Best Beginner Mountain Bikes to Get You Into Mountain Biking

Last updated: March 03, 2020
BEST OVERALL
Lightweight, Strong, Comfortable and Efficient
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BEST BUDGET
Sturdy, Reliable, Multipurpose and Low-Cost
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BEST FAT TIRE
Durable, Stable, Versatile and Upgradable
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BEST HARDTAIL
All-Rounder, Durable, Upgradable and Affordable
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BEST FULL-SUSPENSION
Versatile, Robust, Capable and Hard-Wearing
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Your guide

Mountain biking is not only thrilling and liberating but also an expensive sport or hobby. As someone new to this extreme outdoor activity, it is unlikely that you will be willing to fork out a substantial amount of cash for a new bike. And you would probably be looking for a good beginner mountain bike that serves its purpose but keeps things simple.

Bearing all this in mind, we have compiled a handy buying guide that features our choice of top 5 best beginner mountain bikes that we think are capable of delivering a positive mountain biking experience for new riders.

Top 5 Mountain Bikes for Beginners

Okay, so you are all pumped up about mountain biking and can’t wait to start shredding the trails. We get it. Now that you have decided to take a plunge into the world of rocky and rooty terrain, muddy tracks, icy trails, etc., it’s time to put together the right gear in place for your off-road adventures.

Mountain Biking at Sunset

Even before you start stocking up on essentials such as a mountain bike helmet, a pair of mountain bike gloves, a pair of trail-focused cycling shoes and a bike pump, your primary task will be to choose the best bicycle that will be your able companion on those tricky journeys uphill, downhill and in the corners.

As someone who’s just getting started with the sport, and with the sheer range of models available to cater to different abilities, expectations, and budgets, it can be quite overwhelming and intimidating to choose the best beginner mountain bike that is suitable for one’s specific needs.

Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about how to go about deciding which two-wheeler is right for you. Our mountain biking experts have sorted it all for you and have curated a comprehensive list of starter mountain bikes that are well-suited to address the needs of a broad category of new MTB riders.

In this buying guide, we have featured 5 best intro mountain bikes that outperform many others when it comes to overall value, budget, or specifications such as fat tire, hardtail, or full-suspension.

1. Best Overall - Giant Talon 2

Specifications:

  • Weight: Best-in-class
  • Frame Material: ALUXX-grade aluminum
  • Wheel Size: 27.5 inches
  • Tire Width: 2.4 inches

Key Features:

  • Lightweight frameset featuring ALUXX SL aluminum technology
  • RockShox XC30 suspension fork with 100mm of travel
  • Tektro HDC M275 hydraulic disc brakes
  • Shimano Alivio front and rear derailleurs

Giant Talon 2 Review

As a brand, Giant has earned itself a reputation for manufacturing competitively priced bicycles that combine high quality with innovative technology. The 2020 Talon 2 from Giant’s popular Talon series is one of the bicycle manufacturer’s most affordable offerings from its line-up of mountain bikes.

Built in-house using Giant’s proven ALUXX SL aluminum technology that features a high strength-to-weight ratio, the Talon 2 manages to retain a light weight without sacrificing strength, and it ticks all the right boxes to claim the top spot in our category of “Best Overall Beginner Mountain Bike”.

The ever-dependable hardtail sports a trail-tuned relaxed frame geometry for added comfort and control on rugged terrain and is spec’ed with both entry-level and pro-level components such as a RockShox XC30 suspension fork, Tektro HDC M275 hydraulic disc brakes and Maxxis Ardent tires.

The result is a complete trail-focused package that does not hold new riders back from getting out there to indulge their passion for singletracks, dirt, cross-country trails, and more.

At $750, the 2020 Talon 2 hits a sweet spot between price and performance. And for a mountain bike under $1,000, it scores well on a host of performance factors such as traction, stability, comfort, control, and versatility, which makes it great choice for beginners wanting to explore the MTB life without shelling out a big wad of cash.

Wire bead 27.5 x 2.4-inch tires introduce just the right degree of playfulness into your rides without hindering the bike’s ability to roll over trail obstacles and uneven terrain.

