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The 6 Best Mountain Bikes Under $3,000

Mountain biking has a reputation as an expensive sport. The cost of bikes and gear can really add up. But it doesn’t need to be prohibitively expensive. In the last few years, mountain bikes have come a long way, and one of the benefits of that progression is that bikes are more affordable and capable than ever before. What does that mean for you? Well first off, some of the best mountain bikes can be had for under $3,000. 

More specifically, you can find bikes with 95% of the performance and features of similar models that cost closer to $10,000. It’s a great time to be a mountain biker on a budget. But, with so many great affordable options available, it can be a little overwhelming to choose a new bike. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best mountain bike under $3000. These are our top picks for cheap mountain bikes that offer a bunch of bang for every buck you spend. Sure, we understand that these bikes still cost a pretty penny, but what they'll give you is top-of-the-line performance at a more budget-friendly price point. This way, you'll have a mountain bike with the design, features, and components that will last you years, instead of outgrowing a cheap entry-level model in one season. So whether you're new to the sport, or just looking for a deal, here's our picks for the best budget mountain bikes. 

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Here at evo we strive to have the best selection of bike gear available from the best brands. Due to supply chain uncertainties and the high demand for mountain bike products, our inventory is constantly changing, and some items may sell out quickly. For the most up-to-date look at what is available now, check below.

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Orbea Occam H30

Best 2021 mountain bikes under $3000

Orbea’s Occam H30 is part of a new wave of affordable mountain bikes setting the bar high when it comes to bang for your buck. This bike is dialed, and ready for just about any ride right out of the box. The old saying states that good geometry is free, and the Occam delivers on that front in spades. A 66° head tube angle and 77° seat tube angle ensure that the bike will feel consistent and stable both uphill and down. And Orbea didn’t cut corners with the spec either. Marzocchi’s excellent Z2 fork absorbs chatter up front and a Shimano Deore drivetrain delivers efficient and reliable power to the rear wheel.

The Occam is easy to work on and maintain too. Externally routed cables make it easy to swap parts, and a threaded bottom bracket keeps creaks at bay. Orbea specs their house brand OC2 dropper, which keeps the seat moving up and down reliably. While some entry level bikes come with a few weak spec choices that necessitate immediate upgrades, the Occam is ride ready right off the bat.

With 140 mm of travel in the front and rear, and 29” wheels, the Occam falls squarely in the “Trail” category. That means it will do just about anything, with no real complaints. Fancy trying XC racing? The Occam won’t be the lightest bike on the start line, but it will get the job done. Enduro or a day at the bike park seem tempting? The Occam can handle that too. But where it really shines is everyday riding, this bike eats mile after mile of trail, rewarding you with plenty of smiles. Budget mountain bikes don’t have to feel cheap. The Occam is easy on your wallet and goes hard on the trail.

 Travel Wheel Size Category Original Price
 140mm 29" Trail $1,949

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Scott Scale 970

Best 2021 mountain bikes under $2000

Scott’s Scale 970 is a perfect example of a great first mountain bike. It’s incredibly affordable at just over $1000, and comes with an intelligent spec that will stand up to years of abuse. Scott designed the Scale with a bit of a bias towards Cross Country riding, which means it likes to go fast on relatively mellow trails, but can handle more technical terrain as well. They also spec a remote fork lockout, a rarity at bikes of this price point, so you can firm up the fork and crank out efficient miles on pavement.

That’s part of what makes this bike so versatile. Scott understands that it’s hard to justify a quiver of bikes, each tailored to different riding conditions, so they designed the Scale to preform well over a ride range of uses. With the fork locked out, the seat high, and some extra pressure in the tires, it’s a comfortable commuter or gravel bike. Drop the seat and tire pressure, throw some knobier tires on, and you’ve got a playful trail bike.

Sram’s 12-speed SX drivetrain delivers a 500% gear range, so you’ll be ready to tackle the steepest climbs and descents, and Shimano hydraulic disk brakes help you control that speed. If you want to go far, go fast, and go efficiently, without breaking the bank, the Scale 970 has everything you need at a price you can handle, making it one of the best mountain bikes under $1,200.

 Travel Wheel Size Category Original Price
 100mm 29" XC / Trail $1,199.99

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Santa Cruz 5010 A D

Best 2020 mountain bikes under $3000

Santa Cruz might have built their reputation on higher-end bikes, but their budget options are some of the most interesting bikes on the market. Unlike some brands, Santa Cruz uses the same geometry and suspension design on their cheaper bikes, just with more affordable materials and components. The 5010 is Santa Cruz’s 27.5” wheeled trail bike, they’ve designed it to excel everywhere. That makes bikes like the 5010 A D one of the best mountain bikes for the money, and great for more aggressive riders on a budget.

