$500 tops for a mountain bike is something many of us are willing to pay.
With, or without any mountain-biking background, it should be the time to expect a decent-quality bike out of that amount, right? Well, considering the fact that a mountain bike has to perform well on such demanding terrains – some large and top bike brands have the luxury to bring the prices as low by producing a large amount of entry-level, therefore cheap mountain bikes.
Is $500 enough?
For serious riders looking to get into mountain biking, we wouldn’t recommend anything under $1,000 really. But then again, in recent years we’ve seen a bunch of cheap mountain bikes made by large bike brands that stand the test of time for recreational mountain bikers.
If you are planning to buy a cheap mountain bike for everyday commuting or on light trails – just make sure to know that $500 for a mountain bike is the lowest limit to go, and regular maintenance or even swapping out some components is quite likely in the long run.
Related: Best MTBs of 2021 🏆
Table of Contents
What To Expect In a Good Yet Cheap Mountain Bike?
27.5″ / 29″ wheels
Aluminum / Steel frame
Mechanical disc brakes
2-3x front chainrings
Air-sprung suspension or a rigid fork
Best Men’s Mountain Bikes Under $500
Batch – The Mountain 29
The Mountain 29 by Batch Bicycles is an entry-level mountain bike made for those on a tight budget, but still wanting to explore some light trails. The level of components is basic, to say the least, but if you are thinking of getting a bike to get you from A to B through thick and thin, there’s enough to go around.
The best thing about the bike is the set of 29″ wheels which are great to ride over obstacles more easily (Compared to 26″, 27.5″ and 700c). Then it is the maintenance-free Suntour 100mm travel fork. Derailleurs are Shimano’s entry-level Tourney series, so the 7-speed cassete. In total, there’s 21 speeds. The aluminum frame is lightweight and durable, but as a major downside it is the V-brakes, which are clearly the past. But then again, for $500 it is a solid commuter compared to cheaper bikes on the market. After all, Jenson USA is one of the best online stores to get a high-end and mid-range mountain bike from!
Marin Eldridge Grade 1
Here’s a perfect example that you can get a decent-spec mountain bike at a vary low cost! Yes, it is not under $500, but we wouldn’t really recommend anything below the following specs:
- 29″ Wheels
- Hydraulic Disc Brakes
- Shimano Altus 2×9-speed drivetrain
- SR Suntour XCM 100mm travel fork
Long story short, Marin is a large bike brands and this is their invention (indeed!) to drop down the prices low that people could get into the mountain biking scene at a cheap price tag! If you haven’t ridden a 29er before, you’ll be surprised by the rollover capabilities. It is quite an unbelievable deal at times like those where under $1,000 bikes are hard to come by.
Hurry before the last sizes will be sold out!
Co-op Cycles – DRT 1.1
Best value mountain bike with a unisex frame
If you didn’t know, Co-op Cycles is REI’s factory brand, which is well-known for affordable bikes with great characteristics. This model is available in two attractive colors — aqua blue and pirate black. Under that paint is a lightweight Co-op’s aluminum frame, so you’ll be able to easily lift the bike up and carry it over obstacles if needed.
- Comfortable trail geometry
- Aluminum frame
- 100 mm of travel
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- 21 gears
- Shimano components
- 2.1″ wide tires
- 27.5″ wheels
The DRT 1.1 is priced just above $500, but you’ll be getting a $59,90 dividend for further purchases in the REI store.
To begin with, the SR Suntour XCM air-sprung fork is known to be lightweight, and with 100mm of travel, it’s more than enough for a smooth ride even if you push its limits. Next, you get 21 gears with this model and a great combination of Shimano components. The groupset fitted on this bike is Shimano Tourney, which is not fancy, to say the least, but if you are a beginner and ride recreationally, you don’t need anything better than that for a start. Another great thing about the bike is the good-quality hydraulic disc brakes which is usually unseen at this price range.
Cannondale – Trail 8 ‘2021 🏆
Best budget mountain bike
Cannondale is well known for its expensive, high-end mountain bikes ridden by the pros.
However, this brand does a great job when it comes to making entry-level trail bikes as well. Cannondale‘s Trail 8 is a great example and an excellent choice for most beginner riders out there. But, has Cannondale made any big compromises to make this cheap bike possible? Not at all.
The Trail 8 model is built around the recognizable Cannondale’s frame made of SmartForm C3 alloy. The frame has an exaggerated bottom tube that seamlessly flows into the head tube to make the whole construction sturdy, durable, and attractive. But, that’s not the only good thing, let’s check out more.
- SmartForm C3 Alloy frame
- 75 mm of travel
- 2.25″ tires
The Trail 8 is available in Grey only to add to its intense riding nature.
