A ‘full-suspension’ mountain bike is a machine intended for off-road riding which offers cushioning suspension travel at both the front (forks) and rear of the bike. However that’s pretty much where the generalisation stops – perhaps more than any other bike category, full-suss MTBs encompass a broad spectrum of riding disciplines and bike types, ranging from short-travel XC race whippets to big-hit gravity sleds. Whatever you’re using it for, here is our take on the Best full suspension mountain bikes 2020.
Somewhere in between is the full-suss bike that most of us will want to ride day-in, day-out – often referred to as a ‘trail’ bike and offering anything between 120mm and 160mm of front and rear travel, depending on your definition of ‘trail’.
Therefore, it should go without saying that the ‘best’ full-suspension bike for you will depend on your specific needs, taking into account the kind of riding you want to do, and how much money you have to spend. Although the range of choice out there can seem overwhelming, the good news is that bikes have never been better, and you’re sure to find something to suit.
Technology-wise, the full-suss category has largely settled into two main camps – those who favour larger, fast-rolling 29” wheels and those who plump for the smaller and more agile 27.5” (or 650b size). Personal preference plays a part, as does rider physiology – many smaller riders opting for smaller wheels, and vice-versa – but in recent years we have definitely seen a subtle shift towards 29” as the ‘standard’ size, especially as manufacturers adjust their geometry and suspension systems to suit the larger wheel size.
Faster-rolling over obstacles and more stable on descents, 29” wheels have begun to dominate the DH and trail bike sub-categories as much as cross-country bikes, but that said 27.5” wheels aren’t going anywhere. It’s not a question of one being better than the other, but of which one feels right for you.
2020 is a great year for quality full-suspension MTBs with some great rides on the market.
Read on for our selection of some of the best, across a variety of riding disciplines.
Budget full-bounce bikes have something of a bad rap when it comes to bang for your buck, with the received wisdom being that below a certain price point you’re better off sticking to a hardtail. That’s true to a certain extent but in recent years, as technology matures, we’ve seen a number of great FS trail bikes come to the market using tried-and-tested suspension platforms. One of the most exciting is the new-for-2020 Vitus Mythique platform, developed around a proven Horst-link 4-bar suspension design and pairing modern geometry with a quality spec list. With a lightweight alloy frame featuring Boost rear wheel spacing, 130/140mm travel front and rear and slack, stable angles, the Mythique is a top quality ride with a budget-friendly price tag and is rightly predicted to be a top seller.
The Mythique comes in three spec options and both 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes. We’ve chosen to focus on the entry-level Vitus Mythique 27 VR as our choice from the range (also available in a female-specific version) to underscore just how much you’re getting for your money – Shimano Deore 1×10 gearing, X-Fusion 130mm forks and shock, Shimano MT-401 hydraulic disc brakes, Vitus wheelset, quality tubeless-ready Schwalbe tyres (Hans Dampf/Magic Mary) and Vitus/Nukeproof finishing kit. It all adds up to make a capable and eminently upgradable trail bike for a not a lot more than £1k – how does that hardtail look now?
Enduro emerged in the last decade or so as a harder-hitting hybrid of cross-country racing that brought in elements of downhill (DH) – basically, riders compete on a tough, technical course that includes climbs as well as descents, but only the downhills are timed. Over time the word has come to encompass not just competitive events but also a type of riding that hits the sweet spot for many, and the type of bike that you need to do it. Today’s enduro bikes are typically long-travel (150mm/160mm) machines more than capable of tackling technical terrain at speed, but still light and agile enough to pedal back uphill afterwards.
The Sommet is Vitus’ now long-running enduro platform, originally alloy-only but later expanded to offer carbon-framed options. It’s always been intended as a big-travel, big-hit bike with a great value spec list and a price tag that makes enduro accessible to all, and the 2020 iteration is no exception. We find our eye being caught by the Vitus Sommet 29 VR, which combines a 6061 alloy frame with 29” wheels, 160mm rear travel via a Fox Float DPS shock and up front, a 160mm Manitou Mezzer Pro fork. SRAM SX 1×12 gearing and SRAM Guide RE hydraulic disc brakes offer dependable drivetrain control and the spec is rounded out by a Brand X Ascend dropper post and quality Nukeproof finishing kit.
If your budget doesn’t stretch quite so far you can opt for the Shimano Deore 1×10-equipped base model, while further up the product ladder the Vitus Sommet CR, Vitus Sommet CRS and range-topping Vitus Sommet CRX offer equally high-end component packages on a carbon fibre frameset. Whatever your preference, there’s a Sommet to suit.
Cube’s long-running Stereo platform has been the mainstay of the German bike brand’s full-suspension range for a few years now. For XC racers Cube offers the AMS 100 short-travel ‘fully’; for gravity riding Cube has the TWO15 DH rig – for everything else in between, there’s a Stereo to suit, with 120mm, 140mm, 150mm and even 170mm versions covering everything from fast flowy trail riding to full-on enduro and all-mountain.
First introduced in 2019 and further refined for 2020, the Cube Stereo 120 HPC TM 29 is an interesting beast, consisting of a carbon front triangle and aluminium rear, and one we’d be happy to spend a little bit of time aboard. As the name indicates, it offers 120mm of front and rear travel (thanks to Fox 34 Rhythm forks and a Float DPS shock) married to 29” Fulcrum Red 55 wheels, and as such positions itself as a fast XC-slash-trail bike that can cope with some degree of challenging terrain. These days, 120mm of travel sits at the lower end of the spectrum so reflects this bike’s intended use as a long-distance mile-muncher rather than a technical trail tamer – as above, there are plenty of other options in the Stereo range if you’re looking for a bit more squish.
One further point of interest is the ‘TM’ acronym in the title, which stands for Trail Motion. Mindful of a move away from traditional XC bike setups, Cube now offers either ‘standard’ or TM versions of most of its bikes, with the latter versions “focused on fun and performance”. Think shorter stems, wider bars, more aggressive tyre treads and 1x gearing – all the tech tweaks that have become commonplace on UK/Irish trail bikes over the past few years. It’s a sign that Cube are moving with the times, the standard spec being a little too, well… ‘continental’ for some tastes.
Whichever version takes your fancy – and whichever Stereo suits your riding style – it’s a range that’s worthy of consideration.
The NS Bikes Snabb 150 is pitched by the Polish brand as their do-it-all MTB, where doing it all is defined as everything from fast trail riding to catching air on bike park black runs. The Snabb stops short of being a full-on DH rig, but won’t be shy about trying to keep up with one.
At the heart of the Snabb 150 is a custom formed and butted aluminium frameset offering 155mm of rear travel via a one-piece rocker arm and as might be expected, long, low and slack geometry (including 44m fork rake). That’s matched to a formidable 160mm RockShox 35 Gold RL fork and Octane One Solar 29” wheelset, making the Snabb 150 – in the words of NS Bikes – “capable of rolling over anything at any speed”. It’s stable on rocky descents, nimble in turns and composed in the air – a true enduro bike.
Kit-wise, SRAM NX Eagle 1×12 gearing and Level hydraulic brakes are more than up to the job, while a mix of NS Bikes/Octane One finishing kit is quality stuff. A dropper post is included in the build, which reflects this bike’s intended use case. For riders who like the look of the Snabb 150 but prefer smaller wheels the Snabb 160 offers 160mm travel front and rear but 27.5” hoops, whereas the Snabb 130 stays with 29”, but trades a little bit of travel for a lighter all-up weight.
Despite taking its name from a mid-90s hardtail, there’s nothing old-school about the new Nukeproof Reactor. Launched for 2020 as the brand’s mid-travel, do-it-all trail bike, the Reactor is available with alloy and carbon framesets, in a variety of builds and both 27.5” and 29”-wheeled versions. It’s not so much a single bike as an entirely new Nukeproof platform, squarely aimed at anyone wanting a little less travel than the enduro-focused Mega range.
A neat feature of all Reactor frames is adjustable geometry, with a ‘flip chip’ to switch between ‘Trail’ setting and a second ‘Rail’ option which drops the bottom bracket by 6mm and slackens the head angle by half a degree. Suspension is based on 4-bar Horst linkage technology with good mid-stroke support and a progressive anti-squat rate for ultimate small bump compliance.
From a 12-bike range that covers all conceivable bases we’ve picked out the Nukeproof Reactor 275 Expert Alloy as hitting the sweet spot between price, performance and spec level.
It’s got a 140mm travel frame with 6016 alloy tubing for the front triangle and chain stays, with the addition of carbon fibre seat stays for a little extra vertical compliance. Other frame highlights include internal cable routing, custom tuned RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ rear shock and Boost 148mm rear axle spacing. Up front, suspension duties are taken care of by a RockShox Pike Select 150mm fork, while a full SRAM NX Eagle 12-Speed drivetrain ensures slick shifting every time. WTB Speed Terra 27.5″ wheels are shod with chunky Maxxis tyres and finishing kit includes a Brand X Ascend dropper seatpost. If you want to go full carbon, options start with the SLX-equipped Nukeproof Reactor Elite Carbon, available in both 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes.
The Escarpe isn’t the longest-travel bike in the Vitus full-suss range – that honour is reserved for the 160mm travel Sommet – but all things being equal, it stakes a claim for being the most versatile by far. With a hydroformed alloy frameset offering 140mm of rear travel, Boost spacing and long, slack geometry (head angle 66°), it’s an eager and adaptable trail bike that’s no slouch on the climbs but ready to push the envelope as far as you are when things get technical. The four-bar rear suspension also features a trunnion-mount shock which maximises small-bump sensitivity, boosting the Escarpe’s reputation as a plush and responsive ride.
Vitus keep it simple for the platform options, offering three build levels (VR, VRS and VRX) each with a choice of 27.5” or 29” wheels – so six models in total to choose from. The selection starts with the VR model, boasting SRAM NX Eagle 1×12 gearing and Rockshox suspension, but if you’re on the hunt for your dream trail bike it’s hard not to be swayed by the range-topping Vitus Escarpe VRX. This build features not just Shimano XT 1×12 gearing but a high-performance 150mm Fox Float 36 Factory FIT GRIP2 fork and 140mm Fox Float DPS Factory rear shock, as well as DT Swiss XM1501 Spline 30 rims and 2.6” wide Maxxis 3C tyres.
It’s arguably the perfect trail bike for taking on technical terrain and under the right rider, equally capable of tackling an enduro event or Alpine adventure. Is the Vitus Escarpe all the trail bike you could ever need? For most of us, the answer is yes… and then some.
The rise of do-it-all enduro bikes has seen them pressed into service as mini-DH rigs by many riders, but if you’re looking for a real downhill race weapon you’re going to need something with competition DNA (and let’s face it, 200mm of travel).
So we come to the Dissent, Nukeproof’s alloy-framed gravity sled, which in 2019 replaced the long-running Pulse as the brand’s World Cup-level DH bike. In that time it’s been race-proven (and then some), having been thrashed over the sport’s toughest courses by Nukeproof team riders like Adam Brayton, Meg White and Sam Hill. Nukeproof regard the Dissent as an evolution of the Pulse, rather than a complete break with that bike’s engineering, the main difference being a new suspension design which positions the rocker link on the outside of the seat tube rather than tucked inside a clamshell as with the previous Fallout Linkage design, and which also uses a push (rather than pull) link. Nukeproof say the end result is a frameset that is both lighter and stiffer than the Pulse, and offers a more progressive leverage rate through the suspension mid-stroke for improved handling and stability.
The Dissent also offers a considerable degree of adjustability, allowing both pro and privateer racers to tune their ride according to preference. For one, the main shock pivot carries an adjustable ‘flip chip’ offering four different pivot positions which alter the suspension progression rate. For two, interchangeable dropout inserts enable three different wheelbase lengths depending on race conditions or your own preference – truly it’s your bike, your way. Other features include a true 1.5” head tube, ISCG 05 mounts and a 157mm x 12mm rear axle to keep things stable at the rear.
The Dissent is available in builds, each with a choice of 27.5” or 29” wheels. We’ve chosen the Nukeproof Dissent 275 Comp as the bike most likely to appeal to privateer racers, equipped with a 200mm RockShox Boxxer Select R fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Select R shock and SRAM GX DH 7-Speed drivetrain. However if money is no object, surely the range-topping Nukeproof Dissent 275 RS DH has to be among the finest off-the-peg DH race rigs available today.
If ever a bike could be said to define a discipline, surely it’s the Nukeproof Mega – one of the original generation of long-travel enduro bikes that’s still at the top of the tree in 2020. Named after the iconic Megaavalanche mass-start race held annually on the Alpe D’Huez, by now the Mega has achieved iconic status all of its own. It’s designed to tackle the most testing of tracks and has been raced in the Enduro World Series by riders including 2019 overall winner Sam Hill.
For 2020 the Mega enters its fourth generation and is available in a bewildering array of builds to suit all budgets and preferences, including a brand new carbon-framed 29er. The Mega 290c features some frame tweaks, all of which have also been carried over to the Mega 290 alloy. Firstly, rear travel has been boosted to 165mm, with a reworked suspension kinematic to improve small bump sensitivity and mid-stroke support. Frame geometry has also been adjusted to offer a slacker head tube and steeper seat tube angle, boosting speed and stability over the roughest of terrain, and under heavy braking. Meanwhile the Mega 275 alloy and 275c carbon framesets are all but unchanged from the previous year, bar an extra Medium Long size option. Both carbon and aluminium Mega framesets featuring custom tuned rear shock configuration, internal dropper seatpost cable routing, threaded bottom bracket and Boost 148mm rear axle spacing.
Our pick of the bunch is the all-new Nukeproof Mega 290 Elite Carbon in Ron Burgundy (yes, that’s really the colour). Designed to put the carbon option within reach of the privateer racer, this build features a Fox 36 Performance fork, custom-tuned DPX Performance rear shock and 12-speed Shimano SLX drivetrain.
Built around a super-tough alloy frame with custom formed and butted tubes, the Fuzz from NS Bikes is the Polish brand’s top-tier gravity racer, as ridden on the World Cup and iXS European Downhill Cup circuits by Polish champ Slawek Lukasik and at Red Bull Rampage by Szymon Godziek. Which is quite the competitive pedigree, to say the least.
It’s a pro-spec machine with a premium price tag, but you’re getting a lot for your money – the aforementioned alloy frame (completely redesigned for the larger wheel diameter), built with 6061-t6/ 6066-t6 aluminium tubing and featuring double-pass welds and max-size bearings for extra strength and durability. Adjustable reach (via offset headset cups) means the Fuzz can be dialled in just the way you like it, while 190mm of rear suspension travel is delivered via a 4-bar Horst floating shock system with a massive one-piece rocker arm. The Fuzz frame also features a low centre of gravity, with the trunnion-mount shock tucked away near the BB and helping to keep the rear end planted.
The Fuzz is available in three builds, with this NS Bikes Fuzz 29 1 model offering 29” wheels wrapped in Maxxis Assegai tyres, a SRAM GX DH 7-Speed drivetrain, Hayes Dominion hydraulic brakes and 200mm RockShox Ultimate 29 suspension forks at the front. If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to this version the NS Bikes Fuzz 29 2 gives you the same great frame with a slightly lower spec component setup, while the original 27.5”-wheeled version is also still part of the range.