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Best Men's Mountain Bikes

Updated July 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 22 Models Considered
  • 9 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 155 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best men's mountain bikes

    Last Updated July 2018

    Whether you want to improve your general fitness or just enjoy the great outdoors, a mountain bike is a perfect solution. Cycling is one of the best all-round forms of exercise, and cycling on trails only adds to the challenge. With the growing availability of electric mountain bikes, even those who have fitness challenges can take to the trail. But which bike do you choose?

    BestReviews is here to assist you. Our mission is to help you make the right buying choice every time you shop. If you’re ready to buy a men’s mountain bike, check out our top five bikes above.

    For those who want a more in-depth look at components and specifications, we've put together the following quick and easy guide to the best performance and value available today in men's mountain bikes.

    Make sure you get the right size bicycle. All good manufacturers offer size guides. Some cheap MTBs have limited range. Don't be tempted. If you're a big guy, check the maximum load rating, too.

    Choosing a men's mountain bike: where will you ride?

    By definition, a mountain bike (MTB) is any bicycle that can be ridden off-road. How serious you are about your dirt-track riding will determine the type of mountain bike you need and how much it will cost.

    Serious mountain bikers are looking for a real challenge and a bike that can stand up to it.

    • How steep can you climb on two wheels?

    • How fast can you tackle a hazardous decent?
       

    Urban cyclists find a lot to like in mountain bikes, too. Lots of mountain bikes never see a muddy trail, and there's nothing wrong with that.

    • The riding position is comfortable, and the suspension makes the ride even more so.

    • Multiple gears give plenty of versatility, making gentle gradients a breeze.

    • Mountain bikes are popular choices for riding to work or around the park on weekends.

    • If you don't need real off-road benefits, you don't have to spend a lot on a mountain bike.
       

    Both of these types of riders have very different needs when it comes to a men's mountain bike. Before you consider the technical details, decide where you're going to be spending most of your riding time. It makes a big difference.

    Master the toughest trails

    The Kodiak 2 is built for the guy who takes on tough challenges. The lightweight aluminum frame offers the kind of high-quality full suspension that really makes a difference on varied terrain. The 27.5-plus tires give excellent traction when you're pushing hard. Hydraulic disk brakes guarantee precise control when you need it. A top brand delivering top performance.

    Men’s mountain bike features to consider

    Frame

    The main types of mountain bike frame are: rigid (no suspension at all), hardtail (suspension in the front, none in the rear), and full suspension (suspension in front and rear).

    Rigid: Most of us learned to ride on a rigid bike. As the name suggests, there's no suspension at all, but in fact spoked wheels add “spring,” and pneumatic tires offer some shock absorption. A rigid bike offers several advantages, depending on the type of rider you are.

    • Cheaper (generally)

    • Less to maintain; less to go wrong

    • Improves riding skills (If you like to ride hard, suspension can make you lazy. Without it, feedback from the trail is more direct and your riding skill improves. Many pros have a rigid bike as well as their fully suspended bikes for exactly that reason.)
       

    Hardtail: When suspension first appeared on mountain bikes, it was the front forks that got the extra assistance – the area that takes the most impact. Basic front suspension is really just a spring inside a tube, so it's relatively inexpensive to add to a bike. In general, what you're looking for here is plenty of “travel,” the distance between the “rest” position (no pressure on the suspension) and the fully down position (completely compressed). More travel means better shock absorption.

    • Common; found on almost all low-cost and mid-range men's mountain bikes

    • Better shock absorption

    • Adjustable on top-quality bikes (both compression – when the weight goes onto the forks – and rebound – when it lifts off again; on some bikes, air can be added to increase resistance)

    • Tunable forks available
       

    Full suspension: If you're the competitive type – whether challenging yourself, your friends, or other racers – you want a full suspension mountain bike.

    • Ultimate control

    • Harder, faster rides

    • More comfortable; less jarring impacts off-road

    • More complex

    • More maintenance

    • Heavier

    • More expensive

    Material

    The more competitive you get, the less weight you want in your bike, so frame material becomes an issue. There are three materials in general use. All provide sufficient strength, but as weight is reduced, the cost increases.

    • Steel: heavy; lowest cost

    • Aluminum alloy: popular mid-range option; various alloys and prices

    • Carbon fiber (or carbon): extremely light; expensive

    A men's fat bike (or fat tire bicycle) isn't as agile or quick as a standard mountain bike, but those wide tires will enable you to cycle over sand or snow in places where many mountain bikes would just sink.

