Let’s make one thing clear before you read on…
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 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 Cheap Mountain Bikes Are…
- Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 (Our Top Pick!)
- Rad Power RadRover 5 (Strong 2nd)
- Salsa Rangefinder Deore 29 (Podium)
- Ghost Square Cross 1.8
- Diamondback Overdrive
- Mongoose Malus Fat Bike
- Cannondale Cujo 20 Plus Kids
- Cannondale Trail Tango 3
- Merax Finiss
Our Top Pick! Best Unisex XC Bike
The Co-op DRT 1.1 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
- 100 mm fork travel
The Co-op DRT 1.1 is a unisex bike, which means it can be ridden by men and women equally well.
That’s reflected in the geometry, frame design, available sizes, and overall components.
In terms of components, you cannot expect much since this bike costs around $500, which makes it a really cheap mountain bike.
You still get more than enough in terms of components with Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 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 Tourney groupset is low-end, you know you get a guarantee of quality. It will shift without any problems through all 21 mountain biking gears on the bike.
The thing that makes this bike the absolute $500 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.
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 is probably the best unisex choice you can make.
Strong Second! Best Electric Fat Bike
Rad Power RadRover 5 is a remarkable electric fat bike that will help you ride longer and explore more unpaved roads.
This capable aluminum electric off-road machine costs just $1,499 but offers a lot in terms of modern technology, geometry, and performance.
First of all, the frame is available in one size that fits riders with an inseam length between 27″ and 34″.
RadRover 5 is built for serious off-road riding, so it’s equipped with massive 26″ x 4″ tires capable of tackling any kind of terrain.
It also sports entry-level Shimano Acera components. You have 7 gears at your disposal to ride up steep climbs, storm flats, or attack descents.
Rad Power RadRover 5 is powered by a powerful 750W motor with pedal-assist and throttle modes that can go assist you up to 20 mph.
Thanks to a 672Wh battery, this e-bike has a range of 45+ miles, which is enough for a few challenging rides on the trails.
Tektro’s Aries mechanical disc brakes are also entry-level, but they’re more than good enough for beginner riders in terms of precision and immediate braking power.
If you plan to ride RadRover 5 on dirt and gravel roads, you’ll get everything you need in the box. If you want to commute or travel on this bike, you can easily accessorize it with a rear rack. It already comes with fenders and front and rear lights.
It is, without a doubt, one of the best buys in its category.
Best All-Around Choice
Salsa is a widely known off-road brand and our research found it to be one of the top performers in this test.
The Salsa Rangefinder frame is constructed using premium lightweight aluminum alloy.
The front suspension is courtesy of SR Suntour’s XCR Air fork with 120 mm of travel. It’s ideal for trail and dirt riding.
Salsa Rangefinder is a solid, affordable bike that will put a smile on the face of all mountain biking beginners out there.
The main highlights on this Rangefinder include:
- 29″ wheels
- Five sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL)
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- 10 gears
- 2.6″ wide tires
Talking about the components, this bike has a drivetrain that puts 10 wide-range gears at your disposal. Shifting is handled by Shimano’s excellent-value Deore components.
The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes brake really well in all weather conditions, so you can ride Rangefinder even if it rains or snows outside.
Salsa is definitely a bike brand that you should keep your eyes on, and we will do the same as well. We believe the company is eager to distribute its bikes to masses, and we’re here to help because we’re convinced their bikes offer fantastic value and solid performance!
Best for Women
Ghost Square Cross 1.8 is an entry-level bike that comes with either a step-over or a step-through frame. The step-through version is built specifically for women. It’s a solid choice for casual riders and commuters.
Ghost Square Cross 1.8 is an affordable entry-level mountain bike that utilizes several elements that can be seen on some much more expensive machines from this company.
Square Cross 1.8 is built around Ghost’s well-known lightweight aluminum alloy frame that is renowned for its lightness and durability.
Another good feature of this bike is its suspension. It comes with an SR Suntour fork that offers 50 mm of travel, which is enough to make city rides more comfortable.
Apart from that, this Ghost bike 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 derailleurs are Shimano Altus, offering impressive 27 speeds that will help you ride up any hill in your area.
Finally, we should let you know that Ghost Square Cross comes with a set of Tektro hydraulic disc brakes which is a decent deal for the money. It also rolls on 35 mm wide tires. The combination of the two will help you feel stable and in control of the situation.
All in all, Ghost Square Cross 1.8 is a good-looking bike that will help any beginner fall in love with cycling and enjoy the wide outdoors. It’s an excellent choice for women.
Best Value Cheap 29er
Unfortunately, Diamondback no longer manufactures this cheap mountain bike – not an uncommon occurrence. A new and more expensive Overdrive series has taken its place.
