Last Updated: December 2016
Not every biker wants to be restricted to pavement or city streets. If you plan on tackling rough terrain on your bike ride, then you need a mountain bike. The sport of mountain biking came about in the 1970s, with the invention of the mountain bicycle following shortly after.
In this article, you will learn what a mountain bike is and how it differs from other bikes. You will also learn the key components of a mountain bicycle, guidelines for sizing, and how your bike will change once it is broken in. Finally, you will see several mountain bike reviews for bicycles in different price ranges.
This list will include the best beginner mountain bikes, the best cheap mountain bikes, and the best mountain bikes of 2016.
What is a Mountain Bike?
A mountain bike is a classification for a bicycle designed to ride off-road. This can include anything from woodsy paths to mountainous terrain. These types of bicycles are designed with the parts necessary to handle rougher riding. They can easily tackle loose sand and gravel, steep inclines and declines, rocky terrain, ruts, mountains, boulders, logs, drop-offs, and more.
What Makes a Mountain Bike Different?
Mountain bikes are different from hybrid bikes and road bikes for several reasons. First, they have a frame that is more upright than other bicycle types. This is so you can sit more upright, and see and tackle obstacles better that may be on your course. The frame is also more forgiving, which allows you to remain comfortable as you ride.
Another major difference is the tires on the bike. Mountain bikes use wider tires with more traction than those found on other bicycle types. This allows them to handle different terrain types better. In addition, the wider, thicker tires make your bike less susceptible to flats.
Finally, mountain bikes have a higher clearance than others. This high clearance allows them to tackle obstacles such as logs, rugs, and rocks.
Key Components of a Mountain Bike
- Bike frame
- Gear Shifters
- Front and Rear Derailleurs
- Front Chainrings
- Rear Cassette
- Crank Arms
Sizing and Bike Fit
When you are choosing a bicycle, you should find the size that is appropriate for your height. However, with mountain bikes, the length of the frame is also something that should be considered.
The first thing to remember is that you should have between one and two inches of clearance when you stand over the top tube of the bike frame.
You should also account for the length of the bike. When the handlebars are positioned at or near the same level as your seat, you should be able to sit upright without stretching too far or feeling as if you must hunch over.
If you are still at a loss as to the appropriate mountain bike size for you, here are some general guidelines that will help you determine the right size based on your height. If the bike does not have a comfortable fit, you may need to go a size up or size down, depending on the length of the frame and your arm length.
|Bike Frame Size||Advertised as||Your Height|
The “Breaking in” Period of a New Bike
The “breaking in” period of your mountain bike will usually last around 30 days. This may change depending on how frequently you ride your mountain bike, as well as the distances that you ride it. During this period, you will need to break in the disc brake and gears.
When these components are fresh out of the box, they may squeak or work a little rougher than they will once you have broken them in. At the end of this thirty day period, be sure to take your mountain bike into a bike shop for the proper adjustments and re-lubing of certain parts.
Best Mountain Bikes for the Money
The amount you spend on a beginner mountain bike will affect its quality. Make sure to take this into account before making your decision. This section will review the best cheap mountain bikes, the best beginner mountain bikes, and more.
Best Mountain Bike under $200
If you are not ready to commit to off-road cycling, then this best mountain bike under $200 may be the right choice for you. It is important to remember that you should expect a little lesser quality from a cheaper bike, but this best cheap mountain bike has very few areas that could use improvement. At $180, it is a great deal for a great bicycle.
V2900 Mountain Bike for Men by Genesis
Some of this bicycle’s features include:
- Aluminum Frame
- 21 Speeds
- V-Brakes for front and rear of bike
- Single-pivot suspension
- Shimano shifter and derailleurs
For the affordable price, the manufacturer did not choose cheap parts for this bike. The gears and shifters are of high quality, and allow you to travel at 21 different speeds. This is perfect if you plan on riding up- and downhill on paths.
However, it is important to note that this best mountain bike under $200 only comes with a single-pivot suspension frame. If you plan on jumping or tackling tougher environments, it may not be able to withstand as well as you would hope.
Another notable thing about this bike is the frame. It comes with an aluminum frame, which is not quite as forgiving as steel. However, its slight rigidity allows it to be sturdy enough to support tall or heavy frames. Additionally, it is very durable.
There are two different things to take into consideration before purchasing this bike. First, the seat is narrower. This can be very uncomfortable, especially if you are a tall or heavy guy that chose this bike for its sturdy, durable frame.
This, however, should be expected from a lower-priced bike and the seat can easily be upgraded to a more comfortable model.
The second thing to keep an eye on is the brakes. After a few rides, the V-brakes that come with this model may become loose. These can easily be tightened, however, so it is not too much of a problem. Overall, this is an excellent choice for the price you are paying.
Best Mountain Bike under $300
Stat Men’s Mountain Bike by Mongoose
Some of this bicycle’s features include:
- Aluminum frame
- Front fork suspension
- SRAM shifters
- Shimano rear derailleur
- 21 Speeds
- Front and rear disc breaks
- Steel handlebars
This mountain bike is a great option if you want a sturdy, lightweight ride. The aluminum frame is designed to be comfortable and comes in a stylish, electric blue color. While it is marketed for men, some women may also be satisfied with the price and performance of this bike.
