Disclaimer: Bikexchange is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through the links on our site.

Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,500: Ride MTB Trails on a Budget

By Zach Nehr   /  Last updated - December 29, 2023   /  Best-Of-Reviews, Mountain Bikes

best mountain bikes under 1500

It was once thought that getting a mountain bike meant forfeiting more than a few paychecks. They said the best frames with the best components cost thousands of dollars… But our list of the best mountain bikes under $1,500 proves different. 

Beginner mountain bikers rejoice! You don’t need to spend 10k to dip your toe into singletrack or try your hand at XC trail riding. Some of the best mountain bikes under $1,500 feature the same name brands used by professional MTBers. 

Did you know that you can get a mountain bike with front fork suspension, a dropper post, and SRAM Eagle gearing for under $1,500? In fact, we’ve even included an electric mountain bike on our list.

In no particular order, we’ve brought out 11 of the best mountain bikes for under $1,500. A few of these bikes actually cost less than $1,000, making them the perfect intro to the world of mountain biking. Let’s jump right into it. 

1. Salsa Rangefinder Deore

salsa rangefinder deore mtb under 1500

  • Price: $1,549
  • Gearing: 11-speed Shimano Deore M5100
  • Brakes: Shimano MT200 Hydraulic discs
  • Tires: Maxxis Rekon 29 x 2.6
  • Suspension: SR Suntour XCR32 Boost Air 120mm 

The first bike on our list, the Salsa Rangefinder Deore, is slightly over $1,500 but worth every penny. Salsa aimed to create one of the best hardtail bikes on the market, in part with their own stable trail geometry and a 120mm suspension fork. A dropper post is included, adding to the comfort and maneuverability of the Rangefinder, which comes with 2.6” tires that provide plenty of traction on all sorts of trails. 

As the name suggests, this Rangefinder comes with 11-speed Shimano Deore M5100 gearing, plus a set of Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes. Throw in the Maxxis Rekon 29 x 2.6” tires and SR Suntour suspension fork, and you have a high-quality package on an affordable mountain bike. 

Rangefinder geometry is made up of a long top tube, short stem, and 439mm chainstays in the Rangefinder Deore. Salsa uses their proprietary 6061-T6 double- and triple-butted tubing to mold a lightweight, responsive, and simultaneously durable Rangefinder frame. 

Its strong build also features an impressive cargo capacity, especially for an MTB at this price. In addition to two bottle cages on the inside of the frame, the Rangefinder has an accessory mount on the underside of the downtube, plus top tube mounts and rear rack mounting bosses. With a few extra Salsa additions, you can fit a rear rack on the Salsa Rangefinder Deore.

Buy from REI

2. Marin Team Marin 1

marin team marin

  • Price: $1,499
  • Gearing: 12-speed Shimano Deore
  • Brakes: Shimano MT201 hydraulic discs
  • Tires: Vee Tire Rail Rocco 29 x 2.3″
  • Suspension: RockShox Judy Silver TK Air 120mm

Our first official addition to the list of best mountain bikes under $1,500 is the Marin Team Marin 1. Branded as “XC light with trail riding capability,” the Team Marin 1 is a lightweight hardtail that is built for both adventuring and racing. It’s built with a Series 4 6061 aluminum frame, internal cable routing, and Boost hub spacing. 

Like most of the best mountain bikes for under $1,500, the Team Marin 1 comes with 120mm travel in the front. The bike comes with Vee Trie Rail Rocco 28 x 2.3” tires but also has clearance for up to 29 x 2.35” tires. 

You’ll be able to handle the climbs using the Team Marin 1’s 10-51T gearing from Shimano Deore. The Shimano MT201 hydraulic disc brakes provide tons of stopping power, which you might need when you’re shredding descents on this lightweight XC machine. The entire bike weighs 28.1 lbs / 12.7 kg. 

The biggest downside to the Team Marin 1 is the absence of a dropper post. The bike’s overall geometry is designed for a balance of beginners and XC racers, with wide bars and a short stem that makes for quick handling. 

