Mountain biking is an adrenaline-rush sport and hobby. Many cyclists venture to the great outdoors to get some fresh air and visit their favorite mountain bike destinations. Some people engage in the sport to get fit. In fact, mountain biking helps build stamina, as well as improve heart health and muscle strength.
It’s a fun activity, but choosing the best bike is a not-so-fun process. Thankfully, there are quite a few manufacturers out there producing quality mountain bikes. We suggest asking yourself these questions before purchasing a bike: Where will you be using it? What’s your budget? How often will you be using it? What size bike do you need?
If you’re ready to start the bike-buying process, we’ve rounded up the best mountain bikes to hit the trails with this 2021. For newbies, check out our beginner’s guide to mountain biking, which gives an overview of the sport, including a brief rundown of the types of bikes to consider.
The Cannondale Trail 8 is every mountain biker’s best friend. It boasts terrain-ready components, including the shock-absorbent SR Suntour M3030 suspension fork (75-millimeter travel) and stiff SmartForm C3 alloy frame. The Trail 8 is also budget-friendly (it’s a big plus), but don’t let the price fool you, die this bad boy is capable of handling rough terrains and descents rain or shine.
The Rustler Carbon SLX has all the basic components such as its Shimano SLX 1 x 12 drivetrain and 27.5-inch wheels. But the most praiseworthy one is the Flip Chip Technology, a feature that enables a rider to adjust the bike’s bottom bracket height and head tube angle.
The head angle becomes 0.5% steeper and the bottom bracket rises by four millimeters when the Flip Chip is set to high mode. This setup for technical terrains and quick turns. If you’re adventuring on open terrains or flow trails, it’s best to set the Flip Chip to low mode. In low mode, the head angle decreases by 0.5% whereas the bottom brackets lower by four millimeters. All in all, the Rustler Carbon SLX delivers the right blend of innovative features and excellent terrain versatility to step up your cycling experience.
Be it hills or slopes, Nishiki’s Pueblo can traverse the most rugged terrains with the help of its hardy 26-inch wheels and aluminum rims. The bike’s 60-millimeter travel fork and heat-treated steel frame add a layer of durability and shock absorption— handy for all-day rides to your favorite bike trails. No need to worry about unpleasantries on the trail since the Pueblo comes with a comfy sport saddle seat and grip handlebars.
Exploring rocky terrains or dirt trails? The GT Aggressor Pro can handle them all. Featuring a 6061-T6 Aluminum Triple Triangle Frame and 80-millimeter travel suspension fork, this mountain bike is engineered for easy handling and maximum durability on the road, no matter the elevation. The ergonomic handlebar grip, meanwhile, helps maintain bike control while ensuring that your cycling adventure remains enjoyable and pain-free.
The DRT 1.0 is a great entry-level bike for mountain biking. Its responsive 26-inch wheels enable quick steering, while the 100-mm. SR Suntour suspension form allows you to cross over obstacles smoothly. Meanwhile, the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes offer adequate stopping power regardless of the weather, making the DRT 1.0 a highly dependable bicycle on the road. The DRT 1.0 boasts an approachable price point, and we recommend snagging it if you’re new to mountain biking.
Trail bikes are a bit of a Goldilocks item— just the right combination of suspension travel, gear range, and geometry to handle about any type of mountain biking. The Niner RKT 9 RDO RS is the star of all trail bikes. Although it is built for cross-country racing, the RDO RS can withstand the rigors of mountain biking with immense speed thanks to its dependable 100-millimeter suspension form and stable 90-millimeter CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) rear suspension travel. The Enduro Max black oxide pivot bearings ensure the durability and longevity of the bike. Overall, the Niner RKT 9 RDO RS is a mountain bike you can count on in your outdoor or racing endeavors.
140mm of rear suspension and 160mm of front suspension give the SB140 the ability to handle almost any terrain. It’s more specialized for downhill performance vs. uphill efficiency, but then again, riding fast downhill is a lot more fun than riding slowly uphill, anyway. SRAM G2 R 4-piston hydraulic brakes give fantastic stopping power, and a massive 52t “granny gear” on the rear chainring gives you a super wide range to maximize pedaling efficiency. The 27.5-inch wheels strike a great balance between low rolling resistance and high responsiveness.
All right, so, the 14x Sport balance bike from Strider isn’t a true mountain bike, per se. However, you weren’t planning on taking your kids on gnarly trails yet either, right? Help them build the balance and handling skills they’ll need to excel at mountain biking when they’re a little older. The 14x has an adjustable seat and adjustable handlebars to accommodate kids as they grow. Additionally, you can buy a pedal kit (sold separately) to convert this into a true bike.
The Nail Trail E2 from Marin is a front-suspension mountain bike with a twist — a 500wh battery and electric motor to help extend your range and lessen your pedaling effort. 140mm of travel in the fork helps soak up bumps on the trail. A combination of quality Shimano and SRAM components helps get the power to the ground — whether from your legs or from the motor. 27.5-inch wheels and tubeless tires give you great grip in all offroad conditions.
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