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Best Entry Level Mountain Bike: Buyer’s Guide And Product Review

best entry level mountain bike

If you do not have time for the details, here are our top picks for entry level mountain bike:

  1. Best Overall Entry Level Mountain Bike: Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike  
  2. Best Budget Entry Level Mountain Bike: Raleigh Talus 1 Recreational Mountain Bike    
  3. Best Entry Level Full Suspension Mountain Bike: Diamondback Bicycles Atroz Full Suspension Mountain Bike    
  4. Best Entry Level Hardtail Mountain Bike: Diamondback Bicycles Hook   
  5. Best Entry Level Mountain Bike Under $500: Merax Mountain Bicycle   
  6. Best Entry Level Mountain Bike 29er: Tommaso Gran Sasso 29er    
  7. Best Women’s Entry Level Mountain Bike: Schwinn Vantage F2   
  8. Best Pick Entry Level Mountain Bike: Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike   

Are you “bored” of your regular biking routine?  

Need a change in pace?  

Or just want to try a new biking discipline?  

Why not consider mountain biking as your next biking challenge.  

Mountain biking might seem like all about obstacle courses and down hill thrills, but there are more disciplines to consider.  

Read on and we’ll tell you all about mountain biking and how to get started in the sport.  

We’ll provide a buyer’s guide and a product review with several of the best entry level mountain bikes.  

Buyer’s Guide  

These questions will help you narrow down the type of mountain bike you should be looking for.  

  1. What type of biking do you want to do?  
  2. What type of biking are you currently doing?  
  3. What’s your budget?  
  4. What’s your current skill level on the bike?  

Before we jump into the specific details, let’s ask a few questions.  

As mentioned before,  different types of mountain bikes suit different disciplines.  

For example, if you know you want to do only downhill mountain biking, then you should really just be looking for the best one that fits you.  

Not sure what type of mountain biking you want to do?  

No worries, we’ll talk about that and much more in the coming sections of the product review.  

Types of Mountain Biking 

Mountain bikes are categorized into four broad categories (cross country, trail, all-mountain/enduro, and downhill).  

As a beginner mountain biker, don’t get too hung up with the name of the bikes. Unless you know what type of mountain biking you want to do.  

What takes priority is understanding that bikes are somewhere on this “spectrum” of mountain bikes. And, frame, geometry, suspension design and amount of suspension, and weight determine the type of mountain bike.  

Cross Country Mountain Bikes  

Cross country bikes are the lightest and have the least amount of suspension compared to other mountain bikes.  

Their geometry was built for racing on courses so that the pedaling efficiency is good and the power transfer is strong.  

Cross country mountain bikes typically don’t have any suspension (rigid mountain bikes). Or, if they have any suspension it will be in the front and is categorized as a “hardtail”. On rare occasions, a cross country bike will have dual suspension and will have 100mm of travel.  

Trail Mountain Bikes  

Trail mountain bikes are the most common mountain bike since it can be ridden on a variety of surfaces and terrains.  

And, a trail bike isn’t “strapped” to a specific discipline such as downhill or cross country bikes.  

Bikes in this category are best used for local trails with some climbs and descents. And, it can be used to meet up with friends.  

The point is, this bike gives you a lot of flexibility for different types of riding. If you want, you can even use this bike as your commuter bike.  

All Mountain/Enduro Mountain Bikes  

Enduro mountain bikes are very similar to downhill bikes but with less suspension.  

The emphasis on all mountain bikes is to give the rider all the advantages going down hill and float up the hill for the next round of descents and obstacles.  

In this discipline of mountain biking, there are jumps and obstacles riders need to handle on the course while being timed in an event.  

Downhill Mountain Biking  

A downhill mountain bike is all about going as fast as you can on a descent. And, this is all while handling obstacles, drops, jumps, and even some slides.  

These types of bikes are fully suspended and travel between 170-210mm and have a long wheelbase for stability at high speeds.  

The bike often comes with hydraulic brakes, which guarantees consistent braking performance when going fast speeds downhill.  