Buy from Jenson USA

3. Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2

co-op cycles drt 1.2 beginner mountain bike

  • Price: $999
  • Gearing: 2×9-speed Shimano Altus
  • Brakes: Tektro hydraulic discs
  • Tires: WTB Trail Boss 2.4″ 
  • Suspension: SR Suntour XCR Coil 120mm

Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 is designed as a beginner’s trail bike. One that is strong and durable but also capable. The Shimano 2×9-speed setup is geared towards beginners rather than experienced MTBers. 

Like most of the best mountain bikes for under $1,500, the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 comes with 120mm of fork suspension, this time courtesy of the SR Suntour XCR. Tektro hydraulic disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power – the hydraulic disc brakes are a great feature of a bike at this price point of under $1,000. 

WTB Trail Boss 2.4” tires tie into the beginner theme of this bike, providing more grip than speed on all sorts of trails and singletrack. However, the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 rides much better than basic MTBs that fall around the $500 range.

The Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 can handle intermediate trails with ease, and it has plenty of features to simultaneously keep beginners safe while also teaching them how to handle the trail. 

Buy from REI

4. Rocky Mountain Fusion 40

rocky mountain fusion 40

  • Price: $1,439
  • Gearing: 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle
  • Brakes: Clarks M2 hydraulic discs
  • Tires: WTB Ranger Comp 29 x 2.4″
  • Suspension: RockShox Judy Silver TK Air100mm

The Rocky Mountain Fusion 40 is a versatile and comfortable adventure bike with all the features you’d expect from a beginner-level MTB. Built with a 6061 aluminum frame, the Rocky Mountain Fusion 40 comes with a threaded bottom bracket, low standover height, internal cable routing, and quick-release hubs. These are impressive features for a bike at this price point, features that make the Rocky Mountain Fusion 40 ride faster and more efficiently than comparable mountain bikes under $1,500. 

One of this bike’s best features is the 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle gearing, which comes with an 11-50T cassette. This is a drivetrain that is known for being able to handle rough and tough trails. And so are the Clarks M2 hydraulic disc brakes. 

Rocky Mountain Fusion 40 features a comfortable geometry that is best-suited for comfort and versatility. This isn’t the ideal racing machine, but it is perfect for beginners learning their way around the singletrack. 

One of the bigger differences between the Rocky Mountain Fusion 40 and other mountain bikes under $1,500 is the Fusion 40’s suspension. Built as a hardtail, the Fushion 40 has a RockShox Judy Silver TK Air fork with 100mm of travel. It’s only slightly less travel than other beginner-level mountain bikes with 120mm travel, but it’s noticeable when you’re out on the trail. 

Buy from Jenson USA

5. Cannondale Trail 5

cannondale trail 5 affordable mountain bike

  • Price: $960
  • Gearing: 10-speed MicroSHIFT Advent X 
  • Brakes: Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc
  • Tires: WTB Ranger Comp 2.25″
  • Suspension: SR Suntour XCM Coil 100mm

The Cannondale Trail 5 belongs on more than just our list of best mountain bikes under $1,500. In fact, the entire MTB costs less than $1,000, making it one of the best mountain bikes under $1,000. 

However, it is truly a beginner’s MTB because of its limiting components and 100mm suspension. Cannondale Trail 5 comes with 10-speed MicroSHIFT Advent X gearing and an 11-48T cassette. You’ll still be able to handle plenty of climbing, but the Trail 5’s 32-lb frame might slow you down. 

Trail 5 is a hardtail MTB with 100mm travel in its SR SunTour XCM fork. This is slightly less travel than comparable mountain bikes under $1,500. Cannondale Trail 5’s frame is made out of SmartForm C3 alloy that is sturdy and durable. 

The frame also comes with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes which are a great feature at this price point. A dropper post is not included, though the Trail 5 is compatible with 31.6mm dropper posts. This bike also features SAVE micro-suspension, which offers a smoother and more controlled ride thanks to the flex zones built into the rear triangle. 

