The Best Mountain Bikes Under $500
Taking a ride on the trails and enjoying the outdoors doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. You can get into mountain biking without spending a fortune. You just need to know where and have realistic expectations about what you can get within your budget. The best mountain bikes under $500 won’t have all the bells, whistles, springs, and sprockets that you would find on a $5,000 mountain bike, but they’re still a great gateway to the sport.
Related: The Best Mountain Bikes Under $1000
For most of us, the entry to the mountain bike world doesn’t include hitting jumps and speeding through rock gardens at expert-level speeds. It involves checking out the local trail system, enjoying solitude and nature, and working on basic handling skills. All of these bikes are reliable first bikes that will help you gain the skills needed to grow as a mountain biker. These are the best mountain bikes under $500.
Related: Mtbr’s Beginner Mountain Biker Forum
Why no full-suspension mountain bikes under $500?
Yes, you can find a full-suspension mountain bike for less than $500, but these bikes heavy and come equipped with suspension forks and shocks that are barely usable in real off-road use. We enjoy full-suspension bikes as much as the next rider, but if you’re trying to pack value into the whole package and keep the price below $500, there are no options that we consider that would be safe or reliable. If you’re set on a budget full suspension mountain bike, consider trying to find a good deal on a used model.
Related: 5 tips for buying a used bike
Specialized Rockhopper 29
The Specialized Rockhopper is a classic first mountain bike. It has frame angles that beginner riders will feel comfortable piloting and components that will go the distance as you progress. The frame features butted aluminum tubes to keep weight low and strength high. The Rockhopper features internal cable routing and dropper-post compatibility. It’s a bike that will grow along with your skill level with handling and design features of many other bikes in the Specialized family. The frame and fork will go the long haul if you ever decide to upgrade components or wheels to something more intense.
- Great performance geometry for beginner and expert riders
- SR Suntour XCE with size-specific travel and spring rates
- Disc brakes – offer confident, consistent braking.
- 8-speed cassette keep you rolling smoothly without putting up a fuss.
- Not tubeless-ready wheels
- The fork is not fully serviceable
Trek Marlin 4
If you’re looking to up your bike game and want something that can do it all – the Trek Marilin is worth a long look. It’s ideal for new riders who want a mountain bike with knobby tires that can double as a rugged commuter. The frame geometry is a mix of mountain and a more upright ride for someone who is newer to trail riding. The frame is also set up for a rack and fenders – if you’d like it to double as a commuter. But don’t be fooled – this ride can hit the single track no problem. It comes equipped with 160mm -mechanical disc brakes, front suspension, 21-speeds, and Bontrager XR2 tires. The tires are great for the trails but are tightly knobbed if you wanna hit the road as well. This sporty looking and quick riding machine is a great deal at under $500 and will take you places!
- Great light trail geometry for an upright ride
- Disc brakes for all-weather control
- Commuter friendly tire set up and rack mounts
- Bars could be narrow to some riders
- Non-thru axle limits upgrade options
Marin Bolinas Ridge 2
If you’re looking to explore the mountain bike trails but wanna stick more to the double-track rather than the roots and rocks – the Marin Bolinas Ridge is a great option. The upright riding position is great for seeing the trails without putting a strain on your lower back. To smooth out the ride – this bike comes with trail capable suspension and chunky tires to keep the bumps to a minimum. If and when things point downhill (as they usually do on mountain bike rides) the disc brakes work well in all conditions and are mechanical – so they are super easy to service. The Bolinas Ridge is the perfect mountain bike to explore your local singletrack or use as a part-time commuter.
- Predictable handling with an upright ride
- Disc brakes with 160 rotors
- Shimano 3×8-Speed Altus gearing
- Riding position could be too upright for experienced riders on a budget
Polygon Cascade 4.0
The Cascade 2 borrows much of its technology from the Polygon Premier series and delivers a truly capable all-rounder. Equipped with everything that you need to start your trail journey – the Carcade is ready to rock. It some stock with 24 gears and that includes a granny gear to get up all those steep switchbacks and hills. The wheels are 27.5″ landing you right in the middle of fast and capable in the woods, because you want to roll over features smoothly but not feel sluggish on the road. If you decide to hit the road on the Cascade it’s good to roll smooth – thanks to Kenda Small Block 8 tires that are super tightly spaced for a quick roll. Plus – it’s not every day that you can find a capable mountain bike for under $500 with hydraulic disc brakes. These little stoppers pack a punch and will stop on a dime when needed. A big upgrade for those looking to ride the big stuff!
- Equipped with Shimano Altus derailleur to give a total of 24 gears, enough to tackle any terrain.
