Mountain biking is a sport that gives you the best of both worlds; a touch of adventure and a dollop of physical training. You can have a lot of fun on the trail making your way downhill or opting for enduro biking. Either way, you need a good mountain bike that you can rely on during the ride.
There are many factors you need to consider before investing in a mountain bike. Some people prefer to ride heavyweight mountain bikes laden with fancy features. While some prefer to take ultra-light mountain bikes that won’t be a hassle on the trail. These lightweight mountain bikes are strategically designed to lower the weight and fit the features in a compact form.
In this article, we will review the best lightweight mountain bikes along with the factors you need to consider before buying a lightweight mountain bike.
Best Overall Lightweight Mountain Bike
Specialized S-Works Epic AXS HT
Frame: S-Works FACT 12m carbon
Fork: RockShox SID Brain Ultimate
Groupset: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
- Compliant carbon frame
- Great for mountain bike racing
- Superior comfort
- Greater control
- Available in many sizes
- Price is insanely high
The Specialized S-Works Epic AXS HT is one of the lightest mountain bikes in the market. What makes it the best is that in spite of the featherweight, the bike is laden with amazing features that would normally add to the weight.
So what makes this model lightweight? Specialized uses the ultra-light carbon XC race hardtail that weighs less than other materials. It also adds a lay-up tuned for comfort and control. The bike is great for racing on the XC racecourses due to its advanced geometry, making it easier to shift to more technical courses.
It is available in a wide range of sizes, and each size has a different layup that delivers the right feel to every rider. Specialized utilizes their new higher IQ Brain Ultimate Technology in the RockShox SIX fork, which boosts its sensitivity and grip. The fork crown uses a short offset for extra stability, and the head angle is relaxed at 68.5-degrees. The automatic bump sensor frees you of remote levers and lets you tune the rigid-to-flowing balance.
Specialized has given considerable thought to power delivery and precision steering, making it superior in performance. The built-in SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS wireless electronic drivetrain makes it easier to instantly and precisely shift the bike at the push of a button which is especially useful on tricky trails. It delivers excellent kicks and climbs. In addition, it has a Quarq power meter to keep track of the watts.
The only possible downside of this phenomenal product is that it comes with a hefty price tag, and you will need a lot of saving to get a bike as good as Specialized S-Works Epic AXS HT.
Best Full-Suspension Lightweight Mountain Bike
Scott Spark RC 900 SL AXS
Frame: Carbon CC
Fork: Fox SC33
Groupset: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
- It can be great on technical trails
- Excellent geometry
- Full suspension frame
- Suitable for racing/raving
- High price
- Water ingress into the frame can be irritating
The Scott Spark RC 900 SL AXS offers impressive 29er wheels and has excellent performance overall. The geometry is pretty old but still functional to get you through more technical trails than any other bike does.
The design is progressive and advanced, which is reflected in its racing capabilities. You can get really aggressive with it on the trail. It offers travel of 110mm/100mm while maintaining its lightweight.
The new model has a superior suspension system with excellent speed-bearing performance in the “open” mode. You can change the mode according to the intensity of your ride. For feisty climbs, you can shift to “traction” mode, and for sprinting, you can shift to the “lock” mode.
What makes this model stand out is its superior capabilities compared to a pure endurance bike, its versatile composition compared to XC race-rigs, and its performance that lasts the rest of the test.
When it comes to pedigree, the Scott Spark RC 900 XL AXS has a lot of wins to gloat about. Among these are the World Championship, World Cup, and Olympic Gold, not once but several times over the years.
The only downside you should keep in mind is that it comes with a heavy price tag, just like any heavily equipped bike would.
Best Frame Lightweight Mountain Bike
Orbea Alma M-Ltd
Fork: Spirit Rigid
Travel: Fully rigid
Groupset: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
- Excellent frame
- Buying options can be personalized
- Shock absorbing design
- Super slim stays
- Mostly suitable for people who have strong wrists and finesse
While it is not as light as the previous two models, we have discussed. Orbea Alma M-Ltd is still a great catch, with weight tipping towards the lighter side of the scale. Orbea uses a radical method to decrease the weight of its product by using its carbon fiber and offering a 100mm suspension unit.
