Buying your first expensive full suspension mountain bike can be an anxious experience. There are a lot of companies trying to take your money, all claiming they offer the best product, magazines giving great reviews to their leading advertisers, how do you know what to buy?
We feel your pain and decided to try and make it easy for you. We went out and scoured the market to find what we feel are the best full suspension mountain bikes under $2000.
After you’ve read all about the bikes, you can then read a little bit on how to dial in the suspension on your new bike, so you get the most out of it, right from the get-go.
Editor’s Note: The article was updated in December 2022. Some of the bikes on the list are out of stock. We’ll keep looking for alternatives and updating the post
MARIN RIFT ZONE 27.5 1
The Marin Rift Zone 27.5 1 is a full-suspension trail bike that rides like a more expensive bike. Marin has achieved this feeling with its MultiTrac suspension platform, and the X-Fusion O2 Pro R. The RockShox Recon Silver RL 27.5 fork contributes to the bike’s composed and natural feel. This is a bike that makes it easy to choose your entry point into turns and jump over roots and holes while concentrating on having fun or riding as fast as possible.
The Shimano Deore 11-Speed SGS drivetrain is fantastic and gives you plenty of range to help you climb steep hills, while Shimano BR-MT201 hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors keep you in control on the way down.
For a super fun trail bike with a premium feel that punches above its price bracket, the Marin Rift Zone 27.5 1 is a great choice.
Cannondale Habit 6 29er
- 130mm travel
- Shimano Deore gearing
- 10 speed
Okay, the Cannondale Habit 6 29er sits just a tiny bit above $2000, but it is worth every cent of those extra dollars. You get an aluminum full suspension frame designed and created by the masters of aluminum bike frames.
When everyone else went off and looked at carbon fiber, Cannondale carried on designing brand new aluminum frames using the very latest technological improvements.
Like the Diamondback above, the Cannondale comes with 130mm of travel, and it does come with bigger wheels though. It comes with Boost spaced 29er wheels, as you can see most of the full suspension bikes are now going for this standard.
The Boost standard just makes your wheels stronger, and that is a standard that we can all agree with, surely?
The 130mm of travel on the Cannondale is provided by a Fox Float Performance on the back, and a RockShox Recon RL on the front. These two shocks from different manufacturers have been picked to work with the kinematic design of Habit 6.
At the end of the day, performance matters more than using shocks from the same company.
Shimano Deore handles the gear shifting on the Cannondale. As you’d probably expect by now, the Habit 6 uses a 1x drivetrain.
As we’re using Shimano Deore, that means you get a 10-speed bike, which is only 1 less gear than the Diamondback and only you can decide if that is a deal-breaker for you.
You do though get the awesome Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes. You’ll be able to safely bring the Habit 6 to a stop when you need it most. Shimano MT200 disc brakes feature on a lot of bikes as they just work and get on with the job with no fuss.
MARIN 21 RIFT ZONE 2
The Marin 21 Rift Zone 2 is a full-suspension mountain bike that will please you and your wallet. This bike has 29” wheels making it very fast in a straight line, but its modern low and slack geometry makes it super stable when riding challenging terrain.
For 2021, Marin has updated the 21 Rift Zone 2’s frame with its unidirectional carbon fiber front triangle. This keeps the weight down, but it also makes the bike super rigid and responsive.
This bike soaks up the bumps with a Fox Float DPS rear shock and a Marzocchi Bomber Z2 29” with 130mm of travel. Combine this with the Shimano SLX SGS 12 speed drivetrain; you get a fast-paced bike suited for long distances and trail riding.
To keep all this under control, the Shimano MT420, 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes are powerful and reliable.
For an all-round trail bike designed for speed that is reasonably priced, the Marin 21 Rift Zone 2 is well worth your consideration.
Ghost SLAMR 2.9
New for 2020 was the Ghost SLAMR 2.9, a 29-inch full-suspension mountain bike. If you are looking for a do-it-all full-suspension mountain bike for riding wherever the trails lead you, then this is the bike for you.
The Ghost SLAMR has 130mm of suspension travel, which is certainly more than enough to absorb whatever bumps and jolts you’ll be susceptible to when you’re hitting the trails.
The lightweight frame is constructed from aluminum, which will keep you from getting too tired after a long climb. The head tube angle has been optimized for maximum control on steep descents. See what we mean about this bike being able to handle whatever you throw it at?
A JD dropper Seatpost lets you adjust your saddle height on the fly- lower it for some technical riding or descending, and raise it back up when you’re riding some double track.