Mountain Bike Features  

The type of suspension and the wheel diameter are the key features that determine what type of bike you’ll buy.  

Frame material, drivetrain (number of gears), and types of brakes are “secondary” materials to consider.  

Suspension  

There are three different types of suspension to choose from for an entry level mountain bike. Most beginners will choose a rigid or hardtail bike.  

  • Rigid: Rigid mountain bikes don’t have any suspension and are easy to maintain and are cheaper. However, most mountain bikers will want some suspension for more comfort on the trails.
  • Hardtail: As the name implies, a hardtail mountain bike has suspension in the front and none in the back. The front suspension helps absorb the impact the front wheel experiences on the trails. The front suspension on many hardtails can be locked to convert the bike into a rigid one. 
  • Full Suspension: A fully suspended mountain bike has a front fork and rear shock to absorb the impacts of the trail or obstacle course. This reduces vibration and other impacts on the rider, which makes the ride more enjoyable and comfortable. Most bikes can lock the rear suspension when riders want a better power transfer for better climbing.  

Mountain Bike Wheel Size  

As mentioned before, your wheel size really determines what types of terrains you can and cannot bike on.  

Below, we’ve outlined all the wheels sizes available to you.  

  • 26 in.: When mountain bikes were first manufactured, they had 26-in tires and they were the standard size. Now, they are still offered, but you’ll be asked if you want 26-in., 27.5-in., or 29 in. 
  • 27.5 in.: 27.5 in. wheels offer a good compromise between standard 26 in. and 29 in. wheels. This type of wheel can easily be ridden over terrain compared to 26 in. wheels, but are easier to manage compared to 29 in. wheels. Hardtails and full suspension bikes typically use this wheel size.
  • 29 in.: “29ers” are the biggest of the wheels we’ve talked about so far. These can be used on any bike that has the clearance for them. These wheels are great for long rides since they can keep up their momentum. Just to note, these wheels take longer to accelerate but can roll over more terrain. 
  • “+”: Any of the wheel sizes above can have the “+” symbol next to it, which means the wheel is extra-wide. An extra-wide wheel adds more comfort to your ride and has less rolling resistance.  

Frame Materials for Mountain Bikes

A bike’s frame material affects its weight, length, durability, ride quality, and even price.

Aluminum: Aluminum is the most used material for mountain bike frames. This material can be used to make a light and stiff bike. These types of bikes have good power transfer.

Carbon Fiber: Carbon fiber is lighter and stiffer than aluminum and has become easier to work with over the years. Carbon fiber bikes have a great stiffness to weight ratio which gives riders an efficient power transfer. The downside of the material is its fragileness. The material can crack under pressure from a crash or fall or simply over tightening the screws.

Steel: Steel is commonly found on entry-level bikes since it is strong and inexpensive. It is, however, heavier than aluminum and carbon fiber.

Titanium: Titanium is rarely used to construct mountain bikes since it costs so much. Titanium is lightweight and highly durable and won’t rust in the rain. And, compared to carbon fiber, this material won’t crack in the event of a crash or fall.

Mountain Bike Gears  

The number of gears a bike has is the product of the number of chainrings and the number of sprockets on the cassette.  

Mountain bikes range from single speed up to 30 or more.  

When figuring out what gears you need to consider your fitness level and the terrain you’ll regularly be riding. If you’re going to be riding a lot of hills, then consider a bike with more gears.  

If you categorize yourself as a strong biker and only ride flat terrain, you won’t need as many gears as a climber.  

Most mountain bikes have two or three chainrings to give you more variety of gears for climbing hills.  

However, you’ll see mountain bikes with single chainrings with up to 11-speeds in the cassette. This system is much simpler since you only have one shifter to manage while riding.  

Once you choose your drivetrain, it’s very difficult to modify.  

Mountain Bike Braking System 

It helps to have a braking system you can confidently rely on and you’ll be able to stop when needed.  

There are a couple options to consider when choosing your bike. 

Rim brakes are “traditional” brakes and are found on some entry-level mountain bikes. Rim brakes have pads that grip onto the wheels when you grip the brake lever.  

