The Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000

CAMPING GEAR

Grab a bike that can hit the trails without breaking the bank. Here are the best mountain bikes under $1,000.

While the mountain bike market continues to develop impressive new technology and pricey components, there are still plenty of options that sell for under $1,000. Within this price range, most mountain bikes have a handful of traits in common, including an aluminum frame, build kits made up of house-brand components, and a classic cross-country frame geometry.

For those looking for an affordable way into the sport, or simply an awesome and robust bike to add to their quiver, this article highlights several sub-$1,000 options. We’ve broken this article into useful categories so you can easily find the right fit.

If you need more help choosing, be sure to check out our buyer’s guide at the end of this article. And if you’re looking for more options, be sure to check out our Best Mountain Bikes of 2020 review.

The Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000

Best Overall: Cannondale Trail 8 Bike 2021

Best Mountain Bikes under $1,000: Cannondale Trail 8 Bike 2021

With an approachable price tag and a sleek, progression-oriented design, the 2021 Cannondale Trail 8 ($575) is our pick for the best overall mountain bike under $1,000. Built on a durable SmartForm C3 alloy frame, the Trail 8 is relatively light without sacrificing stiffness and stability.

This hardtail mountain bike has strategically engineered flex zones built into the frame’s rear triangle, which, combined with the SR Suntour M3030 suspension fork with 75 mm of travel, smooths out bumps and increases control. For stopping power, Tekto mechanical disc brakes provide a quick response on all kinds of terrain.

Aesthetically, this ride has an industrial vibe and is available in gray and yellow. Thanks to internally routed shifting cables, the frame has a clean, integrated appearance that also allows for easy maintenance.

Frame material: SmartForm C3 Alloy
Weight: 32 lbs. 14.4 oz. (size S)
Pros: Lots of value for the price and progression-oriented
Cons: 75 mm of travel is likely to bottom out on rougher, rockier trails

Check Price at REI

Runner-Up: Kona Mahuna

Kona Mahuna

The reliable Kona Mahuna ($999) is built for fun and all-around versatility. Its 29-inch wheels roll right over obstacles with ease and pair well with a 100mm RockShox Judy Silver Fork for a smooth and cushy ride.

With a frame geometry similar to the Diamondback Overdrive, this hardtail cruises up and down steeper terrain with ease. A Shimano Deore 11-speed drivetrain offers a helpful range of gears for everything from rugged climbing to singletrack bombing.

This bike looks just as smooth as it rides. Its contemporary geometry and styling make a great impression visually, and, as our testers discovered, it offers a progressive and lively riding experience.

Frame material: Kona 6061 Aluminum Butted
Weight: 31.3 lbs. (size S)
Pros: Longer, slacker geometry means great handling on technical terrain
Cons: No-frills base model front fork may leave more aggressive riders seeking an upgrade

Check Price at Konaworld

Best Kids’ Mountain Bike: Early Rider Limited Seeker

Early Rider Limited Seeker

Built for riders between the ages of 3.5 and 6 years old, the Early Rider Limited Seeker 16 kid’s bike ($489) allows young riders to experience controllable and responsive adventure at exciting speeds.

With a hardy aluminum frame and 16-inch wheels, this single-speed MTB will easily take a beating as it introduces the rider to the joy of going off pavement on two wheels. Without any suspension, this is a simple bike that has been designed with kid-friendly safety in mind. Its balloon mud tires are capable of smooth rides over bumps and jumps. Easy-pull, short-level V brakes and Ritchey Logic controls will boost the confidence of progressing riders.

At a light 13 pounds 1.8 ounces thanks to the weight-saving Gates belt drive system, this bike is easy to toss in the back of a car and transport to the trailhead.

Frame material: 6061 Aluminum
Weight: 13 lbs. 1.8 oz.
Pros: Easy-pull brakes for safety and control
Cons: Single speed can be limiting

Check Price at REI

Best Women’s Mountain Bike: Trek Marlin 6

Trek Marlin 6

The Trek Marlin 6 mountain bike ($670) is a rough-ride-ready trail bike. With handy features like lockout suspension and a kickstand mount, it’s also a worthy choice for daily commutes.

For anyone dipping their toes into off-road riding, the Marlin 6 offers excellent value and quiver-of-one versatility. A lightweight aluminum frame with internally routed cables adds to the bike’s contemporary and stylish appearance. The 2×8 drivetrain with a Shimano Atlus front derailleur gives you all the gears you need and none of the ones you don’t.

With seven frame sizes, this bike can suit riders of nearly any size or height. In the smaller sizes, the top tube of the frame is curved to allow shorter riders to straddle their bike more easily. Also, with a saddle designed specifically for women, this bike prioritizes custom comfort.

Though this bike works just fine on pavement, it really shines on the trails that it was born for. Hydraulic disc brakes offer reliable stopping power for loose terrain, and double-walled rims provide some bonus durability.

Frame material: Alpha Silver Aluminum
Weight: 31.67 lbs. (size M)
Pros: Internal cable routing protects cables and looks sleek
Cons: Wheels are heavy for their size

Check Price at Trek Bikes

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Mountain Bike Under $1,000

As you shop for an affordable mountain bike, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind that will help you select the perfect ride for you. Think about your budget as well as how and where you’ll ride.

Shop Within Your Budget

First, it’s important to identify the boundaries of your budget. The goal is to buy the best bike you can afford. With mountain bikes, you get what you pay for. Higher-end bikes are expensive because of better-quality components like lighter and stronger frames, longer-wearing parts, more effective suspension, and nicer wheels. The right bike is the one that provides maximum fun and opportunity for improvement.

