Figuring out what the best full suspension mountain bike is about like picking a beauty pageant winner. Every man has his own choice. Sure the blonde may be the overall consensus winner, but that redhead sure has a fanatical following. 🙂
Picking which full suspension mountain bike is the best is completely a personal choice, and it’s not something that your going to know unless you get your butt on a bike and take it for a quick spin. Geometry and stiffness is going to be different on each bike and your riding style may be better suited to a longer travel bike than others. Test riding is important before any purchase. I repeat…
Test Riding Is Important
But, that said there are some pretty basic ways to compare one full suspension mountain bike against another. For instance, price, weight, components and warranty. I just wrote about how you can tell the good mountain bike brands based off the following criteria.
- Quality of the frame
- Quality of the components
- Integrity of the warranty
Naturally, any bike that may be considered the best full suspension mountain bike is going to have all three of those criteria met.
I went a step further and made a list of 10 top brands full suspension mountain bikes under $3000 and judged them each by the following measures.
- Rear Shock
- Fork Travel
- Rear Shock Travel
- Frame Material
- Component Selection
Check out the chart below and then a summary of each bike along with my thoughts on it.
|Total Points||Brand||Model||Rear Shock||Rear Travel||Front Fork||Front Travel||Frame Material||Components|
majority/ RD/ Brakes
|Price||Weight||Components||Price||Weight||Lifetime Frame Warranty?|
|10 points for cheapest|
1 point for most expensive
|10 points for lightest |
1 point for heaviest
|Grade 1-10||Grade 1-10||Grade 1-10||5 points subtracted for not having a lifetime warranty|
|21||Giant||Anthem X 29er 2||Fox Float CTD Evolution||100mm||Fox Float 29 Evolution CTD||100mm||Aluxx Aluminum||SLX/ XT/ Elixer 5||$2875||27lb||8||3||10||YES|
|21||Cannondale||Scalpel 29er 4||X FUSION E1 RL||100mm||ROCKSHOX RECON GOLD TK 29||80mm||SMARTFORMED ALLOY||SLX/ XT/ Elixer 3||$2660||28lb||7||7||7||YES|
|20||Fuji||Outland 29 1.3||RockShox Monarch RL||100mm||RockShox Recon Gold 29 Solo Air||100mm||A6-SL Aluminum alloy||SLX/ XT/ Deore||$2479||30lb||7||10||3||YES|
|19||Scott||Spark 950 29er||Scott DT M3||100mm||Fox 32 Float 29 Evolution CTD||100mm||Aluminum 6061||SLX/ XT/ Shimano||$2629||27.5lb||7||8||9||no/ 5 years||-5|
|19||Orbea||Occam 29 H30||Fox Float CTD SV||100mm||FOX 29 CTD 100||100mm||Hydroformed Aluminum Alloy||SLX/ SLX/ Deore||$2599||28.7lb||5||9||5||YES|
|19||Trek||Superfly 100 AL Elite||Fox Float CTD Evolution||110mm||Fox Evolution Series 32 Float w/CTD||100mm||Alpha Platinum Aluminum||SLX/ XT/ SLX||$2719||28.5lb||7||6||6||YES|
|16||GT||Sensor 9R Expert||Fox Float CTD SV||120mm||RockShox Recon Gold TK 29 Solo Air||120mm||GT Speed Metal™ Aluminum Frame||Deore/ XT/ Formula RX||$2790||30lb||8||5||3||YES|
|10||Niner||RIP 9 1 Star x7||Fox Float RP23||125mm||ROCK SHOX, SECTOR RL SOLO AIR||130mm||air formed aluminum alloy||X7/ X7/ Elixer 1||$2999||28lb||6||2||7||no/ 5 years||-5|
|10||Felt||Edict Nine 50||RockShox Monarch R shock||100mm||RockShox Recon Gold TK 29 15 solo air||100mm||Double Butted 7005 series aluminum||Deore/ Deore/ Deore||$2899||30.31lb||4||4||2||YES|
|10||Specialized||FSR Stumpjumper Comp 29||Fox Float CTD Evolution||130mm||FOX Float CTD Evolution 29||130mm||M5 hydroformed Aluminum tubing||X7/ X9/ Elixer 5||$3000||30.5lb||8||1||1||YES|
Just to note, I think every one of these bikes is excellent and would be proud to have any of them on the trail. I have only ridden a couple of them and I did my best to evaluate these with absolutely no bias and to purely look at value of the bike. All build information has been acquired from each brand’s website and the weights were received from sources around the internet.
