The Best Mountain Bikes Under 500 Dollars
Ready to leave the pavement and head off-road? If so, mountain biking is a great way to get outdoors, into adventure, and onto some adrenaline and that’s why we’re removing the guesswork by bringing you the 5 best mountain bikes under 500 dollars, along with an overview of the most popular mountain bike styles to help you choose the right one for you. And unlike many other extreme sports, it doesn’t take much to get started. Even so, when you’re just starting out or find yourself on a tight budget, choosing your most important piece of equipment — your bike — can be a little daunting.
Choosing the Right Mountain Bike for You
The sub 500-dollar range is a great place to start if you want a solid bike that won’t break down halfway down the mountain, but won’t break the bank either. You’ll find you actually have quite a few quality bikes to choose from in this price range; the question is how do you know which one is right for you?
The first step is to figure out what sort of terrain and trails you plan on riding. In other words, what’s your style?
What’s Your Style?
In the broadest sense, the term “mountain bike” applies to any bike designed to be ridden off road. But, within the world of mountain bikes, there many different styles, each designed for specific types of riding, terrain, and other specialized applications. Let’s go over the most common mountain bike styles to give you a better idea of what you’re getting into when we are talking about the best mountain bikes under 500 dollars.
If there were such a thing as an “all-purpose” mountain bike, it would be a trail bike. You can ride trail bikes uphill, downhill, on dirt, gravel, the street, anywhere really. Trail bikes can cover a wide range of riding conditions and aren’t limited to any specific application, making them great beginner mountain bikes. Some of the best mountain bikes under 500 dollars fall in the trail bike category.
Cross-Country Mountain Bikes
Cross-country mountain bikes are built for speed and climbing power, with a focus on low-weight and efficient riding. With stiff, lightweight frames, cross-country bikes are ideal for trails with lots of hills or long distance riding. Cross-country bikes almost always feature front suspension, and some higher-end models have rear suspension that can be locked out. Though slightly heavier than their more expensive counterparts, there are some great cross-country bikes available for under 500 dollars.
Full Suspension Mountain Bikes
Full suspension bikes, also known as all-mountain or enduro bikes, are similar to trail bikes but are intended for tougher, more technical trails. With stronger frames and full suspension, all-mountain bikes help riders endure bone-jarring trails, hit jumps, and take drop-offs, but are also light enough that they can be ridden uphill without too much struggle. It’s hard to find a good all-mountain bike under 500 dollars, but that’s not to say it can’t be done.
Fat bikes started out as something of a novelty, but now, riders everywhere embrace these beastly bikes for their excellent all-terrain capabilities. With huge, over-sized rims and tires, fat bikes are designed to give the rider excellent traction on sketchy terrain like mud, sand, and snow. While there are super high-performance carbon fiber fat bikes on the market, some very high-quality fat bikes can be had for under 500 bucks.
29er Mountain Bikes
A 29er is simply a mountain bike with 29-inch wheels instead of the more traditional 26. More specifically, 29er’s have 27-inch (700c) rims — the same size as a road bike — but have big, treaded mountain bike tires that average 2 inches tall, giving the wheel a full 29-inch diameter. The larger wheels maintain more momentum when riding, give you more contact with the ground, and help you roll over obstacles with more ease. Many riders feel that a 29er mountain bike gives you a more stable ride overall, especially on loose ground.
Best Mountain Bikes Under 500:
The Best Trail Mountain Bike: Diamondback Sorrento Hardtail
The Diamondback Sorrento Hardtail is a great all-around entry level bike that simply can’t be beat for the price. As part of Diamondback’s “Recreational Series,” the Sorrento is intended for the more casual mountain biker but is well equipped to handle a wide range of riding situations from city riding to gravel roads and light trail use. Let’s take a peek at the Sorrento’s features and components:
- 6061-T6 heat-treated aluminum alloy frame. You’ll find that many bikes in this price range have steel frames, but not the Sorrento. Aluminum is quite a bit lighter and stiffer than steel, giving you a more responsive ride.
