- New, bare-bones hardtails can be found for under $1000, but you’re not likely to get much quality.
- Experts consider the trail bike to be the ultimate choice for beginners because this bike type is neither too difficult nor too simple to master.
- Getting the right size is extremely important. Models in this review range from one-size-fits-all to companies producing up to 6 bike sizes.
Beginners’ MTBs no longer cost a fortune; some of them can be found for under $600. Whether your pick is a hardtail or full-suspension model, finding the bike that feels right is the key to success when learning to ride an MTB.
If you want a bike that climbs strong, and conquer flats like a champ, get the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 Bike. It’s an affordable, hardtail mountain bike with high-quality brakes and drivetrain and a best-in-class aluminum frame.
-Best for Most People-
Brakes: Hydraulic disc | Suspension Fork: Coil Fork – 120 mm | Gears: 18-Speed | MSRP: $999
+ Sleek aluminum frame
+ 18 gears
+ Comes in 5 sizes: XS; S; M; L; XL
+ Engineered for beginners
+ Designed to climb strong and conquer flats
– Uncomfortable seat
– A bit small handlebar grips
Beginners can weigh up to 300 pounds (or tote a comparable amount of gear) if they choose this model as their first ride. This MTB is packed with first-class features like diverse wheel sizing to customize each model, a Shimano 2 x 9 drivetrain, and a Shimano Altus Shadow rear derailleur designed with a low profile to prevent this bike from getting caught up in trail debris.
Read more: When to Change Mountain Bike Tires
Shift like a pro, and then apply the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes for uber-reliable stopping power, regardless of bad weather. The DRT 1.2 is fitted with a front suspension system ready to deliver on 120mm of travel, while an internal cable routing network protects the system from dirt and soil. No longer available from Co-op, that doesn’t mean you won’t find these elsewhere if you scour bicycle resources.
-The Best Fast Cross Country Hardtail-
Brakes: Hydraulic disc | Suspension Fork: Air Fork – 100 mm | Gears: 12-Speed | MSRP: $1199
+ Smooth, lightweight RockShox fork
+ Wide-range 1x drivetrain ( 12-Speed. )
+ Fast hardtail race-worthy bike
+ Tubeless-ready wheels
+ Lightweight at 29.1 lbs
– A bit expensive for most people
For beginners seeking a light frame with internal cable routing that repels soil collection, the Marlin 8 delivers. Riders benefit from the smoother-feeling RockShox Judy Silver fork with a Solo Air spring as well as TurnKey hydraulic lockout. Included in this package are Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, tubeless Bontrager Kovee wheels, and a 1×12 drivetrain that abandons a front derailleur to eliminate clutter and promote easier operation at any speed.
Read more: Best Hydration Packs for Mountain Biking
The wide-range 11-50 cassette offers the gears you need for climbing and descents. From impressive design to quality, name-brand components, the Marlin 8 does not shy away from challenges encountered as beginners gain confidence and push their limits, be they XC races or daunting trail adventures.
-Great full-suspension with mid-range components-
Brakes: Hydraulic disc | Suspension Fork: Air Fork – 130 mm | Gears: 12-Speed | MSRP: $1999
+ Features a dropper post
+ Full-suspension model
+ 1x SRAM Eagle drivetrain is quiet and smooth
+ Frame is a good shape
+ Suits riders between 4-feet; 8-inches and 6-Feet; 5-inches
– Suntour fork isn’t very smooth
– Feels heavy and is slow
This entry-level trail bike comes with excellent credentials if you overlook the fact that the tires could use an upgrade. Further, beginners with strong legs could test the mettle of the product’s hubs. That stated, unique geometry offers predictable handling and the price isn’t a deterrent for beginners eager to invest in the right ride.
The Fluid FS3’s 120mm frame is paired with a 130mm X-Fusion fork and 27.5-inch wheels. Additionally, riders are advantaged by the X-Fusion shock, a reliable suspension brand that pairs quality with affordability. The SRAM SX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain and TranzX dropper post won’t disappoint, so if you are up for upgrading the tires, your learning curve will increase in direct proportion to the time you spend mastering this product.