    Wheels and tires

    Wheels

    There has been great debate in the mountain biking press and online about the various merits of different size wheels. Not very long ago you had no choice. A 26-inch wheel was fitted to every men's mountain bike on the market. Now there are numerous options. In a nutshell, as wheels get bigger and wider, you gain speed but loose agility.

    • 26-inch wheels provide a good balance of stability and agility and are still very popular. This size is found on many men’s mountain bikes.

    • 27.5-inch wheels are arguably the best all-rounder. These offer slightly greater straight line stability for minimal loss of turning ability. This size is found on many men’s mountain bikes.

    • 27.5-inch and larger wheels are wider, so you have a wider tire and more rubber in contact with the ground, which means more grip. Strictly speaking, it also means it's more difficult to change direction quickly, though only highly experienced riders will notice.

    • 29-inch wheels have even more straight line stability than the 27.5-inch wheels, but it comes at the expense of some agility. These wheels are for specialists.

    • 29-inch-plus wheels are wider versions of the 29-inch wheels for specialists who ride fast over loose dirt or gently undulating tracks. These aren’t so good on challenging climbs.
       

    Tires

    The tires supplied with your mountain bike will be general purpose and fine to start. When they wear out, consider replacements that are more specific to the kind of terrain you ride.

    Tubed tires: These are still far and away the most common tires on MTBs.

    Tubeless tires: Tubeless tires have started to appear, and they have some advantages and disadvantages:

    Pros:

    • Less likely to puncture

    • Slightly lighter
       

    Cons:

    • Require special rims (seal has to be perfect)

    • Won’t fit every mountain bike wheel

    • More expensive

    • Difficult to fit

    • Can’t repair with ordinary patch or sealer

    Brakes

    There are two main types of brakes: rim and disk.

    Rim brakes come in many different forms, but basically they all grab the outside edge of the wheel. Rim brakes have been around forever.

    • Reliable

    • Efficient

    • Less effective if muddy or wet
       

    Disk brakes are farther away from the dirt and have holes to shed water or dissipate heat. Most disk brakes are cable operated, but high-end versions are hydraulic. These give more breaking force and better feel, but hydraulic brakes are fluid-filled and so require more maintenance.

    • Tougher

    • More expensive

    • Superior for off-road cycling

    Gears

    Number of gears

    You'll find many choices when it comes to the number of gears on MTBs – as few as five or seven on some entry-level models and fat bikes to as many as thirty or more. More gears equals greater flexibility – making climbing easier, in particular. A high number of gears sounds impressive, and you'll benefit from having them if you hit the dirt hard every weekend.

    To get the total number of gears on a mountain bike, multiply the “cassette” – the set of gears on the rear wheel (usually 9 to 12 cogs) – by the front sprockets (usually three). Some manufacturers make the whole thing much easier to understand by calling their bike a 21-speed, 24-speed, and so on. Most mid-range men's MTBs offer around 21 speeds, more than enough for most casual riders.

    Gear change mechanism

    A good one is vital.

    • Derailleurs and shifters from reputable brands are efficient and reliable.

    • Twist-grip gear changing is popular on consumer bikes.

    • Thumb-operated paddles come on high-end bikes (they don't interfere with grip on the bars).

    EXPERT TIP

    All-round suspension might look slick, but if it doesn't work well, it's just extra weight. Experts say you often have more control with a lightweight rigid bike than with a cheap, heavy, full suspension model.


    Other types of bikes

    There are a couple of other considerations that come under the mountain bike category – similar, but with a couple of major differences: fat bikes (also called beach bikes) and electric men's mountain bikes.

    Fat bikes

    Fat bikes look a lot like mountain bikes. Rather than being designed for extreme climbs or descents, fat bikes are designed to go where even the best men's mountain bikes struggle: sand or snow. The loose surface means you won't be going very fast, but while ordinary bike wheels really struggle, the fat bike surges ahead. Of limited appeal? Depends on where you live. They're becoming increasingly popular, and there's already a U.S. championship!

    • Rigid (seldom used on very rough terrain)

    • Multiple gears

    • Steel frames (weight not a priority)

    • Very wide tires (four inches or more)

    Electric mountain bikes

    Many electric MTBs (also called pedelecs) are much like standard mountain bikes, with drive via an electric motor applied to the pedal crank. These can be very sleek, and at first glance it can be difficult to tell there's a battery hidden in the frame.

    Most electric MTBs are pedal-assist models. You still have to pedal; they just make the job easier. The amount of assistance given by the motor can vary. The more you help it along, the farther you'll get on a single charge.

    If you're considering an electric mountain bike, most of the things to look for are the same as with any men's MTB. The differences relate to the motor and battery:

    • Power isn't really the most important facet. (There are legal limits.)

    • Battery size and run time are the major elements.

