Cheap mountain bikes offer excitement to your life. Much like buying a car, picking out the perfect mountain bike can be a chore – especially when you are on a tight budget. So, in order to help get you out on the biking trails we’ve decided to compile this handy buying guide.
Reviews of the Best Cheap Mountain Bikes 2017
We decided to give you a few different options at the two biggest price jumps: $500 and $1000. While these bicycles are some of OUR favorites, they might not be for you. If nothing else, use our personal reviews as guideposts to bring you to your own decision.
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Mountain Bikes Under $500
1. Mongoose Impasse Dual Full Suspension Bicycle
We’re going to kick off our review section by showcasing a ‘Fat Bike’. Like we listed above, the Mongoose Impasse features 29 inch tires that give you the ultimate in gripping action when you hit that rough terrain. The body is of aluminum build with full suspension. So, what you have here is a mountain bike that is light, durable, and extremely versatile in adverse conditions. You’ve got a 21 speed Shimano shifter installed which is pretty high quality, too. As far as beginner bikes go for off roading: you really can’t do any better.
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2. Schwinn Protocol 1.0 Men’s Dual Suspension Mountain Bike
Okay, let’s move on to another high-quality bike by a trusted manufacturer: Schwinn. The Protocol 1.0 Dual Suspension Mountain Bike features 26-inch tires that are affixed with disc brakes and forked suspension. The frame is made out of aluminum but it is enhanced with a steel rear which gives you that little bit extra when you are hitting the slopes. You’ve got nice shocks built into the Protocol which will alleviate all of that bumping and bruising you might expect from a long day on the trails. We love how durable this bike is and how much of a beating it can take before you need to do any maintenance.
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3. Kent Thruster KZ2600
We’re going to close out our entry level section with a great downhill bike, the Kent Thrust KZ2600. This bike features an aluminum frame with 26-inch tires. The full suspension allows you to weather the worst of the bumps and rattling that you’ll run into as you fly downhill. The suspension fork allows you to control how you feel while in the saddle and the disc brakes keep you ready to stop at a moments notice. The KZ2600 isn’t a perfect bike but it is one of the best entry level bikes on the market. Bonus points for showcasing Shimano components, as well.
Mountain Bikes Over $1000
High-end mountain bikes go upwards in price to around $10,000. With that said, these bikes are on the lower end of the price range and would be consider cheap mountain bikes by cycling professionals.
1. Diamondback Bicycles Sync’r Hard Tail
We’re jumping up a considerable amount now with a higher quality, longer lasting bike. This is one of the entry level bikes on the high end, made by Diamondback for mountain bike riders that want to put on a show. The Diamondback Sync’r is an all terrain mountain bike that features Rockshox components on an aluminum bodied frame. The tapered head tube gives you more mobility as you ride and the widened tires give you more grip, too. This bike is all about control and the SRAM X5 cranks play a big part of that. This is a ten-speed bike with high-quality shocks, so prepare for the tough trails.
2. BEIOU Carbon Fiber 650B Mountain Bike
The BEIOU 650B Mountain Bike is considered the best of both worlds, in our opinion. BEIOU has been doing ‘luxury mountain bikes’ for a long time, but don’t let the cost or the name fool you — this is one great ride. This mountain bike features 27.5-inch tires which gives you that perfect middle ground in between control and power. You’ve got a carbon fiber body which has been adorned with Shimano components. You’ve got a sleek color finish that won’t scratch, dent, or tarnish. Disc brakes give you the ultimate in stopping power while the flat handlebars allow you to put your all into that ‘go, go, go!’. This is a professional level bike for the rider ready to hit that next level.
3. Diamondback Bicycles El Oso Grande Fat Bike
We absolutely adore Fat Mountain Bikes and there isn’t a better one on the market than the El Oso. This high-end mountain bike is perfect for the rider who wants as much control as possible in the most vicious of environments. The El Oso features fat tires that are 5 inches wide and you’ll definitely be able to feel the difference. The El Oso has been called the ‘Motorbike With 4WD’ so use it to your advantage. The body of the bike is light but it is just about as sturdy as they come. Don’t let the path slow you down, ditch it if you need to.
