We have seen a surge in interest in mountain biking in recent years. People wanted to reconnect with nature after the pandemic has kept most of us holed up in our homes. Other than that, the rising gas prices contribute to people turning to better and more environmentally friendly means of commuting.
As enjoyable as it may be, mountain biking can be intimidating for a beginner. Especially for someone who has just entered the hobby. A wrong purchase will spoil everything – but do not fret. We will help you find the best entry-level mountain that is beginner-friendly and within a reasonable budget.
We listed seven products, highlighting points crucial to a beginner mountain biker. At the same time, we will tell you some drawbacks each product has.
The 7 Best Entry Level Mountain Bikes
- 2021 Gravity FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain Bike – Best Overall
- Vilano Blackjack 3.0 29er Mountain Bike – Best Handling
- Mongoose Dolomite Men’s Fat Tire Mountain Bike – Best Value
- Schwinn Traxion Mountain Bike – Seamless Assembly
- Hiland Aluminum Mountain Bike – Great for Endurance
- Schwinn Bonafide Men’s Mountain Bike – Best Durability
- Mongoose Switchback Adult Mountain Bike – Simple but Versatile
The Gravity FSX 1.0 is a perfect choice for entry-level riders who are still gauging whether to commit to cycling fully or not. Its affordable cost, yet the superior quality is a good deal overall.
Why risk your thousand bucks when you can get the same value for less?
Usually, we would not include full suspension in our list, granting that hardtails are more lightweight and easier to control. However, suspension types are a matter of user preference. Some would choose dual suspension for ride comfort, and that is fine as long as you know what you will be getting.
In addition, the aluminum alloy material on the frame and seat post make up for the additional weight dual-suspension may add, staying beneath the 26 lb mark. Suntour is one of the best suspension, cassette, and crank providers, and Gravity utilizes these. You will never be wrong about purchasing your first mountain bike with a 24-speed Shimano EZ Fire for FSX’s shifting system and a Tektro Novela mechanical disc for the brakes equal to a smooth ride. Overall good quality, and if you feel like dedicating yourself to mountain biking for a longer time, you can opt to upgrade its tires and saddle.
- Great value for money
- Dual suspension
- Disc brake
- Adjustable preloads
- Excellent build
- Poor tread design in wheels
- Might need to be professionally assembled
Vilano Blackjack 3.0 stands out among all entry-level mountain bikes in handling. Hardtail bikes are popular among beginners because of their weight, cost, and maintenance. Further, hardtails are more energy-efficient for steep slopes.
This entry-level mountain bike has low handlebars for better traction, allowing effortless steering even at high speeds. You will gain more balance and control of the bicycle, even on rough terrains.
A butted 6061 aluminum frame, a Shimano drivetrain, and alloy shocks significantly reduce Vilano Blackjack’s weight. Climbs and descents are relatively challenging for an entry-level rider, so a lightweight mountain bike is good.
The 29-inch wheel on Vilano Blackjack allows better movement by rolling better on obstacles while maintaining constant speed easier than its smaller counterparts. It also has a lockout feature on the fork if you want to switch to an almost rigid suspension, best for less rough trails and even roads.
One downside we noticed is how the crankset is cheaply made. Although durable, the square tapered bottom bracket produces a lot of creaking noise. Some customers also complained about broken derailleurs upon shipment.
- Easy handling
- Comes with assembly instructions
- Hardtail suspension
- Trail-compatible geometry
- 29-inch wheels
- Durable frame
- Cheap crankset
- Uncomfortable saddle
Fat bikes are low-maintenance, easy to balance, and durable. Plus, they are suitable for off-road travel, especially on snowy and sandy terrains. Set your tire pressure to 10 PSI, and you are good to go on rougher trails, but if you prefer better handling on flat terrains, add about 10 PSI more to your fat tires.
We were even surprised at how Dolomite offers excellent handling, considering that fat bikes are heavy – a must-have for entry-level cyclists. However, there is still room for improvement. It would be better for riders if manufacturers installed shorter stems and more extended handlebars.
The Mongoose Dolomite offers the best bang for your buck. You have a well-done paint job and a Shimano derailleur for less than a grand. Mongoose added a nice little touch of a 1x drivetrain, perfect for entry-level cyclists because of weight reduction, simplicity, and aerodynamics. Moreover, the absence of a front derailleur adds more freedom for the fat tires’ movement.
- Excellent handling
- Satisfactory paint job
- Better traction
- Safer than regular tires
- Simple 1x drivetrain (crankset)
- Limited size choice
Try Schwinn’s Traxion bike if you want to start your mountain biking hobby. Ask veteran cyclists, and they know the brand right away.
First of all, this product is a winner in terms of seamless installation. Packaging is top-notch as fragile parts are adequately cushioned, then the complicated ones are pre-assembled, and even newbies can quickly do it by themselves.
