10 Best Mountain Bikes Under $500 in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

Mountain bikes have fascinated cyclists for years since they made their debut in 1978. It was a man called Joe Breeze who made the first version of a mountain bike, and this opened the door for other people and manufacturers to have a go at it too.

When you mention mountain bikes, people always assume they know what type of bikes they are, but what exactly are mountain bikes?

A mountain bike is a bicycle designed for off-road riding, built with features that enhance durability, strength, and high performance when dealing with hiding surfaces so challenging that conventional bikes couldn’t handle.

They have bigger wheels, better handlebars, stronger brakes, and very sturdy frames—and most of the time, they’re very expensive. Fortunately for many enthusiasts, it isn’t all gloom and doom on the financial side.

We’re going to look at some of the top mountain bikes under $500, their best features that make them ideal for mountain biking, and how their strengths and weaknesses affect the overall performance.

The following are the top mountain bikes under $500.

At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Mountain Bikes Under $500

If you’re in a hurry, you can jump straight into our top picks (these are the mountain bikes under $500 that most people buy).

  • Diamondback Overdrive Hardtail Mountain Bike Top Pick
  • Cannondale Trail 8 Mountain Bike Runner-up
  • Schwinn Bonafide Men’s Mountain Bike Runner-up

Top 10 Best Mountain Bikes Under $500 – Our Reviews:

1. Diamondback Overdrive Hardtail Mountain Bike

Diamondback has been at the forefront of crafting the best mountain bikes for years. They’re a high-end manufacturer but due to the growing demand for budget mountain bikes under $500, it was only a matter of time before they also unveiled their affordable line of mountain bikes.

The Diamondback Overdrive is fitted with a 9-speed Shimano Acera rear derailleur with some of the best gears you’ll find at that price point. The bike is also designed for light trail cycling and is built for endurance, thanks to the frame geometry that comes with a rear triangle for skipping over obstacles.

They use hydraulic disc brakes from Shimano and they’re powerful enough to deal with the tricky terrain common in the mountains. The bike also has an SR Suntour fork that offers about 100 mm of travel.

Pros

  • Entry-level price
  • Comfortable rides
  • Great rear derailleur
  • Decent suspension
  • Can accommodate heavy and tall riders
  • Impressive range of gears
  • Durable frame
  • Quality Shimano drivetrain
  • Powerful braking system
  • Comes 85% assembled

Cons

  • No kickstand
  • No fenders

2. Cannondale Trail 8 Mountain Bike

The Cannondale Trail 8 mountain bike is a formidable bike that comes in graphite white. It’s a very simple make for a mountain bike, going by its appearance and functionalities.

It has an aluminum frame equipped with a slack head tube that makes the bike highly responsive when riding down roads. It uses a Shimano Tourney drivetrain that has 7-speed gears that make climbing hills a walk in the park.

It has a Prowheel crankset with a triple chainring system that supports 29-inch tires and is backed by Tektro mechanical disc brakes.

The bike’s versatility allows it to also be used for commuting around the city or for long treks on less challenging roads. It especially comes in very handy for people looking to lose weight through cycling.

Pros

  • Excellent price
  • Aesthetic look
  • Thick reliable wheels
  • Powerful disc brakes
  • Quality Shimano components

Cons

  • The SR Suntour fork is heavy
  • Limited color options

3. Schwinn Bonafide Men’s Mountain Bike

The Schwinn Bonafide is one of the best trail bikes designed specifically for the male mountain biker. Being the oldest bike maker in the North American region comes with its perks, one of those is having the experience and technical know-how to create optimum products.

The full-suspension Schwinn bike screams nothing but masculinity, straight from its rugged look to an aggressive combination of black and red colors. It’s the type of bike that any macho man would want to be spotted riding.

The Schwinn Bonafide has an 8-speed Shimano drivetrain with a rear cassette and triple front chainring. The brakes are also of a mechanical disc nature.

All these combine to make the Schwinn Bonafide stand apart from its counterparts in the same price point range.

