As the end of summer nears and the autumn mountain bike season approaches, it’s high-time our cycling experts put pen to paper and showcase our five favourite mountain bikes in the popular sub-£500 category.
The 2019 models have been getting plenty of press recently but there are still some great 2018 models, that are now reduced, to feature in the best hardtail bikes we believe are worth the buy at under £500.
The judging criteria
To keep the contest fair, we’ve only featured hardtail mountain bikes at what we feel is the ideal all-round wheel size, 27.5″ so here we go, our favourite five, starting with a very familiar name.
Even though the Cannondale Trail 7 was completely redesigned for the 2018 model, the 2019 model continues where it left off without any major improvements but landing a worthy fifth place in our favourite five mountain bikes, nonetheless.
The performance and handling with a shorter stem and wider handlebars are usually reserved for trail bikes pushing the £1000 mark. Impressive! And, as always, this Cannondale is a confident ride with decent front forks. Priced with a penny to spare, at £499.99 from Rutland Cycling, the Trail 7 is a solid choice.
The Cube Aim Pro is an excellent bike for the money with extra-strength tubes that give it a super-sturdy feel. It comes with a remote lockout Suntour 100mm suspension fork, powerful Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and internal cable routing which makes it look nice and tidy.
The wheel sizes differ depending on the size of the frame so you get 27.5″ wheels on 14″, 16″ and 18″ frames, and 29″ wheels on 17″, 21″ and 23″ frames. As always, top geometry from Cube and at £475.00 from Tredz, it’s one of our favourite looking bikes in this list.
Awarded, for the second year running, best hardtail mountain bike 2018, the brilliant Vitus Nucleus comes in at number three of our favourite five. This year saw a newer, lighter frame developed that’s longer and lower than before and blimey that’s had a positive effect on the speed without noticeably impacting strength either. Trail enthusiasts rejoice.
As far as performance goes, the Nucleus VR is up there with the best – it’s just not quite our favourite. At the top price of the category, this Vitus beast doesn’t disappoint, available for £499.99.
Aimed squarely at the budding trail rider, the Specialized Pitch Sport 2018 offers a little more off-road capability than the other MTBs in our top 5 review. The high quality, butted and formed, alloy frame features sporty trail geometry for confident and efficient trail riding. As expected from the household name.
Offering 100mm of suspension performance, on rough tracks, the Sr Suntour fork features Multi-Circuit damping. This brings the performance much closer to premium forks found on bikes at twice the price. With hydraulic disc brakes and aggressive knobbly tyres, the Pitch is one of the most capable hardtails on rough, technical tracks at this price point.
On sale now for just £375.99, the 2018 edition of GT’s popular Avalanche Sport model is an absolute steal and comes in at number one for our top recommended hardtail mountain bikes for under £500. Seriously. Aside from the lower quality tubing and slightly lax geometry, the GT Avalanche Sport rivals its best-selling older brother, the GT Zaskar, which retails at £999.99!
The 2018 model doesn’t have any significant changes from its previous year’s counterpart, which was a corker of a bike, with the only major change we can see is the switch from Tektro Hydraulic Disc Brakes to Shimano M315 Hydraulic Disc Brakes.
This is a fantastic mountain bike that’s ideal for weekend trail enthusiasts looking for a decent spec bike and performance to conquer the intermediate-t-technical trails. Great overall performance, the wheels are a big plus (27.5″) and there were no complaints about the gearing. Nice work, GT.