The 10 Best Mountain Bikes for Beginners in 2020
Are you looking for the most thrilling experience? Try mountain biking!
Let’s paint a picture for a moment; you are all in a queue, the leader blows the whistle, and the wheels start rolling. You cut through the wind as the tires bounce over the rocks. All you can hear is the shuffling of pedals. Now, this is the ultimate adventure most bikers look forward to.
You’ve probably ridden a bike before, and you know how satisfying the experience can be. It could have been your brother’s road bike or your sister’s miniature hardtail. No matter the type, we are pretty sure you are looking forward to recreating that moment again and again.
Do you know why mountain bikes are the most common rides? Because they give you a bit of everything. Their versatile nature means you can switch gears and get a road, city, or cruiser bike feeling.
And now to the most appropriate question; what are the best mountain bikes for beginners? There are so many of them. But since the vast majority of the internet can be confusing, we will be discussing the 10 best models that offer excellent performance at affordable prices.
Short on time? Here is our top recommendation: Diamondback Bicycles Hook 27.5 Hardtail Mountain Bike. It consists of the finest components while keeping the price ridiculously low.
Best Mountain Bikes for Beginners
Diamondback Bicycles Hook 27.5 Hardtail Mountain Bike
Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 Hardtail Mountain Bike
Schwinn Bonafide Mountain Bike
Raleigh Bikes Kodiak 2 Mountain Bike
Merax 26" Mountain Bicycle
Gravity FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain Bike
Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike
Huffy Bicycle Company Huffy Hardtail Mountain Bike
Xspec 26" 21-Speed Folding Mountain Bike
Kent KZ2600 Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike
Here are a few reliable models that will get you started without spending large sums of money:
1. Diamondback Bicycles Hook 27.5 Hardtail Mountain Bike
Are you looking for a simple, lightweight bike for trail-blazing? Look no further than Diamondback Bicycles Hook. It comes with an amazing paint job, SRAM gear components, and super-fluid responsiveness.
This is a hardtail with top-quality 120mm SR-Suntour forks. These are very reliable absorbing shocks and give you better control of the bike. With 24 gear options, you can easily switch it down to cruise through hills and shift up to speed it downhill.
It’s surprising how a stripped-down bike like Diamondback Bicycles Hook can offer reliable performance. For a beginner, there should be nothing to complain about. After all, the tires, brakes, and the rest of the parts are designed to withstand long durations of hard use.
Unfortunately, this bike does have a few cons. First, it doesn’t come with mountain bike accessories like a water bottle holder, and the seat is a little narrow and uncomfy. But all these things can be fixed or replaced without too much hassle.
Find a new comfortable seat for your bike, click here!
For most bike enthusiasts, affordability can mean “lame.” However, when you try out Diamondback Bicycles Hook, you’ll come to appreciate how simple bikes can meet all your expectations. You’ll need to make a few adjustments and upgrades from your end to get the best out of it.
2. Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 Hardtail Mountain Bike
Like Diamond Hook above, Raleigh Tokul 2 is a superbly lightweight low-slung ride. It bears an aluminum frame, all-weather hydraulic brakes, and riser handlebars. The latter promotes healthy, upright riding.
This bike is ideal for those who don’t have a lot of money to buy multiple rigs. With numerous gears, you could turn it into anything you want from a cruiser to a road bike. With its low and maneuverable design, no trails will be too challenging.
The SR Suntour fork absorbs impact without making you work too hard on pedaling. Do you want to know the most impressive part? Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 packs a lot of clout with its practical features, yet it falls below $1000. This means you don’t have to worry about burning a hole in your pockets.
Like the one above, the seat it comes with is too narrow and might need replacing. There are also very few colors (Dark Gray, Red) to choose from.
To read our full review of the Raleigh Tokul 2 Hardtail Mountain Bike follows this link.
Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 and Diamondback Hook above have so much in common. The same number of gears, same price point, a single-drivetrain, and low-slung design. Both of them are versatile and would take you anywhere you want.
