Best Beginner Mountain Bike – Reviews and Buying Guide

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It’s not easy for even the most seasoned mountain bikers to choose a new mountain bike to buy. The sheer number of picks alone can leave a person stuck for hours.

Now, before you even start to consider the several component specs, we have to address things like travel distance, hardtail or full-suspension, wheel size, and, most importantly, the price.

So, in this guide, you’ll find my recommendations for the best beginner MTB as well as a comprehensive buying guide that will help you make your final decision.

If you’re not quite certain about what to get, or you’ve got a few questions concerning a first-time purchase of the best beginner mountain bike on the market, then keep on reading (please don’t let my hours of research go to waste)!

Which Entry-Level MTB Did I End Up Getting?

Well, to be honest, I’m no beginner mountain biker, so I already have my fair share of mountain bikes at home.

That said, if I’m to recommend one of the below bikes over the rest, I’d say go with the Trek Fuel EX 5 Deore, simply because its performance is second to none when it comes to, well, everything.

Best Beginner Mountain Bikes – My Picks

#1 – Trek Fuel EX 5 Deore – Overall Best Beginner Mountain Bike

In 2021, Trek decided to give this bike a makeover; It’s now got a longer reach for every size, a 75 degree steeper seat angle, and a slacker 66-degree head angle. Trek chose to bump up the fork to 140mm, but you still get 130mm on the rear shock. All of this culminates in a bike that’s able to power through techy and steep climbs yet remain stable over rough terrain.

Trek has now consolidated its bikes into one single range that means that the woman-specific version of the Fuel EX is no more. That being said, the XX and S size frames will have a curved top tube maximizing standover height, and they will roll on to 27.5-inch wheels.

Another thing that’s biting the dust in 2021 is the full floater suspension system. It has been a Hallmark in the Fuel EX line of bikes. The rear shock mount has now changed to a fixed point on the downtube since it was on the seat tube. This, according to Trek, produces a better tire clearance and a stiffer frame.

The Fuel EX 5 is an entry-level bike. It comes with a 130 mm dropper, Delux select + shock, RockShox Recon fork, and an alloy frame 1×10 drivetrain.

In summary, the Fuel EX 5 is the overall Best Beginner Mountain Bike.

Specs:

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Brakes: Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
  • Wheels: 27.5”
Pros
  • Reasonably priced
  • Enjoyable on several different terrains
  • A lot of versatility
  • The rear suspension is supple
Cons
  • The dropper post is short
  • A little bit too heavy

#2 – SAVADECK DECK 300 – Best Bang for Your Buck

This is a bike for those willing to spend a little extra to get the premium quality. Savadeck Deck300 will let you enjoy rides in a totally new way.

The Deck 300 is a carbon fiber mountain bike that provides a quality biking experience in a robust and lightweight frame. The suspension travel is at 100mm, which can only be suitable for trail mountains. If you are a newbie, this is what you should be looking for.

For both the rear and the front, this bike has a Shimano M6000 Deore 3*10S Derailleur system, allowing you to operate the bike efficiently. You can halt your bike at almost any given instant and in any condition with the Continental tires and the Shimano MT200 hidden disk brake system. The ride only gets more comfortable and ergonomic with the breathable foam saddle seat.

You’ll get to choose one of three colors for your bike: white, green or blue. The design is enhanced by the presence of black elements. And you don’t have to worry about ugly cables ruining the look as all of them run through a fully internal cable routing system.

Besides that, you get free pedals that will save you some money as you decide which pedal style you want to go with. The carbon TORAY T800 frame is designed with a tapered head tube that offers rigidity and strength for better handling and a win Tunnel for aerodynamic contour.

Last but not least, the bike is quite easy to put together and comes with already-assembled parts. This can be a big plus for beginners.

The wheel sizes are available at 27.5 and 29 inches, and the frames come at 15.5, 17, and 19 inches. You should try them all out to figure out what works best for you.

So basically, if you’re willing to pay some extra bucks, the best beginner mountain bike that offers a quality that justifies the price is the Deck 300.

Specs:

  • Frame: Carbon
  • Brakes: Double Mechanical Disc Brakes
  • Wheels: 27.5”/29”
Pros
  • A variety of color choices
  • Suntour forks offer the right amount of travel at 100mm
  • Smooth operation with the Shimano rear and front derailleurs
  • Michelin tires that offer good grip whenever need it
  • Shimano M315 Disc Brakes that stop the bike in its tracks.
Cons
  • It might be a little too large for some bikers.

