You decided to start mountain biking – A good choice! Now you need to find the perfect bike to start your journey. Easier said than done, the market is full of choices and the prices vary from 500$ to 10 000$ and it is easy to get confused. To make things easier start by following these four easy steps:
- Determine the correct budget for buying your first mountain bike
- Learn which are the best brands in the industry
- Get the necessary knowledge to help you choose your first mountain bike
- Buy the mountain bike and have fun
So now you can see that you don’t have an easy task before you, there is a lot of information out there and it will take you an eternity to read it all. For this reason, I wrote this article, so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
In this article, I will help you to get the correct budget for your first mountain bike, I will share with you which are the most popular mountain bike brands and I will go over all the facts you need to know to choose the right mountain bike so that you can have the best riding experience when starting. So keep reading!
How Much Should You Spend on Your First Mountain Bike
As a general rule, 500 to 1000$ is a good budget for buying your first mountain bike, there are a lot of mountain bikes equipped with good components from all the renowned brands in this price bracket. More expensive mountain bikes offer performance improvements that are not catered to beginners.
You can definitely spend more if your budget allows you, but you will get diminishing returns because you don’t have the skill level to take advantage of all the advantages that high-end components bring. In the beginning, you need to start riding softer trails, and unpaved country roads, and if you plan to ride in mountain biking parks, the perfect options are the ‘green trails’ which are suited for beginners.
So you don’t need a mountain bike capable of high-performance on extremely rough terrain, for this reason, a lower-budget mountain bike is perfect when starting. And this is not taking into consideration the fact that you may not stick to mountain biking in the long run.
I have many friends that bot a mountain bike with the value of a nice used car and now they are riding it one time a month or even less than that. It is not worth spending a fortune until you developed the primary mountain biking skills and you are sure that you will ride the bike enough to justify the investment.
You may say that buying a used mountain bike will save you money but the reality is that you most likely will lose money if you don’t have a more experienced friend to help you.
You don’t know the common problems that a mountain bike can have and you may end up investing tons of money in bike repairs and still have an older mountain bike and you will not benefit from the improvements in bike geometry made in the last few years.
Reasons why a 500 to 1000$ budget is the best budget when buying your first mountain bike:
- Low investment: You won’t lose a lot of money if you don’t stick to mountain biking in the long run.
- Low skill levels: You don’t have the proper skills to push to the limit even on a low-budget mountain bike.
- High chance of crashes: In the beginning, we all crash, and the bike will suffer the consciences, low-budget bike equals low-budget repairs (when starting out it is best not to push yourself too hard to prevent the risk of injury).
- No proper mountain bike maintenance skills: When starting out you don’t have the proper maintenance skills to prolong the life of expensive components, this can cost you a lot of money.
Best Mountain Bike Brands
One important step in choosing a good mountain bike is to know the manufacturers with a good reputation. Because you don’t have much experience riding mountain bikes, you don’t know what components are the best and how they will perform on the trail.
Every manufacturer needs to design and then test their bikes before sending them on the market. The biggest advantage of buying a mountain bike from a renowned manufacturer is that their put in more time testing and redesigning the bike because they have a reputation to defend (and they have the budget).
If you want to diminish the risk of buying a bad mountain bike you can choose a brand from the table below and search for a model you like from the lineup.
|Trek Bikes||Giant Bicycles||Trek Bikes|
|Santa Cruz||Merida Bikes||Giant Bicycles|
|Giant Bicycles||Cannondale||Merida Bikes|
Chances you will be better off buying a lower specs mountain bike from one of the trusted brands on the market than buying a mountain bike from a less known manufacturer who will cut costs from the wrong places.
Every manufacturer will cut costs to stay in a price bracket, but well-known brands have the knowledge of what makes a bike a good mountain bike and will not compromise on the essential components. Experience and a lot of years of trial and error will give them the upper hand when it comes to their not-so-well-known competitors.
What Do You Need to Know Before Buying a Mountain Bike
When I got my first mountain bike I spend a ton of hours researching but still, there are some things that I wish I knew back then. When you are just starting, it is easy to spend a lot of time researching unnecessary things and end up overspending on a mountain bike.