A mountain bike can last many years and therefore should be seen as a long-term investment. Purchase a bike that fits your budget but also offers room to accommodate your own progression as a rider. You’re going to get better at riding over time, and you want a bike that will grow with you.

If purchasing your new bike locally, you will often have the option to demo the bike before you buy it. Professionals will be on hand to offer additional recommendations and swap out certain components to better suit your skills and ambitions.

riding mountain bike

What Kind of Rider Are You, and What Kind Do You Want to Become?

The bike you purchase should fit your current and future objectives. If you’re new to riding on unpaved surfaces, buy a bike that will help you not only transition into riding on trails but will also continue to perform as your skills develop. If you’re already sending it off of big drops and bombing down steep slopes, get something durable and well-suited for this kind of abuse.

All of the bikes on this list are hardtail mountain bikes, which are great for newer riders, and many of them offer a high ceiling for improvement.

Where Are You Going to Ride?

If you’re seeking a mountain bike that can double as a commuter, look for something that has lockable suspension so you won’t waste energy on the pavement.

For those who plan to ride strictly off road, consider how hilly the terrain will be where you plan to ride. Will you be climbing up hills a lot? Will you mostly ride on flat, smooth paths? The more gears in your drivetrain, the more versatile your bike will be on inclines of various degrees.

A dropper seatpost is a handy tool for those who plan to ride lots of singletrack. You can easily add a dropper post to nearly every bike, so consider this when you go to purchase.

riding mountain bike

Suspension: Hardtail vs. Full-Suspension

A hardtail bike (all of the bikes on this list) has front suspension but no rear suspension. Hardtails are generally cheaper, and they are a great option for relatively smooth terrain that isn’t aggressively rocky or full of jumps and drops. Commonly, hardtail mountain bikes are fitted with wider, high-volume tires to add cushion and compensate for the lack of suspension in the rear.

A full-suspension bike has a rear shock and a front shock that compress and extend as you ride to absorb the bumps and drops that riders often encounter on uneven terrain. Full-suspension bikes help both wheels stay on the ground through the bumps, which offers stability and control, especially at higher speeds. Though full-suspension bikes offer lots of benefits, they’re often not necessary for riders who are just beginning to leave the pavement.

Frame Materials & Weight

Mountain bike frames are typically made from one of two materials: aluminum or carbon. Carbon is lightweight, good at dissipating shock, and significantly more expensive. Most of the bikes on this list have aluminum frames that are highly capable without fully emptying the wallet.

Wheel Size: 27.5 vs. 29

Modern mountain bikes are generally fitted with either 27.5- or 29-inch wheels. The 27.5-inch option is great for maneuverability, and they also tend to be quicker and easier to get moving. Twenty-nine-inch wheels roll over large rocks, bumps, and obstacles more easily.

Wheel size is a major contributor to the way a bike will ride, but it isn’t everything. The frame and kinematics of any bike work together with wheel size to offer different strengths and characteristics. For this reason, wheel size on its own isn’t a good reason to choose a bike, especially for newer riders.

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Drivetrain & Gears

These days, most mountain bikes come with a 1x drivetrain with a single chainring in the front and a range of gears in the rear. This kind of configuration means you will have one shifter instead of two, which simplifies things and makes space in your cockpit for a dropper post and other options.

Some bikes on this list, like the Trek Marlin 6, have a 2x drivetrain, meaning there will be two shifters mounted to the handlebars.

Tire Width & Tread

Tires with deep, rough tread will grip the terrain better than smooth tread, but smooth tread tends to be lighter and faster.

Wide tires also tend to be heavy, and they roll with greater resistance. However, extra width can be an asset for riders looking for stability and a more forgiving ride. Tire width for mountain bikes ranges from about 1.9 to 2.5 inches while fat bike tires are even wider.

Pearl_iZumi_Q3_2020_-18
Photo credit: Kurt Barclay

Maintenance

A few basic maintenance practices will prolong the life of your components and boost your bike’s performance (and, in turn, your fun). Lube your drivetrain regularly with bicycle-specific lubricant. Bike lube cleans the chain by removing grit and grime while also reducing wear and friction.

It’s best to leave lube on the chain overnight. Before you ride the following day, spin the pedals backward while you hold a rag against the chain to remove excess lube and sludge.

Hardtails and full-suspension bikes should have their suspension systems serviced in a bike shop every 30 hours of riding. Other components that should be checked and serviced regularly include cables and brake pads.

FAQ

What Are the Best Mountain Bike Brands?

There are lots of high-quality mountain bike brands to choose from. Some of the big-name brands that are well-known and reputable include Kona, Specialized, Trek, and Rocky Mountain. Instead of the brand, try to focus on what your needs are as a rider. The best mountain bike is the one that suits your riding style, fits your budget, and helps you have fun and become a better rider.

What’s the Best Mountain Bike for the Money?

The price of mountain bikes varies a ton. On this list, we have considered value, quality, and pros and cons to compile the best options for under $1,000. Some bikes maintain an affordable price tag and still include really high-quality components, like a good dropper post, a carbon frame, or a top-notch front fork. We consider the bikes on this list to be a great bang for your buck.

If you know you’ll be riding a lot and could stretch your budget, our list of the best mountain bikes could help.

What’s the Best Hardtail Mountain Bike for Under $1,000?

According to our expertise and the on-the-ground experience of our testers, we have determined that the best all-around hardtail mountain bike for under $1,000 is the Cannondale Trail 8 Bike 2021.


Have a favorite budget mountain bike we missed? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.


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