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Best Mountain Bikes Under $2500

Long and slack for stability at speed, short chainstays to keep it mor...
Photo: Jenna Ammerman
Wednesday June 16, 2021
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Are you searching for the best mountain bike under $2500? We researched virtually every model on the market in the $2,000-$2,500 price range and bought seven bikes for side-by-side testing. Our team of professional mountain bike testers rode these bikes for months while analyzing their performance, design, and build kit. You can easily spend a small fortune on a new mountain bike these days, but after testing these affordable models, it's clear that you don't have to. Bikes in this price range are improving dramatically and there are lots of great options to suit any riding style and budget.

Related: Best Trail Mountain Bikes of 2021

Top 7 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 7
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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award   Top Pick Award 
Price $2,100 List$2,499 List$2,399 List$2,000 List$2,399 List
Overall Score
83
87
77
77
83
Star Rating
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Pros Energetic playful feel, lighter weight, 12-speed drivetrain, modern trail bike geometryAwesome build for the price, versatile, well-rounded performanceExcellent in rolling moderate terrain, versatile, relatively well-roundedMaestro suspension, beefy tire spec, stable at speed, affordableHard charging on descents, long dropper post, modern trail bike geometry
Cons Fork needed immediate service, can be overwhelmed in more aggressive terrainFirm grips, saddle shapeHeavy, 10-speed drivetrainFeels heavy, 1x10 drivetrain, suntour fork is tricky to tuneHeavy, mediocre fork specification, not the fastest climber
Bottom Line A super fun, zippy, and affordable short travel 29erA well-rounded mid-travel trail bike with a great build at an amazing priceAn easy going trail bike for riders who aren't pushing the limitsAffordable yet capable, we feel this bike is a solid valueA ripping mid-travel 29er that is capable of charging hard downhill
Rating Categories Giant Trance 29 3 Polygon Siskiu T8 Salsa Horsethief Deore Giant Trance 3 Kona Process 134 29
Fun Factor (30%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Downhill (35%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
Climbing (35%) Sort Icon
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Giant Trance 29 3 Polygon Siskiu T8 Salsa Horsethief Deore Giant Trance 3 Kona Process 134 29
Wheelsize 29 29 29 27.5 29
Frame Material Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum
Measured Weight 30 lbs 12 oz 32 lbs 8 oz 33 lbs 3 oz 31 lbs 8 oz 34 lbs 13 oz
Frame Size L L L L L
Available Sizes S, M, L, XL S(27.5), M(27.5 or 29), L(29), XL(29) S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL
Fork Marzocchi Z2, 130mm Fox Rhythm 34, 140mm RockShox Recon RL, 140mm SR Suntour Aion RC DS, 150mm RockShox Recon Motion Control Solo Air, 140mm
Rear Shock Fox Float DPS Performance Fox Float DPS Performance EVOL Rock Shox Deluxe RT RockShox Deluxe R RockShox Deluxe Select
Wheelset Giant Tracker hubs with iant XCT tubeless rims, 25mm internal rim width Entity XL2 Disc WTB hubs with WTB i29 TCS 2.0 rims Giant AM 27,5, 30mm ID w. Giant Tracker Hubs Shimano hubs with WTB ST i30 TCS rims
Front Tire Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 2.3" Schwalbe Han Dampf Addix Speedgrip EVO TLE 2.6" Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 2.5" Maxxis High Roller II 2.5" Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 2.5" WT
Rear Tire Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO 2.3" Schwalbe Han Dampf Addix Speedgrip EVO TLE 2.6" Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO 2.4" Maxxis High Roller II 2.4" Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 2.3"
Shifters SRAM SX 12-speed Shimano SLX 12-speed Shimano Deore 10-speed Chiman Deore 10-speed SRAM SX 12-speed
Rear Derailleur SRAM SX 12-speed Shimano SLX 12-speed Shimano Deore 10-speed Shimano Deore 10-speed SRAM SX 12-speed
Cranks SRAM SX Eagle DUB Shimano MT510 175mm(L-XL) Race Face Ride 175mm Praxis Cadet SRAM SX Eagle
Chainring 30T 32T 32T 30T 30T
Bottom Bracket SRAM DUB Press fit BSA Threaded not specified Praxis Press Fit SRAM DUB PF92
Cassette SRAM SX Eagle 11-50T Shimano SLX 12-speed 10-51T Shimano Deore 10-speed 11-42T Shimano Deore 10-speed 11x42T SRAM SX Eagle 11-50T
Saddle Giant Contact (neutral) Entity XTENT WTB Volt Sport Giant Contact (neutral) Kona Trail
Seatpost Giant Contact Switch Tranz-X 170mm (L-XL) TranzX YSP15 Internal 125mm Giant Contact Switch 150mm TranzX Dropper Internal 170mm
Handlebar Giant Contact TR35 780mm Entity Expert 780mm Salsa Rustler 800mm Giant Connect 780mm Kona XC/BC 35 780mm
Stem Giant Contact SL 35 Entity Expert 35mm Salsa Guide Trail Giant Connect Kona XC/BC 35
Brakes Shimano MT400 Tektro HD-M745 4-piston Shimano MT200 Shimano BR-MT400 Shimano Hydraulic Disc
Warranty Lifetime limited warranty on frame 10 Years on frame 3 Years on frame Lifetime limited warranty on frame Lifetime limited warranty on frame