The aluminum frameset further optimizes the confident, stable handling delivered by the knobby tires, and the frame’s classic off-road design helps you strike the right balance between control and quickness.

A 100mm suspension fork does a sound job of absorbing shocks, and hydraulic brakes, coupled with wide tires, ensure confidence-inspiring cornering and descents. Thus, despite being a new mountain bike rider, you feel at home riding adventurous terrain and pedaling enthusiastically to reach the top.

To sum up, if you are looking to kick-off your off-road adventures with an entry-level mountain bike that cuts the mustard without weighing you down with a hefty price tag, you can’t go wrong with the Giant Talon 2.

From comfortable singletrack riding and reasonably fast climbs to stable rides on rocky terrain and efficient descents, this cohesively built aluminum hardtail can support it all. In Giant’s own words, the Talon is your ticket to XC adventures, and the Talon 2 merely drives this point home.

Pros
  • Light, strong and stiff frame
  • Relaxed and comfortable geometry
  • Reliable braking power
  • Quick, confident handling
  • Wide tires to absorb bumps and trail chatter
  • Economically priced
Cons
  • Lightweight but may feel heavy compared to more expensive variants

2. Best Budget - Trek 820

Specifications:

  • Weight: 33.68lbs
  • Frame Size: 13 – 22.5 inches
  • Wheel Size: 26 inches
  • Tire Width: 2 inches

Key Features:

  • Trek custom steel frame
  • 21-speed Shimano drivetrain
  • Tektro alloy linear-pull brake
  • Durable alloy wheels and aluminum hubs and rims

Trek 820 Review

Purchasing a good entry-level mountain bike does not necessarily mean one has to drop a boatload of cash to own one. One can still veer off the tarmac with the support of a beginner mountain bike that does not cost a bomb and yet manages to impress with quality specs and reliable performance.

The Trek 820 is a prime example. At $399.99, it is a great-value buy for aspiring off-road riders who are not too keen to part with a lot of money in the early stages.

And the fact that its quality, versatility, and durability far exceed its price only adds to its appeal and makes it an excellent entry-level XC mountain bike for budget-conscious, dirt-curious novices looking to get into trail riding.

This low-priced mountain bike for beginners is built to last, and that too without bogging you down with its weight. Its custom steel frame is both light and strong, and the solid frame is ably supported by a host of rugged mountain bike parts that make riding comfortable and enjoyable just about anywhere – be it gravel paths, light singletracks, multi-use trails or potholed city streets.

The componentry is reliable and includes a 21-speed Shimano drivetrain with precise EZ-Fire shifters for efficient pedaling. A shock-absorbing SR Suntour 75mm front suspension fork helps take the edge off bumps and delivers smooth rides on rough terrain.

High-volume, semi-slick 26-inch tires roll well on paved roads and trails alike, and the use of aluminum hubs and rims saves weight and also hold up to the demands of technical terrain.

Trek’s 820 is available in six different frame sizes, meaning regardless of your height, you are likely to find a frame that offers you a comfortable fit. And you also don’t have to worry about whether this bike is right for users with a heavy build as the hardtail can accommodate a weight of up to 300lbs.

This off-road bike comes equipped with mounts for carrying accessories such as racks, fenders, and a kickstand. So, it is versatile enough to double as a rugged commuter that has ample space to hold everything you need for your long rides.

And if you are in the market for the best beginner women’s mountain bike, you don’t have to look beyond the 820 as there is a women-specific model too with a women-specific saddle and an easier-to-mount step-through frame for the comfort of female riders.

With no deal-breaker to speak of, the only limitations worth highlighting are the comfort issues reported by some reviewers concerning the seat post and the unsuitability of the bike for advanced trails, which isn’t expected from a beginner bike anyway.

Keeping these two aspects aside, if you are looking for a moderately priced starter MTB with a high performance-to-price ratio, the Trek 820 is definitely worthy of your attention. The multipurpose bike is a good bang for the buck, and it offers you the freedom to go wherever you want to go – no matter what your riding capability or the terrain you wish to explore.

