Mountain biking is a fun way to enjoy nature and get exercise, and it’s a little more exciting than just going for a walk. However, it’s very important to have the proper gear if you’re going to start mountain biking.
We consulted many experts to give you the best information available for choosing your first mountain bike.
With the wide variety of bikes available, and with so many different options and features of each bike, choosing the right one for you can seem daunting. Once you’ve made the decision to start mountain biking, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions about the type of biking you’ll be doing.
Once you understand your options and what you need, your purchasing decision will become much easier.
Best Entry Level Mountain Bikes
After consulting with the experts and doing some testing of our own, we’re confident that you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for in one of the six following mountain bikes. Check out the following reviews to help narrow down your search.
Schwinn High Timber Men’s 18 Mountain Bike
The Schwinn High Timber Men’s Mountain Bike is a sturdy and agile option for those who seek the adventure a mountain bike offers without making a big investment.
It has several features that make it an excellent mountain bike including a Schwinn suspension fork for controlled riding, twist shifters, and 21 speeds, quick gear changing, Alloy V brakes for solid stops, and alloy wheels.
You’ll enjoy the ride with the padded seat and trail-ready tires, and the bike is suitable for bike paths, trails, and more. The High Timber Mountain Bike gives you quick shifting, responsive handling, stability, comfort, and a smooth ride.
- Alloy brakes
- Shimano twist shifters and rear derailleur
- Limited lifetime warranty for as long as you own the bike
One of the top reasons for mountain bike crashes is the bike was too difficult to control. The Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike relieves you of this issue by constructing the bike with a steel frame and the Schwinn front shock system. Bumps are smoothed and control is increased with these features.
Many features of the bike are constructed with strong and lightweight alloy, including the rims. Alloy rims provide a smooth ride over any terrain, which I believe makes your riding experience more enjoyable overall.
Riders enjoy this bike for its easy assembly and the high quality you receive for an affordable price.
Additionally, riders of every size praise the Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike’s comfortable fit and smooth ride. It’s an attractive bike that has space to mount a water bottle and rear rack, as well.
26″ Wheel Roadmaster Granite Peak Men’s Mountain Bike
The Roadmaster Granite Peak Mountain Bike is great for both paved streets and bike paths as well as the rugged mountain trails.
The 26-inch bike features a suspension fork that offers a smooth ride, trail-ready tires, 18 speeds, smooth SRAM twist shifters, linear pull brakes that give you a sure stop, alloy rims, steel handlebars, and a comfortable padded seat.
When you invest in a mountain bike, you want to be sure you’re paying for quality construction. With the steel mountain frame geometry, you’ll enjoy easy riding.
The bike is equipped with a suspension fork that will smooth the path ahead of you and give you better control of the bike during your ride.
- SRAM shifters
- 3-piece mountain crank
- Steel mountain frame geometry
I believe that one of the most important features of a mountain bike is a smooth gear change, especially when you’re riding quickly along rough terrain.
The SRAM drive twist shifters change the gears smoothly, and the three-piece mountain crank offers a wide gear range – 18 gears total, to be exact.
Mountain bikers, especially beginners, rely on their bikes to have good stopping power. The last thing you want while cruising down a mountain is to not be able to stop quickly and safely.
The powerful linear pull brakes give you great stopping power, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to stop effectively.
Finally, you’ll want the wheels and rims of your mountain bike to withstand any type of ride you take it on.
The 26-inch wheels feature tire treads that will grip everything from pavement to dirt. The alloy rims are both lightweight and durable, giving you ultimate stability.
Thruster T-29 Men’s Mountain Bike
The Thruster T-29 Men’s Mountain Bike gives you a frame that’s both tough and lightweight with its heat-treated aluminum construction. Shimano-constructed shifters and derailleurs are durable, and they give you a quiet and seamless gear change. Additional features include alloy rims and road and trail-ready tires.
Riders praise Thruster T-29 Mountain Bike for its ease of use and excellent features that you get for entry-level pricing. Those who aren’t hardcore off-road cyclists yet appreciate the linear pull brakes since they work well but are easier to maintain than the disc brakes you often see on 29er bikes.
- Shimano RS25 Shifters
- Shimano TZ31 Derailleurs
- 29 x 2.1-inch all-terrain knobby tires
- Heat-treated 6061 lightweight aluminum frame
The Thruster T-29 Mountain Bike’s simplicity of use is designed with beginner riders in mind. The front fork suspension ensures a smooth and comfortable ride.
The lightweight frame and large 29-inch wheels allow you to cover more ground with less pedal input. The alloy rims give the bike excellent agility and control.
The knobby tires offer great grip for any terrain including bike paths and mountain trails. The bike is suitable for riders 5’6” to 6’ tall, and bikers of all sizes enjoy the comfortable ride it provides.
The biggest advantage to the Thruster T-29 Mountain Bike is the wheel size. Large wheels raise the bike higher to give you a more upright posture that is more comfortable for many riders.
The wheels also give you better propulsion with less strength, and the enhance momentum to increase your speed. Power and performance are amplified with the 29-inch wheels of this bike.
