12 Best Budget Mountain Bikes to Get Every Type of Rider Rolling

By   

View as:

Photo credit: Daxiao Productions/shutterstock

SADDLE UP AND SAVE

As the weather warms up, taking to two wheels and hitting the trails is on a lot of people's minds. Cheapism.com's picks for the best mountain bikes under $500 can help you find the right bike whether you're a seasoned rider, just starting out, or looking for a bike that can take you to work and beyond. From hardtail to full-suspension models, from women's and kids' bikes to hybrid and fat tire bikes, these models provide a smooth ride and make good bases to build on. There's even an electric mountain bike with the option not to pedal at all.
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

26" GENESIS V2100

Best Mountain Bike Under $200
Price: Starting around $149 | Buy it from Walmart

Pros:

  • Incredibly cheap price.
  • Mechanical disc brakes in front.
  • Users appreciate having the rear shock.
  • Good basic bike for those looking to add their own improvements.

Cons:

  • Comes in only one size: 19 inches.
  • Some reviewers say the seat isn't very comfortable, but that's easy and cheap to fix.
  • A few reports of the rear brakes slipping and needing an inexpensive adjustment.

Takeaway: Many experts warn against buying a full-suspension bike under $1,000, because it will most likely be heavy and made of poor-quality parts, but the Genesis V2100 seems to buck that trend. Many frugal mountain biking enthusiasts say this bike performs surprisingly well for the price and provides a good base for upgrades. (If this super-cheap model is sold out at Walmart, consider the Kent Thruster KZ2600, which comes from the same manufacturer and has nearly identical specs. Priced at $200, it's a best-seller on Amazon, and available from retailers like Target, Kohl's, and Sears.)

Photo credit: Courtesy of giant-bicycles.com

GIANT ATX 2

Good 27.5" Mountain Bike Under $500
Price: Starting around $415 | Buy it from Giant

Pros:

  • Mechanical disc brakes.
  • Lightweight aluminum frame stands out as being very good for the price and comes in a wide range of sizes, starting at 12.5" XXS.
  • Brakes and gears have a "superior" feel, according to reviews.
  • Users say this is an excellent hardtail bike for beginners that can provide a great ride on tough terrain or paved roads.

Cons:

  • A few mentions of the gear chain sticking.
  • Several users assert that regular maintenance is especially important with this model.

Takeaway: A solid choice for a starter mountain bike from a brand known for both high-end excellence and affordable value, the Giant ATX 2 has entry-level parts that work well together to provide a smooth ride and quality feel. With regular maintenance, this budget mountain bike will not disappoint.

Photo credit: Courtesy of nashbar.com

NASHBAR AT29

Best 29er Mountain Bike Under $500
Price: Starting around $400 | Buy it from Nashbar

Pros:

  • 29-inch wheels.
  • Mechanical disc brakes.
  • Front suspension fork with hydraulic lockout to conserve energy on flat surfaces.
  • Very inexpensive given the impressive specs.
  • Covers gravel paths and uneven trails very well and handles rocks and tree roots with ease, users say.
  • Some appreciate the understated "stealth" look of the relatively sticker-free -- and sturdy -- aluminum frame.

Cons:

  • A few users report that the brakes require a lot of force.
  • The suspension may not suit riders over 200 pounds.
  • Hard to find online in any size other than medium.

Takeaway: The Nashbar AT29 is considered a reliable workhorse. It's easy to assemble and use, even on bumpy trails, and strong enough to attach a hitch for carting the kids (or any other kit) around. Despite entry-level parts and a few issues with the brakes, most users find this a solid 29er that's much cheaper than similar models from big-name brands.

Photo credit: Courtesy of diamondback.com

DIAMONDBACK OVERDRIVE

Best Hardtail Mountain Bike Under $500
Price: Starting around $400 | Buy it from Diamondback

Pros:

  • Mechanical disc brakes.
  • More widely available than many other brands -- can even be purchased online.
  • Users report smooth braking and gear shifting, with 24 speeds.
  • Handles rugged terrain with ease.
  • Experts are especially impressed with the traction on the 27.5" tires and the doublewall rims (relatively rare in the price range), which make the wheels even sturdier.

Cons:

    Several gripes about an uncomfortable seat.

Takeaway: The Diamondback Overdrive is easy to find -- which is unusual for the category. It's available on Amazon and at REI, as well as big-box stores and smaller local bike shops. With a smooth ride and nice features for the price, this budget hardtail comes highly recommended by users and experts alike.

Photo credit: Courtesy of specialized.com

SPECIALIZED ROCKHOPPER 29

Best Cheap 29er Mountain Bike
Price: Starting around $525 | Buy it from Specialized Bicycle Components

Pros:

  • 29-inch wheels for greater traction and a less bumpy ride.
  • Shimano mechanical disc brakes.
  • Front suspension fork with hydraulic lockout to conserve energy on flat surfaces.
  • Light and nimble, users say.
  • Smooth shifting among 24 speeds and quick acceleration.
  • Tackles most rough trails and is very responsive.

Cons:

  • At the very top of Cheapism's $500 budget.
  • Typically found only in local bike shops or online to ship to a bike shop.

Takeaway: The Specialized Rockhopper 29 comes from a well-known, well-respected brand that makes mostly high-end bikes. This lower-priced model doesn't sacrifice quality parts. Users praise this hardtail bike for its responsiveness on even the toughest rides. While it's currently a smidge over the $500 mark, reviews suggest it's worth the price.

