Best Overall Mountain Bike Under $2500
YT Jeffsy AL Base 2019
Solid all-around performance
Excellent build for the price
The new YT Jeffsy AL Base is the clear winner of our Editor's Choice Award for a mountain bike in this price range. This is one model that truly punches above its weight class and could easily compete with bikes that cost thousands of dollars more. This is largely due to the fact that YT sells direct to the consumer, giving them a serious upper hand in the price to component spec/performance ratio. Testers found virtually nothing they didn't like about this versatile and well-rounded mid-travel trail bike. It has relatively middle of the road geometry numbers that help to make it comfortable and competent climber. That same geometry also works in its favor on the descents, with moderate angles that perform well in all situations and quality components that you can have confidence in. The Jeffsy is balanced and composed, stable yet surprisingly playful, and a straight-up joy to ride.
It's hard to find fault with the Jeffsy, but it isn't exactly lightweight at 31 lbs 10 oz. Interestingly, the weight of this bike never seemed to be an issue, maybe we were having too much fun to notice. Beyond that, it's all gold stars for the Jeffsy, a solid all-around trail bike, and an amazing one at this price.
Read review: YT Jeffsy AL Base 2019
Best Bang for the Buck
Giant Trance 3 2019
Beefy tire specification
Stable at speed
Suntour fork is trick to tune
The Giant Trance 3 2019 is a versatile and aggressive trail bike that is the winner of our Best Buy Award. Testers found this affordable bike to be a surprisingly capable and confidence inspiring descender on a variety of terrain and at a range of speeds. With a slack head tube angle, a stout feeling front end, and roomy comfortable cockpit, this bike can keep it mellow or get as aggressive as you want. Its moderate wheelbase and reach make for a relatively short turning radius and quick handling both while climbing and descending. On the climbs, the Trance provides a comfortable climbing position and its Maestro suspension design creates an efficient pedaling platform especially when seated. The component specification of the Trance 3 won't turn too many heads, but this bike is trail worthy straight out of the box, especially for the price.
The Trance 3 is undoubtedly a great option for the price, but it is far from perfect. At 31 lbs 8 oz, this bike feels a little bit heavy and has a somewhat lethargic feeling at times on the trail. Some of the components, most notably the 1x10 speed drivetrain and the long throw brake levers, are also a little bit of a let down from a performance standpoint. The Suntour fork, while beefy and stout, was also difficult to dial into each rider's preferences. That said, testers found little else to complain about in this versatile, aggressive, and very reasonably priced trail bike.
Read review: Giant Trance 3 2019
Top Pick for Versatility
Polygon Siskiu T8
Well rounded performance
Nice component spec
Came with wrong length dropper post
The Polygon Siskiu T8 gave the Jeffsy a run for its money and was the clear runner up in this test. Polygon is another consumer-direct brand and this bike has a price to build kit ratio that is very impressive and helps to take its performance to another level. Much like the YT Jeffsy, the Siskiu impressed our testers with its especially well-rounded performance. Its geometry is modern yet moderate, helping to make it comfortable and capable on both the climbs and the descents. This bike rips on the downhills, with an outrageous blend of stability and agility along with composure and balance that performs well at a huge range of speeds and trail conditions. It's no slouch on the climbs either, it rolls fast and has a comfortable seated pedaling position, direct and precise steering, and handles technical and tight uphill sections well. The Siskiu doesn't need to be ridden fast to have a good time, but it wants you to push it and it has a component spec to handle whatever comes its way.
The Siskiu is great but not perfect. Our test bike came spec'd with the wrong length dropper post, 125mm instead of 150mm. This didn't affect the way the bike performs or how much we enjoyed it, but it's not impressive from a quality control standpoint. With a weight of 31 lbs 8 oz, it's a little bit portly but it manages to feel lighter underneath you than that number suggests. We also experienced a very slight knocking sensation in the lower rear shock mount that we had a difficult time getting rid of, though it generally wasn't an issue out on the trail.