- 5″ Wheels. These wheels are larger than traditional 26″ wheels, but not quite as big as 29er wheels. The larger size gives you a more stable ride and better handling overall. The rims are double-walled for good durability and the tires have grippy tread for better traction in the dirt but aren’t too aggressive for quick jaunts on the street.
- Suntour front suspension fork with 3 inches of travel. Your hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders will thank you for choosing a bike with front suspension. While the front fork on this bike might not be the best for taking jumps at full speed, it will certainly give you an extra bit of cushion when riding on rough terrain.
- 21 gears with Shimano derailleurs and EZ-Fire shifters. A Shimano Tourney derailleur in the front and a Shimano Altus in the back give you 21 gears to choose from, which is all you really need for most riding situations. The bike features Shimano EZ-Fire shifters that are much nicer to use than the more common twist-grip style.
- Linear pull Tektro brakes. While you won’t find disc brakes on the Sorrento, it does have a quality set of linear pull brakes that provide plenty of stopping power.
A Few Thoughts on the Diamondback Sorrento…
The Sorrento is a great buy if you know you want a quality mountain bike but aren’t sure what type of riding you want to get into. It can also pull double duty as a city commuter, as the larger 27.5-inch wheels roll better on the pavement than traditional 26 inchers.
Best Mountain Bikes Under 500 – Full Suspension: Gravity FSX 2.0 Dual Suspension
You won’t find a better entry-level full suspension mountain bike than the Gravity FSX. If you plan on riding more demanding terrain, this bike will serve you well, and give a good taste of hardcore trail riding without having to sell your car to buy a high-end enduro bike. It’s also one of the more attractive full suspension bikes in the price range, with the updated 2.0 version receiving a matte finish paint job in either gray or black with green or red accented rims. But this bike doesn’t just look good, it’s decked out with components that will make your ride up or down the mountain more enjoyable.
- Aluminum frame with Hydroformed tubes and single pivot technology. This lightweight frame is made with the hydroforming method, where pressurized liquid is used to shape the aluminum into precise shapes, resulting in stiffer, lighter, and stronger tubes than those created by mechanical shaping. Since this is a full suspension bike, the frame must move to accommodate the travel of the rear suspension, and in the Gravity FSX, this is done with single pivot technology. In full suspension bike frames, pivot joints are often the weakest part of the frame, so having a single pivot point means less opportunity for mechanical failure. This is a good thing.
- KS Axis CoilOver adjustable rear suspension. The rear coil suspension can be adjusted to adapt to your riding conditions. Need a little extra cushion for a day of light downhilling? Loosen up the suspension. Need some extra power to ride back up the hill? Tighten it back down. Note: You can’t lock out the rear suspension on the Gravity FSX; some online sources say you can, but users report that while you can tighten the coil quite a bit, it doesn’t fully lock out.
- Suntour XCT Long-Travel Fork. The front fork, however, does fully lock out and is easily adjustable to suit your riding terrain. The fork is relatively lightweight, yet beefed up enough to withstand riding abuse.
- Tektro Novela disc brakes. 160mm disc brake rotors give you the sensitivity to control your speed on descent but have enough power to bring you quickly to a stop or throw down a big sweeping power skid. Your choice.
- Shimano drivetrain. The cassette, both derailleurs, and the shifters are all made by Shimano. Even though these components are Shimano’s entry level offerings, in terms of quality, they are leaps and bounds ahead of the no-name brands found on other bikes in the same price range. The EZ-Fire Trigger shifters are particularly nice to use and make moving through the gears, well, easy.
- Maddux DX221 aluminum double wall rims with 26-inch tires. These stout rims are built with stainless steel spokes to really take a beating. The tires, on the other hand, have lighter tread than you would expect on a full suspension bike, and it would be wise to upgrade to a knobbier tire if you plan on riding in loose dirt, rocks, or mud.
