What Is The Best Mountain Bike Under 500 Dollars?

TL;DR – In a hurry and just want to know what is the best mountain bike under 500 Dollars? The best bikes at that price point available are (in my opinion):

  • Best Men’s Mountain Bike Under $500: Giant ATX3 Disc
  • Best Women’s Mountain Bike Under $500: Cannondale Tango 6
  • Best Kid’s Mountain Bike Under $500: Scott Scale 24” Disc
  • Best Fat Bike Under $500: Gravity Bullseye Monster
  • Best Mountain Bike For Slightly Over $500: Diamondback Overdrive 1

Mountain biking can be an expensive sport. If you spend time with mountain biking magazines or websites you’ll see bikes and even components costing thousands of dollars, incredibly strong and ultralight, engineered with astounding precision from space age materials. Those bikes and components are beautiful and they perform magnificently, but don’t let their cost deter you from taking up mountain biking. You can get an entirely serviceable mountain bike for far less, even for less than $500. You may not want to use it for hucking huge jumps and drops, but you’ll be riding, and you can do more with an inexpensive bike than you might think. Remember that back when the sport was young riders were cutting some serious edges on bikes that were less sophisticated than today’s sub-$500 rides.

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What’s Available

If you’re looking for a budget mountain bike you’ll be choosing from three basic categories.

  • Generic “mall bikes” from big-box stores.
  • Unknown-brand bikes sold online, often with descriptions that look like Google translated them from the original Chinese.
  • Entry-level bikes from major manufacturers.

The third of these choices is by far the best. Off-brand bikes are often built around ultra-heavy steel frames. They may have unknown components that may not be compatible with potential upgrades. They are often assembled by people who are not qualified bicycle mechanics, which can reduce component lifespan and increase the probability of failure.

There are significant advantages to buying an entry-level bike from a known mountain bike manufacturer. You’ll get a quality frame. The Cannondale Tango 6, our choice for best women’s mountain bike under $500, uses the same frame as the $1300 Tango 1. Major manufacturers make large purchases from component makers and can negotiate better prices, so you’re likely to get components from known manufacturers. When those components wear out you may be able to upgrade to higher level models without losing compatibility with the rest of your bike. There’s also a “trickle down” effect in bike technology. You may be buying the least expensive equipment from a company like Shimano or SRAM, but those companies are constantly new technologies that eventually make it into even the lower level models.

What to Expect

So what will $500 buy you in today’s mountain bike market? Here’s what you can expect to see in a sub-$500 mountain bike from an established bike maker.

  • Aluminum frames. Aluminum is the standard for low end bikes. You won’t find a carbon frame at this price point, and inexpensive steel-framed bikes tend to be extremely heavy. There’s nothing wrong with aluminum. It’s light, strong, and major makers have been fabricating quality frames from aluminum for many years.
  • Hardtails. Full suspension bikes have complex linkage systems and expensive rear shocks. They are hard to build at this price point, and a full suspension bike costing under $500 is likely to use a heavy, inefficient suspension design. Your best bet at this price point is a bike with front suspension only.
  • Low-end suspension forks. Most entry level bikes use relatively unsophisticated suspension forks, often from Japanese manufacturer SR Suntour. These forks won’t have the long travel and extensive range of adjustments you’ll find on premium suspension forks but they are functional and they will do the job. You can expect to find forks with 75 to 100mm of suspension travel on entry level bikes. If you’re considering a fork upgrade, remember that using a longer fork could place stress on the frame that it’s not designed to handle. You could void your warranty and risk a serious frame failure. Ask a qualified bike mechanic before upgrading a fork!

Heavy riders may find inexpensive forks prone to flexing, and might be better off looking at fully rigid fat bikes, which rely on oversized tires to absorb shocks.

  • Mechanical disc brakes. You won’t find hydraulic disc brakes at this price point: cable-actuated mechanical disc brakes are standard. They aren’t as easy on the hands as hydraulic brakes, but they will stop you when you need to stop!
  • Shimano drivetrain components. Shimano makes some of the most expensive bike components on the planet, but they also provide well-respected low-priced component lines that are the drivetrains of choice for many entry level bikes from known manufacturers. Shimano’s Tourney drivetrain components are very common on quality mountain bikes sold at low price points.

If you’ll be riding a sub-$500 mountain bike you will need to understand and respect its limits. In most cases, though, new riders and even many experienced riders will find that a low priced bike will do everything they need to do. You may not be riding the latest and the greatest, but you’ll be riding!

