Bikes June 4, 2019 If you’re just getting into mountain biking or are simply looking for a cheap mountain bike, we’ve got you covered. From lightweight bikes that ride more like hybrids to bikes with robust steel frames and large, knobby tires such as those found on fat tire bikes, here’s a look at the best budget mountain bikes for your off-road adventures. Quick Navigation 1. Best Mountain Bike: Diamondback Bicycles Overdrive2. Best 29er Mountain Bike: Overdrive 1 29er Hardtail Mountain Bike3. Best 27.5 Plus Bikes: Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bikes4. Best Mountain Bikes for the Money: Kent KZ2600 Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike5. Best 29 Mountain Bike: Mongoose Impasse Full Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike6. Best 27.5 Mountain Bike: BEIOU Carbon Fiber 27.5 Mountain Bike 7. Best all Around Mountain Bike: Gravity FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain Bike8. Best Mountain Bike Trails: Huffy Hardtail Mountain Trail Bike9. Best Bikes for Trails: Xspec 26" 21-Speed Folding Mountain Trail BicycleHow to Buy a Mountain BikeNow What?Choosing a Complete Bike BuildWomen's BikesConsumer Direct vs. Local Bike ShopMultiple Bikes?Conclusion 4.8 Diamondback Bicycles OverdriveEntry-level bikeComes in several different sizesShimano components Shop now at Amazon 4.6 Diamondback Bicycles Overdrive 1 29er Hardtail Mountain BikeLightweight framWide gear range29-inch tires Shop now at Amazon 4.3 Schwinn High Timber Mountain BikesDurable Schwinn suspension forkShimano componentsImproved mountain bike frame Shop now at Amazon 4.0 Kent KZ2600 Dual-Suspension Mountain BikeDesigned for men26-inch wheelsShimano components Shop now at Amazon 4.3 Mongoose Impasse Full Dual-Suspension Mountain BikeAluminum frameShimano rear derailleurElement suspension fork Shop now at Amazon 4.5 BEIOU Carbon Fiber 27.5 Mountain Bike LightweightIdeal for serious mountain bikingDurable carbon fiber frame Shop now at Amazon 4.3 Gravity FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain BikeAlloy frame24 speedsFits a wide range of sizes Shop now at Amazon 4.0 Huffy Hardtail Mountain Trail BikeLightweightShimano derailleurComes in several sizes Shop now at Amazon 4.0 Xspec 26" 21-Speed Folding Mountain Trail Bicycle Commuter Foldable BikeShimano componentsFolding frameEasily portable Shop now at Amazon 1. Best Mountain Bike: Diamondback Bicycles OverdriveThe Diamondback Overdrive is the best affordable mountain bike with for an entry-level price. The 27.5-inch wheels for quick, mindful handling on the trails. It also fits a wide range of riders, with frame sizes for that approximately 5’3 ″ to 6’4″. Shop now at Amazon The hand-crafted hydroformed aluminum frameset adds a sense of security and will help you feel in control on various surfaces. Heading for the hills? You’ll have a choice between 24 gears to help conquer varied terrain.The Diamondback mountain bike is equipped with several dependable Shimano components, including the cogset along with front and rear derailleurs. Owners generally find this bike to be a good overall value for the money, especially if you don’t mind spending a bit more for extras you may want, such as water bottle cages and a kickstand.Is the Diamondback Overdrive 1 right for me? With its Shimano components and specific frame sizes, this bike is one of the best affordable mountain bikes if you’re looking for a solid yet budget-friendly entry-level. While it’s sturdy enough for regular trail use, the frame weighs almost 30 pounds, meaning the Overdrive isn’t the lightest bike out there. Pros Entry-level bike Comes in several different sizes Shimano components Cons Uncomfortable seat Assembly instructions could be better Shop now at Amazon 2. Best 29er Mountain Bike: Overdrive 1 29er Hardtail Mountain BikeIf you’re in the market for an affordable 29er, consider the Overdrive 29 1 by Diamondback. It’s not the cheapest mountain bike available, but if you don’t mind a bit of a budget stretch, there’s a lot to offer. For starters, this bike is packed with Shimano components. Shop now at Amazon Both the front and rear derailleurs are made by Shimano, along with the cogset and shifter. An eight-speed KMC chain ensures smooth shifting on off-road adventures. Tektro mechanical disc brakes in the front and back provide ample stopping power when necessary.For those who haven’t experienced a 29er for themselves, this type of bike