Orbea’s 550g Spirit Rigid Fork is useful in decreasing the weight of the bike by utilizing a 100mm suspension unit that brings down the total weight to an estimated 9kg. The super-flat top tube functions as a shock absorber and hence dampens the shock coming through from the front end as well. The ride is usually smooth, owing to the long, tapered carbon legs.
Most people wonder what the purpose of the super-slim stays is; they are designed for some extra flex but don’t worry about the kickstart because there is still plenty of meat around the chainstays and cranks to kick hard.
One of the best and unique features about Orbea Alma M-Ltd is that it offers a “MyO” customization program that lets you put together your own bike in whichever way you want. You can pick from a number of components that can adjust the character, price, and weight of the bike. This allows you to assemble a bike with your own preferences and gives you control over some aspects of the designing process. You can choose the colors from a large variety as well.
Another plus point about Orbea Alma M-Ltd is that it is reasonably priced, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on a lightweight mountain bike.
Best Versatile Lightweight Mountain Bike
Cannondale F-SI Hi-Mod World Cup
Frame: Ballistec carbon
Groupset: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
- Impressively accurate single-leg fork
- Extremely light frame
- Responsive ripper
- It offers a smooth ride
- Incredible steering
- Unforgiving ENVE kit
- Steering can be snatchy
If you are a hardcore racer, then you know that Cannondale has never shied away from designing a good racing bike. The Cannondale F-SI Hi-Mod is laden with features that support its core purpose and allows you to enjoy high speed on the road.
The best feature about this model is the Ocho fork which is the latest introduction in a family of left-leg only suspensions which has been in the market for a long time. What sets it further apart is that, unlike the old left-leg-only suspension forks, the cantilevered carbon fork has a single crown which makes it the lightest Cannondale fork yet.
The inset-needle bearing leg technology is faceted and makes tracking more accurate than its competitors. This will come in handy during aggressive overtakes or tire ripping turns. The 69-degree head angle serves a pretty good function in maintaining the balance, but the steering is still faster than desirable.
The reach is comparatively short, and the wheelbase makes the bike a massively responsive ripper, which needs time and practice to master.
The ballistic carbon frame does a great job of weaning off the weight. Owing to the lightweight and feature-laden frame, Cannondale F-SI Hi-Mod World Cup is expensive and may require a great investment.
Best Budget Lightweight Mountain Bike
Canyon Exceed CFR LTD
Fork: RockShox SID SL
Groupset: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
- Incredibly lightweight
- Great performance package
- Reasonable price
- A factory-level array of parts
- Excellent for racing
- Geometry is mediocre
- Ride character is not innovative
If you had been shopping for a mountain bike a decade or two ago, you would probably not be familiar with Canyon due to its small-scale origin. The company has grown into a tycoon over the past couple of years, bagging World Championship and World Cup race wins ever since.
What are the notable features of Canyon Exceed CFR LTD? The model has a bit of everything. One of the best features is its high-end hardtail which offers a 69-degree angle. If you want a bike that will help you meet your goals and push your limits, there is seldom any bike that comes close to Canyon Exceed CFR LTD.
The high-end construction of this model is in addition to the featherweight and factory-level array of parts. It allows you to go as fast as you would like to go.
The model is longer in reach, which adds to the stability while descending. The frame geometry is ideal in the sense that it stays balanced, keeping the rider strictly in a central position as the reach grows longer. The headtube area of the bike also harbors the Impact Protection Unit (IPU), which functions to prevent the bars from rotating into and damaging the frame. In the event of a crash, IPU keeps you from pulling out the hoses or cables. RockShox updated SID Sl Ultimate fork adds 100-mm of travel upfront. The LTD wheels also add more high-end carbon fiber to the construction.
The obvious downside of this allrounder package is how expensive the Canyon Exceed LTD is. If you are willing to invest in this long-lasting bike, this is one of the best options you can pick.
