Best Bikes For Hiking Trails | PedalChef

Key Takeaways

  • The best all-around full-suspension trail bike: Norco Optic C2
  • The best all-around hardtail trail bike: Santa Cruz Chameleon 8
  • The best-value trail bike: Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29

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If you are looking for a bike to take on your favorite hiking trails, there is no better option than a quality MTB with the specs to meet your riding needs.

The best bikes for hiking trails are:

  • Norco Optic C2
  • Boardman MTR 8.9
  • Canyon Spectral 29 CF8
  • Cannondale Habit 5
  • Mondraker Raze Carbon RR
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon 8
  • Cannondale Scalpel HT HI-MOD 1
  • Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29
  • Polygon Premier 4
  • Yeti ARC

After extensively researching mountain bikes, I have gathered enough information to determine the best MTBs for hiking trails. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the specs and performance capabilities of various mountain bikes to help you choose a suitable model for trail riding.



Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes for Hiking Trails

The toughest decision many trail riders are faced with is choosing between a full-suspension and a hardtail MTB. Traditionally, most trail riders would opt for a hardtail given the lighter weight, but the advancements made in bike technology and design in recent years will encourage even the most seasoned mountain bike riders to consider a full-suspension model.

As the name implies, full-suspension MTBs feature an additional rear shock that significantly dampens ride rigidity on adverse trails. This can drastically improve performance and it can also make rides on hiking trails a lot more comfortable, regardless of grade and intensity.

While previous-generation full-suspension MTBs often hindered performance due to increased weight from added parts, modern models are equipped with superior specs and components that keep the weight of the bike surprisingly low. So much so that full-suspension mountain bikes are now being used by XC riders in professional races.

There are a lot of great full-suspension mountain bikes on the market, but you ultimately need to consider your riding needs as well as your budget. Given that full-suspension MTBs feature additional parts and components, the price of these models can often be higher than hardtails. That said, if you want a more forgiving and comfortable ride that will lower your chances of getting bucked over the bars on a trail, full suspension is the way to go.

1. Norco Optic C2 (Best All-Around Full-Suspension MTB)

Norco Optic C2
Norco Optic C2


  • 29er
  • Carbon Fiber and Aluminum Frame
  • 125mm Rear Shock
  • 140mm Front Fork
  • Shimano and Praxis Drivetrain


When you get behind the wheel of the Norco Optic C2 the first thing you will notice is the exceptional geometry. Most riders immediately click with the Optic C2, as it fits like a glove and rides even better. The seating position takes comfort to a whole new level and the rear suspension does wonders at absorbing every rock, root, and bump.

This full-suspension MTB was designed with a quality carbon frame and Shimano parts. The specs and performance capabilities of this model make it suitable for expert and intermediate-level trails.

Norco goes above and beyond with its Ride Aligned Design System. Using their setup guide, you can custom-fit your Optic C2 to your exact height, weight, and skill level to ensure that you have an optimal riding experience every time you hit the trail. This factor alone significantly improves riding confidence and it encourages riders of all experience levels to enhance their skills.

The Optic C2 features a 140mm front suspension fork and a 125mm rear shock that eats up anything you throw at it. With top-notch steering geometry, you can smash through adverse descents without compromising stability or precision - allowing you to stay consistent with speed, even on intense and adverse trails.

Who Should Buy the Norco Optic C2?

The Norco Optic C2 is a superior full-suspension mountain bike that offers riders the best of both comfort and performance. This is a professional-level MTB suitable for any experienced trail rider or an ideal candidate for an amateur that wants to level up their game.

Norco offers a wide variety of Optic model variations other than the C2 so that riders can choose an MTB that meets their riding needs as well as their budget. Whether you are looking for an enhanced model with SRAM components or a lower-end option with downgraded specs, the Norco Optic C2 is a force to be reckoned with and is hands down one of the best full-suspension trail bikes that money can buy.

