Find the best mountain bikes under $/£500 for you. Be warned: all of these great value bikes will hook you into a new sport and a whole new way of life.
The very best mountain bikes under £500 always remind us that there’s nothing that should stop you getting out on the trails on a budget. Sure you can pick up something called a ‘mountain bike’ in a supermarket for £/$50 but good luck paying the subsequent dental bills. In the last two years, there has been a massive increase in demand for cheap mountain bikes fuellled by Covid, and alongside this there have been supply chain issues, increases in shipping costs, raw material price rises and additional Brexit costs, which means there are nowhere near as many quality sub £500 mountain bike options as there used to be. This guide covers only the bikes that have been tried and tested by us and we’re happy to put our name against, which is why a few of them are now just above the £/$500 threshold.
Simply astounding spec and performance for the price
Wheel size: 27.5in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.38kg | Suspension travel: 120mm front | Rating: 10/10
Pros: Ride quality and build kit belie its price tag Cons: Demand always outstrips supply, so be quick!
By bestowing the same level of detail on the Nucleus VR that most other brands reserve for their flagship models, Vitus has had amazing success with its entry-level hardtail. Every year without fail, Vitus has tweaked the Nucleus VR to ensure that it stays ahead of the competition. And by a couple of steps, it’s often superior to most of the bikes in the sub-£750 class of our Hardtail of the Year test. Sadly, as is the case with so many bikes recently, the price has gone up and availability is scarce. However, if you see the Nucleus come into stock, don’t hesitate to snap it up, even at the current price, as it’s still a bargain and by far the best hardtail mountain bike at this price.
Quality alloy frame with modern geometry that makes a great platform for future upgrades
Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.6kg | Suspension travel: 120mm front | Rating: N/A
Pros: Amazing price, great geometry and range of sizes, spot-on cockpit and component choices, and an active fork. Cons: The fork tops out with a clunk.
Using the same frame as the multi award-winning Voodoo Bizango (featured below) the Braag saves money in a few areas to bring the price point under £600. So you get the same confident, fun handling and excellent spread of sizes, along with a wide-range yet simple 9-speed drivetrain and a plush coil-sprung suspension fork. The only fly in the ointment is that the fork can get a bit clunky, but overall this is a killer bike for the money and one you can upgrade as your skills progress.
Decent entry-level MTB
Wheel size: 27.5in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 15kg | Suspension travel: 120mm front | Rating: 9/10
Pros: 120mm travel suspension fork from Suntour Cons: Handlebar is narrow and quirky
Leading the charge is a Suntour XCM fork with 120mm travel giving you more confidence and control in rough terrain. That might not sound like much but it makes a huge difference to the ride comfort of the Vulcan, it covers the ground smoothly and with less chatter and vibration.
What to look for with a circa-£500 MTB? A weight of 30-32lbs (13.6–14.5kg) or less. A modern, aluminium frame that fits you well. A decent, coil-sprung, budget fork or budget air-sprung fork with a lockout. The fork makes or breaks a budget bike. Hydraulic disc brakes. Larger volume tyres with knobs that bite into loose dirt and mud. A modern aluminium frame that fits you well. Kevlar beaded tyres.
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!