Best Overall Mountain Bike Under $2500


Polygon Siskiu T8


87
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Fun Factor 9
  • Downhill 9
  • Climbing 8
Excellent price to build ratio
Well-rounded performance
Versatile
Firm, thin grips
Saddle shape

For 2021, the Polygon Siskiu T8 underwent a total redesign. It looks a lot like the previous version, but the frame has an updated geometry and some minor tweaks to the suspension platform. This mid-travel trail bike now has 135mm of rear suspension paired with a 140mm fork, and it is offered in different wheel sizes depending on rider/frame size. Following modern trends, Polygon lengthened the reach and wheelbase, slackened the head tube, and steepened the seat tube, bringing the Siskiu's geometry up-to-date. These changes have made it more stable at speed and confident on the descents, yet it still retains its maneuverability, responsive handling, and versatility. The steep seat tube angle lines the rider up in an efficient and comfortable seated position and the Siskiu is an effective and well-rounded climber. Thanks to Polygon's consumer-direct sales model, this affordable bike comes with a build kit you'd normally find on bikes that cost significantly more. The quality component spec and stellar all-around performance make the Siskiu T8 an exceptional value.

We found little not to like about this versatile and well-rounded ride. Our biggest gripe was the touchpoints of the bike, most notably the grips and the saddle. The grips felt thin and firm, and they didn't do much to dampen vibration or enhance comfort. The saddle also felt short, and it had a unique shape to its tail that we didn't get along with on steep descents. The Tektro brake levers also weren't our favorite, with a somewhat cheap look and feel. Otherwise, we were very impressed by the new Siskiu T8, it's an affordable mid-travel ripper that looks and performs well above its asking price.

Read review: Polygon Siskiu T8

Best for Charging Hard


Kona Process 134 29


83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Fun Factor 9
  • Downhill 9
  • Climbing 7
Burly aggressive feel
Modern trail bike geometry
Long dropper post
Proper beefy tire specification
Heavy
Mediocre fork
sluggish climber

The Process 134 29 is a ripping mid-travel trail bike that is capable of charging way harder on descents than our testers expected for a bike in this price range. Kona's bikes typically perform well on the downhills, and even the entry-level version of this bike handles speed and aggressive terrain with the confidence and composure we've come to expect from the brand. The 134mm of rear-wheel travel is paired with a 140mm fork which is ideal for a huge number of riders and locations and will rarely leave you wanting for more. The geometry is modern and progressive, spot on by today's standards and the primary reason this bike rips so hard. Add to that some thoughtful component specs like a dialed cockpit with a proper 170mm dropper post as well as beefy durable tires that enhance this bike's aggressive performance.

The Process 134 29 isn't without fault. At over 34 lbs, it's the heaviest bike in this review and that weight is very noticeable, especially when climbing. While some aspects of its build are dialed, the important job of handling the front-end travel is left to a low-end RockShox Recon fork. The fork works fine, but it isn't ideal for handling the hard-charging nature of this bike. That said, the rider who prioritizes downhill performance and isn't that concerned about weight should give the Process 134 a look.

Read review: Kona Process 134 29

Best Short-Travel Bike Under 2500


Giant Trance 29 3


83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Fun Factor 9
  • Downhill 7
  • Climbing 9
Energetic playful feel
Lighter weight
12-speed drivetrain
Marzocchi fork
Fork needed immediate service
Limited by modest travel numbers

The Giant Trance 29 3 is a sporty short travel trail bike and a solid all-around performer. This bike's liveliness and playful attitude make it one of the most fun bikes to ride in this review, and its downhill capabilities far exceed its short-travel pay grade. It feels like it has more than 115mm of rear-wheel travel thanks to Giant's excellent Maestro suspension platform that pairs very well with the 130mm Marzocchi Z2 fork. The Z2 is a departure from the typical budget fork specs, and after having it serviced it outperformed the forks found on most other bikes in this price range. The Trance 29 has a moderate modern geometry that gives it excellent versatility, and it feels highly maneuverable and comfortable at a range of speeds and terrain. It's also one of the most energetic and efficient climbing bikes of the bunch.

