Best Budget Mountain Bikes: Top 5 Affordable Picks

Last updated: April 02, 2020
BEST OVERALL
Fast, Light and Fantastic Build Quality
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BEST BUDGET
Affordable, Well-Made and Adaptable
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BEST HARDTAIL
Durable, Light and Stable
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BEST WITH SUSPENSION
Good Handling and Powerful Brakes
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BEST 24 SPEED
Lightweight, Versatile and Great Front Suspension
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Your guide

If you’re interested in getting into mountain biking, or in the market for a new mountain bike, picking the right product is quite important. This isn’t urban commuting or cycling on a bike path – mountain biking does pose a higher challenge, and with that come certain different criteria.

With the ever-important build quality of the frame, you should also pay attention to the brakes, tires, and suspension when it comes to a mountain bike. Depending on your specific needs, you should also focus on finding a suitably versatile drivetrain, with a wide enough gear range.

But balancing out all of those factors against a tight budget isn’t easy. To help you along, we’ve prepared a review of five great mountain bikes – all of which are quite affordable.

Top 5 Budget Mountain Bikes

As devotees of mountain biking will gladly point out, mountain biking is quite a specific form of cycling – a world of its own, if you will. Fun, dynamic, and challenging, it forces you to come face to face with a wide variety of obstacles.

cycling through the mountains

And even though that may sound a tad intimidating at first, it really isn’t – mountain biking has a forgiving learning curve, and you can take things at your own pace, upping the difficulty as you go.

But there are a couple of non-negotiable points. You have to have a good bike – a well-built, reliable machine that can handle some punishment. So, what if you’re constricted by a tight budget?

You can still find such a bike. In fact, we’ve found five – and we’re going to go over each one in great detail – so that you easily see which one fits your needs the best.

1. Best Overall - Trek Marlin 6

Specifications:

  • Gearing → 16 speeds
  • Wheel size → 29 inches
  • Weight capacity → 300 lbs
  • Weight → 31 lbs

Key Features:

  • Bontrager XR2 Comp wire bead tires
  • Tektro HD-M276 hydraulic disc brakes
  • SR Suntour XCT 30 front suspension fork
  • 16-speed Shimano drivetrain

Trek Marlin 6 Review

The fact that you’re on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to compromise on quality or performance. With a little bit of time and research, you can find a wide variety of well-made, affordable bikes that offer great performance – and one of them is bound to meet your criteria.

As for us, we’ve chosen the Trek Marlin 6 – a durable, easily customizable and versatile mountain bike that’s a great choice for beginners and season veterans alike.

Well-Made, Light, and Rugged

The Marlin 6 uses a lightweight Alpha Silver aluminum alloy frame, which maximizes both durability and stiffness. Fully assembled, the bike weighs 31 lbs, and it has a weight capacity of 300 lbs.

The bike’s frame features a curved top tube in the XS and S frame sizes, to achieve a lower standover height. The bike’s clean welds speak to a dedication to durability – and so does the neat internal cable routing system, which allows the cables to last longer. The frame also features a handy rack mount, as well as a rear kickstand mount.

The Marlin 6 features a 7-degree Bontrager alloy stem which is Blendr compatible. The aluminum alloy handlebars are 660 or 690mm wide, depending on the size, and sport a pair of contoured dual-density XR Endurance Comp grips, which have a tread pattern that helps you retain control while maximizing comfort.

The Bontrager Arvada saddle is 138mm wide, and offers a decent enough level of comfort – but nothing spectacular. Likewise, the VP-536 platform pedals offer plenty of solid footing – but nylon pedals don’t have the best record when it comes to durability.

All things considered, the Marlin 6 is a tough, light, well-designed bike – and Trek took no shortcuts when it came to build quality.

Great Performance and Handling

The Trek Marlin 6 utilizes a 16-speed Shimano drivetrain, giving it plenty of adaptability. In Trek’s own words, the 2×8 drivetrain gives you all the gears you need – and none that you don’t. To complement this versatility, the Shimano Altus M315 shifters change gears rapidly and reliably, allowing you to easily adapt to a change of terrain or maintain high speeds.

A pair of durable double-walled rims support the Bontrager XR2 Comp wire bead tires. The tires are quite versatile, offering a good amount of reliable traction, as well as good cornering. They have a TPI rating of 30, and at 29 x 2.20 inches, they’re a bit wider than your average tire – giving them a little more stability and durability.

The bike makes use of a pair of powerful Tektro HD-M276 hydraulic disc brakes which provide it with plenty of stopping power. The handling of the bike is further improved by the inclusion of a front suspension.

The SR Suntour XCT 30 front suspension fork has 100mm of travel, so it can absorb quite a bit of road shock – while the lockout feature allows you to maintain pedaling efficiency over flat terrain.

