Selection – Best Beginner Mountain Bike [of 2021]
Mountain bikes have come a long way since their inception in the 1980s, with a wide range of options to choose from these days. This makes choosing your first bike a daunting task – do you go for full suspension or hardtail? Trail or cross country? How much should I spend?
It can be a tough decision, so we’ve compiled a convenient list of the best beginner mountain bikes to help you choose. Here you’ll find something to suit any budget, from low-cost entry-level bikes under $500 to good quality intermediate bikes above $1,000. Although a hardtail is probably the best choice for your first MTB, we’ve also included a few full-suspension bikes for your consideration.
A Good Beginner Mountain Bike Should Be Equipped With:
- A suspension fork
- Preferably an aluminum frame
- 27.5″ or 29″ wheels
- Hydraulic disc brakes
Do We Recommend a Carbon Frame for a Beginner Mountain Biker?
Although carbon fiber is not as ‘brittle’ as it used to be 10 years ago, a beginner cyclist may now know some of the basics tips to follow to maintain the best outcome of a carbon fiber’s expected lifespan. We’d recommend a carbon frame to a seasoned cyclist who knows how to ‘treat’ the bike correctly and who has a solid cycling background.
Related: Is Carbon Fiber Great for Beginners?
How Much To Pay For a Beginner’s Mountain Bike?
A cheaper bike doesn’t necessarily mean it lacks in quality. Instead, many large bike brands produce entry-level bikes that are equipped with great value components that stand the test of time a recreational cyclist is willing to put the bike through.
Table of Contents
4 Best Beginner Mountain Bikes for recreational riders
1. Cannondale Trail 5 $950
2. Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 $949
3. Trek Marlin 4 $500
4. Tommaso Gran Sasso $875
5. Giant ATX $480
1. Cannondale – Trail 5
Best men’s beginner mountain bike!
The Cannondale Trail 5 is a decent beginner mountain bike for those looking to break out beyond just singletrack and explore more varied terrain. It has a lightweight aluminum frame and an SR Suntour fork with 100mm of travel, enough for taking on small drops and rough trails. Although it doesn’t have rear suspension, the Trail 5 benefits from SAVE micro-suspension that absorbs any small vibrations and provides a smoother ride.
Cannondale has reduced costs with a simple 10-speed microSHIFT drivetrain but has cut no corners with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and WTB rims and tires. All round, the Trail 5 is a good quality intermediate MTB that uses some budget parts but delivers the goods where they’re needed most.
- SR Suntour XCM, 100mm travel fork
- 10-speed microSHIFT Advent X
Related: Cannondale Trail Series Overview
2. Co-op Cycles – DRT 1.2
Co-op Cycles is the in-house bike brand of REI outdoor stores, so you know you can trust the quality. This hardtail offering is a mid-range MTB with a focus on fast riding along singletrack and forest trails.
The SR Suntour fork has a generous 120mm of travel to swallow up any large bumps and the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes will keep you on track come rain or shine.
It uses an 18-speed Shimano Altus drivetrain with a 2×9 setup that includes the excellent low-profile ‘Shadow’ rear derailleur. This keeps the derailleur close to the bike to avoid damage from rocks or branches. Considering that you also get ST-i25 rims and WTB tires, this is a lot of bike for the price. A real bargain!
- Fork: 120mm
- 2×9 speed Shimano Altus & Alivio
- Aluminum frame
- Tektro Hydraulic disc brakes
- XS, S, M – 27.5″ wheels / L, XL – 29″ wheels – 2.4″ width
DRT 1.0 – $599
DRT 1.1 – $599
DRT 1.2 – $999
DRT 2.1 – $1,399
DRT 2.2 – $1,899
3. Trek – Marlin 4
Trekbikes (Can be bought in-store only)
This beginner hardtail mountain bike from Trek is the perfect introductory trail bike at an affordable price. Although it isn’t a dual suspension bike, the SR Suntour coil-sprung fork provides a decent 100mm of travel – enough to tackle rough terrain and mild descents.
The aluminum frame has convenient rack mounts and internal cable routing for better protection and a professional finish. The 7-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain is matched with either a single or triple crank for up to 21 gearing options. For stopping power, you get Tektro mechanical disc brakes which provide more than enough stopping power for intermediate riding.