The reality is that you learn what are the most important features of a mountain bike by riding one, and now I will tell you what are the most important things you need to know before buying your first mountain bike, so you can have a better experience than me when I started my mountain biking journey.
Get a Mountain Bike with Modern Geometry
The reality is that mountain bike geometry has come a long way in the last couple of years and mountain bikes have become longer and more stable on trails. All the top manufacturers have invested a fortune in the research of the rider’s position on the bike and how your center of mass will align with the bike’s center of mass in different scenarios.
The bike geometry is very important because it is a direct factor that determines the bike’s stability. When you think that you have found your perfect mountain bike, read some current reviews and pay attention if they say that the bike feels modern or outdated (they refer to the bike’s geometry).
You Need to Know the Right Size for You
Here comes the tricky part, choosing the right bike size it’s very important and there are a lot o experienced riders that get this wrong. From my experience, the manufacturer tables of bike sizes are just a guideline because they are too general.
There are three bike measurements that are very important for determining the correct size of a mountain bike.
- the reach – distance from the saddle to the handlebars
- stack – distance from the center of the crank to the mid-head tube
- standover – distance from the ground to mid-head tube
A more experienced cross-country rider will prefer a longer reach for stability but for a beginner a shorter reach is better because his riding position is more upright and he will be more comfortable and will put less weight on the hands, diminishing or eliminating all-together the wrist pain or that hand numbness that comes with a bad riding position.
All the big brands in the industry will display the reach number in the bike specifications, according to mbr.co.uk, the recommended reach numbers for rider heights are:
|Rider’s height||MTB reach|
|5ft 2in to 5ft 6in (157cm to 167cm)||410mm to 450mm|
|5ft 6in to 5ft 10in (167cm to 178cm)||430mm to 470mm|
|5ft 10in to 6ft 2in (178cm to 188cm)||450mm to 490mm|
|6ft 2in or above (182cm+)||470mm to 510mm|
The stack is important for aggressive riders that ride standing up with the seat post down, you don’t need to focus on this measurement.
The standover measurement needs to be shorter than your feet so that you can stand over the bike (not on the saddle, on your feet) and feel no discomfort in your sensible area.
Pick a bike that will give you a 2 cm clearance before touching your sensible parts so that there is no risk of injuries when you are forced to come off the bike on trails.
If you what to know if smaller mountain bikes are better, read this article!
Type of Mountain Bike: Hardtail or Full-Suspension
Full-suspension mountain bikes are well suited for downhill and enduro types of rides and hardtails for more cross-country kinds of rides, or softer trails that are not flooded with roots and rocks. Hardtails are an excellent platform to learn basic mountain biking skills.
In the beginning, a budget-friendly mountain bike will be the best choice. Full-suspension mountain bikes are anything but budget-friendly but they inspire a great deal of confidence in new riders due to the increased stability on descents.
A full-suspension mountain bike will be more forgiving of the rider’s mistakes than a hardtail and for this reason, the riders that start with a full suspension tend to devolve bad riding habits that can lead them to trouble in the future.
On softer trails, hardtails will be faster because they carry less weight but a full suspension will offer some protection to the lower back and this comes in handy because in our times we tend to be sedentary in the day to day life and we spend a lot of hours sitting down (dis will cause lower back pain).
This decision is up to you, but if you what to stick to the initial budget you need to go with a hardtail, and if mountain biking is your thing you can upgrade to a full-suspension mountain bike after you develop the necessary skills and have the money for it.
If you what to dive deeper into the subject you can read the article: start mountain biking with a hardtail or a full suspension.
27.5″ Wheels or Go with 29″
27.5″ wheels will make the mountain bike more maneuverable but 29″ wheels are better for speed and will allow you to maintain a high speed with less effort. The mountain biking industry is moving towards 29″ wheels because more riders prefer the increase in speed.
I started with 29″ wheels and when I tried to ride my friend’s 27.5″ wheels mountain bike it felt weird, to be honest with you I will never switch from 29″. I love how easy it is to achieve speed and bigger wheels are better at absorbing the bumps on the road or trail.