It has the elite knobby tires and powerful rims for dealing with tough trails. Other bikes usually use low-quality tires to bring down the cost.

Pros

  • Durable aluminum alloy frame
  • Hardtail suspension for easy climbs
  • Thick wheels
  • High-grade Shimano components
  • Reliable front and rear disc brake
  • Comfortable ride
  • All-encompassing rims

Cons

  • The gears require fine-tuning
  • Front suspension lacks a lock-out feature
  • The bike comes 90% unassembled
  • Finding spare parts is hard

4. Trek Marlin 4 Mountain Bike

The Trek Marlin 4 is a full suspension MTB that has been around for quite a while, since the early 90s. Over the years, the bike has undergone lots of changes to become the road beast that it is today. 

Some of the new additions it has incorporated include high-end internal cabling that’s routed throughout the frame, connecting all up to the proprietary Bontrager bike saddle.

The bike also boasts of double-wall alloy rims and a Shimano Tourney drivetrain with powerful 21-speed Shimano gears that’ll give you the maximum amount of power needed to conquer any tricky mountain trail.

It features an alpha aluminum frame that isn’t just lightweight and durable but also has a very sleek finish that adds to the bike’s good looks. Some of the advanced high-end features on the bike include knobby tires, reliable disc brakes, suspension seats, and so much more.

Pros

  • A reliable SR Suntour 100mm fork
  • Lightweight frame
  • Shimano 21-gears shifters
  • Double-wall alloy rims
  • Tektro linear-pull disc brakes
  • Resilient 29″ tires
  • Decent price point
  • Full suspension

Cons

  • Limited customization options
  • Fork lacks a lock-out feature

5. Gravity FSX 1.0 Mountain Bike

The Gravity FSX 1.0 is a rare dual-suspension mountain bike, you’ll be lucky to run into one on the road. It’s a direct-to-consumer type of bike that’s usually swallowed up by the big brands, despite packing impressive features.

The dual-suspension mountain bike has Suntour shocks absorbers in its rear and the front to help a cyclist descend a tricky mountain slope with ease without worrying about toppling over. It has a dual suspension fork, a Shimano drivetrain, and a rear cassette with triple chainrings.

The suspension bike brakes installed are the mechanical disc brakes front that’s powerful enough to get the job done. It has 26″ wheels that are thick enough to be puncture-resistant without laboring the bike too much.

As far as weight is concerned, the Gravity FSX 1.0 is much lighter than other brands on this list and is an ideal bike for beginner riders.

Pros

  • Rugged design for rugged terrain
  • Durable framework
  • Powerful front and rear mechanical disc brakes
  • Has a dual-suspension fork
  • Great shock absorbers
  • Affordable price range

Cons

  • The saddle has low-quality padding
  • The saddle is also too small
  • Could do with more improvements

6. Vitus Nucleus 29 VR Mountain Bike

This is a relatively unknown bike brand that makes decent MTB products that could rival established names in the industry. The trail mountain bike under $500 is designed with comfort as the core aspect of the whole construction.

It has a powerful frame that’s well balanced to provide the person with the most control even when faced with challenging terrain. It has seat tube reinforcements to absorb all the shocks, allowing you the freedom to push the bike to the limits.

The thick 29″ tires are also reinforced with an extra layer of thick rubber to provide the necessary resistance to punctures that are common on bushy trails in the mountains.

The bike has also been gracious enough to be made in two sizes, small and large, which means heavy and tall riders can be able to use it.

Pros

  • Quality components
  • Easily upgradeable
  • Sturdy frame
  • Decent wheels sets
  • Powerful front and rear brakes
  • A good trail bike
  • Affordable price range

Cons

  • The chassis is too stiff and uncomfortable
  • The bar is too small

7. Mongoose Impasse MTB for Men

The list would be incomplete if we failed to mention a Mongoose bike. The Mongoose brand was among the very first brands that saw the need to create bikes under $500 suited for dealing with hilly and mountainous terrains.

For the $500 price point, the bike is a huge steal for the consumer as it packs features you would only find in a higher-end bike model. It features one of the most advanced aluminum frames that gives it a sturdy build and which can withstand the worst roads in the worst weather.

