It could be quite a challenge to find good and at the same time affordable mountain bike. In this blog post, we are going to help you with the tough task to find the best cheap mountain bikes on the market for 2018. The mountain bike is not a normal city bike because it should withstand rocks, mud and other obstacles without breaking apart.
Unfortunately, many cheap mountain bikes cut too many corners and deliver mediocre quality. They usually look good but only imitate the real mountain bikes. Our goal with this guide is to steer you away from these bad bikes and find the best cheap mountain bikes for you.
Whether you want to find a bike just for commuting or looking for a new hobby, mountain bikes are the best choice. They are super versatile and multi-purpose bikes despite the fact that they are called mountain bikes. Actually, you can even make your daily commutes on a mountain bike.
Trusting your bike is as important as trusting your cycling abilities. The mountain bike is one of the best ways to enter the world of cycling without breaking your wallet. In most cases, they are versatile, balanced and most importantly cheap. If you are interested in the topic – mountain bikes vs. road bikes vs. hybrid bikes you will find our answer in this article too.
What to consider before buying a mountain bike.
Hardtail Bike vs. Full Suspension
This is one of the most crucial questions you need to answer before you decide which cheap mountain bike you will buy. If you are on a budget my answer will always be: rather buy a better quality hard-tail bike than cheap full suspension model.
There is a good reason for my opinion on the full suspension mountain bikes. If you look at a full-suspension bike and a hardtail at the same price range, the added complexity of a suspended frame means big compromises made in terms of components. Of course, a full-suspension mountain bike will always be much more capable and enjoyable on a violent terrain.
This is true on paper, but in reality, there is a lot of stress on the frame and most of the cheap full-suspension mountain bikes will not last very long.
Another significant compromise you should make if you decide on a full-suspension bike is that you are losing a lot of energy with every pedal stroke because of the suspension bends and flexes. Unless you buy a bike with mid shock that lets you lock it out when you are on paved roads, you are likely going to regret taking that big hill.
In comparison, a hard-tail bike normally is stronger, lighter and stiffer. You are going to be just fine when you wish to go to the mountain and the front shock absorber is more than enough. Take into consideration that most of the time your new mountain bike will be used on paved roads.
After all, it’s up to you which one to choose. In my opinion, the good full-suspension bikes start at around $1200. If you plan to ride most of the time on rocks maybe you should consider such an option.
Wheel sizes: 26″ Vs 29er’ Vs 27.5
Starting around 2010, 29er mountain bikes became a very popular alternative as they offered multiple advantages over the then standard 26’’ mountain bike. The larger wheels on the 29er give the rider the ability to reach a higher top speed. Another benefit is that with each pedal stroke, you are going to travel further and with less fatigue. Also, the bigger wheels roll easier over rocks and logs. In general, it’s much more fun riding a 29er than 26’’and you should consider it. You should take in mind that if you are not very tall maybe under 5′ 11″ it can be a little bit difficult to handle it.
The 26’’mountain bike is the industry standard. A bike with such wheels is usually lighter, nimble and corners very easy. The smaller wheels are often better for technical terrain that requires fast reaction and changing directions. But with this wheel size, you are going to be much slower than the 29er. Mountain bike with 27.5’’’wheels is the best of both worlds. It’s a compromise between the advantages and disadvantages of both bike sizes.
My recommendation is to buy a 29er mountain bike to fully experience the joy of mountain biking. Of course, it depends on your height and you should ask for help in your local bike shop if you cannot decide on your own.
Mountain Bike Frames
It’s very important to buy the right bike frame size for your height. It can be measured from where the crank enters the bike to where the seat post begins.
The frame is probably the most important component of a bike. High-quality frames are very expensive and can last very long. In most cases, the frames in the entry-level mountain bikes are either aluminum or steel.
Aluminum alloys are a very popular choice for bike frames. Aluminum is strong, light and rigid material and you get the better strength to weight ratio. The aluminum was originally introduced as a frame material because it enabled manufacturers to mass-produce frames more cheaply and in more specialized and better-looking forms.