Tommaso Gran Sasso
-Mid-Priced, Decent components-
Brakes: Hydraulic disc | Suspension Fork: Coil Fork – 100 mm | Gears: 24-Speed | MSRP: $874
+ Decent Shimano M315 Hydraulic Disc Brakes
+ Designed for mild trails or single-track racing
+ 100mm front travel via the SR Suntour SF15-XCM fork
+ Has enough gears to climb anything
+ Strong, well-built trail bike
– Quite uncomfortable seat
– Very basic flat pedals
This beginner’s ride is also a decent pick for cyclists on a budget, and though you won’t have the benefit of rear suspension, that may not matter if you’re just getting a feel for this type of ride. Because Tomasso product developers included lower grade components to mediate this bike’s cost, you get terrific value.
Read more: Best Affordable Mountain Bikes
The pairing of Shimano Altus and Acera brand components plus dynamic gearing without paying extra for it elevates this bike’s appeal. Weight could be a deal-breaker if you don’t want a basic alloy frame. Replacing entry-level 29-inch Mingda wheels may be necessary be down the road. While the double chainring is adequate for beginners, once you start improving, upgrading to a single chainring is likely to be in your future.
-Best for beginners with big pockets-
Brakes: Hydraulic disc | Suspension Fork: Air Inverted Fork – 110 mm | Gears: Pinion gearbox with 600% gear range | MSRP: $3500
+ Hardtail 29 model ideal for trekking
+ Features cross-country geometry
+ Extraordinary Pinion gearbox with 600-percent range
+ Grease, grit, and rust-resistant Gates carbon belt drive
+ Tested by Ryan Van Duzer
– Eye-watering price tag
– Will be shipped in Q1 2022
Even before Covid swept across the bicycle manufacturing industry, Priority 600X Adventure retailers had trouble keeping this model in stock, so if no other beginner’s bike will do, expect to be added to a wait list. Superior components are at the heart of this bike’s engineering, enabled by a partnership with adventurer Ryan Van Duzer.
The Adventure was test-driven through all manner of terrain (including the Great Divide) to put this bike’s Ultralight 6061 T6 aluminum frame, 100m inverted suspension system, rear hub boost cassette and WTB Goodyear Peak tubeless tires to the test. Choose from small, medium and large sizes to customize the fit and enjoy extras like rear rack mounts, seat stay eyelets and an capacity to mount up to 6 bottle cages for extra-long rides.
Read more: 30 Best Mountain Bike Brands
-Best for beginner trail riders-
Brakes: Hydraulic disc | Suspension Fork: Coil Fork – 100 mm | Gears:16-Speed | MSRP: $639
+ Affordable price, decent components
+ Lightweight aluminum frame with rack mounts
+ Bontrager stem technology lets you clip gear directly to the stem
+ Great suspension fork welcomes rugged terrain
+ State-of-the-art hydraulic disc braking
– A bit slow on the downhill
– Heavy at 30.80 lbs ( Size M )
Because the Trek Marlin 5 was developed to do double duty as both a commuter bike and a recreational dynamo, beginners enjoy remarkable value from the bike that doesn’t skimp on quality materials. The lightweight aluminum frame not only offers interior cable protections but contributes to the look and style riders crave. Small riders needn’t worry about fit because this bike’s frame sizes include XS and S.
Read more: Best Mountain Bike Tailgate Pads
Push the Marlin 5 through its paces, taking advantage of the bike’s 16 speeds and wide gearing range that enables a rider to fully experience terrain differentials and become acclimated to the way this bike responds. Popular with students requiring a rack to transport gear, this bike is extremely easy to accessorize, and like other Trek products, owners receive a lifetime warranty.
Brakes: Hydraulic disc | Suspension Fork: Coil Fork – 100 mm | Gears: 24-Speed | MSRP: $769
+ SR Suntour XCT30 DS 100mm fork
+ Great for the trails
+ Affordable price, decent parts
+ Choose from 6 sizes: XXS; SX; S; M; L; XL
– Low-quality nylon pedals
For a domestic bicycle brand with deep roots in the bicycle industry, Schwinn still manages to pull off excellence at affordable pricing, and the Moab 3 is proof positive of that. Ideal for the beginner cross-country mountain biker seeking higher performance, this Schwinn features a light, durable aluminum frame, high-quality suspension fork, and dynamic hydraulic disc brakes.
