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mountain biker in the mountains

Best First Mountain Bike

Want to get into mountain biking but unsure what bike you need? 

Mountain bikes are available in a range of different flavours for different types of riding, from relaxed countryside cycling to adrenaline fuelled trail adventures. We take a look at a selection of the best mountain bikes, at different price points, for new MTB riders to help you choose the bike that is right for you.

While an entry level mountain bike will be able tackle a range of different terrain there is always a trade-off between lightweight and robust performance. Suspension gives mountain bikes their ability to tackle challenging terrain and more suspension generally gives you more ability. However, suspension is both weighty and costly so bikes with more suspension travel tend to be heavier. This is offset by the price point of the bike however as more expensive components tend to be lighter weight. For this reason, the most affordable mountain bikes are hardtails with suspension only at the front, while the most capable machines tend to be more expensive full suspension bikes.

Wheel size also makes a big difference to performance. Larger 29” wheels offer faster rolling performance on rough terrain but are heavier and less nimble than the more popular 27.5” (650b) wheels. 29ers also tend to be more suitable for larger riders and many manufacturers take this account by offering two different wheel size versions of the same bike.

All the mountain bikes featured in this review offer a wide range of gears. Other than weight, the main difference as you move up through the price points, is that the number of front chainrings is reduced while the range of the rear cassette gets wider. This means that gear shifting becomes easier so you can focus more of your attention on the trail ahead. Hydraulic disc brakes offer consistent performance in all conditions and you will now find them on all the MTBs featured here.

Scott Aspect 750 27.5

Scott Aspect 750
Scott Logo


Quick look

Frame 6061 aluminium alloy

Suspension 100mm travel Suntour XCT fork

Drivetrain Shimano 3x8 speed

Wheels 27.5” (29” available)

Best for Cross-country trails


Simple and effective, the Scott Aspect 750 27.5 is a hardtail mountain bike that is ideal for cross country trail riding and general off-road exploring. The aluminium alloy frame is built with double butted tubes that have had excess material removed from low stress areas to reduce weight while maintaining strength. You get a stable riding position with a suspension fork that offers 100mm of travel to smooth the trail ahead.

The Shimano 3x8 speed drivetrain gives you all the gears you need to ride even the steepest climbs while the hydraulic disc brakes offer confident all-weather stopping power. The Kenda Slant tyres on the 27.5” wheels feature low profile nobs that are ideal for efficient rolling over hard-pack trails.

A capable entry level hardtail for cross country trail riding..

Cube Attention 29er

Cube Attention 29er
Cube logo


Quick look

Frame 6061 aluminium alloy

Suspension 100mm travel RockShox XC 30

Drivetrain Shimano XT/Deore 3x10 speed

Wheels 29” (27.5” available)

Best for Singletrack trails


With its lightweight aluminium alloy frame featuring Agile Ride Geometry, the Cube Attention offers a frame quality and similar riding position to the Scott Aspect but with a more capable component spec. The Shimano XT/Deore 3x10 speed drivetrain offers slicker gear shifting with a slightly wider gear range but it is the RockShox suspension fork that helps to set the Attention apart from other MTBs at this price point. As well as offering 100mm of plush suspension travel the XC 30 fork features a remote lockout that allows you to ride more efficiently on smooth surfaces.

The 29” wheels are shod with Schwalbe Smart Sam tyres that offer fast rolling performance on hard-pack trails. The Cube Attention 27.5 is available with 27.5” wheels.

The Cube Attention is ideal for fast singletrack adventures.

Saracen Mantra Trail

Saracen Mantra Trail
Saracen Logo


Quick look

Frame 6061 aluminium alloy

Suspension 120mm Suntour Raidon XC fork

Drivetrain Shimano Deore 1x10 speed

Wheels 27.5”

Best for Trail centre trails


The Saracen Mantra is one of a new breed of hardtail mountain bikes that are designed for more technical trail riding. 120mm of front suspension travel is combined with modern trail geometry and wide handlebars to offer a confident riding position on more challenging trails. The Mantra is an ideal hardtail for UK trail centre adventures.

The butted 6061 aluminium alloy frame features a tapered head tube that offers a stiffer front end for improved control. The Suntour Raidon fork is air sprung to keep the weight down and features adjustable rebound damping so you can set the fork up properly for confident performance when the going gets rough. The Shimano Deore drivetrain features a single chainring up front for easier gear shifting with a clutch mech to stop the chain bouncing around.

The Saracen Mantra sports a ride quality that puts it head and shoulders above most of the bikes in this category - MBR.

Giant Stance 2

Giant Stance 2
Giant Logo


Quick look

Frame ALUXX-Grade aluminium

Suspension 120mm SR Suntour Axon RL-R fork, SR Suntour Epixon R rear shock

Drivetrain Shimano 2x9 speed

Wheels 27.5”

Best for Trail centre trails


With suspension front and rear the Giant Stance 2 offers a step up in performance on rough trails. The riding position is similar the Saracen Mantra but with the added advantage of suspension on the rear wheel to give you more traction on rough climbs and increased composure on the descents. 

The Shimano Deore 2x9 speed drivetrain offers a wide range of gears for taking on the ups with the downs while the Maxxis Ardent tyres on the 27.5” wheels are fast rolling with enough grip for challenging trails.

Sorted entry-level full-susser that will reward upgrading over time – Bike Radar

Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Alloy 29

Specialized Stumpjumper Comp 29
Specialized Logo


Quick look

Frame M5 aluminium alloy

Suspension 150mm front 135mm rear

Drivetrain SRAM GX 1x11 speed

Wheels 29” (650b version available)

Best for All MTB trails


If you want to jump straight on to a mountain bike that offers capable performance on almost every type of MTB trail then The Specialized Stumpjumper Comp 29er is an ideal choice. Fast rolling and lightweight with the ability to ride the most challenging trail centre sections with confidence and composure the Stumpjumper is a real performance machine.

The 150mm travel RockShox Revelation fork is combined with a RockShox Monarch rear shock that controls the 135mm of rear travel. The fully active FSR rear suspension system works efficiently to soak up all the hits on the track even while pedalling and braking so you can really attack the trail. Combined with a confident riding position and user friendly SRAM ‘one by’ drivetrain the Stumpjumper is up-for-anything.

A dropper post allows you to change your saddle height on the fly so you can make the most of every trail section without missing a beat. The 29” wheels are tubeless ready and feature a great tyre combination for fast rolling performance on challenging trails. The Stumpjumper Comp Alloy 650b is available with 27.5” wheels.

Quote: You might say that this bike is idiot-proof, such is the speed you can carry into turns and still come out riding – IMB