Why do we recommend it for recreational beginners?
Although the bike is equipped with essentials one would need to get into mountain biking as a beginner – there’s the mechanical disc brakes instead of hydraulic and entry-level components that are more suitable for not needy cyclists.
4. Tommaso – Gran Sasso
Shipped ready to ride, best price guarantee!
The Gran Sasso from Tommaso is a good beginner mountain bike for those on a tight budget. It gives you 100mm of front travel on the SR Suntour fork but includes no rear suspension, making it ideal for mild trail riding or singletrack racing.
With a combination of Shimano Altus and Acera components on the 24-speed drivetrain, you get high-quality gearing for a bargain price. Not only that, you also get Shimano hydraulic disc brakes – a top-class part seldom seen on bikes under $1,000.
Tommaso has included some budget components to keep costs down, including a basic alloy frame and entry-level 29″ Mingda wheels. While more than sufficient for purpose, these do make the bike a bit heavier than some other mountain bikes.
- 100mm SR Suntour SF15-XCM
- Shimano M315 Hydraulic Disc Brakes
- Shimano Altus & Acera
- 29″ wheels
Why do we recommend it for beginners mainly?
The double chainring might be something that would be hard to upgrade for a single-chainring once you’d like to progress.
5. Giant – ATX
Giant’s ATX 3 Disc is an entry-level aluminum hardtail MTB that will get you into the outdoors without breaking the bank. It’s perfect for relaxed riders who want to explore the countryside along a gravel road or non-technical mountain trails. The SR Suntour fork only has 75mm of travel, but it’s enough to absorb vibrations and minor bumps. Fortunately, the fat tires and 650b wheels provide a decent amount of extra padding.
The drivetrain is a mix of Shimano Tourney parts and EF41 shifters, with a triple crank and 7-speed cassette to provide 21 gears. You also get a slightly cheaper ATX with caliper brakes, but we would suggest going with the mechanical disc brakes for better stopping power.
- ALUXX-Grade Aluminum
- 26″ and 27.5″ wheels
- 100mm travel
Why do we recommend it for recreational beginners?
Double front chainring and entry-level parts make it suitable for a light user only.
Best Beginner Mountain Bike for Advanced Cyclists
These are the top-rated beginner mountain bikes
6. Marin Rift Zone 1 $1,899
7. Co-op Cycles DRT 3.1 $2,199
8. LIV Tempt 1 $1,060
9. GT Avalanche Comp $950
10. Trek X-Caliber 7 $1,040
6. Marin – Rift Zone 1 ‘2022
A great consideration should also be the Rift Zone by Marin Bikes.
It is an entry-level full-suspension beginner’s mountain bike offers a ton of freedom towards comfort. This bike can easily open doors to many potentially great mountain bikers in the future as it has a rather appealeing price tag. Hardtail mountain bikes are not for everyone, especially if you value extra comfort on tougher terrains.
The 2022 Marshall is equipped with a 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain, RockShox suspension front (130mm) and X-Fusion 02 PRO R on the rear (120mm). You’ll get a Series 3 6061 aluminum frame and Shimano MT201 hydraulic brakes that are must-have components at this price range.
7. Co-op Cycles – DRT 3.1
Best Beginner Full-Suspension Mountain Bike!
The DRT 3.1 is Co-op Cycles first full-suspension MTB, designed to take on serious off-road conditions with 140mm of front travel and 130mm of rear travel. It features a high-quality RockShox air-sprung fork and Solo Air shock, supported by a tough 6061 aluminum frame.
The 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain includes Rapidfire plus shifters and a Shadow+ rear derailleur for extra protection on the trails. With an FSA crankset and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, it’s difficult to fault anything on this top quality trail bike. Co-op uses tried-and-tested WTB STi rims and Ranger tires for the wheels, plus you get an X-Fusion Manic dropper post included! You’ll struggle to find a better bike for the price!