Rim brakes are cheaper and easier to know when the brake pad needs to be replaced. Beware that rim brakes are less effective in wet or muddy conditions.  

Disc brakes grip onto a brake motor mounted on the wheel hub. The disc brakes have consistent braking performance in all weather conditions and there is less finger strain for riders.  

FAQ 

1. How much should I spend on my entry-level or first mountain bike?

The number one “excuse” you make for yourself is the cost of biking. And yes, biking can be an expensive habit but believe me, you don’t need to break the bank to get started in this sport.

It’s recommended to look at hardtails that are no less than $1500 and full suspension $2000-2500. Anything less than that might not have the quality you’re looking for. And, if the quality is bad you’re going to pay more in repairs and replacement parts.

Of course, you can purchase a bike below market price if you can get a good bike that isn’t a brand name or is ok to ride inferior parts.

2. When’s the best time to buy an entry-level mountain bike?

The best time to buy a bike is in November or December. Bike stores are making room for the new models and prices are marked down 30-50%

This is a good time to look for closeout sales and used inventory for online retailers such as Amazon.

If you don’t want to wait until November or December, look at consignment racks at your local bike shop. This can give you a good idea of what bikes you like and the size to look for.

Not everyone can buy from a local shop but if you can’t Amazon is a good alternative.

3. What other accessories and clothes do I need for mountain biking?

Unless you are competing in downhill races, all you’ll need are comfortable clothes you can move and sweat in. Preferably clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and ripping up.

For colder weather, be sure you have a good wool base layer, jacket, gloves, and something to cover your face.

Even if you’re not commuting with your bike, you’ll need a bike lock. It’s a good idea to carry one just in case.

Of course, a helmet is needed no matter what type of biking you do. It helps absorb a lot of the impact you’ll experience when you fall off your bike.

Down the line, you’ll want other accessories such as a repair kit to take with you on your rides. This would include tools to change a tire when you get a flat and anything else to make quick adjustments.

4. Where can I learn bike mechanics?

Many bike co-ops have workshops that teach the basics of bike mechanics which include how to change a tire.

From there, you can inquire about more complicated and advanced bike repairs. If you make a friend through biking (which you absolutely will!) He or she can teach you more about bike maintenance and repair.

5. Where can I ride?

You can anywhere that is bike-friendly and allows bikes. Keep in mind, some parks have designated bike trails which are great for beginners.

Not sure where to ride or local biking groups?

Ask your local bike shop! They know everything about the area and can point you in the right direction. And, tell you all about friendly bike groups in town.

You can also use Google and ask which bike groups or trails are closest.

If you use apps such as mapmyride or Strava, you can see where other cyclists have ridden. You can follow their exact trail or a variation of it.

Join cycling groups on Facebook. You can inquire about routes and ask any bike-related questions. You’ll never be without a resource there.

Product Review: Best Entry Level Mountain Bike

1. Best Overall Entry Level Mountain Bike 

Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike  

The Schwinn High Timber mountain is the best overall entry level mountain bike.  

And it should come without surprise since Schwinn is the brand that first started manufacturing mountain bikes. And, has a lot of experience making all types with decent parts and components.  

This bike is made from steel, which is great for durability and if riders are riding around on really tough courses. Or, if you’re going from trails to uneven terrain on the same ride, the bike can handle the transition.  

The bike has Shimano twist shifters with a Shimano rear derailleur for smooth shifting between gears. The bike has 21 speeds which are enough for beginner mountain bikers. And, you won’t be stuck in the “wrong” gear since the bike shifts swiftly.  

For braking, the bike was designed with rim brakes with pull levers to activate them. They hold up well in most weather conditions. And, riders can easily tell when it’s time to replace the brake pads.  

The bike’s wheels have alloy rims to keep them lightweight and durable for all terrains.  

Lastly, the bike has a quick-release seat post so you can easily make height adjustments when you get the bike. Or, if you get it for a child you can make adjustments as he or she becomes taller.  