Because 29″ wheels are becoming the industry standard I recommend you start mountain biking with a 29′ wheels mountain bike.
How Much Suspension Travel Do You Need?
The amount of suspension you need depends on your riding style:
- cross-country: 100 – 120 mm
- trail: 130 – 140mm
- all-mountain: 130 and 160 mm
- enduro: 50 and 170mm, or even 180mm
- downhill: 178–203 mm
Now that we know how much suspension travel you need for the different types of riding we need to decide how much suspension you need as a beginner. In the starting stage of your mountain biking journey, you will be riding most of the time on untechnical trails and unpaved country roads.
So you will be closer to a cross-country type of riding until you can develop the necessary mountain biking skills to incorporate the other riding styles, this can there one or two years.
In my opinion, you don’t have to worry about suspension travel, every suspension is enough for a beginner.
Chose God Quality Suspension Over Bigger Travel
Never choose the bike with more travel over the bike with a more decent suspension, if you find a mountain bike with a RockShox fork with 100mm travel and another bike with a Suntour fork with 130+mm travel, pick 100% of the time the RockShox version. You will not regret it!
When you are a beginner, you don’t need a lot of travel on your suspensions.
Go for a 1x Drive Train
Don’t go for the 3x or 2x drive train, a one-by drive train will be simpler and more efficient to use. All the advanced riders are switching to a one-by drivetrain so why won’t you get one, it will suit you better because you are a beginner.
If you have a one-by drivetrain shifting gears becomes easy, shift up to uphill or shift down to go faster. 1×12 speed drive train is the best option but picks whatever you can find in the budget.
Don’t Spend All Your Money, You Need Gear and Accessories
Don’t spend all your money on the bike, you need to get some gear and accessories to be up and going.
This is a list of accessories, equipment, and gear so that you are set up and ready to hit the trails:
- MTB helmet: You are a beginner, a crash can come at any time, and protect your head.
- MTB glasses: I know they don’t seem to be important in the beginning, but they are, when you ride downhill with a lot of speed you need to have a clear view of the trail (a bug or dust can heart your eye and you may lose vision and crash), more the one time I hear a bug hitting my glasses, believe me, it happens more often then you think
- MTB gloves: When you sweat you will lose grip if you don’t use gloves.
- MTB shorts and jersey: You need good wind rappelling equipment or you will be hurting.
- MTB shoes: They will evenly distribute the pedaling force on your foot, this is more of a recommendation than a necessary thing.
- Water bottle and water bottle cage: You need to stay hydrated.
- Air pump: You need to check tire pressure regularly.
- Chain lube: Regularly clean and lubricate your chain.
- Multitool: You always find bolts that need tightening.
- Lights: If you plan to ride at nightfall.
- Spare tire camera
- Flat tire repair kit
After you have all of these you will be good to go, now just have fun!
What Mountain Bike Should a Beginner Buy?
Now after all we have discussed, I what to give you some mountain bike recommendations and maybe you pick one of them, but if you don’t I hope that by now you have all the information you need to make the best choice.
All the mountain bikes on this list have the following characteristics:
- are made by a reputable manufacturer in the industry
- are hardtails to fit a 500 to 1000$ range
- have 29″ wheels
- modern geometry
|Mountain bikes||Some specs|
|TREK – Marlin 5|| 1×8 speed|
Weight limit – 300 pounds (136 kg).
|TREK – Marlin 7||RockShox coil spring 100mm travel fork|
Weight limit – 300 pounds (136 kg).
|GIANT -TALON 1|| RockShox coil spring 100mm travel fork|
Weight limit – 300 pounds (136 kg).
|Specialized – Men’s Rockhopper Comp||1×9 speed|
|Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2||2×9 speed|
(preferable on-by drive train, budget limitation)
If you are wondering if it is worth it to buy a cheap mountain bike, you can read this article.
I hope that at the end of this long article you have a better understanding of what mountain bike you need and you have figured out the budget to buy it.
Mountain biking is not cheap but it is worth every penny!
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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.