The Best Beginner Mountain Bikes in 2021

With so many options on the market, buying a mountain bike can seem like a difficult process for a beginner. And when you consider different types of mountain bikes and many components you have to consider, it can certainly be overwhelming for someone without much experience.

But don’t worry – we are here to help. Our guide can make the entire process easier and help you find the best beginner mountain bike for your needs.

In this article, we will explain how to choose the best entry-level mountain bike and review some of the best bikes for beginners available online.

trek marlin 5
  • Alpha Silver Aluminum Frame
  • Hardtail
  • 100 mm Travel
  • Hydraulic Disk Brakes
  • Tire Size 27.5’’ or 29’’
CHECK PRICES

Although Marlin 5 is a reliable mountain bike, one of the main advantages it has comes from its versatility and ability to cover any road, except for technical trails. This bike is available in 7 different sizes and 3 different colors.

The bike comes equipped with either 29-inch or 27.5-inch wheels, depending on the size of the bike. It is a hardtail bike with suspension on the front and 100 mm of travel. Trek Marlin 5 also comes with 21 speeds and includes mounts for a kickstand and a rack.

The frame is made from aluminum, which is not a surprise considering the affordable price. However, the bike also has some surprising features usually found in expensive bikes, like hydraulic disc brakes and separate brake and shift levers. That being said, the bike is not suitable for jumps or rugged terrain, both for the risk of having your wheels bend and your comfort since the saddle could be more comfortable for our taste.

Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Good Suspension
  • Can Be Used as a Road Bike
  • Quality Brakes
  • Good Frame Geometry
Cons:
  • Aluminum Frame
  • Not Suitable for Jumps
  • Not Suitable for Technical Trails

Schwinn S29 Mens Mountain Bike

The Best Budget Beginner Mountain Bike

schwinn s29 mens mountain bike
  • Aluminum Frame
  • Full-Suspension
  • Mechanical Disk Brakes
  • Wheel Size 29’’
CHECK PRICES

One of the more affordable mountain bikes on our list comes with a full suspension and aluminum frame that ensure proper bump absorption and provide durable trail riding. This bike comes in one size and one color combination of black and blue. The medium size of the bike means that the bike is suitable for riders between 5’ 9” to 6’ 2”, so think carefully before buying if you fall outside of this height range.

The bike also comes with SRAM 3.0 shifter and rear derailleur, which means that it sports mechanical shifting. It also includes robust 29-inch wheels that offer a smooth and balanced riding experience. There are also mechanical disk brakes, which are on the low-end but still better than caliper brakes.

All of these things are to be expected for a bike in that price range, some of which work better than others. However, the biggest flaw of the bike in our opinion is the uncomfortable stock saddle. On the bright side, this can be easily replaced.

Pros:
  • Very Affordable
  • Lightweight Frame
  • Good Suspension
  • Can Be Used as a Road Bike
  • Solid Brakes
Cons:
  • Only Available in One Size and Color
  • Uncomfortable Saddle
  • Mechanical Shifting

Cannondale Habit 4 Bike

The Most Versatile Beginner Mountain Bike

cannondale habit 4 bike
  • SmartForm C1 Aluminum Alloy Frame
  • Full-Suspension
  • 130 mm Rear Travel; 140 mm Front Travel
  • Hydraulic Disk Brakes
  • Wheel Size 29’’
CHECK PRICES

While the price of the Cannondale Habit 4 bike is a bit on the high side for a beginner mountain bike, the performances of the bike make it worth the money. The bike comes in four different sizes but it is only available in one color – a mixture of deep blue and black aptly called midnight.

The aluminum alloy frame is stiff enough and offers great handle, even on difficult trails. The bike has a full suspension, while the fork comes with 140mm of travel. This is a pretty good indicator of the great suspension this bike offers to ensure comfort for the rider. In this respect, it is important to also mention a very comfortable saddle.

This bike has SRAM Eagle NX drivetrain, hydraulic disk brakes and 29-inch wheels perfect for mountain bikes. The bike is a bit heavier than other similar models but the difference is not really a huge problem. Meanwhile, the bike’s geometry is made with stability, safety and fun in mind, which is ideal for beginners.

