Looking for a high-performance budget mountain bike but don’t know where to start? We wanted to give you guys a solid starting point for your next purchase. Before we get too far yes, there are cheaper bikes available, but these are bikes we feel blend race-ready performance with competitive pricing.
For the last few years we’ve been caught up in the hustle of wanting to review the latest, greatest bikes, no matter the cost. We’d never be able to afford these bikes on our own, so why not use our position to get to ride them for free right? It’s been a dream riding bikes of this caliber.
With the foundation of our small new business however, we’ve realized that the only thing larger than our love for bikes is the pile of cobwebs in the bottom of our wallets. After this realization sunk in, we wondered if we left the bike business and somehow found ourselves even more broke, what kind of bike would we be riding to feed our habit? The Bitchin Budget Bike Roundup was born.
Whether you’re new to the sport and hesitant about dropping nearly five figures on a bicycle or if you’re a blue collar, working class rider with bills to pay and a family to feed, this one’s for you!
Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing reviews of the following bikes in hopes of highlighting just how many awesome bikes are out there under the $4,500 price point. Based on our time on the trail so far, this is going to be a really fun test and we look forward to sharing some killer deals with you all!
Please comment below with any other brands/bike models that you’d like to see added to our list. Hopefully some missing brands will take note and send us a tester to throw in the mix.
Diamondback Release 5C Carbon
Crazy to believe but this here bike is not only the most expensive in the roundup, it’s also the bike that really got our wheels spinning about budget bike performance. After two of our riders came back raving about how much fun they were having on a bike that cost less thank five thousand dollars we decided to search out more bikes to review.
This completely carbon fiber frame sports 130mm of Level Link travel out back with 150mm of Fox Performance Elite travel up front. Carbon Truvativ cranks, a SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Guide RS brakes and Race Face Arc30 wheels round out the build. The Release has a killer build overall, playful and contemporary geometry and shows up to your door almost completely assembled. In fact, the packaging on this bike was better than any we have ever received. It even comes with tools and a fender.
We’re stoked to see a brand more commonly associated with high dollar 9.9RSL edition bikes pump out a super bitchin bike at an insane price point. The Fuel EX 9.7 has an OCLV carbon front triangle and alloy stays out back. This 29er packs 130mm of bump eating travel front and rear, although our personal Fuel sports a 140mm fork, we’re excited to put more time on this stock bike and see how it does.
Bontrager wheels, tires and cockpit make up most of the build on this affordable 29er trail rig. A SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain and Guide R brakes round out the moving bits on the frame while a Fox Rhythm 34 fork and Fox Performance shock handle damping duties. We’ve been huge fans of Trek’s bike for a number of years at the high end of the spectrum and hope their spec selection on the lower end models will keep us equally impressed.
With a Shimano, Fox and Eagle spec, it’s hard to believe that this bike falls into the “budget” category. Commencal have always impressed us as a very solid value for the price, especially considering how well they ride. The Meta Trail is the brand’s 130mm travel aluminum trail rig. Suspended by a Fox Factory Float in the rear and a 140mm Factory 34 Float up front, Commencal put the money where it mattered with a top-notch suspension spec. Other highlights include the smooth shifting and incredible range on the GX Eagle drivetrain, and the top notch stopping power of Shimano XT brakes. 27.5 E-thirteen TRS wheels finish off the rolling stock with proven performance. We also love the raw aluminum frame, killer graphics and overall aggressive look of the bike.
Even on our first ride aboard the Meta Trail, it was clear that it was an outlier for the price point. Precision handling, killer looks and top notch bump compliance had us scratching our heads as to why other companies charge so much for less when it comes to spec and trail performance.
After spending the better part of a year aboard Marin’s flagship Wolf Ridge Xquare One bike, we were curious to throw a leg over their more affordable offerings. In fact, the 27.5 Hawk Hill is one of the most affordable bikes in this roundup, coming in at just 2,700 bucks. Thankfully the price isn’t indicative of performance. Because of the aggressive price point, you wont find any Factory Fox suspension. Instead, the Hawk Hill sports a 120mm Rock Shox Revelation RC up front and a 120mm Rock Shox Monarch RT Debonair out back. Shimano brakes and shifting are spec’d in the form of Deore brakes and an SLX GX drivetrain. Rims are an in-house Marin aluminum offering, with Formula hubs.
Marin’s ethos with the Hawk Hill was to make it poppy, playful and agile on the trail. The short travel bike employs a simple suspension design and an aluminum frame, but what it lacks in flash it makes up for in performance. It’s a solid climber and has ton’s of fun on the descents.
Though it may have the ugliest color scheme in the bunch, the Cascade proves itself to be a solid value. One unique feature is that the bike’s GA-Link geometry is adaptable to accommodate both 27.5- and 29-inch wheels. It’s the only bike in the round up to claim that ability. A 130mm Fox Float DPS Performance Series shock suspends the rear, while the front is damped by a 140mm Fox 34 Performance Elite Series 29er fork. From Fezzari, the bike comes with 27.5 WTB Scraper rims laced to Formula hubs. SRAM Level T brakes do the stopping while a GX Eagle derailleur manages the shifts. The Tetralink AT529 suspension offers a progressive curve, and a solid pedaling platform to put down power.
We questioned the 760mm bar and long stem combo, but a quick swap had us feeling much better on the bike. Thankfully everything else on the bike has surprised us with stellar performance. The rear suspension in particular blew us away considering the price point of the bike. This consumer direct rig may be a bit of an ugly duckling, but its actions on the trail thankfully speak louder than the lime green paint. Fezzari also offers a robust support network for customers in the form of a 23-point custom bike set up, a Love It or Return It policy, and a lifetime warranty!
Be sure to check back as we’ll be posting some detailed reviews of each one of these bitchin budget bikes over the next several weeks. Feel free to leave a comment below if you’d like to see some more affordable rigs in our roundup.
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