Riders who have bought this bike like it because it can easily be taken on a variety of terrains. The steel frame is durable and most riders feel like they can hang on to the bike for a long time. On the road, riders like the smooth ride and the front suspension absorb the vibrations of the road well.  

I’d recommend this bike to anyone who wants to explore a variety of trails.  

2. Best Budget Entry Level Mountain Bike  

Raleigh Talus 1 Recreational Mountain Bike  

The Raleigh Talus 1 is the best budget entry level mountain bike. It’s great for recreational riders who are on a budget. And, The bike is great for all ages who want an all-around great bike for weekend rides.  

The bike was made from an aluminum alloy which makes it strong and durable for long rides. The bike is a bit heavier than other bikes you could get. But, the weight is great for climbs and is comfortable to ride.  

The gears and shifters were made from Shimano Trigger that offers a total of 21 gears to play with. This is enough for entry-level mountain bikers or those who consider themselves recreational riders.  

The gears will get riders through the typical “obstacle” they’d face on their rides such as small inclines and hills. But anything more technical would require a more specific bike.  

Riders like that the bike is easy to shift and handle on long rides. This makes it more comfortable and enjoyable for the rider. The bike’s geometry puts riders in a more upright position. This is better for long, recreational rides. This makes it more comfortable since riders’ sit bones aren’t being put under a lot of pressure.   

And, since the bike weighs around 30 lbs it handles very well and is easy to maneuver. Even though the bike’s gears are great for climbing, the weight of the bike hinders the rider from getting up the hill fast.  

I recommend this bike to those who want to do riding on paved trails and some light riding during the week or commute with it.  

3. Best Entry Level Full Suspension Mountain Bike  

Diamondback Bicycles Atroz Full Suspension Mountain Bike  

The Diamondback Bicycles Atroz is the best full suspension mountain bike.  

The bike was made with a hand-built 4-inch travel aluminum alloy to make a frame that is very strong and durable. It can handle a few crashes and falls before it needs to be repaired or even replaced.  

The front fork has RockShox Recon RL 130mm travel and Monarch R air rear shock. This will handle the roughest trails you can ride on. It will absorb the vibrations of whatever your bike rolls over.  

This will make for a more pleasant and comfortable ride. And, you’ll be able to ride all day if you’re comfortable in the saddle.  

The bike comes equipped with SRAM NX 1×11-speed drivetrain and hydraulic brakes. This gives you an adequate number of gears for beginner to intermediate trails and obstacle courses.  

I’d recommend this bike to those who want to start exploring the “rougher” trails and need more suspension on their mountain bikes.  

4. Best Entry Level Hardtail Mountain Bike  

Diamondback Bicycles Hook 

The Diamondback Bicycle is the best entry level hardtail mountain bike you can find on Amazon.  

The Hook line was constructed similarly to Line and Sync’r lines with a low-sung, modern frame.  

The suspension on the bike is one of the best and is made from SR Suntour XCM which gives riders 120 mm travel. This gives you confidence that you can rely on a suspension that will keep you supported while riding on technical courses.  

And, with good suspension, you’ll feel less tired and be able to stay out on the bike all day.  

The frame is light and extremely durable and made of aluminum, which is also cheaper than other frame materials you could buy. The frame was made with 6061-T6 butted aluminum materials, which can withstand multiple impacts.  

The bike has SRAM drivetrain that gives a wide range of gears to play with while traversing across rough terrain. And, SRAM quickly and precisely shifts through all the gears seamlessly.  

The bike comes with Tektro Aires mechanical disc brakes which are powerful and deliver reliable performance. This means you can stop at the drop of a dime no matter if the weather and riding conditions.  

I recommend this bike to anyone who wants to be able to ride on trails on the weekends and explore the rougher trails before upgrading to a more specific bike.  

5. Best Entry Level Mountain Bike Under $500 

Merax Mountain Bicycle  

The Merax mountain bike is one of the best entry level mountain bikes for under $500.  

It’s a cheap bike since the components are fitted to it and it provides enough gears to let a beginner build his or her skills.  

The bike is made from aluminum with a front suspension fork. The bike comes with Shimano EF500 shifters, RD TY300 derailleur, and mechanical disc brakes.  