The wheels are a notable feature, as they work very well to go over rough terrain and obstacles. The brakes and shifters also work well, offering quick response and smooth shifting. The other thing to mention is that the positioning of the gears make them very easy to use as you are riding up- and downhill.
One downside to this bike is that the frame is not designed as comfortable as some others on the market. It may not absorb bumps quite as well as some riders would like. Additionally, this bike is not made for extreme mountain biking, unless you make several upgrades first.
Best Mountain Bike under $500
If you are looking for a cheap mountain bike, then $500 is mid-range. This bicycle is a great option, with high-quality components and an excellently designed frame. It is also one of the newest on this list, being one of the best mountain bikes of 2016.
2016 Overdrive Hard Tail by Diamondback Bicycles
Some of its features include:
- 6061-T6 aluminum alloy frame
- Custom butted tubing
- Suspension fork by Suntour
- Shimano drive train
- Tektro disc brakes
- 29-inch wheels
The 2015 Overdrive Mountain Bike comes with a sturdy, aluminum frame. Even though aluminum is generally associated with a more rigid ride, the design of the frame, custom butted tubing, and suspension fork allows for it to be very forgiving as you ride across rocks, cracks, gravel, and more.
The Shimano drive-train and shifters are another great feature of this bike. The high-quality components work as well as you would expect them to, smoothly shifting as you climb mountain trails. Additionally, the Tektro disc brakes have a great response time and allow you to brake quickly, even with the high speeds that the Overdrive bicycle can reach.
Additionally, this bike comes with 29” wheels. The large wheels are perfect to tackle obstacles and they offer the traction you need to climb steeper terrain.
One thing to mention about this contender for the best mountain bikes under $500 is that it may need professional assembly. The instructions are not very clear, and those without any previous experience assembling beginner mountain bikes may need assistance. Additionally, the seat is slightly uncomfortable for longer rides and you may want to replace it.
Best Mountain Bike under $700
With a cost that fluctuates between $470 and $700, this bicycle is a great option. It has several incredible features and provides the quality of a more expensive beginner mountain bike without the higher price.
Recoil Trail Full Suspension Bike by Diamondback Bicycles
Some of its features include:
- Diamondback Recoil aluminum frame
- Suspension Fork by Suntour
- Tektro Airs disc brakes
- Suntour chainring
- 5” Wheels
- Shimano Acera Shifters
- 24 Speeds
This particular bike comes with an aluminum frame. While steel is favored for offering a more comfortable and forgiving ride than aluminum, especially for tough terrain, the geometry of the frame makes up for it.
This trail bike absorbs bumps easily and offers a smooth ride, though this is also affected by the suspension fork. It also offers the added benefits of being more lightweight and weather-resistant, as aluminum is.
Another great thing about this bike is the hardware components. The Diamondback company chose high-quality parts for the shifters, derailleurs, chainring, and bike. They offer an excellent response time and allow you to shift and brake with ease. The 24 speeds makes tackling any mountain trail an option.
While this bike is packed with great features, it is important to consider how you will be using it in the future before purchase. This is a great beginner bike, however, the suspension fork is not designed for large jumps or downhill runs.
The company even warns against this on the packaging. If you plan on using your beginner mountain bike for rougher riding in the future, therefore, this may not be the best option.
Best Mountain Bike under $1,200
This best mountain bike under $1,000 is by Diamondback Bicycles, and they did not fail to deliver. If you know you are serious about the sport, this is the best beginner mountain bike in its class.
2016 Atroz Full Suspension Bike by Diamondback Bicycles
This bicycle’s features include:
- Diamondback Recoil Aluminum Frame
- Rockshox fork and rear shock
- SRAM derailleur, shifter, and cogset
- Tektro disc brakes
- 5” wheels
The first advantage of choosing this bike is its incredible frame. Even being aluminum, the full suspension and fork allow it to absorb bumps and other obstacles for a comfortable ride. It is also lightweight and durable.
This bicycle is in the rankings as one of the best mountain bikes of 2016 for several other reasons as well. It also has high-quality components, including the forks, shocks, derailleurs, shifters, and brakes. Every one of these components operates as it should and allows you to tackle rough terrain easily. The widest and great traction of the wheels is another notable feature that lets you roll over obstacles smoothly.
The only thing to consider before purchasing is that you may want to replace the front fork if you plan on doing extremely rough riding. This is because the front fork is a spring shock instead of air. Either way, this best mountain bike under $1,000 is a steal with all of the high-quality components that are included.
Wrapping It Up
Hopefully, this guide has provided you with all of the information you need to purchase a beginner mountain bike.
You should now be ready to move forward with the knowledge of what a mountain bike is for, the individual components that make it run, and the sizing of the bicycle. Additionally, this article should have provided you with mountain bike reviews for the best beginner mountain bikes, the best cheap mountain bikes, and more.