3. Schwinn Bonafide Mountain Bike
If you are looking for the beginner mountain bike under $500, one of the options on the list Schwinn Bonafide Mountain Bike, it’s supremely affordable. This is the core reason why it’s favorable among many people.
Features-wise, only the frame is of medium quality. Everything else from the gear components to the fork is well-built. The bike comes with a 24-speed Shimano drivetrain for smooth shifting.
For less pesky maintenance, this mountain bike carries along with a durable alloy crank for steady gearing. It also arrives with thick, 29-inch quick-rolling tires that effortlessly glide over obstacles. The knobby treads will keep you steady on wet terrains.
So what’s the catch? Nothing at all. Schwinn Bonafide Mountain Bike has durable parts that can withstand all the beatings of frequent riding. However, it might need frequent maintenance. With a 5 year limited warranty, there is nothing to worry about.
Why bother spending thousands of dollars on a high-end bike when you can get Schwinn Bonafide Mountain Bike for a measly $500 and below? And the beauty of this is that there is no catch. If anything, the wheels have been enlarged to give you impressive shock absorption.
4. Raleigh Bikes Kodiak 2 Mountain Bike
Does the thought of a full-suspension bike warm up your stomach? Does it make you want to get out in bad weather for a ride? If you answered yes to these questions, there here is the best suggestion for you- Raleigh Bikes Kodiak 2.
Raleigh tends to cut down on some things, so their bikes don’t cost an arm and a leg. However, with this one, they did not hold back. To combat any form of discomfort, you get an SR Suntour Raidon fork, RockShox Monarch rear suspension, and 27.5-inch Kenda tires. The tires also do offer insane traction.
You will also appreciate the minimalistic design of this bike. It packs only the most useful features resulting in a lightweight model for easy maneuvering. What about braking power? Well, there is nothing to worry about. The hydraulic brakes it comes with are all-weather.
Raleigh Bikes Kodiak 2 gives you a test of a high-end mountain bike without the affiliated costly price tag. The components are of high quality and will stand the test of time. There is a possibility you might not need to change anything on this bike. If you really crave for the ultimate performance, this is the ride to pick.
5. Merax 26" Mountain Bicycle
Sometimes, a pocket-friendly and lightweight ride like Merax 26’’ Mountain Bike is all you need. Stylish with vibrant colors on the frame, fork, and seat. With 24-speed Shimano drivetrain, it becomes easier to shift gears.
This is a hardtail with a single, high-performance suspension to the front. This will soak up the bumps and let you worry about what lies ahead-not below. Although many standard wheels come in 27+ inches, this one is 26. Nevertheless, the difference is insignificant.
With hydraulic brakes, you can ride in any weather and never worry about the bike failing to decelerate. The maximum amount of weight Merax Finiss can handle 330 pounds. Anything above that will overtax it.
Merax Finiss has excellent ratings and reviews from former users on many online shops. It has Shimano components, hydraulic brakes, high-performance suspension, and a durable aluminum frame. All these parts normally push the price higher, but this bike still comes cheaply.
In short, if you are not willing to pay more than $300 bucks for a beginner mountain bike, then check out Merax Finiss.
6. Gravity FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain Bike
Gravity FSX 1.0 bears all the hallmarks of a top-end ride, but without the hefty price tag.
To mention a few; the ride comes with double-wall rims, high-quality shock absorbing SR Suntour forks, trouble-free Shimano shifters, and hydraulic disc brakes. Furthermore, some parts like the wheel and seat post are quick-release. If anything doesn’t feel right, you pull it out, adjust and pull it in.
Gravity FSX Full Suspension is a 24-speed beast. This means you can get a lot of different speeds from it. To butter it all up-you won’t part with anything above $500.
Although you’ll have spent some money to buy Gravity FSX Full Suspension, you’ll still feel lucky to have it. Why? Because it’s a steal to have a bike that costs less than $400, yet it comes with top-of-the-line components. Judging by the massive number of motivating reviews, it does deliver the best performance.
To read our full review of the Gravity FSX 1.0 Bike by following this link.
7. Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike
One of the best fat mountain bikes to consider is Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike.
