Which Mountain Bike is the Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike for Budget? We Look At Each Price Bracket!

Full Suspension Doesn’t Have to Break Your Budget. We look at six affordable options, including two full suspension bikes under $1000

Full suspension is the most common type of mountain bike. Hardtails have their place and are in many cases the best choice for the new or budget-conscious rider, but the shock absorption capability of a full suspension bike adds a level of comfort and opens up possibilities that you won’t usually find on a hardtail. Although full suspension bikes tend to be more expensive than hardtails that have similar components, they are still affordable.

TL;DR – What Is The Best Budget Full Suspension Mountain Bike?

Are you in a rush and need to know the best full suspension mountain bikes for under $100? These are my top picks for the best budget bikes available at various price points:

  • Bikes Direct Gravity (FSX): The Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Below $500
  • Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1000: Diamondback Atroz 2
  • Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1200: Mongoose Salvo Sport 29”
  • Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1500: Jamis Dakar XC
  • Giant Stance 2, the Best Full Suspension Mountain Bicycle (Tie)
  • Marin Hawk Hill 1 is the best budget full suspension mountain bike (Tie).

About Full Suspension

Full suspension bikes offer real benefits. It’s possible to take serious hits on a hardtail if you’re fit and you have good technique, but almost all serious riders prefer full suspension bikes when riding gnarly terrain. Riders over 50, those with knee problems, and riders who are less fit or have other physical limitations, as well as riders who just want to ride comfortably, will prefer suspension that absorbs bumps and impacts.

There are some disadvantages to full suspension, which can be magnified by low-priced bikes.

  • Weight. Full suspension bikes are equipped with pivots and linkage points which allow the rear triangle to move in relation to the front. They also provide a location to mount a shock absorber. This means that they are heavier than hardtails and use more metal.
  • Cost. Rear shocks cost a lot, and they also have heavier linkage components.
  • Efficiency of pedalling. Full suspension bikes are often susceptible to pedal-induced bob, which you’ll see as a tendency for the bike’s suspension to bounce up and down when climbing or pedaling on level ground. Bob is when your pedaling force is converted to forward motion and not up and down. This means you will have less speed and exert more effort. While many advanced rear shock and full suspension systems can be used to provide efficient pedaling for low-priced bikes, it is possible that they are not available on lower-priced models.
  • Complexity. Full suspension requires multiple moving parts, as well as a rear spring. These will often need adjustment in order to provide proper performance. That’s more things to potentially break and more things that require your attention.

Rear suspension design is complex and can quickly become extremely technical. You don’t have to become a suspension geek to buy a full suspension bike, but there are a few things you should understand and consider.

  • Rear shocks. There are many designs and types of rear shocks. There is a basic distinction between air and coil shocks. Coil shocks are often considered “plusher” and are frequently chosen for downhill or freeride bikes. They are also heavier and less flexible for riders’ weight. If your weight is greater or lower than the average, you might need to change the shock’s spring. Air shocks can be adjusted for weight by changing the air pressure in the shock’s chambers, and are preferred by many bike designers for this ease of adjustment. You’ll need a shock pump to add or release air!

Some rear shocks also offer a “platform” or “lockout” feature that prevents the shock from engaging under pedaling forces and limits pedal-induced bob. Many shocks also have rebound adjustment which is very important. If rebound – the speed at which a shock returns to full extension after being compressed – is too fast, the suspension will tend to bounce the rider up and potentially over the bars after a significant impact.

  • Suspension design. The majority of full suspension bikes are single-pivot designs. In these designs, the rear triangle turns on one pivot point. These designs can result in inefficient pedaling. The rear axle travels in an arc rather than vertically which can impact performance. While single pivot designs can be very effective, they can also limit pedaling efficiency for less expensive bikes.

Multi-pivot frames are more advanced and use a variety of techniques to control pedal-induced Bob and maintain rear axle travel as vertically as possible. Many of these designs are patentable and exclusive to one manufacturer.

Full suspension bikes that aren’t expensive will typically not have the best rear shocks or suspension designs. That doesn’t mean they can’t perform well, but you should expect some compromises. It is possible that you won’t get the same performance from a higher-end bike.

What You Can Expect from a Budget Full Suspension Bicycle

If you’re looking for a full suspension bike but you’re not prepared to part with the rather large sums of money needed to acquire a high end model, what can you expect? “Budget” can cover a considerable range in price and quality: the prices of the bikes on this list range from under $500 to almost $1600. There are some key factors that will help you decide what budget full suspension bikes to buy.