You can choose to stay inconspicuous with the moody dark coloring or make yourself known by smashing down the trails in spectacular fashion. Even though this is a trail bike that costs slightly over $500, it does not come with no-brand components. Instead, you can shift up and down the 14 speeds with Shimano Altus front and Tourney rear derailleur, and Shimano Easy Fire shifters. This will not do a fantastic job when cycling and changing gears up some steep hills, but they work just fine on the flats and more moderate ascents.
A similar thing can be said for the SR Suntour fork with 75mm of travel. It’s not ideal for aggressive trail rides, jumps, and high drops, but you will be quite happy with it as long as you stay on moderate trails and control yourself. But, don’t worry about stability and comfort as the 2.25″ wide tires will provide you with plenty of both. Finally, this bike also has Tektro mechanical disc brakes with 160/160mm rotors on the front and the rear wheel, so you can safely go faster on the downhills and always stop in time. All in all, this is a great bike to satisfy your need for the trails and the outdoors and give you something fun and healthy to do on the weekends.
Member dividend included!
Trek – Marlin 4 ‘2021
Best beginner’s mountain bike
Trekbikes (Available in-store only)
It’s one of the best budget mountain bikes that you can get right now with an aluminum frame and a set of decent components for beginners. If you like the bike enough, you can always swap some components and upgrade them. However, I think that is not necessary, as the bike is perfect as is. You can abuse it and use it for what it is made without worrying too much.
- Aluminum frame
- Shimano components
- 3×7 speeds
- Mechanical disc brakes
The Trek Marlin 4 has a very high rating, as most comments are positive. It seems as if Trek has really hit a bullseye with this model. Those who have made the good decision to buy this best mountain bike under $500 say they love how it handles and how unstoppable it feels on any terrain. When I rode it, the strong frame and decent tires gave me a feeling of stability, and I felt a surge of confidence to try new lines.
Trek Marlin 4 comes with a lightweight aluminum frame and weighs around 31 lbs, but it does not feel sluggish.
The components on the bike are quite decent as well at this price range. The rear derailleur is a Shimano Tourney, as well as the front derailleur, and there are 21 speeds in total. For beginners, this number of speeds and this setup will be more than enough. The Tektro mechanical brakes are great as well, though they require a bit more brute force to engage fully, when adjusted properly they’ll stop on a dime. So, if you want to have loads of fun riding through mud and inaccessible terrain on a mountain bike, don’t hesitate to buy Trek Marlin 4. I guarantee you’ll have a blast on it!
Merax – Finiss
Best entry-level mountain bike from Amazon
Have you been told before that all cheap mountain bikes are rubbish? I beg to differ, and I can prove it to you on Merax Finiss. This is by far the cheapest mountain bike on this list, and it is perfect for first-timers who are on a really tight budget. For under $300, you’ll get a decent aluminum frame and a bicycle that is easy to assemble, easy to ride, and simple to maintain. Moreover, if your motivation for buying a bicycle is to lose weight, Merax Finiss can handle as much as 330 pounds without any problems.
- Aluminum frame
- 330 lbs max weight
- 80 mm suspension fork
- 26″ wheels
- Mechanical disc brakes
It’s quite important to point out that a $300 bike comes with some disadvantages and that in the end, you are getting what you pay for. However, depending on your needs, the Merax Finiss can be the best mountain bike for under $500 for you. It has an aluminum frame and a suspended fork with 80mm of travel, which will give you a comfortable ride on rough terrain and will feel decently light. Moreover, the 26” wheels will feel well-balanced and nimble when cornering. Being cheap, it is still one of the best mountain bikes under $500!
Merax Finiss also comes with mechanical disc brakes, which I think is a big plus at this price range. They provide a much better and reliable braking experience compared to rim brakes. I always feel a lot more confident to go faster and corner more aggressively when the bike has disc brakes. This bike also has a 3×8 drivetrain, with Shimano components, so it should shift pretty smoothly. You should avoid shifting under tension when riding up big hills, and you will be pretty content with this setup. I love the money to value ratio you get with Merax Finiss. So, if you want to buy the cheapest mountain bike to start your cycling journey, definitely consider this model.
Diamondback – Overdrive 29er
Long-Lasting Shimano components
Have you finally decided to buy a decent mountain bike and start pedaling and exploring the area around your home? If that’s the case and you need a starter model, this Diamondback Overdrive 29″ is the real deal. Generally, Diamondback bikes on Amazon are a great deal because they come at very affordable prices just because they are older models. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them. The Overdrive 27.5 is a hardtail XC bike with a durable and lightweight aluminum frame with a limited warranty on it. The 29″ wheels make it stable around the bends and suitable both for short and tall riders.
