A lightweight mountain bike can make all the difference to your ride, especially if you a more competitive rider that needs to take some valuable time off of their circuits. The lighter the bike, the better the response around the toughest routes and climbs. Also, there are practical considerations in transporting the bike and picking it up after a crash.
But, it can be difficult to find a truly lightweight mountain bike for a fair price. Also, there are different ideas out there about what it really means to have a lightweight model. Are you looking for something around the 22lb marks, which is about 10kg, or are you happier with something heavier for the right price? You might think that it is too difficult to find a bike under 10kg/22lbs because of all the other components needed for a great mountain bike. After all, those big wheels, suspension systems, dropper posts, and other elements all add up. However, there are some brilliant bikes out there that are exceptionally light and capable for off-road adventures.
Finding the best mountain bike under 10kg/22lbs.
In this guide, we have a series of 8 bikes that meet this weight requirement – or close enough in the case of the last option. You will see how they do so, in regard to their frame and components, as well as some of the other pros and cons involved. Then, we have a little guide on what to look for in the best lightweight mountain bike to help you narrow down your search. By the end, you should have a better idea of what you want to go for.
8 Of The Best Lightweight Mountain Bikes:
The first bike in this guide has to start things off for two reasons: its popularity and its weight. If you are serious about finding a bike that is a true featherweight for speedy off-road adventure, this is one of the lightest. This hardtail bike is only 8.8kg, which is noticeable compared to others at the 10kg mark. The
reason for this low weight comes down to the use of high-quality carbon material throughout. This means everything from the seat post to the saddle, handlebars, and even hookless carbon rims on the wheels.
This attention to detail in the use of materials and design features on this bike really does make a difference to the weight, and subsequently the handling. This is a very stiff bike that handles well and gives riders a lot more confidence to perform. Additional features of note here that improve the experience include the SRAM Level Ultimate hydraulic disc brake system, a 12-speed rear cassette, Fastrack tires for better grip, and the RockShox SID Brain Ultimate fork. This fork works to automatically adjust the tension based on the terrain, giving riders less to think about.
As for the downs of this bike, there are actually two things to discuss here. The first is obviously the price tag, as this is an expensive option at just under 10k. There are many bikes in this guide that aren’t close to this price. But, you might also argue that they don’t match up in terms of the specification either.
Then there is the way that this bike looks. When you pay out this much for a bike, especially in a competitive arena, looks do count for something. Obviously, aesthetics are a subjective thing and you might love the look of the bikes we think are ugly, and vice-versa. In this case, the frame is thicker than other models and stands out with the white frame and red branding. White also looks dirty very quickly. There is a black and white alternative that looks nicer but still doesn’t have that high-end feel.
- High-quality carbon throughout the bike
- Highly responsive for a great ride
- A bike that feels like a high-end option for serious riders
- The look with the white frame, big red branding, not that much style.
One thing that stood out with the shape and looks of the bike above was the thickness of the frame and geometry. It was impressive compared to low-end mountain bikes, but not so much when you look at this Santa Cruz Highball. This model does something a bit different from the geometry to help with a faster, smoother ride. The bar descends at a greater angle for a small rear triangle and is much thinner. Other bikes do similar things, but this one is much-loved by riders and critics for its clever approach.
Aside from that geometry, it is important to note that this is another bike that makes clever use of carbon materials across the bike. Everyone loves the S-Works Epic for this, but it isn’t alone. Here, the designers also use carbon in the frame, seat post, handlebars, and other elements where brands could otherwise bring in aluminum or steel for strength. It makes a difference to the weight and gives a feeling of quality throughout. The lightest model in the range is 9.2kg.
Then there are the other features and components for a high-end ride. There is an SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS system in place and riders appreciate the 10-50t range of gears in the rear cassette. This, the 12-speed system, and the quality wheels should help riders feel that they are still on a tough, capable bike even though it is light carbon. The choice to add 29er wheels is appealing as this allows for even greater control and the chance to upgrade with even better quality tires.