My only criticism is that some riders may find the Optic 2 less rigid than what they are used to with hardtails, and even many full-suspension models. Trail riders looking for a comfortable and agile machine that will soften their landings will appreciate the specs and performance of the Norco Optic 2.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Quality Shimano parts Aluminum rear triangle
Superior C2 carbon frame
Ride Align Setup (for comfort)

Where to Buy

2. Boardman MTR 8.9 (Best Budget-Friendly Full-Suspension MTB)

Boardman MTR 8.9
Boardman MTR 8.9


  • 29er
  • X7 Triple-Butted Alloy Frame
  • RockShox Front Fork
  • 12-Speed NX Eagle SRAM Drivetrain
  • SRAM 4-piston Brakes


Broadman equipped the MTR 8.9 with a RockShox front fork and NX Eagle drivetrain from SRAM. With 12-speeds to choose from, you can hit your favorite hiking trails with excellent adaptability, allowing you to conquer ups and downs without sacrificing performance.

The MTR 8.9 has identical geometry to the advanced 9.0 model, but with a quality X7 triple-butted alloy frame instead. While this may steer away XC competitors looking for optimal speed, many riders appreciate the rigidity and durability of an enhanced alloy frame. You can ride with more aggression and confidence knowing that the Broadman 8.9 will not crack under pressure when faced with adversity.

Who Should Buy the Boardman MTR 8.9

The MTR 8.9 may not be the best full-suspension mountain bike in Broadman’s line-up, but it's a quality bang for your buck option - offering world-class performance and design at a fraction of the cost of most of the competition.  If you are shopping on a budget and want a top-notch MTB, don’t overlook the Broadman MTR 8.9.

Building a superior MTB in the $2,000 range is a challenge for a lot of manufacturers, especially for full-suspension models like the MTR 8.9. Superior specs and components come at a cost but Broadman does not disappoint or cut corners with this MTB, making it one of the best-value trail bikes out right now - aimed at buyers who can’t afford to splurge.

Despite the top-notch performance capabilities of this machine, it does have a handful of flaws that trail riders should consider. Professional riders will prefer a more advanced model given that this bike will not hold up a competition. Riding performance tends to diminish when trail conditions become intense, as Broadman designed the MRT 8.9 for speed and agility rather than harsh terrain.

While this may be a red flag for some seasoned riders, anyone looking for a reliable full-suspension mountain bike that can do a bit of everything will not be disappointed by the Broadman 8.9. This is a top-notch MTB that can handle (just about) anything you throw at, making it a great value all-rounder for its price.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Excellent value for money Will not hold up in a competition
Top-notch SRAM 4-piston brakes Better for speed rather than adverse terrain
Quality aluminum frame

Where to Buy

3. Canyon Spectral 29 CF8 (Best Performance Full-Suspension MTB)

Canyon Spectral 29 CF8
Canyon Spectral 29 CF8


  • 29er
  • Carbon Frame
  • 160mm Suspension Fork
  • Shimano Deore 12-Speed Drivetrain
  • Fox 36 Elite Grip 2


Canyon designed the Spectral 29 CF8 to take on any trail in the world, which is why so many experienced riders are prioritizing the Spectral 29 CF8 over virtually any other mountain bike. The top-level carbon frame and 160mm suspension fork will drastically enhance your performance on aggressive trails.

This is an agile machine with excellent balance and control. You can confidently ride on hiking trails with various types of grades and shred like a total pro. The front and rear suspensions are impeccable and will dampen the conditions of even the most adverse trails out there. You can hit your ascents with pure confidence knowing the Canyon Spectral’s 29-inch wheels will roll over the terrain like butter.

Canyon designed this bike with a top-notch Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain and a Fox 36 Elite Grip 2. This makes the Spectral 29 CF8 an elite and dynamic bike with exceptional downhill performance. However, I found the build of this bike made it less advantageous as a climber. The bulky design may hinder some of your climbs but with the level of control and stability of this MTB, you can still count on it for pro-level trails.

Who Should Buy the Canyon Spectral 29 CF8?

Riders who value performance first and foremost should not overlook the Canyon Spectral 29 CF8. This is a tier-1 full-suspension MTB with the capabilities to prove it.

The Spectral 29 CF8 is a comfortable ride through and through. If you want a bike that you can ride for hours on end without cramps, this Canyon model is definitely worth considering. Canyon lets you enter your exact measurements and will design a frame that is tailor-made to your height and weight.