- XS / S – 120mm travel front & rear
- M / L / XL – 140mm travel front, 130mm rear
- 10-speed Shimano Deore
8. LIV – Tempt 1
Best women’s beginner mountain bike
The Tempt 1 from female-specific cycling company Liv is one of the best beginner women’s mountain bikes. At just over $1,000, it packs in some seriously good technology that defies the low price. The SRAM Eagle SX drivetrain is probably the most notably impressive component on a bike in this range. It features an 11-50T cassette running of a single 30T crankset, providing 11 gears with a wide ratio for easy uphill pedaling.
It doesn’t use the full SRAM groupset though, going rather with Tektro hydraulic disc brakes which are more than sufficient on a hardtail MTB. For suspension, you get a Suntour Raidon fork with 100mm of travel, which provides enough vibration absorption for mild off-road riding but I wouldn’t attempt any big drops.
All-round it’s a great women’s-specific bike for cross-country, trail riding, and singletrack.
- 27.5″ wheels
- 100mm fork
- SRAM SX Eagle
9. GT – Avalanche Comp
The GT Avalanche is an entry-level hardtail MTB that combines a quality 6061 T6 aluminum frame with affordable components. It features an SR Suntour XCM fork and microSHIFT drivetrain, both low-cost parts that deliver decent performance without breaking the bank.
With 10 gears running off a Prowheel 32T crankset and a maximum 42T rear cog, you get enough range for easy climbing, with Tektro hydraulic disc brakes offering ample stopping power in any weather conditions.
While some minor sacrifices have been made here to ensure the Avalanche remains affordable, most amateur riders will feel more than confident tackling single track and country lanes on this impressive trail bike.
10. Trek – X-Caliber 7
Trek bikes are available in-store only
This impressive entry-level cross-country machine from Trek looks and feels like it should cost a lot more than it does. It’s a powerhouse of quality components packed into a solid, aluminum frame with a RockShox fork and 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain.
So what’s the catch? Well, it is only a hardtail bike with 100mm of front travel, so you won’t be racing down any steep, technical descents on this one. However, with Bontrager Comp tires and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, you’ll have no trouble keeping traction at high speed. It’s the ideal bike for quick, nimble off-road riding along singletrack and rocky trails.
- Alpha Gold Aluminum
- 100mm RockShox Judy SL, Solo Air spring fork
- S – 27.5×2.2″ / M, L, XL – 29×2.2″
- 10-speed Shimano Deore
How to choose a beginner mountain bike?
The best bike for beginner mountain biking? Although a bit pricier than some other options, we feel the Co-op DRT 1.2 is probably the best entry-level mountain bike on this list. It offers the best quality components in its price range, and it’s certainly worth spending the extra cash on.
Is a mountain bike the best all-rounder bicycle?
Although mountain bikes can be ridden on any terrain, the weight and slow-rolling tires mean they are slow and heavy on tarmac, meaning they aren’t ideal as an all-rounder bicycle. Gravel bikes use lighter frames and thinner tires, making them more suited to both on-road and off-road conditions and better all-rounder bicycles.
How much to pay for a first mountain bike?
How much you pay for your first mountain bike will probably be determined by your budget, but you should try to aim for close to $1,000 if you can. Most mountain bikes under $1,000 tend to have cheap components that will either break under heavy use or provide an unsatisfactory cycling experience.
How do I start mountain biking?
Just buy a bike and start riding. Mountain biking doesn’t require any special training beyond knowing how to ride a bike. Simply get out there on the trails and start having fun! Over time, you’ll gravitate towards the type of riding you enjoy more, from extreme downhill to flat-out cross-country racing.
What is the best beginner mountain bike?
We’d say Co-op Cycles offer the best value mountain bikes online as these bikes have a quite a good groupset and unisex frames.
Is mountain biking difficult?
Professional-level, downhill mountain biking can be extremely difficult and dangerous, but most people don’t take part in that particular discipline. Your average, everyday singletrack or trail ride is only as difficult as you make it, depending on the type of track you attempt. As long as you start off slow and keep on track, you shouldn’t have any trouble completing standard mountain biking courses.
Mountain biking vs road cycling – which is better for weight loss?
Although professional Tour de France cyclists tend to have the body shape of stick insects, mountain biking can often be more tiring and better for weight loss. Road cycling is only truly effective for weight loss if you’re going uphill a lot, or cycling very fast. Mountain biking, on the other hand, is usually very tiring even if you just go out for a casual day riding.
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