You have to expect fat rides to carry a significant amount of weight-especially if they have steel frames. To keep weight within levels, this bike features a lightweight aluminum frame and alloy rims.
The fat tires are knobby and thus ideal for cruising virtually any terrain-including sandy beaches. Even though the suspension is absent, the large tires will soak up most of the impact. Furthermore, the lack of shock absorbers will make it effortless to pedal.
Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike packs a mere 7-speed drivetrain for sufficiently climbing steep hills. Its number of gears may not be fancy, but the parts do put up a formidable performance. This means you will not bother with maintenance most of the time. Believe it when we say Crappy gear parts can make you cry or want to pull them out.
There are many fat bikes on the market. However, the one thing that puts people off is the hefty price tag attached to them.
Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike allows you to own one without having to overtax your pockets.
To read our full review of the Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike follows this link.
8. Huffy Bicycle Company Huffy Hardtail Mountain Bike
Huffy Hardtail Mountain Bike, 21-Speed springs to action anytime you need to. It doesn’t matter whether you’ll be hitting the forest trails, descending down the steepest Mach Chicken, or strolling around the neighborhood. This bike is the definition of “ever ready.”
The drivetrain mechanism rolls on a high-tensile chain and connects to the fluid Shimano derailleur. You have a whopping 21 gear options to select from. The Kolo 1200 suspension is more than willing to take up all the impact so you can sink deeper into the experience.
Huffy Hardtail Mountain Bike sports a reduced design that appeals mostly to young folks aged between 12 and 19. The red glossing on the frame gives it a captivating modern vibe.
For proper riding, the handlebar rises slightly to avoid your back from bending all through the trip. Furthermore, the ATB saddle, resin pedals, and Krayton grips ensure nothing gets in your way of having fun.
If you have a small body or wish to buy a beginner mountain for your kid aged between 12 and 19, Huffy Hardtail Mountain Bike, 21-Speed should surface.
It comes with every essential part of a full blast mountain bike, including multiple gears, suspension, derailleurs, and shifters. Moreover, here is the best part; you might spend less than $200 on it.
But if your kids are very young aged and don't know how to ride a bike, then all you need is a tandem bike attachment to give them the joy of riding a bike along with you.
9. Xspec 26" 21-Speed Folding Mountain Bike
The world is becoming supremely crowded. As all forms of challenges creep in, one point remains valid; bikes can simplify our lives. If you ride to work and need something super portable, go for Xspec 26" Folding Mountain Bike.
This is a powerful asset to have if you are always on the move. Instead of living it outside and give thieves a reason to celebrate, you can fold it up and squeeze it next to your office, in the classroom or a subway.
But it’s not just about portability. This bike pulls up impressive performance thanks to the fast-rolling 24" x 1.95-inch tires, 21-speed drivetrain, and convenient Shimano shifters. Its backbone sports a well-toughened up steel frame for supporting huge weights.
Another stunning quality of Xspec 26" Folding Mountain Bike is the ability to weigh less, yet it shelves a massive frame, front and rear fenders, and dual suspension. If you don’t want to be held back by anything, this is the best beginner mountain bike to go for.
Big fan of the folding bike? Check out our top 6 Folding Mountain Bikes review here!
Xspec 26’’ Folding Mountain Bike provides you with a faster, stronger, lightweight, and a well-endowed mountain bike for all sorts of terrains. The folding mechanism is a godsend, especially for students, workers, and seasoned adventure lovers. The most astounding thing is that you actually get it for very few bucks.
10. Kent KZ2600 Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike
We have seen Kent KZ26OO in action, tested its limits, and felt its weight. It a real game-changer when it comes to mountain biking. To begin with, you get top-quality, almost wear-proof dual suspension for impact absorption. These will make you worry less about your bum and legs taking a hit.
When it’s time to get ahead of your competitors, you will appreciate the generosity of KZ2600’s 21-speed drivetrain. This is operated via the distinguished Shimano twist shifters. If the speed gets too scary limits, you can bring your ride to a stop through both pull and hydraulic brake.
