Last Updated: December 21, 2018 (Three new bikes)
There is a distinct difference between a cheap mountain bikes and cheaply made mountain bikes. “Cheap” is often associated with “cheaply made,” but for our purposes, cheap means high in value rather than substandard in quality.
So, with that terminology clarification, let’s have a look at seven fabulously-cheap mountain bikes! With the variety of price points and bike types, you’ll certainly be able to find what the smart shopper in you is looking for.
The Best Mountain Bikes Are…
- Diamondback Overdrive
- Giant Stance 2
- Diamondback Hook
- Cannondale Catalyst 3
- Raleigh Eva
- Co-Op DRT 1.1 / 1.1W
- Merax Finiss
Our Top Decision
Here it is – our favorite cheap mountain bike since 2015! The Diamondback Overdrive 29 made it into our tests back in 2015, when we first made our lists available. We’ve seen many different bikes in this category come and go while the Overdrive 29 held its position consistently!
But as of now, Diamondback no longer manufactures this cheap mountain bike – unfortunate, but not an uncommon occurrence. (A new and more expensive Overdrive series has taken its place.) The good news is that the this non-current Overdrive 29 is available for an incredible price on Amazon.
- 29” wheels
- Readers’ favorite in our reviews
- 100 mm of front suspension travel
- “Expensive-looking” design
The frame is made of well-known and lightweight 6061 aluminum alloy. This tough frame, combined with Overdrive 29’s double-wall alloy rims, equals a stout build that will take lots of punishment from rough trails and long days.
The frame’s 70-degree head tube angle is just the right geometry for stability and maneuverability while powering up climbs and darting down trails.
Components are well chosen – Shimano Acera derailleurs, Tektro mechanical disc brakes, 29” wheels with Schwalbe Rapid Rob tires and the SR Suntour XCT suspension fork with 100 mm of travel. We could go on about this bike’s fine components and design, but I’ll just say that this bike has no notable weak points – it’s an absolute front runner in its price category.
User reviews gave this Diamondback Overdrive 29 an impressive rating of 4.4 out of 5. Currently, there are 90+ customer reviews, so we are confident that the rating confirms our assessment of the bike.
There are four sizes available, and if you’re not sure what size to choose, here’s the low-down:
S: for riders 5’4” – 5’7” in height
M: 5’7” – 5’10”
L: 5’10” – 6’1”
XL: 6’1” – 6’4”
To summarize, this bike is my personal favorite. Based on our statistics, over 100 people purchased this Diamondback Overdrive 29 after reading our reviews! Impressive as that number may be, it should be even higher because Overdrive 29 is such a superb entry level mountain bike!
Still unsure? Just look at this bike’s design – no one would believe it’s a cheap mountain bike. Keep it a secret and let them think it’s a bike that cost thousands!
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Best Cheap Full Suspension Bike
Just looking at the price tag on this bike out of context, you’d say the Giant Stance is too expensive and it does not belong on this cheap mountain bikes list. However, considering that it is a full suspension bike and taking into account the equipment you get with it, we come to the conclusion that it is actually a bargain.
It is designed and built by Giant, one of the biggest companies in the world, and it has one of the most beautiful paint jobs we’ve seen. The black/green combo is cool, but we were blown away by the fiery red on the black background. Check it out!
- Full Suspension
- 27.5 x 2.6″ tires
- 2 x 9 gears
Now, let’s take a look at what really matters! The frame is made from the well-known ALUXX-grade aluminum that provides the perfect balance between weight, comfort, and durability. It’s combined with a Suntour Axon 32 LO-R fork with 120 mm of travel and a Suntour Raidon R rear shock. Whatever the terrain, you can simply blast through it.
The components are mostly Shimano. The rear derailleur is a Shimano Deore and at the front is a Shimano Alivio. This combo is pretty standard at this price range. The drivetrain is a 2×9, which is quite popular among mountain bikers.
Of course, a set of Shimano hydraulic brakes is expected at this price, so you can tackle corners more aggressively from now on.
Giant has provided the wheels and clad them in Maxxis 27.5×2.6“ tires. They’re both tubeless and really wide, so you have the freedom to hit more demanding trails.
