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Climb Easy with the Best Mountain Bikes Under $500

Conrad Kühn
March 29, 2024

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.

Round-Up of Products

Preview Bike Model Weight Frame Suspension Speed More Information
Trek Skye Women’s – 2018 Trek Marlin 4  32lbs (15kg)  Aluminum  Hardtail  21 Check Price
Trek Skye Women’s – 2018 Giant ATX 2 30.5lbs (14kg)  Aluminum   Hardtail 21  Check Price
 Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Bike for Men  Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Bike for Men  48lbs (22kg) Steel  Rigid  7 CHECK PRICE
Trek Skye Women’s – 2018 Co-op DRT 1.1 32lbs (15kg)  Aluminum  Hardtail   21 Check Price
 Mongoose Maxim Girls MTB Mongoose Maxim Girls MTB   44lbs (20kg)  Aluminum  Full  21 CHECK PRICE

6 Best Mountain Bikes Under $500 – Reviewed


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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


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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


Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike, For Men and Women, 26 Inch Wheels, 4 Inch Wide Knobby Tires, 7-Speed, Adult Steel Frame, Front and Rear Brakes, Navy Blue

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.


• Affordable

• 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))


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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


Mongoose Maxim Girls Mountain Bike, 24-Inch Wheels, Aluminum Frame, 21-Speed Drivetrain, Lavender

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

• Full-suspension


• Relatively heavy for the size

• Only one size: 14” (35.56cm)

Factors To Consider Before Buying


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.

cycling in the mountains


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.

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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