Hydraulic disc brakes give you all the stopping power you are going to need, even when you’re flying down a downhill stretch. The SRAM SX Eagle groupset, a favorite of mountain bikers, is strong and able to withstand the rough and tough nature of mountain bike trails.
With a RockShox fork and rear shock, you are going to be pounding the trails in comfort. And when you combine those with Maxxis Minion and DHR tires, you are really talking about a comfy ride.
This bike from Ghost was a great deal in 2021, as you were getting a lot of bang for your buck. Save some money by skipping the more expensive full-suspension mountain bikes, pick up a Ghost SLAMR 2.9, and you can still have some money for gas to get to the trails and beers for after the ride.
If you are interested in checking out the Ghost SLAMR, you can do so by following this link to REI’s website (update: seems to be unavailable in 2022).
Norco Fluid FS 3
The Norco Fluid FS 3 is a full-suspension mountain bike that comes with either 27.5” or 29” wheels to suit your personal preference. Its lightweight 6061 aluminum frame features modern geometry. This means it has a long wheelbase, low bottom bracket height, and a steep seat post angle. All this gives the Fluid FS 3 stable handling characteristics that inspire your confidence.
The rear wheel is connected to the frame via a four-bar suspension linkage with an X-Fusion 02 Pro R shock with 120mm of travel. The X-Fusion RC32 Boost Air fork gives you 130mm of travel, making this bike a superb trail bike.
Norco has fitted this bike with the excellent SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain to help you climb those steep trails. But when it comes to descending, the Tektro HD-M275 hydraulic disc brakes give you lots of control thanks to their great feel and easy modulation.
The Norco Fluid FS 3 is a superb example of a trail bike, but what makes it more attractive is that it come in around $2,000.
Diamondback Bicycles Release 1
- 150mm travel
- Shimano Deore gearing
- 10 speed
The Diamondback Release 1 features a little bit more travel than the Catch 1 and also comes with Shimano gearing rather than SRAM. The Release 1 is designed around a 150mm travel suspension fork, an SR Suntour Aion in this case.
Bringing the Release 1 out of the trail category and heading into the enduro category of full suspension bikes.
To match up with the Aion fork, there is a 130mm travel X-Fusion O2 Pro R rear shock. The fork and rear shock will help to tame most drops that you decide to send the Release 1 off, giving its ride quality you’ll find yourself searching out bigger drops every time you head out.
The suspension parts are picked to work with Diamondback’s Level Link system. The system is designed to keep your chain isolated from trail inputs.
That means you should get no pedal bob when you’re riding the Release 1 uphill. Letting you pick the right gear for your accents is a Shimano Deore groupset, in the 1 x 10 style that you may have guessed was being used.
You’ll also get the phenomenal Shimano M395 hydraulic disc brakes. These brakes may easily be one of the most picked after-market disc brakes. They offer a great meeting point between price and quality and are the start of the higher-end Shimano parts.
Diamondback Bicycles Catch 1
- 130mm travel
- SRAM NX gearing
- 11 speed
The Diamondback Bicycles Catch 1 is a burly looking and featuring 130mm of travel at both the front and back it is more than capable of helping you to tame those local trails.
The much loved RockShox Monarch Debonair provides the travel on the rear of the Catch 1 and a RockShox Yari RC on the front. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better fork than the RockShox Yari, especially at the price of the Diamondback.
The Catch 1 also features 27.5” wheels so it will be nice and flickable around berms and you’ll find the bike easy to whip over a set of doubles should that take your fancy.
These wheels are of the Boost variety, so you’ll find them to be extra stiff, and a little stronger than standard 27.5” wheels, exactly what you want when powering your steed downhill.
As you’d imagine on a modern mountain bike, the Catch 1 runs a 1 x set of gearing. You’ll find SRAM supplying their excellent value NX groupset and bringing you 11 gears from which to choose. As well as SRAM gearing, you’ll find their Level hydraulic disc brakes on the Catch 1, providing you with all the stopping power you’ll ever need.
Ghost Kato FS 3.7
- 130mm travel
- Shimano SLX gearing
- 11 speed
The Ghost Kato FS 3.7 might be the bike that offers you the most bang for your buck in our bike reviews. The Kato 3.7 is a slack trail bike with 130mm of travel to make sure that you can ride your way down your local trail center, quickly and easily.
The travel is provided by a RockShox FS Recon RL 130mm travel fork and a RockShox Monarch R shock at the back. These might be lower level RockShox parts than what was on the Diamondback Catch 1, but you get a higher level of groupset specification and a dropper post.
The dropper post on the Kato 3.7 is a JD dropper post that uses internal routing to make sure you’ve not got any cabling that can snag as your riding. The groupset as we said, is the highest spec one in the tests, and you get Shimano SLX.
