Unless you are considering a race specific bike, hardtail mountain bikes under $2000 is the real sweet spot for most riders. At these price points, there is significant value to be had. So lets take a look at what is available and show our best choices for the price range.
The reality on this price point shows that two things are in focus: components and the suspension fork. And, there is two ways to focus, buy the bike with the best fork that you can afford, or vice versa, buy the bike with the best components. Either way you go, you cant go wrong making a choice based on these two ideals.
One key point to buying bikes online is paying attention to the manufacturer. There are some bikes without brands, or from unknown companies. With no proven track record, or means to warranty the frame, it can be downright scary to either trust the bike, or deal with problems long term.
In doing research I came across a somewhat newer brand – Steppenwolf Bikes. I immediately thought of the rock band, but come to find out this expanding brand has over 200 dealers in Europe alone! The Steppenwolf Tundra is an excellent value, with a German made carbon frame!
Top Pick – Hardtail Mountain Bike Under 2000
Normally, for a cost effective carbon framed bike to be made it is an off brand out of China. The quality is suspect, and you have no expectations of product support or warranty. The Steppenwolf Tundra is showing it is possible to make economical bikes in Germany.
These bikes feature top end components from either Shimano or SRAM. Excellent Rock Shox suspension forks are on them as well. The Tundra does prove another aspect in that you get excellent components, but an average fork.
If you look at fork prices for aftermarket upgrades, you will know why it is difficult to have a top quality lightweight fork as well as top end components. Forks are very expensive now.
With the Tundra LTD you get a reasonable Rock Shox Reba RL fork with remote lockout. The lockout is a nice feature if you like climbing out of the saddle, or you have smooth roads on part of your routes. On the Pro level and above they use a Rock Shox SID which is pretty much a gold standard for upper end cross country bikes.
While the base bike runs Shimano STX, all the other bikes have race worthy XT or above parts. Some will run top end SRAM parts. All of them are 10 speed drive trains. The wheels are great as well, with DT Swiss on most bikes, which are strong yet light.
As a complete package, and for an economical price, the Steppenwolf Tundra line is worthy of taking a look. When you get down to the base facts, many bikes are essentially the same. Until you have deeper experience and can choose between frames due to fit or geometry specifics for performance, the best you can do is make decisions based on value.
Top 29″ Model – Hardtail Mountain Bike Under 2000
In hardtail models, most choices are going to first be based on wheel size. Why is there wheel sizes, and why isnt there just a standard? Well, 26″ used to be the standard, actually for a couple of decades.
But physics are going to enter the equation here. A larger wheel will roll over bumps, rocks and obstructions easier due to approach angle. Lets face it, off road, that is all you are doing, is dodging and going over rocks. So why not just run the largest diameter wheels possible?
Large wheels are harder to accelerate. On a bike, you are constantly speeding up and slowing down, especially off road. And yes, there are larger sizes than 29″ but they are not practical.
While not a carbon frame, the Overdrive 2 works quite well. Many would like you to believe that if it isn’t carbon, it isnt worthwhile. That isnt true as there are thousands of aluminum bikes that are more than competent.
This bike features an excellent SRAM GX 1 x 10 drivetrain. The Shimano hydraulic brakes have good stopping power and are easy to adjust. To finish it off is a Rock Shox Reba however without the lockout feature.
Top 27.5″ Model – Hardtail Mountain Bike Under 2000
So the 27.5 and 27.5″+ was thought of as a happy medium for those that dislike 29″ but want a bigger wheel anyhow. You will see how popular this size is on full suspension bikes. Many enduro and similar models love this size as you can go long travel, but still have reasonable standover height.
The standard 27.5 is a fairly typical wheel size with most performance tires in the 2″ width range. The 27.5+ runs usually a wider rim to support wider tires. This stronger system can take more abuse, and perhaps will perform different for you based on the the tire setup.
The Mongoose Meteore 27.5 is a good example of a reasonable hardtail MTB in this wheel size.
I like the smart looking white and red color combination. So many bikes are boring with single color neutral paint jobs. Bikes are supposed to be fun, and look like fun too, and this bike looks like fun!
At this pricing level, the majority of the drivetrain is Shimano XT. The brakes are by Hayes, a very competent manufacturer, and one of the first to mainstream hydraulics on bicycles.
The Mongoose runs a Manitou fork with remote lockout. Manitou is one of the main competitors to Rock Shox. Generally, they compare very equally across the board at each price point, so this is not a distraction.
The only thing with the Mongoose is the wheels. I would expect at this level and cost to at least have a thru axle fork. I know that thru axle on hardtail frames is a newer thing, but on forks for this type of model it should be standard.
Top Women’s Model
Here is the funny thing, of all the aspects we spoke of above, and what is missing or could be better, here is a Women’s bike that does things right. The Diamondback Bicycles Women’s Rely.
This frame runs the 142 mm Boost dropouts. Basically it is an improved dropout that allows for thru axle. More importantly is that it widens the frame slightly and makes for a more stable balance point. Basically, the wider a frame, the better the low speed stability. Unfortunately, many hub manufacturers refuse to build wider hubs, making it difficult to build safe aspects like this into a bike.
This bike features a SRAM NX drivetrain with a 1 x 11 gear setup. The 11 speed 11-42t range on the back should give most riders what they need for nearby trails. You may find you need a bit lower of a gear, and the cassette could be changed to make that happen.
The Rock Shox Sektor RL fork has 120mm of travel. This is more than ample for most riders, and many who ride cross country will work with 100mm of travel. Part of this depends on if you bottom the fork out when you hit rocks or holes. It is normal to bottom out once or twice in a ride. More than that, and either the fork doesnt have enough air in it, or it is not sufficient for your riding skill.
I think most women would feel safe on this bike and can easily ride most trails with it. The wide 2.8″ tires and overall setup will inspire confidence.
The under $2000 hardtail segment is the most popular and highest sales within mountain bikes. The reality is that most manufacturers place 75% of their bikes in this price point proves just how important it is.
These choices show that there is a wide variety of choices available. From carbon frames to high end forks, there are viable models that provide real performance. When you can get a bike under $2000 with a Rock Shox SID fork standard, that says alot.
One key thing to consider with any of these bikes is that you will need a variety of accessories, some functional, some for safety and others for maintenance. I recommend 2 water bottle cages on each bike. Being able to carry cold water and an electrolyte drink is important, especially in the summer.
Second, you will want a repair kit on the bike. I personally carry a spare tube, some allen wrenches and several CO2 inflators. I sometimes carry a hand pump for backup. CO2 inflators are one of the best things for flat tires as you can make repairs very quickly and not be frustrated with a pump on the trails.
While these are just a few choices, it is always recommended to try and test ride a few bikes before making a final choice. Being able to sample frame sizes and know the adjustments you will need to make a particular bike fit you is important. The ergonomics are important as well.
Definitely take a look at the Steppenwolf carbon bikes. They are a surprise at this price point and offer incredible value that is not really matched. With competent parts, good forks and great wheels, there is a lot of good to be had with the Steppenwolf.
Both the Mongoose and the Diamondbacks are great choices as well. The big surprise is that the Women’s Diamondback Rely had the best design features of the bunch. Overall the bike is quite modern, and confidence inspiring. It would be hard to go wrong buying the Rely.