The 6 Best Mountain Bikes
This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Whether for fun, fitness training, singletrack riding, or a cost-effective commute, you'll be enjoying the wind in your face in next to no time if you pick up one of these mountain bikes. There are moderately-priced options for those trying downhill cycling for the first time as well as specialist machines that will be appreciated by advanced cyclists with plenty of experience. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 02, 2021:
We've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: If you want to live through a real downhill mountain biking trip, you can't set out atop a cheap bike from a big box store. The truth is, that unless you're buying used, you'll need to start around at least 400 bucks to get something dependable. With that in mind, there are tons of bike-shaped objects out there, but not nearly as many high-quality bikes that are built to stand up to abuse.
For example, the Mongoose Salvo is about as inexpensive as dual-suspension bikes get. If you're looking at a brand new dual-suspension bike, and it costs less than this one, it's almost certainly a bad choice. While some cheap bikes have nice-looking hardware, that hardware will, more often than not, just add significant weight and additional points of failure. Buying a cheap dual-suspension bike from a big box store, for instance, is extremely dangerous, as any dedicated biker will attest to.
But you don't have to spend an absolute fortune. Beginners should start by looking at the Diamondback Overdrive 27.5 and Raleigh Tokul 2. More experienced riders will probably appreciate the refinements of the Diamondback Mason and especially the Tommaso Gran Sasso, which is highly lauded for its price-to-performance ratio.
January 08, 2020:
A lot of novice mountain bikers might be encouraged to get something new for a couple hundred just to see if they really enjoy the sport. A lot of experienced riders will agree that not only can a cheap bike (also known as a bike-shaped object) be much more difficult to learn on, they can actually be very unsafe. There are a wide range of quality manufacturers of mountain bikes, but if you're looking for something brand new, your budget should start around 500 bucks. That's where the Diamondback Overdrive 27.5 sits, and it's a durable and reliable hardtail that will satisfy many beginning riders. The Diamondback Atroz 2, at about twice that price, is roughly the least expensive full-suspension option, although in order to achieve that reasonable cost, it cuts corners in terms of the quality of some other components. If you've been riding for a while and want to take a step up to a high-quality "full-squish" model, the Diamondback Atroz 3 might be what you want. Alternately, the Diamondback Mason 2 has extra-wide tires and an extremely resilient hardtail configuration that should be able to handle the roughest terrain. The Diamondback Sync'r is another significant upgrade from the Overdrive and uses a bevy of competition-grade components, while the Diamondback Overdrive Carbon is a lightweight model meant for serious enthusiasts.
Diamondback is one of the most mainstream and readily available brands, but they're not the only one by far. The Raleigh Tokul 2 and Raleigh Kodiak 2 are both mid-range to high-end options, while the Steppenwolf Tundra Carbon and Mongoose Teocali Expert both require significant investments but should last for many years with proper care. Be wary about some Mongoose bikes, though, as many of them aren't made to proper mountain biking specifications, and are instead produced cheaply for big-box stores. The Teocali, however, is absolutely a premium offering.
Vitus Bikes Vitus makes a wide selection of models ranging from pure street bikes to hardcore mountain bikes, with various levels of hybrids and cyclocross options in between. They have a great reputation for durability and are good for beginners who plan to upgrade their vehicle as their skills progress. vitusbikes.com
Giant Bicycles From the Stance to the Anthem, Giant offers something for raw beginners as well as seasoned veterans. They're one of the most commonly recommended brands among dedicated cyclists and given the proper care should last for years of enjoyment. giant-bicycles.com
PinkBike One good way to gt around the high entry cost to mountain biking is buying a used bike. PinkBike is one of the most well-known sites for doing so and can net you an exceptional deal, as long as you know what you're looking for. Of course, you never know just what condition a used vehicle will be in, so plan on getting it thoroughly serviced before use. pinkbike.com
Hitting The Trail Towards Better Health
Compared to cycling around town or even through a manicured park system, mountain biking offers a much more thorough cardiovascular workout.
Of all the outdoor activities you can engage in, few combine high speeds, strength, endurance, an ever changing landscape, and the thrill of potential danger. Mountain biking involves all of these things and more, all while putting you in serene wilderness environments.
