Cheap Mountain Bikes
Each year we see a large number of new mountain bikes out there. These are not only good-looking, reliable, and fun to ride, but also cheap. The reality is that most brands try to offer affordable models.
What surprised us when making this review was the fact that you can actually get a Specialized for under half a thousand.
We noticed that many cheap mountain bike reviews even include bikes around $2,000. I don’t now about you, but that seems expensive. Yes, their price to value ratio might be good, but it isn’t cheap.
Here, you will find bikes that cost around $500 (which we consider cheap).
See our top picks and the review section below.
Cannondale Trail 8 (2020)
Cannondale’s well-known value and reliability come together in Trail 8
Features: SmartForm C3 aluminum frame, 75 mm suspension fork, mechanical disc brakes, flexible wheel and tire sizes, 21 gears…
Cannondale Trail 8 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 8 is the ideal beginner’s mountain bike for several good reasons.
- It costs less than $500.
- It has a good range of gears.
- Comes with disc brakes.
- It’s easy and cheap to maintain.
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.
Cannondale Trail 8 is also available with 27.5 and 29-inch wheels. Therefore, it can be a good choice for both short and tall riders. Size S comes with 27.5″ wheels, whereas other sizes come with 29ers.
You’ll also appreciate the fact that this bike comes with a decent set of Tektro mechanical 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 8 is a failproof choice.
- Mechanical disc brakes
- Flexible wheel and tire sizes
- Cannondale's SmartForm C3 aluminum frame
- Low quality Shimano components
Complete Shimano Tourney drivetrain and 100 mm of travel
Features: Shimano Tourney components, aluminum frame, 100 mm suspension fork, mechanical disc brakes, 2.25″ tires, 27.5″ wheels…
Fuji Nevada 1.9 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, Nevada gives you the most front suspension travel you will get for $500. The SR Suntour SF19-XCE fork travels 100 mm up and down when you ride over bumps, rocks, curbs, and any other obstacles that might get in your way.
- Second of all, 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 Fuji Nevada 1.9 has 27.5″ wheels with 2.25″ WTB Ranger 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 mechanical disc brakes which should brake well in most conditions. Though, you will need a bit more finger strength if you want to stop suddenly.
If you plan to ride on very rough terrain and you want to get as much suspension travel as possible, Fuji Nevada 27.5 1.9 is your choice.
- Complete Shimano drivetrain
- Mechanical disc brakes
- 100 mm front suspension fork
- A better choice of colors would be nice
Diamondback Overdrive 29 1
Advanced specifications with a low-level price
Features: Shimano Acera/Tourney components, 100 mm of front travel, 6061-T6 aluminum frame, Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes…
Diamondback has a long history of making fantastic mountain bikes for all types of riders. Recently, they have been doing a great job at 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.
- Shimano Acera rear derailleur
- Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes 180/160 mm
- 100 mm suspension fork with preload adjust
- No internal cable routing
Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.1W
The best women-specific cheap trail bike
Features: Designed for women riders, weighs 30 lbs, 24 gears, 100 mm suspension fork, Shimano components, hydraulic disc brakes…
Many say that women have a hard time finding good and affordable trail bikes. We beg to differ, so we present to you the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1W. It’s the best beginner’s women-specific trail bike money can buy right now, in our opinion.
Don’t think that we’re biased when we say that, we have strong facts to support our claims:
- Designed to fit the typical female body
- It has hydraulic disc brakes
- 100 mm of travel
- Higher entry-level Shimano components
As you can see, for $500, the DRT 1.1W bike has some pretty nice surprises. Most bikes in this price range come with Shimano Tourney components, whereas this bike has a combination of Shimano Altus and Acera front and rear derailleurs.
These provide you with 24 gears on a 3×8 drivetrain, which is more than enough gears, to be honest. You’re probably not going to use all of them.
Hydraulic disc brakes are also not something you can expect on a very cheap bike. But, this Co-op Cycles model delivers in this area as well. They’re perfect for female riders because they’re smooth and precise.
If you’re a lady with a plan to start riding trails recreationally, Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1W will definitely meet and exceed your needs.
- Women-specific geometry
- Quality Shimano components
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- None that we can find
Diamondback Atroz 1
Cheapest Full Suspension We Recommend
Features: Full suspension, 6061 T-6 Aluminum frame, Shimano Alivio/Acera components, mechanical disc brakes, 2.35-inch wide tires…
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.
- Front and rear suspension
- Shimano Alivio/Acera components
- Mechanical disc brakes
- Heavy side
Giant Talon 3
Hydraulic Disc Brakes At A Bargain
Features: 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.
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- 100 mm suspension fork with lockout & preload
- Two attractive colors
- Basic Shimano front derailleur
Trek Marlin 4 (2020)
Beautiful Paint Job & SEVEN sizes
Features: 100 mm suspension fork, aluminum frame, rack & kickstand mounts, Shimano Tourney components, 27.5″ and 29″ wheels, mechanical disc brakes…
Trek is one of the most popular and most 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.
- Very good-looking
- Seven sizes available
- Disc brakes
- 100 mm of travel
- Entry-level Shimano Tourney components
Best Cheap Fat Bike We Could Find
MSRP: Check On Amazon
Features: High-tensile steel frame and fork, 26″ fat wide tires, 1×7 drivetrain, mechanical disc brakes…
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.
Unstoppable Fat Tires
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 Mongoose 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.
This bike also has 7 gears and uses a Shimano Tourney rear derailleur to change them. Since fat bikes are intended for slow riding on rough terrain, you won’t need more than that.
Other notable features you will like include 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.
- Extra-wide tires
- 160 mm mechanical disc brakes
- Attractive paint job
- Heavy overall
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 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 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 Do You Get By Paying A Little Extra
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 We Chose?
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.