Best Mountain Bikes of 2020: Complete Reviews with Comparisons
When most people think of what makes the best mountain bikes different from the rest, they tend to only consider size or pricing. In reality, mountain bikes, and any bikes in general, are complex means of transportation.
There are many moving and static parts, each bringing a certain value under specific conditions. Most of the time, you can’t put all mountain bikes in the same bowl. But, for those rare occasions where you can, here are five of the best mountain bikes that you can own, reviewed and compared.
Mountain Bike Reviews
1. Schwinn Traxion 18” Mountain Bike
Schwinn is easily one of the most popular names when it comes to bicycles of any kind. The general consensus is that while slightly pricier, Schwinn bikes tend to set the standard in terms of durability and engineering.
The Traxion is equipped with Shimano shifters and mechanical disc brakes on both wheels. The 24-speed gears will allow you to make many precise adjustments for slippery or very steep terrain. Shifting is smooth and reliable
The 18” frame should be enough for the average user height of between 5’8” and 5’10” tall. Of course, raising the seat would accommodate taller users.
The frame is firm and the dual suspension does its job on the trail. The seat is fairly comfortable unless you plan on tackling very harsh trails. The suspension and the big wheels will make up for the firm padding and keep you comfortable.
Another cool aspect is the use of 2.25” tires. They’re good enough for your average mountain trails while also providing smooth traction and speed in an urban environment.
What's to like about the Schwinn Traxion 18” Mountain Bike
If you’re looking for the smoothest ride while going over rocks, holes, and tree branches, then a pair of 29ers is the best choice. The Traxion is equipped with 29” wheels which are seeing a surge in popularity for both average as well as professional trail riders.
What's not to like about the Schwinn Traxion 18” Mountain Bike
Due to the 24-speed setup, the Traxion is not your best bet for testing a dirt jump track or engaging in high drops from cliffs or urban obstacles. That being said, this is not necessarily a drawback or negative feature of the bike. It’s just a small limitation that might make it unsuitable for thrill seekers.
2. Murtisol 21-Speed Hardtail Mountain Bike
If you want to pedal on the road at high speeds and you also enjoy the occasional jumps, Murtisol has a mountain bike that’s ready to handle both activities.
This mountain bike features front suspension and a pair of 650B wheels with solid tires. The aluminum rims provide extra rigidity and durability which makes the bike usable on rougher terrains.
A 21-speed drivetrain allows for plenty of adjustments whether you’re looking to travel fast, climb a steep trail, or overcome sticks and stones when going through a forest.
As a hardtail bike, it’s not the most ideal option for finesse maneuvering on rugged terrain. However, the bike will excel if you like high drops and spending time on a dirt jump track.
The seat adjustability puts this bike in the 5’1” to 5’9” user height range. However, it may be a little bigger than advertised for shorter riders, mostly due to the frame design and positioning of the pedals. On the other hand, the weight capacity of 250 lbs. is a very good sign.
What's to like about the Murtisol 21-Speed Hardtail Mountain Bike
The bike picks up speed really fast. Given the quality craftsmanship and easy assembly process, the low-price point becomes even more appealing.
What's not to like about the Murtisol 21-Speed Hardtail Mountain Bike
The tires are thinner than you would expect. If you’re looking for something to use on city roads and mountain trails, this is bike is not for you. It lacks both wide tires and rear suspension which makes it difficult to control over multiple obstacles in succession.
3. Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike
You don’t often see fat mountain bike tires on 26” wheels. However, the Mongoose Dolomite makes it work in both style and practice.
This mountain bike is as heavy as they come, even though it comes with smaller wheels. The steel frame is durable but it’s also the heaviest bike frame material. Luckily, an aluminum alloy is used on the rims, which cuts down a considerable chunk of weight.
The bike only has seven speeds and a Shimano rear derailleur, but this is enough to climb a couple of hills, if you’re in good shape. The bike will excel most at cruising speeds and on downhill trails.
Due to the extra thickness and width of the 4” tires, most obstacles are almost unnoticeable. The front and rear mechanical disc brakes are beefy enough for higher inertial tires. The cruiser pedals and the thick seat padding add to the already impressive level of comfort.
