Buying an Entry Level Mountain Bike for the Budget Shopper
Why Get an Entry Level Mountain Bike?
Mountain biking is one of the most enjoyable and complete exercises available.
- It helps you develop both endurance and strength, and
- because most mountain biking occurs away from urban areas, you will also get to enjoy the fresh air and the scenery.
However, since mountain bikes can cost over a thousand dollars, many people are scared away from trying, thinking that they can't afford it.
Fortunately, there are a number of entry-level mountain bikes that can meet your needs without busting your budgets. These are very affordable beginner bikes with quality features and components, and every year there are even more to choose from.
There are a number of very affordable beginner bikes with quality features and components around, and there are even more coming out each year.
Most of the bikes in this article are quite affordable, priced between $400 and $800.
We have tried to select only those bikes that give you value for every cent you spend on them and will have a good resale value.
If you find mountain biking is not to your liking, you have not spent too much, and the bike should be easy to resale. But as we hopefully wish you enjoy mountain biking then these bikes are very easy to upgrade as you progress.
1) Diamondback Overdrive 29er
The Best Entry-Level 29" Mountain Bike
The Diamondback Overdrive 29er is an exceptionally great mountain bike for the money. Built around the Overdrive 29" Butted 6061-T6 Aluminum frame, the bike is a compelling entry-level model is easy to upgrade to a mid-level hardtail mountain bike.
The huge 29-inch wheels will take just about anything you can throw at them. The bike rolls like a dream; even the slightest decline and I can coast for miles. The gear shifters are some the best you can find at this price range and the lightweight aluminium frame is light enough to lift up when you need to.
The downsides for this bike are sub-optimal pedals and poor packaging that can result in broken or bent parts.
You can get this bike in 16-, 18-, 20- and 22-inch sizes too.
This make of bikes has three models: the basic Diamondback Overdrive V 29er, the Diamondback Overdrive 29er (above) and the Diamondback 2014 Overdrive Sport 29er.
Each time a new model comes out it has even better components than the previous model. The Overdrive comes with mechanical disc brakes, drivetrain and wheels while the Overdrive Sport comes with hydraulic disc brakes.
Diamondback Bicycles 2014 Overdrive Sport
Get a good look at the Diamondback Overdrive 29er in the video below.
2) Nashbar Single-Speed 29er Mountain Bike
A Quality, Entry-Level Bike For the Single-Speed Lovers Out There
The Nashbar Single-Speed 29er Mountain Bike is a great, basic, and affordable 29" mountain bike from a reliable brand. The lightweight alloy frame is sturdy, the Chromoly steel fork reduces road vibrations, and other quality parts make this a durable bike.
Being single speed makes this bike just right for anyone who wants a low maintenance bike
The main frame is an attractive metallic subdued gold color with black wheels, seat, pedals, and handlebars, which creates a cool effect.
3) Diamondback Response Beginner Level Mountain Bike
Best Entry-Level Mountain Bike Under $500
The Diamondback Response is a great bike for people new to the sport. It's about the same price as the Overdrive. The Butted 6061-T6 Aluminum Response Trail Frame is durable and lightweight, good whether you are new to the trails or a seasoned singletrack rider.
It is a well-made hardtail mountain bike suited for a number of different riding environments, from riding trails to just cruising around the neighborhood. The SR Suntour XCT 100mm travel fork does an excellent job of soaking up bumps. It handles all kinds of terrain beautifully, including dirt, sand, grass, roots, ruts, and muck. The wheel set, with its double-wall rims laced to 32h MX260H alloy hubs, is durable and long lasting.
This bike comes in multiple sizes from x-small to x-large, so you should be able to find a size that is just right for you.
4) Mongoose Status Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike
An Entry-Level Bike That's Well Worth the Price
The Mongoose Status 3.0 Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike is one of the best and most popular full-suspension mountain bikes for beginners under $500.
This bike gives you the biggest bang for your buck. It comes with great dual disc Promax brakes and deep V Arrow wheels on a good-looking, strong, and durable frame.
All the components are great quality for the price, with SR Suntour front shocks, and standard Shimano Altus derailleurs that would cost loads more if you put the bike together yourself.
This bike only comes in a 20-inch size, but that is a medium, which should fit most riders.
5) Schwinn Protocol Men's Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike for Beginners
Best Entry-Level Full-Suspension Mountain Bike
The Schwinn Protocol 1.0 Men's Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike is a strong entry-level mountain bike with 26-inch wheels. Built on a Schwinn Aluminum Dual Suspension Frame with Steel Rear, this is one of the best bikes to get if you want all the essential features at the best price.
The 24-speed bike makes it easy to adjust and control as you ride on different terrains. The ProMax front disc brake offers reliable stopping power.
Though a little heavy, this bike is very rugged.
A great bike for basic trail riding and leisurely rides, it's both good-looking and inexpensive.
6) Diamondback Lux Entry Level Women's Mountain Bike
Best-Selling Entry-Level Mountain Bike For Women
The Diamondback Women's Lux Mountain Bike is one of the best entry-level mountain bikes for women. With a tighter frame to fit a women's shorter torso and (on average) shorter height, it comes in under-18-inch frames as well. The lightweight aluminum women's specific trail frame is durable and rugged and just right for women.
The new 27.5" wheels give you the lower rolling resistance and improved traction of the 29" wheels without the geometry, suspension travel limitation, or toe clearance concerns of 26" wheels. The result is a much smoother ride than a 26" wheel with better torsional stiffness and durability than a 29" wheel.
