500 dollars is the bare minimum you’ll need to spend to get a trail-ready mountain bike.
Many entry-level mountain bikes have some serious flaws so its essential that you choose one of the best mountain bikes under $500.
Picking the wrong product can in worst case mean it breaks down the first day you take it out to the trails. To help you find a quality product with durable components that you can upgrade down the line, we looked at tons of budget mountain bikes. After much consideration, we narrowed it down to a few products that both experts and customers love.
If you just want to know, right now, what the best mountain bike you can get for under $500, then check out this:
The Best MTBs for Less Than $500
What To Look For In a Sub $500 Mountain Bikes
When buying a mountain bike for less than $500, you’ll have to make some sacrifices. Five hundred dollars is usually seen as the bare minimum for a trail-ready entry-level mountain bike.
We have already published a guide on how to choose the best beginner mountain bikes. This buying guide will focus specifically on the things you’ll need to look at when shopping for the least amount of money as possible.
In the sub 500 price range, most mountain bike tires will either be 26 or 27.5 inches. The trend in mountain biking is to go for larger wheels. Larger wheels will roll over obstacles better and give better speed and stability. 29-inch tires are pretty rare in the best mountain bikes under $500. 29-inch wheels will work excellent on fast, flowy trails and will allow you to climb more effortlessly.
26-inch wheels are OK in this price range, but aim to get a bike with 27.5-inch wheels for added stability and speed.
If you go up in price, you can start to consider the frame material. For example, mountain bikes under $1000 sometimes come with frames made of light materials such as titanium or carbon fiber. For 500 dollars or less, expect an aluminum alloy frame. Aluminum is durable and versatile materials that will work for beginners. When the weight starts to become a priority, you might feel the frame on these entry-level bikes is too heavy.
In this price range, aluminum alloy is the only frame material you can get.
Make sure to get the mountain bike in a size that fits you. Most bike manufacturers have a really good sizing guide to help you get the right frame size for your length. You can usually find it right on the product listing on places like Amazon. If you can’t find it there, there’s usually a sizing guide on the manufacturer’s website.
Look at the manufacturer's size guide for correct fit. You might want to go for a slightly smaller size if you want to be more agile or size up slightly if you want a bit more stable bike.
Gears and brakes
Choosing the right gears and brakes are covered in detail in the buying guide for the best mountain bikes for beginners.
I highly recommend reading the beginners mountain bike to learn about things such as derailleur hangers and gears that are easy for beginners.
The super-quick version:
Get hydraulic brakes. They have far better stopping power than regular rim brakes, and you can depend on them no matter the conditions.
When it comes to the gear system, get it from a trusted manufacturer specialized in bike gears such as Shimano or SRAM.
Hardtail or Full Suspension
Quality mountain bikes under $500 will exclusively be hardtail.
If you want the added stability of both rear and front suspension, then you need to spend at least more than twice your $500 budget.
Remember to Budget in Extra Biking Gear
One thing to consider when buying a budget mountain bike is to consider extra costs other than the mountain bike itself. Essential gear that you need to account for is a mountain bike helmet, a multi-tool, and portable bicycle pump and a simple repair kit. Many mountain bike riders also spend some extra cash on hydration packs and mountain bike clothing such as mountain bike shorts, mountain bike shoes, and mountain bike gloves.
Best Mountain Bikes Under $500 Reviewed
Diamondback Overdrive 27.5
The Diamondback Overdrive is a quality hardtail mountain bike with 27.5-inch wheels. It has quality components that you could trust without having to empty the bank.
When you get the mountain bike, it’s partially assembled. This means you’ll have to put on the seat, pedals, and wheels. Tools to do the assembly and instruction are included, and it should take around 30 mins to get it fully assembled. If you still feel like assembly is too hard for you, you can pay an additional 70 bucks and get it expert assembled by Diamondback themselves. One considerable advantage compared to many other partially assembled budget mountain bikes is that the brakes and gears are already tuned. This means you don’t have to struggle to get the right tuning or having to take it to the bike shop to get it expert tuned.
The seat is adjustable, but many customers thought it was uncomfortable. The rear end of the saddle is hard. Since it’s easy to switch out the saddle, many felt it was worth it to upgrade it to something more comfortable like the Diamondback pillow top seat.
The 27.5-inch wheels have a nice knobbly surface that grips well and will give you added confidence out on the trail.
The brakes and the drivetrain are made of reputable brands and are easy to upgrade. You’ll get a wide range of gears to help you get up the hills with the included 3×8 Shimano drivetrain. The Tekro Aries mechanical disc brakes have 160mm rotors and stop reliably no matter the condition you’re biking in. These excellent mechanical disc brakes will make you never turn back to v-brakes again.