Photo credit: Courtesy of trekbikes.com

TREK SKYE S

Best Women's Mountain Bike Under $500
Price: Starting around $490 | Buy it from Trek

Pros:

  • Mechanical disc brakes.
  • Choice of 27.5- or 29-inch wheels.
  • Front suspension fork with hydraulic lockout to conserve energy on flat surfaces.
  • Durable structure, sturdy frame, and quality craftsmanship for which the Trek brand is known.
  • Highly rated by users, who say it provides a smooth ride over rocky trails or on flat pavement, no matter the weather.
  • Saddle is said to be comfortable for long rides.

Cons:

  • Available only from approved Trek retailers.
  • Price approaching $500.

Takeaway: For consumers seeking a mountain bike specifically made for women, the Trek Skye S garners few complaints, and glowing reviews abound. Many users say the comfortable saddle and suspension on this hardtail bike have them riding more than ever. The price tag may seem a bit steep, but the bike feels like it's made for a lifetime. Consumers who want to save a few bucks can check out the Trek Skye for about $50 less -- but expect rim brakes instead of mechanical disc brakes and a few other downgrades.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

DIAMONDBACK OCTANE 24

Best Cheap Mountain Bike for Kids
Price: Starting around $300 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:

  • Easy for young riders to operate, most buyers say, with 24-inch tires and an aluminum frame sized for kids about 8 to 11.
  • Provides a smooth, quiet ride and handles light trails and bumps without a problem.
  • Available at many retail outlets.
  • Easy to assemble.

Cons:

  • On the pricey side for a youth bike.
  • Cheaper V-brakes, although they're easier for kids to control than disc brakes.
  • Reports of gears and knobs sticking.

Takeaway: The Diamondback Octane 24 is a good-looking, reputable bike that's easy to put together and use. For kids who are a little more serious about mountain biking, this is a starter bike that will hold up better than the average disposable model from a big-box or department store. There's also a 20-inch version for smaller riders (starting around $245).

Photo credit: Courtesy of fujibikes.com

FUJI TRAVERSE 1.7 DISC

Best Hybrid Mountain Bike Under $500
Price: Starting around $499 | Buy it from Fuji

Pros:

  • Designed to deliver optimal performance both on the road and off.
  • Mechanical disc brakes and 24 speeds.
  • Experts say the slightly wider 700 x 38c wheels are responsive and fast and provide good traction on any type of terrain.
  • Users say this hybrid bike is comfortable and durable and needs little maintenance.

Cons:

  • At the very top of the budget price range.

Takeaway: The Fuji Traverse 1.7 can get you to and from work during the week and also tackle trails on the weekends. With agile handling, impressive traction, smooth braking, and responsive wheels, it's hard to go wrong with this all-purpose mountain bike from a highly respected brand.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

26" GMC YUKON FAT BIKE

Best Fat Tire Mountain Bike Under $500
Price: Starting around $467 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:

  • Amazing performance in snow.
  • Disc brakes and gears that shift well.
  • Easy to assemble, with lots of YouTube videos to help.
  • Experts say it's worth every penny.
  • Users consider this a good base bike to build on.

Cons:

  • Lower quality parts.

Takeaway: Experts and owners agree that the GMC Yukon Fat Bike reigns among entry-level fat tire bikes. While some corners have been cut when it comes to components, users say this bike still delivers a fun ride on a variety of surfaces. Seasoned riders suggest that, with a few add-ons and adjustments, the lifespan and performance of this fatty can be even better.

Photo credit: Courtesy of diamondback.com

DIAMONDBACK RECOIL 29

Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bike Under $1,000
Price: Starting around $600 | Buy it from Diamondback

Pros:

  • Dual suspension.
  • Mechanical disc brakes.
  • 29-inch wheels.
  • Solid, lightweight, durable aluminum frame.
  • Users rave about the incredibly smooth ride, even on very rocky terrain.
  • Experts report that the rear suspension holds up well even for riders over 200 pounds.

Cons:

  • Seasoned riders recommend replacing the shocks, particularly the rear coil spring, with better quality parts.

Takeaway: Equipped with dual suspension, 29-inch wheels, disc brakes, and 24 speeds, the Diamondback Recoil 29 has truly solid specs and mostly quality parts at a price that's surprisingly reasonable. Beginner and intermediate riders who are set on a full-suspension bike but don't have a lot to spend will find this the best bet under $1,000. Even serious enthusiasts are content with an upgrade or two.

Photo credit: Courtesy of gtbicycles.com

GT VERB COMP

Best Budget Bike with Hydraulic Brakes
Price: Starting around $1,080 | Buy it from GT

Pros:

  • Hydraulic disc brakes are more accurate and responsive.
  • Testers have found the bike easy to control on steep terrain and at high speeds.
  • Full suspension with rear air shock, designed for efficient pedaling performance and easier climbing.

Cons:

  • Limited availability.

Takeaway: If you can get your hands on a GT Verb Comp (2017 or 2016 version), you won't be sorry. The hydraulic brakes and full suspension make it a real bargain for the price and an excellent full-featured bike for beginners, with 27.5-inch tires and 18 speeds. Experts praise its precise control, while users applaud its comfortable, smooth ride.

Photo credit: Courtesy of x-tremescooters.com

X-TREME TRAIL MAKER

Best Budget Electric Mountain Bike
Price: Starting around $849 | Buy it from X-Treme Scooters

Pros:

  • Sturdy and generally reliable electric bike.
  • Disc brakes.
  • Experts consider the components high-quality.
  • Users find the bike quiet and easy to operate.
  • Three modes, including a fully powered option that requires no pedaling at all.

Cons:

  • Hard to assemble.
  • Poor customer service ratings.
  • Some users say the battery life could be longer.

Takeaway: The X-Treme Trail Maker is a good deal for the price (not many e-bikes come in under $1,000). Although assembly can be a challenge (head to YouTube for help) and the company doesn't get rave reviews for responsiveness, this is a solid, well-made bike that works well, according to owners -- many of whom use it daily for commuting.