With time aluminum frames became an industry standard and today they are almost as cheap as the steel frames. Steel frames are known as more durable but heavier. With some basic maintenance, a steel-framed bike can last decades. Very few manufacturers produce steel frames today, but still, a lot of cheap mountain bikes with steel frames can be found in the market.
Knowing your maximum budget before start searching is crucial for any big purchase. The rule of thumb here is that if you pay more you will get a lighter mountain bike with higher quality components. Realistically we can say that $300 – $400 is a good starting point for a basic but still good mountain bike. Of course for this price range, you will have to make a few compromises.
If you look for models below this price range and the quality of the components drops dramatically. In our picks below you will see a few bikes below $300 but they are only a few gems that can be found on the market.
Our Picks For Best Mountain Bikes For 2019
Diamondback Overdrive 29er Hardtail Review
- Hand built 6061-T6 aluminum alloy 29er hardtail frame
- Shimano 3×8-speed drivetrain is a staple of reliability
- Suntour suspension provides control and comfort
- Tektro mechanical disc brakes offer great stopping power
- Diamondback Ready Ride: bike comes in the bigger box, takes less time to assemble and is ready to ride in a few easy steps
Let’s start with our top picks for best cheap mountain bikes for 2018. Diamondback bikes are definitely one of the best bikes in our reviews. They provide very good value for the price. Compromises for the most important components are not common for this company. As I mentioned already the hard-tail frame is the best option if you are on a budget. And with this bike, you get one of the best hardtail frames in the market right now. This one is made of 6061-T6 aluminum. It’s light, durable, reliable and cheap.
The bike is fitted with double-walled rims. With two layers of metal, the wheels are much stronger than the one-walled wheels. This is so important when you bike off-road because the rims are not going to bend easily. Also, they make the bike a very good option for heavier riders. Another area when the Diamondback doesn’t make any compromises in the gears. The Overdrive is fitted with Shimano Altus which is entry level component but still of a very good quality.
Most of the competition use even cheaper gears with very questionable durability. The mechanical disc brakes are very nice to have at this price range and they are also of good enough quality and you should not expect any problems with them. In conclusion, Diamondback Overdrive 29er is a very good mountain bike for anyone who wants to get dirty off-road or for casual riding in the city. It is a very good bicycle if you are a heavy rider because for that money you get really good and capable mountain bike.
If you are interested in this mountain bike you can read also our individual review of the Overdrive.
Diamondback Sorrento HardTail Review
- Heat Treated 6061-T6 Special Aluminium Alloy Frame + Replaceable Derailleur Hanger
- 27.5″ Wheels with good all-road traction
- Shimano 21 Gear Combinations
- Reliable Traditional V-Brakes
- Shimano EasyFire Shifters
This one is cheaper than Diamondback Overdrive but it’s still surprisingly robust. Its look is not as flashy as those department store bikes in the hypermarkets but the frame is lighter than those bikes and the components are much better. The frame is the same as the one in the Diamondback Overdrive and as we already know, the frame is the most important part of the bicycle.
Shimano gears are good and precise and fitted with the easy fire shifters which make it super easy to change gears. The smaller 27.5” tires make it easy to fit in a car and absolutely enough for off-road riding in the woods. The front shock absorber is again Suntour which is a good enough option and it’s 75mm long which gives around 3’’ of travel. The rims are the same double-walled ones as the Diamondback Override.
If you are looking for a cheap but still reliable and good enough mountain bike which won’t break your wallet, this is the right choice for you. The bike is available in many different frame sizes so it can be the perfect first mountain bike for a teenager.
Finiss 26″ Aluminum 21 Speed Mountain Bike with Disc Brakes Review
- 26″ Lightweight Aluminum Frame
- Double-Walled Aluminum Rims With Extra Durability
- Shimano 21-speed Derailleurs and Shifters
- Front and Rear Mechanical Disc Brakes
- Suspension Fork 80mm Travel provides Smooth Bumps and Increases Control
This mountain bike is one of the best sellers on Amazon and there is a good reason for that. For your money, you get a very good looking mountain bike with real smooth shifts. The brakes are not bad at all for this price and the overall hardware quality is good. One of the downsides of this cheap mountain bike is the front shock absorber which is of course very cheap and of not very high quality. It is a very common problem for the cheapest bikes.
