We’ve assessed the many hundreds of mountain bikes under $500 to be found at online outlets, and summarized what we’ve found to give you an instant guide as to what you should look for when you’re shopping. We’ve picked the top mountain bikes based on quality, price and popularity, to present you with our best recommendations. We do the same with related items like mountain bike saddles and gear sets.
We use multiple sources to do our analysis and make these recommendations. Our team keeps a constant eye out for customer reports and social media commentary—always an excellent source of intel. We also go through expert reviews and ratings and collate everything into a simple, yet comprehensive overview to make it easy for you to choose the right mountain bike to suit you. We consult with an experienced physiotherapist who is an expert on sports equipment to ensure that you not only get the best, but also the safest.
Our top pick
Our top choice is the Huffy Hardtail Mountain Bike. This is one of the best hardtail mountain bikes under $500. It’s a highly versatile 21-speed bike with linear pull hand brakes that deliver consistent stopping performance.
Happy buyers’ feedback is testimony to the bike’s versatility: “I love this bike and it’s easy to adjust to!” So if you’re looking for mountain bikes under $500, we can recommend this one at around $300.
If you’re looking for one of the cheapest mountain bikes that is still safe and reliable, choose the Mongoose Major Mountain Bike. It’s not only a good budget buy, it’s also one of the best women’s mountain bikes under $500 on the market.
It uses twist shifters for its 18-speed derailleur gear system and you can adjust the seat height without a tool. It’s a fun bike too, with one reviewer simply saying, “I had a blast on the trail!” You can get one for about $240.
Most popular mountain bike
One of the most popular mountain bikes under $500 also happens to be the one of the best full suspension mountain bikes under $500 that you can buy. The Schwinn High Timber Youth/Adult Mountain Bike offers a range of gear and wheel size options.
As one reviewer remarked, “the bike is precisely what I was looking for”. It has wide and knobby all-terrain tires so you can tackle trails with confidence, with an alloy crank that ensures steadier gearing. You can get it for around $450.
What to look for in mountain bikes under $500
Good mountain bikes under $500 need to have a smaller wheel diameter than a standard road bicycle. This makes for a sturdier and more controllable ride, and gives the steering a snappier response.
Make sure that you choose one with a wheel diameter no larger than 26”. You can go smaller, depending on your riding style. Also make sure that the wheel is made from a strong alloy, to prevent any kind of buckling over rough terrain, or if you’re ramping over obstacles.
Gears are possibly the most important component on a mountain bike when it comes to finding one that suits you best. The more gears on the bike, the easier it will be to ride on rough terrain, so novices should choose one with about 21 gears.
Experienced trail riders looking for mountain bikes under $500 can opt for fewer gears. This heightens the challenge and helps you to prepare for competitions. Fewer gears are also better for fitness training.
Instantly responsive brakes are non-negotiable on a mountain bike. The two types usually fitted are disc brakes (like a car’s) and V-brakes, the traditional brakes you find on a bicycle.
If you’re a serious rider, get a mountain bike with disc brakes, as they have more stopping power. Other cyclists can choose the usual V-brake style, as that will be more than adequate for most recreational trails.
Why trust us
Our resident medical expert, Ignacio Suárez is a well-known physiotherapist who specializes in postural re-education. As an expert in the field of sports therapy, he is centrally involved in our product analysis and recommendations.
When it comes to mountain bikes, he advises that you choose one that matches your skill level and overall fitness. Choose one with the most gears if you’re unfit and just starting out, to avoid muscle strains and transferred pain to your back from trying too hard to pedal.