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Best Budget Mountain Bike – Just Try It!

Conrad Kühn
April 29, 2021

Mountain biking isn’t an expensive sport like horseback riding or sailing.

However, professional-quality bikes can be quite expensive, sometimes costing over $5000.

We know you’re here because you just want to try it out or just recently got into the sport. You’re in good hands, so buckle up, and enjoy our roundup of the Best Budget Mountain Bike.

Product Roundup

Preview Bike Model Weight Frame Speed / DriveTrain Suspension Wheel More Information
Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 Bike Co-op DRT 1.1 31lbs (14.1kg) Aluminum 21/3x7 Hardtail 27.5 Check Price
Trek 820 2021 Trek 820 33.7lbs (15.3kg) Steel 21/3x7 Hardtail 26 Check Price
Trek Skye Women’s – 2018 Trek Skye Women’s 29.6lbs (13.4kg) Aluminum 21/3x7 Hardtail 27.5 Check Price
Cannondale Trail 7 Cannondale Trail 7 30lbs (13.6kg) Aluminum 18/2x9 Hardtail 27.5/29 Check Price
BMC Sportelite Two 2020 BMC Sportelite Two 29lbs (13.2kg) Aluminum 18/2x9 Hardtail 27.5 Check Price
Cannondale Foray 3 2018 Cannondale Foray 3 31.2lbs (14.2kg Aluminum 24/3x8 Hardtail 27.5 Check Price
Giant Talon 2 2020 Giant Talon 2 29lbs (13.2kg) Aluminum 18/2x9 Hardtail 27.5 Check Price

7 Budget Mountain Bikes - Reviewed

1. Co-op DRT 1.1 2020

The DRT lineup from Co-op cycles is evidence that you don’t have to break the bank to get yourself a good entry-level mountain bike.

This is probably one of the best entry-level mountain bikes.

The aluminum frame bike is fitted with a ‘3x7’ drivetrain from the Shimano Tourney series giving the bike a total of 21 gears.

DRT 1.1 has a 100mm travel hardtail fork along with 27.5” wheels and hydraulic disk brakes which isn’t common in this price range.

The Unisex bike weighs around 31lbs(14.1kg) which is quite light for a mountain bike

Click here for a full list of specifications.


  • Good components
  • Lightweight


  • Looks, Bland

2. Trek 820 2021

This exceptional bike from TREK goes against everything I’ve mentioned below in the Budget MTB buying guide.

This bike is quite affordable and is one of the cheapest on our list.

The custom steel frame from TREK only weighs 33.7lbs (15.3kg) which is amazing for a steel frame bike.

TREK 820 comes with a ‘3x7’ Shimano Tourney drivetrain, indicating a total of 21 gears.

In terms of suspension, it is a hardtail 75mm travel fork from SunTour which is quite basic.

Another thing that sets this bike apart in the 26” wheelset.

Read on to find out why this isn’t normal. Click here for a full list of specifications.


  • Strong lightweight steel frame
  • Good tires


  • The stock suspension isn’t great

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3. Trek Skye Women’s – 2018

Most mountain bikes are unisex, but it is always recommended for women to ride bikes made especially for them due to big differences in geometry such as low slacked top tubes and much more.

This addition from TREK has an aluminum frame and weighs 29.6lbs (13.4kg).

Skye is a hardtail bike and comes with a 75mm travel Suntour fork. For this price it would be better if TREK included a 100mm travel fork instead.

In terms of gears and speed, the bike has 21 gears and a ‘3x7’ drivetrain from the Shimano Tourney groupset. However, the shifters used are from the Altus groupset which is just above Tourney in the groupset hierarchy.

This can be an advantage and a disadvantage. It’s a plus point in terms of the quality of the component whilst it’s a drawback in terms of compatibility.

As expected, the bike has 27.5” wheels with a double-walled rim set.

Click here for a full list of specifications


  • Good components
  • Lightweight


  • Looks bland

4. Cannondale Trail 7 - 2019

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This addition from Cannondale is our second most expensive bike on our list.