The quality front and back shocks make it a comfortable ride, while the 8-speed gears can get just about anywhere.
This bike is a good looking, stable, and reliable. Just the bike to get you loads of compliments for all the right reasons.
Comes in three frame sizes: 15-inch, 17-inch and 19-inch.
Entry Level Bikes Under $1000
If you can spend more than around $500, there's a wider range of mountain bikes to choose from, all with good components and lighter frames.
In this price range, you can also look at bikes from these brands -- Specialized, Giant and Trek.
What to Look For in an Entry-Level Mountain Bike
Just because you may not be able to afford top-of-the-line components doesn't mean you choice is a poor quality one. There are many components that might not be top of the range but are still good. You will need to ask yourself a few questions before you narrow down your choice.
1. How Will You Use Your Mountain Bike? What Will Be Your Regular Terrain?
Where will you be riding your bike most of the time? Are you getting the bike to commute, for exercise or occasional rides in the country?
Will you be riding on paved roads or on off-roads and trails? If you intend to go off-road, do plan to ride on simple flat fire trails or medium-to-tough cross-country trails?
2. What is Your Budget?
Depending on your budget, you can get an excellent bike. Mountain bike prices are mostly determined by the components used, so you can't get more durable brakes, better gears, and so on without spending more.
You can get a lower-priced bike and upgrade your components later as you learn how to appreciate them. However, if that's your plan, you should make sure the frame is high quality. Whatever the case you should try to get as many quality components you can within your budget.
3. Find a Bike That Fits
Once you have settled on a type of mountain bike, you need to buy one that fits you. A good place to start is this General Bike Buying Guide, which will help you find a bike that matches your body frame. Remember, a bike that is wonderful for your friend may just not fit your body's geometry.
Even if you end up buying your bike online, it may be a good idea to try out your shortlist at a bike shop that allows you to ride on real dirt. You need to go beyond the hype and select a bike that meets your needs and ability.
Getting the Best Mountain Bike in Your Budget
There are some things that are just not worth compromising on when getting a new mountain bike, even when you have a limited budget.
You should get the best frame you can. A good, solid frame that is durable and right for your body size is essential. Even if you end up upgrading the bicycle frame at some point, you need to start with one that is comfortable. The original frame should last for at least as long as it takes you to figure out how much you enjoy mountain biking.
Get the best derailleurs you can. Avoid ones made of plastic - they are just not worth the aggravation.
Brakes and Shifters
Again, get the best you can, and try to avoid plastic. One thing to keep in mind is weight. Mountain bikes typically use disk brakes, which are heavier than the alternative, rim brakes.
In general disk brakes better suit mountain biking, but if you are looking for a lightweight bike, then rim brakes might be a better choice.
If you have a choice between low-quality disk brakes and a better quality rim brake system, then the rim brake is a better choice.
Correct assembly is crucial, to get the best out of your bike. If you are not sure you can do this right, it is worth paying a professional to do it for you. Alternatively you may be able to find some YouTube videos and articles online showing you how to set up your bike correctly.
One way to make sure you end up with a good bike is to go for a well-known brand name mountain bike. Usually, an established brand will maintain a certain level of quality and service to keep up their name.
That said, there are models that just don't fit the usual quality expected, so it is important tp check out reviews.
Mountain Bikes: The Rundown
|Bike||Size (in)||Key Features||Price|
Diamondback Overdrive 29er
M (18), L (20), XL (22)
29" Butted 6061-T6 Aluminum frame
$554 - $600
Nashbar Single-Speed 29er Mountain Bike
Lightweight, aluminum frame; steel fork reduces bumps
Diamondback Response Mountain Bike with 29-Inch
S (15), M (19), and L (22)
Detachable front tire
$462.69 - $477.26
Mongoose Status 3.0 Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike
Dual suspension, 26" wheels
Schwinn Protocol 1.0 Men's Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike
Aluminum Dual Suspension Frame
Diamondback Lux (Women)
26" wheels; Aluminum Dual Suspension Frame
Tell me what you think of this selection
Mike MTB on July 26, 2015:
I am an experienced mountain biker and I just bought a Specialized Pitch 27.7 for a family member for $425.00. I have several bikes that are much more expensive but I find this bike to be a fun to ride, sturdy, well balanced hardtail with excellent components. I have probably really pu it through the paces a couple of times and it is excellent.
thetravelgal (author) on January 07, 2015:
Thanks Kile Taylor, Its great to you have had such good use of an inexpensive bike. just goes o show we don't always need to start of high in his sport.
Kile Taylor from Roanoke, VA on January 05, 2015:
Great list. I got into mountain biking a few years ago when I moved to Southwest Virginia. I bout an Airborne Skyhawk for just under $400. It's a good hard tail bike with dual disk brakes. I have beat it up and it is still going. Once again, very good article.
thetravelgal (author) on April 30, 2014:
This would be a great way to get some exercise, and if you really get to love it, it can be a great to join some local riders too.
ari on April 28, 2014:
I am thinking of taking the mountain bike mainly for exercise.
would it fit for excerise? I am not looking for speed, necessarily, just comfort ride.
The park around my house has some grass/ dirt. it is not only asphalt, that is why i'm thinking mountain bike, insead of road.
What do you think? am i thinking the right direction?
Lisa Chronister from Florida on May 24, 2013:
This is an interesting and informative Hub!