As I already mentioned, the price of this bike may make it out of reach for most riders. With a price tag of over $5,000, the Canyon Spectral 29 CF8 is not cheap, but well worth the money for trail riders looking for a quality full-suspension MTB.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Unique rear shock Expensive
Superior carbon frame Climbing performance could be better
Customizable geometry

Where to Buy

4. Cannondale Habit 5 (Best-Value Full-Suspension MTB)

Cannondale Habit 5
Cannondale Habit 5


  • 29er
  • SmartForm C1 Alloy frame
  • Shimano Deore 11-Speed Drivetrain
  • Maxxis Arden Tires
  • Tektro M275 Hydraulic Disc


While the Cannondale Habit 5 does not feature a carbon frame or fork, the quality aluminum used is very lightweight and extremely durable. You can confidently shred your favorite trails without having to worry about premature wear and tear. The industry has glamorized carbon MTBs for their lightweight characteristics but quality aluminum frames and forks are becoming go-to picks among many die-hard riders these days.

Cannondale designed the Habit 5 with top-notch Shimano components which can be found in the shifters, brake levers, cassette, derailleur, and more. The Maxxis Ardent tires fitted on the Habit 5’s 29-inch wheels enable this MTB to roll over pretty much anything you encounter on a hiking trail. You can also fine-tune this bike to fit your build and riding style thanks to Cannodale’s customization options.

Who Should Buy the Cannondale Habit 5

Not every rider is out to win a competition or set a new trail record - and that’s fine! Many people just want to hit their favorite trails on a reliable MTB that offers balanced performance for a variety of different conditions. If that sounds like you, the Cannondale Habit 5 is a solid option.

Cannondale is one of the most respected bike manufacturers in the world and their mountain bike line-up gets more impressive with each passing year. The Habit 5 is not a showstopper by any means, but it's not trying to be either. This is a full-suspension mountain bike with balanced specs and performance for beginner and intermediate-level riders looking to get their feet wet with trail riding.

The suspension can be easily adjusted to match your riding style, and you can make changes based on the conditions of the trail you are hitting. For a bike near the $2,000 range, the Cannondale Habit 5 does not disappoint. This is a quality full-suspension MTB with balanced specs making it one of the best intro/intermediate-level bikes on our list.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Great value for money Ride quality diminishes on adverse trails
Top-notch alloy frame
Versatile for a budget MTB

Where to Buy

5. Mondraker Raze Carbon RR (Best Speed Performance Full-Suspension MTB)

Mondraker Raze Carbon RR
Mondraker Raze Carbon RR


  • 29er
  • Stealth Air Full Carbon Frame
  • 150mm Fox 36 Front Fork
  • Fox Float DPS
  • SRAM Parts


The Mondraker Raze Carbon RR is a unique full-suspension MTB that excels in speed and agility. This full-suspension model features a quality rear shock that stands out amongst the competition, offering riders an edge on the trail.

Mondraker equipped this 29er with a Stealth Air Full Carbon frame that keeps the weight of the bike very low. The light frame combined with the Fox Float DPS and 150mm Fox 36 front fork makes this one of the most agile full-suspension MTBs on our list.

Mondraker focused on making this model as responsive as possible so that you can ride with absolute precision and confidence on your favorite hiking trails. This makes the Raze Carbon RR much less rigid and a lot more comfortable when faced with rough terrain, which is a key selling point for a lot of trail riders.

You will find quality SRAM components throughout the bottom bracket, derailleur, shift levers, and cassette. Given the use of carbon materials, the Raze Carbon RR weighs in at just 28.8 lbs with a lot of potential for speed and control. This full-suspension MTB is ideal for trails given how adaptable it is to grade changes and trail conditions.

Who Should Buy the Mondraker Raze Carbon RR?

Speed performance is where this MTB really shines and any rider that wants to level up their downhill game will rejoice in this full-suspension model.

Given the internal cable wiring of this machine, the bike looks very clean and has a polished finish for anyone who values riding a presentable MTB. That said, one of the key features of the Raze Carbon RR is its MIND system. This is essentially a suspension system that allows you to track your performance on the trail so that you can make adjustments to improve your rides.