In the end, the Giant Stance is not a bike you can win the MTB World Championship with, but it is a fantastic choice for this money. It comes with full suspension and great components, so buy it if you want to start riding intermediate trails but don’t want to break the bank.
- 27.5″ wheels
- Solid, functional components despite the low price
- Disc brakes
- Lightweight 6061-T6 aluminum alloy frame
- Part of our previous reviews
The Diamondback Hook is a top contender in its price category, and I’ve flagged it as a strong pick for two years running. We’ve tested this bike thoroughly, and keep coming back to it as one of the best examples of a high-quality, cheap mountain bike.
The 6061-T6 aluminum alloy frame includes double-butted tubing and is lightweight yet solid. (For entry level mountain bike, aluminum is the most practical and best-performing frame material.) The Hook comes in a fun, bright green color.
This sexy but cheap mountain bike is bred with Diamondback’s legendary frame-building know-how, and we have yet to find any negative user reviews about its reliability or long-term performance.
Double-walled 27.5” wheels aren’t especially lightweight, but are solidly in line with the bike’s quality build, and will provide excellent performance out of the box and over the long haul. WTB Vigilante 2.3″ wide tires complement the wheelset and will help the rider float over trail features and rough terrain, but they are also quite competent on gravel roads and pavement sections, according to user reviews we found.
Components on the Hook include Shimano’s Tourney, Avera and Altus lines for the 24-speed drivetrain. These are mid- to low-level components, which, with normal use and service, will perform well for many years.
GuiderTip: When shifting gears, use the “soft-pedal” technique – back off the pedal pressure while shifting, let the drive quickly complete the shift, then push once again on the pedals as hard as you like. This technique saves unnecessary wear on the drive, and might even avert a broken chain or bent sprocket tooth.
Front suspension comes complements of SR Suntour’s XCM coil spring fork – which provides 120 mm of plush travel and pre-load adjustment.
User reviews are quite positive (given that it is a cheap mountain bike); it earned a 4.0 out of 5 rating on Amazon.
Assembly of the Hook is relatively simple. The bike comes ready to be built in a few simple steps; you’ll need only to attach the front wheel, saddle and pedals. Most people – even those with minimal mechanical skills – will be able to accomplish this without difficulty.
What size do I need? The 18” frame covers riders from 5’7” – 5’10” in height, 20” frame for 5’10” – 6’1” and 22” for 6’1” – 6’4”.
Why the Hook?
Diamondback Hook is one of the best cheap mountain bikes on the market. It’s built to be a true off-road warrior at the lowest possible price.
GuiderTip: Be sure to keep on top of basic maintenance like cleaning and lubricating the chain/drive, and keeping correct air pressure in the tires. With this minimal care the bike will perform well and reliably for years of off-road riding.
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The brand Cannondale is widely known and our research found it to be one of the top performers in this test.
The Cannondale Catalyst 3 frame is constructed of Catalyst, SmartForm aluminum alloy – a material similar to those used on all cheap mountain bikes in our test. The front suspension is courtesy of SR Suntour’s M3030 fork with 75 mm travel.
These two are the weakest parts of this bike.
- Four sizes
- Mechanical disc brakes
- 27 gears
Talking about the components, this bike has 21. Shifting is handled by Shimano entry-level components. These brakes will require more finger power on the levers for sudden stops than do hydraulical brakes.
Cannondale is definitely one bike brand which we will keep eyes on. We believe the company is eager to distribute its bikes to masses, and we’re here to help because we’re convinced their bikes are fantastic values and solid performers!
Best Cheap Mountain Bike For Women – Raleigh Eva
Best For Women!
- Women-specific design
- 75 mm of front suspension travel
- Weinmann 27.5” wheels
- Available in three color themes and four frame sizes
Don’t get me wrong, women can use men’s or unisex mountain bikes without issue. The Raleigh Eva 2 is, however, built specifically for women, including frame geometry and component selection. Raleigh has discontinued its production of this great bike, and that’s why it’s available only on Amazon, and for such a rock-bottom price.
6061 aluminum alloy frame comes in three colors (blue, silver or black). The Eva 2 frameset is “double-butted,” meaning the frame tube material is thicker in the higher-stress junction areas. Double-butting also keeps frame weights down.
