There's nothing that should stop you getting out on the trails on a budget
Find the best cheap mountain bike for you. Our list has been split into: budget bikes under £500, under £750, under £1,000 hardtail and under £1,000 full suspension.
We believe that the best cheap mountain bikes are the most important bikes in our sport – these are the bikes that will hook you into a new sport and a whole new way of life.
Get the best cheap mountain bike for you
We’ve decided to split the best cheap mountain bike list into four categories: £500, £750, £1,000 hardtails 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 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.
Scroll below to find the best cheap mountain bike…
The best mountain bikes for £500
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.
£500 MTB: 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
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!
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.
The best mountain bikes for £750
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.
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.
£750 MTB: 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
- Kevlar beaded tyres
The best mountain bikes for under £750
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.
Nukeproof Scout Sport
Very much a playful hardtail for ragging around and having a blast on as opposed to a mile-munching sat-down cross country hardtail.
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 best £1,000 hardtail mountain bikes
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 trave
- More advanced components
The best hardtail mountain bikes for under £1000
Forme Ripley 2
Phrases like “neutral” and “well mannered” often sound like feint praise or a polite way of dealing with a boring bike. Not so with the Forme Ripley 2. A comfy and decidedly nippy mountain bike.
It may be lacking a dropper post compared to some of its rivals but the cornering ability of this bike is unparalleled in this hard-fought category. An addictive ride that is easy to love.
Norco Fluid HT+ 7.2
Thee’s arguably no finer example of the ultra modern hardtail. This bike has everything: dropper post, progressive geometry, grippy and cushy Plus tyres. You may never want a full suspension bike with this ride.
The best £1,000 full suspension mountain bikes
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.
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
- Branded suspension
The best full suspension mountain bikes for under £1,000
Apologies for the lack of 2017 models reviewed here. We’re currently working our way through the 2017 versions of many of these models. All of these are still well worth browsing the 2017 range for though.
Boardman Team FS
You still get one of the best-dressed bikes for under a grand, but the frame now possesses a ride quality that’s every bit as fitting as the finishing kit adorning it.
It’s not just the Voodoo’s frame finish that’s sleek though. The riding position is also dialled, and the bike pedals efficiently and makes surprisingly light work of the climbs for a 140mm-travel bike. It’s on the descents however, that the Zobop reveals its true colours. This bike is a total shredder.
For a penny shy of a grand, the price tag is certainly entry-level for a 130mm-travel bike; the ride quality however, is anything but. From local lunchtime loops, to bike park blasting, the Bossnut proved time and time again that it’s a trail bike without compromise. It’s not just about going fast, however, it’s also guaranteed to put a massive smile on your face every time you take it for a blast.
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.