Like any hobby worth getting into, mountain biking comes with some initial costs and outlays.
One of the biggest has to be the bike itself, and a quick look around at what’s available and their prices can be enough to put you off altogether, but it doesn’t have to be.
Can you get a mountain bike on a budget? It is possible to find an entry-level mountain bike with the right features for around the $500 mark, with some cheaper options out there as well.
The most important thing is to find a bike that’s the right size and build for you specifically, so you can ride comfortably and safely.
This guide was designed for budget mountain bike hunting and if you’re in the market for an entry-level ride, we can help.
Check out our guide to the best mountain bike brands that won’t cost a fortune so you can jump straight into your new riding passion.
Best Budget Mountain Bike – Reviews & Buying guide for 2021
Our Picks for the Best Budget Mountain Bike
Shopping for the best mountain bike could end up costing thousands of dollars, and even tens of thousands in some cases.
If you’re shopping on a budget and only have a few hundred to spend, have no fear, as we’ve hand-picked some of the best budget all-mountain bike options out there that will serve you well.
BEST OVERALL: Trek Marlin 5
- Size: 27.5”/29”
- Type: Mountain bike
- Gender: Both
Our favorite budget and the best full suspension mountain bike on our list comes from Trek with their Marlin 5.
This mountain bike is made with a lightweight aluminum frame, suspension fork for smooth riding, hydraulic disc brakes, and 21 speeds for a huge range of gearing and terrain, so you’ll get plenty of value for money.
The wheel sizes are either 27.5″ or 29″ depending on the size of the frame and it’s suitable for both men and women riders.
One of the coolest things about this bike are the options in sizes which means everyone will get their perfect fit.
The Trek Marlin 5 comes in seven sizes ranging from extra-small for riders up to 5’1″ and extra-extra-large riders up to 6’7.9″ in height.
The smaller sizes also feature short-reach brake levers and a lower standover height so even if you’re on the shorter side, you’ll have no restrictions using this bike.
Another great feature of this bike is the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes which are unusual when you’re shopping for a budget ride.
These disc brakes give it ultra-smooth suspension and make your ride more comfortable, no matter the trail you’re on, and when it’s coupled with the lightweight frame, it’s such an enjoyable ride.
If you’re after the best budget full suspension mountain bike, you’ve found it with the Marlin 5.
On the downside, this is still considered a budget-friendly bike, so don’t expect to hit the trails as hard as possible every day and get reliability.
The drive train, or all of the parts that help the bike push and pull along, are consider entry-level so this is where you save money, even if there are noteworthy components that put it at the top of its price class.
Another potential negative to consider is the cost, which might be out of the reach for some shopping on a budget.
It’s double some of the others we’ve reviewed so it might not be a feasible option but if you’re able to spend a little extra to get the quality build that the Marlin 5 offers, it’s worth spending a couple hundred more to get it.
If the Marlin 5 ticks all of your boxes, you can purchase it directly from the Trek website for the best deal online.
The cost also includes Trek’s famous lifetime warranty that they cover all of the Marlin range with, giving you absolute peace of mind with your purchase.
This is on the upper end of the scale for a budget mountain bike but with good reason, and if you want the best that affordability can buy, the Trek Marlin 5 is the way to go.
Runner Up: Husky 26 Suspension Bike
- Size: 26”
- Type: Mountain bike
- Gender: Both
Our runner up for the best men’s budget mountain bike comes from Husky with their 26” Suspension Mountain Bike.
This is one of the most affordable bikes we’ve found but it’s still packed with features like a 19″ aluminum frame, 21 speed Shimano Alivio drive system, mechanical disc brakes, and front suspension fork.
If you want the best beginner mountain bike for less, this is one of our favorites, and they’ve left no parts out when building it.
The suspension is what this bike is known for and it’s performed smoothly with a front suspension fork that takes the brunt of the force.
When you’re starting out with mountain biking, having something that allows you to explore the trails without doing too much damage to yourself is essential, and it’ll make the world of difference while you’re learning how to ride.
Another bonus that the Husky offers is the availability of parts and accessories which is great for a bike brand.
Their website has just about anything you could ask for and it’s all shipped for free, so if you need to replace or upgrade parts, it’s easy.
It comes included with high-quality parts already too, including resin pedals, aluminum wheels, kickstand, and a quick-release aluminum seat post. If you’re after bang for your buck, look no further than the Husky MTB.
However, the mechanical disc brakes are one of the biggest letdowns, even if they are common for budget bikes like this.