Key Considerations For Buying Lightweight Mountain Bike
If you just read the review, you will need a set of factors to navigate through the guideline for lightweight mountain bikes. Here are some of the factors you need to consider before you invest in your lightweight mountain bike, with brief explanations of why they are important:
One of the factors that increase the weight of mountain bikes is people opting for a full-suspension bike rather than one of the best hardtail mountain bikes.
What is a full-suspension bike? These bikes include a front suspension fork in addition to a rear shock. On the other hand, a hardtail bike has a suspension fork only at the front. If you are riding on relatively smoother terrain or just starting out or if you are on a tight budget, a hardtail mountain bike is probably a better idea. They are a lot more fun and forgiving outside the tape if you’re not a completely competition-focused rider.
When it comes to mountain bikes, racing capabilities are important to check. Most brands sell premium versions of mountain bikes that are even lighter than the bikes that their competitors sell. That’s generally due to sponsor demands. For example, RockShox SID forks are heavier than Fox SC32, Shimano XTR is heavier than SRAM XX1, and so on. Scott’s Spark RC 900 SL AXS takes the lead when it comes to super-light models.
When it comes to construction, there is a crossover point to choose between carbon and aluminum. The carbon-framed bike has lower-end parts, and an aluminum-framed bike has better bits in approximately the same price range. In our opinion, go for the aluminum model with better specifications. Choosing an aluminum model means a substantial cost saving. The downsides are that aluminum is weaker than carbon, weighs more, and flexes more easily.
On the other hand, carbon is lighter, stiffer, and costs a lot more. Some people like the strength of the carbon model, while some want to save money. If you want your bike to last longer, go for the carbon model but if you are on a tight budget, choose aluminum.
The better the construction material of a bike, the longer it will last, the more durable it will be. Excluding the shock and rear suspension, the mechanism increases the durability of the bike. Why does that happen? This way, the bike would require less maintenance and fewer replacement parts.
Some time ago, the standard wheel size for mountain bikes used to be 26 inches in diameter. Nowadays, you can get wheels with 27.5 inches and 29 inches diameter with a good amount of suspension travel (up to 160mm) and with better geometry.
29ers are more stable and have a better grip. Bigger wheels make the trail debris seem smaller in comparison. What happens on the road is that with bigger wheels, you roll over obstacles more efficiently without exerting more effort. These wheels are also faster and suitable for rough terrain. They carry speed and momentum much better than smaller wheels. The downside is that they have unavoidably higher front ends, and the rear tire can hit your bum on steep stuff if you’re under 6ft tall. The higher wheel axles can make the bike feel taller in tight switchbacks and thus require more leaning over.
In comparison, smaller wheels are more fun to ride and easier to maneuver. However, modern geometry has solved this problem by making 29ers more fun and precise.
The lengths and angles of the frame tubes decide almost everything in the quality of a bike ride. The best suspension in the world can’t compensate for poor geometry. Vice versa, a bike with great geometry can often overcome any suspension shortcomings and ride better than you would expect.
In layman terms, a long reach is a distance between saddle and handlebars. A long reach is a good quality to have. Other good qualities include slack head angles, steep seat angles, and so on.
Size of Bike
Smaller bikes are less stable, more sketchy, and uncomfortable. Don’t buy a bike that’s too small, thinking it’ll be alright. Don’t get suckered into buying an undersize bike because it’s at a bargain price.
When riding a mountain bike, you should feel comfortable and relaxed. An important factor to consider before buying a mountain bike is that the bike is the right size for you. If you don’t feel in control and comfort when riding the bike, it is not the one for you.
Aside from the frame of the bike, the frame is probably the next most important part of the bike. Some bikes may have suspension forks with travel as little as 80 mm, mostly on some cross-country bikes. On the other hand, some trail hardtails may have forks with greater travel, as much as 130mm.
Getting a mountain bike that fits your needs is a long, tedious process. While there are a plethora of options you will find in the market; the chances are that you will need to dig a little deep to get exactly what you want. Lightweight mountain bikes are an excellent option that increases stability, reduces dead weight, and packs a greater number of features in a small frame.
When you decide to get a lightweight mountain bike, remember to keep the considerations in mind and thoroughly research before you make a definite investment.