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Different Mountain Bike Styles
If all mountain bicycles look the same, you aren’t looking close enough. Much like a car, mountain bikes are made dramatically different from model to model and brand to brand. The first thing you are going to want to pay attention to is the STYLE of mountain bike that you are looking for. Think over the style of riding that you intend to do and then compare it with the follow list.
Trail Mountain Bikes
– Let’s start off our list with the most common type of mountain bike: the Trail Bike. Also occasionally known as a ‘rigid’ bike, Trail Bikes don’t narrow their usage down to any one type of riding or racing. These bikes are typically well rounded and affordable.
Cross-Country Mountain Bikes
– Advanced riders who want to get a great cardio workout should consider the Cross-Country Mountain Bike. This style of bicycle focuses on speed and climbing. As a result, Cross-Country bikes are lighter with more gears and a heightened suspension. You’ll want something that can handle long hours on the trail.
– All-Mountain Bikes are gaining ground for common riders thanks to how efficient and affordable they have become. All-Mountain bicycles feature full suspension, high durability, and sturdy frames. You’ll be comfortable taking one of these little machines out just about anywhere off of the beaten path. These are made to handle rough paths, hard climbs, and steep descents.
Fat Tire Mountain Bikes
– The name is silly but the riders most certainly are not. Fat Bikes feature almost comically over large tires. These massive tires, which range between 3.5 and 5+ inches, provide excellent traction and maximum comfort. You’ll find a ton of off-road cyclists using these kinds of bikes due to their comfort and forgiving nature in tough terrain.
Freeride Mountain Bikes
– Don’t confuse Freeride Mountain Bikes with the general purpose bike we started our list off with. Freeride Bikes are great for downhill jumping and manufactured parks. They aren’t as durable as the All-Mountain style but they pedal easier and take turns better.
Downhill Mountain Bikes
– What’s there to say about a Downhill Mountain Bike? If speed is the name of the game you know where to look. Downhill Bikes are great for trail riders who need a little bit more energy in their run.
These bikes are sturdy and feature high-quality components to maximize both speed and safety while you are riding.
Dirt Jumping Bikes
– If you want to hit the slopes and pop off your favorite BMX trick, then look no further. These specialty bikes are built with efficiency and durability in mind. No-frills, the Dirt Jumping style of mountain bike is made to take a beating. You’ll find that this model only has rear brakes and shorter chainstays.
Single Speed Mountain Bikes
– This is a low maintenance style of bicycle that features a fixed gear for simplicity’s sake. You won’t have any shifters or derailleurs to worry about. You can use Singlespeed Bikes pretty much anywhere that you want: on road and off road. There are even specialty Singlespeed races if you get comfortable enough with your riding.
Understanding Mountain Bike Features
Alright, so we’ve painted with a broad brush to understand the different styles of mountain bikes. You should have an idea as to what exactly it is that you are looking for at this point. Now we are going to break down the features of a mountain bike one by one.
1) Mountain Bike Wheels
If you are going to do anything you should probably start from the ground up. The wheels on your bike supersede almost everything in terms of their importance — they literally keep the ground beneath you.Mountain bikes come with notoriously sturdy wheels and that is definitely by design. Riding off road will cause your wheels to take a beating. Here’s what you need to know when shopping for your own mountain bike wheels:
Mountain bikes come with notoriously sturdy wheels and that is definitely by design. Riding off road will cause your wheels to take a beating. Here’s what you need to know when shopping for your own mountain bike wheels:
– Size: The diameter of your wheels will dictate a lot about your experience. Mountain bike tires typically come in three sizes: 26 inches, 27.5 inches, and 29 inches. The key to remember here is this: the smaller the tire, the easier it is to maneuver and the larger the tire, the more durable it will be.
– Tube/Tubeless: The vast majority of mountain bike tires will have tubes in them. If you choose to pay up you can get tubeless tires. Tubeless tires allow you to run your tires at a lower pressure, thus making them grip the ground better. Tubeless tires are still expensive but we anticipate them becoming the norm in the future.
