Trek Fuel EX 8
Trek Fuel EX 8

Best all-around mountain bike

For riders who do a little bit of everything, experts say it's hard to go wrong with the Trek Fuel EX 8. This popular trail bike has just under 5 inches of suspension on the front and rear wheels, giving it a plush ride over rugged terrain. Even with all that suspension, the Fuel EX 8 has excellent pedaling performance and responsive handling over a variety of trails. The hydraulic disc brakes are powerful and confidence-inspiring, reviews say. Downsides are few, but testers do run into a few problems with the stock tires -- riders say they do a good job on packed-dirt trails, but they lack enough grip to precisely navigate technical turns and corners. We also saw one report that the conservative geometry won't appeal to everyone, especially aggressive riders. The Trek Fuel EX 8 comes in five frame sizes (with a limited lifetime frame warranty) and a corresponding women's version, the Trek Fuel EX 8 WSD (*Est. $2,470).
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MSRP: $2,470 Estimated Price
Yeti 575
Yeti 575

All-mountain mountain bike

All-mountain bikes are rugged and have more suspension than trail bikes, making them a great choice for technical, rocky trails. The Yeti 575 excels in this category thanks to its new stiffer frame and enhanced stability. The bike provides nearly 6 inches of suspension, which gives it excellent performance on rocky descents. However, the Yeti 575 mountain bike also performs better on climbs than most all-mountain bikes, and reviewers say the pedaling is responsive enough for quick uphill accelerations. Reviewers also report excellent stability and handling in tight corners and high-speed turns. The Yeti 575 is available as a frame only (MSPR: $1,900) or with one of four build kits, the cheapest of which is priced at $3,100. The frame comes in five sizes, with a five-year warranty.
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MSRP: $3,100 Estimated Price
KHS Tucson
KHS Tucson

Entry-level 29er mountain bike

Twenty-niners -- mountain bikes with 29-inch wheels -- are all the rage right now. Fans say 29ers have better traction and more stability than their 26-inch counterparts, not to mention that the large wheels power over obstacles more easily than bikes with smaller wheels. The KHS Tucson won a recent test of affordable 29ers. Reviewers say it strikes a good middle ground between price and performance and that the value is hard to beat. This hardtail aluminum bike has 3.15 inches of travel over the front wheel. The components are good for the price, and the beginner-friendly geometry suits those who are new to big-wheeled mountain bikes. However, one reviewer complains about the brakes and recommends upgrading them first. The KHS Tucson comes in three frame sizes and is covered by a two-year warranty.
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MSRP: $1,250 Estimated Price
Specialized Rockhopper
Specialized Rockhopper

Best-value mountain bike

If you can't spend much but don't want a bare-bones budget bike, experts say the Specialized Rockhopper has an alloy frame (covered by a lifetime warranty) that can grow with you as your skills improve. Reviewers say the Specialized Rockhopper is a good mountain bike for new riders, and it can hold its own on the trail against bikes costing much more. Six frame sizes make it easy to achieve a good fit. The stock components are not top-of-the-line, but experts say they're suitable for beginners. Riders also praise the comfortable ride and front-wheel suspension. However, some users say the bike can slip gears easily, especially when climbing.
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MSRP: $720 Estimated Price
Trek 4300
Trek 4300

Budget mountain bike

For casual riders, the Trek 4300 is a good budget mountain bike for light trail riding, commuting or riding around town. Although you can find cheaper mountain bikes at big-box stores, experts say the Trek 4300 is a much better investment. The aluminum frame is surprisingly durable for a budget mountain bike, according to riders, and many say it has survived multiple crashes with few problems. The frame is also covered by a lifetime warranty. Like most inexpensive mountain bikes, some think the Trek 4300 is heavy, which will hurt you on climbs. Reviewers also complain about the tires and say the saddle is hard and uncomfortable. If you can afford to spend a little bit more, the Trek 4300 Disc (MSRP: $690) has disc brakes, which are more powerful and offer better stopping power than the V-style brakes on the Trek 4300.
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MSRP: $570 Estimated Price
GT Sensor 2.0 GTw
GT Sensor 2.0 GTw

Women's mountain bike

Experts say women don't necessarily need a female-specific mountain bike, but the GT Sensor 2.0 GTw is worth a look. Reviewers rave about this full-suspension bike with its aluminum frame and rear-wheel suspension with 4.7 inches of travel; a smooth ride over obstacles is another noted plus. The relatively upright riding position is stable and comfortable, and reviews say the GT Sensor 2.0 GTw has very good climbing performance. The stock tires also get high marks for speed and traction. However, one reviewer thinks the mountain bike's fork could use an upgrade, as it doesn't offer the same plush feel as the excellent rear-wheel suspension.
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MSRP: $2,670 Estimated Price
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