You really don’t have to spend an fortune on a mountain bike if you’re just starting out, as there’s a lot of choice under £500, as this round up of some of the best bikes we could find demonstrates.
Most sub-£500 mountain bikes are hardtails. That means they have a suspension fork and a rigid backend. However it is possible to buy a fully rigid mountain bike, which has the benefit of being lighter, but most new mountain bikers will appreciate a bit of front suspension for tackling tougher trails.
Mountain bikes really have come a long way in the last ten years, and there are now a lot of good bikes to be had if you’re on a budget, or just starting out and. The latest sub-£500 mountain bike is pretty lightweight, and you’re looking at an aluminium frame with a coil-sprung suspension fork and disc brakes.
Cheaper bikes will have mechanical (cable operated disc brakes) but some bikes in this price range offer hydraulic disc brakes. These are more powerful and more reliable. Most sub-£500 mountain bikes will provide more than enough gears to get you up and down the hills, with a triple chainset (three chainrings on the front) a common sight.
Wheel sizes will vary, but there’s a choice of 26, 27.5 and 29in to suit your preferences. Generally, the bigger wheels cover ground faster but smaller wheels can provide more agile and nimble handling.
The latest model from outdoor retailer Go Outdoors is the Crag, a sub-£300 aluminium hardtail that sticks with good old 26in wheels. It has a Suntour XCT 100mm suspension fork and Shimano gears with mechanical disc brakes with 160mm disc rotors.
My first proper mountain bike was a GT many many years ago (too many to count) and your first bike can be a GT too, if you pluck for this smart Aggressor Sport. Like the majority of the bikes here it’s rolling stock is 27.5” wheels with an aluminium frame with the iconic Triple Triangle frame design, and All Terra 80mm suspension forks with a Shimano Tourney drivetrain. Unlike all the other bikes here, the GT doesn’t have disc brakes, instead it has traditional V-brakes, which do have the advantage of being lighter and very easy to setup.
While most brands stick with one wheel size, Scott offers this bike in a choice of 27.5” or 29” wheel sizes, leaving you to make your own decision rather than being forced into a certain wheel size. This one is the 29” model. You get an aluminium frame with racy geometry and a HL Zoom 100mm suspension fork, Shimano triple chainset and Tektro mechanical disc brakes, and Kenda Slant 2.2 tyres.
Jamis has great expertise in designing value mountain bikes and this Trail X sport packs an aluminium frame and 27.5” wheels with an RST coil spring fork, with 100mm of travel and a lockout lever and adjustable rebound. You get a Shimano groupset with an SR Suntour triple chainset and Tektro mechanical disc brakes with Shimano levers. A really smart looking bike for not a lot of cash.
Specialized is one of the most popular brands with mountain bikers and many cut their teeth with a Hardrock. This £400 model gets you a smartly finished Specialized A1 premium aluminium frame with 650B (27.5”) wheels and a SR Suntour fork with 75mm of coil sprung suspension. Equipment is Shimano Tourney and Tektro Aries brakes and the bike is fitted with Specialized Fast Track Sport tyres with Flak Jacket puncture protection.
Just to prove that your new mountain bike choice isn’t restricted to 27.5” wheels (as it might seem when glancing at this article) here’s the Cube Aim Pro with 29” wheels. Like the Scott, the bike is actually available with either 27.5” or 29” wheels depending on your personal preference. Regardless of wheel size, you get a 6061 aluminium frame shod with a SR Suntour XCT 100mm suspension fork, 24-speed Shimano Altus/Tourney parts and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, and high quality Schwalbe Smart Sam Active 2.1” tyres.
The Trail Tango is Cannondale’s women’s specific entry-level mountain bike. It has a 6061 aluminium frame and rolls on 27.5” wheels. A SR Suntour XCT-100 suspension fork provides 100mm of travel and is adjustable. Stopping duties are carried out by Tektro Novela mechanical disc brakes with 180mm front and 160mm rear disc rotors. A Shimano Altus drivetrain with an SR Suntour triple chainset and WTB Bee Line tyres complete the package.
From Chain Reaction Cycles comes this Vitus Nucleus in a really bold yellow paint job. Vitus isn’t hte most well known brand in the mountain bike world but Chain Reaction Cycles has been designing some really good bikes, and its more expensive models have received some good reviews, so its entry-level models should be pretty good too. This is the company’s most affordable offering, and combines an aluminium frame with a Suntour XCT DS suspension fork and a Shimano Altus groupset. It’s got on-trend 27.5” size wheels and uses Continental tyres and Tektro disc brakes.
For just under £500 the Giant Talon gives you an Aluxx aluminium frame with an SR Suntour XCT HLO suspension fork, with 100mm of travel and coil spring internals. Gears are Shimano Altus and you get upgraded hydraulic disc brakes from Tektro, combined with 160mm disc rotors front and rear. Plenty of stopping power, in other words.
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Halfords’ own range of 13 Bikes have been getting some high praise for smart specifications and good value for money, and this £500 Incline Alpha 27.5” looks spot on. It’s got one of the best suspension forks in this roundup, and the longest travel too, a Suntour Raidon 120mm suspension fork. The aluminium frame is triple butted to save weight and improve performance, and it’s partnered with Clarks hydraulic disc brakes and Shimano Alivio/Altus gearing, making it one of the best specced bikes here.