What's to like about the Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike
If you’re looking for comfort, this is about as good as it gets. The Dolomite is not super maneuverable due to its extra weight but it makes riding a mountain bike feel like the equivalent of an SUV on two wheels.
What's not to like about the Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike
As a fat-tire mountain bike, the Mongoose Dolomite will give you a hard time when trying to go fast. The extra contact surface on the wheels is not ideal if you want to beat traffic, and it requires more effort when pedaling for speed.
4. Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike
This is a very interesting Schwinn design because it offers multiple configurations for frame size and wheels.
The most popular option would likely be the 18” frame equipped with 650B wheels. It makes the bike suitable for average and above average user heights.
Shimano twist shifters are used in combination with a 21-speed derailleur. This configuration allows for quick shifting even when under pressure on a tricky trail. The 21-speed derailleur is also a solid choice if you’re expecting multiple precise adjustments while riding.
The bike is not designed with a specific group of users in mind. It’s mostly an all-terrain mountain bike. But the lack of rear suspension may make the bike difficult to maneuver at times. This is to be expected from any hardtail.
If you’re looking for something that can take a pounding, the High Timber may be it. The steel frame can handle many drops and jumps as long as you fine-tune the suspension travel accordingly.
What's to like about the Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike
The best thing about the High Timber series is that it offers a kid-friendly model with 24” wheels and a 12” frame. Not only that but, the same level of craftsmanship and durability can be noticed on the kid model as well as on the adult model.
What's not to like about the Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike
The seat is somewhat narrow and may not be ideal for use on rocky trails. However, it is comfortable enough for slim riders riding the bike in an urban environment.
5. Merax Electric Mountain Bike
Not everyone is so keen on pedaling. If you want to get some help, an extra push, and rest your legs while still enjoying the trail on a mountain bike, then an electric mountain bike is the only solution.
The Merax electric mountain bike is powered by a 300W motor that can push you to speeds of up to 18 mph. A single charge of its 36V 8.8Ah battery is enough to coast through 20 to 26 miles.
The bike features a digital panel that allows you to monitor the battery status and make speed changes on the fly. The Shimano shifters and derailleur ensure reliability under any conditions.
Although this is an electric mountain bike, it doesn’t weight that much considering all the extra components (battery, motor, etc.). With everything strapped on, minus the rider, the bike weighs 48.5 lbs. which should be easy enough to maneuver.
The frame is made from 6061 aluminum alloy which provides strength, stability, and low weight. The frame size is 17” which means that users around 6 ft. tall and over might find it difficult to ride the bike.
What's to like about the Merax Electric Mountain Bike
Because of the hardtail design and the electric motor, this Merax mountain bike is both comfortable and practical. It’s ideal to use when traveling over long distances as it allows you to rest without having to stop and lose time.
What's not to like about the Merax Electric Mountain Bike
If you don’t particularly need an electric motor for a boost of speed or some assistance on harder terrain, the bike may be slightly too expensive for the average user. There’s also the downside of not having a rear suspension which will limit its viability on rocky downhill trails.
Mountain Bike Buyer’s Guide
Mountain Bike Types
There are so many ways to categorize mountain bikes. Some keep it simple and do it based on the suspension while others categorize them by the end goal or the activity they were designed for.
Here are the five types of mountain bikes based on design and intended uses.
Cross country mountain biking is perhaps the most interesting test of endurance. Cross country trails are notorious for their shifts in terrain, elevation, and obstacles. Mountain bikes designed for this type of riding need to show a high level of durability.
On top of that, specific adjustments are made from the suspension to tire styles. A cross country mountain bike is highly responsive and capable of picking up speed quickly. However, they can be harder to control than other types.
Downhill trails are very dangerous. The goal of a downhill mountain bike is to get you from point A (usually high on the mountain) to point B (at the base) as fast as possible.
Because riders focus more on high speed and controlling landings, this type of bike needs specific design features. The frame is more aerodynamic, longer, and closer to the ground. The suspension travel is upwards of 220 mm in order to help the rider retain control on big drops.
A downhill bike will also weigh more than your standard freeride bike because it needs to be as rugged as possible. Another interesting design feature is the conservative number of gears. Fewer gears make clearing hurdles easier.