Pros:
  • Comes in Four Sizes
  • Stable Geometry
  • Lightweight Frame
  • Great Suspension
  • Can Be Used for Commuting Too
  • Quality Brakes
Cons:
  • Only Available in One Color
  • Expensive for a Beginner Bike
  • A Bit Heavy

Specialized Rockhopper LTD Little Bellas

The Best Beginner Mountain Bike for Women

specialized rockhopper ltd little bellas
  • Premium A1 Aluminum Frame
  • Hardtail
  • 80, 90 or 100 mm Travel (Depending on Size)
  • Hydraulic Disk Brakes
  • Wheel Size 27.5’’
CHECK PRICES

Little Bellas is the perfect beginner mountain bike for women for many reasons, one of which is definitely the very affordable price. This model is available in three different sizes but it only comes in one color, which is probably a bit disappointing for the ladies. However, the bike makes up this with other attributes.

The frame of the bike is made from premium butted alloy, which makes the frame both lightweight and durable. The bike’s geometry is focused on stability but it doesn’t neglect performance either. The bike is aerodynamic and has internal cable routing to further enhance the geometry.

The bike also includes hydraulic disk brakes, Shimano Altus mechanical drivetrain set, powerful 27.5-inch Ground Control sport tires and a very comfortable Bridge Sport saddle. The amount of travel depends on the specific size of the bike – it can either be 80, 90 or 100 mm. In conclusion, this bike is great for women, especially young girls looking for their first mountain bike.

Pros:
  • Very Affordable
  • Available in Three Sizes
  • Stable and Lightweight Frame
  • Good Suspension
  • Quality Disc Brakes
  • Perfect for Women and Young Girls
Cons:
  • Only Available in One Colors
  • Mechanical Shifting
  • Not Suitable for Men

Norco Fluid FS 3

The Best Beginner Full Suspension Mountain Bike

norco fluid fs 3 29
  • Aluminum Alloy Frame
  • Full Suspension
  • 120 mm Rear Travel; 130 mm Front Travel
  • Hydraulic Disk Brakes
  • Wheel Size 27.5’’ or 29’’
CHECK PRICES

Mountain bikes with full suspension are not usually chosen by beginners but this particular model ticks all the necessary boxes to provide a great ride for a novice. The bike comes in three different sizes but you can only get it in one color – charcoal black.

The frame is made from double-butted aluminum alloy, which provides stability along with the X-Fusion Boost Air fork. The bike has full suspension, with 120 mm travel on the rear and 130 mm on the front, which makes it quite resistant to bumps and rough terrain and perfect for trail cycling.

Additionally, the bike has hydraulic disc brakes, SRAM SX Eagle mechanical drivetrain set and 29-inch wheels with a choice of tires between Goodyear Newton and Goodyear Escape. Internal cable routing further improves aerodynamics, while the Norco XC saddle is quite comfortable, even on bumpy terrain. On the downside, the bike feels a bit heavy.

Pros:
  • Available in Three Sizes
  • Comfortable Frame
  • Stable Geometry
  • Great Suspension
  • High-Quality Brakes
  • Versatile
Cons:
  • Only Available in One Colors
  • A Bit Expensive for a Beginner Bike
  • A Bit Heavy
  • Mechanical Shifting

How to Choose Your First Mountain Bike

If you are thinking about buying a mountain bike but you don’t really know what to look for, we are here to help you choose the best mountain bike for beginners.

Types of Mountain Bikes

Before we explain what are the most important features to consider when you shop for an entry-level mountain bike, let’s take a look at the 4 types of mountain bikes.

Cross-Country Bikes

This type of bikes, commonly referred to as XC bikes, are usually the lightest of all mountain bikes and the most common type that professional cyclists use because they are built for speed.

They come with the least amount of suspension of all mountain bikes and have steeper geometries that allow for easier pedaling. These bikes are usually rigid with suspension on the front or, less commonly, a dual suspension. They also come with four inches (100 millimeters) of travel.

There are two types of XC bikes – XC race bikes and XC trail bikes. XC race bikes are made for moderately rough terrains, something like a road bike for high altitudes. Meanwhile, XC trail bikes are a bit heavier and made for any possible terrain, which is why XC trail bikes are the most popular type of mountain bikes.

Downhill Bikes

As the name suggests, downhill bikes are built for riders who like to go down the hill, fast. These bikes come with full suspension and slack geometries that are great for going down but not the best at pedaling.

Downhill bikes are also heavy in order to take all the abuse from riding downhill on the roughest terrains and have around eight inches of travel (200 millimeters).