offers a more unique ride. Today’s 29ers offer a mix of off-road capabilities (the larger tires can more easily conquer tricky terrain and obstacles) and performance.Most bikes have more pronounced frame geometry for a ride that’s much more similar to your average mountain bike. Its larger tires make this Diamondback bike a top choice for your favorite trails. Pros Multiple Shimano components Tektro disc brakes in front and rear Coil-sprung suspension helps dampen the ride Cons Not the cheapest Shop now at Amazon 3. Best 27.5 Plus Bikes: Schwinn High Timber Mountain BikesWith a price tag of just over $200, the Schwinn Men’s High Timber is a respectable choice if you’re looking for the best starter mountain bike within your budget. Highlights include Schwinn’s own suspension fork and frame, which is made from steel. Combined with 27.5-inch tires, you can expect a controlled ride, even when the terrain gets rough. Shop now at Amazon Shimano twist shifters pair with 21 gears to help you conquer your favorite trails. The High Timber comes with knobby all-terrain tires so that you don’t have to waste any time hitting the trails after it’s assembled.Is the Schwinn High Timber right for me? The High Timber has a heavier steel frame and knobby 27.5-inch tires, which makes it particularly well suited for controlled riding on rougher terrain. However, it only comes in one size and can be tough to assemble if you don’t already own the right tools. Pros Durable Schwinn suspension fork Shimano components The improved mountain bike frame Cons Assembly can be tricky Several mentions the seat is uncomfortable Shop now at Amazon 4. Best Mountain Bikes for the Money: Kent KZ2600 Dual-Suspension Mountain BikeThe Kent Thruster KZ2600 Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike features 26-inch wheels and a durable full suspension aluminum frame that can withstand off-road demands. The bike also comes with front and rear disc brakes for enhanced stopping power. Shop now at Amazon Other highlights include a 21-speed Shimano shifter and rear derailleur. If speed is a priority when considering good mountain bikes for your money, not to mention having more room to stretch out, you’ll appreciate the lower handlebars on this bike.Is the Kent Thruster right for me? If you’re looking for an affordable mountain bike for light riding, and don’t plan on heavy trail use, the Kent Thruster is a solid choice for a full suspension mountain bike. Pros Designed for men 26-inch wheels Shimano components Cons Lacks breakaway hangers Some plastic components seem cheap Shop now at Amazon 5. Best 29 Mountain Bike: Mongoose Impasse Full Dual-Suspension Mountain BikeThe Mongoose Impasse is a full suspension mountain bike with a sturdy aluminum frame and 29-inch tires. While the frame isn’t the lightest out there, it’s ideal if you want to feel completely in control as you ride. Shop now at Amazon SRAM twist shifters make it easy to choose between the 21 available gears, especially when you’re heading up and down hills. Front and rear disc brakes provide fast stopping power if necessary.Is the Mongoose Impasse right for me? Many Impasse fans think the bike is a steal given its solid components and a sturdy build at an affordable price, especially with 29-inch tires. However, it only comes in one size and doesn’t have much space for a water bottle holder. Pros Aluminum frame Shimano rear derailleur Element suspension fork Cons Lacks space for a water bottle holder Shocks could be better Shop now at Amazon 6. Best 27.5 Mountain Bike: BEIOU Carbon Fiber 27.5 Mountain Bike You’ll get your money’s worth with this mountain bike if you don’t mind paying a bit more up front. One of the main features that sets this mountain bike apart from the rest is its carbon fiber frame. Shop now at Amazon Although it’s pricier than the aluminum or steel frames found on less expensive bikes, the carbon fiber frame makes up for the initial cost with its lightweight construction and superior durability.The frame is made from T800 carbon fiber, a material that holds up well even on the most demanding trails. It also has Shimano components such as fast-responding hydraulic disc brakes and a speed control system. Serious riders also appreciate the lower riding position, which allows for higher speeds.Is the BEIOU 650B right for me? If you’re willing to spring for a more upscale mountain bike with a lightweight carbon fiber frame, the 650B is a sensible choice. Shorter riders, around 5’7″ and under, may find that the smallest available frame is still too large. Pros Lightweight Ideal for serious mountain biking Durable carbon fiber frame Auctor ipsum dolor sagittis Cons Pricey May not fit some smaller riders Shop now at Amazon 7. Best all Around Mountain Bike: Gravity FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain BikeCompared to the 2017 model, this bike has a new, lighter aluminum frame along with higher-performance hydroformed tubing for more stability and control on the trails. The bike has 24 speeds, which is a bit more than the 21 speeds you’ll find on most bikes in this price range. It’s also equipped with front and rear disc brakes for added stopping power. Shop now at Amazon Sizes range from 15 to 21 inches to comfortably fit most riders from 5’6 to 6’1 and over. Other highlights include a Shimano rear derailleur, adjustable rear coil, and an adjustable front shock.Is the Gravity FSX 1.0 right for me? With its all-around solid construction and components that can be upgraded, the Gravity FSX 1.0 is just as suitable for newer mountain bikers as it is for more experienced riders looking for the best cheap mountain bike within the desired price range. If you’re serious about taking this bike on the trails, you’ll probably want to swap out the stock tires first. Pros Alloy frame 24 speeds Fits a wide range of sizes Cons Only comes in one color Components aren’t built to withstand lots of jumping or downhills Shop now at Amazon 8. Best Mountain Bike Trails: Huffy Hardtail Mountain Trail BikeHuffy’s Escalate falls on the smaller and lighter spectrum when it comes to mountain bikes, from its 26-inch wheels to its lightweight aluminum frame. The result is an affordable mountain bike that lets you accelerate faster without compromising your ability to tackle trickier terrain. Shop now at Amazon While it’s lighter than steel, the aluminum frame is just as strong and is just as dependable when climbing hills as it is for speedy accelerations.A 21-speed Shimano drivetrain ensures smooth shifting, along with plenty of gears for your off-road adventures. The bike is also equipped with a padded saddle that easily adjusts to fit various heights. Linear pull brakes provide reliable stopping power when necessary. Frame sizes range from 15 to 20 inches.Is the Huffy Escalate right for me? Its relatively lightweight aluminum frame and smooth-shifting 21-speed Shimano derailleur make the Huffy Escalate a practical investment if you’re looking for a solid entry level mountain bike. Pros Available in multiple colors Padded mountain bike seat Kickstand included Cons Lacks a rear shock absorber Some find the instruction manual confusing Shop now at Amazon 9. Best Bikes for Trails: Xspec 26" 21-Speed Folding Mountain Trail BicycleWith their generally heftier frames and larger wheels, most mountain bikes aren’t exactly easy to transport. This folding bike by Xspec folds up to a fraction of its original size within seconds, allowing you to easily store it in your car, carry it upstairs and more. Shop now at Amazon Aside from the fact that it folds up, you’ll find plenty of similarities between the Xspec and other cheap mountain bikes within this price range. For example, the bike is outfitted with Shimano components in the form of shifters and a derailleur.Then there’s the dependable disc brake system for enhanced stopping power. With 21 available gears, you’ll quickly find the gear you need at any given moment.Shock absorbers in the front and back dampen rougher rides. This versatile bike is outfitted with a high tensile steel frame and feels just as natural on the trails as it does for your daily riding demands. The bike is available in three colors and is best suited for riders standing 5’3 to 6’0. Pros Folds up within seconds Disc brake system enhances stopping power Comes with 21 gears Cons Uncomfortable stock seat Assembly instructions are lacking Shop now at Amazon How to Buy a Mountain BikePurchasing a mountain bike is an expensive endeavor and can be scary. Slapping down the credit card for a large purchase requires serious research. All of this research can bring to light loads of jargon and terms. Terms like mid-travel, short-travel, and enduro are thrown around all the time. OutdoorGearLab is here to make sense of it all.We will explain the different types of mountain bikes and what they are designed for. Once you settle on a category of bike, you will need to consider wheel and tire size. 29-inch, 27.5-inch, plus sized, they all have strengths and weaknesses. Female riders have to decide if they need a women's bike or if they can tweak a unisex bike to fit them better. We will walk you through all of these decisions.Where do you want to ride?It is essential to be realistic about what kind of terrain you want to ride. Determining what sort of trails you have in your hometown is important. Also, it can be worth considering if you will be regularly traveling to bike parks or trail centers often.Cross-Country BikesCross Country bikes are very much a niche category. If you are reading this, chances are most of these bikes probably aren't for you. Folks interested in a true cross-country bike are likely thinking about racing and value weight and efficiency over fun, comfort, and practicality.XC bikes are fun on a quite limited range of trails. Stiff and brutally efficient, cross-country bikes are either hardtails, meaning they have no rear suspension, or they have about 100mm of rear suspension. Steep geometry, a low stem, and firm and uncomfortable performance are features of these bikes.Riders who gravitate to very smooth trails might enjoy the outright efficiency of these bikes. If you want a playful ride or live where the trails have roots and rocks, these probably aren't the best choice. A short-travel trail bike is almost as efficient while offering a far more fun and capable ride.Trail HardtailsHardtail mountain bikes are a great option if you'd rather get out and ride than attack steep or rough terrain regularly. Simple, low maintenance, and speedy — these no-frills bikes do not have a rear suspension but feature more aggressive trail bike geometry.As a result, they are very efficient pedallers and are perfectly capable of getting a little rad. Less experienced riders will gain valuable skills on these less forgiving bikes, which benefit from excellent line choices and proper form.Hardtail trail bikes are relatively versatile but require some caution on the descents as they tend to be somewhat harsh. Riders who prefer to attack steeper and rougher terrain with any regularity should look into a full-suspension bike.Since hardtails require less technology, they are usually less expensive than full suspension bikes. A lower price point makes hardtails an excellent option for passionate riders on a budget. If you think these are the bikes for you, check out our review selection of hardtail mountain bikes.Short-Travel Trail BikesShort travel bikes are excellent if you value variety, efficient climbing, and aren't hell-bent on slaying descents. Short-travel trail bikes feature about 110-130mm of rear wheel travel. They are practical for those looking for full-suspension confidence and comfort without sacrificing efficiency.Riders who like to pound out serious miles will feel comfortable aboard these short-legged steeds. Bicycles in this category would be an excellent option for those who ride flatter terrain or live in mountainous areas but don't want to push the envelope to get aggressive on the descents.Riders seeking a more well-rounded climbing/descending experience might be interested in pulling some more heft with a mid-travel bike. If this seems like the balance of bike skills you've been looking for, check out the 110 to 130mm options in our constantly updated Trail Bike Review. Travel numbers appear in Suspension & Travel row of our Test Results and Rating Table.Mid-Travel Trail BikesMid--travel bikes are an MTB sweet spot perfect for anyone who destroys descents but still values climbing skills. These bikes are very versatile and provide strong performance in all areas. They balance climbing skills and descending capabilities beautifully and are comfortable on the overwhelming majority of trails.Mid-travel bikes are just as comfortable making the occasional trip to the bike park as they are doing a 30-mile trail ride. This suspension range, 130-150mm, works for a wide range of riders. If you live in a primarily flat or smooth region, these bikes could prove to be overkill.If the highlight of each of your rides is flying down the super-gnar, you should look into an enduro/long-travel rig. If you're interested in this multi-faceted and fun category, head our ever-evolving Trail Bike Review to read about fantastic daily drivers in the 130 to 150mm range. Find travel numbers in the last visible row of the Test