The braking system comes in two common styles to give you the best performance. Design-wise, Kent KZ26OO’s flashy colors not only give it a modern look but impresses anyone who comes in contact with it. So if you value how you look, this ride will work for you.
On the flip side, only the seat post sports quick-release mechanism for faster adjustment. The rear and front wheel, on the other hand, are secured through screws that take time to lock and unlock. However, this should not be a problem if an expert does the repairs for you.
Kent KZ26OO Mountain Bike offers mountain biking beginners a chance to get started the right way. It accomplishes this in two ways; through quality components and affordable pricing. Obviously, you might bump into one or two issues, but hey, nothing is ever perfect.
What to Consider Before Buying a Mountain Bike
There are so many things you must know while planning to buy a mountain bike. If you proceed to make your order blindly, you will have a lackluster experience. Here is a list of all the top features to consider:
It's quite difficult these days to even find a mountain bike without a suspension. Many are now equipped with both front and rear shock absorbers. Those with one are often known as "hardtails."
They say learning the hard way has a lot of benefits. That's why absolute beginners need hardtails. It gives them a chance to navigate through the rough hurdles with a minimal amount of impact absorption.
Suspension makes riding off-road easier on the whole, as it is more forgiving of any rider errors. However, it can take away the learning experience needed to become an accomplished rider. Without them, you will be compelled to learn how to negotiate obstacles or an uneven track properly.
A bike with suspension is also more challenging to balance, which might be an issue if you haven't cycled for many years. Here's how it can be a problem; while climbing an incline, you need more energy. Unfortunately, some of the pedaling power gets absorbed by the forks making your work even harder.
So we don't live you in limbo, here is a valid advice-it's better to go for hardtails when you don't know what awaits you ahead. Their design makes them the "in-between" of zero suspension and full suspension.
You must know how to pick the right frame. In the olden days, it was relatively simple to size one's frame. If there was an inch clearance between the crossbar and your crotch, then the size was right.
However, with different frame geometries on modern bikes, things are less straightforward. Sometimes you may need to visit a bike specialist to determine what will fit best.
How do I know if the bike fits, right? Normally, when you’re sitting on your ride, your legs should be slightly bent when at the bottom of the pedal cycle, your shoulders relaxed, and your arms partially bent.
There are guidelines based on height, but you should definitely try a particular frame before buying. For that reason, buying a bike online will be a fulfilling experience only if you know what measurements to go for. Use the provided charts while placing an order.
So what tire works best for you? Road tires have a rather smooth tread, while off-road ones feature larger knobs of rubber that help provide better grip when on dirt tracks.
There are also those with a smooth tread in the center portion and an off-road type tread on the sides. These are useful if you will be doing any cycling on tarmac. The sides will come in handy when you get into the "badlands." such as riding to and from your nearest off-road track, as well as providing extra grip when on dirt.
The terrain of your place should help you figure out the tire that will serve well. While you ride won't pop up with everything you want, it's very easy to get worthy spare gear in any shop near you.
Gearing system (Drivetrain)
The use of gears in mountain biking has enabled riders to change torque and amplify the versatility of the sport. The gearing system is also called the drivetrain. It integrates the crankset, chainrings, cassette, chain, derailleurs, and shifters.
Mountain bikes have many gears that add up to a max of 30. Your riding style and the nature of the terrain will help you make the best choice. Be warned; high-end components are costly, albeit being durable and reliable. Furthermore, they'll demand less maintenance.
While riding fast or adventuring on a technical downhill trail, you need the brakes for deceleration. This way, you won’t plunge into people or bush. Disc brakes are a relatively recent development in mountain biking, though they are quickly replacing the old popular rim brakes ( cantilever and V-brakes).
The rim braking system works with a pad assembled on either side of the rim. These are engaged by a cable pulled by the braking lever on the handlebar. It is a cheaper system, mostly found on entry-level mountain bikes, and offers less stopping power. Not to mention, they are prone to wear out and lose grip due to the rim being closer to the tire and grabbing all sorts of dirt.