Pros
  • Strong and durable construction
  • High-volume, semi-slick tires
  • Shock-absorbing suspension fork
  • Suited for riding on diverse terrain
  • Mounts for racks, fenders, lights, kickstands, etc.
  • Lifetime warranty
Cons
  • May need some tune-up occasionally
  • Saddle could feel uncomfortable to some

3. Best Fat Tire - Mongoose Dolomite

Specifications:

  • Weight: 51.5lbs
  • Frame Size: 17 inches
  • Wheel Size: 26 inches
  • Tire Width: 4 inches

Key Features:

  • Durable high-tensile steel frame
  • Supersized all-terrain knobby tires
  • Beach cruiser pedals and alloy rims
  • 7-speed Shimano drivetrain and dual mechanical disc brakes

Mongoose Dolomite Review

Arguably, the most desirable aspect of a fat bike or fat-tire bike is that it supports all-season riding and rolls over just about any surface. What with oversized tires ensuring your rides feel stable, comfy, and cushiony on soft ground and mountainous routes alike, you feel confident to push your limits to get the most out of your mountain biking experience.

If you are keen to make an assured but affordable entry into the world of fat bikes, look no further than the Mongoose Dolomite. An absolute stunner, the first thing that will probably strike you about the Dolomite is its big and plump tires and wide red tire rims.

The supersized 26-inch all-terrain tires are 4 inches wide, and they are punchy enough to handle bumps and obstacles effectively – implying smooth rides both on and off the road.

At less than $330, this men’s beginner fat-tire mountain bike is surprisingly affordable, and, although the componentry is entry-level, it does not skimp on quality.

The cruiser-style frame is made of high-tensile steel, which lends this beginner bike a certain degree of strength and durability. The paintwork is spot on, and the lightweight alloy rims help keep the weight in check while contributing to the bike’s speed and performance.

The geometry emphasizes male riders and the bike features a powerful and highly responsive mechanical braking system to ensure rider safety in all weather conditions.

Mongoose has equipped the Dolomite with a 7-speed Shimano rear derailleur and twist shifters that support easy uphill climbs and ultra-smooth gear transitions.

So, you can expect a superior riding experience while taking on some of the most challenging trails off the road. And thanks to the use of beach cruiser model pedals and thick knobby tires, you do not get that feeling of sinking when riding on soft and unstable surfaces.

This men’s entry-level MTB is easy to assemble, and it is sized for adult riders with a height ranging between 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet. The threadless headset is adjustable and can be tweaked to accommodate users of different heights.

The Dolomite weighs approximately 51.5lbs when fully set-up. The substantial weight, while being ideal for large and heavy riders, could render this bike a tad bit uncomfortable for users with a small build.

Then again, the very weight of this fat-tire MTB makes it a great exercise bike that will get you a good workout while you pedal around the neighborhood, cruise through a sandy beach or explore the mountains.

Our final verdict? At its current asking price of ~$311, the Mongoose Dolomite is a solid starter mountain bike with superb upgrade potential. It scores well on aspects such as comfort, stability, ride quality, riding potential, and design, and it’s hard to beat it in this price range. We recommend.

Pros
  • Eye-catching cruiser-style frame
  • Comfortable geometry
  • Reliable stopping power
  • Handles bumps and obstacles well
  • Rolls well on mixed terrain
  • Easy to assemble
  • Comes with a limited lifetime warranty
Cons
  • Relatively heavy

4. Best Hardtail - Diamondback

Specifications:

  • Weight: 35lbs
  • Frame Size: 18 inches
  • Wheel Size: 29 inches
  • Tire Width: 2.1 inches

Key Features:

  • 6061-T6 aluminum alloy 29er hardtail frame
  • Shimano 3×8-speed drivetrain
  • SR Suntour suspension fork
  • Tektro mechanical disc brakes

Diamondback Overdrive 29er Review

If you are an entry-level trail rider, a hardtail MTB or a mountain bike with a front suspension will be a good launchpad for you to learn the ropes and build your confidence.

