(Product prices are subject to changes and could be higher than the stated price range.)
Your budget should never stop you from doing what you’re passionate about. Especially something like mountain biking which can help you keep fit and also quench your thirst to explore.
For every sport played on the face of this earth, there are levels of experience. Namely amateur, intermediate, or professional/expert. Mountain bikes under $500 are at the entry-level and are perfect for amateurs and some intermediate riders.
Good mountain bikes under $500 are quite limited. Sure, you can buy a $100 “Mountain Bike” from a department store but the consequent dental bills will make you wish you read our best mountain bikes under $500 review first.
Table of Contents
|Preview||Bike Model||Weight||Frame||Suspension||Speed||More Information|
|Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Bike for Men||48lbs (22kg)||Steel||Rigid||7||CHECK PRICE|
|Mongoose Maxim Girls MTB||44lbs (20kg)||Aluminum||Full||21||CHECK PRICE|
|Max4out Folding MTB||38lbs (17kg)||Carbon-Steel||Full||21||CHECK PRICE|
|Merax Finiss Mountain Bike||40lbs (18kg)||Aluminum||Hardtail||24||CHECK PRICE|
|Diamondback Overdrive||30lbs (14kg)||Butted Aluminum||Hardtail||24||CHECK PRICE|
|Co-op DRT 1.1||32lbs (15kg)||Aluminum||Hardtail||21||Check Price|
|Giant ATX 2||30.5lbs (14kg)||Aluminum||Hardtail||21||Check Price|
|Cannondale Catalyst 4||31lbs (14kg)||Aluminum||Hardtail||21||Check Price|
|Trek Marlin 4||32lbs (15kg)||Aluminum||Hardtail||21||Check Price|
|Cannondale Trail 8||32.4lbs (15kg)||Aluminum||Hardtail||21||Check Price|
The Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Bike is certainly a heavy bike because of the tires and the steel frame.
Steel frames are not so common on mountain bikes due to its weight, but the steel frame in this bike is highlighted due to the lack of suspension.
Therefore, the bike relies on the sturdy steel frame along with the unique geometry to replace the suspension factor and keep the rider comfortable in rocky situations. The frame can withstand a significant amount of beating.
The frame and build also support our heavier rider who usually find it hard to find a perfect fit. The dolomite can even handle riders who are around 350lbs(159kg). Due to this ability, the heavyweight of the steel frame can be neglected.
The fat tires are a standard 26”(66.04cm) model with a width of 4”(10.16cm). This also provides SOME compensation to the lack of suspension but having at least a front suspension is recommended because fat tires and suspension are two very different things.
However, these fat tires are quite strong and can handle any type of beating just like the frame. Stability is another essential feature provided by fat-tire bikes; greater stability leads to better control which is ideal for beginners.
In terms of speed, the dolomite offers a 7-speed gear which makes is tuned for different types of terrain. The simplicity of the gear is a remarkable feature. Bikes with 20+ gears often confuse beginners. Therefore, climbing uphill and descending is made easier with simple gear shifts.
• Simple gear shifts
• Steel frame
• Fat tires that can ride through snow, sand, mud, etc
• Steel frame can be heavy of lightweight riders
• No suspension
• Only one size available (17”(43.18cm))
We started off our list with a Men’s bike from Mongoose, so it’s only fair that we feature a women’s bike next (#equality). This bike is also manufactured by Mongoose.
This bike is an absolute steal with its aluminum full suspension frame. The sleek design is ideal for women on the lower side of the height scale and teens. The robust aluminum frame supports a maximum load of around 200lbs(91kg). The bike is easy to control and very agile.
The frame is around 14”(35.56cm) and weighs around 44lbs(20kg) which is ideal for women to maneuver. The 24”(60.95cm) wheels size assists in the agility but compromises strength and the ability to easily overcome any obstacle. However, none of that matters because the bike offers full suspension.
The dual suspension system provides the utmost comfort. This is the best type of suspension out there and it will make you feel like you are cycling on a paved road when faced with hilly terrain.
