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, 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 2021
We decided to give you a few different options for 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 reviews as guideposts to bring you to your own decision.
Top 10 Best Bikes Reviewed
1. Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike…click image to see more on Amazon The Schwinn High Timber is ideal for riders who want to take on a variety of terrain. The steel or aluminum frame optionsoffers durability for those tough courses. All-terrain, wide knobby mountain tires sit on light and durable alloy wheels for added stability. The bike comes with a limited lifetime warranty for as long as you own the bike.See more on Amazon…
2. Schwinn Mesa Mountain Bike…click image to see more on Amazon The Schwinn mountain-tuned aluminum frame and Zoom HL565 aluminum suspension fork are great for dirt trails and gravel paths. Shimano Tourney 21-speed drivetrain with Shimano EZ-FIRE shifters offer quick, precise shifts. aluminum mechanical disc brakes deliver crisp all-condition stopping power.See more on Amazon…
3. Viribus Mountain Bike
4. Outroad Mountain Bike Foldable Bike
5. OBK 27.5 Wheels Mountain Bike…click image to see more on Amazon The front and rear disc brakes and help keep the cyclist safe. Shimano 37 shifter, front derailleurs, and rear derailleur make the gearshift sensitive. The suspension fork smoothes the bumps and easy to control. Aluminum rims and magnesium wheels for you to choose from. Easy assembly Required includes all the tools you need for building and maintaining your own bicycle.See more on Amazon…
6. Mongoose Tyax Mountain Bike
7. Mongoose Switchback Mountain Bike…click image to see more on Amazon Mongoose entered the mountain bike market and ever since then, they have become well known for their quality of design and workmanship. Mongoose MTB saddle keeps you comfortable on long rides; 27. 5 tires provide a stable and smooth ride; Internal cable routing allows for neat, clean lines while providing added protection; Disc brakes offer superior stopping power you can count on in all riding conditions After using it for a while, I had no doubt that the Mongoose mountain raised the bar. See more on Amazon…
8. Gmlmes Mountain Bike
9. Schwinn Traxion Mountain Bike…click image to see more on Amazon The iconic Schwinn mountain bike has been an integral part of the Schwinn lineup for over 40 years. 24 speed Shimano EZ Fire trigger shifters and front and rear Shimano derailleurs make gear changes easy. Extra wide double wall alloy rims are light and strong for added durability. 2.25 inch wide knobby mountain tires are ready for bumpy terrain.See more on Amazon…
10. Huffy Oxide Mens Mountain Bike
Different Mountain Bike Styles
If all mountain bicycles look the same, you aren’t looking close enough. Like a car, mountain bikes are made dramatically different from model to model and brand to brand. The first thing you will want to pay attention to is the STYLE of mountain bike you are looking for. Think over the riding style that you intend to do and then compare it with the following list.
Trail Mountain Bikes
Let’s start our list with the most common mountain bike type: the Trail Bike. Also occasionally known as a ‘rigid’ bike, Trail Bikes don’t narrow their usage down to any one kind 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 everyday 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 trails, challenging 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 many off-road cyclists using these kinds of bikes due to their ease and forgiving nature in challenging 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 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. It would help if you had an idea of precisely what 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 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 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 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, 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 your tires’ size or diameter, your bike’s suspension is the most critical 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 standard as you might expect. This style of the bike features zero suspension. There are no rear or front shocks, and as a result, you will 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 bike’s front. These bikes are cheaper because they aren’t ‘full suspension’ bicycles. You’ll also find that Hardtail equipped bicycles have a switch on them 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 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 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 categorizes their shocks’ level 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. Bicycles 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. Bicycles 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 suspension style is designed to keep you moving well on steep, rugged, and technical tracks.
The high absorption rate allows you to weather any bump and bumble while riding, making them particularly useful for gravity (i.e., downhill) riding. However, you’ll have a ton of trouble pedaling uphill, 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 will 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 standard 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 Aluminum Frame bicycles that are relatively 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 Aluminum Frame bicycles that are relatively lightweight and easier to maneuver.
– Steel: We love steel-framed bicycles, especially for downhill and off-road biking. Steel framed bikes 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 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 paying 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 incredibly sturdy, making them an excellent 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 like 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 areas: the handlebars, pedals, and seat.
Handlebars: You’ll spend almost your entire ride clutching these, so you had better get some good handlebars. There are two standard 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 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 over your experience.
Seats: We won’t bore you too long here. Seats are simple things, but an essential aspect you will be looking at is the 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, the more power you will get out on the other side with a good grip.
– Clip Pedals: This style of bicycle pedal will have your shoes 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 isn’t a big deal. It just offers you more security. You can kick out of Clip Pedals by merely moving your feet away from the interior of your bike and ‘clicking’ out.
5) Mountain Bike Components
We’re going to focus on the bike’s final pieces you need to understand: the components. While this is one category, there is a ton of important information 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 more manageable. 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 will discover 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 wrong 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 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.