WTB Ranger Comp 2.25″ are a great starting point for beginners, though they may be somewhat limiting on more technical trails. Overall, the Cannondale Trail 5 is one of the best beginner mountain bikes with all the features that you need to tackle your first singletrack.

Buy from REI

6. Scott Scale 970

scott scale 970

  • Price: $1,499
  • Gearing: 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle
  • Brakes: Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes
  • Tires: Maxxis Rekon Race 2.25″
  • Suspension: RockShox Judy Silver TK Solo Air 100mm

Built with a Scale Alloy 6061 frame, the Scott Scale 970 is one of the best mountain bikes for under $1,500. This is more than just a beginner MTB – the Scott Scale 970 is built for racing, intermediate trails, and more. 

Scott Scale 970 shares many of the same components as some of the other best mountain bikes under $1,500. This includes the 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle gearing, Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes, and RockShox fork suspension. 

The Scale 970 comes with 100mm travel in the RockShox Judy Silver TK, which is a great value feature at this price point. Scale 970’s fork is lightweight and durable, plus it comes with a Solo Air spring, TurnKey Lockout, and torque caps. 

SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain is one of the best, and the Sacle 970 features an 11-50T cassette to help you tackle any trail climb. Maxxis Rekon Race 2.25″ tires provide plenty of grip on all kinds of trails but are specially designed as a semi-slick with shorter and smaller knobs.

The Scott Scale 970 is perfect for short-track XC racing, especially when you switch out the Maxxis Rekon Race for a more aggressive front tread. 

Buy from evo.com

7. Marin San Quentin 1

marin san quentin 1 mountain bike under $1,500

  • Price: $999
  • Gearing: 9-speed MicroSHIFT Advent 
  • Brakes: Tektro M275 Hydraulic discs
  • Tires: Vee Tire Co. Flow Snap 27.5×2.6″
  • Suspension: SR Suntour XCM34 Coil 130mm 

The second Marin MTB on our list is the San Quentin 1, an aggressive hardtail that can handle more than just singletrack. Built with a Series 2 6061 aluminum frame, the San Quentin 1 comes with internal cable routing, modern trail geometry, Boosts 141 quick-release dropouts in the rear, and ISCG tabs. In other words, the Marin San Quentin 1 includes high-end features at a low-end price point. 

For less than $1,000, you can get the Marin San Quentin 1, which comes with 130mm travel in its SR Suntour XCM34 fork. Its tires are extra-wide in the Vee Tire Co. Flow Snap 27.5 x 2.6″. The San Quentin 1 also comes with Tektro M275 hydraulic disc brakes, which provide plenty of stopping power. 

One of the biggest downsides of the San Quentin 1 is its 9-speed MicroSHIFT Advent gearing. The cassette is a SunRace 11-46T, and this will still be plenty of gearing to handle most climbs. However, beginners won’t be able to tackle the steepest trails on the Marin San Quentin 1. 

There isn’t a dropper post on the San Quentin 1, either. But the rest of the bike screams “aggressive,” especially the 130mm travel and 2.6” tires. The Marin San Quentin 1 might be the best mountain bike under $1,500 for riders wanting to tackle the gnarlier trails.

Buy from Jenson USA

8. BMC Twostroke AL Four

bmc twostroke al 4

  • Price: $1,400
  • Gearing: 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle
  • Brakes: SRAM Level hydraulic discs
  • Tires: Vittoria Barzo 2.25″
  • Suspension: Suntour XCM 32 Coil 100mm

The BMC Twostroke AL Four is another bike that we had to include on our list of the best mountain bikes under $1,500. This bike is designed as a capable all-rounder. That means it can climb, race, shred, and more, all for less than $1,500. 

Featuring one of the best frames in our list, the Twostroke AL Four is built with a Twostroke AL Premium Aluminium, Hydroformed, Smoothwelded frame with internal cable routing. Its Radical XC geometry can tackle technical trails with comfort and agility. The frame also includes a 67° head angle, long front-end and 75° seat angle which helps weight distribution over steep and loose terrain. 

