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Best Downhill Mountain Bike Review And Guides 2020

best downhill mountain bike

If you do not have time for the details, here are our top picks for downhill mountain bike:

  1. Trek Session 8– Best Overall 
  2. Diamondback Release 1 – Best Bike Under $2000 
  3. Mongoose Boot’r – Best Bike Under $2500 
  4. GT Fury Expert – Best Bike Under $3000
  5. Eminent Haste – Best Lightweight Enduro Bike 
  6. Ibis Ripmo – Best 29” Downhill Bike 
  7. Trek Fuel EX 5 – Best Beginner Bike 
  8. Santa Cruz Bronson 27.5+ – Best Enduro Bike 
  9. Trek Roscoe 8 – Best Hardtail Downhill Bike 
  10. Diamondback Atroz – Best Cross Country Downhill Bike 

If the trails are calling and you feel drawn to descend faster and faster, finding the best downhill bike to suit your needs will be the first step in getting you to those elusive and exciting trail moments.  

What should I expect from my downhill bike? 

Downhill mountain bikes are suited for just that, riding downhill trails. Unlike many bikes which can perform moderately well in various different terrains, most downhill bikes are strictly designed for riding downhill.  

If you are looking to ride either at a downhill bike park with a chairlift or ride somewhere where your runs will be shuttled, a downhill bike may be the perfect choice.  

Typically, downhill mountain bikes have 160-210mm of suspension in both the front and rear of the bike. This huge amount of suspension means downhill bikes will be able to handle some of the most technical terrain.  

While downhill bikes feel great to ride downhill due to the huge suspension, they are very challenging to ride uphill or even on flat trails. The suspension and the geometry of downhill bikes contribute to how squishy they feel, a trait that is awesome while descending but makes riding uphill shockingly inefficient. 

If you are excited at the prospect of improving your downhill skills and have access to the proper downhill terrain, a downhill bike may be an awesome choice.  

If you are hoping to ride downhills but also have the ability to pedal uphill or on flat terrain, it may be advantageous to look into an Enduro bike. Enduro bikes, otherwise known as trail bikes, are one step smaller than downhill bikes and are designed to optimize riding downhill as quickly as possible on a bike that is still capable of climbing.  

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Enduro bikes are seen as one step outside of downhill bikes; however, some professional downhill riders do choose to ride an Enduro bike in downhill races. Depending on the terrain, a lighter bike with slightly less suspension may be a faster choice.  

Finally, there are cross country bikes that have shifted capacities to feel best on the descents of cross county trails. This could be a hardtail or a full suspension bike that has some features of a downhill bike such as a slack headtube angle or grippy tires. 

This review will look at strict downhill bikes, some Enduro bikes, and some downhill oriented cross country bikes.  

Reviews  

1. Trek Session 8– Best Overall 

The Trek Session 8 is a downhill bike made for the park. This bike will shred on any trail you can find. 

Trek has combined features which optimize the price point and the capabilities of this bike.  

The Session 8 has an aluminum frame which ensures this bike will be durable and can withstand even the toughest rides. 

Trek has chosen to include a massive amount of suspension on this bike, with 200mm in the front and 210mm in the back. If your goals include sending it off cliffs, rocks, and highly technical terrain, the Session could be a great option. 

2. Diamondback Release 1 – Best Bike Under $2000 

The Diamondback Release 1 is a bike built for shredding on the descents and maintaining a great ability to climb. This bike is equipped with an aluminum frame,150mm of front suspension, and 130mm of rear suspension.  

The Release 1 comes with 27.5” wheels and 2.3” tires, making it a quick and snappy bike that will maintain traction and provide plenty of grip in technical terrain.  

Diamondback has chosen a 1×10 drivetrain, maintaining the welcome simplicity of a drivetrain with only one chainring in the front while still keeping sufficient gear options to allow you to ride up most hills.  

If you are looking for a bike that leans towards downhill capabilities but can still climb with relative ease, the Release 1 could be a great option for you.   

3. Mongoose Boot’r – Best Bike Under $2500 

Mongoose created a bike meant for strict downhill terrain with the Boot’r. This bike is designed to fly down technical terrain at downhill parks.  

With 200mm of suspension in the front and rear, the Boot’r will be able to handle any drop or jump you feel comfortable on.  

Mongoose chose a 1×10 drivetrain, offering a wider gear range than many other downhill bikes. If you do find yourself pedaling between runs, the Boot’r will keep up better than most downhill bikes. 

The decision to stick with 27.5” wheels ensures this bike will feel quick and snappy while maintaining the ability to roll smoothly over rocks and roots.  