With the MIND system engaged, your riding data will be collected as you hit trails, which you can later review in the app. This can be a game-changer for a lot of people who want to up their skills, as you have the data to use as a reference point for your adjustments.

All in all, this is a top-notch full-suspension MTB suitable for riders of all experience levels. The quality parts and components are guaranteed to increase performance, especially if you make use of the MIND system after trail riding. The biggest drawback of this bike is its price tag, which is shockingly high. If you are shopping on a budget, you can pretty much forget about the Raze Carbon RR.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Very fast and versatile Expensive
MIND performance tracking
Superior carbon frame

Where to Buy

Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes for Hiking Trails

Many die-hard mountain bikers refuse to conform to full-suspension MTBs, and understandably so. Since the golden era of mountain biking in the 80s and 90s, hardtails have been standardized across riding competitions. They are lighter, cheaper, and tend to offer increased rigidity and control.

Unlike full-suspension mountain bikes, hardtail trail bikes do not feature a rear shock. While this may be less forgiving on your rear end, most experts will advise intro-level riders to start out on a hardtail. These MTBs encourage you to have a more intimate connection with your bike and they come with a huge variety of benefits that full-suspension models don’t have.

To start, they are generally lighter than full-suspension bikes given that there are fewer components in the design. XC riders and professional racers still prefer hardtails for this reason alone, as it gives you an edge in competitions. That said, with fewer components you can also expect cheaper costs. Hardtails are exceptional performers and are more suitable for budget riders who want a quality MTB at a considerably lower price point than a full-suspension model.

In addition, hardtails are also cheaper to maintain in the long run. Mountain bikes take a beating and repairs can add up over the years, adding hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the total costs of owning an MTB. The minimalistic design of hardtails mitigates these costs and allows you to shred on a budget. Nonetheless, each hardtail is different, and you need to consider the specs and performance of each model carefully to determine which one is right for your trail riding needs.

1. Santa Cruz Chameleon 8 (Best All-Around Hardtail MTB)

Santa Cruz Chameleon 8
Santa Cruz Chameleon 8


  • 29 or 27-Inch Wheels
  • 6000 Series Aluminum Frame
  • Fox Rhythm Fork
  • SRAM NX Eagle Derailleur
  • SRAM Guide T Disc Brakes


The Santa Cruz Chameleon 8 is a mean hardtail with explosive power. The frame is made out of a quality 6000 series aluminum that is both light and incredibly durable. If you are the type of trail rider that values aggression but worries about damaging your bike, the Chameleon 8 is a hardtail that will not let you down.

Comfort is a key feature of this hardtail, as the geometry encourages you to ride without stopping. You can shred for hours without feeling stiffness, even on some of the most hard-hitting hiking trails.

Santa Cruz did not hold back on parts and components when designing this model, as it’s equipped with a quality Fox Rhythm fork and top-notch disc brakes. My only real complaint is that the bike weighs a bit heavy for a hardtail with these specs, which mainly has to do with the use of aluminum over carbon fiber. While this may be a drawback for an XC circuit, most riders tolerate the slightly heavier weight for the lower price tag.

Lastly, as with many Santa Cruz MTBs, the manufacturer includes a lifetime warranty on the frame. This type of quality assurance is a good sign that this bike will last you for years or decades if you treat it right.

Who Should Buy the Cannondale Chameleon 8?

The Chameleon 8 is a top-notch MTB suitable for virtually any hiking trail in the world. Whether you want something for casual rides on light terrain or a machine that can handle extremely adverse conditions, the Chameleon 8 can do it all. This is an all-arounder through and through which is why many experienced riders prefer this Santa Cruz mountain bike over any other hardtail.

Santa Cruz designed this model to fit a variety of different riders. Unlike many of the MTBs on our list, this hardtail is available in standard 29-inch wheels as well as variations such as 27.5 for smaller riders.

This is a versatile bike that adapts incredibly well to different types of terrain and riding styles. If you want an MTB that can do a bit of everything, look no further.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Extremely versatile Weight is a bit heavy for a hardtail
Great value for money
Available as a 27.5 and 29

Where to Buy

2. Cannondale Scalpel HT HI-MOD 1 (Best XC Hardtail MTB)

Cannondale Scalpel HT HI-MOD 1
Cannondale Scalpel HT HI-MOD 1


  • 29er
  • Hi-MOD Carbon Frame
  • Carbon 110mm fork
  • Shimano 12-Speed Group Set
  • Carbon Fiber Bar and Post


One of the best things about riding a hardtail is not having to haul around as much weight. The Cannondale Scalpel HT HI-MOD is a tier-1 hardtail designed to conquer some of the world’s most advanced XC circuits.

This model weighs in at just a mere 21.6 lbs making it one of the lightest cross-country bikes that money can buy. The exceptional geometry features a 65.5-degree slack angle which significantly improves handling and performance on a trail. You can ride with absolute precision and confidence on hiking trails, regardless of how adverse the terrain is.

Naturally, with the weight of the bike being so low, you can expect a top-notch ultralight Hi-MOD carbon frame. This Cannondale XC MTB also features carbon fiber components such as the Lefty Ocho 110mm fork and HollowGram carbon wheelset.

In addition, the Scalpel HT HI-MOD is also designed with superior Shimano parts throughout the groupset as well as custom components from Cannondale like the carbon bar and post. All in all, this is a top-of-the-line carbon fiber MTB that was built for endurance and sheer speed, giving any XC rider a major edge in a race.

Who Should Buy the Cannondale Scalpel HT HI-MOD 1?

Cannondale spared no expense when designing this superior XC mountain bike, as every detail of this bike was masterfully crafted. That said, premium parts and components do come at a price, which is why this MTB costs $5,000+.

This is not a bike for an amateur or intro rider. The Cannondale Scalpel HT HI-MOD 1 is an XC machine intended for seasoned riders and competitors. If you don’t mind the hefty price tag, this is an XC MTB that does not disappoint.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Very lightweight Expensive for budget riders
Superior carbon fiber parts
Ideal for XC riders

Where to Buy

3. Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29 (Best-Value Hardtail MTB)

Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29
Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29


  • 29er or 27.5
  • Specialized A1 Alloy Frame
  • RockShox Judy Fork
  • Shimano BR-MT200 Hydraulic Disc Brakes
  • Specialized Fast Trak Tires


The Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29 is exceptional and features advanced specs that are rarely seen on an MTB at this price. Specialized equipped this bike with a quality air-spring RockShox fork and tubeless wheels. You’ve got a solid range of gears to choose from thanks to the 11-speed Shimano drivetrain and you even have different size options depending on your height and weight.

The Rockhopper Elite 29 is available in standard 29-inch wheels as well as a 27.5 option. The overall aesthetic of the bike is clean and presentable due to the internal cable housing which gives the bike a minimalistic look.

Specialized built the Rockhopper Elite 29 with a quality alloy frame. This is one of the key reasons why the bike is priced so low, but even Specialized’s low-end frames are nothing short of quality.

While this hardtail may not match the speed of an XC MTB or the performance of a high-end model, the real selling point of the Rockhopper Elite 29 is its price. This hardtail costs just over $1,000 which is shockingly low given the specs. The Rockhopper Elite 29 is by no means the best mountain bike you can buy, but it’s hands down the best-value model on our list - making it a perfect option for riders who want a top-notch hardtail on a budget.

Who Should Buy the Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29?

Finding a quality MTB on a budget can be a major challenge for riders who don’t have 5k to dish out on a top-level bike. While Specialized is generally regarded for its elite and insanely expensive mountain bikes, they also feature some of the best value models on the market.

The Specialized Rockhopper Elite 29 is the perfect example of a quality MTB that does not cost a fortune. If you want to shred your favorite hiking trails on a reliable bike that will break the bank, look no further.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Excellent value for money Nothing that stands out for the price
Top-notch Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
Available in both 29 and 27.5

Where to Buy

4. Polygon Premier 4 (Best Budget-Friendly Hardtail MTB)

Polygon Premier 4
Polygon Premier 4


  • ALUTECH XC SPORT Aluminum Frame
  • Shimano ALTUS SL-M315, 2x8-SPEED
  • Hydraulic Disc Brakes


The Polygon Premier 4 is not out to win a race or challenge the competition. This is a very solid intro-level hardtail suitable for any rider that wants to get their feet wet with the sport before committing to a high-end model. The Premier 4 features a durable and reliable aluminum frame and a 120mm travel fork from Suntour. This hardtail has exceptional hydraulic disc brakes and a solid range of 8 gears to help you tackle grade changes.