  • Aluminum frames. Budget frames are too costly to use carbon and budget steel frames tend be very heavy. Aluminum is a durable, lightweight frame material and the best choice for budget full suspension frames.
  • Short-term travel. For trail bikes, the suspension travel is typically 140-150mm and for freeride or downhill bikes it can be significantly higher. Budget suspension bikes typically offer 100mm to 130mm front and rear travel. This is sufficient for most trails, but not enough for jumps or drops.
  • Shimano drivetrain components. SRAM and Shimano are the market leaders in mountain bike drivetrains, while Shimano has more entry-level parts. That works in the buyer’s favor, as the technology and design of the higher-end parts trickles down to the entry level lines. Budget full suspension bikes are equipped with Shimano drivetrains. They range from the Altus line at the lowest end to the Deore components at the middle.
  • Hydraulic disc brakes. All bikes on this list have hydraulic disc brakes. Many bikes use Shimano brakes. However, there are also Tektro brakes that can be used on a variety of models.
  • Suspension components that are not expensive. Fox and RockShox dominate the suspension markets, but you won’t find their higher-end products on budget bikes. RockShox parts may be found on lower-end bikes, but you will see more RockShox forks or rear shocks from SR Suntour as well as X-Fusion. Although they may not have the same bling or adjustability as their higher-end counterparts, these parts are still effective and durable.
  • 5 or 29” wheels. These are the main mountain bike wheel sizes and they both have a wide variety of tires. Traditionally 27.5” wheels have been preferred by smaller riders and those who ride technical trails requiring agility, while 29” wheels have been used by those who ride long distances and are more likely to ride over obstacles than to dodge around them. That distinction has been blurred by the introduction of technically oriented 29” trail bikes, but it’s still worth considering.

Now that you know what to expect, let’s take a look at some of the best budget full suspension bikes.

Bikes Direct Gravity (FSX): The Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Below $500

Specifications

Frame MaterialAluminum

Angle of the Head Tube: 71°

Rear Suspension Type: Single Pivot, Travel Not Specified

Fork: Suntour SF, travel not specified

Rear ShockKS260 Coil, with Preload Adjust

Drivetrain: Shimano TX800 3×8

Brakes: Shimano BR-M315 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Kenda MultiTread 26” x 2”

Sizes: S, M. L, XL

Prices: $449.95

Bikes Direct is an exclusive online retailer of bicycles that sells direct-to-consumers. They offer extremely low prices. Direct-to-consumer models make it possible to offer such low prices without the need for middlemen or the expense of operating physical stores. Bikes Direct uses basic components and designs that are relatively simple.

Gravity FSX, the most affordable full suspension bike on the market, allows you to use standard-mount upgrades from major manufacturers. The Shimano hydraulic disk brakes offer exceptional value at this price, and the Shimano motor drivetrain, although it is made of lower-end components, will outperform many other comparable bikes.

This bike is priced at a high price so there will always be a downside. I have not ridden this bike or even seen it, and I haven’t read reviews other than those on the company site. Purely based on the pictures and specs, though, I’d expect this bike to be on the heavy side. The coil shock features a preload adjustment that controls the shock’s activation weight. This allows riders to adjust for their weight, while heavier riders might prefer an air-shock with a larger adjustment range. Due to its simple design and the relatively primitive shock, it could be susceptible to pedal-induced bobbing. The very steep 71 degree head angle also places the rider almost over the front wheel, and you’ll have to be careful to avoid going over the bars on steep descents. The 26” wheel size is largely regarded as obsolete and it may be difficult to replace tires and inner tubes.

Like most serious mountain bikers, I’d usually recommend a hardtail at this price point, but this is a real bike with adequate and upgradeable components. If you’re determined to go with full suspension and you’re aware of the potential drawbacks it’s an option to consider.

Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1000: Diamondback Atroz 2

Specifications

Type of Rear Suspension: Single Pivot, 100mm Travel

Angle of the Head Tube: 66.5°

Fork: SR Suntour XCM, 120mm travel

Rear ShockSuntour Raidon R with Rebound Adjust

Drivetrain: Shimano (mixed group)

Brakes: Shimano MT200 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Vee Tire FlowSnap, 27.5” X 2.35

SizesS, M and L

Prices: $1000.00

Although the Diamondback Atroz 2 is twice the price of the Gravity FSXX it’s still a great deal. Diamondback bikes are built to last and have been affordable for years. The Atroz 2 still makes some compromises, as you’d expect for the cheapest major-brand bike in its class, but it’s a capable and versatile ride that will not hold you back on the trails.

