Before showing you the best cheap mountain bikes we recommend, we’d like to make one thing clear.
There is a distinct difference between cheap mountain bikes and cheaply made mountain bikes. “Cheap” is often associated with “cheaply made,” but for our purposes, cheap means high in value and low in price, rather than substandard in quality.
So, with that terminology clarified, let’s take a look at nine high-value yet cheap mountain bikes we’d buy in 2023!
We’ve included a wide variety of price points and bike types, so you’ll be able to find something that fits both your budget and the riding style you prefer.
How Did We Choose These Bikes?Our writers have researched and analyzed the components, builds, frame sizes, user reviews, and other aspects of each bike on our 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 find 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 as one of the best mountain bikes for the money.
Best Cheap Mountain Bikes
1. GT Avalanche Comp (Our Top Pick!)
2. Schwinn Mesa 3 (Strong 2nd)
3. Cannondale Habit HT 2 (Podium)
4. Orbea Laufey H10
5. Rocky Mountain Growler 20
6. Mongoose Malus Fat Bike
7. Co-op Cycles DRT Series
8. Marin San Quentin 1
9. Salsa Rangefinder Deore
1. GT Avalanche Comp
Winner! Best-Buy Entry-Level MTB
- 29″ wheels
- Solid, functional components despite the low price
- Tektro Hydraulic Disc brakes
- Lightweight Aluminum MTB frame
- 1×10 drivetrain
GT Avalanche Comp is a top contender in its price category when it comes to recreational mountain bikes. I’ve included it as a strong pick due to the great specs and looks you get with a reasonable price tag.
The 6061 T6 aluminum frame is lightweight yet solid and should last you for years to come. The Avalanche Comp comes in a simple and modern black color, which most riders will like as it makes the bike look more expensive than it really is.
This best affordable mountain bike is created with GT’s long-lasting frame-building know-how, and we have yet to find any negative user reviews about its reliability or long-term performance.
The components on the Avalanche Comp include a microShift 10-speed rear derailleur coupled with a wide-range 11-42T cassette and a low-range 32T crankset. These are entry-level components, which, with normal use and service, will perform well for many years.
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.
Be sure to also 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.
To sum up, the GT Avalanche Comp is one of the best cheap mountain bikes for beginner riders on the market, built to be a true off-road warrior at the lowest possible price.
2. Schwinn Mesa 3
Strong Second! Best Mountain Bike for Beginners
MSRP: Check Price on Amazon
- MTB-ready 27.5″ x 2.1″ tires
- 80 mm suspension fork
- Shimano Tourney 21-speed drivetrain
- Linear-pull brakes
See more: Overview of Schwinn Mountain Bikes
Schwinn Mesa 3 is a great entry-level mountain bike that will roll over almost any obstacle.
This capable hardtail costs only around $500 but offers a lot in terms of durability, and performance.
There are three sizes available, plus the Mesa 3 comes with a step-through frame too.
You can take the Mesa on off-road adventures and its 27.5″ x 2.1″ tires and 80 mm of suspension will ensure a comfortable ride.
This bike also sports entry-level Shimano Tourney components. You have 21 gears at your disposal to ride up steep climbs, storm flats, or attack descents.
The Radius V993, linear-pull brakes are entry-level, but they’re good enough for beginner riders in terms of precision and immediate braking power.
Therefore, the Schwinn Mesa 3 is, without a doubt, one of the best mountain bike deals in its category, especially in this price range.
3. Cannondale Habit HT 2
Third place! Best 29er Hardtail
- 29″ wheels
- TranzX dropper post
- microSHIFT Advent X Pro
- SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes
Cannondale is a widely known bike brand and our research found it to be one of the top performers in this test.
The Habit HT 2’s frame is constructed using lightweight SmartForm C2 aluminum alloy combined with a RockShox Judy TK 130mm fork.
The Habit HT 2 is the best affordable mountain bike that will put a smile on the face of any off-road riding beginner out there.
Talking about the components, this bike has a 10-speed drivetrain that includes an 11-48t cassette, paired up with a 30T chainring.
The SRAM hydraulic disc brakes perform really well in all weather conditions, so you can actually use the Habit HT 2 in any condition.
Cannondale is definitely a bike brand that you should definitely consider in any price category. Most of their bikes offer great value and solid performance, as is the case with the habit HT 2.