An upgrade to hydraulic disc brakes makes a world of difference when dealing with mountain bikes, and it’s noticeably different when you ride as well.
For a beginner, it might not be so obvious, but you’ll likely want to upgrade soon enough. Husky does make some hydraulic disc brake sets but none that are compatible with this bike, so you’ll need to consider whether it’s a dealbreaker for you.
This bike is on the smaller size so it might not be the right fit for everyone. unlike other brands that seem to offer a huge selection of frame and wheel sizes you choose from, the Husky is limited and smaller than most.
This also means that its weight capacity is lower, so again, it’s suited to a narrower group of riders.
The Husky MTB is a solidly built mountain bike that would suit a beginner rider, and it’s well within the price range of everyone.
You can find the Husky MTB online through a range of websites and have it shipped to your door with ease.
Husky covers this bike with only a 90-day warranty, along with their other parts, which is disappointing, to say the least. However, if you’re shopping on a budget but still want something solid to ride, this option from Husky is a serious contender.
Alternative: Batch MTB
- Size: 27.5”
- Type: Hardtail
- Gender: Both
One of our favorites and the top pick for the best budget hardtail bike is the 27.5″ MTB from Batch Bicycles.
This hardtail MTB is ideal for thrashing around on the trails and it features a Suntour 100mm travel suspension fork, 27.5” wheels, 21 speeds for optimal gear changes, and a 6061-aluminum frame.
According to riders who’d used this MTB, it was one of the more versatile mountain bikes they’ve ridden on in this price range, so you truly get bang for your buck.
People loved to take it on a casual mountain bike path or rough terrain and steep hills and found that it handled just as well on either.
As far as budget bikes go, this seems to be one of the toughest and capable of taking on whatever you throw at it.
Other cool benefits that the Batch Bicycle MTB offers are the ease in which it transitions through gears, so you can take on just about any terrain.
You’ll also notice how smooth it rides thanks to the Suntour suspension fork and double wall wheels. This means better control and fewer bumps along the way, both of which can be hard to find in a budget-friendly bike.
For beginners, you’ll love how easy this makes it to learn with and how forgiving it can make some of the rougher trails.
This is a heavy bike and it can be deceptively so when you take a look at it online and then finally get to ride it.
You’ll need to take some extra time figuring out how to maneuver it, and if you’re someone who prefers a lightweight bike, this won’t be ideal.
Those new to biking might prefer the bulk and steadiness that it offers, but once you progress with your skills, you’ll probably want to shed a few pounds.
Another negative to consider about this bike is the pedals with some riders finding them less than comfortable.
There are no specs written up by Batch Bicycles that even say what pedals were used on this bike, which should tell you everything you know.
A quick upgrade yourself to a better set of pedals will make a huge difference but it can add some costs to a bike that’s already pretty expensive for a budget hardtail bike.
Although it could do with some minor upgrades, the Batch Bicycles 27.5 MTB is a great all-rounder that’s capable of a lot more than others in its price class.
Batch Bicycles offers a limited lifetime warranty of the aluminum frame and steel fork, but all other parts only come with a one-year warranty.
With everything you get in this package and its capability to do just about anything, the Batch MTB is one of the best choices for an economical mountain bike.
Alternative: Verde Theory DJ
- Size: 26”
- Type: Dirt jumper
- Gender: Both
The Verde Theory DJ is a budget mountain bike with a difference and built with many of the specs you’d expect in a BMX bike instead but at a much more affordable price point.
This amazing bike comes with durable double-wall rims, Chromoly frame and forks, removable brake mounts, and a Verde drivetrain, and is marketed as a dirt jumper that combines the best of the MTB and BMX worlds.
The tires are a huge standout on this bike and make it capable of handling the toughest terrains and the highest jumps, while you hardly notice a thing.
This is thanks to both the double-wall rims and the Bombtrack tires that measure 2.3 inches in width.
All of these parts work together to give it strength and durability no matter where or how you ride it, and you’ll never have to worry about taking it easy on the trails.
Another advantage that this bike offers is its quality build and the quality of all of its included parts as well.
You can feel as soon as you get on it that it was built to last, even if it has a lightweight 100% Chromoly frame that weighs just 28.2lbs overall.
Riding something so light is great for hitting jumps and it makes the bike easy to maneuver without feeling weighed down.
The sizes are limited with this bike and you don’t get a whole lot of options for customizing it to your needs.
For the money you’re paying, this is a letdown, and you’ll want to be sure that the Verde Theory DJ has everything you need before committing.
Its 26” size is slightly limiting as well, and won’t suit riders of all statures. It also only comes in a green color with no other options so this is restrictive as well.