The bike offers a 21 speed Shimano rear derailleur, triple ring crankset, twist, and turn shifters from SRAM coupled with a linear-pull brake system. These types of brake don’t require much force and are ideal for women.
• Ideal for short women – petite frame and wheel size
• Bike stand and chain guard
• Relatively heavy for the size
• Only one size: 14” (35.56cm)
Not all MTB enthusiasts live surrounded by mountains. Our city dwellers have to get out of the city to hit the trails. Therefore, the portability of an MTB would be an amazing extra feature. The Max4out folding bike delivers exactly this.
The carbon steel frame can be folded for convenient portability with its quick-release clamp and fits great in the boot of a car. The bike also delivers an exceptional riding experience with dual suspension. Again, the dual suspension is a surprise at this price range because of the standard type in this price range in either rigid or hardtail suspension.
The frame is unique in terms of looks and geometry. The only link between the top pipe and the rear triangle is through the back suspension because the seat tube does not reach the rear fork. Therefore, the dual suspension in this bike is in full swing.
The bike is also aesthetically pleasing with its 26”(66.04cm) wheels paired with a 6 spoke rim setting which is bound to turn some heads.
The bike also offers a 21-speed setting paired with cable disk brakes which makes it ideal for any kind of terrain.
• Carbon-steel combination
• Knobby tires
• Quick-release fold mechanism
• Weak plastic pedals
• Wheel quality is low
• Only one size
So far we’ve featured bikes with rigid suspension and full suspension. At number 4 the Merax Finiss is a lightweight aluminum bike with a hardtail suspension system.
The easy to assemble aluminum alloy frame is designed aerodynamically and is quite robust. It can handle any a maximum load of up to 240lbs(109kg).
With a curved top tube that seems to extend from the handlebar to the rear wheel, the Merax finiss looks sleek and stylish. The frame is also heat-treated to ensure durability.
The 26”(66,04cm) industry-standard wheels are also heat-treated and are made of a magnesium alloy which makes it very strong and lightweight at the same time.
Another special feature is the double-walled alloy rims which add to the strength of the wheels. Doubled walled rims are an excellent addition to mountain bikes that take some pounding on hilly terrain.
The front suspension offers an aluminum lockout function that provides extra control and a smoother experience. The well-crafted suspension is very responsive with an 80mm travel. Both these features ensure the driver can overcome challenges and that the chance of having an accident is reduced.
Shimano aluminum brake levers are used to control the mechanical disk brakes installed in the front and rear wheels.
The bike uses Shimano tourney components for the front/rear derailleurs and the shifters. The tourney groupset is the lowest in this hierarchy and is a given at this price range like I previously mentioned.
• Heat-treated aluminum frame
• Heat-treated Magnesium double-walled wheels
• Unique geometry
• Seat quality is low
• One size: 19”(48.26cm)
Most of us already know how reputable the diamondback brand is. For those that don’t, the diamondback brand is highly regarded in the cycling world. High-end diamondback MTB bikes can cost $5000 or more. Fortunately, the Overdrive 27.5”(68.84cm) sits on the border of our budget at $499.99.
The overdrive is easily one of the best mountain bikes you can buy for your money’s worth in this price range. The bike uses well-known components all round from the brakes, derailleurs to even the hardtail suspension system.
The lightweight frame is constructed of premium quality material and can be seen with just one glance at the stylish bike. The butted aluminum alloy cuts off the weight and adds strength to the frame. It can withstand any type of terrain.The frame also comes in 4 size – small (16”/40.64cm), Medium (18”/45.72cm), Large (20”/50.8cm) and an Extra Large (22”/55.88cm).
The 27.5”(69.85cm) wheels are a sweet spot, as previously mentioned between the 26”(66.04cm) and 29ers (73.66cm). The large wheels provide agility and the ability to overcome any type of obstacle with ease. Paired with Kenda Honey Badgers tires the ride experience is guaranteed to be comfortable and smooth.
The Overdrive comes with an SR Suntour suspension fork with 80mm of travel which is quite standard.
