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The 5 Best Mountain Bikes Under $3,000

Mountain biking has a reputation as an expensive sport. The cost of bikes and gear can really add up. But it doesn’t need to be prohibitively expensive. In the last few years, mountain bikes have come a long way, and one of the benefits of that progression is that bikes are more affordable and capable than ever before.

Now, for under $3000 you can find bikes with 95% of the performance and features of similar models that cost closer to $10,000. It’s a great time to be a mountain biker on a budget. But, with so many great affordable options available, it can be a little overwhelming to choose a new bike. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best bikes we’ve ridden that cost under $3000. These are the ones that blew us away, that offered a bunch of bang for every buck you spend, and stand above the competition. We’ve outlined their strengths and weaknesses, any standout components, and their intended uses. And, to make things simpler for you, we’ve also put together charts of key features and stats to help you figure out what you’re looking for faster.


Giant Stance 29 2

Best 2020 mountain bikes under $3000
 
 

Giant has long been known for their incredible value to price ratio, and the Stance 29 takes that one step further. The Stance 29 is one of the most affordable ready-to-ride mountain bikes on the market. For just over $1500 you get 29” wheels, a 12 speed SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain, and hydraulic brakes. The one thing you won’t find is a dropper seatpost. For beginner riders, that won’t be an issue, and as you progress it’s a relatively affordable upgrade to make. You’re not going to find many other bikes at this pricepoint that are so capable straight out of the box.

The Stance 29 is perfect for beginner riders who want to try a full suspension bike. It eats up most “intermediate” level singletrack effortlessly and gives a capable platform to develop your skills. Riders looking to ride bike parks or more technical trails may want to look for something with a little more travel, but for anyone who just wants an affordable, well-specced ride that can get them out on the trail with minimal hassle, the Stance 29 is a great choice.

 Travel  Wheel Size  Category  Original Price
 120mm  29"  XC / Trail  $1,550

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Marin Hawk Hill 2

Best 2020 mountain bikes under $2000
 

Marin is quickly building a reputation for affordable, no-nonsense bikes. The Hawk Hill is their short-travel trail bike. With 120 mm of rear travel and a 130 mm fork, it’s perfect for mellower trails and XC style riding. 27.5” wheels make it a little more nimble than the 29” options on this list, which is a huge bonus for smaller riders or anyone who rides a lot of tight terrain.

Like the Stance, the Hawk Hill comes with a SRAM 12-speed SX Eagle drivetrain, and hydraulic brakes. However, it also comes stock with a nicer fork, and dropper post, upgrades that more aggressive riders will appreciate. The Hawk Hill is a perfect bike for riders to “grow into.” It’s affordable enough for beginner riders, but has the features and geometry more advanced riders will want. And it’s a solid frame to upgrade parts on later if you find yourself hooked on riding. If you’re looking for just a little more than the Stance, the Hawk Hill should have your attention. This complete package makes the Hawk ill one of the best mountain bikes under $2,000.

 Travel  Wheel Size  Category  Original Price
 120mm  27.5"  XC / Trail  $1,949

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Santa Cruz 5010 A D

Best 2020 mountain bikes under $3000
 
 

Santa Cruz might have built their reputation on higher-end bikes, but their budget options are some of the most interesting bikes on the market. Unlike some brands, Santa Cruz uses the same geometry and suspension design on their cheaper bikes, just with more affordable materials and components. The 5010 is Santa Cruz’s 27.5” wheeled trail bike, they’ve designed it to excel everywhere. That makes bikes like the 5010 A D one of the best mountain bikes for the money, and great for more aggressive riders on a budget.

Like most of the other bikes on this list, the 5010 comes with a SX Eagle drivetrain, but it has Santa Cruz’s high end VPP suspension system that offers efficient pedaling and supple traction without having to play with settings. The one weakness of the 5010 A D is its lack of a dropper post, but that’s an affordable aftermarket upgrade. If you’re looking for an affordable bike built around a higher end frame that can handle a little bit of everything, you won’t be disappointed by the 5010.

 Travel  Wheel Size  Category  Original Price
 130mm  29"  Trail  $2,699

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Santa Cruz Hightower A D

Best 2020 mountain bikes under $3000
 
 

Following in the vein of the 5010, the Hightower is Santa Cruz’s option for riders looking for just a little more bike. The travel gets bumped up to 140 mm in the back, and 150 in the fork, the wheels jump from 27.5” to 29”, and the Hightower comes stock with a dropper post.

Pricing out just under $3,000, the Hightower in its A D configuration is a great choice if you’re looking for an affordable bike that pedals efficiently on mellow trails, but can also handle the occasional bike park day or enduro race, the Hightower is for you. Santa Cruz’s recently revised lower-link VPP linkage drops the center of gravity of the bike for better cornering and also changes the ride to feel almost bottomless in chunky terrain. If you ride mountain bikes for the descent, but aren’t willing to sacrifice efficiency on the climbs, the Hightower will make you very, very happy.

 Travel  Wheel Size  Category  Original Price
 140mm  29" Trail / Enduro  $2,899

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Giant Trance 29 3

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Giant’s Trance defies categorization. Like the Stance, it offers a huge amount of value for the cost, but the numbers don’t tell the full story. On paper, it has less travel than the Stance, but riding it on trail tells a different story. The Trance is much more capable than its travel suggests. Part of that is due to the fact that it uses Giant’s Maestro suspension system instead of the Stance’s single pivot design. And some of it comes from the stiffer through-axle rear wheel, as opposed to the Stance’s quick release. And finally, the Trance’s dropper post makes a big difference when you want to turn things up to 11. But whatever the reason, the Trance is a much more capable and aggressive bike than the Stance.

Riders just getting into the sport might not notice the difference between the two bikes as much, but anyone looking to go fast on the downhill will immediately gravitate toward the Trance. So if you’re looking for an incredibly efficient pedaling bike, that punches well above its class when it comes to technical riding, the Trance is worth your attention.

 Travel  Wheel Size  Category  Original Price
 115mm  29"  XC / Trail  $2,100

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