All mountain bikes are also very durable, but not as heavy as downhill bikes. They usually come with full suspension in order to allow superior control and comfort when maneuvering on cliffs or rocky terrain.
The tires are usually very thick. They need to be in order to prevent punctures. The slight increase in tire width will also make it easier to go over obstacles and stick a landing.
The suspension is set up with a higher travel in the back as opposed to the front. The value is usually kept between 130 and 170 mm to accommodate jumps and drops.
Dirt jump mountain bikes are a lot simpler in design than most people realize. Although they’re built to withstand high drops, they’re not nearly as thick as all-mountain or downhill mountain bikes.
The frame is rather thin and aerodynamic. A sloped frame is also preferred for acceleration. The suspension travel is minimal in the back. The front suspension is high because that’s what absorbs most of the shock from a landing.
There’s also simplicity when it comes to gears and brakes. The majority of dirt jump bikes will have a disc brake system and maybe a single gear setup.
Freeride mountain bikes are all about providing the rider enough agility and control in order to execute a variety of tricks. The frame will always be light, with just enough focus on durability to withstand minor drops.
Some people may use freeride bikes for downhill events because they offer unparalleled control. However, these bikes fare even better in an uphill battle due to the low weight.
As far as suspension goes, freeride mountain bikes feature full suspension systems with a travel in the neighborhood of 170 mm. Fine-tuned bikes will have an even higher suspension.
Carbon fiber is the most common material used in medium-range and high-end mountain bikes. The main appeal of a carbon fiber frame is that it can match the stiffness of steel or aluminum while not weighing nearly as much.
The low density of carbon fiber frame also translates to high vibration absorbing potential. And, due to how carbon fiber sheets can be molded together, it allows a lot of freedom and flexibility in design.
Titanium frames are common in custom bikes. It’s the strongest frame you could hope for and also the most expensive option. That being said, a titanium frame hardtail mountain bike would be a dream for just about anyone.
The material also has good dampening properties as well as enough rigidity. It comes down to the manufacturing process really, which makes titanium highly versatile.
Steel frames are not as common as they used to be. Steel is mostly used by custom bike builders because of its affordability and ruggedness.
Aluminum remains the most popular frame material, especially when shopping for a bike in big box stores. It’s relatively cheap and has great corrosion resistance.
It’s also lighter than steel and great on bikes that need to pick up speed fast. Aluminum frames are commonly found on entry-level mountain bikes.
Most modern mountain bikes have shifted towards bigger wheels with extra traction, regardless of the activities and trails they are designed for. What was once a 26” industry standard is now a 27.5” industry standard or the “650B” wheels.
The 650B wheels are smooth, light, and very nimble. They make the bike easy to control and they generally roll over obstacles better than 26” wheels.
These wheels, also referred to as 29ers, are quickly becoming more popular even with everyday amateur mountain bikers. 29ners offer more air volume and better stability. They perform better when going downhill as opposed to uphill because of the extra weight.
They’re not suitable for just any mountain bike precisely because of their size. It’s tough to put 29ers on small frame bikes and it can also be difficult to do free suspension adjustments for various trails.
There’s also such a thing as plus-sized wheels. The wheel diameter is the same (26”, 27.5”, 29”) but the difference is noticeable in tire width. Plus-sized wheels may have up to 3” in width which essentially makes the wheels taller (when you factor in frame and tires).
The weight of a mountain bike is determined by the following key factors: frame material, wheel size, fork, and overall size and design.
Depending on the activity, a mountain bike may be purposefully designed lighter: freeriding, dirt jumping, etc.
For the average user, an affordable all-terrain mountain bike, which can be used on entry-level trails and also in an urban environment, would weigh around 30 lbs.
However, you can expect that value to almost double if you were to use a fat mountain bike with a thicker frame and extra-wide wheels and tires.
The same can be said of the other end. Bikes can weight as little as 10 lbs. when they’re made of high-grade carbon fiber and come with limited features. Or, when they’re intended for kids and obviously feature smaller and lighter components.
Full suspension/dual suspension
By far the most popular type of suspension is the full suspension or dual suspension. What suspension does is allow for travel. Travel refers to the distance the spring can compress or elongate when forced.
