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How to choose a budget mountain bike

Updated on September 15, 2014

The Best Cheap Mountain Bikes For Sale

Looking for a cheap mountain bike does not mean it has to be cheaply made. With all the advances in technology as well as the growing popularity of mountain biking it is now possible to find a well made inexpensive MTB model with just a little bit of help.

Once you have the knowledge you can buy a mountain bike that has a great frame, reasonable other components that won't cost an arm and leg, and at the same time won't have you carrying a broken down bike in the middle of a trail.

Brands do matter here, so most of those no brand names you find at Target or Walmart are not much more than junk. They not worth getting if your aim is to do any off road riding, hey if you look closely you will find most have a sticker that warns you against taking it on rough terrain.

Best budget mountain bike for the money - Diamondback Bicycles 2014 Overdrive Sport Mountain Bike with 29-Inch Wheels

If you want a mountain bike able to traverse most common trails and not spend to much, the Diamondback Overdrive Sport Mountain Bike is a safe and worthy MTB to start with.

First the frame is solid, made out of Butted 6061-T6 Aluminum, it is both strong and relatively lightweight. Next it comes with 29 inch wheels, that just rolls over most of obstacles both big and small that you find in mountain bike trails. And finally it comes with disc brakes that have proved to be more reliable then the old rim brakes, especially in wet, muddy conditions.

Advancement in mountain bikes

Somewhat like it has happened in the computer market, advances in bike technology in general and mountain bike technology in particular, has increased the quality and efficiency of MTBs every year per price point. And as the technology gets better, the number of quality components on affordable, lower priced bikes increases.

This is great news, especially for recreational and beginner mountain bikers, as well as those just trying out mountain biking. Anyone getting a new MTB at this price range, will be getting one that would only a couple of years ago would have cost a lot more, if not more then double. The best ones are built from strong and reliable components, even if not on the cutting edge.

Frames

One of the greatest advances has been in the toughness verses lightness of the frames. The very newest frames are extremely tough and at the same time amazingly lightweight, and while these may be expensive, this does not mean these cheaper ones need be heavy as well. On the contrary, the best ones in this price range are made of tough, lightweight chromoly, aluminum or steel, that may not be the very lightest frames on the market, but are good enough for most riders.

Brakes

Increasingly more and more mountain bicycles come with disk brakes, which are so much better suited for mountain riding because they are less likely to fade while braking, even when a rider is hitting the brakes heavily and for long, and for a couple of reasons they are better able to resist the buildup of water or debris under the brake pad. Disc brakes stop better in all conditions and operate independently of the rim, so even if your wheel has a wobble, you can still brake consistently.

In general you may want to get a bicycle with disk brakes, the main con being that disk brakes do tend to be heavier than rim brakes, so if having the most lightweight model you can find is more important, then you may opt for rim brakes. Another factor to consider is the quality of the dick-brakes that come with a bike, if the dick-brakes are poor quality, they will perform terribly, sometimes even worse then more conventional rim-brakes, and

Mountain biking is a great outdoor sport that combines a challenging workout with fresh air and the opportunity to enjoy the scenery. This is an easy sport to join with fellow enthusiasts. Going on scenic trails or out of the way local spots of note, you can get to really know your locale, at the same time as giving your body the exercise it needs.

Mountain Bike Categories

Which one fits most of you're needs?

These are the most common categories:

  1. Cross Country (XC)

    Cross Country (XC) bikes are the lightest and most efficient to pedal, but aren't necessarily the best for really rough terrain or the most comfortable.

  2. Trailbikes (Trail Bikes)

    These are the most common and most versatile mountain bikes. They are made for the most fun riding in the largest number of situations. They can take you almost anywhere, and they won't wear you out doing it. They can come as either hardtail or full suspension.

  3. All Mountain (AM)

    These are essentially trailbikes with stronger frames and longer suspension travel. They're best for riding more difficult (technical) trails with steeper descents, increased obstacles and small jumps. These days most are full-suspension, but there are still many hardtails to be found. Primary emphasis is difficult terrain.

  4. Freeride (FR)

    bikes are great for hard hitting trails, jumps and stunts. They are built to get you up the hills as well, but not very easily. These bikes are heavy and tough.

  5. Downhill (DH)

    These are built specifically for downhill racing. Don't expect to be able to ride these on most terrains. You will need to find a way to get them to the top of hill or other incline, but once you are there, you won't find a more fun and exciting way to get down no matter how rough the trail is.

  6. Dirt jump

    These are made for those who like to spend time with their wheels off the ground by performing aerial stunts. You'll find these ridden mostly by the young (or young at heart) at designated bike parks. Primary emphasis is aerial stunts.

Riding Preference

To find top rated mountain bikes in this price range, the first thing you will need to determine is how you will be using your it.

  • Do you need high performance, because you like to ride to compete and push my limits

  • Do you need one that allows you ride to keep fit and the freedom to extend your limits, or

  • Do you need it for recreation and lifestyle, to ride for fun and to get from one point to another.
Whatever you chose above, you also need to think where you will be riding your bike, will you mostly be doing

  • smooth trail riding

  • cross-country racing

  • climbing big mountains

  • riding stunts

  • descending technical downhill courses, or

  • just have all around fun.
While it is usually thought a full suspension gives a better ride, at this price range, sometimes the heavier weight of the suspensions and quality of the other components makes it less a effective choice for learning.

When you have not more than $500 to spend, a quality hardtail is usually the best choice you can find for the money. So while there are some cheaper dual/full suspension options, and they are improving from year to year, component for component hardtails are usually much better quality.

Which Suspension - Hardtail vs Full suspension

Should you get a hardtail or full suspension?

Bike suspension has had one of the most noticeable areas of advance. The technology advances have changed the common mountain bike from being a fully rigid frame in the 70's and early 80's to now having either hardtail or full suspension. Nowadays rigid frames are rare.

Hardtail
Hardtail

Hardtail (front-suspension only):

Hardtail suspension refers to suspension that has been added to the front wheel only using a suspension fork. It both reduces your hand and arm fatigue and improves steering and bike control. Even in this you have two choice of suspension forks; basic suspension forks and air-sprung forks which are both lighter and more adjustable.

There are different suspension types designed for cross-country (XC), downhill (DH), and freeride riding. All the bikes on this page have a front suspension that is designed for XC.

x----x----x----x

Full Suspension
Full Suspension

Full Suspension (front and rear suspension):

Full suspension refers to suspension that has been added to both the front and back wheels.

The front suspension is constructed exactly the same as in a hardtail. While for the rear suspension, the rear wheel is attached using a pivoting frame and a "rear shock" (shock absorber).

Brakes

Hydraulic disc or rim brakes

Hydraulic disc brakes

Hydraulic disc brakes offer the absolute strongest stopping power in all conditions, including wet and muddy. Tend to be heavier and more expensive then rim brakes.

Rim brakes

Rim brakes work by applying pressure to the rim to slow down the bike, this makes them give inconstant performance in wet and muddy conditions. On the other hand they are lighter, and if that is a major deal breaker, and you can handle the variance in performance they work well enough.

Note: If your choice comes down to a price and you are looking between a good quality rim brake and a indifferent/poor quality disk brake, then the rim brakes are a better choice.

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