The Top Mountain Bikes For $500 or Less

Let’s look at some of the top picks for mountain bikes under $500.

Best Men’s Mountain Bike Under $500: Giant ATX3 Disc

Specs

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Fork: SR Suntour, 100mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Tourney, 3×7
  • Brakes: Tektro Mechanical Disc
  • Wheels: Giant OEM, 26” on XXS and XS, 27.5” on other sizes
  • Weight: 29.36 lbs. (small)
  • Price: $499 (SRP)

Website: giant-bicycles.com

Giant is the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer, churning out over 6 million bikes a year at price points spanning a range from budget to astronomical. They have a reputation for building quality bikes that represent excellent value. You get the full benefit of that technology trickle down effect, and you also reap the benefits of economies of scale. Giant buys a lot of bicycle components. That means they get the best prices, and they pass those savings on to their customers.

The ATX3 Disc is a great example of what makes Giant bicycles so popular. It’s a sleek, intelligently thought out bike that uses the best components you can expect to find at this price point. It offers features like internal cable routing, which keeps the appearance clean and protects cables from damage or snagging, and a 68 degree head tube angle, not as slack as the most aggressive bikes but slack enough to keep you feeling secure on steep descents. With six sizes ranging from XXS to XL, almost any adult can find an ATX3 that fits, and Giant sensibly specs 26” wheels on XXS and XS models. It’s also an unusually light bike for this price.

The ATX3 is at home on roads, dirt roads, and all but the rowdiest trails. It’s an outstanding value and you’re not likely to find a better bike at this price point.

Best Women’s Mountain Bike Under $500: Cannondale Tango 6

Specs

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Fork: SR Suntour, 75mm Travel
  • Drivetrain: Shimano 3×7
  • Brakes: Tektro Mechanical Disc, Shimano Levers
  • Wheels: Sealed Alloy Hubs, WTB SX19 Rims, WTB Ranger Comp Tires
  • Weight: 31.4 lbs
  • Price: $485 (SRP)

Website: cannondale.com

Cannondale is a well established bike builder with a solid reputation. Like the Giant ATX3, the Tango 6 is a sensibly designed and well built bike that delivers solid performance at an affordable price. The aluminum frame is sleek and sturdy and the finish and paint get top reviews. The low standover height and female-specific saddle are specifically designed to keep women comfortable.

The component specs on the Tango 6 look a lot like those on the Giant ATX 3: SR Suntour fork, Tektro mechanical disc brakes, 3×7 Shimano drivetrain. There’s a good reason for that: these components make good sense and deliver the performance you need while keeping the bike’s price down. One significant difference is that the Tango 6 is available with either 27.5” or 29” wheels, providing more options. The 29” wheels will appeal to taller riders and those who prefer to ride long distances, while the 27.5 inch option is oriented toward agility and trail use.

The Cannondale Tango 6 is a great choice or female riders looking for an affordable mountain bike that delivers real mountain bike performance.

Best Kid’s Mountain Bike Under $500: Scott Scale 24” Disc

Specs

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Fork: SR Suntour XCT Jr, 50mm Travel
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Tourney 1×8
  • Brakes: Tektro Mechanical Disc
  • Wheels: Formula Hubs, Alex C-1000 Rims, Kenda K1166 24” Tires
  • Weight: 27 lbs
  • Price: $399 (SRP)

Website: scott-sports.com

Kids bikes have seen a bit of a revolution lately, with many manufacturers bringing out models that offer young shredders adult level geometry, components, and performance. These bikes also come with quite hefty price tags. Most young riders aren’t tearing up double black diamond trails and many parents can’t justify spending large sums on a bike that will be outgrown in a few years. For those parents, the Scott Scale 24” disc is a perfect choice.

Like many of the bikes on this list, the Scale 24” Disc starts with an aluminum hardtail frame from a major manufacturer. The SR Suntour Jr. 50mm fork is a standard for 24” bikes in this price class. Tektro mechanical disc brakes and a Shimano 1×8 drivetrain round out a simple, sensible package that will get the job done without costing a fortune. For a young rider who wants to take on real mountain biking without going into full-on freeride, this will be quite enough bike to progress to the adult bike level.

