If you are interested in riding dirt in any capacity, finding the best full suspension mountain bike is critical.
A full suspension mountain bike means the bike is designed to be ridden on dirt trails, the bike will have a front suspension fork as well as a pivot point in the frame that is accompanied by a shock. When riding a correctly tuned full suspension mountain bike, riding over rocks or roots can feel surprisingly smooth.
In most cases, a full suspension mountain bike has two hinges on the frame. Often this hinge sits near the bottom bracket. The hinge can also be between the seat tube and the top tube. The shock between the hinge points is typically a spring or a compressed air shock.
When you ride over a bump, the shock compresses, engaging both sides of the hinge. This motion allows the bike to bend under your weight, absorbing the roughness from the terrain, and allowing you to move over the bump smoothly. Rear suspension forks range from 50mm to 220mm of travel
The rear suspension shock is also paired with a front suspension fork. The fork can have anywhere from 50mm to 220mm of travel — or the distance the fork can compress. Forks with more travel are used for rougher terrain, whereas forks with less travel are used for smoother, more moderate terrain.
Typically, cross country mountain bikes have 100-120mm of travel, trail and downhill mountain bikes have 140-220mm of travel.
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Forks used for downhill are significantly heavier than forks used for cross country. The added amount of suspension also makes the fork significantly taller and therefore more challening to pedal with uphill.
Most full suspension mountain bikes have a similar amount of suspension in the front fork as well as the rear suspension. For example, a cross country mountain bike may have a 120mm fork and a 110mm rear shock. Typically, the difference between the front and rear suspension is no more than 20mm.
When properly tuned and set up, the front and rear suspension should work in a coordinated fashion. Going over a large drop for example, should engage a similar percentage of the rear shock and the fork.
Regardless of the amount of suspension you have on your bike, it is important to ensure you are benefiting as much as possible from the suspension you have. It is worth spending time with a professional to set up your suspension properly.
- Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Comparison Table 2020
- Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike On The Market Review
- 1. Diamondback Release 3 – Best Overall
- 2. 29” Mongoose XR-PRO – Best Budget Full Suspension Mountain Bike
- 3. Diamondback Atroz 2 – Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1500
- 4. Diamondback Release 1 – Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $2000
- 5. Diamondback Catch 2 – Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $3000
- 6. Diamondback Mission 1 Carbon – Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $4000
- 7. Felt Decree 5 – Best Value Full Suspension Mountain Bike
- 8. Mongoose Salvo Comp- Best Entry Level Full Suspension Mountain Bike
- Best Pick Product
Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Comparison Table 2020
|Diamondback Release 3||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|29” Mongoose XR-PRO||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Diamondback Atroz 2||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Diamondback Release 1||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Diamondback Catch 2||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Diamondback Mission 1 Carbon||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Felt Degree||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Mongoose Salvo Comp||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike On The Market Review
1. Diamondback Release 3 – Best Overall
The Diamondback Release 3 is the best overall full suspension mountain bike if your goals include ripping descents as well as maintaining the ability to climb with relative ease.
This bike features 130mm of suspension in the rear shock and 150mm of suspension in the front. The Release 3 is an aluminum frame that takes advantage of Diamondback’s Link Level suspension, optimizing climbing potential while still performing impressively on the descents.
This suspension is paired with a notoriously reliable Shimano XT 1×11 drivetrain, offering ample gears for the steepest climbs.
If your goal is an incredibly capable full suspension mountain bike that has the ability to climb, descend, and keep you smiling for years to come, the Release 3 may be the bike for you.
2. 29” Mongoose XR-PRO – Best Budget Full Suspension Mountain Bike
The 29” Mongoose XR-PRO is a great full suspension mountain bike for a rider on a budget. This bike offers an aluminum frame and 100mm of suspension front and rear.
The XR-PRO comes with a 3×8 drivetrain, meaning there are three chainrings in the front and eight in the back, offering 24 speeds.
Due to the geometry and limited suspension of this bike, it is best ridden on moderate terrain, smooth trails, and somewhat rugged descents.
