What Is The Best Budget Full Suspension Mountain Bike? We Look At Each Price Bracket!

Full Suspension Doesn’t Have to Break Your Budget. We Look at Six Affordable Options, Including Two Full Suspension Bikes Under $1000!

When we think of mountain bikes we think of full suspension. Hardtails have their place and are in many cases the best choice for the new or budget-conscious rider, but the shock absorption capability of a full suspension bike adds a level of comfort and opens up possibilities that you won’t usually find on a hardtail. Full suspension bikes are usually more expensive than hardtails with equivalent components, but fully functional full suspension bikes are available at reasonable prices.

TL;DR – What Is The Best Budget Full Suspension Mountain Bike?

In a hurry and just want to know what is the best budget full suspension mountain bike? The best bikes at different budget price points available are (in my opinion):

  • Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $500: Bikes Direct Gravity FSX
  • Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1000: Diamondback Atroz 2
  • Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1200: Mongoose Salvo Sport 29”
  • Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1500: Jamis Dakar XC
  • Best Budget Full Suspension Mountain Bike (Tie): Giant Stance 2
  • Best Budget Full Suspension Mountain Bike (Tie): Marin Hawk Hill 1

About Full Suspension

Full suspension bikes have real advantages. It’s possible to take serious hits on a hardtail if you’re fit and you have good technique, but almost all serious riders prefer full suspension bikes when riding gnarly terrain. Older riders, riders with knee problems or less than optimal fitness, or just riders who want to ride in comfort will all prefer to have suspension to suck up bumps and impacts in both the the rear and the front of the bike.

Full suspension also comes with some disadvantages, and these may be magnified in low-priced bikes.

  • Weight. Full suspension bikes have pivots and linkage points that allow the rear triangle of the frame to move relative to the front and provide a place to mount a rear shock. That means they use more metal than a hardtail, and more metal means a heavier frame.
  • Cost. Rear shocks are expensive, and the same linkage components that add weight also add cost.
  • Pedaling efficiency. Full suspension bikes are often susceptible to pedal-induced bob, which you’ll see as a tendency for the bike’s suspension to bounce up and down when climbing or pedaling on level ground. Bob means that your pedaling force is being converted to up and down motion instead of forward motion, and that means less speed and more effort. Many advanced full suspension and rear shock systems have been designed to provide efficient pedaling, but low-priced bikes may not use them.
  • Complexity. Full suspension involves multiple moving parts and a rear shock, which will often require adjustment to deliver proper performance. That’s more things to potentially break and more things that require your attention.

Rear suspension design is a complex topic that can become very technical very quickly. You don’t have to become a suspension geek to buy a full suspension bike, but there are a few things you should understand and consider.

  • Rear shocks. Rear shocks come in many types and designs. The most basic distinction is between coil and air shocks. Coil shocks are often considered “plusher” and are frequently chosen for downhill or freeride bikes. They are also heavier and have limited adjustability for rider weight: if your weight is higher or lower than average you may need to change the spring of the shock. Air shocks can be adjusted for weight by changing the air pressure in the shock’s chambers, and are preferred by many bike designers for this ease of adjustment. You’ll need a shock pump to add or release air!

Some rear shocks also offer a “platform” or “lockout” feature that prevents the shock from engaging under pedaling forces and limits pedal-induced bob. Many will also offer rebound adjustment, which is important. If rebound – the speed at which a shock returns to full extension after being compressed – is too fast, the suspension will tend to bounce the rider up and potentially over the bars after a significant impact.

  • Suspension design. Most inexpensive full suspension bikes use single pivot designs, in which the rear triangle rotates on a single pivot point. These designs may produce inefficient pedaling and the rear axle tends to travel in an arc, rather than vertically, which can affect performance. Single pivot designs can perform very well, but the combination of simple single pivot designs and very basic rear shocks can limit pedaling efficiency in less expensive bikes.

Multi-pivot designs are used in more sophisticated frame designs, and rely on a variety of methods to control pedal-induced bob and keep the rear axle travel as close to vertical as possible. Many of these designs are patented and specific to a single manufacturer.

Inexpensive full suspension bikes generally will not use the most sophisticated rear shocks and suspension designs. That doesn’t mean they can’t perform well, but you should expect some compromises. You may not get the performance that you could get from a higher-end bike.