Pros
  • Durable frame
  • Great brakes
  • Powerful suspension
  • High-quality tires
Cons
  • Unremarkable seat
  • Low-quality pedals 

2. Best Budget - Mongoose Status 2.2

Specifications:

  • Gearing → 21 speed
  • Wheel size → 26 inches
  • Weight capacity →  250 lbs
  • Weight → 42 lbs

Key Features:

  • Full-suspension system
  • Front and rear v-brakes
  • Shimano rear derailleur
  • SRAM twist shifters

Mongoose Status 2.2 Review

Finding a budget pick that will stand out in a list of budget bikes is no easy task. All of the bikes on this list are affordable – and they’re all great products.

But the Mongoose Status 2.2 manages to stand out – combining a truly humble asking price with an array of good components and solid build quality.

The bike features a good drivetrain, a solid pair of tires, and even a full suspension system – something that you’ll rarely see at this price range. So if you want to maximize the bang that you’ll get for your buck, consider the Mongoose Status.

Design and Materials

The Mongoose Status 2.2 mountain bike uses an aluminum frame that features hydro-formed tubing. The frame is sturdy and durable – but this comes at the price of weight, with the fully assembled bike weighing a considerable 42 lbs.

The bike is heavy – even for a full-suspension setup, but the added durability does justify the high weight of the bike.

As far as the handlebar goes, the bike’s riser bar is quite ergonomic, with a pair of brightly colored ends on either side. The bike also features a pair of comfortable, textured grips. The handlebar can be adjusted, but only slightly – a little more than an inch.

The saddle is quite hard and slightly on the smaller side of things, so consider having a replacement already lined up for the bike. In much the same way, the pedals haven’t impressed us – they’re not bad, but they are just your average run of the mill plastic platform pedals.

Be that as it may, the handlebar’s good ergonomics and the springy full suspension more than make up for the sub-par saddle and pedals.

Performance, Versatility, and Handling

The bike’s 21-speed drivetrain is one of its standout components – giving the bike plenty of versatility. The Mongoose Status handles remarkably well, and it can make short work of very difficult terrain.

The bike’s SRAM twist shifters are responsive and reactive, allowing the bike to meet any obstacles well-prepared and head-on, and the Shimano rear derailleur is reliable, while the front and rear v-brakes provide a decent amount of stopping power – though we would have preferred to see disc brakes.

The lightweight and durable alloy rims support a pair of 26 x 2.125-inch tires that offer a decent amount of acceleration and control, and their knobby tread pattern performs particularly well with dirt and mud.

The suspension system is what truly sets the Mongoose Status apart. With a front suspension fork that has 75mm of travel and a springy rear suspension, the bike can glide over obstacles and handle a lot of road shock, making for an even more stable and safe riding experience.

Pros
  • Powerful front and rear suspension
  • Affordable
  • Durable, stable frame
  • High-quality drivetrain
Cons
  • Hard, uncomfortable saddle
  • Heavy

3. Best Hardtail - Giant ATX 3 Disc

Specifications:

  • Gearing → 21 speeds
  • Tire size → 26 / 27.5 inches
  • Weight capacity → 305 lbs
  • Weight → Approx 30 lbs

Key Features:

  • Internal cable management system
  • Tektro TKB-172 mechanical disc brakes
  • Giant QuickCross tires
  • SR Suntour M3030A front suspension fork

Giant ATX 3 Disc Review

Hardtails are simple, dependable bikes that allow you to enjoy mountain biking without any added hassle. With only a front suspension in place, hardtails are much lighter than full-suspension bikes – and much easier to maintain.

There are a ton of great hardtails available online at the moment – and quite a few of them are very affordable. But the Giant Atx 3 disc stands out, due to its powerful brakes, frame build quality, and fantastic tires.

If you’re interested in a high-performance hardtail, but don’t want to shell out large sums to get it, check the ATX 3 disc out.

Sleek, Ergonomic, Modern, and Durable

The ATX 3 disc is available in a staggering 7 size options, allowing you to easily pick the size that will fit you. The bike’s frame is made from a high-quality ALUXX-grade 6061 aluminum alloy, which sports an impressive strength-to-weight ratio.

Although Giant doesn’t list the exact weight of their bicycles, the ATX 3 disc weighs somewhere in the area of 30 lbs – give or take a couple of pounds per size option. The bike has a maximum weight capacity of 305 lbs.

The bike’s sleek, modern frame uses a neat internal cable management system and has a pair of integrated mounts that can be used to add racks to the bike. The frame is quite durable and provides a fair bit of stiffness.