#3 – Diamondback Overdrive 29er – Best Entry-Level Hardtail

A picture showing the Overdrive 29er

For all beginner-level trail riders out there, a good starting point for a first bike to learn the basics and build some confidence would be a mountain bike with a front suspension or a hardtail MTB.

A mountain bike like this is most fitting for the first days in which you stick to easy and smooth trails. Besides that, it’ll have fewer moving components and a simple design. It’ll also be low on maintenance and rather light compared to a full-suspension alternative.

Even when it comes to the price, it’s going to be cheaper than a full-suspension MTB, so if you have a limited budget, this bike can be a very tempting choice.

Having reviewed many models, I can conclude that the Diamondback Overdrive 29er is the best beginner mountain bike for entry-level hardtail bikers.

Uphill and singletrack riding is what the geometry of the Overdrive 29er was designed for. It’s made out of nothing but quality components like the SR Suntour XCT cranks that allow for smooth shifting when coupled with the Shimano TX50 front derailleur and the Shimano Acera 8-speed rear Derailleur that gives you a wide gear range.

The frame is a 6061-T6 aluminum alloy body, bolstered butted, custom-formed tubing that provides it with enough strength without an increase in weight. It’s also quite well-designed and great to look at.

To make sure that new riders won’t have to compromise on either control or comfort, an SR Suntour suspension fork is implemented to even out bumps along the trail. For smooth and safe stopping on sketchy terrain, the bike was equipped with Tektro mechanical disc brakes.

If you’re looking for some singletrack enjoyment and summit climbs with minimal effort, then rest assured knowing that the bike has 29-inch wheels and an 80mm travel fork for overcoming trail obstacles.

As when it comes to the assembly, the bike is shipped to you in an assembled state. 95% of all parts will be in place, and you will be able to ride it. But with that said, some reviewers have noted that they found some issues with the assembly process, and they were obliged to take the bike to a shop to set it up fully.

But putting aside these small issues and seeing that it’s less than $550, the Diamondback is without a doubt a great hardtail mountain bike for novices and intermediate bikers alike.

It’s a bike that comes equipped with several features meant to enhance performance at a reasonable price. The Diamondback is the best hardtail beginner mountain bike for improving skills at a good cost.

Specs:

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Brakes: Mechanical Disc
  • Wheels: 29″
Pros
  • Easy assembly and ready to use from the start
  • Good comfort and control when riding on a trail
  • Good stopping power
  • Made to be both lightweight and strong
Cons
  • A few reviewers found the assembly to cause an issue
  • Some customers experienced some discomfort with the seat

#4 – Mongoose Dolomite – Best Fat Tire Bike for Beginners

The most appealing thing about having a fat-tire bike or a fat bike is the fact that it is suitable for all weather conditions and can roll on almost all surfaces. If you’ve ever used one, then you’ll know that rides feel cushiony and stable on both rough terrain and soft grounds. It gives you the confidence you’re looking for to push your bike’s limits for the ultimate mountain biking ride.

If you consider yourself an amateur looking for a strong introduction to the mountain biking world, then the Mongoose Dolomites is a pretty good pick. I consider it to be the best fat tire beginner mountain bike. This bike is a thing to behold. The first thing to catch your eye when looking at it is without a doubt the large tires and the red rims on them.

It’s got 4-inch wide supersized 26-inch tires, viable for all kinds of terrain. They were made to handle obstacles and bumps to provide a smooth ride on and off roads.

Having a price lower than $330, it’s a surprisingly affordable fat-tire mountain bike. But that’s not to say that the company is providing a mediocre product.

High tensile steel is used in manufacturing the cruiser-style frame of this bike, so the body is quite strong and sturdy. The weight is kept in check, and the speed and overall performance of the bike are boosted by the lightweight alloy rims.

The geometry was designed mainly for male riders, and it comes equipped with a highly responsive and powerful braking system that guarantees safety in all conditions.

Dolomite has been equipped with twist shifters and a 7-speed Shimano rear derailleur, which make uphill climbs extra smooth and the gear transition super easy.

So with that in mind, you should be able to enjoy an enhanced riding experience as you throw yourself into the roughest of mountain roads. The thick tires and beach cruiser model pedals ensure that you don’t get to experience the sinking feeling that you get on unstable and soft surfaces.

When it comes to assembly, it’s pretty easy and straightforward. It was designed for adults that range between 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet in height. It’s good that the threadless headset can be adjusted to accommodate different people of different sizes.

This is a 51.1 lbs bike when it’s completely assembled. While this weight is reasonable for individuals with a large physique, it can be a little troublesome for smaller sized people.

But, on the other hand, the heaviness of the bike lends to its ability to provide you with incredible exercise as you pedal with it throughout the town, ride along beaches, or climb the mountains.

So what’s our final conclusion? For about $311, this is the best fat tire beginner mountain bike. It’s a good launching point that provides opportunities for potential upgrades. It checks all the boxes of design, riding, quality, stability, and comfort. And at this price range, it is hard to compete with it. It gets a strong recommendation from us.

Specs:

  • Frame: Steel
  • Brakes: Double Mechanical Disc Brakes
  • Wheels: 26”
Pros
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • It can be assembled easily
  • Good for mixed terrain
  • Suitable for obstacles and bumps
  • Good stopping power
  • Comfortable design
  • Beautiful frame
Cons
  • It may feel a little too heavy for some

#5 – Trek Procaliber 6 – Best Cross-Country Beginner Bike

A picture showing the Procaliber 6

The bikes that we’ve talked about so far all fall under the trail riding, capable type. But if you want to go for a long cross-country adventure, then we have to talk about the Trek Procaliber 6.

A bike that comes from a strong lineage of racing bikes and comes with a lot of cool features, such as the IsoSpeed read decoupler. It’s a feature that’s uniquely shared with the gravel line of bikes. It serves as a minimalist rear suspension that relieves some of the harsh impacts that you may go through.

When it comes to weight, this bike is definitely one of the lightest ones we’ve talked about. This is good for speed on both flat and uphill terrain and for pedaling efficiency. The price is just under $2,000, and it’s a good starting point XC race bike and a good pick for the less demanding, longer trail rides.

On the downside, though, the Procaliber can’t perform well in rough terrain. The suspensions travel only 100mm from the front, and the tories are as narrow as 2.2 inches. If you choose to go for an upright riding position, you’ll have some trouble with steep trails and rocky paths. This is why we find it to be less versatile than its predecessors on the list.

That being said, this is the best cross-country beginner bike. It’s a lightweight bike that’ll cover long distances for you if you’re not concerned with rough terrain rides.

Specs:

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Brakes: Shimano MT400 hydraulic disc brakes
  • Wheels: 27.5″ / 29″
Pros
  • Shock-absorbing IsoSpeed
  • Eagle gears and Judy fork
  • Dropper and bigger-tire friendly
  • An accurate and hard frame
Cons
  • The seat tube and backswept bar isn’t for everybody
  • IsoSpeed takes some time to start and some time to stop.

Types of Mountain Bikes

A photo showing young people riding mountain bikes

Before getting the best beginner mountain bike, you have to understand the differences between the different types of MTBs.

Trail Bikes

The trail bike is debatably the most common type of mountain bike out there. This due to the fact that it isn’t limited to a certain type of racing. If what you’re craving is a meet up with buddies to ride different descents and climbs at the local trailhead, then this style should suit you well. Trail bikes deliver on sensible weight, efficiency, and, of course, fun.

Typical specs: 67 to 69-degree head-tube angle and an 80 to 100mm suspension travel.

Cross-Country Bikes

This a style dedicated to riding fast and climbing. The distances covered by cross-country bikes can be anything from a few miles to up to 25 miles or even more.

Bikes of this style would be efficient and light in weight. If you want to have a fast ride around town or if you’re considering a competitive career, these bikes are for you.

Typical specs: 70 to 71-degree head-tube angle and an 80 to 100mm suspension travel.

Fat-Tire Bikes

These bikes have excellent traction thanks to the oversized, 3.7 to 5+ inches wide tires. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the sand or in snow.

Beginners can benefit greatly from fat-tire bikes because they’re safer and more forgiving on rough terrain.

All-Mountain Bikes

So to sum this one up, imagine trail riding and crank it up to eleven. It’s all about big technical features, long, scary descents, and leg-burning, challenging climbs.

While they are designed for steep descents, all-mountain bikes are also nimble and light enough to allow their riders to pedal uphill without much trouble.

Typical specs: 65 to 68-degree head-tube angle and a 140 to 170mm suspension travel.

Downhill/Park Bikes

Downhill bikes aren’t sold by REI. They’re usually used in lift-serviced bike parks. These bikes are tough and large. The riders usually come across wooden ladders, rock gardens, berms, and jumps, so it’s only natural that they would be wearing body armor and face helmets.

Typical specs: 65 to 68-degree head-tube angle and a 170 to 200+mm suspension travel.

Electric Mountain Bikes

These bikes are certainly growing in popularity. They’re getting so popular that you’ll find models in almost every type that we’ve mentioned already.

E-bikes are powered by a motor and a battery that add an extra boost to your pedaling efforts. The amount of assistance you get can be adjusted usually through a control unit on the handlebar of the bike.