This bike is a great option for riders who are looking for an inexpensive full suspension mountain bike that they will be able to ride on moderate terrain.
3. Diamondback Atroz 2 – Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1500
The Diamondback Atroz 2 is an impressive mountain bike for the price. This bike manages to pack in an adjustable rear air shock with 120mm of travel. The rear suspension is paired with a 120mm front fork to maximize travel at a low price point.
The Atroz 2 is a snappy aluminum frame with 27.5” wheels to maximize fun and playfulness while riding. In an effort to cut costs, Diamondback has chosen a nine speed derailleur. This will give riders a reasonable range in order to climb and descend with speed; however, this limited range will make steep climbs challenging. By sticking by the benefits of a 1×9 drivetrain though, the Atroz will run more smoothly and consistently than adding a front derailleur. Many bikes under $1500 do choose to have two or three chainrings in front, and while this does increase the gear range, it also does quickly add weight and complications to the bike.
Diamondback has chosen Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, a great option to maximize safety and stopping potential while riding.
If you are looking for the best bike you can find for under $1000 and are hoping to ride primarily smooth trails, with some rugged terrain, this may be the perfect bike for you.
4. Diamondback Release 1 – Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $2000
The Diamondback Release 1 is a great aluminum frame bike boasting 130mm of rear travel and a 150mm front fork. This bike has a Shimano 1×10 drivetrain for simple shifting and a wide enough range of gears to keep you riding up almost any hill.
The Release 1 is considered an “All-Mountain” bike, meaning it will descend just about any trail and is still light and stiff enough to climb to the top of the hill as well.
Diamondback has chosen 27.5” wheels, meaning this bike will feel quick and playful on descents and be able to corner with ease while climbing and descending.
If you are looking for a do-it-all trail bike with big tires, a playful style, and plenty of ability to allow you to learn and enjoy, the Release 1 may be the bike for you.
5. Diamondback Catch 2 – Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $3000
Diamondback has taken a different approach with the Catch 2. Instead of adding bigger suspension and therefore added weight to accommodate for more challenging terrain, they have added specific linkages which support both pedaling and descending in addition to plus sized tires.
Plus sized tires (27.5×2.8”) can function as an added softener for riding rugged terrain. While they will not roll as quickly as narrower tires, plus sized tires add grip and compression to your ride, smoothing out rocks and roots while allowing an impressive amount of grab from the tires on both steep climbs, steep descents, and big berms.
The Catch 2 has 130mm of travel in the rear shock as well as in the front fork. 130mm of suspension is a sufficient amount of travel to tackle many technical trails. This bike is a do-everything bike. Where it sacrifices a bit of speed on climbs, it makes up with impressive downhill capabilities. Where it gives a bit in the amount of suspension possible, it compensates with plus sized tires to give you the added edge you need to keep up with bigger trail bikes.
If you are looking for a full suspension mountain bike with a new approach to trail capabilities, this may be the bike for you. This bike is ideal for riders who are hoping to own one mountain bike that can do it all — smooth trails, steep descents, long climbs, and playful tricks.
6. Diamondback Mission 1 Carbon – Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike Under $4000
The Diamondback Mission 1 Carbon is an incredible mountain bike if your goal is to descend with maximum speed and skill. This bike is built to ride at mountain bike parks.
With 180mm of front suspension, and 160mm of rear suspension, the Mission 1 will be able to take on some of the toughest trails and most technical features a bike park can offer. This bike has 27.5” wheels, making it feel playful and quick as you fly down the mountain.
While the Mission 1 is clearly designed for downhill, Diamondback has chosen to use a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain with an impressive 50-11T cassette. If you choose to ride up the mountain, this cassette will get you there.
Further, the Mission 1 features a Level Link suspension setup, meaning climbing on this bike is more doable than bikes with similar amounts of suspension.
The Mission 1 also features SRAM Guide R brakes, one of the best downhill brake setups on the market. These brakes will ensure you have all the stopping power you need to accommodate the high speeds the Mission 1 is capable of.
