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

Be warned: all of these great value bikes will hook you into a new sport and a whole new way of life. Find the best mountain bikes under £500 for you.

>>> Thinking of spending a bit more? Best mountain bikes under £1,000

What is a cheap mountain bike?

Capable bikes get cheaper all the time but for us the minimum budget is around £350. Sure you can pick up something called a ‘mountain bike’ in a supermarket for £50 but good luck paying the subsequent dental bills. A controllable bike that grips well and stops effectively currently costs £350.

The best cheap mountain bikes in 2020

Here our are current favourite best cheap mountain bikes. See the links to full reviews down the page.

  • Carrera Vulcan, £350
  • Norco Storm 4, £350
  • Calibre Two Cubed, £399
  • Voodoo Bantu, £450
  • Vitus Nucleus VR, £499
  • Pinnacle Kapur 2, £475

>>> Best hardtail mountain bikes in 2020 under £375, £500, £750 and £1000

Hardtails are the perfect way to start mountain biking

Hardtails are the perfect way to start mountain biking

What to look for with a sub-£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

Carrera Vulcan

Carrera Vulcan, £350

Rating: 9/10

Leading the charge is a Suntour XCM fork with 120mm travel making it the biggest suspension fork here with 20mm more than most bikes at this price. 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 without the chatter and vibration of some of the other bikes here.

Read the full review of the Carrera Vulcan

norco storm

Norco Storm 4, £350

Rating: 9/10

While the Carrera Vulcan’s standout feature was its spec level, to the detriment perhaps of the frame, on the Storm it’s the other way round. Canadian brand Norco has produced a sumptuous frame that, on pure sizing and fit, is the best on test, but poor spec choices drop it down the rankings.

Read the full review of the Norco Storm 4

Calibre Two Cubed, £399

Rating: 10/10

The Two Cubed has the distinct advantage of being heavily discounted. The Go Outdoors loyalty card slices the list price from £599 from £399, then a further introductory promotion brought the price down to £350. Impressive indeed, but it’s not simply about price. The Two Cubed frame has the best sizing and most modern geometry out there, making it easy and more fun to ride than its rivals. It’s still something of anomaly this this price though, but we suspect that the Calibre Two Cubed will be the rising tide that helps elevates all the bikes in this class.

Read the full review of the Calibre Two Cubed

best cheap mountain bikes

Voodoo Bantu, £450

Rating: 9/10

Voodoo has once again developed a bike that is an absolute pleasure to ride and feels properly at home on proper off-road trails. The build kit is exemplary with the double chainset going someway to simplify the drivetrain – something we think is great for new riders. At £450 the Bantu is a hell of a bike but we’ve noticed that it’s currently priced at just £350, making it potentially the steal of the century.

Read the full review of the Voodoo Bantu

best cheap mountain bikes

Pinnacle Kapur 2, £475

Rating: 9/10

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.

Read the full review of the Pinnacle Kapur 2

best cheap mountain bikes

Vitus Nucleus VR, £499.99

Rating: 10/10

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-£50 class of our Hardtail of the Year test.

Read the full review of the Vitus Nucleus VR

Happy shopping!

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-£1,000 a focussed but varied spectrum for your first proper mountain bike.