4. Orbea Laufey H10
Best-Equipped Aluminum Trail Bike
- Marzocchi Bomber Z2 suspension fork, 140mm
- Shimano Deore 12-speed rear derailleur
- 29″ x 2.6″ tubeless-ready tires
- Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
Orbea Laufey H10 is a mid-range trail bike that comes with a compliant aluminum frame and a high-performing Marzocchi Bomber Z2 suspension fork. It’s a solid choice for off-road fans who want to ride extreme trails and excel at both climbing and descending.
Orbea Laufey H10 is an affordable trail bike that utilizes several elements that can be seen on some much more expensive machines in this company.
Laufey H10 is built around this company’s well-known lightweight aluminum alloy frame that is renowned for its lightness and durability. It’s paired up with a 140 mm suspension fork and a steep 65.5-degree head tube angle.
Apart from that, this Orbea model can also be proud of its components. Even though it is not fitted with high-end parts, most of these are built by Shimano. The rear derailleur is Shimano Deore, offering 12 versatile speeds that will help you ride up any hill in your area.
You’re probably most interested in the tires, which are Maxxis Forekaster (R) and Rekon (R), 29″ x 2.6″. They are tubeless-ready and massive, so they’re suitable for the toughest of trails.
Finally, we should let you know that this bike also comes with a set of Shimano hydraulic disc brakes which is a decent deal for the money.
All in all, the Laufey H10 is a good-looking bike that will help any rider fall in love with off-road cycling and enjoy the wide outdoors. It’s an excellent choice for any amateur or enthusiast, even though it costs a bit more.
5. Rocky Mountain Growler 20
Best-Rated Cheap MTB
- 29″ wheels
- 130 mm of front suspension travel
- Expensive-looking design
The Growler 20 is a stylish hardtail available in Black/Red or Gold/Yellow finishes.
The frame is made from well-known and lightweight 6061 aluminum alloy. This tough frame, combined with Growler 20’s tubeless-ready rims, equals a stout build that will take lots of punishment from rough trails and long days.
The Rocky Mountain Growler 20 is an affordable yet reliable way to put your foot in the mountain biking world and start reaping the benefits.
The frame’s slack 64-degree head tube angle is just the right geometry for stability and maneuverability, while still being able to power up climbs and dart down trails.
The components are well-chosen as well. You have a microSHIFT Advent X drivetrain, Clarks M2 hydraulic disc brakes, 29” wheels with wide 2.6″ tires, and the SR Suntour XCM 34 suspension fork with 130 mm of travel. We could go on about this bike’s 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.
To summarize, this is one of the best mountain bikes under $1,500, especially if you like descending and you want the most travel you can get.
6. Mongoose Malus Fat Tire Bike
Best Cheap Fat Bike
MSRP: Check Price on Amazon
- 26″ x 4″ fat tires
- 1×7 Shimano drivetrain
- Mechanical disc brakes
- Rigid fork
Fat bikes have stopped being a fad and became a lasting trend years ago. Simply, people have recognized their value and their practicality in rough situations.
Mongoose Malus is our top pick in the fat tire bike category because of value to price ratio that is still unmatched by any other similar fat two-wheeler.
Namely, this beast of a bicycle comes with a super-strong cruiser steel frame and fork, with 26″ aluminum wheels and mechanical disc brakes. These are fitted with 4-inch-wide tires that can conquer any terrain.
Mongoose Malus touts a 1×7 drivetrain with a Shimano rear mech, which is more than enough gearing when you’re riding on snow, sand, or over sharp rocks.
Finally, we love the simplicity of the design and the colors as well. If that’s something that matters to you, you can definitely check it on your list of priorities.
Don’t expect miracles at such a low price, but considering the components, this is easily one of the best mountain bikes for the money.
Related: All Best Fat Tire Bikes
7. Co-op Cycles DRT Series
Best Affordable Mountain Bike
MSRP: from $529
- 26, 27.5, and 29 wheels
- Mechanical and Hydraulic disc brakes
- Rigid, hardtail, and full-suspension models
- Men’s and women’s bikes
The Co-op DRT series is comprised of some of the cheapest and the best mountain bikes 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.
Co-op Cycles’ DRT series has a large number of different bikes that are suitable for various types of riders. You can use them for leisure riding or for more serious trail riding. However, most models are intended for light and moderate trails.
All DRT bikes have disc brakes and most of them come with at least front suspension. A few models have both front and rear suspension, but they are a bit more expensive. On average, DRT models cost around $1,000 to $1,500, though there the pricing starts from $530.
In terms of components, you’ll mainly be seeing entry-level and mid-range Shimano and SRAM parts, such as Tourney, SX Eagle, Altus, Alivio, etc.
Related: How To Start Cycling
Consider one of the models in the Co-op Cycles DRT series if you don’t want to break the bank but you want a well-built bike made by a reputable USA-based company.
