Best Mountain Bikes Under $500, $1000, & $2000
A buyer's guide for finding the best mountain bike for your money
How to choose the best mountain bike for the money
You don't have to spend a fortune to find a great mountain bike that will serve you well. This guide is dedicated to riders on a budget who want to maximize their trail riding capability for their dollar. We'll group the bikes in this guide by price, starting with the best mountain bikes under $500, then $1,000 and $2,000 price points. We'll also describe the 3 different riders who best fit each price point, so be sure to check out where you stand.
This guide is for you if:
- You're looking to get into mountain biking for the very first time
- You've already been bitten by the trail bug and you need a better bike
- You're a seasoned rider who's looking for the best upgrade at the best price
What To Look For
Before we get started, make sure to pay attention to these features:
There's a lot that goes into finding the best mountain bike for the money besides just comparing prices. Here's a quick, non-technical guide to the most important features and components that you should look at so you can find a bike that not only plays nice with your wallet, but satisfies your riding ambitions as well.
What to look for:
- Wheel size: Bikes with 26" wheels are usually the most affordable, but if you want to really enjoy yourself out on the trail, 27.5" and 29" wheels are much better suited to tough terrain
- Drivetrain: You can only climb hills as easily as your gears will allow. A simple 3x drivetrain will likely do the job on mellow trails, but if you want to take on bigger terrain, you'll likely appreciate having a bigger rear cassette and a simpler 2x or 1x drivetrain.
- Brakes: The hierarchy of brakes go from rim brakes to mechanical disc brakes to hydraulic disc brakes. Better brakes mean you can control your speed more easily and with less hand fatigue.
- Frame material: An aluminum frame is the perfect place to start for beginners or those looking to save some money. But if your riding aspirations are high, you can't beat the lightweight performance of a carbon frame.
- Suspension: Take a look at the fork on each bike you're considering. A higher quality fork with more travel will go a long way in making your bike easier to control as you ride tougher trails.
- Additional features: There may be some other factors that help you decide that a bike is perfect for your intensions. Does it have mounts for a rear rack so you can use it as a commuter? Does it have a dropper post that will give you better maneuverability on the downhills? Little things can make a huge difference!
Best Mountain Bikes Under $500
The Beginner Rider
The best mountain bikes under $500 are perfect for beginner riders who want to dip their toes into the waters of off-road riding without a big financial commitment.
Beginner riders are usually looking for a bike they can enjoy on and off the trails, so comfort and versatility are key. These models are perfect for after work joy rides, weekend trail explorations, and weekday commutes on the bike path.
If you're looking for an affordable do-it-all bike that you can commute, cruise, and shred on, check out the models below.
The Trek 820 is a great choice for riders who want the versatility of having a dependable, comfortable commuter and a dirt road and trail explorer all in one. The 820 is more upright than the rest of the models on the list, and it'll serve as a great stepping stone to a more active lifestyle. It's a great bike for those who want to start riding more often.
Best Mountain Bikes Under $1000
Budget-Aware Mountain Bikers
The best mountain bikes under $1000 are perfect for the budget-conscious mountain biker who wants a seriously fun trail bike at a price that won't break the bank.
You'll fit into this group if:
- You already enjoy mountain biking and just need a little more capability to improve your skills and ride harder trails
- You're still new to the game but you want to invest in a bike that'll keep up with you as your abilities improve over time
Trek Marlin 5
The Trek Marlin 5 costs just a bit over the $500 mark, but offers a few key upgrades over the Marlin 4. The Marlin 5 is the first bike in the Marlin lineup to feature hydraulic disc brakes which make braking much more controlled and easier on your hands. This model also comes with a bigger rear cassette so you can pedal up steep hills more easily.
Best Mountain Bikes Under $2000
The Dedicated Trail Rider
The best mountain bikes under $2000 take off-road capability to new levels and are perfect for dedicated trail riders who love challenging themselves on tough terrain.
Riders who want the benefit of higher performance components and lighter, stronger frame materials will appreciate the serious upgrades from this price point.
If you're looking for a killer model that you won't outgrow anytime soon, you'll find a few great options below.
Salsa Rangefinder 27.5+
The Salsa Rangefinder 27.5+ comes in just over the $1000 cut off and offers tons of performance upgrades for the rider who wants to take on some really tough trails. Besides the dropper post that improves handling on rough terrain, riders will love the extra wide 27.5 x 2.8" tires that offer superior grip and stability.
Trek Procaliber 9.5
The Trek Procaliber 9.5 is a race-ready, ultra fast cross country mountain bike that has all the features you could ask for in a model designed for top speed. The carbon frame, 1x12 Shimano drivetrain, and trail-smoothing IsoSpeed decoupler combine to give riders an astonishingly capable ride at a price point that can't be beat.