Like most of the other bikes on this list, the 5010 comes with a SX Eagle drivetrain, but it has Santa Cruz’s high end VPP suspension system that offers efficient pedaling and supple traction without having to play with settings. The one weakness of the 5010 A D is its lack of a dropper post, but that’s an affordable aftermarket upgrade. If you’re looking for an affordable bike built around a higher end frame that can handle a little bit of everything, you won’t be disappointed by the 5010.

 Travel Wheel Size Category Original Price
 130mm 29" Trail $2,699

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Santa Cruz Hightower A D

Best 2020 mountain bikes under $3000

Following in the vein of the 5010, the Hightower is Santa Cruz’s option for riders looking for just a little more bike. The travel gets bumped up to 140 mm in the back, and 150 in the fork, the wheels jump from 27.5” to 29”, and the Hightower comes stock with a dropper post.

Pricing out just under $3,000, the Hightower in its A D configuration is a great choice if you’re looking for an affordable bike that pedals efficiently on mellow trails, but can also handle the occasional bike park day or enduro race, the Hightower is for you. Santa Cruz’s recently revised lower-link VPP linkage drops the center of gravity of the bike for better cornering and also changes the ride to feel almost bottomless in chunky terrain. If you ride mountain bikes for the descent, but aren’t willing to sacrifice efficiency on the climbs, the Hightower will make you very, very happy.

 Travel Wheel Size Category Original Price
 140mm 29"Trail / Enduro $2,899

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Marin Rift Zone 2 27.5

Best mountain bike under $3000

Marin has quickly built a reputation for selling some of the most capable affordable mountain bikes on the market. The Rift Zone 2 is their short travel trail bike, and it lives up to that legacy. The Marin’s progressive suspension design means that even though the Rift Zone only has 120 mm of travel on paper, it’s hard to find the bottom of that travel, and it feels much more capable than that number suggests on trail. Combined with a 130 mm fork, you’ve got a combo that eases the impacts of rough roots and rocks, but still accelerates fast under power.

The Rift Zone’s 27.5 inch wheels and tires keep things snappy and playful, this bike won’t feel out of place during laps at the pump track or local skills park. But when it comes time to grind out long trail miles, the Rift Zone’s efficient pedaling characteristics help the rear suspension eat up trail chatter without wasting energy. And on the way down it delivers a fun, playful ride.

The Rift Zone’s geometry and travel orient it more toward the XC end of the trail spectrum, it’s a great choice for anyone looking to explore a wide variety of trails, from smooth flow to moderate tech. The 12 speed Shimano Deore drivetrain is supremely reliable, and a TranzX dropper post gets the seat out of the way for descents. This bike punches above its spec, and delivers a capable, reliable ride, making it one of the best mountain bikes for $2,000.

 Travel Wheel Size Category Original Price
 120mm 27.5" XC / Trail $2,049

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Norco Torrent HT S2

Best 2021 mountain bikes under $3000

Norco’s designers know that just because a bike doesn’t have rear suspension doesn’t mean it can’t handle burly terrain. The Torrent HT S2 is a hardcore hardtail that’s designed to do just about anything. The Torrent combines modern geometry with a classic steel frame to create a shockingly capable package. There are few trails outside of bike parks that this bike can’t handle. And when it comes time to pedal back to the top, it’s snappy and efficient. The Shimano Deore delivers crisp and reliable shifting, and four-piston brakes offer plenty of braking power.

The phrase “entry-level hardtail” doesn’t usually inspire confidence, but in the case of the Torrent HT S2, it really should. This bike is ready for everything, and it’s set up for the long haul. Sometimes affordable bikes are almost disposable, designed to get someone into the sport, and then sold once they move on to a nicer bike. Not so with the Torrent, no matter how many more bikes you buy, there’s always room in the garage for an aggressive steel hardtail. This bike will keep providing, long after you’ve overcome your beginning jitters and have developed strong riding skills.

The weak point on budget bikes is often their tires, but the Torrent excels here, with the excellent Maxxis Assagai upfront, and the Dissector in the rear. This is an aggressive treaded combination that offers supreme traction in nearly all conditions. So if you want the simplicity of a hardtail, without the fuss of rear suspension, but still want aggressive geometry that lets you tackle just about any sort of trail, the Torrent HT is the bike for you.

 Travel Wheel Size Category Original Price
 150mm 29" Trail $2,499

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