If you are looking for a downhill bike that is strictly suited for bike parks or shuttle runs and you’d like to take your downhill riding to the next level the Boot’r can get you there.  

4. GT Fury Expert – Best Bike Under $3000 

The GT Fury Expert combines great components to create a bike that will rip at any bike park.  

Unlike many of the bikes on this list, the Fury Expert comes with a carbon front triangle. This will offer a softened ride and also decrease the weight of the Fury, making it more maneuverable.  

GT has chosen 200mm of suspension for both the front and rear. Wherever you ride, the suspension on the Fury will be able to keep up.  

The Fury Expert comes with a 1×10 drivetrain, meaning there are ten gears in the back and a simplified single chainring in the front. This system allows you enough of a gear range to pedal through the downhills and flats while ensuring the chain stays on in rugged terrain.  

If you are looking for a bike that capitalizes on the benefits of carbon and is highly capable of shredding any downhill park, this could be the perfect fit for you.  

5. Eminent Haste – Best Lightweight Enduro Bike 

The Eminent Haste is an impressive looking and an impressive performing bike.  

Eminent has created this bike as an Enduro bike with capabilities that rival a downhill bike. The Haste has 170mm of front suspension and 160mm of rear suspension, a dropper post, 4-piston hydraulic brakes, and quick 27.5” wheels to ensure you’ll be able to descend like a champion.  

One of the best features of the Haste is the SRAM NX Eagle cassette with its 11-50 tooth gear range. This drivetrain will ensure you can climb up with plenty of energy left in the tank to descend with vigor.  

If you are looking for a bike that capitalizes on the lightness of carbon and integrates features of an Enduro bike and a downhill bike, the Haste is a great option.  

6. Ibis Ripmo – Best 29” Downhill Bike 

The Ibis Ripmo is an aluminum bike designed for aggressive riding and Enduro capabilities. 

This bike, unlike many downhill oriented bikes, has 29” wheels paired with high volume 2.5” tires. 29” wheels are typically used by the cross country community but some downhill bikes, such as the Ripmo, will soar with 29” wheels.  

If you are looking for a bike that feels like it can roll over just about anything, a 29” Enduro bike may fit your needs.  

The Ripmo comes with a SRAM Eagle cassette which offers a wide range of 12 gears to ensure you feel confident climbing as well as descending.  

If your riding goals include descending with speed and still climbing with ease, the Ripmo, complete with its powerful 29” wheels, may be a great option.  

7. Trek Fuel EX 5 – Best Beginner Bike 

The Trek Fuel EX 5 is a great bike that will open the door to downhill riding. This bike has an ideal amount of suspension and plenty of capabilities to help you learn quickly how to ride downhill.  

You’ll have plenty of space to experience the joy of riding with Trek’s decision to build this bike with just enough suspension, gears, and safety features to keep you rolling.  

The Fuel EX 5 comes with 140mm of front suspension and 130mm of rear suspension. This travel will help you tackle most trails as you learn to navigate technical rides with speed.  

Trek chose a 1×10 drivetrain, meaning there is one gear in the front and ten gears in the back. This decision offers a simplified drivetrain from drivetrains with multiple front chainrings, making it easier to use while still offering the range you need for most climbs.  

If you are a beginner rider looking to explore the world of downhill mountain biking, the Trek Fuel EX 5 may be the perfect bike to stoke your flame around riding.  

8. Santa Cruz Bronson 27.5+ – Best Enduro Bike 

The Santa Cruz Bronson made waves when it was released in 2013 and has been revamped with greater suspension capabilities and plus sized tires.  

This bike is outfitted with enough suspension, 160mm front and 150mm rear, to ensure you’ll be able to ride downhill trails, take on downhill parks, and still be able to pedal uphill. 

The Bronson has a 1×12 drivetrain which gives you the ability to climb much more easily than a downhill bike. 

If you are looking for a bike that feels impressive on the descents and is still capable of climbing, this could be a great choice.  

Santa Cruz has equipped the Bronson with 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes which will ensure you have the stopping power you need on the steepest trails.  

The decision to use plus sized tires on the Bronson make this bike stable and adds to the impressive traction you’ll feel while riding. While some downhill bikes look to add suspension, Santa Cruz has increased the capabilities of the Bronson by integrating plus sized tires.  

The Bronson 27.5+ is a bike that straddles the gap between an Enduro bike and a downhill bike. If you are looking to lead in the park and still be able to climb, Santa Cruz had you in mind with the design of this bike. 

It is important to note that the Juliana Roubion is the women’s specific version of the Santa Cruz Bronson. It has the same geometry and components, but is built with a womens specific seat and branding.  

