We get to test a lot of mountain bikes here at Singletracks, but admittedly they don’t often fall under the $3,200 price point. That’s part of the reason I came up short recently when some friends were asking for recommendations. Full-suspension bikes often start at a price upward of $3,000 and some of the bikes that generate the most conversation on the internet are three times that amount, leaving the feeling in the air that all full-suspension bikes are out of reach for some budgets.
But, there are some outstanding options out there now. While some mountain bikes are more expensive than ever, especially with electronically-operated components now on the market, the value-oriented bikes on this list indicate that as a whole, quality mountain bikes have likely become more attainable. All of the bikes on this list are from brands that we work with often for reviews, and though these brands might have a $10,000+ bike in their catalog, their $2,500 bike often has the same geometry and suspension design.
We don’t want to make this a listicle for the sake of getting readers to find out who made the list, but rather to help steer someone toward a great, value-oriented full-suspension trail bike. We’ll highlight the bike, talk about why we’d recommend it, and note where it might fall short in some areas. It’s also worth noting that we haven’t checked availability on most of these, and there’s a good chance they could be hard to find, though not impossible. Call your local bike shops and ask around, and you may have some luck.
The following bikes are ordered by price, from least to most expensive, with all priced under $3,200USD.
Marin Rift Zone 29 2: $2,349
Marin is known for making great bikes at a decent price. The Rift Zone 29 2 is as the model name indicates a 29er, with an aluminum frame, and it comes in sizes S-XL. The Rift Zone has 125mm of rear travel and comes with a 130mm fork.
Why we recommend it: The Rift Zone is a shorter-travel trail bike with a good parts spec and geometry that will inspire confidence for new riders.
The Rift Zone 29 in a medium has a 455mm-long reach, a 65.5° head tube angle, and a low standover height, which should give riders a stable feeling aboard the bike. The 1,186mm wheelbase is fairly long, but should keep the bike responsive on singletrack, and the 76° seat tube angle should put riders in a great seated climbing position.
Marin has a pretty solid parts kit on this bike, including a RockShox shock and Recon Silver RL fork, a 12-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain, and a TranzX dropper post with appropriately specced travel on each size. The Vee Flow Snap tires are also a great trail tire choice that we’ve had good results with.
Buyers may want a set of more powerful brakes eventually, but these 2-piston Shimanos should be plenty reliable. Size medium riders also might be happier with 170mm-long crank arms, but overall this is a decent spec for this bike. Marin also makes a Rift Zone 29 3 for $3,000 and a Rift Zone 29 1 for $3,800.
Who it’s best for: The Rift Zone 29 2 looks like a great entry-level full suspension bike that should be comfortable on green, blue, and some black trails with suspension travel that sits in between cross-country and trail categories, and geometry that adds confidence.
Commencal Meta TR29: $2,500
Direct-to-consumer brand Commencal packs a lot of value in their bikes. The Meta TR29 is an excellent value for the rider who wants a heavy-hitting trail bike. The Meta TR29 is a 29-inch wheeled bike as the name implies, and has 140mm of rear travel with a 150mm fork.
Why we recommend it: Commencal makes great bikes for the gravity-minded rider. This 140mm travel trail bike is the shortest travel bike the brand makes aside from their hardtail.
This burly aluminum frame gets a similar parts package as other bikes on this list, including Shimano 2-piston brakes, which riders might find a little light considering the weight and capability of Commencals. The Meta TR 29 gets an E13 wheelset, a RockShox 35 Silver fork and Deluxe Select shock, and an 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain with an 11-51t cassette.
Paired with the steep 78.6° seat tube angle, this Meta TR 29 should climb reasonably well considering its 34lb weight. A medium TR 29 also has a notably slack 64.5° head tube angle, a long wheelbase, and long reach.
Who it’s best for:The Commencal Meta TR 29 might be the most aggressive bike on this list. It should be a great choice for riders who really want to get after the descents and want a bike that will help them build the most confidence on the downhills.
Polygon Siskiu T8: $2,500
Polygon is another direct-to-consumer brand that packs in a lot of value. Their Siskiu is available with 27.5″ wheels or as a 29er and the T8 build retails for $2,500. The T7 build with different components is priced at $2,000, but the extra money for Fox suspension looks to be well worth it.
Why we recommend it: The Siskiu has 135mm of rear travel and a 140mm fork. This build gets a Fox 34 and a Fox Float DPS rear shock, with an OEM cockpit, a Shimano 12-speed SLX drivetrain, and Tektro 4-piston brakes. While these seem like minor differences, there are a few components that are notable here, compared to the other bikes.