Diamondback Bicycles Sorrento Hard Tail Complete Mountain Bike
The Diamondback Bicycles Sorrento Hard Tail Mountain Bike is a little higher on the price range, which it justifies with the excellent features that make it user-friendly and high-quality. Those features include an aluminum alloy frame, suspension fork, low-slung geometry, wide range of gears, and heavy-duty tires.
The heat-treated aluminum frame is solid and holds up well under weight without flexing or breaking. The suspension fork ensures a smooth ride over any type of terrain.
A smooth ride is vital to a mountain bike, and you won’t have to worry about rocks, crevices, or bumps with the Diamondback Sorrento.
It’s necessary that the mountain bike you choose is the right size for you. Diamondback has made this easy for you by offering multiple frame size options to ensure the perfect fit.
Choose from the 16-inch, 18-inch, or 20-inch frame size, and you’ll enjoy a much more comfortable ride with the right size frame.
Each frame size boasts 21 gears that are quickly and easily changed with the SRAM shifters. Linear pull brakes give you simple and certain stopping abilities.
Your ride will be stable on any terrain thanks to the double-walled alloy rims and 27.5” wheels that give great traction and easy rolling.
Overall, the Diamondback Sorrento Hard Tail Complete Mountain Bike is a high-quality option for the beginner or casual riders looking for something safe and reliable.
- Replaceable derailleur hanger
- Shimano derailleurs and shifters
- Available in 16, 18, 20, and 22-inch frames
- 6061-T6 heat-treated, durable aluminum alloy frame
Mongoose Impasse Dual Full Suspension Bicycle
The Mongoose Impasse Dual Full Suspension Bicycle is another 29er at an affordable price. Some of its incredible features include an aluminum full-suspension frame, an Element front fork, Shimano gears, SRAM twist shifters, and front and rear disc brakes.
Compared to steel-framed bikes, the aluminum construction of the Impasse makes it incredibly lightweight yet sturdy and durable.
The rear shock suspension is adjustable, so depending on the type of terrain you’re riding on, you can adjust it to fit your needs.
The Element front suspension fork works together with the aluminum full-suspension frame to give you a smooth and controlled ride. Bumps and unevenness in terrain are minimized with the Mongoose Impasse Mountain Bike.
Shifting gears is easy with the Shimano 21 speed rear derailleur and the SRAM twist shifters. The shifting components are all high-quality and give you smooth gear shifting abilities.
The front and rear alloy disc brakes keep you from sliding out of control or hitting obstacles with their efficient stopping power. You’ll have certain stops in all types of weather and terrain conditions, too, so you can keep riding in rain or shine.
The alloy rims and large, 29-inch wheels give you impeccable control and pedal efficiency. You’ll get a smooth, controlled ride and a durable and quality bike for a great price with the Mongoose Impasse Dual Full Suspension Mountain Bike.
- Shimano rear derailleur and SRAM shifters
- Quick release front wheel for easy transport
- Alloy wheels
- Alloy front and rear disc brakes
New 2018 Diamondback Cobra 24 Complete Youth Bike
For blossoming mountain bikers, the Diamondback Cobra 24 Complete Youth Bike gives junior riders plenty of features and a great ride at an affordable price. The heavy steel frame not only supports the average kid’s weight, but it also holds up to rough riding and terrain.
Riders will enjoy the smooth and carefree ride with the excellent suspension fork. Beginners will have all they need with the seven speeds and easy-to-operate twist shifters. Stopping is easy and quick with the linear pull brake system.
The 24” wheel size will help young riders keep up with their parents on the trail. Alloy rims will ensure strength and durability. The Diamondback Cobra is an excellent choice to grow with your child, and the seat can be adjusted easily.
Parents who purchased this bicycle for their kids are happy with the quality for the affordable price, and their children like the smooth and comfortable ride.
It’s a great bike for kids wanting to upgrade to something bigger and better, or as an entry-level mountain bike for kids wanting to ride on rougher terrain.
- 40 mm travel suspension fork
- Heavy steel frame
- 21 speeds
How to Choose Your First Mountain Bikes for Beginners
Our buying guide has been crafted to make your decision even easier by giving you high-quality and affordable options you can trust.
Mountain bikes are typically made from one of four materials. Those materials are:
Titanium: This is an expensive material that looks unique and has excellent strength. Its outstanding durability means that most bikes created with titanium include a lifetime warranty. Beginners won’t need to splurge on a titanium-constructed mountain bike.
Carbon Fiber: This material is super light and strong. It absorbs vibrations, as well. It is a newer material in the mountain bike world, and it offers the highest performance characteristics. As with titanium, beginners can choose a more affordable construction for their best mountain bikes under 600
Steel: A popular and traditional material for bikes, steel frames are appreciated for their strength, comfort, and durability. However, steel frames are also heavier than the other materials available today, so they are used less than they used to be.
Aluminum: The most popular material for modern bike frames, aluminum offers lightness, durability, and affordability.