The Atroz 2 has 100mm rear travel and a 120mm SR Suntour Fork. This is not a huge hit, but it’s enough to absorb the bumps. Air shocks can be adjusted to suit riders of all weights. Just pump the pressure up to the desired level and you’re good to go. The mixed Shimano drivetrain and Shimano hydraulic brakes aren’t high-end but they will get the job done.

Modern geometry is one of the most appealing aspects of the Atroz 2. The bike features a narrow stem and a 66.5 degree head angle. It is stable enough to handle steep descents with ease, while the stem is short and the handlebar wide for speed control. For climbing efficiency, the seat tube angle is quite steep. The 27.5” wheels meet industry standards and are compatible with a wide range of tires.

The Diamondback Atroz 2 full suspension bike is an entry-level model. Its components reflect this, and the single pivot design won’t be the most efficient. It’s still a solid, trail-capable design, and it’s probably the cheapest full suspension bike that I could recommend for general trail riding that includes steep terrain.

Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1200: Mongoose Salvo Sport 29”

Specifications

Frame MaterialAluminium

Angle of the Head Tube: 69°

Rear Suspension Type: Modified Horst Link, 100mm Travel

ForkXPosure HL525AMS, with Lockout

Rear Shock: X-Fusion Air, 110mm travel

Drivetrain: Shimano Altus 2×9

BrakesTektro HD M290 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Kenda Nevegal, 29” X 2.25”

SizesS, M and L

Prices: $1,169.00

Mongoose is a well-known brand that has established itself at the lower end in the serious mountain bike market. It offers quality, well-designed bikes at a much lower price than other major brands. The Salvo Sport is a solid entry for riders who prefer the larger 29” wheels, and is probably the cheapest full-suspension mountain bike to use the more sophisticated and bob-resistant Horst link suspension system.

Salvo Sport, like the Atroz 2, relies on lower-end components made by reliable manufacturers. These may not score you any bling points at the bike shop, but they’ll do the job on the trail and you can upgrade them as you go along. The suspension components, while basic, are well-chosen, and can be adjusted to make your ride more comfortable. The frame geometry is a bit steeper and more cross-country oriented than that of the Atroz 2, but that’s consistent with the larger wheel size, which tends to the first choice of cross country riders.

The Salvo Sport is a serious contender in the budget full suspension category and will have particular appeal to taller riders or riders that are oriented toward riding long distances, where 29” wheels have significant advantages.

Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1500: Jamis Dakar XC

Specs

Frame MaterialAluminum

Angle of the Head Tube: 71°

Type of Rear Suspension: MP2 Suspension, 100mm Travel

Fork: RockShox 30 Silver, Adjustable Rebound, 100mm Travel

Rear ShockRockShox Monarch, Adjustable Return

Drivetrain: Shimano Deore 2×10

Brakes: Shimano M365 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Vittoria Mezcal, 27.5” X 2.25”

Sizes: S, M. L, XL

Prices: $1,399.00

Jamis Dakar XC is a budget-friendly suspension bike that has been in production for many decades. It has gone through numerous changes and upgrades in that time, but as always, it’s a solid cross country-oriented bike with relatively steep angles, well adapted to distance riding and flowing trails, less well adapted to steep descents and very rough surfaces.

The Dakar XC is all business. The Dakar XC’s suspension duties are performed by an entry-level RockShox fork, and a rear shock. This makes it one of the most affordable full suspension bikes that features suspension from a premium manufacturer. Jamis MP2 is a suspension system that improves pedaling efficiency. Shimano Deore is a significant upgrade to the lower-priced Altus, Acera and Alivio drives. The Shimano M365 hydraulic disc brakes stop you reliably and smoothly.

This bike is well-designed and made by a respected manufacturer. It also has quality components. If you’re looking for a full suspension bike for cross country and light trail riding it’s an excellent and affordable choice. If you’re looking to ride steep descents and gnarly trails you might want to look for a bike with a slacker head tube angle.

