The 8 Best Beginner Mountain Bikes for Men and Women in 2021

The Best Mountain Bikes for Beginners

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This is a selection of the best beginner mountain bikes you can buy. It includes mountain bikes for around $500 for men and women. Save hours of your time searching for your next MTB and take advantage of our expert advice.

The best mountain bike for beginners is the Trek 820 (also available for women). It offers the best price-value ratio from all bikes in this selection. It’s is equipped with Shimano components, 21 gears, a comfortable saddle, knobby tires and you can attach a rear rack to it. Trek 820 offers everything you will need as a beginner.

In this article, you also find out how to choose a beginner mountain bike, what to be aware of when choosing it, and what to expect from low-end mountain bikes.

Feel free to also read useful tips for beginner mountain bikers from that I got from experienced mountain bikers.

So, without further ado – let’s dive in!

Table Of Contents


What Are the Best Mountain Bikes for Beginners?

All bikes in the following selection are semi assembled. This means it is pretty easy to assemble them even for people with minimal mechanical skill.


Trek 820 (Best Mountain Bike for Beginners)

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1008601 2017 A 1 820 Womens?$responsive pjpg$&cache=on,on&wid=1024&hei=768

Main Features

  • Available for men and women
  • Durable steel frame
  • Mounts for accessories
  • 75 mm fork travel
  • Platform pedals included

Technical Specifications

  • Frame material: Steel
  • Weight: 15.28 kg / 33.68 lb [M]
  • Gearing: 21 speed Shimano Tourney with 7-speed cassette and 3X chainring
  • Wheels: 26″
  • Tires: 26×2.00″ semi-slick

Trek 820 is the right mountain bike for you if you want to try mountain biking. It is perfect for various types of surfaces ranging from city streets to forests, roads, trails, and singletracks.

Thanks to its steel frame, the bike is durable, so that you can rely on it at any time. The bike weight is also pretty low (33.68 lb / 15.28 kg).

The 21-speed Shimano drivetrain offers enough gears for various gradients. This means that you will always find the right gear.

The knobby tires will provide you with enough grip on dirt roads, gravel, and other types of terrains. You can ride this bike on paved roads as well. Just remember, it will require a little bit more energy.

Front suspension with 75mm travel absorbs bumps and vibrations so your ride will be comfortable and you will be able to relax your hands.

There are also mounts for a rear rack that you can use for attaching bike bags or panniers. This additional cargo space allows you to store spare clothes, food, and other things needed for a long trip.

This bike is available for men and women (step-through). So you both can buy a bike and go on a bike trip together.


Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 Bike

Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 Bike
Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 Bike | Source: rei.com

Main Features

  • Unisex bike
  • Rapidfire Plus shifters
  • Hydraulic disc brakes
  • 100 mm fork travel
  • Platform pedals included

Technical Specifications

  • Frame material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 14.35 kg
  • Gearing: 21 speed Shimano Tourney with 7-speed cassette and 3X chainring
  • Wheels: 27.5″
  • Tires: 2.1″ Kenda Kandre

The Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 Bike has a unique top tube profile. Thanks to it it is suitable for men and women.

You get an efficient stopping power with the disc brakes during all types of weather. So, you can rely on it on almost any type of terrain.

It will also be easy for you to find the right gear because the 3×7 Shimano drivetrain offers a wide range of them. Conquer steep sections and ride fast downhills!

Thanks to 27.5″ wheels with 2.1″ tires that provide enough traction, the bike will perform great even in mud.

It is a very good competitor of Trek 820. DRT 1.1 is a little bit more expensive. But, it offers hydraulic disc brakes, which is an advantage.

To wrap this up, if you want a good mountain bike with disc brakes for an affordable price, this one is the right for you.


Schwinn High Timber (Mountain Bike for Children)

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Main Features

  • Kids bike
  • Front suspension
  • GripShift for easy shifting
  • Platform pedals included

Technical Specifications

  • Frame material: Steel
  • Weight: 38.58 lb (17.5 kg)
  • Gearing: 21-speed
  • Wheels: 20″

I included one kid’s mountain bike in this selection as well – in case you have kids who don’t have a bike.

The Schwinn High Timber is equipped with 21-speed GripShift shifters that enable easy shifting for your kids.

All-terrain knobby tires with light and durable alloy wheels will provide your little ones with good traction even on rougher and more difficult terrain.

What is also great is the quick release seat post. You can quickly adjust the seat height as your child grows!

Overall this is a good entry-level bike. So, if you want to bring your kids into the mountain biking world, you know where to start.