Such a mountain bike will benefit you in the initial days when you are more likely to stay on smooth, easy trails, and, compared to a full-suspension alternative, it will be lighter and low on maintenance with a simpler design and less moving parts.

And, more often than not, it will be cheaper than a full-suspension MTB, which makes it an excellent choice for you if you are on a budget.

After reviewing many models, we found the Diamondback Overdrive 29er to be the best in the category of “Beginner Hardtail Mountain Bikes”.

The Overdrive 29er has a geometry that favors singletrack and uphill riding. The componentry is made up of quality parts such as a Shimano Acera 8-speed rear derailleur for a wide gear range, and SR Suntour XCT cranks paired with a Shimano TX50 front derailleur for smooth, reliable shifting.

As for the frame, it has an aggressive stance, and the tried and true 6061-T6 aluminum alloy frame is well-designed, stylish to look at, and bolstered with custom-formed and butted tubing to give it the right amount of strength without increasing its weight considerably.

An SR Suntour suspension fork evens out bumps and ensures inexperienced riders don’t have to compromise on comfort or control while riding on trails. Tektro mechanical disc brakes facilitate reliable and smooth stopping and enable safe rides on tricky terrain.

Our best beginner hardtail also comes with an 80mm travel fork and 29-inch wheels, which work in unison to roll well over trail obstacles, making this bike ideal for aspiring off-road riders seeking singletrack fun and comfy ascents to the summit.

With regards to the set-up process, Diamondback’s beginner hardtail is shipped ready to ride, meaning it is 95% assembled when it arrives. Surprisingly, some reviewers did mention that they did not find the assembly process so seamless after all and had to visit a bike shop to have the remaining parts assembled.

Notwithstanding the minor drawbacks, at less than $550, the Diamondback Overdrive 29er is a reliable hardtail mountain bike for both intermediate riders and novices looking to jump into the sport of mountain biking.

Equipped with a host of performance-oriented features and backed up with a modest price tag, our best beginner hardtail is one capable machine that you can rely on to hone your off-road cycling skills without hurting your wallet.

Pros
  • Good balance between strength and light weight
  • Reliable stopping power
  • Superior control and comfort when riding on trails
  • Ready ride model for easy assembly
Cons
  • Some buyers experienced comfort issues with the seat
  • Some reviewers stated that assembly was not as easy as presumed

5. Best Full-Suspension - Schwinn Protocol 1.0

Specifications:

  • Weight: 44.5lbs
  • Frame Size: 16 inches
  • Wheel Size: 26 inches
  • Frame Material: Aluminum 

Key Features:

  • Schwinn aluminum full-suspension frame with knobby tires
  • 24-speed Shimano EZ-Fire trigger shifters
  • Shimano Altus rear derailleur
  • Schwinn alloy crank and Promax front and rear disc brakes

Schwinn Protocol 1.0 Review

If comfort is of paramount importance to you, a dual-suspension MTB or a mountain bike with a full-suspension design is your best bet for cushioned rides on challenging terrain. A full-suspension mountain bike comes with a shock absorber fitted in both the front and rear wheels.

Such a design allows the bike to soak up a lot of the bumps and chatter that you are likely to encounter on rough and rocky surfaces. This makes for more forgiving and fun rides on harsh trails.

Planning to dip your toes into the world of mountain biking or looking to take your intermediate mountain biking skills to the next level? Rest your search for an efficient dual suspension MTB with the Schwinn Protocol 1.0 – our choice for the “Best Beginner Full-Suspension Mountain Bike”.

So, what led us to pick the Protocol 1.0 as the best in this category? To begin with, the Schwinn Protocol 1.0 is quite the all-rounder. Although designed for the trail, it works just as well for urban riding.

Next comes the sturdy aluminum frame, which is also rust-resistant and makes for a durable yet relatively lightweight beginner full-suspension MTB.

Third, you have a high-quality suspension system that combines a front suspension fork with a rear shock for superior absorption of bumps and other impacts associated with trail riding. So, you can expect smoother, stable, and responsive rides, even when cruising the technical sections of the trail.

