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Best full-suspension mountain bikes

Joseph Delves
29 Oct 2020

A breakdown of the best full-suspension mountain bikes along with what to consider before you buy

Mountain biking is all about having fun. Don’t believe us? Then give it a go. Unlike with fitness and competition-obsessed disciplines, the grin induced when rattling through rock gardens, snaking around berms or leaping over jumps is the prime criteria for judging any mountain bike.

No style of bike is more fun to muck about on than a full-suspension mountain bike. With dampers allowing both wheels to track the ground, traction is increased, comfort is boosted and you can ride terrain you’d often struggle to walk down.

Light and with efficient suspension, even the rowdiest are now capable of being ridden all day. Climbing without hindrance before flying back down with abandon, they’re happy doing laps at the trail centre or heading out on multi-day backcountry missions.

Following years of experimentation, their design and parts lists have started to standardise too. You can now expect simple single-ring drivetrains and dropper seat posts across the board.

Bars are almost always wide for control and stems short for manoeuvrability. Wheelbases are long to make for stable handling, while the front of the bike provides plenty of stretch to move about in.

It all adds up to create machines capable of taking on extreme conditions, yet remaining fun to ride when you’re feeling a little less than radical.

Rounded up here are seven of our favourite fun-focussed full-suspension mountain bikes.

The best full suspension mountain bikes

1. Calibre Sentry

This scrappy bike is up for a fight yet doesn’t lack for manners either, and that’s despite a price that undercuts anything else we can think of.

With 29-inch wheels matched to a 150mm travel frame and a 160mm Rock Shox Yari RC fork, it is, to use a phrase you’ll need to familiarise yourself with, ‘fully gnarly’.

A stubby stem and ultra wide bars mean keeping it under control requires a minimum of muscle, while the mix-and-match combo of WTB Vigilante and Trail Boss tyres combine grip and speed.

Buy now from Go Outdoors for £2,000

2. Marin Rift Zone 3

For the most speed-focussed bike in the Marin MultiTrac range, the Rift Zone is still extremely capable. With 120mm of travel at the back and a 130mm Marzocchi Bomber Z2 fork up front, it’s not carrying any extra heft.

Add to this wide and light tubeless compatible tyres, plus a cockpit that prioritises control, and you’ve got a versatile bike that’s fun on trails ranging from the mild to the wild.

Its X-Fusion Seatpost now provides a serious amount of drop, while the unflappable Shimano SLX 12-speed drivetrain is equally wide in its range. 

Buy now from Marin for £2,395

3. Cannondale Habit 4

We could have picked any of the Habit range, but the deep teal colour of this one caught our eye. With 130mm of travel front and back and 29-inch wheels, this bike is fun and phenomenally versatile.

Maxxis Minion and High Roller tyres come straight from every trail rider’s wish-list, as does the Sram NX Eagle 12-speed groupset. With an 11-50t range, its ability to go both up and down mirrors the rest of the Habit’s design.

Using an excellent four-bar suspension linkage, it’s all the bike most trail riders will need.

Buy now from Leisure Lakes for £2,200

4. Canyon Spectral CF 7.0

The forum lurker's favourite. Not only does the Spectral benefit from a lightweight carbon front triangle, but no corners have been cut to provide it. A 160mm Rockshox Pike fork, Sram GX Eagle 12-speed gearing and Maxxis tyres leave nothing in need of an early upgrade.

Capable on the climbs and a blast on the descents, it’ll hit the sweet spot for most riders that prioritise fun but also want to take on all-day missions.

No matter where you take it, with smaller 27-inch wheels but plentiful suspension it remains easy to chuck around, yet happy to bail you out when you come up short.

Buy now from Canyon for €3,699

5. Santa Cruz Hightower

A bike that wears its mixed 140/150mm of travel lightly. Rarely outgunned, and never overburdened, this carbon trail bike can hold its own against more aggressive machines or sprightly xc-orientated bikes. In fact, you can tweak the parts list to hedge its ride in either direction.

Recently made over, this latest version benefits from a lower centre of gravity, a few millimetres of suspension, plus a slacker 65-degree head angle.

Elsewhere, Santa Cruz's excellent Virtual Pivot Point suspension design remains, ensuring the Hightower is an exceptional pedaller that can also descend. And with grease ports on the lower link providing easy maintenance, it should stay that way for some time.

Very much a bike that’s what you make of it, we've gone with the cheapest carbon build which features an alloy rear triangle, Rockshox Yari fork and Sram NX Eagle 12-speed groupset. 

Buy now from Leisure Lakes for £4,499

6. Specialized Enduro Expert

An aggressive, genre-defining bike that has only improved with age. Now available only with 29-inch wheels, this carbon model proves you can have it all, assuming you’re able to pay. Low in weight, blessed with heaps of superlative suspension, and yet still capable of sprinting and climbing, it’s the perfect resort bike.

Recently upped to 170 millimetres of gnar-devouring suspension, the Enduro outperforms many dedicated downhill bikes, unsurprising as its linkage design has been pinched from the well-regarded Demo world cup racer.

With a slack and stable 64-degree head angle, it’s definitely a shredder. But having been refined over the years, its geometry is now an equation so perfectly balanced it’d embarrass Alan Turing.

Coming in something its maker calls ‘style-specific’ sizing, this sees reach extend without cutting into the amount of stand-over available.

Buy now from Leisure Lakes for £6,750

7. Trek Slash 9.8 XT

Trek’s trail-focussed Fuel range is more than enough bike for most riders, but the pumped-up Slash proves Mae West’s maxim that ‘too much of a good thing can be wonderful’.

With decent overall weight and Shimano XT 12-speed gearing, it’ll still get you to the top of the hill, but the fun really begins once you point it downwards.

Recently made longer and slacker, it’s agile yet retains the suspension travel and large wheels to soak up any amount of punishment.

Get too wild and the Knock Block limiter stops the fork or bars smashing the frame in a crash, while also helping keep the geometry on point. Plus just look at that paint job.

Buy now from Trek for £5,250

See our buyer's guide to the best mountain bike wheels

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