On a disc braking system, the rotors are assembled on the wheel hubs, whilst the braking pads are mounted on a brake caliper on the frame and fork, actuated by brake levers on the handlebars. Rotor sizes vary from 140 – 200 mm, the larger ones representing more stopping power.
Handlebar and stem
The main features to consider when choosing a handlebar is the width and the style (flat or riser). Flat handlebars are generally lighter, sometimes offering more strength and durability. Riser handlebars put the rider in a more upright position, and this promotes a healthy riding style.
If you buy a wider handlebar, it's possible to cut the edges and reduce it to the minimum recommended by the manufacturer. Original lengths vary from 560-600mm (cross-country) to 760-820mm (downhill). Wider handlebars offer better control, but prevent quick turns, demanding enhanced ability for riding in narrow single-tracks.
The consensus is that the handlebar should be at a maximum of 100-150mm wider than your shoulder to balance comfort and control. Check also if the handlebar grips are of good quality and comfortable for your hands.
How to Choose the Best Entry Level Mountain Bike That Fits You
For a first-time buyer, all of the information given above prompts the question: Which bike should I buy?
The answer depends on many factors:
- The style of mountain biking you are into;
- How often you plan to ride;
- Whether you plan to ride it on trails or also in cities;
- Whether you are planning to participate in any competition;
- Your budget.
By the end of the day, what you need is a reliable bike. One that is fun to use and that will take you safely back home, leaving you with the feeling that you can't wait to ride again. Let's start with the budget.
Budget is one of the main concerns for anyone looking to grab a beginner mountain bike. However, remember that it's a piece of mechanical equipment and you don't want to have a cheap one. Cheapest machines will give you headaches, making you spend money on repairs - or even cause you to have an accident while riding.
If you have a tight budget, try to find an affordable entry-level mountain bike with the best components possible. Alternatively, you can buy a second-hand bike that will offer better parts for the same price.
To start with, it's fundamental to find the right frame size, according to your height and riding style. Frames that are too small or too big may cause discomfort while riding, leading even to an ailment over the long run. Another important detail is to check the clearance between the top tube and the bottom of your crotch; the recommended gap between them is around 2 to 4 inches (50-100 mm).
Since the beginning of mountain biking, the market has been supplied with 26-inch wheels, which were originally adapted from the cruiser bikes. During the 2000s, some manufacturers started trying new sizes, leading to the development of modern 29-inch wheels (29ers) and 27.5 inches (650b). The differences in size may seem slight, but for specific purposes, some are more appropriate than others.
26-inch wheels, having a smaller diameter and shorter spokes, are nimble and often stronger compared to the bigger sizes, offering better maneuverability. They also have the vast majority of spare parts and components in the market.
29ers offer a larger circumference, as well as stronger grip and stability, which help them to roll over obstacles better than smaller sizes. However, they are heavier, thus needing more effort to accelerate. Furthermore, since they are less nimble, they turn slowly.
The 650b is the most recent trend in mountain bike wheels, with the promise of offering the best of the other two sizes. They have a bigger circumference with better rolling performance than 26-inch wheels, although they don’t perform as well as 29ers. However, they beat 29ers in relation to acceleration and handling, being also lighter and stronger.
The best wheel for you will depend on your riding style and the terrain. Cross-country/trail riders will benefit from the bigger wheels. Free-riders, on the other hand, should stick to smaller and stronger wheels. Also, check if your wheels are coming with a double wall rim (stronger!), tubeless-ready, and quick-release axles (handful).
This is where you put all your effort while riding. Unfortunately, most people regard them as the simplest details that need no enhancement or consideration.
Most bikes come with simple flat pedals or sometimes with none. In the case of the latter, you'll have to buy them separately. Flat pedals (or platform) are the common option for beginners because they are cheaper, easier to bail the foot off, and don't need a special shoe to use. If you chose flat pedals, check if they come with a good grip.
However, if you want to improve your pedal efficiency (due to the solid connection between shoe and pedal), you must consider having clip-in pedals. These are sometimes known as "clipless" pedals. It takes time for first-time users to adapt and learn how to twist heels to release.
