No matter where you take your rig, one of the best ways to explore and enjoy the great outdoors is on your bike. In fact, we’d suggest that a good mountain bike could be considered required equipment for many adventures. Not only can they provide a fun recreational activity, but the best mountain bikes can help you navigate through campgrounds or even into town for extra supplies, cocktails, or a delicious dinner.
We sat down with a well-seasoned bike expert (with over 20 years in maintaining, building, and manufacturing bikes of all types and over 30 years in the saddle) to find out which are the best mountain bikes.
Before diving into specific recommendations, though, knowing your riding preferences, experience level, and style can make a big difference in finding which type of bike is best for you.
Cross-country (XC) bikes provide the greatest efficiency for most trails and are designed for speed.
Trail bikes are designed for a variety of terrain from smooth gravel to rougher paths.
Enduro bikes are similar to mountain bikes but tend to do better on rougher downhills due to enhanced suspension.
Downhill bikes have longer travel for steep downhills but tend to be too heavy for cross country.
Fat bikes have wider tires that do well in snow, sand, and mud. While they can take you places other bikes can’t, they also aren’t as nimble and can be cumbersome in normal trail conditions.
Gravel bikes are one of the fastest-growing categories as they can speed you down the road but can also do well on mountain trails.
Finally, e-bikes are another option that’s growing in popularity. These aren’t motorcycles and still require you to pedal. But they do provide a boost to help you keep up with faster or more advanced riders or enjoy tougher rides even if you’re a little older or haven’t been able to hit the trails as much as you’d like.
The Best Cross-Country or Trail Mountain Bikes
A budget Specialized Rockhopper 29 is a great all-around mountain bike as well as a campground cruiser. One of the biggest benefits of these bikes is how affordable they are—ranging in price from around $500 to $650. The 29-inch wheel is both fast and comfortable when the trail surface gets a bit rougher. These bikes are known for their quality and reliability and make a great starter bike that will grow with you.
Another trail bike contender is the Ibis Ripmo V2 XT, which costs around $3,699 (for just the frame). This bike is well-balanced for uphill and downhill all-around performance, even on rougher terrain.
The Best E-Bike Mountain Bikes
A newly popular option is the e-bike or electric bike. Don’t be fooled. You still need to pedal, put out some effort, and can get some great exercise. It just gives you a bit of a boost to go faster or farther and experience less fatigue, especially on hills. While not technically a mountain bike, one excellent option is the Specialized Turbo Vado 3.0. This e-bike is fairly affordable at around $3,250 and is perfect for traveling dirt roads, bike paths, or rail trails. It has a well-thought-out design and is known for reliability. It offers an awesome way to leave your RV at camp to get out for some adventures on the trails or run to town for an ice cream or cocktail.
One of the most budget-friendly e-bikes available at ~$1,045.00 is the Ride1Up Core-5. While it doesn’t come up with as many bells and whistles as others, it does provide good range and power for the price. It also provides a comfortable, smooth ride with great handling and stability. Plus, there are also a variety of accessories that allow you to customize your bike to suit your preferences.
It’s worth noting, however, that some trails don’t allow the use of e-bikes. So the rules before you arrive to ensure you won’t run into issues.
The Best Gravel Bikes
Let’s face it: space is at a premium in most RVs. And while you can keep your bike locked up on the back, a mountain bike is an expensive investment, and you don’t necessarily want to leave your bike hanging off the back getting filthy and possibly damaged.
While it’s a bit of a splurge at a base starting price of $4,700 for the frame, the Coupled Sandstone Gravel Bike from Merlin Metal Works (Boulder, Colorado) is a custom-designed titanium bike with couplers built into the frame that allows you to fold the bike in half. This space-saving option allows you to fit your full bike into a box that’s about the size of a large suitcase to slide easily into the cargo hold of your RV.
If storage is lower on your list of requirements, another well-rounded, highly versatile option is the Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon, which combines on-road performance with off-road capabilities and stability for around $4,200. It’s known for providing a predictable and controlled handling experience for backroads around camp or to and from your destination.
The Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bike
For those who enjoy the rougher side of mountain biking but still appreciate some cushy suspension (good for even serious downhill), you can’t go wrong with a Santa Cruz Tallboy. This mid-travel full-suspension has 120 mm of rear suspension travel and a carbon fiber frame with a cost of around $5,300 for the frame.
The Tallboy design can handle anything from campground or around-town rides to intense alpine single track and everything in-between. It’s lightweight and nimble and provides just the right amount of suspension for a wide variety of trail conditions. Plus, the Tallboy design has been around for over a decade and has continued to improve—it’s now on its fifth iteration. Santa Cruz Tallboys are one of the best overall mountain bikes, which is why they’re one of the bestselling bikes in the U.S.
Another great option is the Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Comp. It’s a bit more affordable at $4,300. One of the most unique features of this bike is its adjustable geometry to suit your preferences, riding style, or terrain. Because of its longer travel and aggressive capabilities, the Stumpjumper can, however, feel like a bit too much bike for simple rides around the campsite.
You’re already on the road to adventure with your RV. Now, you can take it even further with one of the best mountain bikes above to enjoy the ride off-road just as much.