9. Trek Roscoe 8 – Best Hardtail Downhill Bike 

The Trek Roscoe 8 is a unique bike amongst this list. While all the other bikes have significant suspension, the Roscoe 8 is a hardtail.  

This bike is not built for bike parks but it is intended to optimize playfull downhill riding. If you are hoping to focus on downhill riding while still having plenty of capacity to climb and ride with your cross-country friends, this bike could be a great option.  

Trek has simplified this bike by using a hardtail frame, a 1×12 drivetrain which offers plenty of capacity to climb, and wide tires to encourage stability, traction, and fun.  

If you want to ride downhill with a fun, jumpy, snappy, and playful style, the Roscoe 8 could be a great bike for you.  

10. Diamondback Atroz – Best Cross Country Downhill Bike 

The Diamondback Atroz is a bike built for focusing on the descents while cross country riding. This bike comes with 130mm of front suspension and 100mm of rear suspension, meaning you’ll maintain the stiffness and lightness of a cross country bike while reaping the benefits of added suspension and a slacker headtube angle.  

The Atroz comes with grippy 2.35” tires which will have more traction than cross country bikes, allowing you to ride faster on the descents.  

This bike also comes with hydraulic disc brakes which will ensure you can ride quickly, knowing your brakes will be there when you need them.  

If you are looking for a cross country bike that has a focus on riding the descents of any cross country ride, the Atroz 3 could be a great option.  

ImageProductFeatures
scmtbl-table__image Best Overall Best Overall Trek Session 9.8 27.5
  • Suspension: 200mm front, 210mm rear
  • Wheel size: 27.5” wheels, 2.4” tires
  • Gears: 1x7
  • Brakes: 4-piston hydraulic disc
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scmtbl-table__image Best Under $2000 BikeBest Under $2000 Bike Diamondback Release 1
  • Suspension: 150 front, 130 rear
  • Wheel size: 27.5” wheels, 2.3” tires
  • Gears: 1x10
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc
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scmtbl-table__image Best Under $2500 BikeBest Under $2500 Bike Mongoose Boot’r
  • Suspension: 200mm front, 200mm rear
  • Wheel size: 27.5” wheels, 2.35” tires
  • Gears: 1x10
  • Brakes: 4-piston hydraulic disc
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scmtbl-table__image Best Lightweight Downhill BikeBest Lightweight Downhill Bike GT Fury Expert
  • Suspension: 200mm front, 200mm rear
  • Wheel size: 27.5” wheels, 2.35” tires
  • Gears: 1x10
  • Brakes: 4-piston hydraulic disc
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scmtbl-table__image Best Lightweight Enduro BikeBest Lightweight Enduro Bike Eminent Haste
  • Suspension: 170mm front, 160mm rear
  • Wheel size: 27.5” wheels, 2.35” tires
  • Gears: 1x12
  • Brakes: 4-piston hydraulic disc
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scmtbl-table__image Best 29” Wheels BikeBest 29” Wheels Bike Ibis Ripmo
  • Suspension: 160mm front, 147mm rear
  • Wheel size: 29” wheels, 2.5” tires
  • Gears: 1x12
  • Brakes: 4-piston hydraulic disc
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scmtbl-table__image Best Beginner BikeBest Beginner Bike Trek Fuel EX 5
  • Suspension: 140 front, 130 rear
  • Wheel size: 27.5” or 29” wheels, 2.6” tires
  • Gears: 1x10
  • Brakes: 2-piston hydraulic disc
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scmtbl-table__image Best Enduro BikeBest Enduro Bike Santa Cruz Bronson/Juliana Roubion
  • Suspension: 160 front, 150 rear
  • Wheel size: 27.5” wheels, 2.6” tires
  • Gears: 1x12
  • Brakes: 4-piston hydraulic disc
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scmtbl-table__image Best Hardtail BikeBest Hardtail Bike Trek Roscoe 8
  • Suspension: 120mm front
  • Wheel size: 27.5” wheels, 2.8” tires
  • Gears: 1x12
  • Brakes: 2-piston hydraulic disc
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scmtbl-table__image Best Cross Country Downhill Best Cross Country Downhill Diamondback Atroz 3
  • Suspension: 130mm front, 100mm rear
  • Wheel size: 27.5” wheels, 2.35” tires
  • Gears: 1x11
  • Brakes: 2-piston hydraulic disc
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FAQ 

Which frame material is best for me? 

Downhill bikes are typically made with one of two material types: aluminum or carbon.  

Aluminum is known for being relatively lightweight, stiff, and inexpensive. Many lower-end bikes are built with aluminum because this material is ideal for building a durable and efficient bike.  