Best Cheap Mountain Bikes for Women
8. Marin San Quentin 1
Best Beginner MTB for Women
- Unisex design
- Fabulous paint job
- 130mm of front suspension travel
- 27.5” wheels
Don’t get me wrong, women can use men’s or unisex mountain bikes without any issues, and the Marin San Quentin 1 is such a bike. It can be enjoyed by both male and female entry-level riders.
Marin’s Series 2 aluminum alloy frame comes in a beautiful sand color with black accents. The frame has a trail MTB geometry, so it puts stability and efficiency at the top of its priorities.
The Marin San Quentin 1 is a remarkable hardtail trail bike that packs a strong punch with its overall fantastic design and quality build even though it’s quite affordable.
Components are mainly entry-level. The San Quentin has a 9-speed MicroSHIFT Advent drivetrain, which means the bike is suitable for all types of terrain.
Front suspension comes in the form of an SR Suntour XCM34 fork with 130 mm of travel. This is a critical component of the bike because it will smoothen out trail chatter and bumps, and promote rider control and confidence.
Frame size availability may vary, but this bike comes in four sizes: Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large.
To wrap up, Marin San Quentin 1 is definitely one of the best cheap mountain bikes designed for recreational riding and light trails. With its nice mix of components and thoughtful attention to design and details, this bike will certainly give you the motivation to go on longer and more adventurous rides.
9. Salsa Rangefinder Deore
Solid Shimano Deore drivetrain
- Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain
- SR Suntour XCM32 fork, 120 mm
- Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
- 29″ wheels
Salsa Rangefinder is a cheap model from the popular off-road brand but comes with some awesome surprises in terms of components.
It’s built around a lightweight and durable triple-butted aluminum frame.
It’s equipped with a consistent and durable Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain. Even though it won’t offer the smoothness of a high-end derailleur, it should keep you rolling for a long time if you take good care of it.
The Salsa Rangefinder comes equipped with some hard-to-believe specs and components for the price.
The SR Suntour XCM32 fork offers 120mm of travel, so feel free to hit the bumpy terrain, which is what this bike is built for.
Unlike many other mountain bikes in this price range, the Rangefinder Deore comes with a pair of Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. They offer a substantially better braking performance than rim brakes, and they’re considered a must on any mountain bike.
The Salsa Rangefinder is also rolling on 29” wheels which give you plenty of stability and speed 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 Salsa’s Rangefinder.
Best Cheap Mountain Bikes Buyer’s Guide
Finding awesome mountain bike deals isn’t such a simple task, as there are some pitfalls that should be avoided.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to find great mountain bike deals. However, it’s worth noting that although cheaply-priced bikes do well, they aren’t as reliable as more premium mountain bikes. With that clear, a cheap mountain bike will, unquestionably, provide years of rides if taken care of properly.
To help you choose the right model, let’s answer some of the most common questions we get from our readers regarding cheap mountain bikes.
Should I Buy a Beginner Full-Suspension Mountain Bike or a Hardtail?
The short answer to this question is: You should buy a hardtail!
But why exactly is that?
In short, you can’t get a good-quality beginner full-suspension mountain bike for a similar price. While some cheap mountain bike reviews claim otherwise, we know from experience that low-priced, full-suspension bikes may be more trouble in the long run because of low-quality components.
That’s why we strongly advise buying a hardtail mountain bike if you want to spend little – you’ll get much better components that will last longer and require less maintenance.
Each part of a bike affects its price – frame, front suspension fork, wheels, hubs, derailleurs, shifters, brakes, seat, handlebar, tires, cassette, chainrings, and so on.
A suitably equipped, entry-level mountain bike will include components that are carefully considered to deliver satisfactory performance and durability while maintaining a very low price.
The rear suspension is a complex part, which is why full-suspension mountain bikes typically cost more. A cheap full-suspension mountain bike needs to save money in other areas, such as the brakes or the drivetrain.
Therefore, the cost of a full-suspension bike fitted with quality components will be considerably higher than one with a hardtail frame.
Most cheap, dual-suspension mountain bikes are equipped with low-quality components, which is why we didn’t recommend any in this review.
If you really want to get a full-suspension mountain bike, you’ll have to increase your budget and spend at least $2,000 to get something reliable and trail-worthy. You can start by reading our guide on the best full-suspension MTBs.
Learn more: Mountain Bike Suspension Explained
What Size Should I Choose?
Choosing a properly sized mountain bike is crucial, and may be more challenging when purchasing a bike online.