Read more: Health Benefits of Mountain Biking
Features include the SR Suntour XCE crank, WTB SX19 rim with alloy disc hubs, 10 mm x 135 mm dropout, replaceable hanger, and 1 1/8-inch headtube. Shimano EF500 EZ-FIRE, 24-speed shifters, FD-TY700 front derailleur, and the Acera RD-M360 rear derailleur add to this bike’s allure. The wire-bead tires and 14G stainless steel spokes keep this bike moving aggressively until Shimano aluminum disc hydraulic brakes kick into action.
-Aggressive Frame, Amazing Ride-
Brakes: Hydraulic disc | Suspension Fork: Coil Fork – 100 mm | Gears: 24-Speed | MSRP: $1599
+ Hefty weight offers more stability
+ Comes in sizes S, M and L
+ Top-of-the-line hardtail model
+ 11-speed drivetrain
+ Solid dropper post
– Expensive for beginners
The word aggressive is frequently used to describe this bike because shredding trails is this ride’s specialty. The rare heavy hardtail on the market, the H30 manages to pull off the extra weight aided by a 140mm fork and a dropper post that invites abuse. Yet, beginner riders won’t have a problem adapting their fledgling riding skills to this bike’s countenance.
Materials and components used to build this machine include the triple-butted aluminum frame Shimano Deore drivetrain and Shimano M201 hydraulic disc brakes. No wimpy tires for this seriously compelling hardtail: 2.6-inch wide Maxxis tires are so adroit at gripping all types of terrain, beginning riders have no trouble adapting to this bike’s rhythm and ability to not only destroy surfaces with aplomb, but stopping is equally impressive.
-Best Mid-Fat Tire Bike for Beginners-
Brakes: Hydraulic disc | Suspension Fork: Air Fork – 120 mm | Gears: 12-Speed | MSRP: $1879
+ Trail-focused hardtail ride
+ Includes dropper post
+ Excellent wide-range 1×12 drivetrain
+ Best-in-class handling
+ Fun to ride on trails and singletracks
– Drivetrain needs fine tunning
– Expensive for many beginners
While reviewers of the Trek Roscoe 8 don’t all agree that the brakes on this ride are one of its major selling points, that doesn’t mean it lacks the wherewithal to deliver fast, thrill-inducing performances. Riders are drawn to this Trek’s Alpha Gold aluminum frame, tapered headtube that’s configured to eliminate flex in the bike’s front end and improve steering accuracy. The 120mm RockShox 35 fork at the front features SoloAir spring and Turnkey hydraulic lockout, so riders may not miss a suspension system.
Because this ride’s cockpit design offers Trek’s Knock Block technology, riders needn’t worry about levers impacting the frame should an accident occur, and the short stem and wide bars help riders take corners effortlessly. Twelve gears power through climbs as SRAM’s NX Eagle drivetrain protects the chain. An internally-routed TransX dropper post adds to this bike’s credentials.
What to Look For in a Mountain Bike for Beginners
Beginner mountain bikes are engineered to be simple, so you may be happy to learn that there are only three things you should take into consideration when you make your choice. They are class, suspension, and budget.
Which Class of Beginner Bike Is Your Best Bet?
Choose a cross-country model, and you will notice distinguishing features like steep angles, between zero and 100mm of suspension travel, and a limited amount of tire clearance. Both dual suspension and hardtail types can be found within this class
Downhill bikes offer riders up to 200mm of suspension, and since they are built to tackle extreme challenges, their silhouettes are distinguished by super-slack angles designed to handle super-rugged terrain and forward pitches.
Experts consider the trail bike to be the ultimate choice for beginners because this bike type is neither too difficult nor too simple to master. Find hardtails and dual suspension systems in this class delivering between 120mm and 140mm of travel. Stability and superior geometry are the hallmarks of trail bikes, so riders enjoy a comfortable learning curve, no matter their skill level.