The bike offers 24 speeds with entry-level Shimano derailleurs and shifters. The brakes used are the Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes and are very efficient.
• A good set of components
• 4 different sizes
• Butted aluminum
• Plastic pedals
• The suspension doesn’t offer lockout function
• Uncomfortable seat
The DRT series is a Co-op cycles mountain bike range. This range is quite diverse and has a verity of bikes with different kinds of suspension to suit both beginners and experts.
DRT 1.1 is the entry-level bike just after DRT 1 and is ideal for beginners. This bike is $49 above our price range but WE had to include it in our list.
There is a DRT 1.1 for everyone out there. The bike has 5 frame sizes along with 2 colors. To be honest the bike isn’t stylish and looks plain but it makes up in terms of performance.
The DRT 1.1 is considered a trail bike and the two highlighted features of this entry-level bike are the 27.5”(69.85cm) wheels and the front suspension. The front suspension has a travel of 100mm which is higher than all the bikes featured on our list so far.
The 27.5”(69.85cm) wheelset again gives the best of both worlds providing agility and efficiency along with the 2.1 inches wide Kedra Kadre tires. This package combined screams comfort and control at the same time.
Another exciting feature is the hydraulic braking system. This is the first bike on our list with hydraulic braking and is a gem in this price range.
The 21 gear speed is offered by the Shimano Tourney groupset which is basic and disappointing given the fact that this bike is a bit above our budget. This bike would have been better if they used a better groupset like the Altus.
• 100mm front suspension
• Hydraulic Brakes
• 5 sizes
• Tourney Groupset
Our 7th entry is a highly versatile trail bike from Giant.
The bike is sleek, curvy, and has a matte finish that makes it look amazing. The frame is made of butted aluminum therefore the bike is super light. All the cables are internally routed and therefore increase the lifetime of the bike.
The bike is offered in 6 sizes which is honestly super great because everyone can find a perfect fit. The XX-Small and the X-small come with 26”(66.04cm) wheels and the remaining 4 sizes are fitted with 27.5”(69.85cm) wheels.
The wheels used are Giant’s in-house brand paired with alloy doubles wall rims for added strength. The 2.1”(5.33cm) wide tires are knobby for increased traction and can tread on any type of terrain assisted by the 100mm travel hardtail suspension
The ATX 2 has a 21-speed gear system powered by the Shimano Tourney groupset, which is expected at this price range. The 21 gears are split into 3 gears in the front and 7 in the rear, enabling the rider to climb any type of steep inclines. The tourney groupset should be maintained with care. Shifting should be done carefully and not under tension.
A Shimano trigger shifter is used to operate the gears. Yet again even this bike would have been a killer if the Shimano Altus was used.
Tektro mechanical disk brakes appear to be standard at this price range with rare exceptions like the DRT 1.1.
• Lightweight butted aluminum
• Looks good
• 6 different sizes
• 100mm hardtail suspension
• Aggressive riding style might not suit everyone
At 31lbs(14kg) the Catalyst 4 is made up of an aluminum frame. To be accurate, the Catalyst 4 has a SmartForm C3 Alloy, 6061 Aluminum frame.
SmartForm C3 is Cannondale’s entry-level construction. Nevertheless, it uses the same 6061 aluminum alloy similar to the SmartForm C1, C2, and C1 Premium and the same techniques as the rest of the line but is rendered in a manner that makes them less costly.
The 6061 Aluminum alloy is lightweight and durable and will withstand any type of trail.
This drivetrain has the perfect combo of parts for an entry-level bike and will be sufficient for beginners who’ve just gotten into mountain biking.
The front and rear derailleur are fitted with the Shimano Tourney groupset. It is considered the most basic groupset in the Shimano groupset product line. This is expected as the Catalyst 4 is an entry-level MTB. With proper maintenance and care, they will perform their task well. Just keep in mind that the groupset cannot handle shifts during high tension.
As expected, the catalyst 4 is fitted with mechanical disk brakes. The bike uses a standard disk with 160mm rotors on both ends. The brake support on this bike is pretty standard and does well even in wet conditions.