We love how both front and rear suspension damp well on rugged terrain. Although the rear is a coil-type, it performs well; the ride is not too rough. A 160-mm mechanical disc brake, a high-quality hub, and 720-mm handlebars make an excellent deal for entry and intermediate-level cyclists. Further, the Shimano trigger shifting is easy and smooth for riders who are just in their learning stage.
Another thing that we noticed is how the pedal is too low. While it may provide more stability at a faster pace, dual suspension bikes have a higher risk for pedal strikes. Forks could have been upgraded, especially if you want more technical trails.
- Modern frame design
- Seamless transmission system
- Trusted brand
- Front and rear derailleur
- Comfortable handlebars
- Some customers received broken chains
- Forks need upgrade
The Hiland Slycan XC mountain bike favors endurance over technicalities. It is an adult mountain bike primarily for men, but it comes in different sizes, so women can also use it. The small, 16-inch frame suits riders 5’1″ to 5’7″ tall. Meanwhile, medium-sized caters to people between 5’5″ to 5’10” tall. Lastly, the oversized frame is best for tall riders standing 5’8″ to 6’2″ tall.
Its hydraulic disc brake system works best for beginners because of its superior performance and efficiency over its mechanical counterpart.
Moreover, the internal cable routing system has a double purpose: durability and appearance. Hiding cables in tubes will help bikes last longer by preventing them from rust corrosion. Likewise, a less messy look of internal lines adds elegance to the bike’s look.
The package comes with an assembly kit and is pre-assembled 85%. Even someone not too knowledgeable about bikes can install it in a breeze.
The frame is sturdy, and the 27-speed transition allows flexibility for different tracks and paths. Some may get too overwhelmed from shifting, so this feature is a double-edged sword in that area.
- Hydraulic disc brake
- Sturdy aluminum alloy frame
- Internal cable routing
- Stable ride
- Vast choices of sizes and colors
- Better quality than bikes of the same price
- The handlebar is too low
- Flimsy kickstand
Schwinn Bonafide mountain bike is suitable for teens wanting to find out if they have the knack for mountain biking and adults who would like to rediscover their long-forgotten passion.
The double-wall alloy rim and the 29-inch in diameter and 2.25-inch thick, rugged wheels make this bike competitive and decent enough to ride with your companion on your day off. It is also a must-have for commuters because of how well it can pick up speed quickly.
Shifting is pretty manageable with Shimano 24-speed transmission, though for suspension, we have to say otherwise. While others may applaud how the front absorbs shock, some find it too soft.
The Bonafide mountain bike is durable, lasting years before wear and tear. However, finding parts for this bike will be quite a hassle, and some buyers found customer support unhelpful. Unless you are well-versed in mountain bike parts, we recommend bringing it to a bike mechanic for assembly. Fine-tuning requires skill and, if done wrong, can lead to broken chains or accidents.
- Built to last
- Gears for any situation
- Well-made geometry
- Knobby tires
- Superb stopping power
- Frail rear axle
- Hard-to-find parts
Last on our list is the Mongoose Switchback mountain bike. It is a budget-friendly entry-level bike with a durable yet lightweight Tectonic T1 aluminum framing. Whether you choose comp, expert, trail, or sport, all styles have suitable geometry and attractive color scheme.
The front derailleur is Tourney, while the back derailleur is Altus, both from Shimano, one of the best brands in bicycle shifting. The simple, nine-speed transmission is preferable for entry-level cyclists but strenuous for long rides.
Switchback’s double-wall rims, suspension fork, and handlebars are all from Xposure, giving confidence to entry-level riders. If you are concerned about this mountain bike’s weight, do not worry. It is not too heavy or light, with a good balance of performance and weight. Moreover, the Shimano ST-EF500 for shifter and brake levers adds to comfortable and stable shifting. We know brakes are crucial, especially on trails where steep descents are a mainstay. So we made sure that all-mountain bikes on our list have disc brakes, and Switchback is no exception.
- Solid hardtail bike
- Pretty decent for the price
- Appealing color schemes
- Simple shifting system
- Aluminum frame
- Pre-adjusted derailleurs
- Some customers received missing parts
- Tire treading needs improvement
Buying Guide for the Best Entry Level Mountain Bikes
As a general rule, hardtail bikes best suit entry-level users. It is cheaper, lighter, and low-maintenance. Also, learning how to ride hardtails will make you develop proper cornering and speed control.
The comfort a full suspension brings will slack you off your fundamental trail riding skills. Think of it like giving beginners a heavier racket in sports – the more trained your muscles are in smashing, the better you will get when changing to a lighter one. However, some enthusiasts claim that starting with a hardtail and switching to a full suspension will not improve your abilities. The two types require a completely different skill set and changing to another one felt like learning how to ride a bike the first time.
It all boils down to the rider’s skills. No matter how excellent your bike may be, it is useless if you do not practice. Hardtail and full suspension are both good in their ways. Full suspension suits more technical terrains, and if you strive to be better, choose this. On the other hand, hardtail works well for flatter terrains and cross-country racing.
