When it comes to choosing a new mountain bike, a final decision is always based on an available budget and a level of a rider. In our previous articles we went through best models available for less than 300$ and 500$. This time we are going to compare high quality mountain bikes from different price ranges, all being a perfect fit for entry level riders.
Even though incredibly versatile, mountain bikes were designed to do well in the most demanding, steep and harsh terrain, still ensuring a safe and enjoyable ride. Here are the most important features to pay attention to while choosing a mountain bike:
It's a real heart of every mountain bike, responsible for its weight, stiffness, responsiveness and looks. Doesn't matter if you're opting for a hardtail or dual suspension bike, you will be offered models with frames made of either steel, aluminium or carbon.
While the former should be avoided for their weight, the latter are available only in high end models and are an unnecessary expense while choosing a mountain bike for a beginner. Light and durable aluminium frames are a perfect compromise between a quality and price, offering a good enough responsiveness to meet expectations of all entry level riders.
The very first question you need to answer is whether you prefer a hardtail type of a mountain bike, or a one with a full suspension.
Hardtail: Hardtails are equipped with only front shock, what makes them mechanically simpler, easier in maintenance and cheaper. They are also lighter, of course – and for that reason usually are being chosen by more advanced and professional mountain bike riders as well.
Full(dual) suspension: Full (dual) suspension mountain bikes have some significant advantages too, though. More expensive, slightly more difficult to assemble and heavier, they are much easier to handle and thus are highly recommended for those beginning their adventure with the discipline. Full suspension makes rides on even the hardest trails more comfortable and definitely should be your choice if you're suffering from any back problems. And it must be pointed out that they're faster too – at least when going downhill!
Hardtail mountain bikes are for those who enjoy simplicity. They are equipped with shock absorption in the front, they tend to cost less, they are light weight, and require less long-term maintenance.
Full (dual) suspension mountain bikes have greater handling and due to the front and rear absorption they are faster in speed. These bikes will require a bit more maintenance and can be heavier in weight. Highly recommended for those who tend to ride on more adventurous terrain, technical trails, or those seeking a more comfortable ride.
Here you have to choose between disc and V-style brakes.
Disc: Disc are more reliable, sharper and better for extremely demanding conditions, but much more difficult in maintenance. If you're not experienced in assembling equipment for you and your children, we highly recommend choosing the latter.
Disc brakes offer a finer degree of control over braking and are reliable under extremely demanding conditions such as wet, muddy terrain. They tend to weigh and cost more and have a more complicated mechanism, however they offer slightly more stopping power without affecting the rims.
V-Style: V-style brakes are simple, durable, easily adjustable cable-operated rim brakes that are more suitable for beginners or those not experienced in assembling equipment.
You will get to choose between most popular 26 inch wheels, 29ers and 27.5''/650b wheels, being the newest invention.
The former are easiest to control and maneuver with, what makes them a perfect choice for beginners, but also for a technical trails courses. Because they're still the most popular choice and have been around for decades, a geometry of most frames works best with 26 inch wheels.
29ers are ideal for courses demanding high speed or negotiating big obstacles. Their excellent terrain clearance makes them also the best choice for bike commuters.
Middle-sized 27.5 inch wheels, being quite a new invention and described as a compromise between a great control and traction of 26ers and an excellent terrain clearance of 29 inch wheels. Despite an ongoing discussion whether such compromise was needed in a first place, entry level riders should find such solution more than satisfying.
As we have mentioned above, buying an expensive mountain bike with high end components for a beginner doesn't make much sense, as entry level rider won't be able to turn excellent features of such equipment into a real advantage. Nonetheless, we listed best five entry level models from different price ranges, every single one offering a perfect balance between its quality and money invested.
Making it into top 5 of every ranking listing budget mountain bike models, the Mongoose Impasse has some very unique features for this price range: an aluminium alloy frame, long front fork and 29 inch wheels. Such characteristics make Mongoose Impasse a very light and capable mountain bike for entry level riders, while SRAM and Shimano components(derailleurs) should live up to all expectations as well.
The Mongoose Impasse is assembled with disc brakes which are always a tricky choice when it comes to cheaper bike models, but reviews suggest that they are fairly decent and reliable.
Read Mongoose Impasse Dual Suspension Mountain Bike Review.