Marin Bolinas Ridge 2 29″

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Main Features

  • 100 mm fork travel
  • Mechanical disc brakes
  • Modern design

Technical Specifications

  • Frame material: Aluminum
  • Weight: n/a
  • Gearing: Shimano Altus 3x8spd
  • Wheels: 29″
  • Tires: MTB 29 x 2.25″

Looking for an affordable 29″ MTB? Check the Marin Bolinas Ridge 2. I am a huge fan of its design and the combination of black, orange, and blue. It looks very modern.

However, its components do not lag behind either. Marin is equipped with the Shimano Altus set, which offers 3×8 gears. With this selection, you will be able to climb a steep hill and ride fast descents.

Thanks to the 29″ wheels, the bike is stable and easily manages even more demanding terrain. So it is ideal for beginners who want to enjoy an adrenaline ride.

A minor disadvantage is that the disc brakes are mechanical and not hydraulic. But we can’t expect the latest and greatest in this price range. However, even mechanical disc brakes will provide you with enough braking power.

Another minor disadvantage is that the pedals are not included, so you will have to buy them separately.


Giant Talon 2

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Main Features

  • Available in 2 colors
  • 80 or 100 mm fork travel (depending on size)
  • Platform pedals included
  • Hydraulic disc brakes

Technical Specifications

  • Frame material: Aluminum
  • Weight: n/a
  • Gearing: microSHIFT 1x9spd
  • Wheels: 27.5″ or 29″
  • Tires: Kenda Booster 27.5 or 29×2.2, wire bead

Giant Talon 2 offers great value for the money – it is equipped with light 27.5″ or 29″ (depending on which you choose).

It is suitable not only for beginners but also for experienced riders that need a spare mountain bike.

Of course, it was not designed for the toughest types of terrains, but it will handle dirt roads, trails, gravel, etc.

You will have time to enjoy your ride’s comfort because the up to 100 mm travel fork will absorb major bumps and vibrations.

Thanks to the Hydraulic disc brakes, you get enough stopping power in any weather conditions so that you can rely on them at any time.

Talon 2 is equipped with 1X shifting, so you get a pretty limited gear range (9spd). On the other hand, the bike is easier to maintain, less complex, and simpler.

Feel free to choose from red or concrete grey color and 5 sizes.


Mongoose Status 2.2 (Men & Women Specific Versions)

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Mongoose Status 2.2 for men
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Mongoose Status 2.2 for women

Main Features

  • Full-suspension bike ready for simple trails
  • GripShift for easy shifting
  • Knobby tires for on-trail control and performance
  • Platform pedals included

Technical Specifications

  • Frame material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 44.3 lb (20.1 kg)
  • Gearing: 21-speed
  • Wheels: 26″
  • Tires: 26×2.125

Mongoose Status 2.2 is the only full-suspension beginner mountain bike on this list. I can’t continue without a little disclaimer.

Don’t expect miracles from a full-suspension bike at this price tag.

Yes, this bike is more comfortable and better absorbs bumps and vibrations than front suspension-only mountain bikes in this price range.

I mean, it can handle a lot, but I don’t recommend pushing it too far. The quality of the frame and components cannot be compared with full suspension bikes around $2000.

However, Status 2.2 offers a 21-speed drivetrain so that you can choose the right gear for steep uphills, flat sections, or descents.

It is equipped with classic rim brakes, so the stopping power may be affected in the rain. But if you don’t plan to ride in the rain, you will be fine.

The major disadvantage of this bike is its weight. It weighs over 44.3 lb (20 kg), so it requires a lot of energy to make it to the top of the hill. But once you get there, the descent will be quick.


Trek Marlin 5

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Marlin5Womens 20 23133 B Primary?$responsive pjpg$&cache=on,on&wid=1920&hei=1440

Main Features

  • Available for men and women
  • Powerful hydraulic disc brakes
  • Partial internal cable routing
  • Rack and kickstand mounts
  • 720 mm handlebar
  • Platform pedals included

Technical Specifications

  • Frame material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 14.44 kg / 31.84 lb [M]
  • Gearing: Shimano Tourney 3x7spd
  • Wheels: 29″
  • Tires: Bontrager XR2 Comp

If you have a slightly larger budget, the Marlin 5 by Trek should grab your attention. This MTB is available in 3 beautiful colors (black, blue, orange), and you can choose a frame for men or women.

It is a great mountain bike for beginners that offers great price value ratio. It is versatile, well equipped, and reliable.

You can use it for trail riding, cross country, or even bike packing and long overnight trips because it is compatible with the rear rack. So you can equip it with panniers to increase its cargo capacity.

This bike has a mid-range drivetrain by Shimano that lasts longer than the low-end drivetrains. Its shifting is quick and precise.

Marlin 5 features partial internal cable routing that creates a premium look. And with the 720 mm wide handlebars, you will feel like a proper mountain biker.

