Cheap Mountain Bikes
What if I told you that you can get a glimpse of mountain biking just under 500 dollars? Many well-known bicycle brands such as Cannondale, Trek, and Specialized have introduced a line of super-cheap mountain bikes to the masses. The bikes are not only good-looking but also outperform the rather low price tag as well.
Although we don’t really recommend going full-on down the hill with a $500 mountain bike, these bikes can still be a perfect solution for everyday commuting through the urban and off-road tracks. All of those bikes are ideal for XC/Marathon type riding – Light gravel roads, single trails, etc.
Cheap = Value?
Cheap = $499 for a MTB with front suspension
Cheap = $799 for an MTB with hydraulic disc brakes, lockable front suspension
Cheap = $999 for a mountain bike with a dropper post
Co-op Cycles – DRT 1.1
Cheap unisex trail bike
31 lbs / 21-speed / 27’5″ wheels / 100mm suspension / Shimano components / Hydraulic disc brakes
MSRP: $550 REI.com
Co-op Cycles is known to produce one of the best value bikes on the market, and the DRT 1.1 is a perfect example to prove it. If you are looking to get the best bang out of your buck, this is by far the best 500-dollar bike you can get, hands down. The unisex frame is another key factor the whole Co-op bikes range has gotten so popular from the very beginning. Although most components on this bike are cheap, to say the least, it can hold up quite well on light trails and during the ‘Sunday strolls’.
Related: DRT Series full overview
Cannondale – Trail 7 (2021)
Best first 29er!
SmartForm C3 aluminum frame / 100 mm suspension fork / Hydraulic disc brakes / 29″ / 18 gears
MSRP: $575 REI.com
Cannondale Trail 7 is an affordable mountain bike that has the potential to become your best friend from the moment you ride it for the first time. That’s if you don’t fall in love with it even before that, the moment you see the sleek dark paint job.
Trail 7 is the ideal beginner’s mountain bike for several good reasons:
- 100mm SR Suntour XCT DS coil fork – Maintenance free
- 2 x 8 gears. 2 chainrings on the front is better than 3!
All of these features come to you on a lightweight and durable aluminum frame built from SmartForm C3 alloy. It’s used on many Cannondale bikes because it’s reliable and has good geometry.
The bike comes in two sizes currently, as it is rolling on 29″ wheels, and Cannondale is known by their long top tube. Make sure to check out the size chart to find out if that fits you!
You’ll also appreciate the fact that this bike comes with a decent set of Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes. A good MTB simply cannot be imagined without these, as they greatly increase its off-road capabilities. For all of these reasons, whether you’re buying your first mountain bike or replacing an old one, Cannondale Trail 7 is a foolproof choice when thinking of getting the best bang for your buck!
Salsa – Rangefinder Deore 29
10-speed / 120mm travel / 29″ wheels / 1x drivetrain / Hydraulic Disc Brakes / Dropper Post
MSRP $1,099 REI.com
Whether you are a beginner mountain biker or a seasoned trail-head who has been away from the sport for a while, this is the bike to get you back on the saddle smoothly. Salsa is a well-known name in the off-road cycling field, and the Rangefinder is their entry-level solution with all the necessities.
The set-up is well suited for demanding trails, especially for those who don’t push the bikes and their own limits to the max. Although every bike can be upgraded to some degree, the Rangefinder Deore is an awesome build-out of the box!
Is it a cheap mountain bike? No, but the unbeatable value would describe this deal the most!
- TranzX dropper post
- Shimano MT201 hydraulic disc brakes w/160mm rotors
- Samox 30t crankset
- Aluminum frame
- WTB Volt Sport saddle
Trek – Marlin 5
Decent Shimano Components and 100 mm of travel
Shimano Tourney components / Aluminum frame / 100 mm suspension fork / Hydraulic disc brakes / 2.20″ tires / 27.5″ and 29″ wheels
MSRP: $550 Trek.com
Trek Marlin 5 is a cheap mountain bike that many other MTBs can be envious of. It has some surprising features considering its low price.