Still, hundreds of bikes are sold online every second, so it’s definitely possible if you follow a few simple steps.
Bike manufacturers’ sizing info is a great place to start when considering which frame size to get. But you can also take a look at our detailed mountain bike size chart to get a good idea of which sizes would fit you well based on your height and inseam length.
If you are “between” two different sizes, we recommend getting the larger size if you are over 5’7”, and going for the smaller size 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 top-notch Shimano XT groupset, because that component group won’t be found in the budget mountain bike price range. Instead, you should look for decent entry-level components from Shimano, SRAM or other reputable manufacturers.
Entry-level components will be durable enough for years of use if you take care of them both on and off the bike.
For example, you should “soft pedal” during gear shifts until the shift is complete to put less strain on the derailleurs and shifters. Be proactive with bike maintenance, which includes checking tire pressure, cleaning and lubricating the chain, and checking the air pressure in the suspension fork where applicable.
Finally, keep in mind that cheap mountain bikes are not intended for harsh racing or fast riding over extremely rough terrain. If you want a bike suitable for that kind of abuse, you might want to check out our list of the best mountain bikes under $1,000.
Should I Upgrade My Inexpensive Bike?
Yes, you can easily upgrade your bike by replacing existing parts with better ones:
Wheels: 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. You can check for wheels and tires on Amazon. Also, note that you can shave additional weight from your bike by moving to a “tubeless” wheel/tire combination.
Components: 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: The brakes are an important component that you should 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.
Saddle: 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 necessity but is recommended. Saddles that have positive online reviews are usually good choices.
Stem: If you don’t feel comfortable with your present stem length or rise, you might want to look for a 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?When it comes to bikes and different models, newer isn’t always better.
As you can see, there are some older models on our list that work well. You shouldn’t be concerned about this because bikes have, essentially, been unchanged for decades – and riders haven’t changed much either!
Models come and go for reasons other than quality, so keep an open mind toward discontinued models and new bikes from previous years.
Some new bikes for sale online may have been released up to five years ago – these will usually be super inexpensive.
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 of gears, the less likelihood that parts will break or need replacement. However, budget mountain bikes tend to have more gears today than ever, so, search wisely!
Nowadays, modern mountain bikes come with 1x drivetrains that offer just 10, 11, or 12 gears. On the other hand, cheaper models have 2x or 3x drivetrains with up to 24 gears. So, more is not always better.
Should I Buy Online or from a Local Bike Shop?
This is a very good question that we get often.
You can find inexpensive mountain bikes in both places. Typically, though, local bike shops have higher overhead costs – payroll, building maintenance, warehousing – which will add to the price of most bikes. Online stores, obviously, don’t have these costs so they can sell bikes for less.
We suggest looking for bikes online because there’s a high chance you’ll find a good deal or a hefty discount.
The best online retailers we’ve found are Amazon, REI, Jenson USA, Mike’s Bikes, evo, and a few other. These online vendors have good reputations for reliability, good customer support, and a great selection of models.
If you search for a bike online and find a deal on a random website that looks too good to be true, be careful because it might be a scam. Scammy e-shops usually pop up around shopping holidays like Black Friday and Christmas, so be especially careful around those dates.
Finally, we recommend keeping away from most cheap mountain bikes from department stores because they are usually poorly constructed, use budget components, and won’t last long.
How Much Should I Spend on a Cheap Mountain Bike?
Even though you should try to stay within your budget, we don’t recommend doing so at all costs.
The price is a small part of the story and it should not be your main consideration. Instead, the components and the quality of the build should be the main factors to consider.
Bikes under $250 are affordable and it might be tempting to get one, but you should keep in mind that you get what you pay for. So it’s not a lot.
You should always take a closer look at the bike’s list of components and see if there are any weak links. For example, if the drivetrain is good but the suspension is junk, you may be cutting corners that you could regret in the long run.
We did that for every bike on our list, so we believe you will be happy whichever model you choose.
The lowest price tag you should consider for a brand-new bike is $300. Bikes cheaper than that probably have low-quality components, a heavy frame, poor wheels and suspension, and so on. Therefore, paying a bit more initially will pay you dividends in the long run.
Related: Best Mountain Bikes
What Brands Should I Look For?
There are hundreds of mountain bike brands and 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 brands releasing top-quality budget mountain bikes.
We suggest you research inexpensive mountain bikes from brands such as Diamondback, Giant, GT, Breezer, Co-op Cycles, Raleigh, Fuji, and others – but keep in mind that not every model offers good value for the money.
Consider pre-owned bikes on The Pro’s Closet