Read review: Polygon Siskiu T8
Top Pick for XC Trail Riding
Kona Hei Hei Trail 2019
Balanced suspension feel
Good front tire spec
Playful XC attitude
Steeper head tube angle
The Kona Hei Hei Trail surprised our testers and they grew fonder of this bike with each ride. Its calm and easygoing demeanor on the trail almost hid the fact this was a playful and lively bike that excels in moderate terrain. Testers grew more comfortable and confident on this bike with each test lap and found themselves staying on the gas and pushing the bike harder each time. It has a bit of a split personality on the descents, both smooth and planted, yet quick and lively when you want it to be. The 140mm of front and rear travel felt plush and balanced, especially through small and mid-sized chop. On the uphills, the Hei Hei has a comfortable climbing position, with the rear suspension remaining active while still feeling quite efficient. It's not an especially aggressive trail bike, but it excels in more moderate terrain with more of an XC feel earning it our Top Pick for XC Trail Riding Award.
We really like this bike in moderately pitched terrain, but when the trails get steep or especially rough the Hei Hei's steeper head tube angle becomes quite noticeable. Of course, this bike can tackle just about anything, but it is clearly less aggressive in steep and super rough terrain than some of the competition. The component specification is nothing fancy and works out on the trail, but the 1x10 speed drivetrain and wimpy Maxxis Tomahawk rear tire were low points for our testers. Overall, we enjoyed our time aboard the Hei Hei, so much that it earned our Top Pick Award.
Read review: Kona Hei Hei Trail 2019
Riding some of the mountain bikes under $2500 with the test crew.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our testers are full-time, year-round, bike fanatics.
Jeremy Benson has recently taken the reigns as the Senior Mountain Bike Review Editor for OutdoorGearLab. Benson is known for putting in an obscene amount of time in the saddle. In 2018, he rode over 5,000 miles and climbed over 600,000 feet on his mountain bike alone. 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. This New England native is passionate about connecting people with the perfect bicycle to meet their needs.
Kyle Smaine was born and raised in beautiful South Lake Tahoe. He grew up right at the base of a couple of Tahoe most famous mountain bike trails. Kyle is a professional skier 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.
Related: How We Tested Best Mountain Bikes Under $2,500s
Analysis and Test Results
There's no question that mountain bikes are expensive, and these days many complete full suspension bikes 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 to purchase. Yes, you can spend upwards of $10K on a fancy new mountain bike, but we're finding that you don't have to to have a great time out on the trail.
Over the course of several months, our Tahoe based mountain bike testers rode all around 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 determine their strengths, weaknesses, and ride characteristics.
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 YT Jeffsy AL Base was the clear winner of our Editor's Choice Award, offering performance and a build kit to price ratio that simply can't be touched by the competition. Other bikes excelled for different reasons, like our Best Buy Award winner the Giant Trance 3 2019 which offers a versatile and surprising capable ride at a great price. Our Top Pick for Versatility Award went to the Polygon Siskiu T8 for its confidence-inspiring trail manners, solid component specification, and well-rounded versatile performance. The Kona Hei Hei Trail 2019 also impressed our testers with its great all-around performance with an XC oriented feel earning it our Top Pick for XC Trail Riding Award.
If you're reading this review, chances are you're interested in finding the best budget-friendly mountain bike 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.
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.
Our Best Mountain Bike Under $2500 Editor's Choice Award winner, the YT Jeffsy AL Base, was the clear winner in this rating metric, with a geometry and component specification that is especially keen to party on the trail. The Jeffsy is impressively well-rounded, a capable climber that has the ability to keep it mellow or get as aggressive as you want on the descents, and a build that inspires the confidence to do so.
The YT Jeffsy AL Base knocked our socks off with a great well-rounded performance, impressive build for the price, and a higher fun factor than the competition.