- First of all, Marlin 5 gives you the best front suspension travel you will get for $550. The SR Suntour XCE 28 fork travels 100 mm up and down when you ride over bumps, rocks, curbs, and any other obstacles that might get in your way.
- The entire drivetrain is built using parts from the same groupset. Sure, the groupset is Shimano Tourney, which is not the best, but all of the parts complement each other. The 21 speeds it gives you should meet your needs if you’re riding recreationally.
As we go down the list of specifications, we can also see that Trek Marlin 5 offers both 27.5″ and 29″ wheels (depending on the frame size) with 2.20″ Bontrager XR2 Comp tires on it. These tires are quite popular on bikes in this price range because they offer plenty of grip and puncture protection.
Let’s also not forget about the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes which should brake well in most conditions. If you plan to ride on very rough terrain and you want to get as much suspension travel as possible, Trek Marlin 5 is your choice.
Trek – Marlin 4 ‘2020
Beautiful Paint Job & SEVEN sizes
100 mm suspension fork / Aluminum frame / Rack & kickstand mounts / Shimano Tourney components / 27.5″ and 29″ wheels / Mechanical disc brakes
MSRP: $490 Trek.com
Trek is one of the most popular and successful cycling companies in the world. They build some of the most expensive and most technologically advanced bikes out there. However, they also know how to do a good job at building a budget bike intended for ordinary riders.
Trek Marlin 4 is the perfect example. This is possibly one of the most beautiful bikes in this overview. Its color, magenta, might be more suitable for ladies, but guys will like it too! If they don’t, they can go for the Gray version. Moreover, Marin 4 is available in 7 sizes, so it fits literally everyone out there!
Trek’s Craftsmanship in Action
Marin 4 is the ideal bike for riders who want a capable MTB with wide knobby tires, disc brakes, plenty of gears, and recognizable components. It’s perfect for moderate mountain biking trails, but it also doubles up as an off-road commuter. Trek’s Alpha Silver Aluminum frame comes with plenty of rack and fender mounts, so you can equip Marin 4 anyway you like.
The SR Suntour XCE 28 fork with 100 mm of travel and a coil spring is heavy but plushy and comfy. It does a decent job of minimizing vibrations. You don’t have to worry about gears either—there are 21 of them. You can shift through them with Shimano Tourney derailleurs, which are entry-level but reliable. All in all, Trek Marin 4 is a beautiful bike with very decent components for a price tag of $490. We can imagine entry-level riders enjoying every mile on it.
Giant – Aggressor Expert Bike 2020
Lightweight and off-road friendly
6061 Aluminium Triple-Triangle Frame / 27.5″ & 29″ / WTB Wheels (XS, S / M, L, XL) / Frame eyelets for racks and fenders / Hydraulic Disc Brakes / 80mm fork travel
MSRP: $625 JensonUSA
You’ll have a hard time finding a better MTB with such capability and price tag as the Aggressor Expert. GT has well proved it’s way to the world of hardtail mountain bikes, and their Triple-Triangle vibration-reducing patented frame is something you can’t go wrong with. The bottom line is that it’s really a cheap MTB for light trail riding, which means it’s a perfect all-rounder city bike with decent off-road capabilities. The SR Suntour XCM 80mm travel forks satisfy the needs of the occasional cyclists. WTB rims paired with WTB Ranger Comp tires that are ideal from the city streets to the dirt tracks. The rack and fender mounts increase the versatility of the bike, in case you are planning to use it as your every-day bike.
CONS: Good things don’t last forever, such goes with this deal. There’s only limited size availability!
Mongoose – Dolomite
Cheapest Fat Bike We Could Find
High-tensile steel frame and fork / 26″ fat wide tires / 7-speed / Mechanical disc brakes
MSRP: Check on Amazon
Fat bikes have been quite popular recently. For a good reason, too, since they not only look great but are also highly functional. Mongoose Dolomite is the cheapest and the best entry-level fat bike that we have found so far. It’s perfect for beginner cyclists who want to ride in the snow, on sandy terrain, through mud, and anywhere else where a standard MTB would feel lost. Kawasaki Mihara lends its functionality from the traditional mountain bikes thanks to its 26″ wheels, which is the most practical size. But it then takes that functionality to another level with knobby and fat tires, specially made for fat bikes, that can stomp over anything in their way.