Once you know all the technical aspects surrounding them, you'll enjoy their smaller and lighter feel. Some companies offer a mixed pedal with a platform added to the clip center. Buying a clip-in pedal means you'll need to buy clip shoes. Therefore, reserve part of your budget for this.
Accessories are an essential part of a bike. However, people have different needs and preferences. This is why most bikes arrive stripped down to the basics. The only additions you are likely to get are kickstand and fenders. The rest you’ll have to buy on your own.
Hardtail Vs. Full Suspension: Which is Better?
Are you familiar with mountain bikes? Do you know the difference between a hardtail, full suspension, and zero suspension bikes? The puzzled look on your face says it all. Now, let's take you for a quick, fun ride that unravels all this mystery.
Hardtail bikes have shocks in the front fork and no rear shocks. The lack of dual-suspension makes them cheaper. While such machines can meet your needs, they don't have the comfort spotted in dual/full suspension bikes.
Full suspension bikes, on the other hand, bear dual suspensions-one to the front and another one to the rear. These bikes can glide over rocks, tree roots, and other uneven surfaces like it's a joke. All the impact gets absorbed. This means your legs will have a holiday, and your butt won't burn from taking on a hit after a hit.
On the flip side, full-suspension bikes are costly and demand frequent maintenance. They also bag more weight than hardtails. There is also a group of bicycles that come without suspensions. These categories mainly include road, city, urban, and other performance bikes.
So which is better between full suspension and hardtail? The answer depends on the riding you do, the terrain ahead, your strength, and your financial ability. Note that full suspension bikes cost more and thus are not ideal for anyone on a slim budget.
To add to that, if your body hasn't toughened up for extreme performance, then you need the assistance of either a hardtail or full suspension. Athletes, seasoned riders, and stunt performers prefer bikes without suspension because they are simple and lightweight.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)
It's possible not to know everything about mountain bikes-especially when you are a beginner. Here are a few questions people deal with regarding mountain bike cycling:
Q. How much should I spend on a decent beginner mountain bike?
A. Bike experts will advise you to spend something in the ranges of $2000 to $2500 on a decent entry-level mountain. But here is our best guess; that's an exorbitant figure for you, right? We do agree too.
There are many mountain bikes for beginners that cost as little as $300. However, for the sake of keeping maintenance expenses low, we advise going a bit further. Any bike between $500 and $1500 will take care of your needs.
Q. What are the best mountain bike brands?
A. There are many reliable mountain bike brands. However, some like Giant specializes in high-end bikes. Brands that focus on affordable models include Raleigh, Schwinn, Diamondback, Merax, Kent, and Gravity.
Q. Is mountain biking suitable for your health?
A. Yes, mountain biking has many benefits both to the body and mind. To begin with, it's a great way to get in shape, workout, or flex tired muscles. The excitement that comes from social rides pumps up the endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These happy hormones boost your mood, giving you a sense of satisfaction.
If you suffer from issues such as blood pressure, overweight, moodiness, and muscle pains, you need to start riding a bike.
Q. How can I be safe on a mountain bike?
A. It's best to consider safety while riding mountain bikes no matter how skilled you are. Accidents don't come knocking. Otherwise, we would be ready for them. For this reason, you must ensure to wear a helmet, ride a roadworthy bike, and obey traffic or biking rules.
The best mountain bikes for beginners feature all the vital parts that make riding both fun and safe. Some of these components include gears, suspension, reliable brakes, quick-rolling tires, and upright handlebars.
Now, since the word “beginner” can come off as cheap to some people, let’s make things clear a little. Some entry-level MTBs can cost as high as $2000. It all depends on the brands and what went into its making.
Nevertheless, we do know you are hunting for a reliable bike that doesn’t cost a lot. This review has covered them all from hardtails, fat bikes, full suspensions to those without shock absorbers. They also do come in various gear options, and riding styles.
All the options we discussed are customizable. You could add fenders, kickstand, better gravel tires, etc. to improve performance. Do remember to observe road rules and wear some protection. Got any questions or suggestions? Voice them out via the comment section below.