That means you get Shimano shifting and a 1 x 11 gearing setup. Sitting above Shimano Deore, SLX is in a position that many would consider being the high-end of Shimano gearing or at least the highest end groupset in their midrange. It sits a few rungs higher than the SRAM NX groupsets we have also seen being used.
The goodness does not end there, though. You’ll find that the bike also comes with Shimano’s MT500 hydraulic disc brakes. These brakes will stop you fast. They’ll last forever and are virtually maintenance free.
You will find Shimano Deore on the bike. The Kato 3.7 features Shimano Deore hubs. These hubs are famous for their quality and have been seen on thousands, if not millions of bikes. They might seem old hat by being cup and cone bearings rather than sealed bearings, but cup and cone bearings have their advantages.
You will have to be more careful when you service them, but a well-serviced set of Deore hubs will offer great efficiency savings over your standard sealed bearing hubs. They will also last practically forever if you take care of them, you’re only issue being that they are more likely to become obsolete than breaking.
Vitus Sommet (unavailable)
- 170mm travel
- SRAM NX gearing
- 11 speed
Vitus is the in-house brand of one of the largest bike shops in the world, Chain Reaction Cycles, and they are famous for bringing you the very best of value for the bikes that they sell. The Vitus Sommet is no exception to that rule.
The Vitus Sommet is a 170mm travel enduro rig. You can safely buy this bike and know that you are riding the same geometry as the carbon fiber model, and many of the same parts but at a price, your bank manager is going to approve.
The Sommet features the superb Manitou Mattoc COMP, bring you 170mm of front end travel. At the back of the bike, we have 160mm of travel provided by RockShox Delux RT shock.
Similar to the Cannondale, Vitus have picked shocks that work well for their suspension kinematic profile, these shocks, once you’ve set them up, will have you flying down your local mountain with no fear.
Again we’ll find Boost spacing, this time for 27.5” wheel. The Sommet is designed to take abuse, but also to help you pedal back up the hill.
We can’t all have vehicular uplifts all day. To help you ride uphill, the Sommet uses SRAM NX gearing, and with a 46t rear cassette cog, you should find it easy to get up most slopes around you.
The Vitus is also the first bike in our reviews to feature a dropper post. A dropper post will let you have your seat at the correct height for pedaling and then be able to drop it for when you’re using gravity and need to get behind the bike.
Setting up your suspension
Setting your sag is the most important part of setting up your suspension. It is a pretty easy task. All you’ll need is a tape measure unless your fork stanchions have a guide on them your usual riding kit, and you’ll definitely need a shock pump.
The first thing to do is to put on your usual riding kit, including helmet and goggles, you might feel silly being bedecked in such a way but it’ll make your suspension suit the way you ride and weigh.
- Place your bike beside a wall; you might need this for balance. How do you ride most of the time? Sitting down or standing up? Get in that position.
- Bounce down on your bike. Doing this is to open your suspension and make it more supple, you’ll also want to make sure that you’ve not locked your suspension out before doing so.
- You should see an O-ring. Move that to the air chamber on the shock and the bottom of your stanchions on your fork. If you don’t have one, use a loosely fitted zip tie. Then get back into your riding position again.
- Now get off the bike very carefully, don’t press down. Get off your bike very carefully. You’ll not want to compress your suspension further by accident.
- The O-ring should have moved. You now need to do a quick bit of maths. Measure the distance from the air chamber to the O-ring, and You want the distance the O-ring has traveled to be around 25 – 30% of your total travel. Such as on a 100mm fork, you might find the O-ring has moved 25mm, so you have 25% sag.
- Setting it between 25-30% depends on your preferences and manufacturer’s guidelines. If you need more sag, drop your air pressure. If you need less sag, pump up your shock.
That was probably a lot easier than you thought it was going to be. To be able to set sag, you’ll need a shock pump, and we recommend the
RockShox Shock pump
The RockShox pump is worth its weight in gold. You also don’t want to be put off by the name, and it’ll work with all air suspension units. It can get your shock up to 300psi; you should follow your manufacturer’s guidelines about pressure though.
It comes with a dump valve to help you take off excess air, and if you’re using it, you’ll want to be using a slow and deliberate pumping movement. Take your time as you don’t want to cause issues by being too aggressive.
Now, if you need to set up the rest of your suspension, these videos are a great help.
I’ve spent way more time in the bike trade than anyone should reasonably want to. In that time I’ve wanted to make cycling jargon and marketing easier to cut through to help people get the bike of their dreams.
When I’m not writing about bikes, I can be seen out bikepacking on single speed bikes or teaching kids how to ride.