Diamondback is one of the biggest and most respected mountain bike brands out there on the market. They have good customer service and provide online live chat and tons of videos if you ever get any issues with the bike.
|Solid components for any non-hardcore rider|
|When you are assembling the bike no need to tune brakes and gear system|
|Powerful mechanical disc brakes|
|No lower mounts for bike rack|
Iron Horse Maverick
The Iron Horse Maverick is a reliable entry-level mountain bike for an affordable price. It’s designed to be a “doorway to a true xc experience.” That claim by Maverick might be a bit far-fetched considering the rather heavy weight and the specs. However, if you’re just starting out, it’s definitely a good option to look at.
This hardtail mountain bike has a rigid aluminum alloy frame. It has a relatively short top tube and a slack head angle which positions the weight of the rider nicely in the middle of the bike. It gives a stable riding position, but beginners tend to feel that this position is a bit low in the front.
The included SR Suntour M-3030 is a decent suspension fork for the price, but it’s a bit clunky at speed.
It does have a Shimano drivetrain and mechanical disc brakes. However, if you compare this bike to other top-rated mountain bikes under $500, you’ll find the specs to be a bit lacking.
Even if the Iron Horse Maverick isn’t the best when it comes to specs, it’s still worth having a look at due to the affordable price. It’s hard to find any quality mountain bike cheaper than the Maverick.
|Nicely balanced with good handling|
|Sub-par suspension fork|
|Bit low riding position for beginners|
|Below average specs for the price range|
Raleigh Talus 2
Raleigh Talus is a nice recreational hardtail mountain bike with a durable aluminum frame.
It comes partially assembled so you’ll have to do assembly and tuning before you get riding. Assembly of the bike will take somewhere between 30-120 minutes depending on your skill level. The hardest part of the assembly is the tuning of the brakes and the derailleur. If you are untechnical and don’t seem to get it right, you might want to take it to a bike shop or bike mechanic to get a professional to handle the tuning.
To help beginners getting a bike that suits their size, Raleigh has implemented progressive wheel sizing. This means if you get a size S or XS, you’ll get 27.5-inch wheels and 29-wheels in sizes M, L and XL. Beginners will get large enough wheels to roll over obstacles but avoid too large wheels for their height.
The suspension fork of the Raleigh Talus 2 has 100mm of suspension travel and will help you get a smooth riding experience on rough trails.
Stopping on time is effortless with the Raleigh Talus thanks to the mechanical disc brakes.
The derailleur is made of Shimano, so it’s easy to upgrade to a better drivetrain whenever you need to. This bike has entry-level Shimano Tourney derailleur so once you progress it’s often a good idea to get a smoother more high-end derailleur.
|Progressive wheel sizing for better fit|
|Might have to take it to a bike shop for accurate tuning|
Schwinn Bonafide Mountain Bike
The Schwinn Bonafide is a good beginner mountain bike with 27.5″ wheels and a 17-inch medium aluminum frame. It looks great with a nice black and red color scheme. It’s well constructed and is quite lightweight for the price.
To get it assembled, you have to follow a simple step-by-step owners manual. You attach the wheels, the seat, the pedals, and the handlebars. It can take some time time to assemble it, but once assembled, you can take it out to the trails and experience some good mountain bike performance.
With 29-inch wide and knobby mountain bike tires you can confidently tackle easier trails. The wheels are good but not very durable.
It has mechanical disc brakes in both front and rear that stops on point. It also comes with Shimano derailleurs front and back.
The biggest issue with the Schwinn Bonafide is the suspension. The large wheels combined with the Schwinn suspension fork helps soak up smaller bumps. However, when driving over larger bumps, it’s often an inconsistent and bumpy experience. It’s still a good option for lighter trails but if you want something that can handle steeper and more technical trails you’re going to need better dampening.
|Mechanicl disc brakes|
|Large knobbly 29″ wheels|
|Very cool look|
|Tires wear down quickly|
Five hundred dollars is about the lowest price you can get a good mountain bike for that can handle demanding trails dedicated to mountain biking.
In this price range expect a hardtail frame made of alloy, most likely 26-inch wheels and entry-level gears and brakes. Even if the components are entry-level, make sure you get them from quality name brand manufacturers such as Shimano or SRAM. With quality components, you can easily upgrade the bike as you progress. The last thing you need to make sure of is that the brakes are disc brakes for excellent stopping power no matter the conditions.
The most common issue in this price range is a poor suspension fork. Some of the best mountain bikes under $500, such as the Schwinn Bonafide and the Iron Horse Maveric have sub-par suspension. You can still tackle lighter trails with those bikes but don’t expect a smooth experience in more demanding trails.
If you want to tackle more demanding trails, consider the Diamondback Overdrive 27.5 or the Raleigh Talus 2. Both of these bikes can handle most trails, but they both have some components that you might want to change for a comfortable experience.
As you see, even the best mountain bikes under $500 have some flaws. You can always consider a higher quality mountain bike such as one of the best mountain bikes under $1000. Another option is to be prepared to upgrade your entry-level mountain bike as you progress as a rider. The good thing about the bikes we selected is that they are all reliable and easy to upgrade.