Mountain Bikes Under 500 in 2021 - MTB Pro Reviews the Best

Written by : Bob Sharp; in :
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One question that I get asked a lot is, how much do you need to pay to get a decent mountain bike?

This isn’t as simple a question as it sounds. There is a reason that top mountain bikers will pay thousands of dollars for their Mountain Bikes, these bikes need to be able to withstand brutal treatment on the harshest of terrains.

But what if you’re just getting started? Is $500 enough?  Before I discuss the best mountain bikes available under $500, let’s take a look at why Mountain Bikes are so expensive and just what you get (and don’t) for your $500.

Why are Mountain Bikes expensive?

I recently asked a good friend of mine, Andrew McAvoy, how much he’d expect to pay for a top-of-the-range Mountain Bike.

“That’s a tricky one,” he said, “the market is changing, you can get proper full suspension bikes now for around £1200 ($1700), a really good one is still going to cost you £10,000 ($14,000) to £11,000 ($15,500), but you can get also get fantastic bikes cheaply now, that wasn’t the case a few years back.”

Andrew should know, he is one of the UK’s top mountain bikers, (McTrail Rider) and for as long as I’ve known him he has always owned top-of-the-line equipment. He told me that the cost was down to several factors.

  • The materials used (e.g. carbon fiber, titanium)
  • The quality of the components (brakes, gears, suspension, etc)
  • The build quality
  • The weight

Andrew reckons that to do some serious trail biking a budget of just over $1,000 would get you started. That doesn’t sound too good for anyone looking to invest less than $500.

So is it worth spending under $500 on a Mountain Bike?

Absolutely it is! I began my own Mountain Biking with a $300 Muddy Fox bike. It was perfect for me at the stage I was at, rough trails were beyond my skill level, the bike I owned was the perfect tool for me to begin to learn the discipline, and it doubled as a pretty good road bike too.  

Okay, so it's not going to have all the bells and whistles and ruggedness of an expensive bike. However, as a way of entering the sport, these are reliable bikes that will let you hone your skills and let you enjoy one of the most adrenaline-pumping sports there is!

Of course, if you are already a serious Mountain Biker, then you need to be looking at more expensive bikes, but for casual mountain bikers and beginners, there are some cracking deals to be had.

Components used on mountain bikes under $500

It should go without saying that even the top mountain bikes under $500 use lesser quality components than more expensive bikes. To the untrained eye, these bikes have the same familiar-looking builds as the more expensive models. But there the similarity ends.

Cheaper bikes use relatively simple and heavier components. Everything from the drivetrain to the suspension to the handlebars and seat posts and, of course, the frame, are heavier and less precisely engineered.

For instance, consider the drivetrain, this comprises the gear mechanism and the parts that allow you to transfer power to the wheels. This will be heavier, less precise, and less efficient than the ones found on more expensive models.

The story is similar with the brakes. Until just recently, it was impossible to find a Mountain Bike under $500 with the hydraulic braking system of expensive bikes. Whilst some now offer this feature (and I cover them in my list of the top mountain bikes under $500), for the most part, the brakes are cheaper, heavier, and less-efficient disk or rim systems.

Suspension is also one of the crucial areas that differentiate between top-of-the-range and budget models. All of the more expensive models will feature full-suspension i.e. suspension on both the rear and front wheels, whereas the cheaper models are going to be “Hardtails”, this type comprises front suspension only, with the rear wheel having none. Hence, the hardtail classification.

Now that you have an understanding of the difference between cheaper and more expensive bikes and just what you get for your money, it is time to look at the very best mountain bikes for under $500.

Top Mountain Bikes under $500

These days the growth in the sport of mountain biking has created a demand that means manufacturers now offer far more for your money than was available a few short years ago. This is great news for those wanting to try the sport but don’t want to break the bank doing so!

To help simplify the choice for you I have broken the selection down into categories.

Top 6 Men’s Mountain Bikes under $500

1. Eurobike OBK Men's Mountain Bike

A great budget choice.