The aluminum bike weighs around 30lbs (13.6kg) and ships with a ‘2x9’ drivetrain and hence 18 speeds.

Cannondale uses the Altus groupset which is quite disappointing for this price range. If the Acera groupset was used instead, this bike could have been way better.

In terms of suspension, the bike uses a 100m travel coil fork system which is pretty decent.

With this bike, you are given the choice of picking between 27.5” or 29” wheels paired with 2.25” tires.

You also get Shimano Hydraulic disc brakes.

Click here for a full list of specifications.


  • Good suspension
  • Choice of wheel sizes


  • Groupset could have been better

5. BMC Sportelite Two 2020

This is easily one of the best mountain bikes for the price.

The hardtail aluminum frame weighs 29lbs (13.2kg) which is again on the lighter side of the MTB weight spectrum.

This is one of the most expensive bikes on our roundup bordering right at the budget range.

Just like the Cannondale trail 7 the Sportelite two offers a ‘2x9’ drivetrain with 18 gears. The prices are almost similar but the groupset used are completely different.

BMC uses the Alivio groupset which is 2 groupsets ahead of the Altus used in the Trail 7.

The bike offers a 100mm Suntour fork along with Mechanical Disc Brakes and 27.5” wheels.

Click here for a full list of features.


  • Solid groupset
  • Looks sleek


  • Mechanical disk brakes

6. Cannondale Foray 3 2018

The Cannondale Foray 3 doesn’t look like your everyday bike due to the curved and low top tube.

The aluminum hardtail bike weighs around 31.2lbs (14.2kg). Cannondale ships the bike with a ‘3x8’ drivetrain making this the first 24 speed bike on our roundup.

The groupset used is the Shimano Tourney groupset which again is very basic but is reasonable for this price range. In terms of suspension, Cannondale has fitted the Foray 3 with a 75mm travel Suntour fork.

Foray 3 comes with 27.5” wheels paired with doubled walled rims and 2.1” tires. The braking system used is the Tektro M280 mechanical disk brakes.

Click here for a list of full specifications.


  • Unique geometry
  • Looks attractive


  • Basic components

7. Giant Talon 2 2020

Giant bikes are quite expensive, and the Talon 2 2020 sits right at the border of our budget and is the most expensive bike on our list.

The ALUXX-Grade aluminum bike weighs around 29lbs (13.2kg) and is a contender for the lightest bike in our round-up.

In terms of speed, the bike offers a ‘2x9’ drivetrain using Shimano Alivio and Acera components making this bike a good choice.

As a personal choice, I don’t like mixing up the groupsets due to compatibility issues.

Talon 2 ships with 27.5” wheels matched with 2.4” Maxxis Ardent Tires. This is the only bike on our list to use a RockShox hydraulic lockout fork.

Click here for a full list of specifications


  • Good components
  • The hydraulic lockout suspension system


  • Uncomfortable seat

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How To Buy A Budget MTB

What kind of FRAME should I expect?

If you take any type of bike, the frame is the core and is the first thing you need to pay attention to.

A bike frame is usually made from either aluminum, steel, carbon fiber, or titanium.

When it comes to mountain bikes, the choice is generally narrowed down to either carbon fiber or aluminum.

You may be wondering why that is.

Steel is the heaviest bike frame out there and isn’t usually considered for mountain bikes. Steel is used in retro styles cruiser bikes or single speed commuter bikes.

Titanium on the other hand is quite light but very expensive.

So, at this price range, you can expect most bikes to be made out of aluminum which is the cheapest variant.

mountain biking

Does GEOMETRY matter?

It sure does.

The bike market has been progressing towards longer bikes with slack that provides improved stability when it comes to high speeds and rough terrains. Usually, as a beginner, you won’t hit the trails at high speeds so therefore these long bikes with slack might feel a bit sluggish when driven at slow speeds.

Another thing that you should look into is the chain stay length. If you want stability you should opt for a longer chainstay length while a shorter length will make you MTB nimble.

Entry-level riders should look for lower head tube angles and shorter wheelbase length for stability.

Do I need GEARS?

As a beginner, you do.