You will not enjoy riding a mountain bike that doesn’t fit you properly. The bike size you choose depends mainly on your height, but also your weight. Not only is a properly fitting bike more comfortable to ride, but it also gives you better control than a bike that is too big or too small for you.
Mountain bikes typically come in standard sizes (small, medium, and large), and most manufacturers include a size chart that lists a height range for each size. If you’re between sizes, it’s best to visit a bike shop to try the bikes out in person.
How Hard You’ll Be Riding
Unless you’re jumping into the deep end of mountain biking and plan to do extreme off-road cycling right off the bat, you won’t need a full suspension bike.
If you plan on doing a little bit off entry level road biking, but you’ll also be using bike paths and regular roads, a hardtail mountain bike might be your best option. Hardtail bikes feature a suspension fork on the front that helps give a smooth ride and more control on rough trails.
Most mountain bikes have at least a suspension fork, so it shouldn’t be difficult finding a bike in your budget that offers that feature.
What Type of Riding You’ll Be Doing
There are three main categories of mountain bike riding:
– All mountain or trail
If you plan on sticking to marked trails a majority of the time, a standard hardtail mountain bike should be sufficient.
If you do want to go on a downhill adventure, you can always rent a downhill mountain bike. Even with a tight budget, you can get a decent hardtail bike that will get you down the trail and back in a safe and comfortable manner.
As a beginning mountain biker, you might want to consider a modest budget for your first mountain bike. Your budget will depend on how often you plan on riding, and if you plan on tackling difficult terrain right away.
Frame material, brake type, and shock and suspension type, among other factors, will determine the price of a mountain bike. Understanding how you’re going to use the bike and how frequently will help you set a budget.
Mountain Bike Buying Guide
Along with the basics to consider that we discussed earlier, there are a few more specifics to buying the best mountain bikes under 500.
There are three standard wheel sizes for adult mountain bikes. Most youth bikes will have a 24” wheel size, but they can go down to 20”. Here are the standard adult sizes:
26 inch: This used to be the standard wheel size for all mountain bikes. 26-inch wheels are a good option for shorter riders or riders who are looking for more agility and lightness.
27.5 inch: A happy medium between 26-inch and 29-inch wheels, the 27.5” wheel size rolls over terrain easier than the smaller size and are more maneuverable than the 29ers.
29ers: Although they’re a little slower to get going, you can cover more terrain with less work with 29ers than smaller wheel sizes, which makes them great for longer rides.
Mountain bikes will either have disc brakes or rim brakes. Each has their pros and cons.
Disc Brakes: All but entry level mountain bikes will have disc brakes. They work by gripping a brake rotor mounted on the wheel hub. They brake consistently in all conditions and create less finger strain. However, it is difficult to observe wear and replace pads, and hydraulic disc brakes are more expensive to service.
Rim Brakes: Many entry-level bikes feature rim brakes which use pads that grip the wheel rims. They are more affordable and easier to maintain than disc brakes. On the downside, they are less effective in wet or muddy conditions, and over time, they wear down the wheel rim itself.
Number of Gears
Mountain bikes are available with anywhere from one to 30 or more gears. The most important things to consider when determining how many gears you need are your fitness level and terrain you’ll be riding on.
If you plan on doing lots of uphill climbing and find it challenging, you’ll want more gears. If you’re sticking to flat terrain, or you are a strong mountain biker, you won’t need as many gears. The fewer gears you have, the lighter your bike will be.
At first glance, all mountain bicycle wheels look similar, but there are substantial differences in the wheel components of mountain bikes.
Rims: Most entry-level mountain bikes will have wheel rims constructed of aluminum. Avoid steel rims. Aluminum rims are lightweight, and they shed water quickly, which helps with braking while it’s raining. Make sure there is no color on the braking surface of the rim since this can affect braking.
Spokes: 32 is the standard number for wheel spokes. Any less than this can compromise how much weight your wheels can hold. Any more isn’t necessary and just adds extra weight to your bike. Spokes should be composed of stainless steel.
Tires: Tires come in a wide variety of tread patterns and widths. The type of tire you choose will depend solely on your riding conditions and terrain.
A good portion of the best value of a mountain bike comes from components like brake levers, shift levers, and derailleurs (or gears). Higher quality components will require less maintenance and will last you longer than lower quality ones.
Choosing between trigger shifters or twist shifters will depend on personal preference, so if possible, you should test ride bikes featuring both styles to determine which one you like better.
If you’re ready to start mountain biking, you have a big decision to make when it comes to the bicycle you choose. It can be a daunting decision when you see all of the available options, features, and price tags.
However, if you’re honest with yourself about how you’ll be using your bike, it’ll make it much easier to peg down the features you’ll need.
Our six options are high-quality and affordable mountain bikes that are great for beginners. These entry-level bikes will all give you a smooth, safe ride that you’ll enjoy, so you’ll need to look at things like wheel size and frame size to determine which one is best for you. Whichever one you decide on, we’re sure that you’ll be happy with it, and it’ll help you enjoy your new healthy activity.