Between the carbon frame, SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, 27.5” wheels and impressive suspension, this bike is a relatively lightweight downhill bike that will allow you to ride any bike part with confidence, building your skills as you hoot and holler down the hill.
7. Felt Decree 5 – Best Value Full Suspension Mountain Bike
It can be challenging to find a carbon full suspension mountain bike for under $2500. However, the Felt Decree 5 is just that.
Felt has paired their carbon frame with 140mm of travel, front and rear. The internal cable routing, and modern look of this bike, make the Decree an impressive bike for its value. Not only does it look good, this bike is the ideal machine for riding moderately aggressive trails.
The Decree has a 1×12 SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain. While this isn’t the lightest drivetrain on the market, it has an impressively small gear to ensure riding uphill feels smooth and attainable.
By mixing the groupset, Felt has chosen the best possible components. The Shimano MT201 hydraulic disc brakes are known for being reliable and powerful.
The Decree 5 has boost spacing in the front and rear, meaning the wheels, frame, and fork are slightly wider than traditional mountain bikes, offering added stability while riding.
For riders who are looking for a trail bike that can do it all, the Decree 5 is a great middle-of the-road bike. You’ll be able to keep up with your friends on lightweight cross country bikes, and also take this bike to the bike park.
8. Mongoose Salvo Comp- Best Entry Level Full Suspension Mountain Bike
The Mongoose Salvo Comp is a great entry level mountain bike. This bike is a more upright and comfortable geometry than many of the bikes on this list. It offers 100mm of travel in the front and the rear. The Salvo Comp has a 3×9 drivetrain, meaning there are three chainrings in the front and nine in the back. This combination will offer plenty of gear options for riders.
The Salvo Comp is oriented towards cross country riding, rather than downhill. It will climb well, and descend moderate terrain with ease. While this bike is not built for downhill tracks or bike parks, it is a great entry level full suspension mountain bike for riders looking to build their skills.
This bike will offer plenty of suspension for riding or racing cross country trails. The geometry is optimized for maximum efficiency while climbing, paired with impressive downhill abilities.
If you are hoping to ride primarily cross country trails, or looking to enter into mountain biking on a bike with less suspension, the Salvo Comp could be your perfect trail companion.
How much suspension do I need?
The amount of suspension you need depends on what terrain you are hoping to ride. Added suspension will add weight to your bike and typically make it feel slower while climbing. However, more suspension also makes the bike more capable on challenging and technical terrain.
In general, people who are riding smooth trails, similar to trails in a cross country race, do not need more than 120mm of suspension front and rear. However, for cross country riding, any bike with 100mm to 140mm of suspension will suffice.
If you are hoping to ride with a focus on descents, while still having the ability to ride uphill relatively easily, you should look for 140 -160mm of suspension, front and rear. These bikes are called trail bikes, they are catered to rip the downhills, while maintining a lightness and stiffness that allows you to ride uphill. Enduro racers typically use trail bikes for their races. These races have timed downhill sections and untimed uphill sections, meaning bikes with this amount of suspension can be taken uphill and will be incredibly capable on descents.
Finally, if you are hoping to ride your bike on solely downhill trails, looking for a bike with more than 160mm of suspension front and rear is likely going to suit your needs most readily. These bikes are generally too heavy and squishy to ride uphill. If you can make it to the top though, whether by chairlift or vehicle, bikes with this much suspension will feel incredible on the descents.
How do I know what wheel size is best for me?
The two most popular wheel sizes for full suspension mountain bikes are 27.5” wheels and 29” wheels.
27.5” wheels are known for being snappy, quick, and playful. This means that while riding, you’ll be able to corner quickly, and your bike will feel smaller and therefore more easy to maneuver.
29” wheels are seen as faster in the cross country world, but the trail bike world tends to be split between 27.5” wheels and 29” wheels. 29” wheels do roll over rugged terrain more easily, but they are slower to turn and can feel like they are missing the snappiness of 27.5” wheels. However, many trail bikes are turning to using 29” wheels as geometry technology improves.