This fat tire bike is built around a sturdy high-tensile steel frame and features a steel fork which improves strength and comfort, but packs a lot of weight.
Shimano Tourney rear derailleur to change 7 basic gears and since fat bikes are intended for slow riding on rough terrain, you won’t need more than that! Other notable features you will like to include are the 160 mm mechanical disc brakes, and a good-looking blue paint job with red rims. If you’re looking for a bike that can handle extreme conditions and allow you to extend your cycling season, Mongoose Dolomite is the best and the cheapest option.
Giant – Talon 3
Hydraulic Disc Brakes At a Bargain
ALUXX-grade butted aluminum frame / 100 mm suspension fork / 16 gears / Hydraulic disc brakes / Shimano components
Giant Talon 3 is a member of a big and successful family of cross country bikes. Talon 1 and Talon 2 are more advanced and thus more expensive. Even though Talon 3 is the cheapest of the three brothers, it does not mean that it has poor specs. Quite the opposite. This aluminum hardtail bike rewards your loyalty with some pretty nice surprises, as you are about to see.
The Supremacy of Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Talon 3 is a very popular choice among cycling enthusiasts and cycling beginners. This is a good choice for your first bike because its suitable for future upgrades. The frame is made from high-quality ALUXX-grade butted aluminum which is worth keeping even after you’re no longer satisfied with the performance of the parts.
How many bikes have you seen with hydraulic brakes that cost around $500? Probably not many. That’s what sets Giant Talon 3 apart. However, to make this possible, some compromises had to be made. Therefore, this bike has a very basic front derailleur. Though, the rear derailleur is Shimano Acera, so you will still be shifting smoothly through the 16 gears on Talon 3. The fork is also one of the positive sides, as it has 100 mm of travel and comes with a lockout function and preload adjust. If you’re an entry-level rider and hydraulics matter a lot to you, Talon 3 will meet all of your requirements.
Related: Giant Talon – series overview
Diamondback – Overdrive 29″ 1
Advanced specifications with a low-level price
Shimano Acera/Tourney components / 100 mm of front travel / 6061-T6 aluminum frame / Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes
MSRP $600 Diamondback
Diamondback has a long history of making fantastic mountain bikes for all types of riders. Recently, they have been doing a great job of meeting the needs of entry-level cyclists. Their assortment of bicycles includes models for all purposes and all pockets. Diamondback Overdrive 29 is one of their flagship models when it comes to cheap bikes.
Recognizable Diamondback Geometry
The heart of this bike is a recognizable Diamondbacks frame with a curved top tube, made from the 6061 T-6 aluminum alloy. It is known to offer more strength and more comfort than other popular materials. Its limbs are the SR Suntour XCT30 fork with 100 mm of travel and preload adjustment. This gives you the option to change how the suspension will behave, depending on the terrain you’re riding on.
Surprisingly, Overdrive 29 has a Shimano Acera rear derailleur, which is great for the money. It’s more durable and more precise than other entry-level options. As you can see from the name, the wheels are 29″ in diameter, but even short riders will have plenty of standover clearance due to a dropped top tube.
Another feature you should be happy about if you buy the Overdrive 29 is the Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes with 180/160 mm rotors on front and back. You’ll be happy with the stopping power you get when descending. Paying the extra $100 compared to the two former models really pays off with Diamondback Overdrive 29.