- Aluminum frame
- 29″ wheels
- Shimano components
- 2.25″ wide tires
- 80 mm suspension fork
Even though this Diamondback Overdrive 29 bike is an entry-level model, it can boast about some pretty nice specs. For this very low price, you will get a set of a Shimano Acera rear derailleur and a Shimano Tourney front derailleur. It also comes with thumb shifters, so it will be quite easy to go from one gear to another. There are enough of them to get you up any hill, that’s for sure. If your area has a ton of bumpy roads, the SR Suntour XCT fork on this Overdrive model can deal with them without any problems. It has a coil spring and enough travel to absorb the vibrations and make your rides smooth. Since this is a beginner bike, you should not use it for extreme rides. It’s intended for casual and recreational rides, so it won’t withstand too much abuse.
Other things worth mentioning about this bike that make it a great deal are the disc brakes. They are cable-actuated, which means that you might need more power in your fingers if you need to stop aggressively, but it will pump out more than enough stopping power. They are a huge improvement from V-brakes which are still often seen on low-priced bikes. Moreover, the tires are 2.25″ wide, with sharp knobs, so they’re suitable for any kind of terrain. If you’re a beginner and you want to treat yourself to a decent bike for easy-going rides in nature, the Diamondback Overdrive 27.5 is a great choice on the best mountain bikes under $500. It will help you fall in love with mountain biking.
Raleigh – Talus 1
The Raleigh Talus 1 is the bike that ticked all of these boxes without any problems, so I had no doubts about including it. Raleigh is a well-known company in the cycling world, and you know you are getting good quality even with the very cheap mountain bikes. The Talus 1 falls well under the $500 mark, which is not much to pay for this sturdy and good-looking aluminum bike.
- Two designs
- 100mm front suspension
- 27.5″ or 29″ wheels
- 2.25″ tires
- ALUXX-grade aluminum frame
Most cheap mountain bikes come with only 27.5″ wheels. But that’s not the case with this Raleigh model. It has progressive wheel sizing, which means that smaller frame sizes (XS/S) come with 27.5″ wheels, whereas bigger sizes come with 29er wheels. That way, you get a bike geometry best suited to your body. 100 mm suspension fork means that you can get more out of it on the trails. It’s also a very comfortable bike to ride on bumpy tracks because of its 2.25” tires and the high-quality ALUXX-grade aluminum frame, which Raleigh uses for their more expensive models as well.
This model also has full Shimano components on the drivetrain. You’ll have 21 speeds at your disposal with this setup, which is more than enough for both easy and fast rides. Talus 1 comes with a pair of V-brakes, which means it is not a wise decision to ride it on rough trails and in very wet conditions. However, for everyday use, these brakes will perform just fine. Many beginner riders will see no difference. If you want style, reliability, and versatility for your cycling training and daily rides, the Raleigh Talus 1 is the perfect investment if you’re looking for the best mountain bike under $500.
Schwinn – Bonafide
Best hardtail mountain bike under $500
This 29er aluminum mountain bike features mechanical disc brakes, 24-speed gearing, basically all the basics you could expect from under $500. Although Schwinn is an old name in the game – getting a mountain bike for that amount of money should only be used by beginner cyclists on light trails. Also, when you are going to order a cheap mountain bike online, make sure to get the fitting properly right. Re-tuning the bike after few hours of riding is mandatory!
Mongoose – Malus
Best men’s mountain bike under $500
You are looking at the best under $500 fat tire bike for adults. The Malus by Mongoose has reached a solid score of 4.4 / 5 out of 492+ ratings on Amazon. The bike features a 7-speed derailleur, the standard 26″ fat bike wheels, and a steel frame. The build of the bike is simple and obviously best suited for beginner/recreational cyclists looking for, so it is most likely worth checking out!
The 26″inch wheel and rigid fork combination is among the most classical set-up one could find in the world of fat tire bikes, so there’s no hesitation. Anyway, this mongoose is a good beginner mountain bike at the lowest possible budget.
Marin – Bolinas
MSRP: from $460
These are the new Marin’s entry-level 29er 100mm travel mountain bikes that have been selling out quickly for obvious reasons. The 6061 aluminum frame is lightweight and durable, and the mechanical disc brakes are also suitable for this price category as well. The drivetrain Shimano Tourney 3×7 wit ha SunRace 11-34t cassette.
This is a bike for recreational/beginner mountain bikers only, especially suitable for taller riders from 5’10” upwards as the new 29er wheels work like a treat off the road. When purchasing this bike remember the fact that all new bikes need a tune-up after about 10miles of riding!
Best Under $500 Mountain Bikes for Women
If you are looking for ladies-specific models, below is a list of the best mountain bikes under $500 for women. Personally, I do not believe in the divide between male and women bikes, because the right fit depends on your physical characteristics. However, these models have different saddles and a slightly shorter stem and top tube length compared to unisex models, so let’s see what the best pics in this category are.