Both options offer advantages in certain situations, however, if you’re more focused on jumping and a more bouncy style of riding, a 27.5” wheel may be better for you. If you’re top priority is speed, a 29” wheel may be the best option.
Should I use clipless pedals or flat pedals?
Clipless pedals, contrary to their name, are pedals that attach to a cleat on the bottom of a bike shoe. These pedals are used by people who race cross country bikes and by some people in the Enduro and Downhill communities. Clipless pedals allow you to push on the pedals as well as pull up on the pedals at the back of your pedal stroke. The benefits of clipless pedals are the ability to use more power while riding. The downfalls of clipless pedals are it can be challenging to unclip which may cause you to crash and it is also easier to fall into improper form while jumping or on technical terrain due to the security of clipless pedals.
Flat pedals can be ridden with a rubber soled shoe where the small pegs on the pedals will stick to your shoe. The downfall of flat pedals is you may lose some power while pedaling and it is easier for your foot to slip off the pedals. However, riding with flat pedals does force you to use proper form while jumping or on technical sections. Flat pedals can also reduce injury during crashes because you can separate from your bike more easily.
When deciding which pedal to use, think about the terrain you’ll be riding. If you are going to be at a bike park, it may be advantageous to learn how to use flat pedals. If you are planning to ride cross country trails where you will be climbing and descending, clipless pedals may be the better choice for you.
How can I improve my skills for mountain biking?
Mountain biking requires a mix of skills from technical ability to endurance to strength.
To work on your technical skills, the best thing you can do is ride your bike behind someone who is better than you. Follow their line and learn from how they approach the trail. Riders will also often ride a segment of trail repeatedly in order to puzzle through the lines and techniques they can use for a given section.
To improve your endurance, simply riding your bike is also a great tool. By getting outside and moving, you’ll see quick improvements in your endurance. More serious riders will also do intervals or hill repeats to improve their endurance. As you add strain to your riding, be sure to also add rest and focus on nutrition to ensure you are recovering properly.
Again, to improve strength while riding, the best thing you can do is ride often. In addition to riding, many cyclists lift weights or do other strength exercises that compliment riding. This often includes core and leg related exercises. Further, adding in a mix of balance related exercise is a valuable component of training and will translate well to improvements on the bike.
Are there women’s specific bikes mountain bikes? Do I need one?
Women’s specific bikes are an interesting topic of the cycling world. The vast majority of bikes are designed for men. Women typically ride these bikes, and make them work for their needs. Often this means finding narrower handlebars and a different seat to accommodeate narrower shoulders and wider hips.
In the past few years, there is an increase in some brands making women’s specific full suspension mountain bikes. These bikes have a slightly different geometry and are tested by women. The growing market of women’s specific bikes is an important component of welcoming women into the sport.
If you are a woman who is interested in mountain biking, you do not need a women’s specific bike though. Many women race and ride on bikes that are not specifically designed for women and find success and joy while riding these bikes.
Best Pick Product
Of the bikes reviewed here, my personal opinion is the Diamondback Release 3 is the best pick product. This bike offers significant potential to climb and descend almost anywhere you’d like to go. The Shimano 1×11 drivetrain, the 150mm fork and 130mm rear shock mean climbing will feel great and this bike will be able to descend just about anything you put in front of it.
For the price, the Release 3 is an awesome bike that will allow any rider to improve their skills and have a blast while riding.
If you’re looking for a bike that can do it all, without breaking the bank, the Diamondback Release 3 may be the perfect bike for you.
Emily Schaldach is a professional cyclist from Colorado. She grew up racing mountain bikes and competed at the University of Colorado, Boulder where she expanded disciplines to race downhill, road, and cyclocross. Emily is currently on the Firefly Bitchstix Cycling team, also known as Team BitchnGrit, and competes primarily in cyclocross and gravel events.