This chart is for broad and quick comparison and not intended to replace actually getting on the bike and test riding. This also can’t take into account the different design intricacies between each model. So please consider that while viewing these comparisons.
Now a quick summary of each bike in the order of their overall points ranking.
1. Giant Anthem X 29er 2
The Giant Anthem X 29er 2, I’m actually kind of shocked that this came out as number 1. Aside from being the lightest of these stock bikes I wasn’t blown away by anything about it in the chart. I actually thought it was going to suffer considerably because of the relatively high price point.
Built up with a Shimano SLX front derailleur, shifters and cranks it runs an XT rear derailleur for smoother more accurate shifting.
Full disclosure, I do own this bike… and I freaking love it. I’ve never shredded trail like I can with this bike, it rips downhill and tames every climb it finds. I bought this bike for a reason, it’s totally badass. Because of this personal experience I gave the tiebreaker for best full suspension mountain bike to it over the Cannondale Scalpel 29er 2.
2. Cannondale Scalpel 29er 4
A solid bike, scoring 7’s across the board. it is probably the most value conscious bike on the list and just an absolutely awesome build. At only 28 pounds this beast is rocking a Shimano SLX build with an XT derailleur and a set of Avid Elixer 3 brakes. Built for high speed XC riding it also has the lowest amount of travel of any bike on this list at only 80mm in the front fork.
Cannondale makes a great bike and this thing is no different. Beast mode engage.
3. Fuji Outland 29 1.3
The Fuji Outland 29 1.3 is the lowest priced bike on this list at nearly $600 cheaper than the most expensive. And yet it still gets built up with a solid set of SLX components and an XT rear derailleur. The brakes don’t quite match that of the Giant Anthem’s Elixer 5’s and the bike is on the heavy end of the chart.
Nonetheless, this bike is quality and really surprises me taking the #3 ranking.
Full disclosure, I own a Fuji Newest 1.0 road bike which I have ridden for over 10 years. I can personally vouch for the integrity of their bikes and how well they are made. No extra points were given for that, but I think its something important for me to share.
4. Scott Spark 950 29er
The Scott Spark is known for being a lightweight trail monster, and it certainly ranks out that way as well. The Spark loses 5 points for not having a lifetime warranty and instead just having a 5 year. If it weren’t for that this bike would have #1 on this list.
100mm of travel front and rear, it pairs a Fox Racing fork with the Scott DT M3 rear shock which is highly rated. It is also the second lightest bike on this list at just 27.5 pounds and built up with a killer set of Shimano SLX components and an XT rear derailleur.
So long as you aren’t hucking this thing off cliffs and aren’t in danger of trashing the frame the Scott Spark 950 29er is a monster of a bike and should be of premium consideration.
5. Orbea Occam 29 H30
The Orbea Occam 29 H30 is one of the most visually stunning bikes there is with it’s incredible frame design. It’s no slouch on the trail either loaded up with a Fox fork and rear shock. This gives it a moderate 100mm of travel down the trail.
It also gets a boost to its rankings based on its price of only $2599, the second least expensive bike on this list. It’s midpack in terms of weight at 28.7lb and comes setup with a full Shimano SLX build including the rear derailleur.
Orbea is known for making a pretty aggressive bike in terms of geometry. All the more reason that you need to do a test ride before making any kind of purchase.
6. Trek Superfly 100 AL Elite
Trek puts together a solid bike with the Superfly 100 AL Elite. It is middle of the pack on each criterium and could be ranked as high as 4th. The higher price on this bike versus the Scott and Orbea keeps it at 6th.
110mm of travel in the rear and 100 up front makes it the most plush yet of any bike. Your personal preference regarding whether you prefer a stiff or plush ride is all up to you, but the difference between most of the rides on here at 100mm versus this one at 110mm is pretty negligible.
The Superfly 100 AL Elite sports another Shimano SLX build with an XT rear derailleur and Shimano SLX brakes. Fox Racing provides the fork and rear shock. A great bike from possibly the best known bike manufacturer to the US.
7. GT Sensor 9R Expert
GT has been a major player in the bicycle market for decades, I can remember back in the mid 90’s wanting so bad to buy a GT BMX bike because they were so great. Their performance in the Downhill and professional racing game is near legendary supplying riders like the Atherton trio and Hans Rey with their bikes.
The GT Sensor is a full suspension mountain bike with 4.5 inches of travel (120+mm) using a RockShox Recon Gold up front and a Fox Racing Float CTD in the rear. It is a fairly heavy bike at 30 pounds, but extremely reliable. The price is middle of the road at $2790.