Durability is bolstered by Integrated Protection Molded covers on the chainstay and helicopter tape on the downtube. This modern XC design features wide clearance, and this frame comes with Vittoria Barzo 2.25” tires. 

Again, the BMC Twostroke AL Four comes with 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle gearing and an 11-50T cassette. SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes are a new addition to our list, and they are in every way as capable and powerful as comparable disc brakes. 

Suntour XCM fork with 100mm suspension is one of the only limiting factors on the Twostroke AL Four, which is designed for beginners and intermediate trail riders. 

Buy from Mike's Bikes

9. Scott Contessa Active 20 Women’s

Scott Contessa Active 20 27.5 women's mountain bike

  • Price: $1,125
  • Gearing: 2×10-speed Shimano Deore M4100 
  • Brakes: Shimano MT200 hydraulic discs
  • Tires: Kenda Booster 27.5 x 2.4″
  • Suspension: Suntour XCR32-RL-R Air 100mm

One of the best women’s mountain bikes under $1,500 is the Scott Contessa Active 20 Women’s. This frame has a slightly less aggressive design than the other bikes on this list. In fact, the Scott Contessa Active 20 Women’s is specifically designed for smoother trails, gravel riders, or cruising around the neighborhood rather than aggressive trail riding. 

Built with a Contessa Active 6061 Alloy frame, the Active 20 Women’s is built to the same standard as comparable mountain bikes under $1,500. The brakes and suspension are no exception since the Scott Contessa Active 20 Women’s features Shimano MT200 hydraulic discs and a Suntour XCR32-RL-R fork with 100mm travel. The fork also includes preload, external rebound, and hydraulic lockout adjustments. 

Best Women’s Mountain Bikes of 2024: Top Choices in All MTB Disciplines

Women's mountain bikes have been around since 1999 when Juli Furtado designed the first-ever women's specific ...

The Scott Contessa Active 20 Women’s comes with Kenda Booster 27.5 x 2.4” tires that can handle almost any type of gravel and smooth trail. One significant difference between the Scott Contessa Active 20 Women’s and other mountain bikes under $1,500 is the 2×10 gearing on the Scott. 

The 2×10-speed Shimano Deore M4100 gearing is designed for cruising and beginner-level trail rides rather than aggressive downhills. The Scott Contessa Active 20 Women’s is billed as a perfect intro into the world of mountain biking for beginner riders. 

Buy from evo.com

10. Juiced Bikes RipRacer

juiced bikes ripracer

  • Price: $1,299
  • Gearing: Single-speed
  • Brakes: Hydraulic discs
  • Tires: 20 x 4″
  • Suspension: N/A

The Juiced Bikes RipRacer is one of the most unique bikes you can buy, especially at this price point. Undoubtedly, the RipRacer could be considered the best electric mountain bike under $1,500. In reality, that list is not long at all because it is so difficult for manufacturers to fit all the features of an electric bike onto a mountain bike and keep it cheap at the same time. 

Juiced Bikes RipRacer is a “Fun Sized Fat-Tire E-Bike” featuring a 52V battery and a 750W motor. The bike includes hydraulic disc brakes, cadence pedal-assist technology, and integrated brake light. The frame fits rides 5’0″ – 6’3” and has up to a 55+ mile range. There are three different models available for the different classes of e-bikes, which affects the speed and throttle performance of the Juiced Bikes RipRacer. 

The 20 x 4” knobby fat tires are super wide by MTB standards, but they allow the RipRacer to handle all kinds of terrain that you could throw at it. Hydraulic disc brakes give you plenty of stopping power, which is especially useful when you’re traveling at higher speeds on an e-bike. 

There is only single-speed gearing on the RipRacer, but you’ll have plenty of assistance from the motor and throttle to get you up the hills. At this price point, it’s hard to beat the RipRacer, which adds electronics and fat tires to a fun-sized MTB. This bike isn’t designed for traditional mountain biking, but it can handle all the singletrack trails you throw at it and more. Plus, you can zip around town at the push of a button. 

