We took three of the best 2015 full suspension mountain bikes for under £1,600 down to the local trails, to answer some key questions that have been bugging us for a while. Could an entry level full-susser really rival its higher spec'd bigger siblings? Can you get a decent ride that gives you the confidence to hit those jumps, or fly down steep descents that you might otherwise avoid, without having to sell a kidney? We gave three different riders the opportunity to give three different 2015 bikes a spin on the trail before reporting back with their thoughts.
2015 Giant Stance Review
By Mark, Rutland Web Team????? 5/5
Giant know a thing or two about building full suspension bikes. Their Maestro suspension system has been working on every platform they have, from 100mm XC to big mountain sledges. Safe in the knowledge that I was in good hands I pedalled off in good faith. The Stance is your gateway to trail riding, featuring 120mm of FlexPoint (Maestro's tearaway sidekick, think Scrappy Doo!) suspension travel, an ALUXX aluminium frameset and 27.5 wheel technology, the Stance will let you experience the thrills of the trail in style. A full suspension bike for under a grand - and it's made by one of the best in the business!
FlexPoint does away with the pivot at the rear axle and instead allows the stay flex to work with the linkage. If you're wincing at the thought of this, just think Yeti.
Giant Stance - How did it Ride?
I really loved it and at £999.00 it fits nicely into a cyclescheme price point - it also rides fantastically well. The geometry is comfortable, but it's still quite snappy and you can throw it into the corners. Fundamentally, the big thing is the price point and it's rare you can get a 120mm travel bike, with proper kit on it, for under a grand. The frame is great, a big name manufacturer like Giant probably doesn't hold much sway with rigid fork MTB hipsters but Giant really do make a great ALUXX frame and their knowledge on putting together a technical machine is up there at the top of the leader board. What's more, you can upgrade it with any shox, any wheel, or any drivetrain, although I often argue that once an XT drivetrain is covered in the grime telling it from a Deore is really Princess and the Pea Territory.
Giant Stance - Mark's Verdict
The question is would I buy one? It's probably not what I would choose to take somewhere like a Welsh trail centre, I'd still be hankering for 140mm. But as bike to ride out of my front door across some fields and to the local disused quarry then £999 is perfect for a 120mm playbike. If anything breaks it'll just get replaced, instead of my heart breaking as I cry over an XTR rear mech.
As a bike to ride out of my front door across some fields and to the local disused quarry then £999 is perfect for a 120mm playbike. The geometry is comfortable, but it's still quite snappy and you can throw it into the corners.
2015 Kona Precept Review
By Alex, Bike Category Manager????? 5/5
The genre-defining Precept takes the rollability, traction and quick handling of 27.5-inch wheels and 120mm of Kona's Swinger Independent Suspension (bye bye Magic Link) to create an incredibly efficient climber and a faster, more stable, descender. It really surpassed my expectations of an entry level full-susser! Kona have come a long way in the past few years.
At Just over the £1000 price point (£1098.99), it features Air RockShox XC30, 9 speed Shimano drivetrain and basically mirrors the much more expensive Process family, but in a more affordable package.
Kona Precept - How did it Ride?
When I jumped on this bike, I was always prepared to make allowances for it because of how much it costs. But I didn't need to, because as soon as I started riding it I found that it rides like a much more expensive bike. Having spent some time on the Process, the bigger brother to the Precept, you can certainly feel a shared DNA between them - the geometry is pretty much the same and both have the pick-up-and-play feel. However, as the bike starts to pick up speed the limitations of the shock and fork become apparent - they don't react quite fast enough, but with a bit of forward planning and focussing your eyes down the trail can prevent you getting into any trouble. I wish I hadn't know the price before getting on the saddle, as I'd like to have seen what I'd pulled out of the air as a sum of money I'd have been happy to stump up for the Process. It would have probably been more than the asking price.
Kona Precept - Alex's Verdict
When shopping around for a new bike it's easy to slip into focusing on what rear mech the bike has or which brakes. Don't get me wrong, these things are important but it's often at the expense of overlooking the frame and its quality. That is the heart of the bike and it dictates everything about the ride. The Precepts heart is huge and a great laugh out in the woods.
The Precepts heart is huge and a great laugh out in the woods. I was always prepared to make allowances for it because of how much it costs. But I didn't need to, because as soon as I started riding it I found that it rides like a much more expensive bike.
2015 Scott Genius 750 Review
By Aaron, Online Content Manager???? 4/5
New to the 2015 range, the Genius 750 most accessible of Scott's Genius range and the most capable here in terms of travel, but at a fraction of the cost. It's kitted with some of the best components on an entry bike as is typical with Scott and features 150mm of travel at each end to allow you to tackle any drop, rock and bump that you can throw at it.
Scott Genius 750 - How did it Ride?
As it's within the Genius family, it contains most of the main features of its bigger brothers (or sisters) - the adjustable bottom bracket is a big selling point as you can subtly change the geometry depending on the environment that you are riding in. It was the first time that I've ridden a 27� wheel, and the short rear end and smaller wheels make it manuverable over my usual 29er XC rides. The thing to note with this bike on a relatively flat trail where we rode is that you don't feel overbiked, it really could be the right bike for the job on a variety of surfaces. It just wags its tail more when pointing downwards. As soon as I jumped on the Genius, I felt at home. It's a bike you sit in rather than on. It has nice wide bars, creating dominance in your riding position, so you get your torso over the bars and really attack the twists and turns of the trail, un-weighting the back wheel to let it skip and shimmy around the turns. It was the longest travel bike of the three and in the short setting with the high BB and the steeper head angle, it was perfect. You can imagine going to Wales, or the Peaks, and swapping that chip out to really allow this bike to come into its own.
Scott Genius 750 - Aaron's Verdict
So, what you get with the Genius, which is more than you get with the other bikes, is a bit more potential straight out of the store. It's easily the most fun of any other bike here, but at 150mm it should be. The Genius is a great bike if you're looking to spend serious time on rocky downs and the price tag, available for £1,598.99, probably generates a little more of cavalier attitude to your riding. However, if you were to compare it to the other bikes, the price point is the only stumbling block, in my opinion it's a cracking ride, but at the end of the day it's £600 more than the Stance.
You feel at home on the Genius. It's a bike you sit in rather than on top of. It has nice wide bars, creating dominance in your riding position, so you get your torso over the bars and really attack the twists and turns of the trail.
The biggest surprise was how capable these bikes were. For under £1600 and to perform as well as they all did is pretty impressive. The upgradability and future potential of these bikes is fantastic - the Kona has internal routing for a reverb, or a dropper post for example. We came into the day thinking could you get a credible bike for the money, and the answer is... most definitely, yes! If you rocked up at Cannock on any of these bikes then you would undoubtedly be able to hold your own. In fact there would be more than a few people around that would be jealous of your ride.