Gears are used to assist you when climbing up or cruising down trails and mountains. As an entry-level rider, your pedal power only isn’t going to get you uphill.

As you go up the price range you might notice that majority of MTB bikes have a lower number of gears or drivetrains. Some bikes only have a single drivetrain, indicating a crank with only one chainring. Single drivetrain bicycles are easy to maintain and you are less likely to have the chain drop off during shifts.

Single drivetrain bikes usually have 12 or 10 speeds. You’ll see ‘1x10’ or ‘1x12’ in the bike specifications. These types of bikes with fewer components (they lack a front derailleur) are weirdly more expensive than bikes with a higher number of gears or drivetrains.

The other types of mountain bikes you’ll come across are the ‘2x’ and ‘3x’ bikes. These bikes have 2 or 3 drivetrains paired with 8-10 speed cassettes in the back. So for example a 24-speed mountain bike would be denoted as “3x8”, which means the bike has 3 drivetrains and an 8-speed cassette fixed at the back.

Affordable mountain bikes have a wide range of gear systems and combinations and we have mentioned them in the product round up table. Make sure to look more into what type of combination suits you more before making a choice.

Should I expect FULL SUSPENSION in this range?

Sadly no.

When we talk about the best cheap mountain bikes, the price range heavily depends on person to person.

In my personal experience, a budget bike mountain bike is below $750 and unfortunately, not many bikes under this price tag come with full suspension.

That being said your best bet is a hardtail bike. Do not even think of buying a rigid mountain bike for your first MTB.

Within three types of suspensions available, you get another choice between either air or coil-sprung forks. Air spring forks are quite expensive as they can be adjusted according to your preference and riding style.

Less components also mean a lower weight. Therefore hardtail bikes are lighter than full-suspension bikes, but the latter provides better stability, control, and comfort.

Do all mountain bikes have the same wheels?

When it comes to mountain bikes, you’ll generally be given two types of wheel choices, either a 27.5 or 29ner.

Both types have their benefits and drawbacks. As a beginner 29-inch tires provide better stability and are the perfect match for a hardtail bike that lacks suspension from the back. The larger diameter allows the wheels to easily overcome any type of obstacle.

27.5-inch tires have shorter chainstays and as I mentioned before, this makes the bike nimble.

On the other hand, apart from the usual tire sizes which range between 2.35 to 2.8”, fat tires are becoming popular with mountain bikes. These are tires ranging above 2.8” in diameter. Fat tires act as excellent cushions but should never be substituted for suspension.

They do absorb some vibration but are very different from suspensions. They provide better traction for entry-level riders but add a bit of weight to the bike.

To finish off, let’s check out what we can do to improve an entry-level bike after you’ve gained some experience.

How to modify a cheap mountain bike?

Just because you’ve become a pro, there’s no reason to throw out your entry-level bike.

A frame is the core of any bike, and you can always modify it by adding on better components.

To improve an entry-level mountain bike, you could change the tires to tubeless using a conversion kit. You can use lower tire pressure, which gives you a better overall grip and reduces punctures.

You could change small components like the pedals, seat post, and handlebars. Usually, when you purchase an entry-level bike, the manufacturer pays attention to all the important components and uses low-cost products to finish the bike off.

If you pay close attention to the factors mentioned above and check out more information about the bikes in our roundup, you’ll end up with the perfect entry-level budget bike to suit your needs.

Conrad Kühn
About the Author
Cycling Enthusiast / Mechanical Engineer | Hailing from Germany, where the first bike was invented is no coincidence. The cycling bug hit Conrad when he was really young, and he has been sick for quite some time now. Germany is a leading cycling nation. His first cycling experience began with him commuting to school with his friends. Racing to school was the best feeling ever. As Conrad grew up so did his passion for cycling. He used to race in local competitions but never made it to the professional level because of his other love: Engineering. As a mechanical engineer by profession, Conrad loves to understand the mechanisms behind machines and how they work. This intensified his passion for bicycles. Engineer by day and blogger by night, Conrad wants to share his knowledge with the global cycling community.
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