Diamondback – Atroz 1
Cheapest Full Suspension We Recommend
Full suspension / 6061 T-6 Aluminum frame / Shimano Alivio/Acera components / Mechanical disc brakes / 2.35-inch wide tires
MSRP: $800 Diamondback.com
Who says that full suspension bikes are always brutally expensive? Sure, cheap FS bikes are more expensive than cheap hardtail models, but not significantly. If you have a limited budget but you still want to get the benefits that front and rear suspension give, you can do it with Diamondback Atroz 1. This bike costs just $800, which is more than the $500 we promised at the beginning of this article, but it’s well worth it, considering what you get.
Front and Rear Suspension for Improved Performance
Diamondback Atroz 1 is built on a 6061 T-6 aluminum frame which we can see on many Diamondback bikes in this price range. Its different parts are tied together by a 120 mm front suspension fork and a Kindshock rear shock that has 184×44 mm. Having suspension on the rear means you will be able to go faster over rough terrain and do more with your bike.
Apart from that, Atroz 1 comes with a combo of Shimano Alivio and Acera front and rear mechs that put out a total of 24 gears. To make sure you’re confident on the trails, Diamondback installed Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes that do a pretty good job. If you always wanted to ride an FS bike but didn’t have thousands of dollars to spare, Diamondback Atroz 1 is your chance to fulfill your dreams.
What To Expect?
Many people avoid buying cheap bikes because they do not know what to expect from them. Moreover, there are a lot of people who shy away from $500 bicycles because they expect them to only be good enough for scrap metal. That’s a bad way of thinking.
Of course, it’s also wrong to think that you can win Tour de France or a local Gran Fondo on a bike that costs that little. But there are many good things that you can expect from them as well.
All of the bikes that we have included in this overview are built with quality parts and by companies that have been in the business for years.
Any one of these bikes would be an excellent choice for beginners and cyclists who only ride recreationally. If your reason for owning a bicycle is to ride it occasionally and for fun, use it to spend quality time with your family and friends, or stay more outdoors, then you’ll be happy with the choice.
These mountain bicycles are also great for moderate daily commutes on paths less traveled, getting in better physical shape, and becoming healthier overall.
Cheap bikes with cheap components require more maintenance, more adjustments, and generally break down more often. But if you don’t abuse them too much, ride them in a relaxed way, and service them properly, they will last you for years to come.
What about the suspension?
Front suspension forks can nowadays be seen on bikes that cost much less than $500. Therefore, for half a grand, you don’t really get stuff from the bottom of the bucket.
The majority of affordable mountain bikes come with SR Suntour suspension forks that offer 75 to 100 mm of travel. That’s not good enough to allow you to enter downhill or enduro events, but it’s more than enough to protect your wrists from vibrations and give you a more comfortable riding experience.
The suspension on these bikes also often comes with a lockout function and preload adjustment, which can help more experienced riders be more efficient on the trails.
On the other hand, we don’t recommend buying very cheap full suspension bikes. Ever! To make a full-suspension bike and sell it at a very low price point, a company would have to make lots of compromises elsewhere. Therefore, you’d end up with bad components, poor brakes, or lousy wheels and tires.
That’s the reason why the Diamondback Atroz 1 is more expensive than the other bikes in this test.
What to pay a little extra for?
As you can see, the majority of the models in our overview of cheap mountain bikes cost around $500 or a bit less. However, there are a couple of models that cost more than that.
The reason is that a little bit more money can go a long way in this price range. If you are willing to spend $100 to $200 extra, you can get a better suspension, better derailleurs, hydraulic disc brakes instead of mechanic discs, as well as lighter wheels and more durable tires.
For some riders, these differences might not make a big change in their experience on the roads and on the trails. However, for others, these might be crucial and cause them to be happier with their choice.
Therefore, if you have more money to spare, we definitely advise not to skimp and to consider spending it on better specs and more reliable parts.
How did we choose?
We compared these bikes by filtering the offer from different retailers by price. The main goal at the beginning was to analyze the components. It gave us a clear picture of what to expect. Later, when we compared the components with the price, we shortlisted the models with the best value. And to fit into this overview, we chose only the best-of-the-best.
As a result, we got all of these affordable bikes that are the best picks at the moment and will roll with you for years to come.