There's nothing that should stop you getting out on the trails on a budget
Find the best cheap mountain bike for you. These are the bikes that will hook you into a new sport and a whole new way of life.
We believe that the best cheap mountain bikes are the most important bikes in our sport. These bikes are potential life-changers.
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With £500-£700 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-£700 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 with a £500-£700 MTB
- A weight of 30-32lbs or less
- A modern, aluminium frame that fits you well
- A decent, coil-sprung, budget fork or budget air-sprung fork with a lockout
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Larger volume tyres with teeth that bite into loose dirt and mud
- A modern aluminium frame that fits you well
- Kevlar beaded tyres
Voodoo Wazoo 275+
Voodoo Wazoo brings two firsts to the £500 hardtail category: first bike to sport 2.8in Plus tyres and to benefit from the extra stiffness of a bolt-thru fork. Of the two, it’s the high-volume tyres that are game changing. By increasing the amount of rubber on the trail you can turn in harder, brake later and find traction where other bikes spin out. But it is not just grip that’s increased. With bigger tyres you can run lower pressures so they offer more comfort and control too.
Pinnacle Kapur 2
The £475 Pinnacle Kapur 2 hardtail takes its inspiration and features from its more expensive Iroko sibling. One of the best sub-£500 hardtails out there. New kid on the sub £500 block is the Kapur 2 and boy does it show. With progressive geometry and a great cockpit layout that sees a stubby 45mm stem and 760mm wide handlebar, it’s streets ahead of the similarly priced Specialized Pitch Sport and Diamondback Sync 3.0.
In a blind test with the other bikes here the Voodoo Bizango would easily come out top because it has a superb frame with good geometry, lots of tyre clearance and it’s configured for modern 1x drivetrains. It also has the best performing fork on test, weighs the least and is a total blast to ride. That’d easily be enough to win this test but the Bizango 29 is also a £100 cheaper than the competition and just recently we’ve noticed that it is discounted to £530, making it one of the best value hardtails we’ve ever tested.
Specialized Pitch Sport
A great handling bike available in an impressive range of sizes. We were especially impressed with the custom damping of the suspension fork. Above and beyond from Specialized. Well done! Sharp handling with looks to match. Great size range.
Vitus Nucleus 275 VR
A perfect score for this legendary mountain bike. How we wished we had a bike this good when we first started out off-road! The only limitation is the lack of an XL sizing. Other than that, perfect. In mountain bike development standing still is akin to going backwards, so it’s great to see Vitus swimming against a tide of average hardtails and progressing. With a brand new frame and some subtle tweaks to the build kit, the 2018 Nucleus VR is better than ever and it’s still the £500 bike to beat. Lighter, faster and more fun than anything else in its class, nothing comes close to matching its performance. In fact, mountain bikers have never had to so good and the Vitus Nucleus VR is the tide that’s lifting all boats in the sub £500 harbour.
Very, very nearly a perfect 10 bike. As it is, a 9 out of 10 rating is impressive. Fundamentally the Whyte 605 has the best all round handling of any bike at this price point. And that’s the main thing. But it isn’t perfect. There are a couple of iffy component choices, like the square-taper crankset, none-branded hubs and summer only WTB tyres, but what stops the 605 getting a perfect 10 is the fact that Whyte’s award-winning 800 and 900 bikes are totally dialled. If Whyte could trickle down the geometry and handling, and fit a proper front tyre and a wider bar, the 605 would be on a completely different level to any other bike in the category.
Cannondale Trail 4
Despite needing a couple of components tweaks – we’d recommend discussing some swap-outs at time of purchase – the Cannondale Trail 4 is a top quality frameset. Ideal for cross country riders. Loads of sizes available too, which is nice.The Trail 4 has the best-finished frame on test, with some nice touches like the slim seat stays, which really help soften the ride over rough terrain.
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 £500-£700 a pretty good topping out point for your first mountain bike.