When it comes to disadvantages, we should point out that while there are no glaring issues, there are alternative options. It is important to make sure to go for the X01 kit to keep the weight down. This is the one with the lighter Carbon CC material. Other options have cheaper Carbon C that adds a little weight. As a result of that, this one is also more expensive than the Skit Carbon C model. But, you are talking about a difference in weight up to 22.61lb, or 10.26kg.
- interesting geometry with a very thin bar and small rear triangle to smooth things out
- another clever use of carbon throughout
- 29er wheels for better handling
- Make sure to go for the X01 kit to keep the weight down
Next up, we have a 9.5kg bike that takes a similar approach with the carbon frame and geometry. There is a similar angle here and compact look to the Highball above. This is encouraging as this is a relatively affordable carbon model for around $4k.
Let’s consider the specification of this model. There is more to this bike than the frame, with a nice response in the brakes and steering. You get SRAM Level TLM Disc with a 180mm front rotor, a 10-50T rear cassette, and a 32T crankset. There is also the SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS 12 speed gear system. 12 speeds are about average for this sort of bike if you want to be able to cruise the trails and handle the climbs and descents with comfort and ease.
Another thing to mention here is the look of this bike. Looks are important, as we saw with the S-works model. Some of these bikes stand out for the right reasons and the bright yellow and black acts as a warning to other riders not to underestimate your capabilities. If you want people to see you coming, it doesn’t get much bolder.
Of course, when you go for a bike that is that much more affordable than the high-end carbon model, you are going to lose out somewhere along the way. This model has some nice features but it doesn’t have the clever components of some of the more interesting rides. There isn’t as much wow-factor here once we get past the paint job. It is competent and more than enough for most riders. It all depends on whether you want to stick with a lower budget or treat yourself to something a little more special.
- A great look with the bright yellow and black on a similar frame to the Highball
- Carbon construction throughout again for stiffness and lightness
- Much more affordable at $4k
- Not the same professional feel as the S-works but still pretty good
Next, we move over to Canyon and their lightweight Exceed range. The most important thing to mention here straightaway is that this is a company working hard to make improvements with their bikes. In this case, there is the improved geometry and use of carbon compared to older models. These small changes won’t be noticeable to those that aren’t familiar with the Canyon bike. But, those that are should appreciate the way that the company has worked hard to take every last gram of weight away where they could.
One of the interesting ways that you can see this clever design and lighter weight is the impact protection unit. This little system is small, simple, and integrated into the frame to prevent over-rotation of handlebars. It makes a big difference in the handling of this bike. Elsewhere, you will find an SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS wireless shifting system, carbon cranks, and SRAM Level Ultimate brakes with lightweight callipers.
Another benefit of this system is the use of 29er wheels and high-quality tires for better handling. This turns what could have been an understated bike into something with a little more impact and allows for a good grip on tough corners.
One thing to be aware of is that there are different models in the CF range. You can browse online and take a closer look at men’s and women’s models in the CF 6 and CF 7 range to find a bike that best suits your needs. If you want to cut costs you can go for the lesser CF 6 option and see how that works out for you. Or, you can go for the higher-grade CF 7 and pay a lot more. It is up to you to choose your approach.
- Careful work to take every last superfluous gram off this thing for the lightest weight yet
- Improved geometry and better quality carbon than previous models
- 29er wheels and great tires for handling
- Prices vary between the CF 6 and 7 so check which one is the best for your budget
Canyon isn’t the only one working hard to make little changes to their range to help their customers out. The XTC Advanced range of mountain bikes is another that has a new approach to the geometry and a lighter weight for a better performance. Again, this means improvements for those loyal to the brand that is ready to make upgrades. One thing that is interesting here is that these desire to improve the weight and shave off little bits here and there takes the weight dead-on 10kg. So, if you are looking for something ultra- lightweight you need to be careful with these Giant bikes.
As for the rest of the specification, this bike has an SRAM Eagle AXS 12 speed system to help users maintain the right pace across the whole ride. There are also SRAM Level Ultimate hydraulic disc brakes for a better response time. Riders also like the fact that the tires and rims are tubeless for convenience. Then there is the carbon fork with remote lockout.