- WTB Speed V Sport Saddle with Love Channel. The Gravity FSX probably has the nicest saddle out of all the bikes on this list. Most entry level bikes come with saddles that are painfully uncomfortable and best suited for the trash can, but this WTB Speed V saddle is not only a great stock seat, it’s a worthy upgrade for any bike. The “Love Channel” is simply a groove running the length of the seat that helps relieve pressure in one’s sensitive areas.
- Some noteworthy details. This bike uses a Cane Creek headset, which is usually found on much higher-end bikes. Another little detail is that the bike has a sealed bottom bracket. This keeps grime, grit, and moisture out of the bottom bracket so that your cranks turn smoothly no matter how dirty your bike gets.
A Few Thoughts on the Gravity FSX 2.0 Dual Suspension…
Finding a good, low-priced full suspension bike certainly is a challenge. Go to any bike shop and take a gander at the enduro bike section: we’re talking multiple thousands of dollars for a bike! So what do you do when you’re new to the sport and/or you don’t have a couple extra g’s to spend on a bike? Get the Gravity FSX. This bike will get you started with a low upfront investment, and if you do eventually decide to upgrade, will make the perfect backup or loaner bike when you want to take a friend riding for the day.
Best Mountain Bikes Under 500 – Cross-Country: Mongoose Tyax Comp
The Mongoose Tyax is a bit of a sleeper in the world of budget-friendly mountain bikes, but a quick look at the specs reveal a bike with high-quality components that shouldn’t be ignored. This is a cross-country bike through and through and if you’re seeking a worthy steed that will help you tackle those steep hills and long rides, look no further.
- XC hardtail aluminum frame. This frame is relatively lightweight and you can see by the tight beads of the welded seams that it is constructed to high standards.
- Suntour XCM hydraulic fork. With 100mm of hydraulic suspension, you won’t be hassled by rip rap and tree roots that come out of nowhere. The suspension is fully adjustable and for those times when you need more efficiency can be lock out completely.
- Tektro Novela disc brakes. These are the same brakes as on the Gravity FSX. Solid mechanical disc brakes you can count on.
- 27 speeds. Having those few extra gears gives you more options for riding up and down varied terrain, and can make all the difference when you’re faced with a 3-mile uphill slog.
- Shimano Acera and Suntour XCR derailleurs. This combo bumps the KMC X9 chain between gears smooth and easy.
- Alex ACE24 double wall rims with Kenda Small Block Eight tires. The Alex double wall rims are a touch on the heavy side as far as cross-country wheels go, but are super strong and won’t turn into a taco… that is unless you really mess up! The Kenda tires on the Tyax are one of the fastest rolling tires in Kenda’s lineup and are optimized for hard-packed trails, which makes up the majority of cross-country riding.
- BMX-style platform pedals. When you’re cruising through the woods, dodging trees and boulders, it’s critical that your feet stay on the pedals! These alloy pedals grip your shoes to help you maintain control of your bike.
A Few Thoughts on the Mongoose Tyax
This could very well be the highest performing bike on the list. With a cross-country specific design, this bike will really shine on long trail rides and tough hill climbs. Since it’s a hardtail, you’ll want to avoid aggressive downhill riding, or taking big jumps for that matter. Don’t be afraid to take the small jumps though.
Best Mountain Bikes Under 500 – Fat Bike: GMC Yukon Fat Bike
You may be thinking: Doesn’t GMC make SUV’s? Well, yes, they do, but they also make bikes… kind of. GMC bikes are made by Kent, a company in the bike business since the early 1900’s. Don’t let that confuse you or steer you away from this quality, affordable fat bike. The Yukon is hands down the best fat mountain bike for under $500 for a number of reasons. Let’s allow the spec sheet to tell the story of this bruiser.
- Lightweight aluminum frame. Fat bikes are notorious for being on the heavier side, but thanks to an aluminum frame the Yukon weighs much less than if it had a steel frame like many other fat bikes in this price range.