The good news is that this particular Overdrive 29 is still available for an incredible price on Amazon. Here it is – our favorite cheap mountain bike since 2015! 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!
- 29” wheels
- Readers’ favorite in our reviews
- 80 mm of front suspension travel
- “Expensive-looking” design
The frame is made from 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.
Diamondback Overdrive 29 is an affordable yet reliable way to put your foot in the 29ers world and start reaping their benefits.
The frame’s 70-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.
Components are well-chosen – Shimano Acera derailleurs, Tektro mechanical disc brakes, 29” wheels with wide tires and the SR Suntour XCT suspension fork with 80 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 4.2 out of 5. Currently, there are 120+ 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 which one to choose, here’s the low-down:
Frame size – For riders
S 5’4” – 5’7”
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 costs thousands!
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Best Cheap Fat Bike
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. Though you can still see people riding fat bikes on city streets, but that’s a different story.
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 with 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.
At $380, don’t expect miracles. But you can definitely expect more than your reason and experience would tell you you could get with that amount of money!
Cannondale Cujo 20 Plus Kids
Most Versatile Cheap Kids’ MTB
- 20″ wheels
- Solid, functional components despite the low price
- Tektro Mechanical Disc brakes
- Lightweight Aluminum MTB frame
- 7 Gears
Cannondale Cujo 20 Plus is a top contender in its price category when it comes to kids’ bikes, and I’ve flagged it as a strong pick due to the remarkable specs and looks you get with a reasonable price tag.
Cannondale does not make many kids’ mountain bikes, they mainly focus on the adults cycling market (where they excel), so this is a valuable find.
The SmartForm C3 Alloy frame is lightweight yet solid and should last you for years to come. For entry-level mountain bikes, aluminum is the most practical and best-performing frame material. Cujo 20 Plus comes in a stunningly beautiful orange color, which most kids will adore.
This capable but affordable kids mountain bike is created from Cannondale’s legendary frame-building know-how, and we have yet to find any negative user reviews about its reliability or long-term performance.
Cannondale Disc wheels are 20″ in diameter, which means this bike is suitable for kids between 42″ and 49″ tall. Kenda 2.6″ 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 Cujo 20 Plus include Shimano Tourney parts on a 7-speed drivetrain. These are 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.
User reviews are quite positive. Parents are quite happy with the purchase and kids are over the moon with the ride they get.
Assembly of the Cannondale Cujo 20 Plus 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.
Why the Cujo 20 Plus?
This is one of the best cheap mountain bikes for kids 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.
Best Cheap Mountain Bike For Women – Cannondale Trail Tango 3
Best Beginner MTB for Women
Don’t get me wrong, women can use men’s or unisex mountain bikes without any issues.
The Cannondale Trail Tango 3 is, however, built specifically for women, including frame geometry and component selection.
Cannondale’s flagship SmartForm C3 aluminum alloy frame comes in a beautiful emerald color. The Trail Tango 3 frameset features Dirt-Tailored Geometry which makes this bike perform especially good off-road. Moreover, it has internal cable routing so the appearance is clean.
Cannondale Trail Tango 3 is a remarkable women-specific trail bike that packs a strong punch with its overall fantastic design and quality build even though it’s quite affordable.
Tango 5 comes with 27.5” wheels, depending on which frame size you go for. The rims are WTB SX19, which are a standard part of the equipment on bikes in this price range.
Components are mainly entry-level Shimano. Cycling components tend to last much longer for female riders than for males, 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. Tango 3 boasts 18 gears, which means the bike is suitable for all types of terrain.
Front suspension comes in the form of an SR Suntour fork with 100 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. This particular fork is often found on budget mountain bikes – it’s a solid pick from a well-known manufacturer that works fine despite its low price.
Frame size availability may vary, but this bike comes in three sizes: XS, S and M.
- Women-specific design
- Fabulous paint job
- 100 mm of front suspension travel
- 27.5” wheels
- SmartForm C3 aluminum frame
Unfortunately, there are only three sizes available. If you’re a very tall woman, you might need to find a different bike.
To wrap up, Trail Tango 3 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 give you the motivation to go on 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 Cannondale Trail Tango 3.
Cheapest MTB We Recommend
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 less than $300.
It’s built around a lightweight and durable heat-treated aluminum frame, available in two attractive colors: Black/Red and Blue.
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 24 speeds, which is more than enough to have an easy-going ride anywhere.
Merax Finiss is unbelievably cheap and comes equipped with some hard-to-believe specs and components for less than $300.
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 that 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 a 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.
Related: Best full suspension MTBs
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 that have positive online reviews are usually good choices.
- Lock – Always lock your bike! You can read about the best bike locks out there.
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?
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 deal, so keep an open mind toward discontinued models and new bikes from previous 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.
Related: Best Mountain Bikes (From Beginners to E-MTBs)
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!