Mountain biking is the perfect way to explore the wonders of Mother Nature. Single-track trails leading through the mahogany-brown trees of the Amazon forest give you an opportunity to make a deeper connection with nature.
Besides fostering an appreciation for nature, riding a mountain bike gives you a killer workout while also providing maximum fun. When is the last time you heard an individual say, “I just nailed it on the chest press machine and had such a blast!” Most likely- never.
One of the key reasons why individuals fall of the wagon of their exercise regimens is because they don’t find them fascinating. If you perform the same exercise routine day in and day out, you will end up getting bored and ultimately, quitting. But if you go mountain biking, you’ll realize that for every leg-burning hill that you climb, you’ll be rewarded with so much thrill.
Now that you know some benefits of mountain biking, you’re probably considering buying one. But with so many models on the market, choosing your first mountain bike or switching to a more advanced model can be a rather inundating task.
To ease this burden, we have highlighted some of the key features to look for in a mountain bike. We’ve also reviewed the best mountain bikes that you can get for under $500. For a quick assessment of the top ten mountain bikes that cost less than $500, check out our comparison table.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Mountain Bike
Have you been trying to figure out which mountain bike meets your needs best? This is how you should go about this:
- Bike style- each type of mountain bike is best suited for a particular riding styles. That said, the first thing you need to establish is the where and how you intend to ride your new mountain bike.
- Key features- there are a couple of essential features that you should check before buying any mountain bike. These include vital elements such as the wheel size, braking system, gearing and frame construction.
- Fit- the last thing to check is whether the bike fits you well.
Top 3 Product Comparison Chart
The mountain bikes available on the market are made from a wide range of materials. Now, you may come across people who are hell-bent on sticking to specific materials. You need not put too much consideration into one person’s opinion. There are numerous mountain bikes at all price points and although their frame constructions differ, you are bound to find a ride that you’ll love.
Ideally, the frame can be made from either one of four materials- aluminum, steel, carbon fiber or titanium. A majority of mountain bike manufacturers use aluminum for several reasons. For one, it’s pretty lightweight. Consequently, mountain bikes made of aluminum are light and hence easy to navigate, control and carry around. Being a metal, aluminum is also very sturdy so you’re guaranteed that your mountain bike will last a while. Lastly, aluminum is rust-resistant, a factor that adds to its durability.
Steel is the second most popular material. In fact, most traditional mountain bikes were often made of steel. Although it’s also a very sturdy material, steel will make your mountain bike feel very heavy. Apart from making your bike difficult to maneuver, the extra weight can be a huge inconvenience.
Imagine that you’re biking through the woods, exploring the fauna and flora that Mother Nature has to offer. But when you are halfway on your biking adventure, you get a flat tire and are forced to carry or drag your bike the rest of the way. If this mountain bike is made of steel, dragging it will be more difficult than flossing a cat’s teeth.
The only reason why bike manufacturers still make steel frames is because it keeps the production costs low. Titanium is almost as light as aluminum.
However, it’s pricier than aluminum so you’re likely to find titanium frames on high-end mountain bikes. Carbon fiber is used on a majority of cross-country bikes, fat bikes and even high-end bike models. Some of the perks that this material offer include strength and lightweight. The only downside to using carbon fiber is that it’s costly since it requires labor-intensive manufacturing.
Mountain Bike Brakes
When it comes to the braking system, you’ll have to choose between two main types: disc and rim brakes.
Disc brakes have been used in automobiles for a long time now. However, they have only recently been adapted in the biking industry. When they were first introduced, disc brakes caused a couple of issues. But thanks to technological progress, the current disc brakes whether they’re cable-actuated or hydraulic, perform incredibly well.
Overall, most mountain bikes prefer disc brakes to the rim ones. The reason for this is that disc brakes are not affected by wet or muddy conditions, and they require users to apply little force. The only drawback that disc brakes pose is the extra weight. Once you factor in everything, including the front and rear brakes, disc brakes lead to an additional 200 to 350 grams of weight. However, this weight also depends on the kind of rims and wheels installed on your mountain bike.
Although it seems like disc brakes are all the rage, rim brakes also offer a couple of benefits. For one, they’re much lighter than disc brakes. Secondly, they are very easy to adjust, and three, they require minimal maintenance. Activating the rim braking system is a cinch. All you need to do is pull the lever so as to elevate the cable tension.
Top 10 Mountain Bikes under $500
Our top pick is the Merax Finiss mountain bike. We ranked it as the best because it offers a good balance of design, performance and pricing.