The ATX 3 disc makes use of a 15-degree alloy stem and has a flat mountain bike style handlebar that sports a pair of decent grips. The bike uses a Giant Custom mountain bike saddle, which offers an average amount of comfort – thankfully, this is counteracted in large part by the front suspension.

The stock platform pedals that the bike uses are unremarkable, and won’t last too long – but on the other hand, the KMC Z7 chain deserves praise for its durability.

Great Handling and Plenty of Versatility

The ATX 3 disc has a 21-speed Shimano drivetrain, allowing it to meet the demands of even quite challenging trails. The Shimano EZ Fire 41 shifters are quite reactive and can switch gears at a moment’s notice. The 3×7 drivetrain is reliable and quite easy to use overall.

The bike sports a pair of light yet durable Giant GX03V alloy double-walled rims, which support a pair of wire bead Giant QuickCross tires. Depending on the size option you choose, the tires can either be 26 or 27.5 inches in size. They’re a sturdy pair, with a TPI rating of 30 and a moderate tread pattern that allows them to provide good traction in a variety of conditions.

The bike’s impressive speed is balanced out by a pair of powerful Tektro TKB-172 mechanical disc brakes, and the handling that they provide is further improved by the SR Suntour M3030A front suspension fork. The front suspension has 75mm of travel, and it greatly contributes to the bike’s stability.

Pros
  • Integrated rack mounts
  • Durable frame
  • Versatile tires
  • Great handling
Cons
  • Average seat
  • Bad pedals

4. Best with Suspension - Schwinn S29

Specifications:

  • Gearing → 21 speeds
  • Wheel size → 29 inches
  • Weight capacity → 300 lbs
  • Weight → 42 lbs

Key Features:

  • Front and rear suspension
  • Aluminum frame
  • SRAM 3.0 trigger shifters
  • Front and rear mechanical disc brakes

Schwinn S29 Review

The most basic divide in the world of mountain bikes is between hardtails and full-suspension bikes. Hardtails only have a front suspension, while full-suspension bikes also incorporate a rear suspension.

Full-suspension bikes offer a lot more stability, can absorb more road shock, and provide vastly better performance when going downhill. But they’re usually expensive – and much more expensive than hardtails.

But we’ve managed to find a fantastic entry-level bike that has a full suspension – and it won’t require taking out a second mortgage. The Schwinn S29 handles like a dream, and it’s very affordable – so let’s dive into the details.

Design and Build Quality

The Schwinn S29 features a durable 18-inch frame that can support riders from 5’9” to 6’2” tall. The bike requires some assembly – and when it is finally assembled, which shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes, it weighs 42 lbs.

That’s quite a lot of weight for an aluminum frame – but most of it is due to the suspension system. Still, the bike is a bit on the heavier side – but we wouldn’t call that a drawback – rather, the weight of the bike provides a nice amount of stability on even the most difficult rides. The frame can support a maximum weight of 300 lbs.

The frame is sturdy and dependable – but the ergonomics of the bike could stand to be better. This isn’t a huge drawback – as most of the issues are easily fixable by replacing parts.

However, these are minor details when compared to the frame, drivetrain, and suspension – and Schwinn were right to focus their attention on what truly matters. At this price point, it doesn’t get any better – so it’s best to buy a replacement saddle and pedals from the get-go.

Stable, User-Friendly, and Versatile

The bike makes use of a high-quality 21-speed SRAM drivetrain, allowing it to easily adapt to all conditions. The SRAM 3.0 trigger shifters change gears rapidly, smoothly, and reliably, which allows you to compensate for the path ahead at a moment’s notice.

Schwinn have also incorporated an SR Suntour 3 piece alloy crank, further improving the reliability of the drivetrain. The bike also makes use of powerful front and rear mechanical disc brakes, allowing it to easily adjust speeds or come to a complete halt.

The large, 29-inch tires feature a standard mountain bike tire tread. They’re quite knobby, and at 2.1 inches wide, they offer a great deal of traction. The tires are mounted on a set of durable double-walled alloy rims.

The bike’s front suspension SR Suntour fork has 60mm of travel – but the rear suspension is what truly makes the bike’s handling shine. The suspension system handles obstacles and bumps effortlessly – making for an enjoyable, stable, yet springy ride.

The suspension can be adjusted – but sadly, it doesn’t have a lockout feature – which would be our only criticism of the bike’s performance.

Pros
  • Sturdy, stable frame
  • Impressive suspension
  • Reliable drivetrain
  • Good brakes
Cons
  • Slightly heavy
  • Lacks a suspension lockout feature

5. Best 24 Speed - Cannondale Trail 7

Specifications:

  • Gearing → 24 speed
  • Wheel size → 27.5 x 2.25 / 29 x 2.25
  • Weight capacity → 300 lbs
  • Weight → 32 lbs 14.4 oz

Key Features:

  • 3×8 Shimano drivetrain
  • Internal cable routing system
  • SR Suntour XCT front suspension fork
  • Tektro M275 hydraulic disc brakes

Cannondale Trail 7 Review

If the adaptability of your mountain bike is a top priority for you, then you need to find a bike with a suitably versatile drivetrain. A large number of gears isn’t necessarily better than a wide gear range – but why choose, when you can have both?