  • Wheel Size 27.5 inches
  • Front and rear disk brakes
  • 21 Speed
  • Steel Frame
  • Front suspension

For a true entry-level bike that doesn’t break the bank, they don’t come any better than the Eurobike OBK. Don’t be fooled by its cheap price point, this bike punches far above its weight.

It features a superb braking system that makes it ideal for beginners by giving them the confidence of knowing they can navigate tricky terrain with confidence. The gears are a Shimano manufactured system that uses front and rear derailleurs in a 3-to-7 configuration that offers precision and sensitivity.

The frame is manufactured from high-quality steel and is sized at 17”, making it perfect for adults from 5’ 7” to 6’ 1”. Whilst it isn’t the lightest bike in the category, it still weighs in at only 35lbs. This gives the bike at ruggedness that many cheaper bikes can’t match, perfect for those wanting to try their hand at trickier terrains.

The front suspension fork also performs above its price-point. It smoothes the worst of the bumps out nicely allowing precise control on those trickier runs.

If you are looking for a robust bike that offers precision control and you don’t mind a bit more weight, then this is a great choice.

- Great braking system
Shimano gears
Value for Money

Heavier than some models
- Decorative stickers on wheels can peel off

2. GT Agressor Expert 29 Hardtail Bike

Features a hydraulic brake system:

  • Aluminum triple triangle frame
  • Tektro Hydraulic brakes
  • 29” Wheels
  • 24 speed
  • Suntour suspension

This just sneaks under the $500 mark, but the GT Agressor Expert 29 gives you phenomenal bang for your buck. Featuring a hydraulic braking system by Tektro, this type of system was virtually unheard of in bikes in this price range until very recently. For absolute confidence on those fast downhill sections, this braking system is unbeatable.

Then there’s the frame, its aluminum manufacture cuts the weight down, whilst its triple triangle design means ruggedness is not compromised. The drivetrain is a Shimano 24-speed gearing system that works in conjunction with a Prowheel chainset.

Good brakes and gears are all very well, but what makes this bike shine is that these components are then matched with a quality suspension system. The SR Suntour fork system is a superb addition to help you find your feet on trickier and more technical tracks.

If you want to learn the ropes of off-road biking then this bike can offer you performance levels that belie its price range.

- Great spec
Hydraulic brakes
Versatile and comfortable
- Lightweight (for its price point)

Gear change can be clunky

3. Schwinn High Timber Youth/Adult Mountain Bike

A highly customizable choice from a trusted brand:

  • Aluminum and Steel Frame options
  • Disc Brakes available
  • 24” to 29” inch wheels
  • 21 speed
  • All-terrain tires

The Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike is listed as a men’s bike, but depending on the wheel size you select can be a great model for women and youths too! This versatility is great for customizing your choice and getting the perfect bike for your size.

It isn’t the most highly featured bike in the range. Instead, Schwinn has concentrated on ensuring that the core components are robust and effective. For instance, the 21-speed gears feature a rear derailleur that is tuned for smooth “on-trail” gear changes and are backed up by an alloy crank which is rugged and makes for smoother gearing.

What you get when you buy a Schwinn product is the peace of mind that comes from buying an American bike brand that has over a century of experience in building bikes. This rich heritage can be seen in the quality of this product.

- Durable
Great gearing
Available in different sizes/configurations
Quick-release seat post
-  Backed by a great heritage

Not a great choice for taller people

4. Royce Union RHT Lightweight Aluminum Men’s Mountain Bike

Royce Union RHT Lightweight Aluminum Mountain Bike (Wine), 15 Inch Frame, 22 Speed Shimano Drivetrain, 29' Wheels
Royce Union RHT Lightweight Aluminum Mountain Bike (Wine), 15 Inch Frame, 22 Speed Shimano Drivetrain, 29' Wheels

A stylish and feature-packed model:

  • Full Shimano SLX Drivetrain
  • Suntour Suspension
  • Aluminum Frame
  • Choice of frame sizes
  • Dual Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Okay, so this one has 10% off at the time of writing, which just squeezes it into the category. However, even at full price, the Royce Union RHT Mountain Bike is priced just over the $500 mark, and for your money you get a stunning bike.