There was little not to like about the Trance 29 3. Testers did find, however, that it could be overwhelmed in aggressive terrain due mostly to the fact that it has less travel. You can ride just about anything on this bike, it just requires a little finesse and good line choices when the trails get rough and rowdy. Otherwise, testers were quite impressed with the playful, versatile, and affordable performance of this short travel ride.

Read review: Giant Trance 29 3

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
87
$2,499
Editors' Choice Award
This redesigned bike is just as well-rounded but rips harder than its predecessor
83
$2,399
Top Pick Award
Hard-charging riders will love this bike
83
$2,100
Top Pick Award
Capable, versatile, and lively, this is a great short travel 29er
77
$2,000
A capable 27.5-inch trail bike with a preference for the descents
77
$2,399
The Salsa Horsethief Deore has a solid all around performance best suited to less aggressive riders and terrain
77
$2,100
A killer entry-level mid-travel trail bike at a reasonable price
73
$2,100
A modern long and slack geometry make the Cannondale Habit 6 a blast to ride on fast and flowy descents

Riding some of the mountain bikes under $2500 with the test crew.
Riding some of the mountain bikes under $2500 with the test crew.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Why You Should Trust Us


Our testers are full-time, year-round, bike fanatics.

Jeremy Benson is the Senior Mountain Bike Review Editor for OutdoorGearLab. Benson is known for putting in an obscene amount of time in the saddle while testing, training, and riding just for the fun of it. Jeremy has racked up some impressive results at well-known races such as the Downieville Classic and Lost and Found Gravel Grinder. He is also the author of Mountain Bike Tahoe , a mountain bike guidebook for the Tahoe region.

Kyle Smaine was born and raised in beautiful South Lake Tahoe. He grew up right at the base of some of Tahoe's most famous mountain bike trails. Kyle is a professional ski athlete and has a healthy collection of gold medals in the halfpipe. While he may be known for his skiing, he's no slouch on a mountain bike. Kyle has his fair share of KOMs and is a very passionate rider. Off the bike, he works as a mechanic in a bike shop in South Lake Tahoe.

Our team is rounded out with Joshua Hutchens. Joshua is a long-time bike industry veteran who has worked in nearly every capacity you can think of. Shop mechanic, racer, guide, shop owner, he's done it all and still maintains a boundless enthusiasm for exploring the mountain on two wheels. He's a talented rider and can even do no-handed wheelies, really.

Our team stays on top of new bike releases throughout the year and is always looking for the best new bikes that cost less than $2,500. When we see new models that look compelling, we purchase them and take them to task on the vast and varied trails of the northern Sierra in the greater Lake Tahoe area. After weighing and measuring all of the bikes for consistency, each tester takes each model for several test rides to see how much fun they are to ride and how they perform out on the trail.

Related: How We Tested Best Mountain Bikes Under $2,500s

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Click to enlarge
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Analysis and Test Results


There's no question that mountain bikes are expensive, and these days many complete full suspension bikes can cost about as much, or more, than your first car. Fortunately for consumers, many brands are making affordable models that are actually trail-worthy and you won't need to sell a kidney or take out a second mortgage to purchase. Yes, you can spend upwards of $10K on a fancy new mountain bike, but we're finding that some of these budget-friendly models are just as much fun to ride and won't break the bank.

Over the course of several months, our Tahoe-based mountain bike testers rode the trails throughout the Tahoe Basin and surrounding areas. All the bikes in our test selection were put through their paces on a wide range of trail types, with test laps that aimed to hit the full spectrum of mountain bike riding. Every aspect of each bike's performance was scrutinized and scored on three rating metrics that are discussed in greater detail below.

We ride these bikes as if they are our own, pushing them to...
We ride these bikes as if they are our own, pushing them to determine their strengths, weaknesses, and ride characteristics.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

All of the bikes reviewed here are different, with varying geometry numbers, component specifications, and strengths and weaknesses that define the way they perform out on the trail. When our testing concluded and the dust settled, the Polygon Siskiu T8 was the top performer, offering an outstanding, versatile performance and a very high component specification to price ratio. The Giant Trance 29 3 was our favorite short-travel bike, with a lively and playful character, solid climbing performance, and downhill chops that exceeded our short-travel expectations. Kona's new Process 134 29 also earned itself an award by setting itself apart from the competition with its hard-charging downhill capabilities.