2) Mountain Bike Suspension
Next to the size of your tires, or their diameter, the suspension on your bike is the most important concept for you to understand. If you opt for a rigid bike this really won’t apply to you as much, due to their lack of shocks, but for everyone else: pay attention. Listed below are the most common types of suspension found on mountain bikes. Your suspension is what makes your mountain biking experience comfortable or painful, so you want to get this right.
– Rigid Suspension: Rigid Mountain Bikes aren’t as common as you might expect. This style of bike features zero suspension. There are no rear or front shocks and as a result, you are going to miss out on a TON of comfort. Still, bikes with ‘rigid’ suspension are going to be easier to maintain and more affordable at your point of purchase. You’ll find most ‘fat bike’ riders like to ride without suspension because they get enough comfort from their oversized tires.
– Hardtail Suspension: You’ll most commonly find this style associated with cross country riders. This style features a fork at the front of the bike that splits the suspension off, allowing a higher impact absorption at the front of the bike. These bikes are cheaper because they aren’t ‘full suspension’ bicycles. You’ll also find that Hardtail equipped bicycles have a switch on them in order to allow you to toggle off the suspension so that you can go ‘rigid’. Hardtail Suspension offers you more bang for your action when you pedal, making it easier for you to keep moving.
– Full Suspension: Here we are at the grand finale. Full Suspension bicycles feature both front and rear shocks in order to absorb as much of your riding impact as possible. This style of suspension will dramatically increase your comfort while riding though there are some disadvantages. For example, riders who opt for Full Suspension will feel like they lose some of their energy while pedaling uphill.
Many full suspension models allow you to toggle off your rear shocks when you are working up hills. We really like Full Suspension bikes but we can understand why many people would go for something more ‘in the middle’, like the hardtail.
Short Travel vs. Long Travel
To close out our section on suspension we must briefly touch on the concept of ‘short’ and ‘long’ travel. The suspension on bikes categorize the level of their shocks on a scale from 1 inch to 10 inches. Let’s break this down so you can understand it when you shop around.
– 1 to 3 Inches: This is considered a ‘short travel’ level of suspension. You’ll most often see dirt jumping and trick oriented bikes in this range. Bikes that fit in this range are the least comfortable but the most efficient to ride.
– 4 to 6 Inches: Right in the middle you are going to find your All-Mountain and Cross-Country Bikes. These bikes are made for extensive travel while retaining comfort. Bikes that fit their suspension into this range typically have plenty of stand-over room so that you can maximize your pedal and make up for your loss of efficiency.
– 7+ Inches: Our last category features Freeride and Downhill bikes almost exclusively. This style of suspension is designed to keep you moving well on steep, difficult, and technical tracks.
The high absorption rate allows you to weather any bump and bumble while you are riding which makes them particularly effective for gravity (i.e. downhill) riding. You’ll have a ton of trouble pedaling uphill, however, so keep that in mind if you decide to purchase something like this.
3) Mountain Bike Frames
For being the largest part of the bike this section is going to be pretty simple and straightforward. We’ll be talking primarily about the frame materials.
The most common material you will find when you are shopping for a frame is an aluminum alloy. Other common options include carbon fiber, titanium, and steel.- Aluminum Alloy: Aluminum alloy is suitably cheap while also being enduring enough for the average rider. We also really like that Aluminum Frame bicycles are rather lightweight and easier to maneuver.
– Aluminum Alloy: Aluminum alloy is suitably cheap while also being enduring enough for the average rider. We also really like that Aluminum Frame bicycles are rather lightweight and easier to maneuver.
– Steel: We personally love steel framed bicycles, especially for downhill and off road biking. Steel framed bicycles are going to be the heaviest option available and, as a result, they end up being suitably sturdy. Steel can be too heavy for people who want to ride uphill often so it isn’t a perfect fit for everyone.
– Carbon Fiber: Carbon Fiber bikes are the second most common frame material next to Aluminum Alloy. Carbon Fiber bikes are lightweight and durable but they are actually pretty hard for manufacturers to work with.
Carbon Fiber frames are more labor intensive and as a result, they tend to be more expensive. Still, Carbon Fiber bikes are corrosion-resistant, sturdy, and the lightest option available. If you feel like ponying up for this material then more power to you.