Cannondale’s Trail 7 is a well-made, reasonably priced mountain bike that can easily adapt to a wide variety of challenges. It does have a great drivetrain – but the handling and control of the bike are also due to the bike’s fantastic tires and powerful front suspension.

If you’re after an affordable all-rounder, give the Trail 7 a closer look down below.

Frame and Ergonomics

The Trail 7 is available in four size options, which will support riders from 5’2” to 6’4” tall. The frame of the bike is made from a lightweight SmartForm C3 aluminum alloy, and the weight of the bike is 32 lbs 14.4 oz. The bike’s frame is stiff and durable and features a StraightShot internal cable routing system.

The bike makes use of a 6-degree stem that is made from a 6061 aluminum alloy. It supports a 720mm wide aluminum alloy Cannondale Riser bar that has 25mm of rise, an 8-degree sweep, and a 6-degree rise. The grips are decent, although the bike’s slack head angle does much more to provide stability and control.

A 350/400 mm 6061 alloy seatpost supports the Cannondale Stage 2 seat – and like the grips, the saddle is a bit unremarkable. The same goes for the stock platform pedals. None of these are bad by any stretch of the imagination – but we recommend upgrading them to be in line with the rest of the bike.

On the other hand, the bike makes use of a durable, high-quality KMC Z72 chain – and the bike’s short chainstay provides it with plenty of agility.

Versatile Performance and Impressive Handling

The Trail 7’s most impressive feature is the highly-adaptable 3×8 Shimano drivetrain. The Shimano Altus Rapidfire Plus shifters do a great job of changing between the 24 gears quickly and reliably, allowing the bike to almost instantly adapt to a change in terrain or an incoming incline.

The WTB SX19 aluminum alloy rims support a pair of WTB tires – with the front tire always being a WTB Ranger, while the rear tire is a choice between the Ranger and a WTB Nineline. The tire size varies – from 27.5 x 2.25 inches for the S size option to 29 x 2.25 and/or 29 x 2 inches for all other size options.

Both of the tire options provide plenty of grip, and can easily adapt to a wide variety of terrain – with the Rangers being slightly better in wet conditions than the Ninelines.

A versatile drivetrain allows you to easily maintain high speeds – and the large tire size makes it easy to reach high speeds. To balance this out, the Cannondale Trail 7 makes use of a pair of powerful Tektro M275 hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors.

And if stability concerns you, have no fear – the SR Suntour XCT front suspension fork will glide over obstacles almost effortlessly. It has 100mm of travel, allowing it to absorb a great amount of road shock and vibrations.

Pros
  • Very adaptable
  • Durable construction
  • Good suspension
  • Wide range of gears
Cons
  • Average grips
  • Unremarkable saddle

Budget Mountain Bikes: Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Mountain Bikes?

Mountain bikes are rugged, versatile bikes that make use of wider, more aggressive tires and suspension systems to allow them to overcome a variety of inclines and terrain types. These modifications allow them to not only handle but perform exceedingly well in rough conditions.

Are Mountain Bikes Slower Than Road Bikes?

Yes - but this is only true in the case of predictable, flat terrain, such as pavement. In reality, these two bike types are suited to completely different needs. While a road bike will outperform a mountain bike in urban areas, road bikes cannot handle going off-road and encountering obstacles.

Which type of bike is faster depends on the surroundings. If you need a bike for urban areas, consider a road bike. But if you’re interested in going off-road, you should choose a mountain bike.

Is Mountain Biking Dangerous?

No - not necessarily. Mountain biking is as risky as the trail you pick - which is to say, if you’re cycling on a trail that’s appropriate for your skill level, you’ll be fine.

Especially when it comes to budget mountain bikes, you shouldn’t go overboard and bite off more than you can chew - take things at your own pace - you’ve got nothing to prove. Slowly working your way up to more difficult trails is safer, and much more enjoyable - and it will spare you from quite a few scraped knees.

Are Budget Mountain Bikes Truly Safe, and Do They Offer Good Performance?

Yes and yes. Even if a bike doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, as long as it’s from a reputable manufacturer, well-reviewed, and if it uses tried and tested materials and components that are proven in the field, there’s nothing to worry about.

Most budget mountain bikes won’t be able to deal with highly technical trails or steep downhill descents with a lot of obstacles - but this is understandable, as these are high-end challenges that require some serious equipment.

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