Trail and Enduro Bikes

Downhill and XC bikes are built for extremes – either very smooth or very rock and technical terrains. In the middle of the spectrum are enduro (all-mountain) and trail bikes, which are probably a better choice for a beginner.

Trail bikes are closer to XC bikes, usually with full suspension, although they can also have suspension on the front only. These bikes are the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to mountain bikes, which is why they are the most popular choice for beginners. They commonly have between 4.7 to 5.5 inches of travel (120 to 140 millimeters).

On the other hand, endure or all-mountain bikes are closer to the downhill bikes since they come with 6-7 inches of travel (150-175 millimeters). These are a good choice for riders who live close to rocky trails, as well as those who wish to try big-hit riding.

In the end, it’s safe to say that the best choice for beginners are trail bikes.

Important Features to Consider

Mountain bikes are quite different from other types of bikes, like road bikes or triathlon bikes, so they have different features as well. Let’s check them out in more detail.

Suspension

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when you look for an entry-level mountain bike is the suspension. There are three types of suspension you can choose from – dual suspension, front suspension and no suspension.

  • Dual Suspension Bikes – Dual, or full suspension mountain bikes, come with shocks on both the front and back of the bike. These bikes are usually heavier but they make the ride more comfortable and provide better control over rough terrains. However, mountain bikes with dual suspension are also more expensive than good hardtail bikes.
  • Hardtail Bikes – Hardtail bikes are mountain bikes that only have shocks on the front. These bikes are more budget-friendly than those with dual (full) suspension. They present the middle ground because they provide some suspension to make the ride more comfortable at reasonable prices.
  • Rigid Bikes – These mountain bikes come without any suspension at all. They are the lightest but also the least comfortable option. With advancements in technology that improved suspension on mountain bikes, rigid bikes have become nearly extinct, although they are making a comeback lately.

While each of these options has certain benefits, beginners should definitely opt for bikes with some suspension. Whether you want to go with full suspension or just front suspension mostly depends on the budget you have.

Another important thing to keep in mind about suspension on mountain bikes is travel. Travel on mountain bikes is the maximum distance that the suspension can compress when absorbing force. Higher travel means that the bike can absorb more force in a comfortable fashion. Travel on mountain bikes can range from 2 inches to 8 inches (60 to 200 millimeters).

Frame Materials

Mountain bike frames can be made from different materials, including aluminum, carbon fiber, steel and titanium. However, the most common materials are aluminum and carbon fiber.

Aluminum frames are the most popular choice because they are more affordable than carbon fiber while still being light and stiff.

Meanwhile, carbon fiber is the more expensive option because it is harder to work with this material and takes more time. However, they are not as expensive today as they once were, so these frames are also quite popular. Still, carbon frames are not as durable as aluminum and once they crack under stress the entire frame can become too fragile and dangerous to use unless you repair or replace it completely.

Wheel Size

Mountain bikes can have three different wheel sizes – 26, 27.5 and 29 inches.

  • 26’’ Wheels – This was the most popular size of wheels for mountain bikes until recently and for a long time, it was the only available size. These wheels are light and nimble but larger wheels provide more traction and a more comfortable ride.
  • 29’’ Wheels – This size has become more common in the past few years. These wheels won’t accelerate as quickly as the smaller size but they offer better momentum when you ride up the hills. They are also easier to roll over small objects on rough trails.
  • 27.5’’ Wheels – These wheels are the newest but they have pretty much replaced 26’’ wheels in recent years as the norm. This wheel size combines the best elements of the other two sizes, which is why it is also the most suitable size for beginners.

Other Components

In addition to suspension and wheels, mountain bikes come with other components like gearing, brakes, pedals, etc.

The most common drivetrain groupsets used on mountain bikes are Shimano and SRAM because these are the best when it comes to quality.

Pedals are sometimes included but in most cases the bikes come without any pedals, leaving you to choose those that work for you. In any case, you should also get cycling shoes because they will provide you with a more comfortable ride.

Conclusion

Choosing your first mountain bike may seem like a big decision and it is not something you should decide on lightly and without serious consideration.

With that in mind, we hope that our selection of best beginner mountain bikes was helpful to you and that you were able to find the perfect bike for your needs.

About The Author

AthletePath Staff

We are a team of enthusiasts and professional athletes thriving to provide you with helpful advice on buying everything you may ever need to become a better athlete.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments