There's nothing that should stop you getting out on the trails on a budget.

At MBR we believe that budget and beginner bikes are the most important in the sport – these are the bikes that will either hook you in to a new sport, or spit you out and end up rotting the garden shed.

>>> Click here for our Hardtail of the Year test

We’ve decided to split the best cheap mountain bike list into four categories: £500, £750, £1,000 hardtail and £1,000 full suspension. By splitting it up into four categories we seek to cater to every budget and taste.

We wouldn’t normally have included a £1,000 full suspension category because historically the best option at that price point would be a well specced hardtail.

 

However, with a new breed of affordable suspension bikes, all sporting the latest 650b wheels and upwards of 120mm travel, there’s never been a better time to buy an entry-level full suspension bike.

We wouldn’t recommend spending any less than this on a full suspension though, the components simply can’t compete with those you would find on a hardtail at that price.

>>> Click here for 7 products every mountain biker needs

Scroll below to find the best cheap mountain bike:

The best mountain bikes for £500

A solid frame keeps the Trek composed (Fowler)

 

With £500 burning a hole in your pocket, you can get a seriously good mountain bike. At this price point, all of the bikes use lightweight, aluminium frames and you get hydraulic disc brakes as standard.

Don’t get too caught up in the number of gears or the level of the specification, however, as it’s the suspension fork that really makes or breaks a £500 hardtail. Find the best fork, and invariably you’ve found the best bike.

Tyres also play a big part in performance, as they are your only contact point with the ground. On a hardtail, wider, bigger volume tyres are best as they provide better grip and more shock absorption. You also want a tread pattern with teeth to bite into loose dirt and mud.

What to look for:

  • A weight of 14.5kg (32lbs) or less
  • A modern, aluminium frame that fits you well
  • A decent, coil-sprung, budget fork
  • Hydraulic disc brakes
  • Larger volume tyres with teeth that bite into loose dirt and mud

The best mountain bikes for under £500

Trek Marlin 7 £500

Specialized Pitch Sport 650b £500

Halfords 13 Incline Alpha £499.99

The best mountain bikes for £750

Cheap mountain bikes riding shot 2

One rung up the hardtail ladder doesn’t bring a shift in frame quality or attitude, but you do get lots in the way of small incremental improvements.

For starters, air-sprung, rather than coil, forks make an appearance, which saves weight and makes set-up much easier.

The best bikes also get Kevlar, as opposed to steel, bead tyres to reduce the rotational weight of the wheels and give the bike more zip. Gearing is also improved with 2×10 and 3×10 drivetrains replacing the 3×9 systems found on most £500 bikes.

>>> Find the seven best upgrades here

Taken together, these marginal gains offer a big step-up in performance. And more expensive components means the best £750 bikes can be as much as 2kg lighter than the £500 models.

What to look for:

  • A weight of 13.5kg (30lbs) or less
  • A modern aluminium frame that fits you well
  • A budget air-sprung fork with a lockout
  • A 2×10 or 3×10 drivetrain
  • Kevlar beaded tyres

The best mountain bikes for under £750

Canyon Grand Canyon AL 5.9 £747

Voodoo Bizango 29 £599.99

B’Twin Rockrider Big 8 £749

Scott Scale 770 £699

Whyte 802 Compact £750

The best £1,000 hardtail mountain bikes

best cheap bike riding 4

Not long ago, all the bikes in the £1,000 category were rolling on 29in wheels. This year the tables have been turned once again, and 27.5in (also known as 650b) is the dominant wheel size.

However, it’s attitude, not wheel size, that really sets these top-tier bikes apart. Thanks to their relaxed, trail-focused geometry you can absolutely fly on the best £1,000 hardtails.

Which is why there’s no room for error. Every single component needs to be up to speed, and if the brakes, fork, tyres or sizing aren’t on the money, there’s nowhere to hide.

What to look for:

  • A weight of 12.8kg or less
  • A modern aluminium frame with a more aggressive geometry
  • Mid-range air-sprung fork with 120mm or more travel
  • A 2×10 or 1×10 drivetrain
  • More advanced components

The best hardtail mountain bikes for under £1000

Vitus Sentier VRS £944.99

Bird Zero.3 £995

Ghost Kato 7 £979.99

The best £1,000 full suspension mountain bikes

Cheap bikes riding 7

As Giant seems to be the only big brand interested in the £1,000 category, you may have to cast the net a little wider to find the best bikes.

For £1,000 you can now get top-quality air sprung forks and shocks to help keep the weight in check. This means you’ll need nothing more than a shock pump to get the optimum set up for your weight.

>>> How to set up your new mountain bike

The problem at this point is in sizing. Extra frame sizes would mean extra tooling and the average price of the bikes would begin to skyrocket.

Unfortunately, this does mean that if you’re really tall or really short , your choice will be limited. Still, if the shoe fits, you can get a truly amazing full-suss bike for under a grand.

What to look for:

  • A weight of 14.5kg (32lbs) or less
  • A modern aluminium frame with aggressive geometry
  • A quality fork and shock with 120-130mm travel
  • 650b wheels
  • a 2×10 drivetrain

The best full suspension mountain bikes for under £1,000

Boardman Team FS (2016) review

The last time we tested the Team FS we complained that our knees knocked on the upper shock linkage and…

£999.99
Score 9

That should be all the information you need to go and purchase your mountain bike with confidence.

Of course, you can spend more but you start to get into diminishing returns – the more you spend the less you get for your money. Making £1,000 a pretty good topping out point for your first mountain bike.