The Giant Trance 3 2019, our Best Buy Award winner, surprised our testers with its versatility and confidence-inspiring descending capabilities. With 150mm of front and 140mm of rear-wheel travel and a slack head tube angle, the Trance 3 has the cushion and angles to tackle just about anything. It's also an impressive value and the only bike that retails for $2,000 or less that our testers felt confident charging into steep and rough sections of trail at speed while riding.
The Polygon Siskiu T8 is another 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. Kona's Hei Hei Trail 2019 also proved to be a blast to ride and it earned our Top Pick for XC Trail Riding Award. This bike excelled in moderate terrain and over small to mid-sized chop. It's not an aggressive trail bike, but it comes to life on fast and flowy trails where it brings the fun factor up with its playful attitude and balanced suspension feel.
In the Hei Hei Trail's element. Its a really fun bike for the right rider.
The Cannondale Habit 6 and the Kona Process 134 SE both have similar geometry and a more of an enduro bike feel that really comes alive on the descents and at speed. Both are really fun to ride downhill. That said, their performance is pretty one-dimensional and struggles to match the all-around performance or versatility of some of the other bikes in our test selection.
If you like to ride fast you might enjoy the Habit 6.
Without a doubt, the least fun bike to ride in our test was the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt Alloy 10. This is a result of the less trail-worthy component specification that is barely up to the task of trail riding. The bike's geometry and frame seem to have great potential but this bike is spec'd so poorly that it inspires no confidence on the trail and is less fun to ride than the competition.
Arguably the most important element of a mountain bike's performance for most riders is how it performs on the 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 Editor's Choice Award-winning YT Jeffsy AL Base and the Top Pick winning Polygon Siskiu T8 are pretty evenly matched on the descents. Both bike brands sell direct to the consumer and both have the most impressive build kits of all the models in this test. It's not all about the components, but there is absolutely no question that their beefier suspension, wheels, and tires do a lot to enhance their capabilities on the descents. In addition to their builds, both bikes share similar modern, but reserved, geometries that help to give them their well-rounded trail manners. While some bikes take their geometry to extremes, the YT and the Polygon strike a great balance that enhances their versatility. Both bikes perform well at a range of speeds and manage to stay somewhat playful and surprisingly stable at the same time.
The Polygon Siskiu is a very capable bike on the descents thanks to its geometry and impressive component specification.
It may be our Best Buy Award winner, but that didn't stop the Giant Trance 3 2019 from being a top performer in our downhill performance rating. This bike's moderate reach and wheelbase give it quick handling and a short turning radius, yet it still holds its own as speeds increase due to its slacker head tube angle. It lacks the higher quality components of the top-rated YT Jeffsy, but for the price, the Trance 3 is still plenty capable.
The Kona Process 134 SE and the Cannondale Habit 6 get grouped together again for their similar performance on the descents. Both bikes have a more modern long geometry with a lengthy wheelbase and reach that gives these bikes a somewhat one-dimensional performance that begs to be ridden fast on the descents. Once up to speed, the Process and the Habit really come to life yet maintain excellent stability on fast and flowy trails. Their versatility is somewhat limited as both bikes struggle a little at lower speeds and in tighter or more technical sections of trail. Unfortunately for both bikes, their component spec also holds them back from true greatness, otherwise, they are quite a pleasure to ride downhill at speed.
If you like to let it run on the descents the Cannondale Habit 6 might be a good option for you.
The Kona Hei Hei Trail is a solid performer on the descents as long as you stay within its limits. It prefers moderate terrain, but it likes to be pushed and seek the fun line with a lively XC attitude. The Kona Satori is undoubtedly a fun bike to ride downhill as well. It's a bit more mild-mannered than some of the competition and performs well at low to medium speeds. Testers found it falter a bit as speeds increased and didn't feel as confident in high-speed situations as they did on other bikes in this test. If you're more of a mellow rider and you choose terrain to match it could be a fun option to consider.
The Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt Alloy 10 suffered in this rating metric due to its component specification. It's easy to see the potential this bike has, but you won't be able to reach it with the low-end build of this model. Our testers had little faith in the parts attached to this bike with wheels, tires, and a fork that really limit its downhill 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, and components all play a role in how well a bike performs while climbing, and some are better suited to it than others.
Considering their downhill performance scores, both the YT Jeffsy and the Polygon Siskiu perform very well on the climbs. Both bikes feel fast-rolling and have similar seated pedaling positions and geometries that perform well in a range of uphill riding situations. They've got predictable and consistent traction that combines with precise and direct steering to make earning those descents more pleasurable than most.
You've gotta get up to get down, and the Jeffsy is great at both.
The Kona Satori was no slouch in the climbing department. Its super steep seat tube puts the rider right over the cranks and has an upright/forward position that enables you to scramble up and over just about anything and handle tight uphill switchbacks with ease. Our Best Buy Award winner, the Giant Trance 3 2019, wasn't a standout on the climbs, but its geometry and Maestro suspension make for a comfortable and reasonably efficient uphill performance.
Climbing on the Kona Satori. Not the fastest rolling, but it can get over and around just about anything.
The Kona Process 134 SE was a fun and confident descender, but its long wheelbase and reach didn't help its uphill performance. When climbing in a seated position the front end was super light and was prone to wandering and a long turning radius made it suffer in technical sections and uphill switchbacks. The Cannondale Habit 6 has similar handling characteristics due to its long wheelbase and reach plus a super slack head tube angle that results in vague and sluggish handling on the climbs. Despite the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt Alloy 10's obvious deficiencies, it is an efficient climber with a comfortable seated position and fast-rolling thanks to its narrow tires with low profile tread.
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.
The component specification or build of each bike varies significantly and is a huge factor that affects each model's overall performance. The Polygon Siskiu T8 has a great build.
One of the most impressive builds in our test selection is that of the YT Jeffsy AL Base. This bike is ready to rip with beefier suspension, powerful brakes, a 1x12 speed drivetrain, meaty Maxxis tires, a dropper seat post, and a comfortable cockpit set up. The component spec to price ratio and performance that this bike delivers is incredible. This bike is seriously ready to go straight out of the box with a build you'd normally find on much more expensive bikes. The Polygon Siskiu T8 is similarly well-equipped to the Jeffsy. It also boasts a stout suspension package, powerful brakes, quality wheels and tires, a dropper post, and a Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain.
Our Best Buy Award winner, the Giant Trance 3, has a good component specification for the price. It can't match the build on the YT Jeffsy, but it gets the job done for $300 less. It has a comfortable cockpit, beefy suspension, and an especially shred-ready set of wheels and tires. Both the Kona Hei Hei Trail and the Satori have nearly identical build kits. These bikes are plenty capable and ready to ride as they come with dropper seatposts, Maxxis tires, and modern width WTB rims. We don't love that they come spec'd with 1x10 speed drivetrains, they are functional but not quite as nice as the 11 and 12-speed options on other models in this review.
The Best Buy winning Trance 3 is affordable and ready to rip some dirt.
The Kona Process 134 SE has a reasonable build considering the price. While there really isn't anything to write home about, it comes with a 1x drivetrain, dropper seat post, nice wide handlebars, and grippy trail-worthy tires. Unfortunately, the Process 134 SE is held back by its suspension, most notably the Rock Shox Recon Silver fork. The Recon has limited tune-ability, a pogo stick feel and the least smooth travel of all the forks we tested. Better forks would do wonders for the overall performance of this bike.
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 clearly downhill oriented. Rocky Mountain really missed the mark with the build of the Thunderbolt Alloy 10. The frame is just fine, but the parts attached to it remind us of a bike you'd buy at a department store. It's actually kind of shocking that they'd spec a bike this poorly.
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.
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.