If you're in the market for a mountain bike – and I mean an actual, proper mountain bike to do actual, proper trails on, rather than something to crack out for a once-yearly off-road jaunt – spending much under £500 is not a great idea. The good news is that you can get a decent amount of bang for around that number of bucks, as evinced by our best mountain bikes under £500 guide. A very good case in point is with Voodoo's 2022 range.
Voodoo was originally a US brand, but has a range of mountain bikes sold exclusively through Halfords in the UK. These are specifically tailored to UK mountain biking, and tested on the trails you'll find in this green and pleasant land. I recently got the opportunity to go and test out the 2022 range on the South Downs.
The star of the range, from a beginner mountain biking point of view at least, is the Bizango – and you can read my thoughts on the Voodoo Bizango here – but there's another gem in the range that's also worth taking a look at if you're in the market for a MTB this winter: the Voodoo Wazoo+. For my money, it might well be the best mountain bike for enthusiastic beginners.
It's got a name that'll you'll feel stupid saying. We'll get that out of the way from the off. When I rode it, it was just called the Wazoo; the extra '+' has been added since, and I think it's there to make it extra clear that this is, as the teens might say, a chunky boi. The most immediately noticeable feature here is that the Wazoo's tyres are extra wide: this model sports 2.6" Maxxis Rekon tyres, whereas most of the range runs on 2.25" Maxxis Ardent tyres.
The major benefit is that they'll cope especially well with mud, providing dependable grip on corners, however slip-slidey the terrain gets. This can only be a good thing for those hoping to tackle UK trails in the autumn / winter (or, let's face it, spring and perhaps also summer). I also found these tyres did an excellent job of sucking up the impact of teeth-rattling gravel, having meandered my way up a long, loose stony track on the Wazoo.
A knock-on effect of this is that the Wazoo is slightly more cumbersome than others in the Voodoo range. Chatting to the other pro MTB-ers I was riding with, they noted that these kinds of bikes are slightly slower to get going, but once you've got momentum, they're great for keeping speed up. The tyre design has been adapted to account for this, with a ramped centre tread that will lower rolling resistance at speed.
The geometry has been updated over previous models, and is designed to be especially forgiving for those still finding their MTBing groove. It'll let you easily and comfortably manoeuvre your body around while you ride. Hydraulic disc brakes provide reliable and efficient stopping power whenever it's needed.
Check out the bike in all its glory in this gallery of snazzy close ups.
The RRP for the Wazoo is £600, which is £150 cheaper than the Bizango, and to get it into that lower price range, you're getting slightly less advanced componentry than appears on the pricier models. The only concession that's really noticeable to a beginner though is that there's a traditional 2x chainset, which means you'll need to deal with two gear adjustment mechanisms, whereas more advanced MTBs build all that into a single system operated by one hand.
The Wazoo+ has been made upgrade-friendly, which means that it'll grow with you as you get into the sport (and have had a chance to save up your cash). It's compatible with dropper posts, should you decide that you want to be able to raise or lower your saddle on the go, without dismounting. The rims will also work with tubeless tyres, which reduces the risk of puncture. All you need is a pair of tubeless-ready tyres and a tubeless conversion kit to upgrade. It's reassuring to know you'll be able to adapt your bike further down the line to ensure it can keep up with your mountain biking progress.
Overall, if you're looking for a fun, beginner-friendly mountain bike that feels robust enough to bash around any kind of trail on, the Wazoo would make an excellent choice.
Now time for the bad news: the Wazoo+ is currently out of stock, with more expected in January. Need something now? We'd happily recommend any of the Halfords Voodoo range, so take a look and see if any of the other models catch your eye. Or alternatively head to our best budget mountain bike guide for more beginner-friendly options.