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Five Best Mountain Bikes for Under $500

Updated on October 10, 2014
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Five Good, Cheap Mountain Bikes for below $500: Reviews & Buying Tips

There's an awful lot to like about mountain bikes. They are tons of fun, great exercise and pretty accessible for most people. They're a great bicycle to learn to ride on. Not only that, but you don't have to spend a ton of money to get something that's perfect for almost every situation; it's an affordable sport too. Some of the best mountain bikes under $500 are pretty feature rich and offer a great price-to-quality ratio.

Mountain biking typically involves riding off-road, on trails, gravel and in the woods. They are perfect if you find yourself spending more time riding off of pavement than on it. The tires are wide and have a generous amount of tread, and they have lots of clearance and generous suspension to make sure your ride is comfortable and quick.

This lens is written in order to help you find the best mountain bikes for under $500, and we'll look at five of the top options for you in that price range, reviewing each one thoroughly so you know what you're getting into. We'll talk about a few of the essential bits of a mountain bike and how they work, and we'll also touch on a few things to watch out for when you're shopping for a bike like this.

Let's get started and look at a few of the best, cheap mountain bicycles out there!

Common Features of Good, Cheap Mountain Bikes

Most models have some common ground. The best mountain bike under $500 will probably have the features mentioned here.

  1. Light, small metal frame: Most of the time a good, inexpensive mountain bike will have a lighter frame, made out of chromoly, aluminum or steel. They have to be light because mountain bike gear is heavy and there's a lot of it. A lightweight frame keeps the whole package at a manageable weight.
  2. Front and / or rear suspension: Most cheaper mountain bikes under $500 will still include full suspension, meaning that there are shocks on the front forks and a suspension unit on the rear. The frame itself will usually be built to flex with shock compression. On mountain bicycles under $500, the shocks are usually spring based, rather than gas.
  3. Disc Brakes: Many of the best mountain bikes under $500 will have disc brakes, which are better suited for mountain riding. They resist dirt buildup and stop better in messy conditions. At this price range they will usually be mechanical, rather than hydraulic.

Diamondback Overdrive 29'er Mountain Bike

An entry level 29'er mountain bicycle, just under $500, that's loads of fun

I love Diamondback bikes, and the Overdrive 29'er is no exception. A 29'er is a specific type of mountain bike that utilizes oversized wheels. They are great because rolling over rocks, roots and other debris is much easier with these big wheels.

Tons of clearance, a light and strong 6061 aluminum frame, strong double-walled SL-7 rims, front forks with 100mm of travel, and 24 speeds make this an excellent choice and a great value.

This particular bike is a best seller and gets fantastic reviews from buyers. It's also a beautiful bike, you need to see it in person to really appreciate the great quality paint and overall look. The MSRP of this particular model is over $600, it's on sale now.

As far as finding a great, cheap mountain bike for less than $500, there are few I'd recommend more than this one.

Schwinn Protocol 1.0 Men's Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike (26-Inch Wheels, Red)
Schwinn Protocol 1.0 Men's Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike (26-Inch Wheels, Red)

Tektro disc brakes, Iso-Drive frame, quick release everything.

 

Schwinn Protocol: A Great, Dual Suspension Mountain Bike under $500

Schwinn has produced a lot of great entry level mountain bikes, and the Protocol 1.0 is another example of a great ride for a decent price. With front and rear suspension and a suspended frame with 5 inches of travel in the rear, it's great for trails, hills and off-road riding.

An aluminum frame keeps things relatively light, as dual suspension bikes go, and rapid fire shifters let you change gears on the fly for quick and compelling riding.

It has a dual pivot brake on the rear and a mess free Pro Max disc brake on the front forks. I do suggest having them professionally tuned, but once they're set up they won't disappoint.

It looks like a pretty beefy bike, but it's also surprisingly quite comfortable to ride and makes a great 'all purpose' bike for recreation and the odd commute or adventure. Read the customer reviews to get a good sense of how it will ride. For under $500, it's a good mountain bike that will probably make you pretty happy.

2014 Gravity 29 Point 1 Shimano Deore 27 Speed Suntour XCT Front Suspension 29er Mountain Bike Bicycle (Matt Bronze, 21 inch)
2014 Gravity 29 Point 1 Shimano Deore 27 Speed Suntour XCT Front Suspension 29er Mountain Bike Bicycle (Matt Bronze, 21 inch)

27 speeds, Tektro mechanical disc brakes and an aluminum frame, this bike has tons of high quality components. A great hard tail mountain bike under $500.