Results and Rating Table.Enduro BikesEnduro is an often over-used buzzword, and enduro bikes love to bomb technical descents and climb just enough get to the top. Long-travel, or enduro, bikes are awesome for those who don't mind carrying some extra bike around in the name of getting rowdy.With 155 to 170mm of travel, they pedal reasonably well, but efficiency is not their defining trait. These bikes are not the best for long distance rides, and will not set any climbing records.Enduro bikes focus on high speeds and rough downhills. Those looking for freeride lines or park laps will be more than comfortable aboard these shred sleds. To learn more, read our review of the top enduro bikes.Now What?Once you know what kind of mountain bike you want, a few component decisions will help you narrow down the field considerably.Wheel SizeBack in the day, MTB wheels were all 26 inches. Now, 27.5-inch and 29-inch versions are far more common on the trail. The 26-inch bike is all but dead. The benefit of bigger wheels is that they make trail features smaller by comparison.As a result, you can roll over more chunder with less effort. Bigger wheels are also faster and carry speed well through chunky terrain. The argument for smaller wheels is that they are easier to maneuver and therefore, more fun.For a few short years, many riders thought 27.5-inch wheels were the sweet spot between rollover benefits of 29ers and tossability of 26-inch bikes. Modern frame geometry drastically improved the performance of 29ers, and they are allowing for more precise and playful handling than ever before.Many frames now offer a few wheel and tire size options. It's still valuable to think through which one you want to commit to. We don't know anyone who regularly switches between wheelsets.Tire Size and Rim WidthNormal tires are slowly getting wider over time, at the moment they tend to run 2.35-inches on most trail bikes. More aggressive bikes are now coming with 2.4, 2.5 or even 2.6-inch versions on wider rims.Wider tires offer tons of traction and a little softer ride but provide more resistance when heading uphill. Then, there are your plus-sized, or mid-fat, tires. These run from 2.8-inches to 3-inches.We like the 2.8-inch versions as they offer traction and often give you defined cornering knobs to dig into turns. Three-inch tires provide you with plenty of grip, but a vague cornering feel due to smaller, more uniform knobs. To get geeky about tires, check out our MTB tire review.Tires are easy to switch out. Rims are a much pricier and time-consuming fix. Anything less than a 25mm rim is now considered narrow for an aggressive trail or enduro bike. We recommend trying to find something in the range of 26mm to 30mm.For less aggressive bikes it's less critical, but traction is traction. We like it on all of our bikes. It's a good idea to ask manufacturers or dealers what range of tires you can run on their rims.Choosing a Complete Bike BuildFrame. Aluminum vs. Carbon is your first big decision point. Choosing an aluminum frame offers substantial cost savings. It's slightly heavier, flexes more easily, and is somewhat weaker than carbon.If you're just trying to get out on your bike, aluminum is great. Consider carbon fiber if investing in your bike is a priority, and you plan on having it for an extended period. Carbon fiber ages better than aluminum.Fork and Rear Shock. A higher end fork and rear shock will be more adjustable to your weight, riding style, and personal preference.Drivetrain. It's important to note if the drivetrain has one (1x) or two (2x) chainrings. Two chainrings require a front derailleur, meaning you have shifters on both sides of your handlebars. We like 1x better. It's simpler, easier to shift, leaves more room for a dropper seat post control, and is less to destroy.Wheelset. Higher quality is better, but pay attention to the rim width, which can drastically alter how effective your tires are. Rims are getting wider along with tires, making traction plentiful and bikes more comfortable.Seatpost. We highly recommend a dropper seat post. Here's a review of some of the best. If you're not a convert already, it will change your game more than any other single shift. Sometimes it's worth jumping up to a higher quality complete build to get one and sometimes it makes more sense to get one separately.Women's BikesThe majority of mountain bikes are considered unisex models. What makes any bike a women's