What is a good mountain bike for pump tracks, dirt jumps and slopestyle biking? For these forms of aggressive riding you need to be able to throw the bike into turns, jumps and tricks. That means it should be compact, low-slung and robust.
When it comes to the world of mountain bike dirt jump and pump track riding, at first glance it might appear that all bikes are the same – small, burly hardtail frames with minimal gears and one brake.
But look a bit closer and it turns out that there are a few areas of the bike to consider before buying a dirt jumper:
- Is the frame aluminium or steel? The former will be lighter, the latter more forgiving
- Does it have MTB or BMX cranks? Steel BMX cranks will be bombproof (and allow smaller chainrings) but the MTB alternatives are still pretty strong and often lighter
- Does it have a big-brand dirt-specific fork? You’ll need one, as a standard MTB fork or a cheap alternative might be too long and won’t take the big hits of those massive jumps you aren’t always going to get right
- Are there sizing options? Many brands only offer a ‘one size fits all’ frame, but shop around and there are options for taller riders
Of course, it’s always worth evaluating the full bike spec too, but most dirt bikes are pretty much indestructible and spare parts are reasonably cheap anyway, so don’t sweat too much over the build.
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1. Airdrop Fade
Airdrop Bikes is a small British company run by riders from Sheffield. It produces a popular line of mountain bikes, made in batches, that generally sell out shortly after hitting the shelves. For good reason too: frames like the Fade hardtail, which is made for ripping around pump tracks and boosting big jumps, are beautifully produced and feature spot-on geometry. Keep your eye on the Airdrop Instagram account to be in with a chance of getting one of these great-looking releases.
2. Saracen Amplitude CR2
Saracen’s Amplitude hardtail is a fantastic budget offering at one of the lowest prices you’ll find for a complete dirt jump setup. Its 4130 chromoly frame and chromoly three-piece crankset should be bombproof and able to cope with all the flat landings you can throw at them. Some components are quite basic, but this is a great base to build around. Saracen also offers two other price points for higher-level component builds – the CR3 and AL Team – both of which are still excellent value for money.
3. Santa Cruz Jackal
If you are looking to rip around the pump track and know every millisecond counts, the Jackal could be the bike you need.
Santa Cruz’s dirt bike has been in the Californian brand’s line-up for a long time, and it's easy to see why. It is a luxury, super-fast, solid frame with a super short chainstay for a snappy riding characteristic.
4. NS Bikes Metropolis 3
NS makes a range of well-priced mountain bikes, including a number of hardtail and full suspension dirt jump and slopestyle frames and completes. The Metropolis 3 is a fantastic starter bike that NS says has had input from its pro riders to ensure solid geometry.
If you are looking to get into pump track riding and jumps, it offers a robust 4130 chromoly frame with decent components list including BMX cranks. You won’t find many cheaper alternatives.
5. DMR Sect
British company DMR pretty much invented mountain bike dirt jumping – or, at the very least, the brand has been around since its earliest moments. And it’s no surprise that it’s still going strong – the Sect is one of the most popular frames for dirt riders.
The frame features a short rear end for easier spins and flips but its hydroformed chainstays for maximum clearance help ensure you can still fit a decent width tyre. Its super-low-slung top tube makes it ideal for tricks and tailwhips where the bike needs to be as compact and out of the way as possible. Meanwhile, an array of own-brand and carefully selected components adorn the bike (seeing as DMR is essentially the authority on mountain bike dirt jumping, this is a good thing) and the package is rounded off with its almost unbeatable price tag.
6. Commencal Absolut
Commencal’s great-looking Absolut is fast becoming one of the most popular complete dirt bikes available, and for good reason. Solid components and an unbeatable price make it hard to look elsewhere.
The Absolut’s 6061 alloy frame is adorned with a super range of components for the price: Manitou Expert Circus fork, three-piece BMX crankset, SRAM Level brake, Novatec hubs on Alex rims, Maxxis dirt-specific tyres and a splattering of Commencal in-house brand finishing parts. By the way, if you happen to be in Andorra you can pick the bike up directly from the brand showroom and you get 10% off the price.
7. Scott Voltage YZ 0.1
Scott’s Voltage dirt frame is great-looking, bombproof and a nippy ride for pumptracks as well as dirt jumps. It's the bike that makes Brendan Fairclough so steezy at the trails. Or is it the other way around?
The Voltage YZ 0.1 is a little pricier than some similarly equipped completes, but with Scott you are buying quality and assured customer support as the company sells online and in-store. It comes as a singlespeed with two brakes, three-piece cranks and Kenda dirt tyres so it’s ready to hit the jumps, BMX track or street straight from the box.
8. Marin Alcatraz
If you liked what you saw in Matt Jones’ Design and Conquer series, then the bike you’ll need in order to replicate his various world-first tricks is Marin’s Alcatraz. It’s a great-looking hardtail built for the biggest tricks, and you’re getting a competition-proven bike that Jones has piloted at many-a slopestyle event.
Not quite ready to send it on a whale tail? The Alcatraz is just as happy sprinting around a BMX track or pumping through a rhythm section as it is boosting massive jumps.
9. Canyon Stitched 720
For a little extra comfort at the trails or slopestyle course, Canyon’s full-suspension Stitched 720 is a solid, reasonably priced (for its level of quality) option. It comes with a six-year guarantee, but it probably won’t provide you with the style and skill of Canyon’s team rider, Thomas Genon.
The Stitched 720 is one of very few full suspension dirt/slope bikes available as complete builds, but despite the lack of competition Canyon has still managed to put together a great package with a relatively modest price tag. The slightly beefier front tyre than you’ll find on most of the complete hardtails featured alludes to the bike’s intentions: big jumps, high speeds, enormous tricks. Is that you?