The seat is extra-large, providing the kind of surface area that a heavy rider would be comfortable using—this is one other reason why the bike is a hit with bigger and taller riders around the world.

Another standout feature is the pair of metallic pedals that the bike is equipped with. They provide a reliable foothold and when you pair that with the right cycling shoes you’ll experience the best foot grip by a bike.

The MTB comes in two colors, red and matte black, and runs on a pair of 29″ wheels.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Powerful metallic pedals
  • Strong aluminum frame
  • Sharp look
  • Reliable rear derailleur
  • Reasonable price range
  • Can support heavy riders

Cons

  • The nut can be too tight
  • The rear suspension is a bit saggy
  • Comes in only 2 colors

8. Speedrid Electric Mountain Bike

This is a rare gem in the MTB world where pedaling power is the hallmark of performances. The Speedrid is an electric mountain bike under 500 that effectively takes out the hard part of riding a mountain bike, and that’s exerting power when pedaling uphill.

It’s equipped with a 250W rear hub motor that’s paired with a 36V 8Ah removable and rechargeable battery. All these combine to give the bike an impressive 17 mph at its top speeds.

The electric MTB has three main operational modes: e-bike mode, normal mode, and addicted mode. Each designed for a specific situation.

It has an impact-ready suspension fork that smoothes out any shocks the bicycle experiences at high speeds.

The handlebar comes with adjustable parts that give you the freedom to adjust the stem to suit the best riding posture you can manage.

Pros

  • Offers high speeds
  • Effortless riding
  • Powerful motor
  • Anti-slip Knobby tires for extra safety
  • Lightweight and sturdy frame
  • All-weather battery
  • Impressive stopping power

Cons

  • The pedal assist isn’t up to standards
  • Requires considerable assembling after purchase

9. Kent KZ2600 Mountain Bike

The Kent KZ2600 is the best entry-level mountain bike under 500 on this list. From its colorful look and simple design, this is the kind of bicycle you want to be your first if you’re starting to get into mountain biking.

The entry-level bike comes with 26″ reinforced wheels supported by alloy rims, dual suspension, a rear tourney derailleur, 21-speed shifters, dual brake options, and a strong aluminum frame with suspension forks.

The MTB also features 36 spokes, the most of any other bicycle on the list, which gives the wheels the strength they need to smash rocks that come underneath it on the trail.

Pros

  • Entry-level mountain bike
  • Lightweight and strong
  • Powerful linear pull disc brakes
  • Durable
  • Strong grips
  • Dual suspension mountain bike
  • High-quality Shimano Tourney derailleur
  • Good for trail riding

Cons

  • A bit too small
  • Requires lots of fine-tuning before working properly

10. Huffy Trail Runner Women’s Mountain Bike

It would be a disservice to forget mentioning this beauty that’s designed for women who love the thrill of conquering hills and mountains on two wheels.

Among all female bikes, the Huffy Trail Runner is the best mountain bike for women. It’s a full-suspension bicycle that has 26″ wheels that can handle any type of terrain, a powerful disc brake, a lightweight and ergonomic frame, and a high-quality 18-speed Shimano drivetrain integrated with a reliable Shimano rear derailleur and high-speed Shimano EZ Fire trigger shifters.

The steel frame, rather than take the usually slanted position common with MTBs, is slightly curved to allow for easier mounting and dismounting. It has Krayton grips and a hot pink suspension fork that combines well to give the rider a smooth ride over varied terrain surfaces.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy handling
  • Comfortable rides
  • Low bar design
  • Powerful front and rear brakes
  • Amazing look
  • Dual suspension
  • Good trigger shifters
  • A reliable Shimano rear derailleur

Cons

  • Too big for women shorter than 5’2″

Things to Consider when Buying a Mountain Bike

Like any other purchase, you don’t wake up in the morning, stroll to the nearest bike shop and grab any mountain bike you see. You have to be aware of what you’re buying first.