E-bikes are significantly heavier than their regular counterparts. But on the upside, they can make the task of climbing a hill much easier than usual.

But don’t think that riding one is a walk in the park. Operating an E-bike will give you a workout of a pro athlete as they give you the ability to reach places inaccessible by regular bikes.

Other Types

I know that all of that can be too much for one person, especially a beginner, but it doesn’t end there. There are still more subcategories in the world of biking that I think you may enjoy finding out about.

Dirt Jump MTBSs

As you might have guessed from the name, these are bikes designed for pump tracks and jumps.

Tough, easy-to-move frames are used in the construction of these biles, as well as short-travel forks and singular gear.

Single Speed MTBs

Well, it’s pretty straightforward really, it has got only one gear.

The fact that they have no moving parts means that they are easy to take care of.

There are some cheap models out there, but you can also find one on the expensive end of the spectrum, such as exotic builds by custom frame builders. They would usually be fully rigid or hardtails.

Best Beginner Mountain Bike – Buying Guide

A picture showing a mountain biker riding an MTB

Two important factors must always be at the forefront of your mind when you’re about to purchase a bike: the wheel diameter and the suspension type. These two factors tell you which kinds of terrains the bike can handle.

Aside from those two, you’ll also have to consider brakes type, gear number, and material once you start zeroing in your pick.

Keep reading, and I’ll cover everything you need to know before picking the best beginner mountain bike!

Mountain Bike Suspension Types

Rigid:

This isn’t the most common type that you’ll find. There are no suspensions on rigid mountain bikes. You’ll find them to be less costly and quite easy to maintain.

Now, riders prefer bikes with suspensions for extra comfort, but a rigid fat-tire at relatively low-pressures provides the cushioning needed for bumpy roads.

Hardtail:

With a frontal suspension fork, these bikes allow the front wheel to absorb the impact coming from the front, but they don’t have any suspension when it comes to the rear wheels. This is where the name comes from.

This kind of bike will usually be less expensive than full-suspension models and will have fewer moving parts comparatively. This means that they don’t have to be maintained as often either. And if you’re looking for a fully rigid bike, most hardtail models can lock out their front suspensions to achieve this.

Full suspension:

The number of variations in full-suspension bikes is quite large. But they can be largely defined as bikes that can absorb the impact of the ride from both the back and the front.

This allows the rider to enjoy their ride better, suffer less impact, and have more traction.

Full-suspension bikes can absorb a large amount of trail impact. It can also just bob as you move, wasting some of your pedaling efforts.

To fix this issue, you can just lock out the rear suspensions for better pedaling and especially easier climbing.

Mountain Bike Wheel Size

Yet another critical feature to understand before choosing the best entry level mountain bike is the size.

26 in.:

Back in the day, 60 inches wheels were slapped on all adult mountain bikes. The size is still available to this day, but if you were to go into a shop and ask about mountain bikes, you’d mostly get the following options: 26 inches, 27.5 inches, and 29 inches.

27.5 in. (650b):

This is basically a middle ground between the 26 inches and the 29-inch wheels. It stems from a mindset of trying to unify what’s good about the two extremes. It rolls over terrain more easily than a 26-inch wheel but has more maneuverability than 29-inch wheels. Whether it’s for a hardtail rig or a full-suspension, this remains a viable option for your bike.

29ers:

A 29-inch wheel will admittedly be a little bit slower to accelerate. But once you gain speed, the terrain which you can ride through will be much less troublesome than how it would seem with a 26-inch wheel.

For longer rides, they are considered more efficient as they maintain momentum. They also possess a higher attack angle, which means that they roll over obstacles with bigger ease. When it comes to cross-country enthusiasts, this bike has become such a popular choice. And it can be found for full-suspension, hardtail, and rigid models.

27.5+ in.:

The plus in the name means that this wheel is extra wide. That would be 2.8 inches of additional width. Comfort is enhanced with wider tires as rolling resistance is decreased by them. This is why the trend of wider tires is becoming so prevalent these days.

24 in.:

24-inch wheels are usually reserved for kids’ mountain bikes. These wheels are smaller for kids to be able to ride with them. Most models are less expensive than adult bikes, and they have a much simpler build. I would say that they would suit 10 to 13-year-olds, but in reality, it all depends on size more than age. If a child is even smaller, 20-inch wheels should suit them better.

Mountain Bike Frame Materials

The frame will determine the price, ride quality, longevity, strength, and weight.

Aluminum Alloy

Mountain bike frames are usually made out of Aluminum alloy. The more expensive models will have even lighter aluminum frames.

