It is possible to get a good beginner’s mountain bike for £500-600. This is a proper mountain bike that will take you up-hill and down-dale with no worries. The frame will be an aluminium hardtail and surprisingly there will be a reasonable choice of both 26” and 29” options even in the women specific ranges.
Amazingly you can expect to have disc brakes, something like the Tektro Women’s Draco or HDC 300 hydraulic disc brakes, with adjustable reach levers ideal for smaller hands. You should expect groupsets like Shimano Altus and Shimano Acera, most likely a mixture of the two.
The fork is likely to be from the SR Suntour XCT or XCR ranges, with 80-100mm travel and although won’t be air sprung, should have spring weights designed for women or lighter riders. Look for a lock-out feature which allows you to turn off the suspension movement. The forks in this price range won’t be particularly lightweight and if you are wanting a more dynamic and tunable fork you should look to spend over £700-800.
Don’t even consider a full suspension bike in this price range, it will be heavy, clunky and the suspension won’t work properly.
Around the £800 mark, you’ll start to get lighter, enhanced frame quality that’s likely to be fully butted, have an integrated headset and performance geometry, allowing for a better ride. The fork will not only be light, but more tuneable for your specific weight and ride requirements, you should expect a lockout facility here.
We see the RockShox XC 28 fork cropping up on 29er bikes in this price bracket. In terms of groupset, there will be some Shimano Acera/Alivio, but you should expect more Deore to be included.
Broadly speaking, most bikes in this range are still hardtails, with the odd exception. The majority are aluminium and things start looking better on the scales too. The big step up is seen in the componentry and fork, look out for an influx of Shimano Deore/SLX and maybe some XT components. Forks are much lighter once you step over the £1000 price tag, the RockShox Reba RL fork has plenty of adjustment or look at the SR Suntour Raidon RL is air sprung, the choice gets quite extensive now.
Check out our 6 of the best women’s mountain bikes around £1000 feature for a wider range of bikes to pick from.
Over £1700 we start to see the start of the serious contenders in the full suspension market, there are some great 120mm travel bikes for serious trail riding, with RockShox Recon Gold fork and Monarch RL rear shock as good examples of suspension.
Shimano SLX and Deore components abound with Shimano M446 hydraulic disc brakes as a good example of what to expect. At £2000 you will be looking at a lightweight full susser, still aluminium framed but with mid-high level groupsets such as Shimano Deore and XT. Fox forks start to get a look in, such as the Fox 32 Float which is very tuneable, expect to move up the disc brake range too, like Shimano’s M505.
Budget: £2500 and upwards
It may seem odd, but we see an influx of hardtails again in this category, specifically aimed at performance riders who want a very lightweight bike. Most likely a full-on XC race bike with a featherweight carbon fibre frame. The race ready Shimano XT or similar groupset is to be expected with 2 x 10 gearing and Fox forks again. That’s not saying there aren’t any full suspension options of course.
Looking for a carbon fibre full suspension bike? You might be looking at £3500 or more for the pleasure, but you will get something pretty special with a full Shimano XT groupset, Avid Elixir 1 disc brakes and the lighter FOX 32 Float 29 Factory CTD Air fork. Rear suspension will be equally tunable and have a lock-out feature, usually on a remote lever. Look out for nice extras like the quality and lightweight Synchros components and wheels.
We have to say it again, go for a demo day and try as many bikes as you can. Buy the very best you can afford and focus on the frame, wheels and fork, the other components are easily and relatively affordable to upgrade later. Also with mountain biking components tend to need replacing every now and again due to crashes and rock damage, so it’s always a good excuse to upgrade at that time.
Have fun and hope to see you covered in mud soon.
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