The Shimano EF41 brake/shift lever used also belongs to the tourney groupset and is pretty standard and fits perfectly with the braking system on an entry-level bike.
The biggest let down of this bike is the SR Suntour M3030-27 fork with a 75mm travel. Considered an entry-level fork, it uses a coil spring with a Preload adjuster. We’ve seen 80mm travel on bikes cheaper than this.
• Strong Cannondale alloy frame
• 75mm fork travel
The trek marlin 4 is our first 29er on this list. In brief, this bike is perfect for the beginners out there. It is highly versatile and can be used as a mountain bike or a commuter.
The bike frame is a highlight feature of this budget mountain bike. The Alpha aluminum frame by Trek is spotted on most of their expensive models as well. All the cables are routed internally for a better finish and also has a rack, fender and kickstand mount.
The geometry is also progressive in the sense that the small sizes have a lower top tube that dips and gives the shorter rider more standover height. The frame is also in 7 different sizes, yes, SEVEN sizes which is pretty impressive. The finish on the bike makes it look modern and appealing.
The fork is a bit heavy and can be ridden 100mm. It’s pretty decent for a beginner who won’t be affected by the difference in fork weight. The fork lacks a lockout feature.
In terms of gears, the bike has Shimano Tourney 21 speeds drivetrain and is split into 3 and 7 gears in the front and back respectively. Trek could have improved in terms of tooth range. The marlin 4 has a tooth range of 14x28 which isn’t the best for steep situations.
All sizes come with Bontrager wheels and tires but the smaller sizes(XS and S) come with a 27.5”(69.85cm) tire for better control and the rest comes with 29ers.
• Progressive geometry
• Knobby tires
• Appealing look
• 100mm fork travel• 7 sizes
• Insufficient tooth range
• The fork can be quite heavy
Our final entry is another sleek killer from Cannondale. This model from Cannondale is also quite versatile and can be used for mountain biking, commuting, casual strolling, etc.
The trail 8 also uses the Smartform C3 aluminum frame used by the catalyst 4. Therefore, the frame because it is guaranteed to deliver.
Added features include internally routed derailleur cables, not 1 but 2 water bottle holders, and a rack mount at the back.
The fork is a bit of disappointment with only a 75mm travel and is also quite heavy.
Since this is an entry-level bike like almost all on this list, the drivetrain used is the Shimano Tourney groupset. It should be maintained with great care and cannot withstand much abuse. The tooth range is pretty remarkable with a range of 11-34T and is can handle steep hills with ease.
Tektro cable-actuated disk brakes along with 160mm rotor disks in the front and back do a pretty decent job in stopping the bike in all types of conditions.
The bike is available in 4 sizes and the smallest size sports 27.5”(69.85cm) tires while the others come with 29ers.
The front tires are wider than the rear set up resulting in better corners and descents downhill.
• Looks modern
• 4 sizes
• Varied tire widths
• Heavy fork
If you have some experience, mountain bikes under 500 aren’t for you.
A beginner might have just got into mountain biking and occasionally hits the trails a couple of times each week.
An ideal bike for a beginner would have an aluminum alloy frame along with components that are in the lowest level of the groupset hierarchy such as Shimano Acera, at least 75-100mm fork travel, 21+ gears, and disk brakes.
For amateurs, mountain bikes are a broad category of bikes and can be broken down into 5 types.
Each of these bikes has different purposes.
Trail Bikes – These are the most common types of mountain bikes. Considered all-rounders, these bikes perform well if almost any type of terrain. Train bikes are quite sturdy and are highly efficient.
Cross Country – These are perfect for our speed addicts. Similar to trail bikes these are also quite sturdy, but they are built with speed and heightened climbing power in mind. They are usually lighter and different in geometry to trail bikes in terms of the head tube angle.
Fat Tire Bikes - These bikes are not as agile as the other types of mountain bikes, but the fat tires can take you over almost any type of terrain. Tires with a width greater than 3.7inches are categorized as fat-tire bikes. These tires can take up vibrations but aren’t the same as suspension which I will be getting to later on.