As a general rule, a bike with 24” wheels will fit kids from 8 to 11 years old, though this may vary considerably with the child’s height. Older kids can already move into XS or XXS adult bikes. If you’re looking for a real mountain bike for a child too young or too small for 24” wheels, take a close look at the Cannondale Cujo 20+, a top affordable pick in the 20” wheel size. The Cujo 20 doesn’t have a suspension fork, but most kids small enough to use a 20” bike aren’t heavy enough to activate a suspension fork, and the Cujo’s plus-sized 2.6” tires provide a substantial cushion. It’s not quite a fat bike, but it’s a smart, sensible ride for the smaller child.

Best Fat Bike Under $500: Gravity Bullseye Monster

Specs

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Fork: Rigid Steel
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X-4 2×8
  • Brakes: Tektro Mechanical Disc
  • Wheels: Gravity OEM, V-Mission 26” x 4” tires
  • Weight: 36 lbs (varies with size)
  • Price: $499

Gravity fat bikes are sold by Bikes Direct, an online-only dealer representing several brands. The online direct-to-consumer model allows them to sell bikes at very reasonable prices. The advertised SRP for the Bullseye Monster is over $1000, but it’s almost always available at the “special sale price” of $499 through the Bikes Direct website.

A fat bike can be a cost-effective purchase for a budget conscious rider. Most fat bikes don’t use front suspension, relying on oversized tires to soak up bumps. The suspension fork is a significant cost component on a traditional mountain bike, and a rigid fork saves money that the manufacturer can put into other components. Rigid forks also provide good support for heavier riders who might find entry level suspension forks to be too flexy for their liking. The SRAM 2×8 drivetrain on the Gravity Bullseye Monster is a cut above what many bikes at this price point offer. Many low-priced fat bikes use all-steel frames which can be extremely heavy, but the Bullseye Monster goes with an aluminum frame and a steel fork. It’s still not a light bike, but it’s lighter than much of the competition in its class.

Many entry level fat bikes also come in a limited size range, making it difficult for some riders to find a good fit. The Gravity Bullseye Monster breaks that pattern with five frame sizes ranging from 14” to 22”, ensuring an effective fit for almost any adult rider. That’s important: a good fit is a significant and often underrated component of bike performance.

If you’re looking for a budget ride and you like the fat bike style, the Gravity Bullseye Monster will be an excellent choice.

Best Mountain Bike For Slightly Over $500: Diamondback Overdrive 1

Specs

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Fork: SR Suntour 100mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Altus 2×8
  • Brakes: Tektro Mechanical Disc
  • Wheels: 29” OEM, Vee Rubber Crown F-REE 2.25”
  • Weight: 32.6 lbs
  • Price: $650 (SRP)

Website: diamondback.com

If your mountain bike budget is $500 and you’re willing to stretch that budget just a bit, consider the Diamondback Overdrive 1, a solid package that is often available at retail dealers for under $600, despite the $650 SRP. The Overdrive will be particularly appealing to riders who are looking for 29” wheels, commonly sought after by taller riders, those who ride long distances, and riders who would rather roll over obstacles than dodge around them.

The Overdrive 1 repeats many of the patterns we see in bikes in this price range. The aluminum frame, SR Suntour fork, and Tektro mechanical disc brakes are expected. The main upgrade is in the drivetrain, with the Shimano Altus components representing a step up from the more common Tourney series. The specs on the Diamondback Overdrive 1 change regularly, and some recent models may carry Shimano Acera or even SRAM drivetrains, but all of them will be a step up from common sub-$500 drivetrains.

The Diamondback Overdrive 1 is a great choice for pure cross country or distance-oriented riding, but the relatively steep 71 degree head tube angle, which places the rider more over the front wheel than behind it, may not be ideal for technical trails and steep descents. If you’re looking to ride the gnarlier trails, the Giant ATX3 might serve you better. If your riding will be dominated by distance rides, fire roads,, and flowing trails and you’re willing to go a bit over that $500 budget, the Overdrive 1 will serve you very well.

Wrapping Up

There’s nothing wrong with spending big money on a bike, if you have the cash and want the ride. Nice bikes perform beautifully and make riders happy. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy mountain biking if you can’t afford to spend a few (or more than a few) thousand dollars on a bike. Major manufacturers offer entry level bikes at reasonable prices. Many of these bikes incorporate design features that were cutting edge not all that long ago, and many of them will provide an entirely enjoyable ride. You can get out on the trail and gain the fun and benefits that mountain biking offers with a bike that costs under $500.