What to Expect From a Budget Full Suspension Bike

If you’re looking for a full suspension bike but you’re not prepared to part with the rather large sums of money needed to acquire a high end model, what can you expect? “Budget” can cover a considerable range in price and quality: the prices of the bikes on this list range from under $500 to almost $1600. There are still some common factors that define what you can expect from a budget full suspension bike.

  • Aluminum frames. Carbon is too expensive to use in budget frames and budget steel frames tend to be very heavy. Aluminum is a light, durable, proven frame material and is the universal choice for budget full suspension frames.
  • Short travel. The suspension travel on higher end bikes is often around 140-150mm for trail bikes and substantially higher for downhill or freeride bikes. Budget full suspension bikes usually offer from 100mm to 130mm of front and rear travel, enough for most trail riding but on the low side for jumps and drops.
  • Shimano drivetrain components. Shimano and SRAM dominate the mountain bike drivetrain market, but Shimano has a greater range of entry level parts. That works in the buyer’s favor, as the technology and design of the higher-end parts trickles down to the entry level lines. Most budget full suspension bikes use Shimano drivetrains, ranging from the low end Altus line to the midrange Deore components.
  • Hydraulic disc brakes. All of the bikes on this list use hydraulic disc brakes. Most use Shimano brakes, though the less well known but fully sufficient Tektro brakes appear on a number of models.
  • Non-premium suspension components. Fox and RockShox dominate the suspension markets, but you won’t find their higher-end products on budget bikes. You may see lower end RockShox parts on some bikes, but more often forks and rear shocks will come from SR Suntour and X-Fusion. These parts may not offer the bling factor or range of adjustability that their higher-end counterparts will, but they are effective and reasonably durable.
  • 5 or 29” wheels. These are the two dominant mountain bike wheel sizes, and both offer a wide range of selection in tires. Traditionally 27.5” wheels have been preferred by smaller riders and those who ride technical trails requiring agility, while 29” wheels have been used by those who ride long distances and are more likely to ride over obstacles than to dodge around them. That distinction has been blurred by the introduction of technically oriented 29” trail bikes, but it’s still worth considering.

Now that you know what to expect, let’s take a look at some of the best budget full suspension bikes.

Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $500: Bikes Direct Gravity FSX

Specs

Frame Material: Aluminum

Head Tube Angle: 71°

Rear Suspension Type: Single Pivot, Travel Not Specified

Fork: Suntour SF, travel not specified

Rear Shock: KS 260 Coil, With Preload Adjust

Drivetrain: Shimano TX800 3×8

Brakes: Shimano BR-M315 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Kenda MultiTread 26” x 2”

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Price: $449.95

Bikes Direct is an online-only direct-to-consumer bicycle retailer that offers extremely low prices. These prices are made possible by the direct-to-consumer model, which cuts out middlemen and the expenses of running physical stores. Bikes Direct also uses relatively unsophisticated designs and fairly basic components.

The Gravity FSX is probably the only full suspension bike available at its price to use standard mount upgradeable components from name brand manufacturers. The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes stand out as an exceptional component value at this price point, and the Shimano drivetrain, while made up of entry-level components, will do better than the unbranded components found on many competing bikes.

As this price point there is bound to be a downside. I have not ridden this bike or even seen it, and I haven’t read reviews other than those on the company site. Purely based on the pictures and specs, though, I’d expect this bike to be on the heavy side. The coil shock has a preload adjustment, which controls the weight needed to activate the shock and some adaptability for riders of different weights, but light or heavy riders might prefer an air shock with a wider adjustment range. The simple single-pivot design and relatively crude shock could also make the bike susceptible to pedal-induced bob. The very steep 71 degree head angle also places the rider almost over the front wheel, and you’ll have to be careful to avoid going over the bars on steep descents. The 26” wheel size is largely regarded as obsolete and it may be difficult to replace tires and inner tubes.

Like most serious mountain bikers, I’d usually recommend a hardtail at this price point, but this is a real bike with adequate and upgradeable components. If you’re determined to go with full suspension and you’re aware of the potential drawbacks it’s an option to consider.

Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1000: Diamondback Atroz 2

Specs

Rear Suspension Type: Single Pivot, 100mm Travel

Head Tube Angle: 66.5°

Fork: SR Suntour XCM, 120mm travel

Rear Shock: Suntour Raidon R, With Rebound Adjust

Drivetrain: Shimano (mixed group)

Brakes: Shimano MT200 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Vee Tire FlowSnap, 27.5” X 2.35

Sizes: S, M, L

Price: $1000.00

The Diamondback Atroz 2 is twice as expensive as the Gravity FSX, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Diamondback has been building quality bikes at accessible price points for many years. The Atroz 2 still makes some compromises, as you’d expect for the cheapest major-brand bike in its class, but it’s a capable and versatile ride that will not hold you back on the trails.

The Atroz 2 offers 100mm of rear travel and a 120mm SR Suntour fork: not exactly big hit territory but enough to soak up the bumps. The air shock allows easy adjustment to fit riders of any weight: just pump up the pressure to the appropriate level and ride away. The mixed Shimano drivetrain and Shimano hydraulic brakes aren’t high-end but they will get the job done.

One of the more appealing features of the Atroz 2 is its modern geometry. The bike sports a short stem and 66.5 degree head angle, slack enough to keep you stable and secure on steep descents, and a short stem and wide handlebar for control at speed. The relatively steep seat tube angle to keep you seated over the pedals for climbing efficiency. The 27.5” wheels meet industry standards and are compatible with a wide range of tires.

The Diamondback Atroz 2 is an entry level full suspension bike. Its components reflect that, and the single pivot design will not be the most efficient. It’s still a solid, trail-capable design, and it’s probably the cheapest full suspension bike that I could recommend for general trail riding that includes steep terrain.

Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1200: Mongoose Salvo Sport 29”

Specs

Frame Material: Aluminum

Head Tube Angle: 69°

Rear Suspension Type: Modified Horst Link, 100mm Travel

Fork: XPosure HL 525AMS, With Lockout

Rear Shock: X-Fusion Air, 110mm travel

Drivetrain: Shimano Altus 2×9

Brakes: Tektro HD-M290 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Kenda Nevegal, 29” X 2.25”

Sizes: S, M, L

Price: $1,169.00

Like Diamondback, Mongoose has carved out a solid presence at the lower end of the serious mountain bike market, delivering well designed, good quality bikes at lower price points than the dominant manufacturers. The Salvo Sport is a solid entry for riders who prefer the larger 29” wheels, and is probably the cheapest full-suspension mountain bike to use the more sophisticated and bob-resistant Horst link suspension system.

Like the Atroz 2, the Salvo Sport relies on lower-end components from credible manufacturers, including the Shimano Altus drivetrain and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. These may not score you any bling points at the bike shop, but they’ll do the job on the trail and you can upgrade them as you go along. The suspension components are basic but well chosen, and offer the adjustments you need, if not all the adjustments you may want. The frame geometry is a bit steeper and more cross-country oriented than that of the Atroz 2, but that’s consistent with the larger wheel size, which tends to the first choice of cross country riders.

The Salvo Sport is a serious contender in the budget full suspension category and will have particular appeal to taller riders or riders that are oriented toward riding long distances, where 29” wheels have significant advantages.

Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1500: Jamis Dakar XC

Specs

Frame Material: Aluminum

Head Tube Angle: 71°

Rear Suspension Type: MP2 Suspension, 100mm Travel

Fork: RockShox 30 Silver, Adjustable Rebound, 100mm Travel

Rear Shock: RockShox Monarch R, Adjustable Rebound

Drivetrain: Shimano Deore 2×10

Brakes: Shimano M365 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Vittoria Mezcal, 27.5” X 2.25”

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Price: $1,399.00

The Jamis Dakar XC has been in production for many years and is a consistent entry in the budget full suspension market. It has gone through numerous changes and upgrades in that time, but as always, it’s a solid cross country-oriented bike with relatively steep angles, well adapted to distance riding and flowing trails, less well adapted to steep descents and very rough surfaces.

The components on the Dakar XC are all business and no bling. Suspension duties are handled by an entry level RockShox fork and rear shock, making this one of the cheapest full suspension bikes to feature suspension from one of the premium manufacturers. The proprietary Jamis MP2 suspension system is designed to improve pedaling efficiency. The Shimano Deore drivetrain is a substantial upgrade from the cheaper Altus, Acera, and Alivio lines, and the Shimano M365 hydraulic disc brakes will stop you smoothly and reliably.

This is a well designed bike from a reputable manufacturer, equipped with quality components. If you’re looking for a full suspension bike for cross country and light trail riding it’s an excellent and affordable choice. If you’re looking to ride steep descents and gnarly trails you might want to look for a bike with a slacker head tube angle.

