New 2017 bikes are hitting the floors of bike stores around the country, we've had a look through the latest trail mountain bikes and come up with what we deem the best for $2,500 or thereabouts. A trail bike is the closest thing you get to a bike that can do it all, these bikes are designed to be efficient on the climbs, and with 120-140mm of suspension travel, still provide plenty of confidence and control on rough and technical descents. We've put together a list of mostly dual suspension options with a few hardtails featuring plus sized wheels that let a hardtail be an alternative to a trail suspension bike. Consider this a short-list of the bikes we’d put our own money on (in no particular order).
At this price, bikes become increasingly specialized as either cross-country, trail, enduro or downhill, allowing you to choose a bike type that best suits your riding style and the local terrain. Wheel sizes remain a hot topic within the trail bike category, with some brands focused on the smaller 27.5in size for nimbleness, other brands dedicated to the larger 29er wheel for its greater roll-over and speed and then some brands still offering both.
For 2017, the trail hardtail has made a comeback with many brands supporting the new 'Plus-sized' wheel format with massively wide tires. These new 2.8 to 3in wide tires add grip beyond belief, soak up the hits and remain comparable in weight to a thinner-wheeled dual suspension model.
Regardless of how many brands are now offering suitable hardtails, budget pending, a dual suspension remains the most popular choice for this type of riding. Choosing a dual suspension bike provides additional control and comfort, however, you'll have to settle for lesser components as the greater complexity (moving components) of a dual suspension frame is a large part of the cost. At this price, the aluminium frame you're getting is often the same as found on the more expensive models.
Many of the top-tier features such as a dropper seat post, 1x drivetrain and tubeless wheels that you see on the best mountain bikes start to become available at this price. The dropper seatpost has become a favorite choice amongst enthusiast mountain bikers as it allows remote-controlled saddle height adjustment for negotiating technical descents without having to compromise pedaling on flat and uphill sections. Finely damped suspension that features adjustable air springs are just about standard at this price, as are hydraulic disc brakes.
Expect drivetrains to be equipped with either a 10 or 11-speed cassette, paired with a double or even triple crankset, however, some 1x drivetrains begin to appear at this point. The benefit of the 1x drivetrain is less moving parts, which means less chance of mechanical failure or issues, it also helps reduce the weight and allows manufacturer's to experiment with frame design, creating bikes with greater tire clearance and shorter chain stays which help create a more nimble bike with better traction and control.
Designed to improve steering and suspension performance, thru-axle wheels appear at this price but are far from standard equipment with a few bikes still featuring the old quick release skewer. Tubeless wheels are a great upgrade for any mountain bike and will allow the use of lower tire pressures without risk of puncture, some brands will offer 'tubeless-ready' wheels at this price, but commonly you'll need to purchase compatible tires.
If you are contemplating spending a little bit more, then truth be told, the very best value in mountain bikes sits within the $2,500 - $3,500 price range. Here features such as 1x drivetrain, dropper posts, tubeless wheels and thru-axles are near guaranteed. You'll also find improved suspension quality, better shifting and a perhaps even a carbon dual suspension frame. However, if your budget doesn't stretch that far, then you'll certainly find the bikes listed here more than capable of putting a smile on your face.
To find out more about mountain bikes then read our Ultimate Guide to Buying a Mountain Bike to help you sort through all the information and find the perfect bike for you.
Trail Dual Suspension
Giant Trance 3
The 2017 Trance has some significant updates to handle more technical trails with bigger obstacles and faster speeds. New geometry and a refined Maestro suspension system are at the heart of the changes. With a massive 150mm of suspension travel at the front, and an impressive 140mm at the rear, this new Trance is a great a modern trail bike to handle trails with increasingly difficult terrain.
The Trance 3 features a quality alloy frame paired with a thru-axled RockShox Sektor Silver fork up front and a RockShox Deluxe RT shock at the rear. The Trance 3 doesn't feature a dropper seatpost, but jumping up a price bracket to the Trance 2 gets you Giant's Contact SL dropper post which also features on the top tier 0 model. Giant's own 27.5in XC-1 wheels are paired with Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres. Shimano Deore 2x10-speed shifting and Shimano M365 hydraulic disc brakes round out this budget-friendly package.
- Wheel size: 27.5in
- MSRP: $2,100
Trek Fuel EX 5
The Fuel EX 5 has the potential to be a do-it-all trail bike with either 29in and 27.5in Plus wheel options that you can change to suit your riding style or locals trails (only 29in available as stock in Australia). Like the new Giant Trance, the Trek Fuel EX got an overhaul for 2017 which sees its geometry and suspension travel bumped up to handle aggressive trail riding. It also has an adjustable headtube angle thanks to the 'Mino Link', which allows 1/2 a degree change by flipping a link. This is the same frame as shared by the Trek Fuel EX 9.
The 130mm-travel alloy frame is paired with 130mm RockShox Sektor Silver fork up front. The front suspension travel may seem small compared to some others on this list, but the 29in Bontrager wheels and big volume 2.3in tires go a long way to smoothing out the trails.