The components that make up the stock build of this bike are a bit of a strange mix. Using Shimano Deore for the drivetrain and an XT rear derailleur, it gets a big boost from upgrading to Formula RX brakes, by far the best set of brakes of any bike on this list.
8. Niner R.I.P. 9 1 Star x7
The most surprising outcome of this little comparison is this Niner R.I.P 9 build. Niner is a much smaller company and only builds 29ers, thus their name. In this comparison they really get bombed from by 2 ratings… The high price point (second highest) and their warranty.
Because Niner is such a small producer they have a higher price point than some of the big players, that means that your unfortunately paying a premium for the components the bike gets built up with. Because they order a smaller amount of parts from suppliers like SRAM and Shimano they can’t include them as cheaply as the mega brands. The full SRAM x7 build isn’t bad, but it’s also not on par with several of the others in this comparison. A full X7 build is not on the same level as an SLX/XT build. It also hurts that this only comes with Avid Elixer 1 brakes while everyone else is getting Elixer 5’s or 3’s.
As for their warranty, they get 5 points deducted because it is only a 5 year warranty instead of a lifetime warranty. And unfortunately Niner has a bad rap about frames having problems. This is a high quality brand that has had some rough spots on their way to fame, but nonetheless a company whose bike I would love to own. Fans of the brand are diehard about it and there may not be a more beautiful bike design on the market.
The R.I.P. 9 has 125mm of travel in the rear and 130mm in the front fork coming from a Fox Racing RP23 rear shock and a RockShox Sector fork. That is a lot of travel in this part of the world (Texas) but it depends completely on your riding style. I personally like a stiffer ride better… but thats just me.
9. Felt Edict Nine 50
The Felt Edict Nine 50 is a good bike that just doesn’t quite keep up with the rest of the competition in terms of weight, components and price. However, it does stand out with an outstanding suspension setup using a RockShox Monarch R rear shock and a RockShox Recon Gold TK fork. It is an XC bike with 4″ or 100mm of travel in the front and rear.
This bike really gets nailed on the full Shimano Deore setup, as well as weighing in at 30.31 pounds while costing $2899. Thats the second heaviest bike with the worst component suite and the fourth most expensive.
Full disclosure, my first mountain bike was a Felt about 5 and half years ago. I loved that bike, made me incredibly sad when I sold it after buying my Giant. I am kinda bummed to see this Felt Edict Nine 50 rate so lowly on this list. As someone who has first hand experience riding a Felt bike I have to say I was extremely happy with my experience riding their bike. But unfortunately I just don’t see the value when compared to others with the same criteria. Again an important reason to always test ride and use that as your decision maker.
10. Specialized FSR Stumpjumper Comp
The big “S“. Specialized is probably the biggest brand in Texas, selling more bikes than any other brand. While that is based off my own eyeball test, I bet there is some accuracy in that. Specialized bikes are EVERYWHERE. Which is good, because they make a great bike. But… your also paying for the Specialized brand name in addition to the bike itself.
The FSR Stumpjumper Comp has more travel than any of the bikes in this comparison at 130mm both front and rear. Suspension is provided by a Fox Float CTD Evolution in the rear and a Fox Float CTD Evolution Fork up front. The components are a solid setup of SRAM x7 drivetrain with an x9 rear derailleur and rounded out with Avid Elixer 5 brakes. Personally I love the SRAM x9 components for cost effective performance and the Elixer 5 brakes are a good starting point for brakes. Overall the components on this bike are pretty excellent.
So why does the FSR Stumpjumper Comp rank so poorly on this list?
Two words: Weight and price. This bike is both the heaviest stock bike as well as the most expensive bike on the list. 30.5lb is a full 3 pounds heavier than the lightest bike and the msrp of $3000 is $621 more than the most affordable.
So would I recommend this bike? Yes. without a doubt I would. While it is heavy and a bit pricy, it is a solid bike from a trusted brand. Specialized is top dog in the Texas market for a reason, they have good products and stand behind their brand. So if you are looking for a new bike, don’t discount this Specialized FSR Stumpjumper Comp, instead go get on a bike and take it for a ride. You may prefer its long travel and geometry better than anything else on the list.
The Best Full Suspension Mountain Bike…
Is the one that you like the most and feels best in your ride.
At the end of the day what matters most is that you enjoy the bike you ride. Weight, price and everything else is a non-factor if you absolutely love the bike you have. As I’ve said a couple times already, nothing substitutes getting on a bike and riding it.