Related: Best Women’s Bikes in 2021
Related: Best Women’s Hybrid bikes
Cannondale – Tango 6
Best women’s mountain bike under $500
Ladies need to hit the trails as well, not just men. Cannondale has taken action to make this happen, by making the Cannondale Tango 6 bike, specifically tailored to fit women’s needs. This is an entry-level hardtail bike with a beautiful turquoise paint job. Whoever said that riding trails and getting muddy is not feminine will change their mind when they see it. Apart from the great looks, are there any other good things about it? There definitely are. Cannondale Tango 6 has both looks and the brain, as we will show you below.
- Women-specific geometry and parts
- 75 mm travel
- Mechanical disc brakes
- 27.5″ wheelset
First of all, when talking about women’s bicycles, it’s important to mention the frame and its geometry. Cannondale has made sure to make this aluminum frame suitable for women by making a shorter top tube that slants downwards and makes it easier to get on and off the bike. The frame is completed with an SR Suntour coil spring with 75mm of travel. It’s just the right amount of travel for your needs as a beginner on the trail. You will start with some smoother gravel roads and moderate single tracks, which is what this fork is made for.
Like most bikes in this price range, the Cannondale Tango 6 has Tektro mechanical disc brakes. They have proven really well on the trails, so they’re a great choice in our opinion. You need a bit more time to adjust and maintain them, but that won’t be a big issue. If you’re buying this bike to make multi-day tours, you’re making a good choice since the frame features several mounts. You can fit it with racks and water bottles and hit the road. All of this makes Cannondale Tango 6 an excellent choice for all ladies who are interested in riding the trails. You will be happy with this model as your first bike for many years, with some care and maintenance.
Trek – Marlin 5 Women’s ‘2021
For $550 there’s nothing to add or remove from this bike!
Trek bikes (Available in-store only)
Seems like the year 2021 allows us to really get closer to that affordable price tag! The Marlin 5 Women’s is a great trail bike for beginners, or should we say ‘cautious’ riders who are not planning to go competing on down-hill races anytime soon. You’ll see Shimano Tourney derailleurs and Shimano Altus shifters with Tektro hydraulic disc brakes which definitely get you through some of the roughest of trails.
- 27.5″ or 29″ wheels
- 100m travel fork
- Aluminum frame
As it is a trail bike, it is equipped with internal cable routing and it is also rack & fender ready. if you haven’t ridden a ‘decent’ or should we say modern mountain bike for a while – you’ll be positively surprised by the 27.5″ or 29″ wheels which one of the greatest upgrades in the mountain biking world in the past 5 years. Biggers wheels simply rolled over obstacles with so little effort!
Best Under $500 Mountain Bikes For Kids
Related: Best Boys 20″ Bikes
Priority – Start 20
The Priority Start 20 is a kids’ bike, made by a brand that is well-known for its belt-drivetrains. The bike has 3 gears that are internal, fits kids aged 6-11 years old. The bike comes with a kickstand that holds up this nice-looking aluminum-frame bike. If you are looking for a bike that requires less maintenance than the regular chain&derailleur system, the Priority bikes are silent, clean, and pretty much maintenance-free!
Cannondale Quick 24
The Quick 24 is an ideal mountain bike for kids aged 46″ – 57″. It is made by a giant bike brand, Cannondale. The bike features a 7-speed derailleur, front and rear V-brakes, a side stand, chainring protection, and a rigid fork in the front. The frame is made of lightweight aluminum.
The Quick series bikes are generally of the hybrid bikes category, but this is still an ideal bike for kids to use on and off the trails. If you have to choose between a cheap supermarket bike versus a bike made by a known brand, don’t hesitate to trust the better value as brand bikes hold their value and quality way better in the long term once you are thinking of selling the bike!
What Should You Need To Know Before Buying?
As you can see, when it comes to cheap mountain bikes, cheap does not equal bad. There are some amazing bikes in this price range, which will serve you well for years if you take good care of them. If you thought otherwise, I hope I changed your mind. Therefore, in case you’re looking for an entry-level bicycle to get fit, stay fit, commute, workout, or just escape into nature, why not choose one of the best mountain bikes under $500? They’re perfect for beginners and occasional riders, and I promise they are loads of fun!
What size mountain bike do I need?
It is crucial to get the right size frame in order to get the best comfort and performance out of a bike ride. There are some generalizations for bike size charts, but today, each bicycle manufacturer has their own size chart recommendations for each bicycle discpiline, whether it will be mountain, road or hybrid bike.
Where to buy under $500 mountain bikes online?
How to buy a mountain bike?
- Field Of Use – are you going to use it for recreational cycling, or do are you thinking of progressing?
- Budget – 500/1,000/1,500 have very different quality of components
- Size – Make sure to check out each bike brand’s size recommendations to find you the most suitable model.
What is the best mountain bike brand?