One, the Siskiu T8 has 4-piston brakes, and as mentioned, a Fox 34 fork and DPS shock, which are usually an improvement over the RockShox Recon fork and Deluxe shock.
The Siskiu’s geometry is not far off from the other bikes included. A medium 29er gets a long and stable 460mm of reach, with a relaxed 65.5° head tube angle, and a 1,193mm wheelbase which should help make it a competent descender. The seat tube angle is 76.5° which should make it a comfortable bike for climbing.
Who it’s best for: Polygon drives a hard bargain with this bike. The Siskiu T8 looks great, the geometry is modern, and the components are all well-chosen, and the mix of Fox and Shimano means that riders will have a reliable setup.
Specialized Stumpjumper: $2,500
Specialized needs no introduction and countless mountain bikers have started on a Stumpjumper, one of the longest-living mountain bikes out there. The latest Stumpjumper has 130mm of rear travel paired with a 140mm fork and 29-inch wheels.
Why we recommend it: The Stumpjumper maintains its status as a great trail bike and has continuously evolved. This aluminum frame still uses the Horst link 4-bar suspension, whereas the carbon frame uses Flex Stays to save weight.
Specialized has done away with traditional sizing, now using an S1-S6 scheme. The brand has a fit chart for size recommendations, and the S1-S6 can generally be equated to XS-XL as the geometry is in line with those sizes.
The geo is also in line with the other trail bikes on the list, with the medium having 450/455mm of reach depending on the frame’s flip-chip setting, a relaxed 65° head tube angle, a steep 77.5° seat tube angle, and a 1,208mm wheelbase length.
Since Specialized brands a lot of their components in-house, the Stumpy is equipped with the Purgatory and Butcher tires. Buyers also get a TranzX dropper post, a SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain with an 11-50t cassette (helpful for steep climbs), a RockShox 35 Silver fork, an X-Fusion shock, and Tektro 2-piston brakes.
Who it’s best for: The seat tube angle on the new Stumpjumper is notably steep, and stands out on this list, as does the 50t granny gear on the cassette. Riders with steep climbs in their area will want to look at this bike, but this should also be a great bike for everyday trail riding. Most of the other geometry numbers and components are in line with other trail bikes on this list. The next Stumpjumper build up is priced at $3,500.
See Gerow’s review on the S-Works Stumpjumper here.
Kona Process 134: $2,600
Kona’s Process 134 has been a go-to full-suspension bike for years, and they have several price points on the mid-travel bike going all the way up to $7,000. This $2,600 build starts the party right, with Kona describing it as a bike that is excellent “for someone looking to dip their toe into full suspension mountain biking.” It has 134mm of rear travel and comes with a RockShox Recon RL 140mm fork up front. This bike is available as a 27.5 or a 29er.
Why we recommend it: Geometry is in line with other trail bikes. A medium has 450mm of reach, a short seat tube and low standover height, short chainstays, a 66° head tube angle and a 76.5° seat tube angle. The geometry is similar to the Rift Zone above.
The build kit is quite similar too, though the Process 134 has an 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain, Shimano MT201 2-piston brakes, A TranzX dropper post, and WTB wheels.
Who it’s best for: Kona’s Process 134 brings a great frame design and a tuned linkage-driven single pivot suspension to the masses with a more affordable build kit. The geometry and suspension design should bring a lot of value to this bike, while saving money on components. Kona has several other build options, with the next one up priced at $4,000.
Fezzari Cascade Peak: $3,000
Fezzari is a Utah-based, direct-to-consumer bike brand and another D2C company that injects a lot of value into its bikes. The Cascade is their aluminum trail bike, with some great component choices. Their Signal Peak, one that we loved riding, is a carbon cross-country bike with a $3,000 build option, but the Cascade Peak’s components offer a more compelling reason to stick with alloy.
Why we recommend it: The Cascade Peak is a 130mm travel trail bike with a 140mm fork, and the option to run either 27.5+ or 29-inch wheels.
As a 29er, a medium has a short seat tube and short chain stays, a 66.4° head tube angle, and a 75° seat tube angle. The wheelbase is 1,162mm and the standover height is 754mm. Overall, the geometry on the Cascade Peak is a little more conservative than other bikes on this list, but the bike should be plenty capable for newer trail riders and the numbers suggest that it will be an agile and responsive ride.
Where the Cascade Peak pulls ahead of others is on the build kit, as this bike gets a SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, a DVO Diamond D1 fork, and a Fox Float DPS rear shock. Other components include an X-Fusion Manic dropper post, Stan’s Flow rims, and Maxxis Minion tires. The Cascade Peak also gets the most powerful brakes on this list, with the SRAM G2 R brakes.