Another potential negative of this bike is that it’s more of a dirt jumper and not made use of a huge range of trails and terrain.
Unless you plan on using it to do jumps and use it as a BMX type of ride, you can probably get something more fitting for a lot less money.
It’s one of the most expensive options we’ve reviewed here and although it’s well made and an exceptional ride for these purposes, it’s not going to be the right fit for everyone.
The Verde Theory DJ is the latest 2021 model from the brand and has everything the modern jump rider could ask for, and is available for an affordable price online.
Verde offers just a 90 day warranty on the bike but they do consider issues on a case by case basis, which should give you a little more peace of mind.
If you plan on spending a lot of time on jumps and dirt tracks, the Theory DJ is one to consider.
Best For Kids: Trek Wahoo
- Size: 26”
- Type: Hybrid
- Gender: Both
If you’ve been looking for the most affordable and well-made MTB for kids, we’ve found it in the Wahoo 26” Hybrid Bike from Trek.
This bike is great for smaller users and features a 1×8 drive train, kids’ alloy brake level, and 8 speed Shimano Altus, so it’s perfectly equipped with everything a pint-sized rider needs and all of the safety features that’ll give you peace of mind as well.
The fact that this is a hybrid bike makes it a great option because there’s no limit to how your child can use it, and it’s made with the quality and safety that Trek prides themselves on.
They can still ride it on the mountain bike trails, with your supervision, but also on footpaths and roads, or wherever else you choose.
It’s great value for money for everything it’s capable of while being up there with the other quality MTBs we’re reviewed.
The size of the bike is also great if you’re shopping for a child and it suits riders between 4’8” and 5’2” which should be ideal for most kids.
It’s lightweight at just over 22lbs which means they can pick it up and maneuver it easily and without your help. You won’t need to worry when they take their Wahoo out for a ride as you know they can handle it with ease.
On the downside, it’s only an 8-speed bike, and while this is enough when you’re dealing with a hybrid bike used for mountain biking, it falls a little flat.
You’d probably only choose the Wahoo from Trek if your kid didn’t want to spend all their time on the trails with you, otherwise, it could fall short.
This 1×8 drive train is ideal to keep their minds on the path ahead of them and not shifting gears but for some kids, it could feel a bit amateur.
Another potential negative to consider is the simplicity of this bike when compared to others in this category. The alloy frame is lightweight and most of the components seem better suited to riding on the footpath.
If your child is ready to take their mountain biking to the next level, you’re better off spending your money on a more serious bike, otherwise, this one should be all they need.
The 8 Speed Wahoo from Trek is our favorite choice for a kids’ MTB, and it offers enough versatility so they can ride it however and wherever they want.
The bike is covered by a limited lifetime warranty, just like the rest of their range, and you’ll feel good knowing that your child is only riding with one of the best from Trek.
Budget Mountain Bike FAQs
Shopping for the best mountain bike under $500 might limit your options a bit but it doesn’t strike them out completely.
If you know a little more about what to look for in an MTB it makes the search that much easier, so check out our answers to some FAQs that beginners like you have about choosing the right bike.
How Much Does A Decent Mountain Bike Cost?
A decent mountain bike that goes beyond entry-level will usually cost upwards of $1,000 but it is possible to find them for less sometimes.
There are options for basic modelsand a huge market for second-hand bikes that can all reduce the costs of your first mountain bike and still land you something well made.
Is It Cheaper To Build Or Buy A Mountain Bike?
Building a mountain bike is usually more expensive than purchasing one outright as you’re sourcing all of the parts separately rather than something that’s already made.
However, the benefit of building a bike yourself is that you can choose the parts you want to have a completely custom-made ride.
What Is A Decent Mountain Bike Brand?
There are hundreds of bike brands to choose from with some having a better reputation than others.
Among the top-rated brands are Yeti, Cannondale, Avanti, Kona, Santa Cruz, GT, and Giant, each known for something different in the mountain bike market.
Is Buying A Used Mountain Bike Worth It?
It is possible to get a good deal buying a second-hand mountain bike provided you have done your research and chosen a reputable seller.
You’ll need to ask questions about the bike’s history, age, and any previous issues it’s had, as well as taking it for a test ride to see if it’s a good fit for you physically.
The MTB Experience For Less
A mountain bike is a huge investment, and even if you’re shopping for something that costs a few hundred dollars, it’s still important to get it right.
As you can see from our expert recommendations, there are some savvy options out there for budget mountain bikes, so you don’t have to spend a fortune to start enjoying the sport for yourself.