Buy from Juiced Bikes

11. Tommaso Gran Sasso

tommaso gran sasso cheap mountain bike

  • Price: $875
  • Gearing: 3×8-speed Shimano Altus/Acera
  • Brakes: Shimano M315 hydraulic discs
  • Tires: Kenda K-1104A 29×2.1″
  • Suspension: SR Suntour XCM Coil 100mm

Another budget buy is the Tomasso Gran Sasso, a bike that is somewhere between a hybrid and a mountain bike. The Gran Sasso comes with a hydrofoam mountain series frame that uses 6061 aluminum which is ultra-durable and comfortable. 

The 3×8-speed Shimano Altus/Acera shifting is where this bike deviates from the norm. There is a huge range of gearing on the Gran Sasso, but the number of front chainrings will throw off traditional mountain bikers. 

This bike also features a special flex-eliminating bar and bombproof 29er wheels with beefy 29 x 2.1” tires. Well, Tomasso says their beefy, but those Kenda K-1104A 2.1” tires are still a bit smaller than most of the other bikes’ on our list. 

With an SR Suntour XCM fork with 100mm travel, the Gran Sasso features a front suspension that is nearly identical to many other bikes on our list of the best mountain bikes for under $1,500. Shimano M315 hydraulic disc brakes are rated slightly lower than other mountain bikes,  but it’s hard to beat the $875 price tag on the Gran Sasso. 

Buy from Tommaso

Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,500 Buying Guide

What frame material should a mountain bike under $1,500 have?

The best mountain bikes under $1,500 are almost always made of aluminum. Carbon frames are significantly more expensive than aluminum frames because they are lighter and faster, but they also come from a more expensive manufacturing process. 

cannondale trail 5's aluminum frame

Cannondale Trail 5’s aluminum hardtail frame.

Aluminum 6061 is the most popular type of frame material for a mountain bike under $1,500. These frames are performance-focused, which means they offer the best balance of weight, durability, comfort, and handling for an MTB frame. 

What gearing and components can I expect on a $1,500 MTB?

When looking at the best mountain bikes for under $1,500, you’re going to see a few different options for your front chainring. Most modern mountain bikes are 1X, which means they have only one front chainring. Other MTBs may have 2X or 3X, which means they have two chainrings or three chainrings, respectively. 

You can expect 1X or 2X setups on a $1,500, with 10-12 rear cogs. The number of speeds on an affordable mountain bike is not as important as the overall gearing range of the bike. In other words, having a larger gearing range is better than simply having more gears. 

Most mountain bikes around $1,500 have 11-speed or 12-speed gearing, such as the 10-51T Shimano Deore gearing on the Team Marin 1. 

What type of suspension can I get on an MTB for $1,500?

Almost all mountain bikes under $1,500 are hardtails, which means they have front suspension only. Full-suspension mountain bikes (with both front and rear suspension) are significantly more expensive, so it’s almost impossible to find a high-quality full-suspension MTB for under $1,500. 

front suspension fork on mountain bike under 1500

Most of the best mountain bikes under $1,500 come with front suspension only.

The best hardtail mountain bikes under $1,500 have front fork suspension with 100-130mm travel. More travel means that your suspension can compress more, and these systems are designed for more aggressive MTB trails. Less suspension travel is designed for beginner-level bikes, such as those designed for smooth trails or gravel riding.

Are budget mountain bikes good enough for trails?

The best mountain bikes under $1,500 are definitely good enough for trails! Nearly all of the best mountain bikes for under $1,500 on our list come with front fork suspension and a huge range of gearing. Some budget mountain bikes even come with a dropper post, which helps you tackle more technical and steep descents. 

Budget mountain bikes come with great features, including wide tires and trail-specific geometry, which makes them perfect for beginner mountain bikers. You can even find budget mountain bikes with electronic motors, or MTBs designed specifically for women. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *