’s first ‘proper’ mountain bike is generally the most important of all, because if it doesn’t give the pilot confidence or just beats the crap out of them, they’ll likely ditch the sport altogether. Alternatively, if it gives a real taste of off-road fun despite its clunky fork, slippery tyres and clattery gears, then it’ll hook them for life.
Cheap bikes are also very honest. Apart from changing the tyre pressures and having a tweak of the fork’s air spring (assuming it’s not coil-sprung) and rudimentary rebound damping adjuster, there’s not much you can do to change the way they ride without spending lots of money on upgrades.
That means the component specification is very important.
If your budget is only £400, then having to spend £60 on better tyres is a big deal and adding a dropper post will increase the cost of your bike by at least 25 per cent. In other words, these bikes need to be thought through carefully as a complete package. That puts huge pressure on the designers, with every pound spent on features making a massive difference to the shop price. No wonder, then, that the specialists in this field are the brands whose attention is centred on bikes that cost hundreds, not thousands.
If you’re that rider luckily enough to jump from Yeti to Evil to Pivot while working out what Fat Creations paintjob to get on your next Santa Cruz, then chances are you’ll often get friends and family asking what bike to buy. So, even if you think a single wheel costing the same as these bikes sounds cheap, do your poorer pals a favour and read the reviews so that you can point them in the right direction and start them on the path to MTB righteousness!