Up next are 24-speed Shimano EZ-Fire trigger shifters and a Shimano Altus rear derailleur that offer a wide gear range and smooth, precise shifts to enable comfortable tackling of the steepest hills, the toughest ravines, bumpy trails, and tricky downhill rides. Three-piece Schwinn alloy cranks further optimize gearing and keep pesky maintenance to a bare minimum.

What also makes this budget workhorse a good beginner full-suspension mountain bike is its powerful Promax front and rear disc brakes.

No matter whether it is your first time on technical terrain or you have some expertise to back you up on mountainous routes, feel inspired to attack tricky trails with the new-found confidence of making crisp stopping in all riding conditions.

Knobby mountain tires are yet another USP of this beginner dual-suspension MTB. Supported by light and strong double-walled alloy rims, they ensure adequate traction to minimize the chances of skidding on soft, unpredictable terrain, and the 26-inch wheels help you navigate around trails that you may be uncomfortable to attempt otherwise.

All in all, for an asking price of ~$389, the Protocol 1.0 is a smart investment for new mountain bikers shopping for a full-suspension MTB on a shoestring.

Despite a few drawbacks such as a not-so-comfortable seat and absence of a water bottle mount, this starter full-suspension mountain bike makes it to our list because of its comfortable geometry, strong frame, robust breaks and wheels, efficient suspension system, precise gearing and sheer versatility that comfortably sees you through from the trails to the streets and much more in between.

Last but not least, it comes with the flexibility to make upgrades down the line – perfect when you wish to attempt aggressive trail riding after mastering the basics or when you want to maximize the comfort factor with your preferred seat post or pedals. And the desirable combination of substance, affordability, and good looks is just the cherry on the cake.

Pros
  • Sturdy yet lightweight frame
  • Comfortable geometry
  • Wide gear range
  • Smooth shifting
  • Dependable, all-weather stopping
  • Versatile and suitable for riding on mixed terrain
  • Visually appealing
Cons
  • Some buyers did not find the seat very comfortable
  • No place to mount a water bottle cage or hold a bike pump

Beginner Mountain Bike: Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Best Entry-Level Mountain Bike?

The best entry-level mountain bike for you will depend on what you expect the most out of your starter MTB.

If you are after great value for money or you are buying a new bike on a modest budget, both Giant and Trek have much to offer in terms of robust beginner bikes that are high-performing and pocket-friendly.

As for the best hardtail or the best full-suspension beginner mountain bike, Diamondback, Giant, Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, Kona, and Schwinn are a few of the reputed brands that are known to provide an array of models at different price points.

Mongoose bikes, with their supersized knobby tires, remain our firm favorite when it comes to the best fat-tire MTB for beginners.

Should I Get a 27.5 or 29er Mountain Bike?

Whether you should get a 27.5 or 29er mountain bike will be influenced by your riding style and aspiration.

Considering that a 29-inch wheel has the advantage of a large diameter, it is better poised for great rollovers on trails. Also, such a wheel size makes for a wider contact area with the ground, meaning better traction, better momentum, and less resistance. For someone who’s a regular on technical terrain, a 29er mountain bike is ideal for less taxing and more enjoyable rides on rough trails.

A 27.5-inch wheel takes the best of both 26-inch and 29-inch wheels. So, while the relatively smaller size does a good job of delivering responsive riding, fast acceleration, and easy maneuvering on twisty and uneven terrain, the wheel is big enough to leap over trail obstacles successfully.

For a new mountain bike rider, it is expected that you will be limited to low-impact trails in the initial stages. Thus, a bike with 27.5-inch wheels is likely to be a better fit for you, keeping your riding aspirations in mind.

What Is the Best Beginner Mountain Bike Under $500?

There are several options to consider when it comes to the best beginner mountain bike under $500. Our buying guide features three such affordably priced best intro mountain bikes under $500, namely Trek 820, Mongoose Dolomite, and Schwinn Protocol 1.0.

Priced slightly over $500, the Diamondback Overdrive 29er is also a close contender. Other notable mentions include the Cannondale Trail 8 and the Raleigh Talus 2.

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