Features and Benefits
A key highlight of the Merax Finiss mountain bike is its heat-treated aluminum frame. The fact the aluminum is heat-treated enables it to be on the lighter side of the spectrum. In fact, this bike weighs a measly 28 pounds, a factor that allows for easy portability and potential to hit high speeds.
In addition to its light weight, this mountain bike has a very attractive design. The red accents incorporated on the saddle and handlebar provide a perfect contrast to the black color scheme. What’s more, the bikes 26-inch wheels are much thinner than those of other bikes. This makes the Merax Finiss suitable for racing.
Since the bike is also fitted with Shimano components, it gives you a variety of speed choices to choose from. In total, there are about 21 speed controls that you can easily shift and adjust into.
Assembling the Merax Finiss is straightforward.
Features a lightweight design, making the bike easy to carry along.
Has dual disc brakes that provide a consistent brake performance.
Equipped with Shimano 21-speed system so you can choose from a wide range of speed options.
It’s suspension fork guarantees a smooth ride on rugged terrains.
Users have to lube the chain before they can use the mountain bike.
Damaged packaging in some instances
If you’re looking for a quality mountain bike but don’t want to spend a large sum of money, The Merax Finiss is an option worth considering. It has an eye-catching design, is light and easy to handle.
The Mongoose R2780 is, without a doubt, one of the best mountain bikes for under $500. This mountain bike is customized for newcomers, who are just getting started on this sport.
Features and Benefits
Impasse R2780 consists of a dual suspension system. Dual suspension bikes are always preferred by riders because of their ability to absorb shocks efficiently. Better shock absorption means a smoother riding experience and less fatigue as you ride.
Another aspect that makes this bike ideal for beginners is the range of speeds that it offers. Mongoose R2780 uses the Shimano 21-speed system; hence, providing entry-level riders with multiple speed choices. And to guarantee maximum safety, the bike features disc brakes, which are installed at the rear and front sides.
Plus, this mountain bike has 29-inch wheels. Although the large wheels will force you to ride at a slower speed, they also have the benefit of being able to conquer any terrain.
An ultra-affordable mountain bike with great attributes
Can accommodate cyclists of different sizes
Dual suspension for an easy ride
The frame is slightly shorter than for most mountain bikes
The suspension can be bouncy at times
The Impasse R2780 is an excellent entry-level mountain bike for the novice rider. This 29-inch wheeled bike is sure to give you a comfortable and smooth ride thanks to its full suspension system.
Vilano 2.0 is a well-rounded mountain bike perfect for both off and on-road adventures. As such, the one thing that makes this bike stand out is its multi-purpose capability.
Features and Benefits
The primary factor that determines the performance of any mountain bike is the frame weight. The frame of this mid-range mountain bike is made using double-butted 6061 aluminum. Put simply; this frame is partly aluminum, partly magnesium and partly silicone. The double butted design helps to reinforce certain parts of the frame; hence, increasing its overall efficiency.
Another plus of the Vilano Ridge 2.0 is that it delivers unrivaled stopping power. It’s fitted with mechanical disc brakes, which guarantee prompt stopping speed and optimal safety. The disc brakes also have several advantages over the rim brakes installed in other mountain bikes. For one, disc brakes are not affected by snow, ice or other wet conditions. They work consistently well in any weather condition.
Fitted with Shimano Integrated brake lever that provides excellent friction and reliability
Boasts a suspension fork with lockout for greater flexibility
Easy to assemble and disassemble
Comes in two sizes
It’s only available in the black and red deign
Fixing this mountain bike can be a little complex
It is difficult to find a mountain bike that is as well-rounded as the Vilano Ridge 2.0. Thanks to its high-end features, this mountain bike can be ridden on any terrain- whether rugged or friendly.
The “hard tail versus full-suspension” debate is one that will continue for a long time. Of course, each model has its fair share of merits and drawbacks. If you’re inclined to purchase a hard-tail mountain bike because of its lighter weight and cheaper price tag, the Vilano Blackjack 3.0 makes a strong contender.
Features and Benefits
This mountain bike offers the perfect balance between strength, comfort and speed. It also boasts a very solid build. For instance, the frame, which has been hand built, comprises of butted aluminum alloy. It means it’s light and also sturdy in the right places.
The suspension fork is another feature to admire in this mountain bike. With its suspension system, you’ll be able to tack any terrain with ease. Moreover, this bike features 29-inch wheels that provide maximum stability.
This monster machine also boasts a 24-speed drive train. If you love cycling at high speeds, the Vilano Blackjack won’t disappoint you. Equipped with the Shimano 8-speed shifter, this mountain bike will leave looking forward to another experience.
