NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies from this website.
I understand
More Info

For those who like nothing more than heading out into the wilderness on two wheels, we've put together our pick of the best mountain bikes of the year to help you find your next off road adventure tool...


Built with tough frames, high-volume knobbly tyres and robust components, mountain bikes are purpose-built for off-road adventure. But which to choose? Here are our favourites of the year;



canyon-dude.jpgCanyon Dude CF 8.0 | £1,749

BEST FOR: Having spadefuls of fun on your local trails, or when the snow falls.

Fatbikes have come a long way from the original ‘two rims welded together’ steel beasts lumbering along snowy trails in Alaska, and this sleek carbon-framed offering is a testament to that development. Who would have thought that fatbikes would ever be described as light and fast? 

Of course it's all relative, as those enormous four inch Schwalbe Jumbo Jims buzz along with a huge drag compared to your average bike, but they do take you just about anywhere you feel the desire to roam, and a lightweight and responsive carbon frame and fork go a long way to reducing that burden. Canyon have also specced lightweight DT Swiss wheels to promote a more lively sprint, if sprinting a fatbike is possible, and it all adds up to a very fun and sprightly machine - all things considered.

The frame and fork come without the usual rack mounts associated with fatbikes designed for bikepacking duties, so it clearly has been pitched at the fun-fatty market - blasting out in the snow and mud and having a day's caper. An 11 speed SRAM NX keeps the whole rig rolling, and it's pulled to a halt by capable Shimano BR-M500 hydraulic discs.

VERDICT: If fatter tyres than the stock four inchers are needed, the dropouts shift to make room for up to 4.8 inches - chunky enough to deal with anything.

Buy now button1



Cube-Stereo-140.jpgCube Stereo 140 HPC Race | £2,499

BEST FOR: Hitting steep trails while getting the best bang for your buck.

Cube are fast getting a name for their great value, trail ready bikes, and are one of the top-selling brand names in the UK at present. The Stereo 140 is the backbone of their suspension lineup, with this 140mm travel, 27.5 Race model at the bottom of the range. It does share the same carbon frame and alloy rear triangle as the rest of the 140 lineup, with only the component choices dictating that bargain basement price for what is still a very capable machine.

Even at this price it comes with an impressive build kit for the money - savings have been made by including Deore brakes, but they are more than up to the job. They may not be bling, but a combination of XT and SLX is pretty much what we would recommend to anyone for a workaday bike these days.

With the slack angles and lengthy reach of a good trail bike the Stereo should cope well with the technical and steep trails we specialise in here in the UK, and it comes ready to attack the slopes with wide(ish) bars, a short stem and a 150mm dropper post already in place. The dropper is Cube’s own brand but the rest is very nicely presented Race Face kit which adds a quality feel.

VERDICT: This is a lot of bike for the money and well worth a look if you are searching out a capable trail bike on a budget.

Buy now button1


santa-cruz tallboy c.jpgSanta Cruz Tall Boy C S | £4,699

BEST FOR: Long days of munching miles in comfort across rough terrain.

Many might regard the 29er Tall Boy as the cross country option in the Santa Cruz lineup and that is true to an extent, but we have seen the Tall Boy used to great effect on massively steep and technical ground where it just eats up tough terrain with aplomb - a hybrid of cross country and a tough mtb. 

The C model is one step below the range-topping CC frame, which uses the best quality carbon to reduce the frame weight by a further 250g. The price hike is pretty steep however, so it's a personal choice whether that extra weight loss is worth the money.

Of course the C itself isn’t cheap either, with the mid-range S build we tested coming in not far below £5,000, but it is kitted out with some excellent components. Money has been saved on the ‘Performance’ grade of 120mm travel Fox 34 forks, but they still perform well, and the same can be said of the rear Fox Float Performance DPS shock. An SRAM GX Eagle 1 x 12 drivetrain gives a great spread of gears, too, with a massive 50 tooth sprocket allowing for wall climbing potential. In practise, the Tall Boy is reliable, comfortable and built with the stamina levels to go as far as yours can.

VERDICT: A comfortable workhorse, and worthy of consideration if you want a bigger tyre profile - you could build the Tall Boy up as a 27.5+ wheel size.

Buy now button1


Saracen Kili Flyer Elite mens MK.jpgSaracen Kili Flyer Elite | £3,500

BEST FOR: Hitting the UK trails at speed on a legendary brand name.

Anyone with a lengthy history in mountain biking will recognise the Saracen Kili Flyer brand - it was one of the first mountain bikes available in this country, and has been a legendary performer over the years. That original hardtail has now been developed, evolving into a very capable and hardcore full suspension 27.5” wheeled machine for 2018.