– Titanium: Finally we come to titanium. Titanium is a strong metal that is ultra light but comfortable. Titanium frames are not corrosive and they are resistant to scratches, too. Your Titanium bike is going to look good for a long time.
Titanium frames are notoriously reliable and extremely sturdy which makes them a great choice for mountain bike enthusiasts. Unfortunately, Titanium frames are at the highest end option available. Do you want to treat yourself? Because this is the material that you would want to treat yourself with.
4) Mountain Bike Comforts
We’ll keep this section brief and painless. The comfort section of your mountain bike includes three key sections: the handlebars, pedals, and seat.
Handlebars: You’ll spend almost your entire ride clutching these so you had better get some decent handlebars. There are two common options when you look at mountain bike handlebars.
– Flat Bars: Flat Bars tend to sit lower on the body of the bike. Flat bars are easy to use and they give you overhead clearance to really lean in and churn out the last of your energy on the slope you’ve been battling.
– Riser Bars: Riser Bars are probably more common for the ‘eye test’ than Flat Bars. Riser Bars come in just about every shape imaginable but the common thread is that they sit higher on the ride. Riser Bars are easier to get your hands on and you are less likely to lose your grip while riding. Riser Bars are used by people who like to ride higher in their seat, upright and attention. Riser Bars also offer you more control of your experience.
Seats: We won’t bore you too long here. Seats are simple things but the most important aspect that you are going to be looking at is width. You don’t want to be falling out of or vanishing into your bicycle seat. Make sure you wear proper cycling attire, compression shorts and extra padding included, to make your ride even more comfortable.
Pedals: Pedals come in a few different varieties but their differences are minor enough that you shouldn’t be too concerned if your favorite bike doesn’t match your pedal preference. Here are the two styles you’ll be looking at.
– Flat Pedals: Flat Pedals give you the most energy for your input and thus are more popular with mountain bike riders than the alternative. Flat Pedals are best utilized by riders who are also wearing gripped shoes, such as cleats. The more energy you can push into the pedal, with good grip, the more power you are going to get out on the other side.
– Clip Pedals: This style of bicycle pedal will have your shoes basically locked into their position on the pedals via toe straps or foot clasp. Some people get a little bit anxious being clasped into their pedals but it really isn’t a big deal, it just offers you more security. You can kick out of Clip Pedals by simply moving your feet away from the interior of your bike and ‘clicking’ out.
5) Mountain Bike Components
We’re going to focus on the final pieces of the bike that you need to understand: the components. While this is one category there is a ton of important information in here. We’ll be talking about mountain bike gears and mountain bike brakes. We won’t get into specific name brands but we will give you the broad strokes to guide your decision in the right direction.
– Mountain Bike Gears: If you’ve ever driven a manual car before then you know how important being in the right ‘shift’ or ‘gear’ is. Bike gears operate on the same basis. Your Mountain Bike Gear number is decided by the number of front chainrings attached to the sprockets. Mountain bikes will advertise the number of gears, or ‘speeds’, in a range of 1 to 30. Shifting into the right gear for the right situation will make your ride significantly easier. So take an honest look at your fitness level and where you anticipate riding and then decide how many speeds you need.
Mountain Bike Brakes
Riding is only good if you can stop, right? When you start shopping for specific Mountain Bike Brakes you are going to come up with two different styles: Disc Brakes and Rim Brakes.
1) Disc Brakes
Disc Brakes showcase brake pads that attach from a rotor mounted to your wheel hub. The two most common style of disc brakes is Hydraulic and Cable Activated. Brake pads on your bicycle, like your car, can go bad and wear out so you will always need to budget in time for maintenance and repair. Disc Brakes are ultra consistent, cheaper, and more advantageous for adverse conditions — like rain or muddy paths.
2) Linear Brakes
This is the most common type of brake found on the less expensive beginner mountain bikes. Rim Brakes have brake pads that grip straight onto your wheel rim with two clasped little claws. The advantage of Rim Brakes can be seen right away: they are simple, easy to replace, and affordable. However, Rim Brakes don’t have near as much stopping power as Disc Brakes. Rim Brakes also have a tough time in adverse weather conditions which could be a disqualifying factor for some heavy hitting riders.
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