Other Materials

Aside from aluminum, carbon fiber, titanium, and steel are also used for frame building.

  • Steel is durable, cheap, and provides a good ride, yet it’s a little too heavy for mountain bikes.
  • Titanium is durable and lightweight, but it can be a bit too expensive for those who are on a budget.
  • Carbon fiber is popular in all bike categories due to its durability and lightweight. On the downside, it’s expensive due to its manufacturing process.

Mountain Bike Gears

The number of gears is determined by multiplying the number of front chainrings by the number of cassette sprockets. Gears on mountain bikes can be anything from 1 to 30+. The more combinations you can make between chainrings and cogs, the more things get complicated.

Fitness level and the type of terrain is what you should put in mind to keep it simple. The steeper the hill, the more gears you want to have if it gets challenging for you. If you usually stick to flatter roads, you won’t need as many low gears due to the absence of climbing.

Usually, mountain bikes will have two or three chainrings for easy climbing. But you can also find single chainring bikes with up to 11 cassette cogs. It keeps the bike lighter while maintaining the necessary gears.

This shouldn’t be your primary concern, as modifying bike gears is fairly easy.

Mountain Bike Brakes

Rim brakes have been replaced by disc brakes on all mountain bikes, except for entry-level ones.

Disc brakes:

The brake pads grip onto the brake rotor. There are Hydraulic disc brakes for stronger and more progressive braking at low efforts. These brakes self-adjust. There are also Cable-activated brakes that need manual re-adjustment.

  • Advantages compared to rim brakes: Consistency in braking. Replacing a worn rotor is cheaper than the whole wheel. Better in wet and steep terrain. Less effort to pull the brake.
  • Disadvantages compared to rim brakes: Difficulty in inspecting pad wear. Expensive hydraulic brakes.

Rim brakes:

A few entry-level mountain bikes have rim brakes. The pads of rim brakes grip onto the rims of the wheel.

  • Advantages compared to disc brakes: Economical. Deterioration is easier to notice.
  • Disadvantages compared to disc brakes: It wears out the rim of the wheel, which leads the wheel to need a replacement. Less grip, worse in wet conditions. Needs more effort to pull the brake.

Mountain Bike Size

A bike that has the right size for you is one of the key features for a best beginner mountain bike title. It will be more enjoyable to ride and will give you better handling over the trail.

How mountain bikes are sized:

S, M, and L are the standard sizes. Your height determines these sizes. You’ll find charts created by some manufacturers that detail the height of a person and the corresponding bike size. If you’re not sure, go for the smaller size.

Best Entry-Level Mountain Bike – FAQ

What is Suspension Travel?

This is the range of motion provided by the rear and front suspensions of the bike.

The angle that the head tube forms relative to the ground is called – hey, surprise! – the head-tube angle. The steeper the angle, the faster the bike will turn and the better it’ll climb. The lower the angle, the more stability you will get out of it, at the cost of the climbing power, of course.

Can I Use a Road Bike as an MTB?

Unfortunately, you cannot. Road bikes have a slimmer profile with smaller wheels that are specifically designed for – hey, surprise! – roads or, perhaps, a bike park, making them pretty unpractical on a mountain bike trail.

If you’re interested in more details regarding the matter, do check our road bike vs mountain bike roundup.

How Much Should I Spend on My First MTB?

There isn’t really a right answer for this. It all depends on how much value you’re giving the bike and the sport of mountain biking in general. But keep in mind, in most cases, you will get what you pay for.

So if you’re going to be reluctant to pay more than $500 for a bike, you will end up with an inferior quality model, which may break down quickly with time, causing you to do frequent repairs. This may even cost you higher than the price of a good bike in the long run.

On the other hand, if you choose to invest the money, and consequently the time into a high-quality bike, you’ll find that the investment will become gratifying with time. The more you use your bike, the more pleased you’ll be.

But don’t also forget that you’ll have to keep the costs of the helmet, pedals, shock pump, and other kinds of gear in consideration.

Why Are Many Bikes Currently Out of Stock?

Ever since the pandemic changed our daily lives, and more folks found themselves stuck, bored out of their minds at home, a lot of people took activities such as biking as good means to escape the stagnating state of their lives. As more people have flocked to buy new bikes, their numbers have started to decrease in stock.

In these times, you’ll, unfortunately, have to be a bit more persistent and patient. Look at different vending sources to find what you need. Each one of us has the best beginner mountain bike waiting for them somewhere. So, go look for it.

Verdict

Mountain biking is one of the most fun activities you can try, which is why I recommend getting the best entry-level MTB and hitting the road as fast as possible!

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