Eva 2’s 27.5” wheels are Weinmann XTB, an interesting choice because Weinmann rims are often found on much more expensive bikes. The XTBs definitely add value to the Eva 2.
Components are mainly entry-level Shimano. Cycling components tend to last much longer for female riders than for male, because, in most cases, women take better care of their bikes. Also, men tend to weigh more than women and, in general, put more strain on the entire bike. Eva 2 boasts 21 gears, which means the bike is suitable for all types of terrain.
Front suspension comes via SR Suntour’s XCT fork with 75mm of travel. This is a critical component of the Eva 2, because it will smooth trail chatter and bumps, and promote rider control and confidence. This particular fork is often found on budget mountain bikes – it’s a solid pick from a well-known manufacturer that simply works great despite its low price.
User reviews are good, giving the bike a rating of 4.7 out of 5. This tells the story – users are, overall, very happy with the performance and value of the Eva 2.
Frame size availability may vary based on color, but the rider height guide for Eva 2 looks like this:
XS: 5’ – 5’3” in height
S: 5’3”– 5’6”
M: 5’6” – 5’9”
L: 5’9” – 6’
To wrap up, Eva 2 is definitely the best cheap mountain bike designed specifically for women. With its nice mix of components and thoughtful attention to design and details, the bike will certainly help stoke the motivation to take longer and more adventurous rides. Women-specific mountain bikes are somewhat uncommon, and less common still is one with such a nice balance between components and price – that’s the Eva 2.
The Co-op DRT 1.1 (1.1W for Women) is one of the cheapest and the best hardtail mountain bikes you can get for the money. It is created by Co-op Cycles, a bike company started by REI, who definitely know what they are doing when it comes to anything related to bicycles.
- 27.5″ tires
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Brand crafted by REI
The Co-op DRT 1.1 is available as both a male and a female bike, with few differences between the two. The frame material, fork, ad the components used are completely the same on both of them.
The only difference is that the women’s model is two pounds lighter than the men’s model, has a women-specific saddle, and slightly different geometry. However, if you cannot find the 1.1W version, we believe the 1.1 will fit women nicely as well.
In terms of components, you cannot expect much since this bike costs less than $500, which makes it a real cheap mountain bike. However, you still get more than enough if you are a recreational rider and plan to ride this bike just for fun.
The fork is the SR Suntour XCT, compatible with 27.5”, wheels which this model does come with.
The drivetrain is provided by Shimano, so even though the Altus and Acera groupsets are low-end, you know you get a guarantee of quality. They will shift without any problems through all 24 mountain biking gears on the bike.
The thing that makes this bike the absolute under-500-dollar superstar is the hydraulic disc brakes. They are not often seen on much pricier bikes, but they are included on the Co-op DRT 1.1/1.1W.
All in all, if you do not want to spend a lot of cash on a mountain bike but you want to get great value for your money the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1/1.1W is probably the best choice you can make.
Whoever said cycling is an expensive hobby was definitely lying. Merax Finiss is incredibly cheap but comes with some awesome surprises in terms of components. If you don’t want or don’t have lots of money to spend on a mountain bike, you can get this entry-level bike for around $250.
It’s built around a lightweight and durable heat-treated aluminum frame, available in three attractive colors: Black/Red, Gray/Green, and White with red details.
It’s equipped with entry-level derailleurs, but they are made by Shimano. Even though they won’t offer the smoothness of high-end derailleurs, they should keep you rolling for a long time if you take good care of them. The rear derailleur is protected by a guard, so even if you fall on the trail, nothing should happen to it. In total, it has 21 speeds, which is more than enough to have an easy going ride anywhere.
The suspended fork offers 80 mm of travel, so feel free to hit the bumpy terrain, which is what this bike is built for.
Unlike any other mountain bike at this price range, Merax Finiss comes with a pair of mechanical disc brakes. They offer a substantially better braking performance than rim brakes, and they’re considered a must on any mountain bike.
Merax Finiss is rolling on 26” wheels, which are not as popular as 27.5” wheels nowadays, but they’ll give you plenty of stability and maneuverability on the trails.