The hardtail frame is manufactured from lightweight aluminum making this one of the lightest models I will cover. This lightness when combined with the full Shimano SLX 2 x 11 Drivetrain means you get phenomenal performance for your money.  The SLX Drivetrain provides you with 22 speeds of comfortable gearing delivered through a Neco Alloy 3-piece crank.

The front suspension is a Suntour XCT 100mm which offers a smoothness of ride usually found on more expensive models. The dual hydraulic brake system is also fantastic for giving you the confidence that the bike has reliable stopping power. Stopping power that is backed up by the high-performing Kenda small block 8 tires.

This is a great bike for beginners, but can also be happily used by slightly more advanced mountain bikers.

- High-quality components throughout
Alloy wheel rims
-100mm suspension forks
Hydraulic Brakes
- Quick-release seat

-Larger frame sizes can get more expensive

5. Mongoose Dolomite Men's Fat Tire Mountain Bike

Great for those seeking a true off-roader:

  • Supersized Tyres
  • For riders 5’6 to 6’ tall
  • 7 Speed
  • All-terrain
  • Disc Brakes

If you fancy riding some rougher terrain then the Mongoose Dolomite is a perfect choice. Fat tires are designed to reduce the overall pressure on bike and rider by offering a wider contact area and a cushioned ride, check out this article about how Fat Tires can enhance your cycling experience.

One thing you may notice about this bike is its lack of a suspension fork, this is down to the fact that the tires themselves act as the suspension. This has the advantage of giving you both front and rear suspension. Okay, it isn’t going to replace a high-end suspension system. But what it does offer is fantastic performance on all sorts of terrain and weather conditions.

Front and rear disc brakes also give you the confidence that the bike is going to stop no matter what type of terrain you are tackling.

For an off-road experience with a difference that comes in under $500, this is hard to beat.

- Great All-terrain bike
-Tires act as suspension
-Super comfortable
-Great in conditions like snow
US company

-Restricted to 7-speed gearing

6. Neffice Aluminum Framed Men’s Mountain Bike

A great all-rounder:

  • Lightweight Aluminum frame
  • Powerful front suspension fork
  • 24-speed
  • Front and rear double disc brakes
  • Can take loads up to 330lbs

If you are looking for an all-rounder that can cope with some mountain work on a Sunday then take you to work on a Monday, then this Aluminum framed bike from Neffice is definitely worth considering.

Firstly, I love the look of this bike, it just looks like a Mountain Bike should. Looks can be deceiving though, so I am pleased to report that in this case, it doesn’t just look good, it is a great all-round bike.

Double disc brakes, adjustable sports forks, and a high-strength aluminum frame make this bike an extremely capable off-roader. The comfortable silicone seat and the smooth gearing mean it isn’t out of place on the road either.

Even better yet, this is one of the lower-priced models on the list, if you are on a tight budget then this could be the bike for you.

- Great Value for Money
-Adjustable suspension
-Double disc brakes
24 speed gears

-Can be hard to assemble

Top 3 Women’s Mountain Bikes under $500

One of the quirks about mountain biking is that much of what differentiates a “Man’s Mountain Bike” from a “Woman’s Mountain Bike” is purely down to size. So it isn’t being sexist when I list fewer Mountain Bikes in this category, most of the men’s bikes, if sized correctly are perfect for women too!

That being said, let’s have a look at a few mountain bikes geared specifically towards women.

1. Schwinn Aluminum Comp Women’s Mountain Bike

A lightweight bike designed with women in mind.

