Be­gin­ner bikes, £399 £499

Mountain Biking UK - - WRECKED & RATED -

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!

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