A Shimano Deore 2x10-speed drivetrain and Shimano M315 hydraulic disc brakes feature, although no dropper post is provided until you step up to the EX 8.
- Wheel size: 29in
- MSRP: $2,199.99
Norco Optic A 7.2
The Optic A 7.2 from Canadian-brand Norco is one of the few bikes available at this price with a dropper seatpost, tubeless-ready wheels and a 1x drivetrain and so immediately sits high on the ladder of consideration. The alloy frame provides 120mm of travel at rear controlled by a Fox Float DPS shock, matched with 130mm RockShox Sektor Silver fork up front.
The creators of 1x drivetrains, SRAM provide its GX1 11-speed with a large ratio 10-42 cassette to ensure you won't be left short by dismissing the second chainring. Alex DP23 rims, Novatec hubs (thru-axle) and Schwalbe Nobby Nic 27.5in tyres will keep you rolling. SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes complete the package.
- Wheel size: 27.5in
- MSRP: $2,599
GT Sensor Alloy Elite 27.5
GT had a couple of potential options within this price range but we've gone for the Sensor Alloy Elite due to its 140 and 130mm of front and rear travel, 1x drivetrain and tubeless-ready wheels and tyres. Perhaps all that's missing is a thru-axle out back and a dropper seatpost.
Once again an alloy frame is paired with a thru-axled RockShox Sektor fork, with a well-matched RockShox Monarch RL shock featuring at back. The 1x drivetrain is SRAM's 11-speed NX1 with 32T front chain ring and 11-42T rear cassette. Shimano takes over when it comes to the brakes, with entry-level M425 hydraulic disc brakes using larger 180mm rotors front and back. WTB provide its 25mm-wide tubeless-ready rims with the popular Schwalbe Nobby Nic 27.5in tires wrapping them.
- Wheel size: 27.5in
- MSRP: $2,710
Specialized Camber 29er
Available in a choice of either 29 or 27.5in wheels, the base-level Camber is sure to offer you a refined ride on the trail. Looking to the 29er version, both frame and fork offer 120mm of travel, with a RockShox Sektor Silver handling the duties up front and a custom X-Fusion model out back. Big bag 2.3in tires will surely provide plenty of confidence, too. Like many models here, the frame shares its geometry and design with more expensive models, with premium features such as thru-axles found on this model.
There's little doubting Specialized has put the money in the important frame and suspension, but it's worth nothing that this is the only bike listed that features a lower-end 2x9-speed drivetrain and more basic Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. And like many in this list, it's also missing a dropper seatpost compared to its more expensive offerings.
- Wheel size: 29in or 27.5in
- MSRP: $1,900
Polygon Siskiu D8.0
Available for as low as AU$2,000, the Siskiu D8.0 is the cheapest bike listed here. Such a price is achieved by the Indonesian brand being its own manufacturer and sold in Australia by predominately online by its distributor.
This is a short-travel trail bike with 120mm of travel front and rear. A RockShox Recon Gold sits up front, with a Monarch RT out back. Impressively, it's Shimano SLX and XT 2x11 components that take care of shifting duties, with the greatly underrated Shimano Deore hydraulic brakes featuring too. Mavic 27.5in Crossride wheels are an impressive sight for the price too.
So with spectacular components for little money, what gives? Well, the online purchase aspect isn't for everyone, and then there's the rather simple rear suspension design that arguably isn't to the same level as the other dual suspension bikes listed.
- Wheel size: 27.5in
- MSRP: $2,500
Scott Scale 720 Plus
With a dropper seatpost and tubeless-ready wheels, the Scott Scale 720 Plus is a great example of the value on offer when you remove the rear suspension. This alloy-framed trail bike rolls on 2.8in wide 27.5 tires, with a 120mm RockShox Recon Silver fork up front. Revised geometry for 2017 sees this bike get more capable of tackling steep and technical terrain.
The Shimano 2x10 drivetrain features quality XT and SLX-level components, with Shimano brakes given too. It's Scott's own Syncros component brand that completes this plus-sized hardtail.
- Wheel size: 27.5in Plus
- MSRP: $1,699.99
Trek Stache 7
Before we get into specifications, a word about the stunning matte mint-green colourway that stands head and shoulders above a sea of black bikes, bravo! Rolling on some of the biggest tyres you'll find, the Stache takes Plus-sized hardtail up another level with 3in rubber wrapping a 29er rim.
The Stache too has an alloy frame with 120mm of front end travel, thanks to a Manitou front fork, that will feel like so much more with the 3in tires. The unique tyres provide tremendous grip, while a special frame design allows for surprisingly short chainstays which help deliver a livelier ride. SRAM 11-speed GX 1x drivetrain is again in play, with a wide-range 10-42T cassette given out back. The massively wide Sun-Ringle rims are tubeless-ready. Sister company Bontrager provide the tubeless-ready tires, and finish off the bike with stem, handlebar, seatpost and saddle.
- Wheel size: 29in Plus
- MSRP: $2,499.99