Our recent round up of 13 new mountain bikes under $3000 was a very popular article and an indication that mountain bikers are looking for help finding great bikes at a great price. But what about the absolute beginner mountain biker that is looking to buy their first “real” mountain bike but they are on a really tight budget? Can a good mountain bike be had for $1000 or less?
What can I expect for ten Bens?
The $1000 price point is a crucial one for bike shops, bike manufacturers and of course, the bike buyer. The type of rider that is looking at this level of mountain bike is not your hardcore enthusiast. But it may be that enthusiasts’ co-worker, brother/sister-in-law or friend who has just started to ride trails. They don’t have a lot saved up and they aren’t even sure if they will stick with the sport, but they want something that will help them grow both their skill level and their fun factor.
As you glance through the bike bikes listed here, you will note that with only three exceptions they are all aluminum framed hardtails. This is simply a direct result of price. Aluminum is lighter than a steel bike and easier (and cheaper) to produce in mass quantities than any other material. Big credit goes to the two manufacturers who are able to deliver a full suspension bike at this price.
The bikes here will have a mid to lower level parts spec. Manufacturers keep their costs low by using cheaper components and in many cases will use as many “house-brand” components as possible. For the most part, these components will perform fine for the beginner rider, the main sacrifices being weight and durability. In fact, weight and durability are the main sacrifices for these bikes as a whole. Shimano Alivio or Deore drivetrains might not shift as easily and smoothly as SLX or XT, but they will most certainly get the job done. Basic flat pedals are also the norm for this category.
Things to consider at this price point
- Is the frame worth upgrading later?
- Is there any way I could afford a bit more?
- Am I better off buying last year’s mid level bike than this year’s lower end bike?
Upgrading the parts of a bike over time (or as you break them) is one way to extend the life of the bike and to lighten/improve it as well. However, if the frame doesn’t have certain features (like a tapered head tube), it may be hard to upgrade later.
$1000 is a key price point and is the focus of this article, but if there is ANY WAY you can save up a bit more, options improve a lot even at the $1600 to $1800 mark.
One key point that came up in the comments section of our last budget bike round up was the option to buy model year end closeouts from your local bike shop. This is absolutely a great option if you happen to be shopping/buying at that time of year (usually September to December or so). Many shops will offer last year’s models at a pretty significant discount to make room for incoming new models.
What brands are highlighted here?
The biggest critique to our last budget bike round up was, “What about brand S or brand T? Why aren’t they included in this list?” For our original budget bike round up, we had decided to limit the selection to just manufacturers that we had visited at Interbike, the yearly bike industry trade show.
This time around, we expanded our scope to include all the major brands even if they weren’t at Interbike. So we’ve included the Big 3 (Giant, Specialized, Trek) as well as Felt, Kona, Orbea and Raleigh. From the show, we have bikes from Breezer, BMC, Cannondale, Fuji, GT, Haro, Jamis, KHS, Marin, Norco, Rocky Mountain and Scott. In addition, we decided to include offerings from direct-to-consumer brands like Airborne, Bulls Bikes, Commencal, Fezzari, Ghost, Mongoose and Motobecane.
Even as comprehensive as this list is, it is not possible to list every brand available. But it is our hope that this guide provides some assistance when you or someone you know is shopping for that entry level mountain bike. Shown here in order from the least expensive to most expensive is our round up of the best beginner mountain bikes for 2016 under (or in a few cases, around) $1000. Read all the way to the end to find out which bikes we think are the best.
Rocky Mountain Soul 730 – $899
The Rocky Mountain again leads things off with their new model called the Soul. With the 120mm Suntour Raidon fork, the Soul 730 has a slightly slacker geometry for more all-around trail usage than XC riding.
Frame: Hydroformed 6061 aluminum
Fork: Suntour Raidon 120mm coil fork
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore/Alivio 3×9
Brakes: Shimano M355 hydraulic
Wheel size: 27.5″
Sizing: XXS – XS – S – M – L – XL
Standout spec/feature… Suntour Raidon 120mm coil fork with lockout and rebound adjustment offers the most travel of any other bike in this round up.
To learn more, visit www.bikes.com.
Mongoose Argus – $934.15
Mongoose is now a direct-to-consumer brand and they are known for
cheap inexpensive fat bikes that are sold at big box stores. The Argus is a higher level fat bike that features a lighter frame and better parts spec. The Argus has a 0 stack headset that allows you to put in an aftermarket headset adapter so you can upgrade it to a tapered fork. We did a feature on this bike when it first came out last year; check our Argus write-up for more photos and info.
Fork: Mongoose unicrown alloy fork
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore/SLX 2×10
Brakes: Tektro MD-290 hydraulic
Pedals: Alloy platform with replaceable pins
Wheel size: 26 (fat bike)
Sizing: S – M – L
Standout spec/feature… Shimano SLX front and rear derailleurs
To learn more, visit www.mongoose.com.
Fezzari Wasatch Peak – $939
Fezzari is a Utah based company that provides bikes for sale online. They offer a 23 point custom setup process that helps ease sizing selection. They also guarantee the fit which helps put the bike buyer’s mind at ease. With its 100mm Rock Shox fork, the Wasatch Peak is more XC oriented but its larger 27.5″ wheels help it roll over rocks better for those riders moving up from 26″.
Frame: Hydroformed doubled-butted aluminum tubing
Fork: RockShox XC30 TK 100mm
Drivetrain: SRAM X5/X7 3×9
Brakes: Avid DB1 hydraulic
Pedals: Wellgo ultra narrow w/CNC spindle
Wheel size: 27.5″
Sizing: XS – S – M – L
Standout spec/feature… Wellgo pedals with CNC spindle
To learn more, visit www.fezzari.com.
Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29 – $950
The Specialized Rockhopper is a model with a lot of history behind it. For 2016, the Rockhopper line refers to alloy 29er hardtails and although the bigger hoops and 100mm fork might scream XC, the geometry of the bike is more trail oriented. The result is a bike that can handle most beginner’s demands even if that includes the occasional XC race.
Frame: Specialized’s A1 SL aluminum
Fork: SR Suntour XCR-32 29 100mm
Drivetrain: SRAM X5/Shimano Alivio/Acera 2×9
Brakes: Tektro Auriga hydraulic
Pedals: Alloy one-piece body
Wheel size: 29″
Sizing: S – M – L – XL – XXL
Available in two colors: Red and white
Standout spec/feature… The A1 SL frame is a step above Specialized’s lower end hardtails (Hardrock) and the XXL option should appeal to beginner Clydesdales.
To learn more, visit www.specialized.com.
Marin Pine Mountain 1 – $989
Big ups to Marin for offering one of only two Plus size mountain bike here and a steel one at that. The Pine Mountain 1 is part of Marin’s 30th Anniversary Heritage line and this bike is a personal favorite.
Frame: Double butted 4130 CroMoly
Fork: Cromoly rigid fork
Drivetrain: SRAM X5/X7 1×10
Brakes: Shimano BR-M445 hydraulic
Pedals: Aluminum platform
Wheel size: 27.5″ Plus
Sizing: S – M – L – XL – XXL
Standout spec/feature… An amazing price for a Plus hardtail, the Marin Pine Mountain 1 is the most affordable brand name Plus bike on the market. Even a hard core mountain biker could rock this and have a blast on it.
To learn more, visit www.marinbikes.com.