Compared to cycling around town or even through a manicured park system, mountain biking offers a much more thorough cardiovascular workout. Part of this is because the terrain (mountains, wilderness trails, etc.), often boasts dramatic changes in elevation that can suddenly require riders to put forth a tremendous amount of effort. Downhill portions of the ride may seem a little easier, but they also require a lot of balance and coordination to maintain control of the bike.
The other part of the increased difficulty of a mountain biking excursion is in the quality of the terrain itself, as wooded trails are often muddy and winding, causing riders to trudge through even on relatively flat bearings. All of these features come together to make mountain biking a unique and significant challenge.
That level of difficulty also makes mountain biking particularly good for you. It’s intermittent periods of tremendous hard work couple with periods of downhill balancing to create the perfect fat burning and strength building routine. And since the motion of cycling is almost completely devoid of impacts (so long as you don’t pick a bad line or a really rugged trail), it’s actually kinder to your body than jogging or even walking might be.
What To Look For On A Mountain Bike
When you set out to buy a mountain bike, you’re liable to encounter a lot of pretty variegated options. With a cursory glance, that variance might be hard to see, but as soon as you start reading about all the differences between one model and the next, your head may begin to spin.
To help you begin to narrow down our selection to a handful of viable options for you, the first thing you should do is ask yourself whether you’re buying a mountain bike to actually tackle the mountains or whether you’re more interested in the riding position and durability they offer, even though you may not be bound for the wilderness. After all, these bikes are just as capable on city streets as they are in the mountains, so they make good options for bicycle commuters. If you’re looking for something like that, then you can probably afford to aim for the middle of the price range and be very happy with what you get.
You’re also going to want to look out for the quality and flexibility of a given bike’s drive chain and gear system.
If you’re serious about heading into the mountains with your bike, there are certain features you want to examine closely. First and foremost among these are the aspects of the bike designed to absorb shock. As we said, the terrain you’re covering can get pretty harrowing at times, and your bike’s ability to smooth out the sensation of your ride will have a direct effect on your ability to control it. Most mountain bikes focus their shock absorbing efforts in the front fork, and you want this to be as high-quality as possible. The travel distance of this fork is often cited as a measure of quality, and in a very general way more travel is better, as it can theoretically offer you more give as you go over sudden, steep changes in ground. Keep in mind, however, travel distance isn’t everything in shock absorption, as the resistance offered by a fork matters, as well.
Some bikes will also place an additional shock absorbing spring toward the back of the bike’s body, and this feature comes down more to preference than performance. For some riders, this loosens up the feel of the frame, providing a little more control. For others, particularly riders who’ve ridden solid frames their whole lives, it can be hard to get used to.
You’re also going to want to look out for the quality and flexibility of a given bike’s drive chain and gear system. When you suddenly go from an uphill slog to a downhill sprint and back again, you’re going to need a drive chain that can move quickly and accurately through its gears to give you the utmost control over your speed.
Your brake system is the next thing to carefully evaluate, as your stopping power can mean the difference between an exhilarating ride and a tumble off a cliff. Most of the mountain bikes out there rely on disc brakes, but that category is divided between mechanical disc brakes and hydraulic disc brakes. Mechanical units rely on the physical action of a braided cable pulling on the brake system to engage it. Hydraulic brakes utilize a more complex fluid system to achieve the same goals. While hydraulic brakes are a little more reliable and consistent, they’re also more expensive and harder to tinker with if you’ve got your own bike stand for maintenance.
Finally, you’re going to want to check the weight of a given mountain bike. Every ounce counts in this part of the equation. The lighter a bike is, the less effort you’ll need to move it. And if anything should go wrong on the mountain, it’ll be a lot easier to carry back down.
Preparing For Your Mountain Biking Adventure
Once you’ve decided on a good mountain bike, you’ll want to make sure that you’re ready to hit the trails. With the right additions to your set of biking accessories, you can easily have a fun, safe experience on the mountain.
To the point of safety, you’re going to need to wear a helmet. Good helmets that actually look cool are much easier to come by today than they once were, so you have no excuse to leave this at home. You can even get a smart helmet if that makes you feel better about it.
In addition to that, you’ll want a reliable bike bag that you can fill with everything from important survival gear to your cell phone. And make sure you’re adequately outfitted, as well. That means thermal and moisture wicking layers in the cold months, and lighter, more breathable fabrics in the heat.