    • Beware of nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries. There aren't many around any more because the newer lithium-ion (L-ion) batteries are far superior.
       

    There are a couple of laws that affect the use of electric bikes:

    • You must be 14 years or older to ride an electric bike on the road in the U.S.

    • Maximum speed under power cannot exceed 15.5 mph.
       

    There is a second category of electric MTBs – what you might call the “bad boys." These are extremely powerful (and extremely expensive) battery-powered machines, some capable of speeds in excess of 50 mph. Apart from the cost, the major drawback is that they're not legal for street use – definitely off-road only. There are some interesting machines if you'd like to find out more, but they are more like electric motorcycles, so not relevant to this guide.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    An electric-powered men's mountain bike can take you out in the wilds even if you have restricted physicality.

    Men’s mountain bike prices

    There's such an enormous variety of men's mountain bikes available that it's difficult to be accurate about prices. You can spend less than $200 to more than $10,000. These prices are general guidelines.

    • Inexpensive

    It's unlikely you'll find a good men's MTB for under $200. You might find one or two steel-framed rigids, but it's not something we would recommend. At around this price point you'll find aluminum-framed hardtails and even full suspension bikes that are okay for general leisure use but not for the serious off-roader.

    • Mid-range

    If you're getting out there every weekend, you really need to be looking at spending $500 to $1,500. At that price and above you have sufficient choice to find the right bike for your size and riding preferences.

    • Expensive

    Ultra-light carbon mountain bikes start at about $2,500 and can easily run to $10,000. Electric mountain bikes run from around $500 to $7,000, depending on your sporting intentions.

    A simple workhorse

    The Merax Falcon is a sturdy, basic option for those who want nothing more than a simple “workhorse” bike for riding. Assembly is easy, the price is low, and the bells and whistles are few. Still, if your requirements are basic, you will likely enjoy this smooth ride.

    Tips

    • Pay attention to where you’re looking. Mountain bike experts advise you to think about where your shoulders are facing when you're riding. Many times when you move your head you also move your shoulders – and that's where you point your bike. It's why you occasionally hit things you thought you were going to avoid.

    • Check your bike’s condition regularly. Men's mountain bikes are built pretty tough, but things can fail. The most important thing to check before you ride is the condition of your brakes. Look for worn pads, frayed cables, or leaking hydraulics. Replace parts if there's any sign of damage.

    • Always wear an approved safety helmet. The U.S. Department of Transportation says 74% of fatal bicycle accidents are because of head injuries. If you take your mountain biking seriously, you'll want strong shoes, sports gloves, and even armor, too.
    Almost all new mountain bikes need some assembly. It isn’t complicated, and most people are fine with this. If you’re in doubt, get help.

    FAQ

    Q. Does a men's mountain bike need much maintenance?

    A. It depends how dirty you get it! If you've been riding in the dirt, give your bike a good clean when you get home. Use a soft brush as well as a hose to get grit and mud out of joints and linkages. Pay particular attention to the drivetrain – chain, pedals, and gears – and suspension seals. These are the areas where grit and mud will do the most damage.

    Oil the bike regularly, as suggested by the manufacturer, and check the tire pressure. Don't let your treads get too low before you replace them. The more worn the tread, the higher the chances of getting a puncture.

    Q. Can I use car-tire sealant or foam if I get a puncture?

    A. If it's a small hole, like from a thorn or thumb tack, it should be possible, but the type of tire has an impact. Off-road tires only run about 35 to 40 pounds per square inch (psi), so the product can often seal the hole effectively. Hybrid and road tires run much higher pressures, so the sealant might just get blown out the hole. Larger holes will need a patch anyway.

    A can of bicycle tire sealant (don't get the car stuff) is a fairly cheap option that could get you home in an emergency. However, it isn’t a permanent repair. It's unlikely to work on tubeless tires.

    Q. Are there techniques for better braking on a mountain bike?

    A. There are. As with any vehicle, if you jam on the brakes, you no longer have control. On a bike, most of the stopping force comes from the front brake, with the back used to keep things steady. Normally, that's about 75% front and 25% back.

    That changes when you're going down a hill or around a corner. Too much front brake and you'll go over the top or slide out. So lose most of your speed before you enter the turn, then free-wheel or pedal around. You’ll have much greater control.

    If you have to brake hard in an emergency, cadence braking is more effective: grab, let go, grab, let go. It's the same principle used by antilock brakes on a car.

    It's tempting to take a new bike on the toughest terrain possible, but it's much better to work up to it. Take a while to learn how your bike handles and learn to "feel" the brakes. Then go for it big time!

    The team that worked on this review
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