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Best mountain bikes for 2020

Joseph Delves
23 May 2020

Fancy trying out mountain biking in 2020? Here’s a round-up of the MTBs you might be doing it on!

Want to get right out into the wild? Mountain bikes are the thing to get you there. The most capable of off-road machines, they sport big grippy tyres, bump-busting suspension and powerful disc brakes.

They usually come in hardtail or full suspension form, but it’s also still possible to find fully rigid machines. With a vast variety of sub-genres, we’ve rounded up a few of our favourites.

Spanning adventure bikes, through XC racers, to general use trail models, our list includes bikes capable of mucking about down your local woods as it is being ridden over an alpine col.

Best new mountain bikes for 2020

Calibre Line 29: The best radical hardtail on a budget

Buy now from Go Outdoors for £899

In a nutshell: An incredibly cheap hardtail with an aggressive bent. Its kit list includes all mod-cons at a price that we’ve never seen beaten

Buy now from Go Outdoors for £899

Stand-out features: Boasting a killer range of components, the Line 29 is as aggressive as it is up-to-date. Based around a frame that employs a stretched-out front end paired to a short rear, it’s stable yet quick to turn.

Fitted with Boost-spec bolt-through axles and a reliable Rock Shox Recon RL fork, its 130mm of travel goes a long way to smooth out rough terrain.

Its spec competes with bikes more than twice the price, including a Sram NX 11-speed single-ring drivetrain and KS dropper post.

With not a weak link in sight, a wide and short cockpit and mixed WTB Vigilante 2.6-inch front and Trail Boss 2.3-inch rear tyre combo finish off a bike that’s built to shred trails, not bank balances.

Cannondale Habit 5: The best value all-round trail ripper

Buy now from Tredz for £2,200

In a nutshell: Sensible 29er wheels for speed, a medium amount of suspension, and the finishing kit to push it to the limit. The Habit strikes a perfect balance

Buy now from Tredz for £2,200

Stand-out features: Always lust-worthy, at some point Cannondale bikes went from expensive to top-value. It’s a shift that’s well-embodied by the Habit range. With 140mm of travel at the front and 130mm at the back, they’re all versatile little rippers.

It may be the cheapest model in the range, but this Habit 5 doesn’t look it. Rolling on 29-inch wheels, like its siblings it’s efficient over a range of different applications. However, the stock finishing kit prioritises having fun. It is helped down this path by aggressive Maxxis Minion/High Roller tyres and wide 780mm handlebar, while Sram’s SX Eagle 12-speed groupset imparts a hill-crushing 11-50t cassette.

Together with the frame’s excellent four-bar suspension linkage, it ensures the Habit’s ability to go both up and down. Still, it’s probably the downs that’ll get the biggest grins.

Santa Cruz Tallboy: The thinking rider's backcountry companion

Buy now from Rutland for £4,999

In a nutshell: Like the label says, ‘If ever there was a gravity rider's XC bike, the Tallboy is it’. Fast enough to ride up mountains, capable enough to race back down

Buy now from Rutland for £4,999

Stand-out features: Although most bikes have settled on designs that are less specific and more versatile, that doesn’t mean there are no differences left. The Santa Cruz Tallboy pitches itself right where we reckon the sweet spot to be.

With 130mm front and 120mm rear travel, it’s quick uphill – like quick enough to race XC if that’s your thing. But with a geometry that takes a few cues from more aggressive machines, plus a low centre of gravity, it’ll hold its own on anything including lift-accessed downhill trails.

A bike for the whole mountain, its high cost is further justified by a low weight and wish-list kit including Sram’s GX Eagle 12-speed groupset.

Trek Fuel EX 8 XT: The best do-everything mountain bike

Buy now from LeisureLakes for £2,800

In a nutshell: The definition of a modern trail bike. Huge stores of suspension travel, but the ability to pedal efficiently. Made for both fun and endurance

Buy now from LeisureLakes for £2,800

Stand-out features: Want to know where mountain biking is at? The latest version of the longstanding Fuel gives a pretty good picture. With enough suspension to get you into and out of trouble, it’s still able to hoist itself up the biggest climbs.

Geometry-wise it’s long and relatively slack, emphasising confidence on the downhills over out-and-out XC ability. At the same time, a dropper post means you can switch from an efficient to an aggressive riding style instantly, a fact backed up by Trek’s adjustable Active Braking Pivot suspension.

With wheel size varying as the frames get bigger, smaller models get 27.5-inch wheels, while larger bikes roll on 29-inch hoops. Meaning the fit is dialled whatever your proportions, Shimano’s single-ring 12-speed XT groupset provides a huge range of gears while Bontrager finishing kit is equally assured.

Bombtrack Beyond ADV: One for long-distance minimalists

Buy now from CycleStore for £2,499

In a nutshell: No suspension, a steel frame, a single front chainring. The Beyond will either have you asking why anyone would want anything more – or demanding your money back

Buy now from CycleStore for £2,499

Stand-out features: Want a simple bike for riding across continents? The Beyond ADV is worth a look. With a simple steel frame, it eschews the weight and complexity of a suspension system. Instead, it uses voluminous 3-inch wide tyres and a carbon fork to smooth its progress over a huge range of terrain.

With plenty of mounts for the latest bikepacking gear, it’s ready to spend weeks away from home. Ensuring you and your kit can conquer any hill, a super-wide Sram Eagle 12-speed groupset provides a 10-50t cassette, while a radically backswept bar provides multiple positions in which to ride.

Just don’t imagine it’s a sledge: with modern geometry, it’s more than capable of eliciting a smile on quick blasts too.

Specialized Epic Comp: The best bike for winning XC races

Buy now from Rutland for £3,699

In a nutshell: For when you want to get your head down and put some hurt on the competition, the Epic has World Cup-level racing pedigree

Buy now from Rutland for £3,699

Stand-out features: If you haven’t watched an XC race recently you really should. Those skinny kids aren’t mucking about. With jumps, drops and berms mixed in with lung-busting climbs, the courses are pretty spectacular. 

To take them on, Specialized has created a bike that’s rocket-ship fast, yet retains enough technical nouse to stop you getting thrown into the barriers.

Key to this is its 'smart brain' suspension. Rendering the bike near-rigid on smooth trails, it automatically opens the floodgates the moment your tyres strike something rougher.

Allowing you to sprint without the bike bobbing, it ensures no effort is wasted while keeping you safe and insulated on trickier sections.

With a carbon frame, fast tyres, a flat handlebar and conventional rigid seatpost, the rest of the bike is built to go just as fast too.

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