bike, is whether or not a woman is riding it. The problem with only providing unisex models for both men and women is that these bikes are set up for the average rider.The average rider still skews male and is around 30 pounds heavier than a woman of approximately the same height (according to women's MTB company Juliana and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention).Men are also taller than women on average. This means that frames can be too big and shock tunes can be too stiff for smaller, lighter riders.Several bike manufacturers address this issue by making women's specific models. Some take a step further and branch off into separate, women's specific companies. Examples of the former include Specialized and Trek.Examples of the latter include Santa Cruz's Juliana and Giant's Liv. It used to be more common to build women's bikes from the ground up with unique geometry. Now most companies provide unisex frames with lighter shock tunes, different colors, and women's specific touch points. These touch points include women's saddles, smaller grips, and sometimes shorter cranks and handlebars.Liv is the noted exception, foregoing unisex geometry to create unique women's specific frames. We found their Pique SX frame comfortable but less performance-oriented than our favorite women's bike, the Juliana Joplin. The Joplin shares its chassis with the unisex Santa Cruz Tallboy.Setting frame design aside, we find sizing and shock tunes to be the most essential elements of a women's mountain bike. First, a bike has to fit. Second, its fork and shock need to respond to small impacts and use their full travel range on larger hits.At that point, you have a functioning mountain bike. We found the lighter tunes on the three women's bikes we tested worked very well for our 100 to 130-pound testers, some of whom have a tough time dialing in the unisex bikes that they ride.In other words, women need bikes in smaller sizes with appropriate shock tunes. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of bikes available that fit this description. Companies tweak only a fraction of unisex bikes to make women's specific models. Women can undoubtedly make shocks with stiffer tunes work, sometimes by appealing to the shock manufacturers themselves. It's just harder and time-consuming, a real bummer when you just want to get on your bike and ride.Consumer Direct vs. Local Bike ShopConsumer direct is a major buzzword in the mountain bike industry. More and more brands are now selling their bikes directly to the consumer. This cuts out the middleman, which is the local bike shop.With the middleman cut out of the sales chain, companies can sell their bikes at extremely attractive prices. Brands like YT, Commencal, and Canyonare the biggest consumer-direct brands in the USA.Convenience and savings often come at a cost, and buying consumer direct is no different. Purchasing a mountain bike at a bike shop buys you a relationship with a shop and maybe some small complimentary services. Quick repairs and warranty services may often be conducted for free.Multiple Bikes?Having a quiver of mountain bikes is the definition of luxury. A multi-bike quiver can be the best solution to get the most out of this fantastic sport. That said, it certainly isn't cheap. Having a short-travel and an enduro bike will have you covered on the bulk of trails.Since this is somewhat unrealistic, we place a lot of emphasis on mid-travel trail bikes. These are often the best solution as they are comfortable on a huge variety of terrain.Long rides, some shuttle laps, after-work hot laps, these bikes can do-it-all. You can always rent a longer travel bike for an occasional trip to the bike park.ConclusionThis guide should help make your big mountain bike decision a little bit easier. Be sure to think through the process in its entirety. The most important thing about deciding which mountain bike to buy is to be realistic about your trails, skills, and desires. Factors such as riding style, the type of terrain you typically ride, personal preference, and budget can also help determine the best affordable mountain bike for you. Amazon's bike buying guide can help you locate good mountain bikes within your budget.Keep in mind that bikes purchased from Amazon require at least some assembly before riding. If you're not comfortable with this part, it's worth asking for help from an experienced mechanic before hitting the trails.