Who it’s best for: The Cascade Peak is a great option for people who want to pay a little more up front for better components. The SRAM GX drivetrain is hard to beat, and so is the suspension setup on this bike for the price. The geometry is a little conservative compared to other bikes on this list so it may not be the best option for the most aggressive riders, but the Cascade Peak should be a great option for all-around trail riders.
See Jeff’s review of the Cascade Peak here.
Rocky Mountain Element A30: $3,089
Rocky Mountain recently revised the Element transforming it from a cross-country dedicated bike to an XC/trail bike. Now, the Element hits the “precise sweet spot between lightweight cross-country climbing prowess and technical precision.” The new Element is available with 27.5″ wheels on sizes XS and S, and 29″ wheels on sizes M – XL. The bike has 120mm of rear travel with a 130mm fork.
Why we recommend it: The Element is the latest in the “downcountry” genre that blends XC pedaling capability with technical confidence. How does this happen? Geometry, basically.
The Element has a 65° head tube angle, 450mm of reach, and a 1,200mm wheelbase for plenty of stability on the descent. These are all on the “slack” setting of the bike, as it has adjustable geometry. Even in this setting, the Element has a pretty steep seat tube angle for climbing.
The parts spec with the A30 build matches with other bikes on this list. The Element gets fast rolling Maxxis Rekon tires; a Rocky Mountain dropper post; a Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain and 2-piston brakes; and a RockShox Recon Gold fork and Deluxe Select+ suspension.
Who it’s best for: The Element is a great bike for people who want to pedal. The latest generation certainly looks more capable than the previous, but the bike is still specced for riders who want something they can put miles on. Rocky Mountain also has an A10 build, priced at $2,560.
Ibis Ripley AF: $3,200
The Ibis Ripley AF is the priciest bike on this list, but it still packs in a lot of value. The Ripley AF is an aluminum-framed 29er with 120mm of rear travel and a 130mm fork. It stands out on this list because of its suspension platform, a DW linkage, whereas every other bike on this list is a Horst link or single-pivot. This might mean something or nothing depending on the rider, but it is a great suspension platform with unique characteristics.
Why we recommend: Ibis is generally a more expensive brand because of the DW link and most of their frames are carbon fiber, but the AF models have brought their bikes to more people. A base-level Ripley AF costs about $2,000 less than a base-level carbon fiber Ripley.
The Deore build includes a Fox 34 Performance fork and DPS shock, Ibis wheels and Maxxis tires, Shimano 2-piston Deore brakes, and a 12-speed drivetrain. The only major differences between this and the SLX-specced Ripley AF — which costs almost a thousand dollars more — is the SLX drivetrain, brakes, and dropper post. However, much remains the same including the wheels, cockpit, tires, and suspension.
Geometry is similar to the other trail bikes on this list, and a medium has a short seat tube and low standover height, a 76° seat tube angle, a 65.5° head tube angle, and a fairly long 1,188mm wheel base. We tested the SLX version of the Ripley AF and found it to be a stable and confident descender and a wonderfully efficient and comfortable climber.
Who it’s best for: The Ripley AF is a great all-around trail bike that is easy to get along with, and can feel at home on green, blue, and some black trails. If you’re willing to spend a few more bucks, the Ibis is a great deal with a build spec that should satisfy most riders.
Takeaways from the bikes
If you’re lost after reviewing all of these bikes, then worry not. They all kind of blend together at this price point. As I was writing this, I noticed a lot of the same components over and over. Most of the bikes have the same RockShox Recon or 35 forks and Deluxe rear shocks, aside from the Ibis, Fezzari, and Polygon which use either Fox or DVO. And, aside from the Ibis, all of these bikes utilize a single-pivot or Horst link for their suspension designs.
Most of these bikes also use the same Shimano brakes and SLX or Deore drivetrain, except for the Fezzari again, which uses a SRAM GX drivetrain and G2 brakes. With the budget-friendly component packages, all of the bikes will probably be on the heavier side, weighing between 32 and 34lbs. Based on the build and price alone, the Fezzari probably has the best build, considering the suspension, brakes, and wheels, but the Polygon, and Ibis are really sweet deals too with Fox suspension.
All of these bikes have fairly similar geometry, with longer wheelbases, and slacker head tube angles for better descending, and all of them have steeper seat tube angles for seated climbing, but read each section for notes on where one might perform differently than another.
And, as mentioned above, they are all very similar in geometry, components, and intent, meaning that none are outright better than another at this price point. Buyers won’t be mistaken choosing one over another here, and the decision may come down to which brand speaks the loudest to them unless of course availability is an issue.