Best Budget Full Suspension Mountain Bike (Tie): Giant Stance 2

Specs

Frame Material: Aluminum

Head Tube Angle: 67.5°

Rear Suspension Type: Giant FlexPoint Suspension, 120mm Travel

Fork: Suntour Raidon 34, 130mm Travel

Rear Shock: Suntour Raidon R

Drivetrain: SRAM SX Eagle, 1 X 12

Brakes: Shimano MT200 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Maxxis Recon (F) and Ardent Race (R), 27.5” X 2.6”

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Price: $1,550.00

Taiwan-based Giant is the world’s largest bike manufacturer, and has a reputation for delivering quality and value at every price point where the brand is represented. The Stance is Giant’s least expensive full-suspension mountain bike, but not many corners have been cut here: you’re getting modern geometry, efficient suspension design, and a very solid component package that fully justifies the price. The Stance 2 is more expensive than some of the other bikes on this list but it’s fully competitive with bikes that cost much more.

Giant turns to SR Suntour for suspension duties on the Stance 2, and the Raidon fork and shock will deliver the performance you need. The 34mm stanchions on the Raidon fork will be stiffer than the 30mm stanchions that are standard on many budget forks, making this a good choice for heavier riders, and the air shock is easy to adjust for different rider weights. 15mm through axles provide extra stiffness, another plus for heavier riders. Giant has been developing innovative suspension designs for many years, and you can count on the Stance 2 to deliver a solid cushion with good pedaling efficiency. The SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are solid and capable and will deliver reliable performance. The 1×12 drivetrain is compatible with higher-end SRAM components if you wish to upgrade.

As you’d expect from Giant, the Stance 2 offers versatile, all-around design with moderately slack angles well suited to general trail riding. The wide size range will accommodate almost any adult rider or older youth rider. It looks great, and will easily be mistaken for a higher-end bike on the trail. If you’re looking for an all-around full suspension bike and you don’t mind beefing up the budget a bit, the Stance 2 gets you a bike that you can ride for years without feeling like your equipment is holding you back.

Best Budget Full Suspension Mountain Bike (Tie): Marin Hawk Hill 1

Specs

Frame Material: Aluminum

Head Tube Angle: 66.5°

Rear Suspension Type: MultiTrac Suspension, 120mm Travel

Fork: RockShox Recon RL, 130mm Travel

Rear Shock: X-Fusion 02

Drivetrain: Shimano Deore 1×10

Brakes: Shimano BR-MT201 Hydraulic Disc

Tires: Vee Tire Crown Gem, 27.5” X 2.3”

Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

Price: $1,599.00

The Marin Hawk Hill 1 lands in a dead heat with the Giant Stance 2 in the contest for best budget full suspension bike. I’d be hard pressed to say which of these bikes is better, and either one will deliver exceptional value and trail capabilities. They have very similar suspension offerings: 120mm in the rear, 130 up front, enough for most trail riding. Both bikes use 27.5” wheels, a good all-around choice. The Stance 2 has a slightly more versatile 12 speed drivetrain. The Hawk Hill has a slightly slacker head tube angle, placing the front wheel farther ahead of the rider and providing extra stability on steep descents.

The Marin Hawk Hill 1 offers an XS size and the lowest standover height in each size of any budget full suspension bike reviewed here. That makes it a great choice for women and other small-framed riders, or anyone who prefers low standover height. The 9 and 12mm through axles aren’t quite as burly as the 15mm axles on the Stance 2, but should be more than adequate for most riders. The all-Shimano drivetrain and brake package on the Marin Hawk Hill is of excellent quality and will deliver quality performance.

Like the Giant Stance 2, the Marin Hawk Hill 1 is at the upper end of the “budget full suspension” price bracket. Also like the Stance 2, the quality of its design, materials, and components is equivalent to that of significantly more expensive bikes, making it a great choice for a serious trail rider on a budget.

The Bottom Line

Full suspension bikes are typically more expensive than hardtails with equivalent components, and if your budget is very tight it will usually be worth considering the option of using a hardtail. If you prefer full suspension and you’re willing to bump the budget up a bit, you can get fully serviceable full suspension bikes for $1000 to $1400 and quite good full suspension bikes for $1550 to $1600. That’s still a substantial amount of money for a bicycle, but compared to what you’d spend on a premium full suspension bike they start to look like real bargains, especially when you consider that the performance is likely to be largely equal. If you want that extra comfort and control that full suspension provides, you don’t have to break the bank to get it!

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