Round up: Best value mountain bikes under $1000

27 interesting options for the entry level rider on a tight budget

27.5 29er All Mountain Trail Buyer's Guides Cross Country Fat Bike Interbike Plus

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?

$1000 Budget Bike Round Up

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
  1. Is the frame worth upgrading later?
  2. Is there any way I could afford a bit more?
  3. 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.

The Rocky Mountain Soul is an alloy hardtail with a Suntour Raidon fork with 120mm of travel.

The Rocky Mountain Soul is an alloy hardtail with a Suntour Raidon fork with 120mm of travel (click to enlarge).

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.

The Mongoose Argus is an alloy framed fat bike with a zero stack headset that allows the fork to be upgraded to a tapered steerer (suspension) fork.

The Mongoose Argus is an alloy framed fat bike with a zero stack headset that allows the fork to be upgraded to a tapered steerer (suspension) fork (click to enlarge).

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.

Frame: Aluminum
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 offers a 23 point custom setup process to help buyers get the right size bike and components.

Fezzari offers a 23 point custom setup process to help buyers get the right size bike and components (click to enlarge).

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.

The Rockhopper Comp 29 features Specialized's A1 SL aluminum and comes in an XXL size.

The Rockhopper Comp 29 features Specialized’s A1 SL aluminum and comes in an XXL size (click to enlarge).

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.

An amazing price for a Plus hardtail, the Marin Pine Mountain 1 is the most affordable brand name Plus bike on the market.

An amazing price for a Plus hardtail, the Marin Pine Mountain 1 is the most affordable brand name Plus bike on the market (click to enlarge).

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.

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About the author: Gregg Kato

Gregg Kato studied journalism and broadcasting in college while working many different jobs including deejaying, driving a forklift and building web sites (not all at the same time). Kato enjoys riding local Santa Cruz trails. Besides being an avid mountain biker, he is also a motorcycle fanatic. Two wheels, one Passion.


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  • Mr-EPIC says:

    Diamondback Bikes has 4 models for under or around $1000 that great starter bikes that are worth upgrading at a later time.

    Hook, Line & Sync’r and the Atroz

  • bob says:

    Challenging task, but thanks for doing it. If I didn’t have too many hardtails/fully rigid (is it possible), that Marin would be too tempting to resist.

  • ljsmith says:

    Why are most of the bikes priced over $1000, in an article about bikes UNDER $1000? Maybe a better title would be “Best Value Mountain Bikes around $1000″

  • MR says:

    One glaring omission for all the bikes… Weight!

    • Gregg Kato says:

      Hey MR, you are right, weight would be an awesome addition to our round up. The problem is that at this price point, weight is one of the biggest weaknesses so most manufacturers don’t post the weights of these bikes. In fact, many won’t post the weight of ANY of their bikes low end or otherwise. Also, weights posted by the manufacturers can vary quite a bit when compared to the actual bikes on the sales floor.

      The best comparison would be to have all of these bikes side by side all in size medium, weighed with the same scale. But the logistics to get this done are beyond the scope of our resources for this article.

  • AMDJ'er says:

    The Raleigh Tokul 4, not listed, is a $1600 650B with a Manitou Minute Expert, Raceface & Shimano components. It’s almost a complete copy of the 650B Transition TransAm. I just wish Raleigh posted more information on their site about their different bike models. There is not even geometry details.

    Might buy the Tokul 4, just need to email Raleigh for some answers.

  • Larry R says:

    You don’t have to be an entry level rider to be on a tight budget.

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