Enduro/Downhill Bikes – Ideal for the roughest and the most challenging terrains out there. These require more experience to handle. MTB competitors use these kinds of bikes for downhill challenges. The increased suspension assists in riding downhill at higher speeds.
All-Mountain Bikes - Highly efficient bikes with greater technical features for all kinds of terrain. Suspension travel in All-mountain bikes is generally higher than in trail bikes.
Each of these bikes has more technical differences in terms of geometry and components which I haven’t explained in detail. But as a beginner, an ideal choice would be a trail or all-mountain bike.
Fat tire bikes and suspensions are not alternatives. They are two very different things.
Fat tires only give you traction, they don’t absorb shock that well. That being said, if you use a fat tire bike as your main bike, you might want to consider one with full suspension rather than a rigid model for a better and comfortable ride.
Rigid model? Full suspension?
You got one more type to consider, Hardtail bikes.
Mountain bike suspension can be broken down into three main types:
Rigid Suspension: The cheapest suspension option is not to have any suspension at all (don’t forget to wear your mouthguard). These are not recommended for rocky terrain.
Hardtail Suspension: Usually common in this price range, only the front wheel has some type of suspension while the rear is rigid hence the name hard-‘tail’. Maintenance is quite minimal and ideally, the suspension in the front should have a lock function to avoid a bumpy ride on a smoother surface.
Full Suspension: As you can identify from the name, these types of bikes have suspension in their front and rear wheels. Often high levels of comfort come with a substantial price tag and high maintenance.
Most mountain bikes are made of aluminum alloys and especially at this price range, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find carbon fiber frames.
Aluminum is lightweight especially when it is butted and also quite durable. It is also resistant to corrosion, therefore with proper maintenance you are guaranteed to use your aluminum frame for quite a long period.
Steel is quite heavy and is counterproductive when used in a mountain bike frame.
Carbon fiber is the lightest but can also crack if damaged rather than a dent.
It is always recommended to try a bike to get the correct fit because the size charts can be off by one to two sizes sometimes.
If you have to buy online and is stuck in deciding between two sizes, always opt for the bigger size because a bigger frame can be made to feel small with a few adjustments easily than making a small bike feel bigger.
Men and women should also pick suitable mountain bikes due to differences in geometry. Women’s bikes are made to accommodate the female anatomy with features such as a short top tube and many more.
However, many bikes today are made with both genders in mind and can be enjoyed by both men and women.
When mountain bikes first came out, the only option was 26”(66.04cm) wheels, but now you can pick between 27.5”(69.85cm) and 29”(73.66cm) They are generally known as 29ers.
Wheel size matters a lot and its always a choice between comprising between efficiency and agility.
Wheels with higher diameters can easily get over any type of obstacle while wheels with smaller diameters are quite nimble.
The 26-inch (66.04cm) wheel was the industry standard for quite some time. They are great for beginners and entry-level riders because they provide better control of the bike.
27.5-inch (69.85cm) wheels are often preferred by many riders because it sits between the 2 extremes. You kind of get of the best of both worlds. Better efficiency than the 26-inch (66.04cm) models and more nimble than the 29ers.
29ers add some significant weight to the bike but can easily overcome any type of obstacle or terrain.
Expect to find entry-level groupset in this price range such as Shimano Tourney/Altus or SRAM X3/X4.
The entry-level groupset is used for light use while groupset higher up the hierarchy such as Shimano XTR or SRAM XX1 is used for racing or by aggressive experienced riders.
You’ll see 21 or 24 speeds on mountain bikes in this range. This means the bike will have a triple front chainring with either 7 or 8 speeds rear cassettes. Ideally, a front chainring for a mountain bike should have a setup of 42/34/24T.
These numbers refer to the number of teeth in each ring. Higher the number of teeth, the higher your pedal stroke efficiency will be. Chainrings will a smaller number of teeth are easier to pedal but offer less speed.
You are guaranteed to find cable-actuated disk brakes in this price range with rare exceptions of hydraulic disk brakes.