Related: How to Select the Right Mountain Bike

Value


If you're reading this review, chances are you're interested in finding the best budget-friendly mountain bike under $2,500 for your riding style. The bikes in this review all fall within a few hundred dollars of each other and the differences in price really aren't very extreme. On the other hand, the differences in performance and component specifications are quite apparent, although pretty much every bike we tested qualifies as being a pretty good value. That said, in this price range, the consumer-direct brands tend to give you the most for your money. Polygon sells directly to the consumer, allowing them to provide a higher price to component spec/build kit ratio.


Fun Factor


We ride mountain bikes because it's fun, and we assume that you do too. We rated each bike in this review on our tester's impression of how much fun they had while riding each model. Some bikes are more fun to ride than others, with a playful demeanor and versatility that makes them perform well at all times. When the rider and bike become one unit and you can forget about the bike to focus on the trail, you're probably having lots of fun. Other bikes are less fun to ride, inspiring less confidence, have a less well-rounded performance, or are built with components that hold you back from having a great time. We find it's easy to differentiate between bikes that are simply a blast to ride, and those that keep you on edge the entire time.


The Polygon Siskiu T8 is a bike that is shockingly capable, with a well-rounded performance that simply performs well everywhere. Bikes like this are fun to ride since they have such balanced trail manners that can handle a huge range of speeds, trail types, and conditions. The Giant Trance 29 3 also proved to be a blast to ride. The Trance 29 brings a high degree of liveliness and a playful demeanor to the table in a short-travel package that really impressed us with its versatility and all-around performance.

Just because a bike doesn&#039;t cost a fortune doesn&#039;t mean it can&#039;t be...
Just because a bike doesn't cost a fortune doesn't mean it can't be super fun to ride!
Photo: Laura Casner

The new Kona Process 134 29 is a mid-travel trail slayer that comes to life when pointed down the hill and speeds increase. This bike is far more capable and confidence-inspiring on the descents than most bikes in this price range, and an absolute blast when riding fast or tackling more aggressive terrain.

The Process 134 rips on the descents. This bike is almost too much...
The Process 134 rips on the descents. This bike is almost too much fun when it's pointed downhill.
Photo: Laura Casner

Downhill Performance


Arguably the most important element of a mountain bike's performance for most riders is how it performs downhill. There are a number of factors that dictate the way a bike descends, most notably geometry and component specification. When everything comes together, a good downhill performer is versatile, responsive, and inspires confidence in the rider.


Two bikes battled for supremacy in the downhill performance rating metric. The Polygon Siskiu T8 and Kona Process 134 29 are pretty evenly matched on the descents. Polygon sells direct to the consumer and has the most impressive build kit of all the models in this test. It's not all about the components, but there is absolutely no question that the beefier suspension, wheels, and tires do a lot to enhance its capabilities on the descents. The Polygon's updated geometry has made it more capable on the descents. Its 135/140mm of rear/front travel pairs with a longer and slacker geometry to make it more stable and confidence-inspiring on the descents without sacrificing the maneuverability and versatility of its predecessor.

The Polygon Siskiu is a very capable bike on the descents thanks to...
The Polygon Siskiu is a very capable bike on the descents thanks to its geometry and impressive component specification.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The Kona Process 134 29 impressed our testers with its impressively capable and confidence-inspiring performance on the descents. This bike is ready for anything and really comes to life when you let it run or get into steeper, rougher terrain. It's not quite as well-rounded and it doesn't have the higher-end suspension components of the Polygon, but it feels plenty capable regardless.

The short-travel Giant Trance 29 3 may not be the hardest-charging bike on the descents, but it brings a playful attitude and more capability than its short-travel numbers might suggest. If you're more interested in popping side hits than plowing through the gnar at speed, then the Trance 29 might be right up your alley. The Trek Fuel EX 5 is a very comfortable and competent bike on the descents. This mid-travel ride has supple suspension and a smooth ground-hugging feel. It may not have a lot of pop or pizzazz, but it certainly was capable and fun to ride on a huge range of terrain and speeds.

Most mountain bikers spend the majority of their time riding bikes...
Most mountain bikers spend the majority of their time riding bikes uphill. Fortunately, the Trance 29 3 is as good going up as it is fun to ride back down.
Photo: Laura Casner

Uphill Performance


You gotta get up to get down, and as mountain bikers, we typically spend the majority of our time riding while going uphill. A bike's weight, geometry, suspension design, and components all play a role in how well a bike performs while climbing, and some are better suited to it than others.