So, if you know you won’t be doing mountain biking seriously and you just need a two-wheeler that will allow you to spend more time in nature and riding through your favorite forests, you won’t go wrong with Merax Finiss.
It pays good dividends to learn a little before buying a cheap mountain bike. So, let’s move on to our cheap mountain bike buying guide.
Buying such a bike isn’t such a simple task, and there are pitfalls which should be avoided.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a decent mountain bike. However, it stands to reason that, although cheaply-priced bikes do well, they aren’t as reliable as more premium mountain bikes. With that stated, a cheap mountain bike will, unquestionably, provide years of reliable service if proactively maintained.
Some common questions we’ve received from our readers…
Should I buy a hardtail or full suspension mountain bike?
In short, because you can’t get a proper cheap full-suspension mountain bike for a similar price. While some cheap mountain bike reviews claim otherwise, we know from experience that these cheap, full-suspension bikes may be more trouble in the long run than their low price is worth. So!… We strongly advise a hardtail frame for your new cheap mountain bike – this will best serve new riders and those purchasing a bike in this price category.
Each part of a bike affects its price – frame, front suspension fork, wheels, hubs, derailleurs, shifters, discs, calipers, seat, handlebar, tires, cassette, chainrings and so on. A suitably equipped, entry level mountain bike will include components which are carefully considered to deliver satisfactory performance and durability while maintaining very low price. It’s not as easy as it sounds, which is why we are busy all year long with searching out the gems.
Rear suspension is a commitment, and bikes that include it are somewhat beyond our idea of an excellent cheap mountain bike. The cost of such a bike fitted with reasonable components will be considerably more than one with a hardtail frame. (Also, it will require additional maintenance.) Very many cheap, dual suspension mountain bikes are simply awful, so, we cannot really recommend that you pursue them. Stick with the hardtail for your cheap mountain bike; you’ll most likely be happier in the long run. Really set on full suspension? If so, you’ll want to increase your budget beyond what you’d spend on a cheap hardtail.
The cheapest full suspension mountain bike I’ve found is around $700 – the Diamondback Recoil. It may be considered cheap by some, but, at over $500, it’s too expensive for our cheap mountain bikes list.
What size should I choose?
Choosing a properly sized mountain bike is crucial, and may be trickier when doing it online. But hundreds of bikes are sold online every second, so it’s not difficult with some investigation. Bike manufacturers’ sizing info is a great place to start with bike fitting; also, you can find your proper size here.
If you are “between” two different sizes: We suggest you take the larger frame if you are over 5’7”, and opt for the smaller frame if you are under 5’7”.
What components should I look for?
Reliable components on a bike – especially a cheap mountain bike – are a must. By reliable, I don’t mean, say, top-notch Shimano XT, because that component group won’t be found in the cheap mountain bike price range. As you shop, look for decent entry-level components from Shimano, SRAM or other reputable manufacturers.
Entry-level components will be durable enough for years of service if you take care of them. By that, I mean both on and off the bike. “Soft pedal” during gear shifts until the shift is complete, then hammer away again. Be proactive with bike maintenance, including checking tire pressure, and checking the air pressure in the suspension fork where applicable.
Cheap mountain bikes are not intended for harsh racing or fast riding through the extremely rough terrain. For bikes that can take such abuse, you might want to look at our list of mountain bikes under $1,000.
Should I upgrade my bike?
Yes, you can easily upgrade your bike by replacing existing parts with better ones:
- Wheel choice affects not only the price but also the weight and handling of your bike. Upgrading wheels and/or tires can be the most noticeable upgrade on a mountain bike. Check for wheels and tires on Amazon. Note that you can shave additional weight from your bike by moving to a “tubeless” wheel/tire combination.
- It’s possible to upgrade your component group. If you have Shimano Altus, for example, you can upgrade to a higher-level Shimano group such as Alivio or Deore.
- Brakes are a component to consider upgrading. If you have mechanical disc brakes, for example, a new hydraulic disc brake set can easily be fitted to your bike and will deliver more powerful and controlled braking. Note that V-brakes, however, are difficult to upgrade to disc brakes.
- Your saddle plays a huge role in overall bike comfort. Some stock saddles are truly bad, making an upgrade necessary. Some saddles simply do not fit certain bodies correctly. In either case, a saddle upgrade is not a nicety but is necessary. Saddles which have positive online reviews are usually good choices.