I particularly appreciated the upright geometry that lets riders enjoy a sense of comfort while they shred. One of the most challenging things about starting out in mountain biking is finding a comfortable bike that does not make you cramp up in the first few miles, which is exactly what Polygon delivers with the Premier 4.

Despite the affordable price tag, Polygon still equipped this hardtail with quality parts from Shimano which can be found throughout parts of the drivetrain such as the shifter, derailleur, and cassette.

Who Should Buy the Polygon Premier 4?

It’s rare to see a mountain bike in the $500 range qualify for legitimate trail riding, but Polygon somehow pulled it off with the Premier 4. This is the ultimate budget-friendly hardtail and it’s the ideal option for anyone who wants to start trail riding without splurging on an expensive model.

As I already mentioned, you should not expect to win a race with the Premier 4, but you get exceptional value for what you pay. The parts featured on this hardtail are on point, and you will rarely (if ever) find these components in an MTB that costs $500. This is the perfect starting point for anyone looking to try out trail riding and you can do so on a guilt-free budget with the Premier 4.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Very budget-friendly Not the best performer
Hydraulic disc brakes
Quality Shimano and Suntour components

Where to Buy

5. Yeti ARC (Best Performance Hardtail MTB)

Yeti ARC
Yeti ARC


  • 29er
  • C2 TURQ series carbon
  • Fox Factory 34 Fork
  • SRAM XX1 Eagle Drivetrain
  • DT SWISS XM1700 30MM Wheel


The Yeti ARC is a ruthless enduro bike that will enhance the performance of any trail rider out there. This is a masterfully crafted hardtail with exceptional specs and capabilities through and through, and it’s hands down one of the best mountain bikes that money can buy.

Since the return of the ARC, this bike has been on the wishlist of many serious riders. This hardtail is equipped with a top-of-the-line carbon frame and a 130mm Fox Factory 34 travel fork. While the ARC may qualify as an all-arounder to some extent, it really shines on descents making it perfect for downhill racing.

Yeti’s TURQ carbon construction offers some of the best carbon fiber used in the entire mountain biking industry. This material is incredibly lightweight and durable ensuring that you get the best of both performance and longevity in your rides. That said, if you have any doubts about the quality of this frame, Yeti has backed it with a lifetime warranty.

Yeti spares no expense when designing their enduro bikes. The ARC is equipped with premium components from SRAM such as the XX1 Eagle drivetrain. However, the ARC is also available in a variety of different trims depending on the specs and capabilities you are looking for.

Who Should Buy the Yeti Arc?

Despite the phenomenal specs of the ARC, the biggest drawback of this MTB is the price. Yeti makes premium mountain bikes first and foremost and you should expect to pay at least $4,000 to $5,000 for even a basic trim of the ARC. Aside from the price, this is an exception hardtail suitable for virtually any hiking trail in the world.

The Yeti ARC is intended for experienced and seasoned riders who want a top-of-the-line MTB. Given the price tag, this Yeti hardtail is not going to be an option for anyone shopping on a budget.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Elite carbon frame Expensive
Carbon fiber wheelset and fork
Top-notch descent performance

Where to Buy

How to Choose a Bike for Hiking Trails

Trail riding is more popular than ever, and with mountain biking technology becoming more advanced each year, there is a huge variety of MTBs on the market. That said, with so many options available, selecting the right bike can seem rather intimidating.

You need to carefully evaluate the specs and characteristics of each model to ensure that you pick the right bike for your riding needs. To help you with your decision-making, review the following factors, as this will help narrow down your options.

Full Suspension vs Hardtail Mountain Bikes

Unless you are riding on paved or casual dirt tracks, nothing will deliver performance better on a hiking trail than a mountain bike. These bikes are designed to take on adverse terrain and a quality MTB will not quit on you, regardless of the trail conditions.

