Top Picks for $5,000 Mountain Bikes: Readers’ Choice

Here are the top mountain bikes that readers would buy if they had $5,000.
Photo: Gerow

Money is a weird thing. It’s generally not polite to talk about, and we all have a different and often complicated relationship with it. Where bikes and dollars converge there is a veritable minefield; what’s a lot of money to one person isn’t to another, and where one sees value another sees overpriced gear. Relax — this is normal.

In a recent survey we asked Singletracks readers a hypothetical question: If you had $5,000 to spend on a mountain bike, which one would you buy? A few readers took a practical and conservative approach, saying they would spend a couple thousand on a bike and save the rest for a rainy day. Most, however embraced the challenge and put a lot of thought into making the most of five grand. Sure, to some spending $5,000 on a bike is a dream akin to winning the lottery; to others, it means reining in the spending and making compromises. Needless to say, the results are pretty fascinating.

I’ll be sharing survey results below and want to make clear this was not a scientific survey by any means. We heard from a little more than 500 folks and all we know is they are people who have visited at some point over the past couple of weeks. If you disagree, or feel like your view is underrepresented, be sure to participate in our next survey! A new one is posted every Sunday.

Big bike brands are top of mind…

… and possibly offer some of the best value, at least in the minds of Singletracks readers.

Before getting to Trek and Specialized, Ibis clearly has an outsize presence in the results. I suppose there could have been some kind of write-in campaign, but somehow I doubt it. Ibis clearly has a winner in both the Ripmo and Ripley, addressing both ends of the trail riding spectrum with quality builds. The brand has been running some pretty good sales recently, and some respondents were likely banking on discounts to help the carbon versions squeak under $5K. However, several mentioned the Ripley and Ripmo AF alloy bikes specifically, and for $5K one could get a very capable AF build plus some upgrades.

Photo: Matt Miller

Specialized is another brand that’s been discounting mountain bikes lately, and the Stumpjumper is arguably one of the most well-known and respected trail bikes on the market. I lumped several different Stumpy responses together here which surely padded the numbers, along with the fact that there are so many builds and options available. Looking strictly at MSRP, the Specialized Stumpjumper Comp is priced right at $5,000. For that, buyers get a carbon frame, Fox suspension, and a 12-speed Shimano drivetrain.

Savvy buyers noted that for less than $5K one could actually get a better Stumpy than the Comp with an Expert or EVO Expert build/configuration. These bikes are normally priced above $6K, but at the moment they’re available for $4,800 or so, leaving a few bucks to pay for shipping. Or a couple beers to celebrate.

Photo: Hannah Morvay

Readers are also stoked on the Trek Fuel EX which is the other big daddy of the trail bike world. Like the Stumpjumper, the Fuel EX is available at a number of price points, and at least one person said they would buy one used to save a few bucks and get more bike for their buck. Like the Price is Right, the only rule is we have to get close to $5,000 without going over, in which case the Trek Fuel EX 9.7 Gen 6, priced at $4,699 seems to offer the maximum performance without going over budget.

Favorite $5K bikes from direct-to-consumer brands

Given a healthy budget it’s clear many readers would buy a bike from a brand like Specialized, Ibis, or Trek. However this next group of responses indicates that readers also recognize the price-to-value ratio that consumer-direct brands may be able to offer.

Testing an older Canyon Spectral model. Photo: Leah Barber

The Canyon Spectral is a bit like the Specialized Stumpjumper in that there are a lot of variations available, from short-travel to mullet wheels, and everything in between. The vast majority of Spectral respondents indicated they would go for the middle-of-the-road (at least travelwise) Spectral CF. Readers were pretty evenly split between the CF 7 (priced at $4,199) and the CF 8 (priced at $5,199). The first group left a lot of money on the table; the second group must have a discount code we don’t know about. Despite coming in well under budget, the CF 7 features a Fox 36 Rhythm fork up front and Shimano SLX 12-speed drivetrain, not to mention a carbon frame.

The YT Jeffsy got a lot of votes, but so did a number of other YT models not much farther down the list. In fact, if we lump ties together, YT nabbed three of the top 10 spots, more than any other brand. Outside of the Uncaged version of the Jeffsy, buyers are basically getting the brand’s top of the line, all-mountain bike for $4,999 with Fox Factory suspension, a SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, and carbon cranks to go with the carbon frame. This is definitely the $5K bike for those who want the best components for the money.

YT Jeffsy Primus
The YT Jeffsy Primus. Photo: Gerow.

The Commencal Meta SX received the lion’s share of the votes for “Meta,” which is impressive for a bike that’s not actually shipping until next month. Complete bikes aren’t even listed for sale in the USA, though some rough math shows the Meta SX Race build (excluding VAT) costs a hair under $5,000. Though the frame is alloy, most of the parts are top notch like the RockShox Ultimate suspension bits and TRP DH-R EVO 4-piston brakes. Curiously the 12-speed drivetrain is GX level and not something higher.

The rest: More picks under $5K

Rounding out the top 10, readers chose bikes from more boutique brands like the Raaw Madonna, Revel Rascal, and Transition Spur. Buyers may not be able to find a complete bike priced under $5,000 from these brands, but frames like the Raaw Madonna can often be had for around $3,000, leaving buyers to scrape together a build on a relative shoe string.

Photo: Gerow

Another Specialized, the Epic, makes an appearance along with the Norco Fluid in a tie for seventh place with the Commencal Meta mentioned above. The Scott Spark tied for ninth place with the Rascal and Spur.

The Santa Cruz Tallboy just barely grabbed 10th place, which is surprising at first glance for such a well-known and well-regarded mountain bike brand. Looking closely, however, Santa Cruz doesn’t have any full-suspension bikes priced under $5,000 in their lineup at the moment. The Tallboy gets close at $5,299, though the brand hasn’t really been discounting their bikes like some others have this year. In my opinion that’s a shame because $5,000 is a lot of money for most of us, and all things considered, it’s a pretty healthy budget for a self-propelled, two-wheeled recreational trail vehicle.

Which $5K trail bike is best?

Singletracks has tested nearly all of the bikes mentioned here, and each member of our staff has owned at least one of the bikes on this list over the years. We agree with readers that any one of these bikes would be a good buy for the money.

Now that the list has been narrowed down to the ten most popular reader picks under $5,000, which one would you choose if you had a $5K budget? We’ll leave that battle and the crowning of the ultimate winner to the comments section below.