The bike’s total weight is 40 lbs or around 18 kg which is decent for an entry-level mountain bike, but don’t expect to cruise through any race courses with this one.  

The components aren’t the highest quality but you get a solid basic set up for a mountain bike that is priced around $300.  

Unfortunately, the travel on the front suspension isn’t specified but does its job. It will absorb the vibrations from the road and give you a comfortable ride.  

Since the front and rear derailleurs are made by Shimano, that gives the bike drivetrain and shifting system some reliability. However, since this is a budget bike, you’ll need to get the shifters and derailleurs adjusted more frequently.  

The disc brakes are a good touch, especially for a budget mountain bike. It will give riders the stopping power that they want and they’ll always have a consistent performance.  

I recommend this to people who are just getting their start in the sport and aren’t sure how long the interest will last. And, don’t want to spend too much on a bike they might use for a couple of months. I also suggest using this bike as a weekend bike. This wouldn’t be a bike you should come to depend on since there are plastic parts that are very breakable.

6. Best Entry Level Mountain Bike 29er  

Tommaso Gran Sasso 29er  

The Tommaso Gran Sasso is the best entry level mountain with 29er wheels.  

The bike was built to be durable and one you can use for years to come, even after you upgrade from this one. The bike was built with the highest quality aluminum and reliable Shimano components, both that are backed up with a two-year warranty.  

The aluminum can withstand the stresses that you as a mountain biker put on it. No matter if you’re going on trails with occasional bumps or exploring the mountains.  

The bike has 29er wheels which means it can roll over anything and have reliable and consistent stopping power. The tires have grippy texture to them so that you can wheel over rocks, roots, mud, and even sand.  

Since the bike has the clearance for 29er wheels, you can climb hills easily and more efficiently than other mountain bikes.  

Of course, all these great components that drive the bike forward is nothing without a reliable braking system. This bike is constructed with Shimano M315 hydraulic disc brakes. These have twice the power of rim brakes and even mechanical disc brakes.  

No matter the weather conditions and the type of terrain you’re riding in, you’ll be able to stop when you need to. Even if it’s a very last second stop.  

 I recommend this bike to those who want one that wants to climb hills and get stronger as a biker. The wheel size will help you climb more efficiently on hills. And, you can explore more areas since these wheels can handle more terrains than smaller tires.  

7. Best Women’s Entry Level Mountain Bike  

Schwinn Vantage F2 

The Schwinn Vantage F3 is the best entry level mountain bike for women.  

It is best suited for advanced beginners through intermediate riders who want to do some light riding on the trails and more on the obstacle courses or even cross country.  

The Schwinn Smooth Ride technology frame has elastomer soft trail suspension that gives the best support and comfort no matter where you bike. 

The hydroformed aluminum frame and carbon race fork makes the bike light weight and has a great power transfer for those who want a fast and comfortable ride.  

The bike is equipped with Shimano Acera/Altus 24-speed drivetrain with Shimano EZ-Fire trigger shifters. This setup provides fast and precise shifting for anything that comes your way on the bike.   

The bike has hydraulic brakes which makes them consistent and reliable no matter what weather or road condition you’re biking on.  

I recommend this bike to any woman who wants a good bike to explore light trails and get into cross country racing.  

8. Best Pick Entry Level Mountain Bike  

Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike  

Our best pick entry level mountain bike goes to Schwinn High Timber Mountain bike.  

It is a hardtail mountain with a 7-speed cassette which is adequate for any entry-level mountain bike.  

All the components on the bike are made by Shimano which has a great reputation and makes reliable, high-quality parts.  

The bike is made from either steel or aluminum, both of which are cheap materials that last long. And, can survive the impacts of a few crashes and falls before it needs to be replaced or repaired.  

The frame material- either steel or aluminum- can also withstand the pressure you put on it from biking on beginner trails or obstacle and downhill courses.  

On the road, cyclists report that the front fork absorbs the road’s vibration and they feel comfortable on the bike. The tires can handle a variety of surfaces so riders can explore and learn new bike skills.  

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