The following are some of the factors you need to consider before buying an MTB.

Wheel Size

Unlike normal road bikes that can be used with almost any size of wheels, mountain bikes are different beasts altogether. When you consider the type of terrain they have to deal with in the mountains, you’ll understand why their wheel size has to be big and thick.

For wheels, 26″ wheels are the smallest wheelsets that can be used on a mountain bike. They aren’t ideal but they do get the job done, especially where a beginner is involved.

To get good results from your MTB, you’ll have to go with a wheel size of 27.5″. They’re thicker, wider, nimbler, and can handle corners aggressively without affecting the balance of the bicycle.

For optimum results, a wheel size of 29″ is the best for mountain bikes under $500. This wheel size has unparalleled traction ability, can smother rocks underneath with ease, and can manage corners without a hitch.

The only drawback? They’re heavy.

You could also opt to go with a fat-tire bike. They’re stronger although you may struggle a bit controlling them as they’re one of the heaviest bikes you’ll ever come across.

Schwinn and Mongoose make the best fat-tire bikes.

Disc Brakes

You should never compromise on mountain bike disc brakes as that could lead to serious injuries.

Mountain and hill tracks are one of the trickiest and most dangerous places to ride a bicycle on, and despite the good traction that the best mountain bikes have, without good brake levers, things can go south very quickly.

A mechanical disc brake is the best when dealing with the best mountain bikes. They have better modulation and stronger stopping power, and they don’t wear out easily.

They’re the kind of brake cables you need to come through when you’re almost skidding off the edge of a cliff.

The efficiency of brake levers also depends on the brand behind their manufacture. Pay close attention to that too.

Drivetrain

Drivetrains are the engines of the bicycle. They don’t just determine the speed, but they also dictate the amount of energy you put in to move forward.

Getting the wrong drivetrain means you’ll be getting tired too easily over a short distance.

MTB drivetrains come in three chainring setups: 24T, 34T, and 42T, where the numbers relate to the number of teeth on the sprocket. The lower the number of teeth the less speed is generated per pedal stroke.

Keep that in mind when searching for a mountain bike as it’ll determine the speeds your bicycle can max out.

Frame

The frame is the main body of the bicycle. It’s what connects the rear and the front and the part that houses the seat, where the rider sits upon. Therefore, it has to be super strong to hold each part intact and at the same time, it has to weigh lightly to avoid throwing the bike’s balance off.

The most common frame material used in a mountain bike is aluminum alloy as it’s cheaper, strong, and lightweight.

Carbon fiber frames are a better option as they’re more malleable and stronger than aluminum, but unfortunately, they cost more. Steel frames are a good substitute but they’re too heavy.

Deciding on the frame you want should be guided by what you want to get out of the bicycle. If speed and balance are your priorities, then an aluminum frame will suit you the best.

Weight

Generally, a mountain bike can’t avoid being heavy. They’re equipped with a lot of add-ons necessary to make them safe and reliable enough to handle tricky surfaces.

However, there’s a tipping point where the weight of a mountain bike should never pass.

A majority of mountain bikes under $500 weigh about 26 pounds. Anything that goes beyond this will be a hard task for the rider on climbs, as they’ll be forced to use more effort to haul the bicycle forward while dealing with a destabilized bicycle.

Brand

It’d be folly to write off the fact that quality does depend on the brand. Established brands like Schwinn that have been around much longer and make all types of mountain bikes, including fat-tire bikes, make high-quality parts too.

Another renowned brand would be Mongoose. Their fat-tire bicycle collection is one of the best on the market alongside Schwinn.

The Bottom Line

The line-up of mountain bikes that cost less than 500 dollars is diverse. They may all differ from each other in terms of components used, but they’re much the same function in the same way.

The most important part of the whole process is testing. Never walk out of a bicycle shop without testing a bicycle.

Mountain biking is a hobby for anyone; it isn’t limited to a certain age group, profession, or gender. As long as you have strength in your legs, hit the road every chance you get.

This guide should be a good start for you if you’ve been contemplating taking mountain bike riding.