Considering its downhill performance scores, the Polygon Siskiu performs very well on the climbs. This bike feels fast-rolling and has a comfortable seated pedaling position and geometry that performs well in a range of uphill riding situations. Predictable and consistent traction combines with precise and direct steering to make earning those descents more pleasurable than most.

The best bikes climb as well as they descend.
The best bikes climb as well as they descend.
Photo: Laura Casner

One of the fastest and most comfortable climbers, the Giant Trance 29 3 is a short travel ripper that performs very well on climbs. The Trance 29 feels quick and energetic when pointed up the hill, with comfortable geometry and reasonable weight compared to many of the other models in this test. The Giant Trance 3, wasn't a standout on the climbs, but its geometry and Maestro suspension made for a comfortable and reasonably efficient uphill performance.

Neither the Kona Process 134 29 or the Trek Fuel EX 5 are the...
Neither the Kona Process 134 29 or the Trek Fuel EX 5 are the fastest climbers, but both bikes get the job done.
Photo: Laura Casner

Both the Kona Process 134 29 and the Trek Fuel EX 5 were plenty competent but relatively unimpressive on the climbs. Both bikes work just fine, but their heavier weights definitely contribute to lethargic and unexciting climbing performance. The Cannondale Habit 6 is more of a descent-oriented bike, and it had somewhat awkward uphill handling due to its long wheelbase and reach that results in a vague and sluggish feel uphill.

Build


Every bike we tested comes with a different component specification, or build, that is determined by the manufacturer. The components of a mountain bike are one of the primary factors that influence not only performance but also the retail price. In the sub $2500 price range, a few hundred dollars goes a long way in the quality of components attached to a frame, and generally speaking, you're better off spending a little bit more for a better build. It took a while, but in recent years higher-end technology has finally begun to trickle down to less expensive mountain bikes and sometimes the differences between the high and low-end versions of components is negligible. One thing is certain, most of the budget-conscious bikes in our test selection are trail-worthy and shred-ready. It's important to note that all of the moving parts on mountain bikes eventually require maintenance. Brakes, drivetrains, suspension, dropper posts, if they move they will eventually wear out, and the more you ride the faster it will happen.

Some bikes have nicer components than others. The Polygon Siskiu T8...
Some bikes have nicer components than others. The Polygon Siskiu T8 is one them. It has a very nice build for the price.
Photo: Laura Casner

One of the most impressive builds in our test selection is that of the Polygon Siskiu T8. It boasts a stout suspension package that controls the front and rear wheel travel better than the lower-end components on other models in this price range. It also comes equipped with powerful brakes, quality wheels and tires, a dropper post, and an excellent Shimano 12-speed SLX drivetrain that is ready to ride without the need for any immediate upgrades.

The Giant Trance 29 3, has a good component specification for the price. It can't match the build on the Polygon, but it gets the job done for less. It has a comfortable cockpit, plush suspension, a 12-speed drivetrain, and an especially shred-ready set of wheels and tires. The 27.5-inch wheeled Trance 3 also came quite well equipped for the price with a stout fork and burly wheels and tires.

The builds of bikes in this price range have improved dramatically...
The builds of bikes in this price range have improved dramatically in the past couple of years. Most now come with quality tires and dropper seatposts helping to make them more shred-able than ever before.
Photo: Laura Casner

The Kona Process 134 and the Salsa Horsethief came with relatively similar builds. Both bikes have the same front suspension in the form of a RockShox Recon fork. They also both sport similar wheels and tires that are tubeless-ready and beefy enough to stand up to hard trail riding. Their cockpits are generally dialed too, with short stems, wide handlebars, and dropper posts to enhance their handling. The Cannondale Habit 6 has an okay build and it performs relatively well on the trail. The lack of a dropper post is the most egregious aspect of the build, especially for a bike that is so good on the descents.

You don&#039;t have to spend a fortune to get a bike that performs well...
You don't have to spend a fortune to get a bike that performs well on the trail. There are several worthy options in this review that'll put a smile on your face.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


There's a lot to consider when you're looking into buying a new full suspension mountain bike. The good news is you don't have to take out a second mortgage to afford one. There are several mountain bikes under $2500 that are capable and versatile rides that'll get you out on the trail with a smile on your face. Our professional mountain bike testers took these bikes to their limits and our findings are presented here for you in this in-depth comparative review. We hope the information we've gathered helps you decide which is the best bike for you based on your riding style and budget.

Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens, and Kyle Smaine