  • Lightweight
  • 21 speed Shimano gears
  • Alloy rimmed wheels
  • Front and rear disc brakes
  • Robust

The Schwinn Comp Aluminum Mountain Bike is designed specifically for women wanting to take to the trail. The drivetrain is centered on a Shimano 21-speed gear system which incorporates their EZ-Fire trigger system and a rear derailleur. This makes switching gears super easy even amid the roughest terrain. It also incorporates a low-maintenance alloy crank to further enhance the experience.

And for precise speed control and crisp stopping, the Schwinn also incorporates front and rear disc brakes. The front suspension is pretty impressive too, the fork is powerful enough to ensure as smooth a ride as possible over rougher terrain, and helps to provide precise control of your bike in any circumstances.

One other big plus with this model is the limited lifetime warranty that covers the bike as long as you own it.

-Powerful suspension
-Great brakes
Easy to assemble

-Some users have reported the seat can get uncomfortable

2. Mongoose Status 2.2 Women’s Mountain Bike

A great budget choice that features dual suspension:

  • 21 speed Shimano gears
  • Full suspension
  • Aluminum Frame
  • Riser Handlebar
  • 26” wheels

If you are looking for a budget choice that doesn’t skimp on quality then the Mongoose Status 2.2 Women’s Mountain Bike could be just what you are looking for. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this model, is it’s the only bike we have covered that features a full suspension system. Whilst there are men’s bikes on the market that fall into this category, I simply can’t recommend them as the quality is usually poor.

Somehow though, with this model Mongoose has cracked it. This is a lightweight yet robust bike that is the perfect choice for women wanting to tackle some adventurous riding. The powerful front suspension fork, and the rear shock makes this bike feel secure on all bit the roughest of terrains.

My only gripe is the lack of disc brakes, although the front and rear “V-Brakes” are certainly powerful enough. But for the money, this is definitely a stand-out choice.

- Great Price
-Full suspension
-Shimano gears
Robust design

-No disc brakes

3. Roadmaster Granite Peak

An all-round performer:

  • Steel frame
  • 3-piece crank
  • 18 speed
  • Alloy Wheels
  • Front Suspension

Whilst, I wouldn’t recommend the Roadmaster Granite Peak for more rugged trails, if you are after a bike that is great on smoother trails and casual cycling, then this model has you covered.

This is a bike that will easily accommodate paths and lighter trails without breaking the bank. The front suspension is tough enough to cope with off-road riding and smooth enough that road riding is a pleasure too. The gears are 18-speed, controlled through a twister grip, and utilize a 3-piece mountain crank for precision and smoothness.

Overall, this is a great value bike that is versatile enough to let you try some gentle off-roading and yet won’t look out of place for a gentle cycle along a canal bank.

- Great Price
-Alloy Wheels
Good suspension

-Brakes could be better

Top 3 Kids Mountain Bikes under $500

There is something magical about taking the whole family out to enjoy the wonders of nature. And what better way is there to do it but with a family cycle? In this section, I look at some of the best mountain bikes for under $500 for kids.

1. Mongoose Exlipse Full Suspension Mountain Bike

A robust bike with full suspension:

  • 21 speed Shimano gears
  • Alloy wheels
  • Front and rear suspension
  • 24” Wheels and 15” Frame
  • Rear Derailleur

Once again Mongoose makes the list with its Exlipse Full Suspension Mountain Bike. A dual suspension system integrated into a robust metal frame makes this a rugged choice for the worst of conditions, i.e. kids with bikes!

Despite being designed for youngsters, it still incorporates a 21-speed Shimano gear system with a rear derailleur, front and rear suspension, and a 3-piece crank. Best of all is the budget, this bike will cost you just over $200!

If you are looking for the perfect gift for that wannabe mountain biker in the family, this is the perfect way to get them started in the sport.