The role of suspension is not just that of increasing the rider’s comfort on harsh terrain. The suspension is a safety measure too because it minimizes the impact shock that the rider feels.
Suspension also improves traction in most cases which is why most trail and all-mountain bikes have it. But, different activities demand a certain travel range. Although it’s common to see bikes with anywhere between 80 mm and 200 mm suspension travel, most riders prefer over 170 mm.
As already mentioned, you shouldn’t always use full suspension. Some mountain bikes only use front suspension. These are referred to as hardtails. They’re not ideal for challenging terrain but they excel at high drops and picking up speed.
Although most of today’s mountain bikes feature some type of suspension, there are still niche bikes, known as rigid bikes, that are used from time to time.
Rigid mountain bikes are designed for easy trails and urban riding. They don’t use shock absorbers (front or rear). They’re light, low-maintenance, and easy to control. However, they’re not nearly as affordable as you may think.
Mountain Bike FAQs
What size mountain bike do I need?
The average male size is just under 5’10”. According to most mountain bike manufacturers, this means that a frame between 18” and 20” is ideal.
Female bikers may need to look for frame sizes between 15” and 17”. But, these are rough estimates. A different bike frame size may be needed if you have longer legs. It’s always best to consult sizing charts and take your own measurements before settling on a mountain bike.
What to look for in a mountain bike?
Most mountain bikes come with 27.5” wheels. That’s good enough for urban and rural riding. Therefore, the only things left to consider before buying a bike are the following: frame design, frame materials and size, suspension, and suspension travel.
If you want a bike that can handle close to everything, you may need a full suspension bike. If you want to practice tricks and show off on every occasion, you’ll need a light frame and high travel on the front wheel.
If you want to tackle difficult terrain (rocks, mud, forest trails, etc.) you need a heavy bike with a rugged frame as well as sufficient suspension on both ends. The activity ultimately determines what the most important features are.
Of course, there’s more to a mountain bike than just that. You should also consider the brake system brand, the comfort and adjustability of the handlebar, the seat quality, and of course the price. If you don’t plan on conquering hilltops and mountains, you don’t need to pay for a high-end mountain bike just to beat traffic on your way to work.
How to measure mountain bike frame size?
Measuring a mountain bike frame size will do little to no good unless you know your exact height and your leg length or reach. Without these measurements, it would be pointless to estimate the size frame that will fit you best.
Most mountain bikes frames are anywhere between 13” and 24”. This is so that they accommodate riders of 4’10” to 6’6” tall. What determines the frame size is usually the length of the seat tube.
Measure the distance between the top of the tube and the middle of the crank. Make sure not to measure the length of the seat post too when doing this. Some bike manufacturers or shops will also offer sizing charts for you to consult. These are typically universal for all manufacturers but may differ from one bike type to another.
What Is a hardtail mountain bike?
A hardtail mountain bike is a type of mountain bike mostly designed for high jumpers. It has no rear suspension and it generally comes with a slanted frame which is ideal for picking up speed fast.
It also features high travel suspension on the front end so that it can absorb powerful shocks when landing after drops or jumps.
How to ride a mountain bike?
Riding a mountain bike at a professional level requires years of practice and studying certain techniques. There are only two essential rules to follow if you want to have a good start and make it easy on you to pick up advanced riding techniques: neutral and ready positions.
The neutral body position should be maintained when cruising or when tackling easy terrain. This position demands level pedals, bending knees and elbows, and keeping the index fingers on the brake levers always.
A ready position is what you should adopt when the trail starts getting complicated and you need excellent maneuvering and positioning. Bend your knees and elbows deeper and keep your rear off the seat.
Your back should be almost parallel to the ground. Maintain the same positioning of the index fingers on the brake levers and keep looking up to 20 ft. ahead, constantly eyeing your next destination.
If you’re overly impressed with the electric mountain bike from Merax, wait a moment and revisit the Schwinn Traxion. There’s more than one reason why it’s our top pick of the best mountain bikes for the average rider.
A full suspension and an aluminum frame are an ideal combination for many roads, trails, and riding styles. While it may not be a go-to choice for dirt jumpers, how often do you plan on jumping off mountain cliffs or doing backflips off a dirt ramp?
The Traxion is a very reliable choice for any biker.