- 27.5 wheels that are great on the road and in the woods
- Hydraulic disc brakes for awesome stopping power
- Kenda small knob tires that roll great on pavement and limestone trails
- Derailleur hanger could be hard to find locally
- Hydraulic disc brakes could be too much for some riders
Mongoose Malus Fat Tire Bike
Not all bikes were created to go super fast, some are created to enjoy the ride and have fun. The Mongoose Malus 26-inch fat tire bike is a bike for those that like to have something a bit different but have fun in the snow or dirt. Built with 4 1/4-inch tires (earning the name fat) that make it rideable on virtually any terrain and any condition – you just have to supply the power. If you’re looking for a bike that will allow to you ride snow-packed trails, this is it! The Malus comes with 7- speeds and a single front ring to keep the maintenance down. The frame is a mix of mountain bike feel and beach cruiser handling – so nearly anyone can pilot this bad boy and have a blast. For a Fat bike under $500, this is a serious deal for fun.
- Fat tires are lots of fun on the snow and trails
- 7 speeds with a single front ring
- Casual handling for rides on and off the road
- Fat Tire tubes can be hard to find in a pinch
- May not fit on all bike racks
GT Aggressor Pro
If you’re a GT fan from way back and want to find some time to hit trails again the GT Aggressor Pro is worth a long look. The Agressor has the same triple triangle design that made GT famous and has the geometry to hit the real rocky stuff with no problem. The unique triple triangle design stiffens up the rear end but also allows the seat tube to have a small bit of flex – delivering a superb ride and a super cool design feature. The Aggressor Pro comes with a SR Suntour 90mm travel fork that will be fine for moderate trail riding and not compress too much on the pavement if you decide to hit the road. The 3 x 8-speed drivetrain will tackle any terrain and the high top-end gear will get you where you need to go if this finds itself as your everyday ride. Truly a unique bike that can hit the trails and the road with confidence – with some room to grow.
- Proven GT geometry and 6061-T6 Aluminum Triple Triangle Frame
- SR Suntour XCT fork with 90mm of travel
- Shimano drivetrain and 8-speed drive train for easy climbing
- Narrow bars
- Come with a dated long stem
Giant ATX 3
A fitness style design with a mountain bike heart – the Giant ATX is a perfect beginner or re-discovery mountain bike. The design is great for on the road and in the woods with predictable geometry, upright positioning, and a 90mm suspension fork. Giant specs the wheel diameter based on bike size, with 26-inch wheels on smaller frames and 27.5 on larger ones. This design allows the bike to fit the rider and the bike’s handling to a rider’s height. Stacked with solid components and Giants customer service – the ATX 3 is a fantastic bike for any rider looking to get outdoors and hit the trails.
- Powerful brakes deliver confident handling in all types of weather
- Integrated mounts make it easy to add racks or fenders
- Frameset constructed with high-quality Giant ALUXX aluminum
- The hybrid tires are not ideal for single track riding
- Quick-release seatpost collar is a theft hazard for city riding
Diamondback Overdrive Hardtail
DiamondBakc is a classic in the cycling world, and even more so are thier mountain bikes. From the days of the DBR racing team Diamondback alway knew how to make a cool looking and riding bike. The Overdrive is in that same vein, classic cool look of a hardtail with a racing red gloss paint scheme – but with moden touches. This is a great bike for anyone looking to rekindle the love of riding in the woods – or looking to break new earth. The 27.5 inch wheels roll quickly over roots and obsticals but are too big for smaller riders. The 80mm of suspension fork travel is soild ammount for casual trail expolatrion and to take the edge off pothole laden city streets. The Overdrive comes with 3 x 8 gearing – enough to get you up that steep climb at the end of the ride and enough to keep you chugging along at pace on the pavement. No matter what way you go the Overdrive can get you there!
- 6061-T6 aluminum alloy frame with great color
- 27.5 inch wheels roll well over obstacles and offer quick excelleration
- 3 x 8 gearing gives many options for on and off road riding
- No fender mounts
- Only 80mm of suspension for off road riding is minimal
The Schwinn is a unique design and a whole lot of bike for the $280 price tag. The frame is crafted from aluminum with hydro-formed tubing making for a light and responsive design. Meaning: when you pedal – the bike responds and rolls forward. The front suspension fork is right at home on the trails, plus mechanical disc brakes are dependable and are perfect for carefree all-condition stopping. For climbing the big hills the 1×8 Pro Rush MTB drivetrain with 13-40 freewheel provides ample gearing. Plus – the Taff comes with super tightly knobbed tires for fast rolling on the road, if you decide to.
- Price – $280 is a great deal for a mountain capable bike
- The stiff and responsive hydroformed frame
- Fits many sizes of riders
- Freewheel is hard to find aftermarket in the 13-40 size
Framed Rendal Hardtail 29″
The Framed Rendal is ready to take you from the double-track trails to the uptown streets all on the same bike. The upright easy to steer geometry will have you confident enough to hit the local single track in no time, plus the Rendal has enough gearing to hit the road and keep up with the spandex crowd. The plush SR Suntour suspension fork and durable alloy frame will take all you can dish out. Plus the hydraulic disc brakes have maximal stopping power in any weather conditions and require very light lever pull to stop. The Framed Rendal is a great bike for anyone looking to take their riding to the next level and explore the trails or bike paths for under $500.
- Great component spec and build
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Reliable SR Suntour XC-E28-29, 100mm travel fork
- Maybe too upright for some riders
- Tires are not the best for real singletrack
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