How to Decide between Hardtails and Dual Suspension Types
Benefits of hardtail bikes for beginners:
-They deliver on teaching fundamental skills and instill good riding habits.
-Maintenance is less time-consuming due to fewer moving parts.
-Hardtails are great for learning how to jump.
-They’re easier to clean and maintain since linkage doesn’t attract mud.
-Hardtails come with “bragging rights.” They’re considered more aggressive.
-Backpackers love hardtails because they offer more room for frame bags.
-You’ll likely spend less money on a high-quality hardtail v. a full suspension bike.
-Hardtails allow riders to be more spontaneous, crazy, and goofy. In other words, they’re more fun.
Benefits of full-suspension bikes for beginners:
-They are equally versatile and can hasten the learning curve.
-No matter the obstacles encountered, this bike is faster on complex terrain.
-Expect increased stability while descending from heights.
-New riders tend to develop confidence faster because full-suspension models are easier to master.
-Full suspension models are being reinvented frequently for more efficiency.
-If you intend to race, expect to have an easier time accomplishing your racing goals.
How Much Should You Budget for Your First Mountain Bike?
For consumers shopping for mountain bikes who are just beginning to get into this sport, you might say that the sky is the limit, which is why it is so important to declare your hardtail or full-suspension goal. New, bare-bones hardtails can be found for under $1000, but you’re not likely to get much quality. Up your budget to between $1,500 and $4,000, and a high-quality, full-suspension bike that meets your standards offers myriad choices.
Read more: Best Gravel Bikes Under $1500
Beginner bikes in the sub-$500 category are getting more attractive but subject one of these to a rugged trail filled with obstacles and keep your expectations in check. The hallmarks of bikes not likely up to these challenges include extra weight, low-quality components, and parts. Double down on your investment and expect dramatic changes that include aluminum construction as long as your goal is a suitable hardtail.
Within the $1000 to $2000 category, manufacturers up the ante on performance so you can purchase a high-quality hardtail versus a full-suspension model that isn’t likely to be built with high-quality components. Spend between $2000 and $3000 on your ride and find yourself in a full-suspension sweet spot where weight drops and trail-worthiness is sublime. As a beginner, you may not be ready for a high-performance MTB at the moment, but if you have aspirations for the future, you’ll find plenty from which to choose in the $5000+ category.
Should you shop for a specific size?
Models in this review range from one-size-fits-all to companies producing up to 6 bike sizes, but according to experts, you may wish to rethink this approach to selecting a beginner’s bike. Just as the clothing you choose when you ride is sized to fit “the average person,” that doesn’t mean you get a perfect fit. Are you aware of the fact that every manufacturer has a different formula for sizing their products?
Here’s our guide on bike sizing. Including charts for all bike types.
While getting the right size is extremely important – perhaps the most important factor of all – Renegade staffers remind shoppers that in order to get “maximum satisfaction out of your riding, ten dimensions of your bicycle have to be right pretty much to the centimeter. Not just one, but ten. And every model can vary in a number of dimensions to another model.” Don’t dismiss this advice about the benefits of geometry since the choice you make when selecting your first MTB could color forever your enthusiasm for the sport, so proceed wisely.
Why It’s Hard to Find a Bike Right Now
Whether you rely upon mystery books or films to stay entertained — or you’re just curious about the strange disappearance of what was once an endless supply of bicycles — there’s no denying the pandemic’s impact on the market. The 2020 bicycle boom was probably the biggest one in our recent history, and you can see it even in Google Trends. Now at the beginning of 2021, most of the bikes online are still sold out.
Suppliers and distributors were hit as hard as consumers, resulting in production shortfalls and broken links between manufacturers and other bicycle-related businesses. Despite this confounding situation, there is light at the end of this long tunnel: Manufacturers are ramping up production of both components and bikes as the commercial world rebounds from circumstances that could not have been foreseen.
Read more: Mongoose Dolomite Review
One More Thing Before You Go
Now that we have shared our thoughts on the best MTBs for beginners, as well as a few other top picks from different categories, let’s chat.
We want to know which bikes you think are great! Let us know in the comments below and after reading this blog post, feel free to share it with your friends who also love biking.