Another benefit is that VP-536 nylon platform pedals are included so you don’t have to buy them separately.

So, if you are just about to begin with mountain biking, Marlin 5 could be your first mountain bike.


My Verdict

If you have a low budget, go for Trek 820 (also available for women). This is the best beginner mountain bike because it offers a lot for its price.

You can rely on it thanks to quality Shimano components and use it to ride in various terrains, including dirt roads, gravel, forest roads, singletracks, or trails.

Trek 820 has everything a beginner mountain biker needs. The only main downside is the lack of disc brakes. If you insist on having disc brakes, save some money and go for Trek Marlin 5.

It is a very similar bike, but it features disc brakes and slightly different components. And, it is also available for women.


How to Choose a Beginner Mountain Bike?

If you are new to cycling and you don’t feel comfortable in the presence of cars, a mountain bike should be the right choice for you.

In the following part, I am going to explain what to expect from a cheap mountain bike and how to spend your money wisely.

Feel free to watch the following video to get a sneak peek of what to expect from cheap mountain bikes.

Suspension

When choosing a beginner mountain bike, you have to decide if you want a front-suspension or a full-suspension bike. Beginner mountain bikes are equipped with basic coil or air suspension.

mtb bike icon
A mountain bike with front suspension
full suspension mountain bike icon
A full suspension mountain bike

Front-suspension bikes are more affordable and you will get better components for a given budget. Front suspension will provide you with good riding comfort and your arms won’t get tired as quickly due to the road bumps and rough terrain.

Full-suspension bikes are better if you know that you will be riding in technical terrain and want the comfort and help from the rear suspension. You have to prepare a larger budget to get the same components as on a front-suspension bike.

 ProsCons
Hardtail• Lower overall weight of the bike
• Lack of rear suspension maintenance
• Lower price
• Lower energy loss when pedaling
• Better for uphills
• Right riding technique for rough terrain needed
• Not as comfortable as full suspension
• Doesn't handle rough terrain as well as full suspension
Full suspension• Better comfort in rough terrain
• More versatile (jumps, drops, rock gardens, roots...)
• Easier to ride in more difficult terrain
• Better for downhills
• Higher price
• Higher overall weight of the bike
• More parts that can break
• Rear triangle maintenance

If you decide to buy a full-suspension mountain bike, you can choose between coil or air suspension.

Coil suspension is used on the cheapest bikes. The coil is great for its quick response to minor bumps, unlike cheap air suspension. You can adjust only the stiffness of the coil exactly for your weight. This means it is not very precise, and you have to guess the right setting by your sag. The right sag will improve bikes’ handling and comfort.

Air suspension is used on mid-range to high-end mountain bikes. Thanks to the shock pump with a gauge, you can set your suspension sensitivity with great precision. Usually, you can set the rebound and other advanced features.

Learn more about the sag and rebound in this guide by Evo.com.

Frame Material

Thanks to low manufacturing cost and easy processing, most cheap mountain bikes are made of aluminum. If you have a larger budget, you can look for carbon, steel, or even titanium bikes.

Aluminum frames offer great weight to stiffness ratio and durability for a given price. This means that the manufacturer can spend the money saved on the frame on other important components such as groupset, wheels, or brakes.

Carbon mountain bikes are lighter, stiffer, and more flexible compared to aluminum ones. They are great for pro or more demanding riders. Their downside is that they are expensive, so the manufacturer has to cut corners and equip the bike with cheaper components (if we talk about bikes for the same or similar price). The downside of the stiffness and flexibility is that carbon frames are more fragile when crashing. They can break when you fall on the side on a rock or another hard surface.

Usually is better to buy an aluminum frame with better components when you are on a tight budget than a carbon one with worse components. Your bike will last longer, and the overall experience will be much better.

The steel and titanium frames are found on more premium bikes. Yes, you can buy a cheap steel bike, but it will probably feature very bad components compared to a bike with an aluminum frame at the same price range.

Groupset

The groupset is one of the most important things that I look for when choosing a bike. It is put to hard work every time I ride my bike.

Beginner mountain bikes are always equipped with the cheapest groupsets available. That does not mean that they won’t last. They are just not so precise and quick as high-end groupsets and will also wear out faster. Sometimes you have to help the derailer shift by pushing the lever, but after you learn how to use them, they can serve you many years. Yet, I recommend frequent maintenance.

There are 3 types of chainrings – 1X, 2X, and 3X. 2X and 3X chainrings are great for beginners. It is easier to shift from faster gear to slower using the front shifter. So if you are new to the sport, you won’t put the rear derailer to hard work every time the terrain changes. Just make sure you avoid cross-chaining.