Comes with Shimano 8 Speed Integrated Shifter for flawless change of gear.
The lockable suspension system for easy shifting from off-road surface.
Made of aluminum frame, which is durable yet light for easy maneuvering.
Large wheels for a sturdy base.
Self-tuning this mountain bike can be challenging
Assembling it is a bit difficult
Vilano Blackjack hard trail bike has continued to appeal to riders because of its 24-speed drive train, 29-inch wheels and the Shimano 8-speed brake lever.
Are you a casual rider looking for a mountain bike to cycle on the streets and occasionally on off-roads? If so, the Protocol 1.0 mountain bike manufactured by Schwinn is the perfect fit for your needs.
Features and Benefits
For starters, this mountain bike has a dual suspension system, which makes it suitable for any kind of terrain. The dual suspension system provides better traction and easy maneuverability, which comes in handy for novice riders.
The Schwinn Protocol also boasts Shimano EF-50 Trigger shifters. These features provide fast, precise and easy shifting of fears. Plus, they work relatively well with the Shimano Altus rear derailleur. It is this blend of features that provides progressive power and great control regardless of the terrain you’re riding on.
Another feature that makes this mountain bike stand out is its high profile rims and tires. The bike has 26-inch wheels that provide excellent grip.
Comfortable to ride
The 26-inch wheels grip the road well
Shimano EZ-Fire trigger shifters ensure smooth changing of gears
Does not have any space to store water bottle and other accessories
The Schwinn Protocol 1.0 has made a name for itself as one of the best mountain bikes for city riding. Whether you want to hit the paved roads or go for occasional downhill riding, this mountain bike will serve you well.
The 2018 Gravity FSX 1.0 has provided the long-awaited answer to a gap that has filled the mountain bike industry. That one of entry-level mountain bikes that aren’t too expensive but still have state-of-the art components to provide a smooth riding experience. With this mountain bike, you will get a feel of what this sport is all about while also advancing your skills.
Features and Benefits
This mountain bike boasts advanced technologies that make it stand out from the crowd. These include the Shimano 24-speed shifter system, the CantiBeam SinglePivot technology, and an upgraded Suntour fork with adjustable preload. A combo of this features result in optimal efficiency and performance.
If you like speeding down on steep hills, then one thing you should pay more attention to when purchasing a mountain bike is its braking system. Gravity FSX 1.0 is equipped with Tektro Novella disc brakes both at the front and rear sides. With such brakes, your stopping ability will be swift and on-point.
Quick release wheels
Superb Shimano gearing system
Adjustable SunTour suspension forks
Pedals need to be replaced from time to time
Some improvements can be made on the saddle padding
Self-assembly is not easy
If you’re interested in a mountain bike that is feature-rich, look no further than the 2018 Gravity FSX 1.0. It has an impressive range of tech starting with the aluminum frame to the Tekro Novela disc brakes.
Best For Women- Under $500
- Made for riding moderate distance on light trails and pavement
- Sizing: xs=5'-5'3", s=5'3"-5'6", m=5'6"-5'9", l=5'9"-6'
- Designed for comfort with women's-specific upright geometry, a squishy suspension fork, Women's specific comfort saddle, and Women's specific grips
- Offers Shimano trigger shifters for easy shifting and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes for optimal stopping control in all weather conditions
As its name suggests, this mountain bike is designed with the female rider in mind. That fact alone should make you all eager to know the features that make it suitable for women. Beginner mountain bikers, particularly women, will often go for comfort, easy maneuverability and stability. The Raleigh Eva 3 offers all three features and then some.
Features and Benefits
Right off the bat, you will notice that the bike is pretty light. This is not surprising considering its frame is made of aluminum. With such a light bike, female riders can bike for as long as they want without getting fatigued.
Another thing we love in the Eva 3 mountain bike are its suspension forks, which are pretty steady. Plus, the bike is fitted with a cushy and wide plush saddle that guarantees optimal comfort for the rider. Moreover, this mountain bike also features a 24-speed drive train giving you a range of options to choose from for the specific terrain you’re riding on.
Raleigh Eva 3 mountain bike also comes with Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. So even if you’re new to this sport, you’ll be able to brake swiftly and easily when riding this bike.
Available in extra small, small, medium and large sizes
Designed to provide maximum comfort with the cushy saddle
Tektro hydraulic disc brakes for the ultimate stopping power
Consists of Kenda kadre wheels, which are wide to provide stability
The shipping box may arrive damaged
The Raleigh Eva 3 mountain bike is well-tuned for female comfort. The saddle, bar and grips are tailored for female riders and the suspension forks offer up to 100 m of travel.