You may have heard that aluminum bikes do not absorb as many of the vibrations of the road and the ride quality may feel jarring. However, on a downhill bike, most of this concern is eliminated because the suspension will far surpass the ability of the frame material to absorb vibrations, making aluminum downhill bikes a great option.  

The second common material is carbon. Carbon is known for being the lightest and strongest bike material available. Most professional riders ride carbon bikes.  

Carbon absorbs more of the vibrations than aluminum and is a lightweight material that flexes nicely to create an optimized ride quality.  

However, carbon’s benefits are not without some downsides. 

Carbon is more expensive than aluminum and also more likely to break. If you do crash your bike or even allow a cable to rub the wrong way, a carbon frame may break, rendering the bike unrideable.  

Both aluminum and carbon bikes can offer a high-quality ride. Typically, carbon bikes are paired with more expensive components and aluminum bikes are paired with more affordable components.  

How does the weight of my bike accept how it rides? 

In terms of weight, downhill bikes fall in a slightly different category than most other bikes. 

Typically, lighter bikes are more expensive and will be faster than heavier bikes. However, bike companies are constantly weighing the costs and benefits of using heavier components to add capabilities to a bike.  

For example, a full suspension cross country bike may be lighter than a hardtail mountain bike, but the added weight will make the bike faster and more comfortable on some courses, making the tradeoff reasonable.  

Downhill bikes take this idea to the extreme. Most downhill bikes weigh around 35lbs, with some of the lightest downhill bikes weighing just under 30lbs.  

Compared to most high-end bikes, this is very heavy. However, the weight comes from the suspension, frame design, powerful brakes, etc to optimize the bike for riding downhill.  

Within downhill bikes, carbon bikes are almost always lighter than aluminum bikes. Riding a lighter bike is advantageous because it is easier to handle and maneuver than a heavier bike.  

What size wheel do I need? 

The majority of modern downhill bikes have either 27.5” wheels or 29” wheels. Some more traditional downhill bikes use 26” wheels. 

26” wheels will feel snappy and compact. The industry has primarily moved away from 26” wheels because they do not roll as easily over roots, rocks, and technical terrain.  

29” wheels developed in the cross country community and are still widely used amongst cross country riders. Some companies have embraced 29” wheels for downhill bikes as technology improves to create a smooth and quick ride style with such large wheels. 

27.5” wheels are the response to the lack of snappiness in some 29” wheels. Many Enduro bikes and downhill bikes utilize 27.5” wheels to optimize speed and quickness.  

Riders may also choose a certain wheel size based on their body size. Small riders may feel more comfortable with smaller wheels while tall riders may fit better on a bike with 29” wheels.  

How many gears do I need? 

Downhill bikes tend to have a limited gear range. Since they are optimized for riding downhill, they do not have gears that will feel efficient on climbs or flat trails.  

Most downhill bikes have a 1×7 drivetrain, meaning there is one chainring in the front and seven in the back. This limited range is compact and will offer sufficient gear options to allow you to pedal through sections of the downhill tracks.  

Enduro bikes, trail bikes, and cross country bikes will have a wide gear range which allows them to pedal uphill efficiently.  

What is the difference between types of brakes? 

High-end downhill bikes typically have 180mm rotors and 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes.  

180mm rotors refer to the size of the disc that sits external to the wheel, where the brake caliper squeezes the disc. This is a larger rotor than most cross country or road bikes which typically have 140mm or 160mm rotors.  

Hydraulic disc brakes are the strongest and most effective brakes on the market, making them the safest option for downhill bikes. A 4-piston brake means there are two sets of pistons squeezing the rotor which does add weight to the brake, but also ensures you’ll have the stopping power you need.  

Alternate brake options include mechanical disc brakes. These brakes utilize a mechanical cable system to squeeze the caliper around an external dis.  

Mechanical disc brakes are not as powerful as hydraulic disc brakes but they can hold up for moderate riding.  

Finally, the third option is rim brakes. Rim brakes are not recommended for downhill riding because they utilize a caliper to squeeze the rim of the wheels and do not have nearly as much power as disc brakes.  

Best Product Picks 

My top choice for a downhill specific bike is the Trek Session. This bike is built for extreme riding in trying conditions at a bike park with lift access. 

If you are looking for an Enduro bike or a trail bike, the Eminent Haste or the Santa Cruz Bronson are an epic choice that will offer unparalleled downhill capabilities on a bike that is still capable of pedaling uphill.  

If you are a cross country rider who is stoke on the descents, the Trek Roscoe 8 is a rad bike that will inspire any rider to smile and fly through any descent.  

tfa By thinking about where you are hoping to ride, you’ll be able to pick the best downhill bike that suits your needs, your wallet, and your goals on the bike. Have fun out there! 

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