Cross-chaining vs. good shifting
Avoid cross-changing to reduce chain friction and drivetrain damage. Follow good shifting best practices to improve efficiency.

2X and 3X chainrings come with higher weight and are harder to set correctly. 3X chainrings are available only in the cheapest groupsets. So if you want precise shifting, you are “stuck” with 2X or 1X chainrings.

If you decide to go for a 1X, you have to consider a chainring size. A chainring with 30 teeth will allow you to ride faster in downhills, but you may have a problem in steep uphill sections. On the other hand, thanks to the 34 teeth chainring, you will climb very steep hills.

Most 1X chainring bikes I have ridden were equipped with 32 teeth chainring; I did not struggle anywhere, even with a 10 or 11-speed cassette.

1x chainring
1x chainring
2x chainring
2x chainring
3x chainring
3x chainring

Wheels

Most modern mountain bikes use 27.5″ or 29″ wheels. The older ones used 26″ wheels. 26″ wheels are not very common anymore because the larger diameter wheels are more stable and more comfortable.

26" vs 27.5" vs 29" wheels
Comparison of 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ wheels

26″ were pretty popular; however, they are outdated these days. It is because of all the advantages that the bigger wheels have. They are available on the most affordable mountain bikes thanks to their low price (they are made from affordable materials like aluminum).

29″ wheels are better for speed and stability. Thanks to their size, the inertia is better, and you can maintain your speed more easily. On the other hand, the acceleration is slower.

If you ride off-road, they will handle bumps better, and your ride will feel smoother. The bike will also be more stable in downhills. You will also have better traction and brake power thanks to the larger contact area with the surface.

27.5″ wheels are more suitable for shorter people. Because of the smaller size, the bike is more agile and is easier to handle in tight spaces. Since they are bigger than the 26″ wheels, the speed, traction, and stability will still be noticeable.

Brakes

Beginner mountain bikes are mainly equipped with rim or disc brakes.

  1. Rim brakes are great for their price to performance ratio. They are cheap, easy to maintain and work well on most occasions. Because the brake pads are in direct contact with the wheel, their performance can be affected by road conditions, mainly if you ride through water or mud. Rim brakes are also much cheaper than disc brakes.
  2. Disc brakes give you the best stopping power in almost any condition and are easier to control. Thanks to the different technology and the disc placement, the braking power is usually unaffected, and the breaks are more powerful. But they can get pretty hot in long and steep descents. This can result in a lack of stopping power. Don’t worry. If you don’t plan to descent a 10-mile route, you will be fine.
    There are 2 types of disc brakes – mechanical or hydraulic. Mechanical are cheaper and easier to maintain, but hydraulic are more popular and have a better brake control because of the different technology.

Bike Size

Once you chose the mountain bike model you want to buy, it is time to pick its correct size. This is a crucial step because you won’t enjoy your ride with the wrong bike size.

It can be difficult to choose the right size when you can’t try the bike in person and try it out. But, thanks to bike size charts and bike size calculators, it will be a matter of a few minutes.

So, make sure you read my other article where I explain How to Choose a Bike Size. It also contains a bike size calculator that will calculate the correct mountain bike size for you.


Additional Tips for Beginner Mountain Bikers

In the following section, you learn a few beginner mountain bike tips. I gathered them from my experience and from my friends who have been riding mountain bikes their whole lives.

Get a Bike Helmet & Bike Accessories

There are many different types of accessories for mountain bikes.

The first, most obvious thing is that you need a helmet. Even a cheap one can save you from severe injuries. Don’t underestimate your safety.

Trust me; I know what I am talking about. My good friend crashed badly on his mountain bike, and the helmet saved him from a concussion and other injuries.

But it is not just about the helmet. If you plan to ride longer trips, you can take advantage of bike accessories.

Make sure you get at least the following ones:

A speedometer is great for those of you who like to measure your speed and distance of your trip. Yes, you can use your phone, but why drain your battery when there is a little helper that knows the same.

Download Useful Cycling Apps

Mobile apps can help you to find the right trails/paths for you, track your progress, or even help you with first aid.

These are my favorite apps for mountain biking:

  • Trailforks for planning rides
  • Strava for ride tracking
  • Red Cross for first aid

Another useful app is Windy for a weather forecast. It is great if you plan longer trips and want to be sure about the weather. To find more useful apps, check the selection of the best cycling apps.

Enjoy It

There is one thing that I hear over and over again from most of the riders.

It is not about the equipment you have. It is about you and about the moment you are in. And if you are enjoying it, that is all that matters.


Beginner Mountain Bikes FAQ


This post is regularly updated to provide you the most up to date tips on products. If you find a product that is not up to date, please, contact me.

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