It is now made from carbon, with 130mm travel in both the frame and the Fox 34mm forks. These are both from the Performance range from this legendary suspension manufacturer, so while you aren’t getting the super slippy Kashima coating, they still do the business. 

The frame has a longer, slacker front end this year than previous, giving it more control on technical ground. This is definitely a trail-friendly machine which will be at home for a UK-style of riding, also coming with a wide bar and short stem to sew up what is a very well-specced cockpit area for technical riding. 

The components spec has been done on a budget to keep the cost as low as possible, but involves our favourite workhorse, the Shimano SLX. It works, and it works well - and it lasts too.

VERDICT: A technical, trail-friendly, full suspension classic suitable for fast-paced British riding.

Buy now button1



Stanton Sherpa Rockshock complete.jpgStanton Sherpa 853 Next Gen Standard | £2,040 

BEST FOR: Blasting the UK trails with an aggressive hardtail

When he couldn’t find a hardtail frame that suited his varied riding requirements, UK-based rider Dan Stanton not only designed his own frame but found a manufacturer and actually got it made. That was 2010, and Stanton now boast three steel and three titanium models in their award-winning mountain bike range, designed in the Midlands.

The front end of the Sherpa is beautifully made from Reynolds 853 tubing, a lightweight material with a healthy spring and liveliness when built well. Versatility is the name of the game here - the frame is as happy hacking out a long day through the hills as it is attacking steep trails in your local woods.

It sports a 30.9mm seatpost diameter and an eyelet for stealth routing, so is very much dropper post-ready. It also has replaceable dropouts to take a variety of setups, from singlespeed through standard QR to 12 x 142 bolt through, and you can even swap the 29er wheels for 27.5” at a full three inch width - a lot of versatility for your money. We also love the little touches that show that this is a bike designed for UK conditions, such as the weatherproof full-length outer gear cable. The Standard build comes ready to hit up the trickiest of trails.

VERDICT: The only upgrade we would consider straight away would be a dropper post, really opening up the trail riding capabilities of this excellent hardtail.

Buy now button1


Vitus-Nucleus-VRS.jpgVitus Nucleus VRS | £600

BEST FOR: A functional and fun bike to take on your first serious trail rides.

There has been a tendency in the past for manufacturers to assume that entry-level riders won’t want to take on serious mountain biking, leaving steeper, more racey geometry for posher bits of kit. Vitus have received awards for doing quite the opposite with the Nucleus range, specifying surprisingly aggressive trail geometry and a finishing kit that supports advanced off-road riding.

The Nucleus is done on a budget, of course, and £600 is about the least you could expect to spend on a functional mountain bike that will take more than a few months of trail abuse. As such, the drivetrain is a mix of very basic Shimano Acera with Suntour chainset and the fork is a 120mm Rockshox Silver TK Air. Braking is taken care of by 160mm Tektro M290s front and back.

It would all have a finite lifespan if thrashed off-road, but the frame is good enough to warrant replacing the rest if you get into your riding. That is why the Nucleus is a cracking first ride for discovering a love of mountain biking - it has the solidity to let you jump down the rabbit hole of trail thrills and off-road spills without breaking the bank and without the worry that a lesser bike couldn't take the pace. 

VERDICT: Cheap as chips (well, almost) yet solid and reliable - an excellent choice for beginners.

Buy now button1


Whyte 529.jpgWhyte 529 | £950

BEST FOR: Taking the 29 wheel size onto the steep stuff for the first time.

In the market for a hardtail mountain bike that'll cope on more than just cross country trails? The very capable Whyte range could be just what you're after.

The super-slack 66.5 degree head angle and long wheelbase on this 529 combines with the rangey 29 inch wheels to produce a bike that is very confident on steep and technical ground, gripping like an octopus over all manner of terrain. This confidence-inspiring control is helped along by a long wheelbase and little touches like internal cable routing for a dropper post - another essential accessory that can open the bike up to more technical riding.

There have been a few compromises to keep the price as sharp as £950, of course. The groupset is Shimano Deore which, while cheap, isn’t a bad performer by any means. The same can be said of the SR Suntour Raidon 32 fork which, while adequate, could be improved upon with a burlier model better suited to harder technical terrain. 

But that's the reason the 529 is a great buy for new riders - it's a very capable frame that warrants an upgrading of the bargain basement components either as you wear them out or your riding progresses.

VERDICT: Ticks all the boxes (including the right price) for entry level mtb riders to get their foot in the door.

Buy now button1


Share on