Another thing that many new riders will love about this bike is the design. Unlike some of the other bikes that look a little cheap with their matte paintwork and over-the-top branding, this one is very stylish. The branding is a little more muted and there is a metallic look with a graduated tone from black to grey. This, along with the thin frame, make this look like an expensive model and it is sure to get plenty of attention.
But, you do have to pay a higher price to get this amazing design and the very best specification. As with other models in this guide, there are variations between options in the range and you can get a slightly cheaper version if needed, but it might not handle as well or look as good.
- It has been redesigned to improve the geometry and cut weight.
- Beautiful design with the metallic look and dark tones on the thin frame
- it nice and stiff for quality handling
- you have to pay a high price to get the best that Giant offer
The next option is another one that just comes in under 10kg at 9.6kg. The appeal of this bike doesn’t just lie in the lightweight frame. This bike is a 2019 model that was designed for the Orbea KMC World Cup team. Therefore, there are high expectations over how this will handle. The contemporary race geometry and clever remote suspension do make a difference.
There are some nice components across this bike. But there is a sense of less is more here, in a positive way. Rather than allow for the big 29er wheels seen in other bikes, there is the option to go more compact with the option of 27.5-inch wheels on smaller frames. There is also clean inside line cabling to remove the risk of damage and make the bike more streamlined.
Another nice touch here is the chance to customize the bike with different options and features for a personal touch. A key factor here is the option to change the paintwork to make a bigger statement.
While it might sound like we’re repeating ourselves by talking about cost. There is the sense that the high- end version of this bike is a bit of a rip-off when you look at other versions. It seems that Orbea knows that riders will pay this price if they know they will get a quality carbon bike. But, they use the same carbon frame in the Oiz M30 which is much cheaper – although there are some alloy links too. Again, you need to figure out the pros and cons and choose wisely.
- a 27.5-inch wheel option on the small size bikes to lower the weight further
- inside line cabling for a cleaner feel
- various colors or a complete custom paint option
- the cost of the top model when the same carbon frame is in the Oiz M30
For our penultimate model in this guide, we have the 9.7kg SL Team bike from Pivot. The weight here is decent with a nice carbon frame, but not as many of the clever extra features to drop the weight down any further. With that said, there is still a lot of praise from critics and riders alike from the way that this handles on tougher terrain and the speed achieved.
While many will come to this bike at first for the low weight, they will stay for the promise of a smarter system. This bike uses a clever series of sensors, along with a central battery and computer system, that can monitor information from the trail. These readings mean that it can adjust both the fork and rear shock damping for a better response. In theory, if reliable every time, this will make things a lot easier and smoother for riders with less to think about.
Another factor that is appreciated by a lot of riders is the full suspension system. The full suspension makes a difference to the ride, regardless of the price or any fancy sensors. It seems that this system is can make a big difference for comfort and is consistent in the way it handles impact. This should help riders judge their jumps and know what to expect at the other end. The suspension is also quite compact, so doesn’t add to the weight or hinder aerodynamics.
The disadvantage here is pretty much the same as on so many of these models. If you are going to look for a high-end bike that combines both a lightweight carbon frame and an interesting specification, you are going to have to pay for it. The cost of this bike may vary a little depending on style and retailer, so, there is always the chance of shaving off a few dollars as well as a few pounds. As always, you have to weigh up the pros and cons of choosing these pricer options.
- there is a nice series of features that allow for automatic adjustments
- t is lightweight yet capable on tougher terrain
- a compact and consistent suspension to help with comfort
- it is still an expensive choice
For this last choice, we are cheating a tiny little bit because this is a little heavier than the others. But, there is still a lot going on here that makes this bike a contender and worth consideration, if only to compare against the other in this guide. Like many of the other bikes on offer here, this model is an updated option from the brand, which means a greater focus on the geometry and handling for a better ride.
There are some nice features here on this bike that let rider get plenty of speed with confidence. One of the main selling points has to be the use of the Zero Suspension system. This is more sensitive than you might expect with a low shock rate to help push riders a little further with any tempting jumps.