- Oversized rims and tires. With 4-inch wide, 26-inch diameter rims, complete with jumbo-sized tires to match, the Yukon can roll over just about anything. The tires have a moderate amount of tread that can handle dirt, sand, and snow, but aren’t too aggressive for occasional rides on pavement.
- ABK disc brakes. The Yukon comes equipped with a very straightforward set of disc brakes. Nothing fancy, but they stop the bike and that’s what counts.
- 7 speeds with Shimano drivetrain. A Shimano RevoShift twist shifter lets you bounce between the 7 gears to get you up and over the hills you encounter. A Shimano Super-Low rear cassette paired with a Shimano Tourney TX derailleur gives you those low gears you need to power the large wheels.
A Few Thoughts on the GMC Yukon Fat Bike…
It’s no secret that fat bikes can get really expensive, but thanks to the GMC Yukon, riders have a solid option at a very approachable price point. The Yukon is fully equipped for riding on all sorts of terrain and even though it’s not the most advanced fat bike on the market, can help you explore new areas where regular mountain bikes won’t cut it.
Best Mountain Bikes Under 500 – 29er: SE Bikes Big Mountain 2.0 29er
As a company, SE Bikes has a long history making high-quality BMX bikes, but in recent years has branched out into mountain bikes. There were several contenders in the running for the best 29er spot on our list, but the SE Bikes Big Mountain 2.0 29er beat them all in terms of quality, style, and overall value for the money. Besides the excellent build quality and components of the Big Mountain 29er, one of the most attractive features of this bike is that it’s made by a smaller company with a strong reputation to uphold, so you know they aren’t going to put out junk.
- Aluminum alloy frame. Aluminum keeps the bike light and stiff for a more responsive ride.
- Front suspension with SR Suntour M3030 fork. This fork provides 75mm of travel, which should provide adequate cushion for your hands and wrists on rough terrain.
- 21 speeds with Shimano drivetrain. A Shimano EZ-Fire shifter, Altus front derailleur, Tourney rear derailleur, and Shimano Freewheel cassette offer a range of gears that are ideal for trail riding.
- Tektro disc brakes. Disc brakes have become the standard on 29er mountain bikes, and the Big Mountain 2.0 is keeping pace with the pack.
- Weinmann alloy doublewall rims and WTB Nano tires. Weinmann rims are lightweight and strong, providing a great base for the WTB Nano tires, which happen to be the preferred tire choice for the Tour Divide, the world’s longest mountain bike race.
A Few Thoughts on the SE Bikes Big Mountain 2.0 29er…
Before fat bikes came along, 29ers were thought to be the most revolutionary thing to happen to mountain bikes since mountain bikes were invented. More and more, riders are trading in their 26-inch bikes for 29ers as they offer a more stable ride and are often better for covering lots of distance. The Big Mountain is a thoroughly solid bike and is actually comparable to 29ers twice its price.
The Absolute Best Mountain Bike Under 500 Dollars Is…
As you can see, there are some pretty great bikes to be had for under $500, but all factors considered, the absolute best has got to be the Gravity FSX 2.0 Dual Suspension!
It was a tough call between the Gravity FSX and the Mongoose Tyax, but considering the overall quality, features, and value for the money the FSX wins.
One of the big bonuses of the FSX is the adjustable full suspension. This allows you to explore a much wider range of trails and terrain and ultimately leads to a more comfortable ride.
And that seat! When you buy a bike, you don’t want to have to go out and buy new parts for it, so the fact that the Gravity FSX has that beautiful WTB seat already installed is a huge bonus. The Shimano components throughout the bike didn’t hurt either, and the nice little touches like the Cane Creek headset and sealed bottom bracket make the FSX one heck of a bike for under $500.
It’s Time to Hit the Trail
Hopefully, this article helped you along in your mountain bike buying journey. Now that you know what your options are for best mountain bikes under 500 dollars, it’s time to hurry up and get one so you can get out there already!