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The Diamondback Overdrive is an absolute number one in every ranking comparing best mountain bikes under $500 and for a good reason. Its components are not high-end, but definitely above average comparing with what most inexpensive bike models are equipped: Shimano Altus derailleurs (8 speeds), SR Suntour suspension fork (100mm of travel) and SL-7 Diamondback Double Wall Rims.
A high quality handcrafted aluminium frame amazes with is durability and stiffness, and combined with Tektro IO Plus Mechanical Disc Brakes with 6 rotors it guarantees a smooth and safe ride. The Diamondback Overdrive is a hardtail with oversized 29 inch wheels, which means it's a little bit harder to maneuver but allows to negotiate biggest obstacles easily.
This model is currently available in three attractive colour schemes: white, red and black. Offering much more than what should be expected from an inexpensive mountain bike, the Diamondback Overdrive is an absolute number one in our ranking.
Read Diamondback Overdrive 29er Mountain Bike Review.
In our article about best mountain bikes under $300 we emphasized that models dedicated for men were usually equipped with much better components, but it's enough to add just 200$ to have an entirely different situation. The Diamondback Lux Women's Mountain Bike is one of the best models in our ranking, both when it comes to its beautiful design and high quality components.
Its 27.5 inch wheels and shock absorbing SR Suntour front suspension fork with 80mm of travel allows to have a comfortable ride in all sorts of terrain. The Diamondback Lux is extremely light and easy to fit, thanks to the 6061-T6 aluminium alloy frame manufactured in three sizes: 15 inch, 17 inch and 19 inch.
That bike has some other impressive features in likes of the Shimano 8-speed drivetrain and powerful disc brakes, what make it a perfect choice for entry level and slightly more experienced female riders.
If you're interested in reading about other inexpensive mountain bike models dedicated for women, you should check the Schwinn Women's High Timber described in our article "top mountain bikes under 300".
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Specialized is a well-known manufacturer of a high quality and mostly expensive bicycles but their Pitch was designed to combine low price, eye-catching looks and satisfying components to meet expectations of entry level mountain bike riders. A light aluminium frame is one of the biggest advantages of Specialized Pitch, giving it an excellent stiffness.
A geometry of the Pitch frame is not meeting most moderns standards of trail bikes by containing some steep angles, but still it's responsive enough to meet all beginners' needs. Its sleek black design is also worth being pointed out, giving it minimalistic looks of a high-end model rather than a budget one.
The Specialized Pitch is equipped with middle-sized 27.5 inch wheels, being quite a new invention and described as a compromise between a great control and traction of 26ers and an excellent terrain clearance of 29 inch wheels. Despite an ongoing discussion whether such compromise was needed in a first place, entry level riders should find such solution more than satisfying.
An SR Suntour XCT 650b front fork with 100 mm of travel absorbs shock efficiently, while Shimano Altus derailleurs (8 speeds) and Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes are best one can get in a fairly inexpensive bike, guaranteeing relatively smooth shifting and a safe ride. The Specialized Pitch is assembled with a Body Geometry mountain saddle, giving a comfort which every amateur rider needs.
If you're willing to invest a little bit more and get a mountain bike with a high-end touch in exchange, the Giant Stance should be an interesting alternative. It's an extremely versatile bike for entry level riders willing to quickly improve their skills and test themselves in various disciplines related to mountain biking.
For a dual suspension model the Giant Stance is surprisingly light, thanks to its Giant ALUXX-grade aluminium frame which not only weights nothing, but looks truly fantastic. It was designed to work exclusively with 27.5 inch wheels, what makes the bike properly stiff, responsive and easy to maneuver on trails of various difficulty levels.
FlexPoint front and rear suspension with 120mm of travel efficiently absorb all shocks, and combined with Shimano SLX hydraulic brakes guarantee a comfortable and safe ride.
In the ranking above we have presented the very best entry level mountain bikes in different price ranges. This time there is no way of telling which one would suit your needs best, as all mentioned models offer a great value for their price and thus the final decision must come down to how much you want to spend on a bike. Regardless of your choice, we're sure that all models we have listed will live up to all expectations of an entry level mountain biker.
At the end of they day, only you know which bike is right for you, however we hope that the information above and the ranking we have presented here will help you make the best decision. Depending on the type of rider you are, how much money you can spend, what terrain you will be riding on, and what kind of experience you're looking for, there is a mountain bike here for you. Happy riding!