This system works nicely with the rest of the specification, which includes the Maxxis Rekon tires, 1450g DT Swiss XRC1200 wheel, and geometry that allows for a 480mm reach and 76.5-degree seat angle. While this isn’t as dynamic as some bikes, it still makes a difference and shows that the company has made improvements over older models in the range. There is also praise for the responsiveness of the steering, which will help riders gain some extra time.
However, we can’t overlook the weight. While 10.2kg is barely above the 10kg average we had focused on, 0.2 of a kilogram could make a difference to some professional and competitive riders. So, buyers have to make a choice here. Do you sacrifice that time and add on that little bit of weight to enjoy this suspension system and handling. Or, is it better to stick with one of the much lighter options above? Of course, there may be ways of upgrading the bike to your needs and shaving off a little excess weight if you have the time and means to do so.
- The low shock rate and high sensitivity of the Zero Suspension system
- responsive steering
- impressive geometry for a better ride
- just slightly above the 10kg weight limit
Things to consider when choosing the best lightweight mountain bike:
1) The materials used
The material the frame is made from – steel, aluminum, or carbon – makes a difference. Steel is out. You can’t get anything lightweight and impressive in steel. This is better for the entry-level bikes for those new to the sport. Aluminum is a better bet because there are some great frames out there. You also don’t end up paying too much for it either. But you have to be careful here that other weighty elements don’t take the full weight of bike beyond that 22lb upper limit.
That is why these bikes in this guide are carbon. This lightweight material is brilliant and really cuts the weight on the bikes, which could leave room for other high-end components and thicker tires.
The choice of metal for a lighter weight doesn’t stop with the frame itself. Some bikes will have a brilliant light aluminum frame and then steel or alloy elements like the seat post, handlebars, or other smaller parts. This can add up.
2) The cost
From there, it helps to think about the cost. You see, a lot of the best carbon mountain bikes are incredibly expensive compared to a good aluminum one. We’re taking the difference of adding another 0 to the end of the price tag in some cases. This isn’t always a good idea unless you know you are going to get your money’s worth and use the bike in competitions. Be sensible and figure out your budget.
Also, be aware that while there are some amazing carbon bikes out there with great specifications, they aren’t always as light as you expect because of the combined weight of the features. Some of the top models for 2020 are actually closer to 27lbs. Again, you have to weigh up all the pros and cons here. Are you prepared to handle a little more weight for the benefit of having those extra features? Or, is it better to sacrifice some components for that lighter ride?
3) The bike’s geometry
A good frame also means the right geometry. Look for bikes that have a longer reach and a more aerodynamic shape to help you maintain your posture and speed. You don’t want to get a light frame and find that the shape is detrimental in picking up any speed or enjoying a comfortable ride.
4) The specification
The specification of the bike has to cover your needs and preferences. There is no point focusing solely on the weight and getting frustrated by a lack of gears, a strange design, or other features that are unfamiliar or completely omitted. Make sure that the bike has enough speed settings and user-friendly gear shifters so you can maintain that faster speed on those competitive rides. Look for high-quality disc brakes for responsive stopping power and adequate suspension. The full dual suspension is always going to help when you fly over those jumps and rough corners on this lighter bike.
5) The wheels and tires
It is also important to consider what sort of wheels and tires you want. While you might consider going for something smaller and thinner to cut weight, this could be detrimental to the performance of the bike. Larger 29er wheels are popular for a reason. Thicker tires with a good tread will handle loose gravel and dirt and ensure that you are safer on rougher routes.
6) The look
Finally, there is nothing wrong with choosing a bike based on the way that it looks. This is going to be your pride and joy out on the tails for a long time, so why not get something that looks awesome and turns a few heads, especially if you are going to be competing.
In short, there is a definite balance here where you need to weigh up the pros and cons of different bikes and find the right match. It isn’t enough to say that you will get a lightweight carbon fiber frame without considering all the other parts and the costs that go with it. The lighter the frame and other metal parts, the better the other components can be to compensate. But, you also have to be sure that this all comes in under budget.
The best thing to do is to set that budget and start comparing your options carefully. Find the ones that come in under 22lb/10kg and then start to look at the contrasting specs and features. It doesn’t hurt to check out some user reviews too. Eventually, you will find a match that is light enough while also offering the quality and response you need.