Giant Stance 2, the Best Full Suspension Mountain Bicycle (Tie)

Specifications

Frame MaterialAluminum

Angle of the Head Tube: 67.5°

Type of rear suspensionGiant FlexPoint Suspension 120mm Travel

Fork: Suntour Raidon 34, 130mm Travel

Rear Shock: Suntour Raidon R

Drivetrain: SRAM SX Eagle, 1 X 12

Brakes: Shimano MT200 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Maxxis Recon (F) and Ardent Race (R), 27.5” X 2.6”

Sizes: S, M. L, XL

Prices: $1,550.00

Taiwan-based Giant is the world’s largest bike manufacturer, and has a reputation for delivering quality and value at every price point where the brand is represented. The Stance is Giant’s least expensive full-suspension mountain bike, but not many corners have been cut here: you’re getting modern geometry, efficient suspension design, and a very solid component package that fully justifies the price. The Stance 2 is more expensive than some of the other bikes on this list but it’s fully competitive with bikes that cost much more.

Giant hires SR Suntour as suspension specialists for the Stance 2 and the Raidon shock and fork will provide the performance that you need. Raidon’s 34mm stanchions will be more rigid than the 30mm standard stanchions found on budget forks. This makes it a great choice for heavier riders. The air shock can also be adjusted for different riders weights. Heavy riders will appreciate the extra stiffness of 15mm through axles. Giant has been creating innovative suspension designs for years. The Stance 2 will deliver a comfortable cushion and good pedaling efficiency. The SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain, and Shimano hydraulic disk brakes, are strong and reliable and will provide reliable performance. The 1×12 drivetrain is compatible with higher-end SRAM components if you wish to upgrade.

As you’d expect from Giant, the Stance 2 offers versatile, all-around design with moderately slack angles well suited to general trail riding. You can fit almost any age rider, whether you’re an adult or a youth. The bike looks great and can easily be mistakenly compared to a higher-end bike. If you’re looking for an all-around full suspension bike and you don’t mind beefing up the budget a bit, the Stance 2 gets you a bike that you can ride for years without feeling like your equipment is holding you back.

Marin Hawk Hill 1 is the best budget full suspension mountain bike (Tie).

Specifications

Frame MaterialAluminum

Angle of the Head Tube: 66.5°

Rear Suspension TypeMultiTrac Suspension, 120mm Travel

Fork: RockShox Recon RL, 130mm Travel

Rear Shock: X-Fusion 02

Drivetrain: Shimano Deore 1×10

Brakes: Shimano BR-MT201 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Vee Tire Crown Gem, 27.5” X 2.3”

SizesXS, S. M. L., XL

Prices: $1,599.00

In the contest for best budget suspension bike, the Marin Hawk Hill 1 finishes in a dead heat to the Giant Stance 2 I’d be hard pressed to say which of these bikes is better, and either one will deliver exceptional value and trail capabilities. They share a similar suspension setup: 120mm at their rear, 130 at the front. This makes them suitable for most trail riding. Both bikes use 27.5” wheels, a good all-around choice. The Stance 2 features a 12 speed drivetrain that is slightly more versatile. Hawk Hill has a slightly more relaxed head tube angle. This places the front wheel closer to the rider and gives extra stability when climbing steep hills.

Marin Hawk Hill 1 has an XS-size and the lowest standover height of any budget full suspension bikes reviewed. This makes it an excellent choice for small-framed women, and anyone who wants a low standover height. The 9 and 12mm through axles aren’t quite as burly as the 15mm axles on the Stance 2, but should be more than adequate for most riders. The Marin Hawk Hill’s all Shimano drivetrain, including the brake package, is excellent and will deliver high-quality performance.

Like the Giant Stance 2, the Marin Hawk Hill 1 is at the upper end of the “budget full suspension” price bracket. The quality of the design, materials and components are comparable to those of much more expensive bikes. This makes it an excellent choice for serious trail riders on a tight budget.

The bottom line

Full suspension bikes can be more costly than hardtails with similar components. It is worth considering a hardtail if you have a limited budget. If you prefer full suspension and you’re willing to bump the budget up a bit, you can get fully serviceable full suspension bikes for $1000 to $1400 and quite good full suspension bikes for $1550 to $1600. That’s still a substantial amount of money for a bicycle, but compared to what you’d spend on a premium full suspension bike they start to look like real bargains, especially when you consider that the performance is likely to be largely equal. If you want that extra comfort and control that full suspension provides, you don’t have to break the bank to get it!

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