 

Gravity Point 1 Front Suspension Mountain Bike

Excellent Cheap Mountain Bike, Less than $500

The Gravity Point 1 is one of my absolute favourites, don't let it's unfamiliar brand deter you. I encourage you to check out the customer reviews on this model and draw your own conclusions.

This bike features a lot of clearance with a well-built, light, strong and very responsive 6061 aluminum frame, strong double-walled alloy rims with hefty tires, and 27 speeds to choose from. It has sealed cartridge bearings and disc brakes, so it's a good choice for riding in muck. Overall it's a good value for the component quality you're getting, and it's a perfect companion for the semi-casual rider.

The rapid shifters are awesome for trails riding when you need to shift on the fly. It also comes with Tektro mechanical disc brakes that offer good stopping power even in mud and dirty conditions. The suspension is set up for around 100mm of travel on the front, so you'll have a lot of fun with it. This is by far one of the top mountain bikes for under $500 that I'm reviewing here.

Diamondback Response Mountain Bike with 29-Inch Wheels, Black, 22-Inch/X-Large
Diamondback Response Mountain Bike with 29-Inch Wheels, Black, 22-Inch/X-Large

Light, fast and a great brand name in Mongoose. One of the better mountain bicycles for less than $500.

 

Diamondback Response Mountain Bike

Strong and Light, a Good Cheap Mountain Bike for under $500

The Diamondback Response is a fantastic all-around mountain bike for someone who likes to ride all over the place. The 29 inch wheels spin well and give you a good amount of clearance without making pedalling too difficult. The chunky, oversized aluminum 6061 frame can take a beating, and the geometry is upright and comfortable, so this one is a capable commuter in a pinch.

The Shimano Easyfire shifters make downshifting very quick and fun. It's got 21 speeds total so you have a lot of options depending on the situation. The machined, double walled alloy rims are strong enough to handle good trail riding without weighing too much. The brakes are actually disc brakes, and they're great quality, they'll stop you really well when tuned right. This is a fantastic all around mountain bike well below $500.

Mongoose Impasse Dual Full Suspension Bicycle (29-Inch)
Mongoose Impasse Dual Full Suspension Bicycle (29-Inch)

Alloy 29'er wheels, full suspension frame, disc brakes.

 

Mongoose Impasse Full Suspension

An Inexpensive 29'er Mountain Bike for well below $500 bucks

This is an example of a great 29'er mountain bicycle for a really phenomenal price point. Check out the generous travel on the Element front forks of this dual suspension mountain bike! Mongoose is a solid brand name and have a bunch of great mountain bike models in our price range.

The Impasse comes with an aluminum suspension frame, twist shifters and alloy wheels, it's got great components considering how little it costs. If you're planning to do more riding on trails and other bumpy terrain, you'll appreciate the forgiving dual suspension and the extra clearance that the frame and big wheels provide.

For well under $500, it's a great mountain bike with great aluminum alloy wheels, trail ready geometry, low maintenance disc brakes, and nice components. I'd definitely give it a hard look if you think a front suspension won't be good enough for your riding needs.

Cheap mountain bikes under $500: Warning Signs

Although there are plenty of good mountain bikes in the $500 or under range, but there are lots of duds too. In this price range you can still find some things you might want to avoid. Here are a few things you should watch out for.

  1. Plastic Components: While it's just about impossible to find a plastic-free bicycle these days, you want to avoid it as much as possible. Particularly, you should watch out for plastic brake arms / levers. They just aren't as strong as metal and are prone to breakage.
  2. Cheap Suspension Parts: Cheaper or 'no-name' suspension parts and shocks will really diminish your ride. These cheaper components will get jammed or not handle the bumps as well as they could. The best mountain bikes under $500 will be affordable but yet still incorporate decent suspension bits.
  3. Heavy Frames: A super heavy frame is a price compromise with many otherwise good, cheap mountain bikes. A moderately heavy frame isn't the end of the world, but as in most cases with a bicycle, lighter is better.

Some more mountain bikes under $500 to consider:

Here are a few more great mountain bikes to consider. I won't write these ones up, they'll just showcase more of what's out there.

Helmets, Locks, Etc.

Don't forget that with your fancy new mountain bike you're going to need accessories. Most countries require bicycle helmets to be worn by law, and if you value your brain you should definitely get one. Also, bike theft is up, so prevent it with a decent quality u-lock. Don't rely on the cable locks, they aren't secure enough on their own. Be sure to get a high quality lock that's resistant to hacksaws and bolt cutters, like a chain style (the best option, in my opinion).

What do you think about the bicycles reviewed here?

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