Aluminum is the frame material of all items on our list, and there is a good reason for that. It is the cheapest among steel, carbon, and titanium frames, though the least durable. Despite being prone to dents, the stiffness of aluminum makes it suitable for entry-level mountain bikes because of its energy efficiency. Also, steel frames rust while aluminum does not. Carbon and titanium are costly for beginners, and you do not want to shell out large amounts instantly when you are just starting.
Back in the day, tube length was the basis for bicycle size and fit, but as time went by, bicycle geometry got more complicated. Thus, experts introduce stack and reach. Stack is the vertical distance between the bottom bracket and the head tube. Meanwhile, the reach is the horizontal distance between the bottom bracket and the handlebar’s center. Think of it as the stack is the height and the reach is the length. If you want a more relaxed posture, go for a bike with a higher stack. Otherwise, more extended reach allows better handling but more strain on your back and shoulders.
Larger tires are getting more popular, and better traction means better handling on rugged terrains like sand and snow. Additionally, 29ers perform well on rough tracks. However, you should not ride the hype that quickly, especially if you have a small build. Using a mountain bike too big for your stature gives your joints a lot of strain. Always read a mountain bike’s instructions for preferred heights.
The first aspect of shifting is the gear or speed numbers. Gear numbers, like suspension type, are a matter of personal preference. More significant and fewer gear numbers have both benefits and downsides. Few speed choices say 8 or 18, are more straightforward and make the rider focus more on pedaling rather than shifting. On the contrary, more gears bring versatility to the rider, allowing optimal performance on both uphill and downhill treks.
While SRAM and Campagnolo are competent enough, they are too expensive for an entry-level bike. However, generic brands are noisy and flimsy– and may risk chain derailment. When it comes to brands, we recommend Shimano as a good one. It is a compromise between price and quality.
Have you ever noticed all the products on our list range around $500? We love cheap, high-quality bikes because entry-level bikes are low-maintenance. Less complicated accessories would mean less stuff to worry about, making you focused on riding and enjoying the trail. If you feel more skilled than before, then that is the time you need to upgrade.
The good thing about affordable mountain bikes is how less committed you will feel if you ever find that cycling is not a sport for you. Compared to buying expensive and upgraded bikes, you may set aside your bike when you get your hands too busy on other matters.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the different types of mountain bikes?
As ride mechanics get more complicated, subsets arise. We will explain the three main types to simplify this topic:
Cross country or XC prioritizes speed and pedaling over control on rugged terrains, though it is also suitable for uphill climbs. It is the most lightweight and rigid suspension (100 mm to 120 mm) among the three.
Trail mountain bikes are the most common, given that it is the all-rounder of all mountain bike types. It can maneuver over steep climbs while being efficient on pavements. The 120 mm to 150 mm shocks provide better damping than XC, but you will need Enduro if you travel on more technical terrains.
Enduro leans on steeper tracks: longer airtimes, more significant drops, and more challenging climbs. The frame is the most durable among the three, sometimes needing carbon fiber as the perfect choice. The 150 mm to 180 mm shocks best suit Enduro bikes to withstand landing impact.
2. What accessories should I wear before riding a mountain bike?
The helmet is arguably the essential gear you should prepare. Helmets prevent riders from a concussion, and for more protection, we recommend getting a full-face mountain bike helmet. There are also shoes specialized for mountain biking. These are more rugged, durable, and water-resistant for harsh environments. Next, your knee pads are an excellent addition for protection. Try to choose flexible yet durable pads that allow movement while preventing injuries. Lastly, invest in suitable gloves and eyewear (either goggles or sunglasses).
3. Are tubeless tires better for entry-level mountain bikes?
Generally speaking, yes, tubeless is better than regular tires. Nevertheless, tubeless has its share of pros and cons.
One, its deflation rate is slow and constant, allowing you to reach the nearest tire center on time.
Two, tubeless tires offer more traction and require less pressure on tires, giving riders more comfort.
Three, there is less risk of puncturing with tubeless tires. Some downsides are: that it is expensive and difficult to install. Furthermore, not all bikes are tubeless-ready.
4. Are clipless pedals suitable for beginners?
We do not recommend using clipless pedals for entry-level mountain bikers. Clipless pedals have clips, despite their name, to make things clear. They pose a danger and require more skill an entry-level cyclist cannot handle.
The Finish Line
There you have it. We gave you the seven best entry-level mountain bikes to choose from. These are all inexpensive, simple bikes for starters who may be finding a new hobby or setting up ways to get fit.
We kept in mind how beginners would choose mountain bikes based on suspension, make, frame, tires, transmission, and price. So, if you feel like kicking those pedals after a long time, try our recommendations.
- The Best Mountain Bikes Under $1500 That Are Worth Buying
- Bike Fit Guide: How to Set Up Your Bike for Ultimate Performance and Comfort
- Mountain bike size guide: 8 Key points to choose the best size for you
- Best Non Cycling Shoes for Cycling
- Exploring the 5 Different Types of Mountain Bikes: A Comprehensive Guide
- Top 6 Mountain Bike Brands
- The Ultimate Guide to Mountain Bike Accessories