However, the toughest choice is deciding between a full suspension and a hardtail mountain bike. Both are great, especially now that full-suspension models are becoming lighter and more accessible.

Regardless, some riders are going to prefer one option over the other. Review the following charts and weigh out the characteristics of each MTB classification to determine the best trail bike for you.

Hardtail: Pros vs Cons

Pros (Hardtail) Cons (Hardtail)
Cheaper Fewer Adjustment Options
Lighter Weight Less Stable
Better for Climbing Less Comfort
Fast and Efficient Fewer Technology Features

Full-Suspension: Pros vs Cons

Pros (Full-Suspension) Cons (Full-Suspension)
Comfort Expensive
Stability Costly Repairs
Advanced Technology Features Heavier Weight
Better Absorption Less Efficient Climbing


Mountain biking is not a cheap hobby and buying a high-end machine can easily set you back thousands of dollars. While it may seem tempting to opt for a cheaper MTB, I would advise against it.

The most important thing any rider needs to consider is how reliable their bike is. While cheap bikes may be suitable for casual rides in urban areas, trail riding puts a lot of strain on a bike - with cheap parts often cracking under pressure.

Always assess the specs of each model carefully to ensure that you are getting your money’s worth. And remember, there is a big difference between a cheap bike made with shabby components and a good-value bike made with quality parts at a reasonable price.

If you want a decent MTB without breaking the bank, hardtail mountain bikes generally offer advanced specs at a much cheaper price compared to full suspension.

Frame Material

Your bike frame plays a key role in determining performance and reliability. Since the introduction of carbon fiber into mountain biking, this has been the most sought-after frame material for an MTB. It’s light, durable, and extremely reliable for speed and performance.

Needless to say, it’s also the most expensive frame material that you will come across. While I always recommend carbon fiber frames over anything else, the advancements made in aluminum frames in recent years have encouraged many riders to consider alternatives to carbon fiber.

Aluminum frames may weigh a bit more but a quality option should only add a few extra pounds to the total weight of the bike - at a fraction of the price of a carbon fiber frame.

Wheel Size

Most people prefer to ride 29ers, as this generally matches the height and weight of the average rider. 29-inch wheels offer excellent roll and you will probably experience increased performance by sticking to this wheel size.

However, a 29-inch wheel is not going to be suitable for every trail rider. Shorter riders will greatly benefit from a 27.5-inch wheel (or smaller). As you review mountain bikes on our list, keep your height and body composition in mind as this can be the key selling point of some bikes.


Riding a bike on a hiking trail for hours can take a huge toll on your body. The never-ending impact felt on adverse terrain can become very uncomfortable and even result in injury.

That is why comfort is a selling point for so many riders. You want to ensure that you are riding a bike that is going to meet your comfort needs, especially if you are planning on hitting rough trails.

If comfort is your first priority, full-suspension bikes are the way to go. The increased comfort will let you ride for longer and will reduce the risk of injury. To ensure that you are buying a bike that meets your comfort level, I would recommend going to your local bike shop to test ride a full-suspension and hardtail model.

Trail Conditions

Are you looking for an all-arounder that can tackle any type of trail, regardless of its conditions? Or do you simply want a reliable MTB to hit your local hiking trail?

While advanced trails will require a top-level MTB, casual trails can be ridden with lower-end models. You should reflect on the type of terrain you want to ride and choose a trail bike with specs suitable for the conditions.

Rider Experience

Seasoned mountain bikers that have a lot of experience on trails generally know exactly what they are looking for. However, if you are new to trail riding and are just looking to get your feet wet with the sport, you may not want to opt for the most expensive MTB model right out of the gate.

There are a lot of budget-friendly MTBs suitable for intro-level riders. Most people who start out mountain biking tend to buy an affordable bike first before committing to an advanced model. As a general rule of thumb, hardtails are considered to be a better entry-level mountain bike due to their price and minimalistic design.

Bike Weight

The weight of your bike can play a huge role in how well you handle trails. XC bikes are very lightweight and offer exceptional perks in speed. That said, not every MTB needs to weigh under 20 lbs.

Most riders that are not looking to compete do just fine with any bike that weighs under 35 lbs. So long as your mountain bike does not weigh more than this, it should be suitable for trail riding.