The bike is very lightweight and the aluminum frame is very good in my opinion. It performs very well off-road and could be a perfect bike for commuting as well. It comes with a kickstand installed already which is not very common in this price range.
In conclusion, I can say that Merax® Finiss 26″ Aluminum 21 Speed Mountain Bike with Disc Brakes is a very good bike if you are a first-time buyer, and you are just entering the world of mountain bikes.
If you are a hardcore biker and you need an upgrade or better bike with higher quality components you should look for other options.
Merax Finiss 26″ Aluminum 21 Speed Mg Alloy Wheel Mountain Bike Review
- Heat Treated Aluminium 6061 Mountain Frame with Lightweight Magnesium Alloy Wheels
- Suspension Fork Shimano 21-speed Derailleurs and Shifters for
- Reliable Shifting Front and Rear Mechanical Disc Brakes System
- Great looking mountain bike
This bike is very similar to the one above. The main difference is that this one is fitted with alloy wheels. The result is one extremely good looking mountain bike. Unfortunately, there is one major downside of these alloy wheels. If you crack one there is no going back and the only option would be a replacement of the wheel.
Despite that Merax Finiss 26″ Aluminium 21 Speed Mg Alloy Wheel Mountain Bike is one of the most beautiful bikes in the market with decent quality components and very good aluminum frame. Definitely one of the best cheap mountain bikes for 2016-2017.
Nashbar AT1 Review
- High Quality 6061 aluminum frame
- 21-speed drivetrain gives the right gearing to get you up and down any terrain
- 50mm travel suspension fork
- Cheap and Reliable
Nashbar realized there is a huge demand for super cheap mountain bikes and offered the AT1. The frame is durable and of high quality 6061 aluminum. The bike is good enough for off-road rides on the weekends. In comparison to most department store bikes, Nashbar AT1 is a real mountain bike which won’t tear apart on your first ride.
The components used here are very good for any value shopper. All of them are Shimano or Sram which are two of the industry leaders worldwide. I know that the bike is quite dull looking, but this should not be the most important aspect of any mountain bike. The price is the main reason for that and is one of the compromises you should make with this bike.
Another disadvantage of Nashbar AT1 is that the wheels are not very strong. The bike uses single-walled alloy wheel which is not strong enough for real off-road and you should be careful. These wheels bend relatively easy if you hit something wrong, and especially if you are heavier.
In a conclusion, Nashbar AT1 is quite good entry-level mountain bike which can serve you well for casual off-road rides. It has some major downsides but if you are on a budget you can buy this bike and just start your journey in the world of mountain biking.
Raleigh Bikes Talus 2 Mountain Bike Review
- Good quality aluminum frame;
- Big 27.5″ wheels with wide 2″ tires;
- 21 speeds;
- SR Suntour Coil, 75mm, 27.5″ Suspension Fork;
- Good Shimano EZ shift shifters;
Raleigh Talus 2 is a very good and reliable all-rounder. It’s very cheap ( normally sells below $300 ) and the same time uses some very good high-quality components. For example, the front suspension fork is SR Suntour which is very reliable and delivers nice 75mm of movement. The benefit of using such fork is very smooth and nice ride for the Raleigh Talus 2.
What I really like about this cheap mountain bike is the aluminum frame which is very good as in most Raleigh bikes. The geometry is just perfect for any road and rider. Raleigh Taulus is suited with Kenda mountain bike tires which are very good for this price range.
Raleigh Talus 2 is really tough, moderately priced mountain bike which can serve you for years if you take good care of it. I definitely recommend it to everyone who is looking for a cheap alternative to the most expensive bikes out there. Raleigh Talus 2 is for sure one of the best cheap mountain bikes for 2018.
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