If you’re not a fan of do-it-yourself projects, you’ll find activities as simple as assembling a couple of mountain bike parts pretty taxing. Luckily, the Raleigh Talus 3 is one of the few mountain bikes that is sold when it’s partially assembled.
Features and Benefits
The manufacturer claims that at least 85% of the bike is assembled when you purchase it. This eliminates the hassle of having to figure out which part goes into what section. It also saves on time, which comes in handy for persons with busy schedules.
Other that its easy assembly, there’s a lot more to love about this mountain bike. Like many bikes on our review, this one also has an aluminum frame, making it light and sturdy. It also comes with SR SunTour XCT suspension fork delivers about 100 m of travel; thus, helping to even out the bumps and to give you better control when riding.
Comes with a replaceable derailleur hanger which increases the lifespan of the frame
Equipped with rack and fender mounts for increased versatility
Features Tektro V-brakes for smooth management of speed
Available in a range of sizes starting from small to extra-large
The butted aluminum frame has a formed downtube that provides optimal power transfer
There may be issues with the gearing system
If you intend to use your mountain bike the minute it arrives, the Raleigh Talus 3 that requires very little assembly is an excellent option. Nonetheless, you may have to make a few adjustments so that it corresponds to your riding style.
If you’re looking for a mid-range mountain bike that could pass for a high-end model, the Merax Falcon certainly fits this bill. It boasts a stylish yet sleek frame, which gets many mountain bikers thinking that it’s a high-end mountain bike.
Features and Benefits
Aesthetics aside, the Merax Falcon performs well. It’s fitted with magnesium alloy wheels, which are light, making the bike weigh less than its competitors. The lightweight design makes it easy to control, especially if you’re biking on rugged terrains or bumpy roads.
Another feature that improves the ride quality of this mountain bike is its aluminum suspension fork. This component makes the bike very easy to maneuver. When fully assembled, Merax Falcon bike weighs in at 30 pounds. Its frame is about 19 inches, making the bike suitable for taller riders. However, it can only support a maximum weight of 330 lbs.
Features a lightweight design
Has a linear press braking system
The tires and pedals are made of anti-skid material to prevent falls
Has a stylish design
The chain needs to be lubed before use
Not recommended for long rides
Merax Falcon is another excellent choice for a mountain bike. Not only is it durable but it also has a sturdy and long frame suitable to suit tall riders.
The Kingtu G6 is certainly not our favorite pick but it still deserves to be on this top 10 list because it’s the only mountain bike that has a foldable design.
Features and Benefits
Although most mountain bikes are light, very few of them can be folded into compact sizes, which is where the Kingttu G6 outshines them. What’s more, this mountain bike gives you the comfort of a full suspension system, designed to tackle rugged terrains. The dual suspension implies that the tires are always in close contact with the surface; hence, providing the best traction.
Another plus of this mountain bike is the 16-inch frame that is best suited for riders who are about 5 feet 8 inches tall. Also, the stem of this mountain bike is constructed using forged aluminum so as to increase its durability.
But with all these handy features, why did we rank the Kingttu G6 bike last? Even though the bike is ideal for taller riders, its frame is made of steel, causing the bike to feel a little heavy. As mentioned earlier, steel is not as lightweight as aluminum, and this can cause difficulty when riding on bumpy roads and uneven surfaces.
Saves time when it comes to the assembly of the bike
Boasts a folding design
Ideal for taller riders
Has a dual suspension system
Free pedals and a comfy saddle included in the package
The frame is made of steel, making the bike a little heavy
Apart from the steel-made frame, the Kingttu G6 is an excellent mountain bike that can handle different terrains. And the best part is that it’s also delivered when it’s partially assembled.
How We Wrote This Review
We spent more than 20 hours sifting through the best mountain bikes models that we could find for under $500. We test-rode about a dozen of them that seemed very promising. And after comparing them on the basis of quality, pricing, and performance, we concluded that the eight reviewed mountain bikes are the best. These mountain bikes have features that address every user’s need and at a very decent pricing.
Finding the perfect mountain bike for less than $500 is not an impossible task. With a little research and comparison of the different models in our review, we’re confident that you’ll find one that addresses your needs. However, keep in mind that each mountain bike has its own unique qualities so you’ll have to match these benefits to the specific needs and expectations you want for your mountain bike.
Whether you are purchasing a bike for fitness purposes, leisure or economical commutes, you’ll have the best riding experience with any one of these mountain bikes.