If you don’t feel comfortable with your present stem length or rise, you might want to look for different one. A shorter stem will bring the handlebar closer to the rider, and vice versa. More or less rise will affect the degree to which you are bent over your bike; more rise equals a more upright riding posture. You can see the selection here.
What model years should I look for?
Newer isn’t always better.
As you can see, there are some older models on our list. You shouldn’t be concerned about this because bikes have, essentially, been unchanged for many decades – and because the riders have not changed much either!
Models come and go for reasons other than whether a bike is a good value, so keep an open mind toward discontinued models and new bikes from previous model years. Some new bikes could be up to five years old – these will usually be super bargains.
Look for such deals on Amazon, where bike manufacturers liquidate older models to save on warehousing costs.
How many gears should my bike have?
Gears don’t tell you much today because you can find cheap mountain bikes with 10 to 27 gears. Gear range, though, is not determined by the number of gears, but by the number of teeth in the sprockets. So, it generally doesn’t make sense to choose a bike based on its number of gears.
It’s a generally-known truth that the greater number gears, the less likelihood that parts will break or need replacement. However, cheap mountain bikes tend to have more gears today than ever, so, search wisely!
Should I buy online or local bike shop?
A popular question!
You can find super-cheap mountain bikes in both places. Typically, though, local bike shops have higher overhead costs – payroll, building maintenance, warehousing, etc., – which will add to the price of most bikes. Online stores, obviously, don’t incur these costs which do brick-and-mortar stores.
We suggest looking for bikes online because, at this point, you can find more of the best deals there.
The best sources we’ve found are Amazon, Wiggle, REI and others. These online vendors have good reputations for reliability. If you find an oddly-cheap price, use vigilance and check it out thoroughly, because it might be a scam. New e-shops which are less than reputable seem to pop up around shopping holidays like Black Friday; beware of these, and to be suspicious if a price seems “too good to be true.”
We recommend keeping away from cheap mountain bikes from department stores because they are usually poorly constructed, use substandard components, and are unnecessarily weighty. If you decide to buy from an off-line store, check to be sure the shop is legit.
How much should I pay for my cheap mountain bike?
As long as you are within your target price category, the price tag on a cheap mountain bike should not be your primary consideration.
Price is a small part of the story – a nice price, should not absolutely drive your purchase decision. More pointedly, the component set and quality of build are the most important considerations. Yes, there are bikes under $250, but we do not recommend these to even the lightest recreational rider.
Check a bike’s mix of components – are there any comparatively weak parts? If it includes a nice balance of components but, for example, the suspension is junk, it won’t be a great value in the near or long term. We’ve done our homework on every bike on our list, and we think you’ll be quite happy with any choice among them that suits you.
The lowest price tag you should consider seriously is $300. If you find a bike that’s cheaper (stock price), it is highly suspect of poor quality, and we suggest you continue shopping.
What brands should I look for?
There are hundreds of mountain bike brands and tens of thousands of bike models. A decade ago, many of today’s best performers weren’t known to our readers. Today, we continue to see new performers providing top quality mountain bikes.
We suggest you research inexpensive mountain bikes like Diamondback, Giant, GT, Breezer, Co-op cycles, Raleigh, Fuji and others – but keep in mind that not every bike model is worthy of your hard-earned money.
Bicycle Guider’s research methods.
We have researched and analyzed the components, builds, frame sizes, user reviews and other aspects of each bike we list. We don’t just list the best entry level mountain bikes but give you a complete bike assessment of each pick in our complete buyer’s guide.
We contact manufacturers to glean additional info when needed. Since we are a known review resource, companies are quick to respond with thorough information.
Only when we’ve gotten every bit of info that satisfies our confidence in a bike will we include it in our review list.
To Wrap It Up
I hope you enjoy shopping for a cheap mountain bike for yourself! While we update this selection regularly, it’s possible there may be some lingering outdated information. If you find any, please don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know! We thank you in advance.
I truly hope that Bicycle Guider makes shopping for a bike an enjoyable experience for you. Also, I’m hoping we’ll make your choice much easier and save you both time and money!