Vital’s $2,000 Budget Mountain Bike Comparison Test

Can someone buying a first-time mountain bike really meet their performance aspirations at an entry-level, beginner price tag? Vital MTBers, welcome to our $2,000 full suspension mountain bike comparison test.

At Vital, we have the privilege of spending time aboard some really nice, and expensive, mountain bikes. We’ve ridden the UNNO Ever downhill bike which costs almost $12,000, and we’ve tested wheelsets that cost as much or more than the bikes featured here. We felt it was time to take a step back and see how capable a $2,000 mountain bike really is.

We found six full-suspension 29ers in the 120mm to 140mm rear travel range. They’re considered trail bikes if you’re unaware of how mountain bikes are classified these days. A trail bike is made to do a little bit of everything, and hopefully do it pretty well. It has more travel than a cross-country bike and less travel than what’s called an enduro bike.

Every bike we tested was a size medium and coincidentally, not by our choice, they all featured SRAM 12-speed 1x Eagle drivetrains. That means there is single chainring up front at the cranks and no front derailleur keeping the bike simple, efficient and quiet. There were component similarities between some of the bikes, like three of them running a RockShox Recon fork, but each bike was definitely its own machine, each with unique riding characteristics. Enjoy our findings as we put these inexpensive mountain bikes to the test.

Timeline for the bike reviews in our video
3:34 – $2,000 GT Sensor Sport Bike Review
– Great pedaling and rear suspension performance
– One of the most modern geometries in our test with 450mm reach, 66-degree head angle and 42mm offset fork
– Lack of dropper seat post and poor brake performance
– Heaviest bike in test, over 34 pounds
– Purchased through GT authorized bike shops
GT Website –

5:46 – $2,000 Fezzari Abajo Peak Bike Review ($2,200 as tested)
– Very good component spec for the price including SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain (the only bike with NX compared to all other bikes with SX Eagle)
– Highly tunable suspension
– Excellent big and medium hit performance
– Well-performing SRAM Level brakes
– Slight pedal bob on climbs
– Direct-to-consumer shopping experience
– Dropper seat post not included on $2,000 build
– Dropper seat post installed on bike before delivery for additional $200 (as tested)
Fezzari Website –

8:51 – $1,800 Giant Stance 29 1 Bike Review
– Most playful, fun bike in our test
– Lightest bike in test at 31 pounds, 2 ounces
– Least expensive bike in test along with Norco
– Can get overwhelmed in rougher terrain
– Less-than-ideal brake performance
– Purchased through Giant-authorized bike shops
Giant Website –

11:38 – $1,999 Vitus Mythique 29 VRX Bike Review
– Best gravity-oriented performance in our test
– Marzocchi Z2 fork, Shimano MT501 brakes and Schwalbe tires are great spec at this price point
– Solid climbing ability with best engaging rear hub in test
– Surprisingly light for the build at 32 pounds 1 ounce
– Seat post insertion depth was shorter than we’d like
– Dealer support may be limited due to online sales only through Chain Reaction or Wiggle.
Chain Reaction Cycles website –

14:42 – $1,799 Norco Fluid FS 3 Bike Review
– Least expensive in test along with Giant
– High-volume, grippy 2.6-inch wide Goodyear tires provide great traction and smooth out the trail
– Balanced geometry and riding position
– SR Suntour fork performance was sub-par
– Tektro HD-M275 brakes were very poor performers
– Purchased through Norco authorized dealers
Norco website –

18:19 – $1,949 Marin Rift Zone 2 Bike Review
– The most modern geometry of our bike test with 455mm reach and 65.5-degree head angle
– Extremely fun and capable on descents and in corners.
– Well-performing RockShox Deluxe Select Debonair rear shock
– Grippy, aggressive Vee Snap Flow tires keep the bike composed descending rough terrain but slow the bike down on climbs and through flatter portions of trail.
– Buy directly through Jenson USA but also have Marin dealer support through authorized shops
Jenson USA website –

More Vital MTB Mountain Bike Tests
Downhill Bike Test Sessions Video –
Enduro Bike Test Sessions Video –
Vital MTB’s Bike Test YouTube Playlist –

The perfect mountain biker gift – Vital Gear Club Subscription Box

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