- Full-Suspension
-Shimano Gears
-Kickstand included
-Fantastic Price
Alloy Wheels

-No disc brakes
-Difficult to assemble

2. Huffy Nighthawk Boys Mountain Bike

A stylish bike that boys will love the look of:

  • Front Disc Brakes
  • 18 speed
  • Steel frame
  • Kickstand included
  • Shimano gears with a rear derailleur

Oh to be young again, the Huffy Nighthawk Boys Mountain Bikes has the kind of looks that got me into biking more years ago than I care to remember. And it isn’t just looks over substance either. This is a robust bike with a front suspension and the overall build quality to make this a true off-roader for the most adventurous of kids.

It features a silky smooth index shifting gear system with a Shimano rear derailleur which gives a consistent performance in all circumstances. It also uses a 3-piece crank system to enhance the gearing.

The brakes are disc brakes at the front and rim at the rear, that provide a consistent and effective stopping performance when called upon, which, if my memory serves me rightly, is frequently at that age!

This is a great-looking and high-performing bike that boys will love to show off.

- Fantastic looking
-Great gear system
-Well priced
-Alloy wheels

-Difficult to assemble
-Parts are difficult to come by

3. Priority Start 20”

A great first Moutain Bike for younger kids:

  • 3-speed gears
  • High-quality components
  • Aluminum Frame
  • Multi-terrain tires
  • Composite Belt Guard

Finally, the Priority Start 20” is the perfect model for the adventurous youngster looking to make the step-up to a “grown-up bike”. This is a bike that is designed specifically to introduce kids to concepts like gears. It is also light enough to be ridden comfortably over long distances and robust enough to tackle some light off-roading.

Priority has designed these bikes to be as low-maintenance as possible for ease of use for both kids and parents! They have used high-quality components throughout including a gear system that uses a Shimano Nexus internal hub and a rust and grease-free Gates Belt Drive.

For extra safety, it has an integrated full reflector kit that places reflectors on the front, rear, pedals, and wheels.

It is also highly adjustable which means it can be set up for novice riders and kids with more advanced skills. If you have a youngster raring to get an early start in the world of mountain biking, this is a bike that just oozes quality and has been designed with them in mind.

-Designed specifically as a first mountain bike
-High-quality components

-Honestly, it is hard to pick a fault with this product.

Buying a Mountain Bike under $500 FAQs

And there you have it, my list of the top mountain bikes under $500. If you still have doubts about what to buy I have put together a list of FAQs to help you make the correct decision.

What do I need to know before buying a Mountain Bike?
The most crucial aspect is size, ensuring that you and the bike are a perfect match for each other goes a long way to making sure you get the most fun from your bike and all that pedaling is efficient and won’t leave you with injuries and strains.

There are some great guides online to help you choose the right size, including this one from Evans Cycles.

Do I need to spend more than $500?
This all depends on what you want from the bike and how you plan to use it. If you are already an experienced Moutain Biker, then you will likely need to spend more to meet your needs and skill level. However, for people that are just starting or don’t intend to ride the “serious trails”, then you can get have loads of fun on these bikes. And as I hope the list has shown there are also some cracking bargains to be found.

Can these Mountain Bikes be used as road bikes?
Without exception, each bike on this list is perfectly fine for using as an everyday road bike. Although road bikes have their own specifications that make them more suited to the task, for casual cyclists these bikes are more than satisfactory for everyday use.

Is the wheel size important?
The wheel size is more important than most people imagine, although for years Mountain Bikers were presented with the choice of 26” wheels and… Well that was it really. Nowadays there are mainly three sizes to choose from 26”, 27.5”, and 29”. A handy guide on what the difference between tire sizes means and how to choose the right tire size is available here.

Summing Up

It wasn’t so long ago that writing a guide to the top mountain bikes for under $500 would have been an impossibility. Such bikes just didn’t exist, but the mechanics of supply and demand have opened a marketplace that the manufacturers are rushing to fill.

Whilst there is simply no way they can fill this niche and offer you the top-performance that the best mountain bikers require, the gap between them is shortening all the time. I had some of my greatest experiences using a bike that cost $300 as I learned the art of Mountain Biking.

I hope you have as much fun using any of the bikes I listed.