Riders after a cheap mountain bike are spoilt for choice – there is plenty of good quality kit out there for less than £500 – but you really need to know what to look for.
Sifting through the chaff can take time, so we’ve put together this handy video guide to help new riders avoid a turkey and pick a well performing, good quality bike that will give plenty of trail thrashing fun for years to come.
What to look for in mountain bikes under £500 / us$ 800
Video: Watch our top guide to buying a mountain bike under £500
Check out our summary of top tips below, or for the full experience watch out video featuring ex-bike shop wrench James Tennant, a man who knows all there is to know about buying smart.
Source your outlet
Buy from a shop and check they’ve got an experienced mechanic on hand. Bikes arrive in boxes and need to be built – a good mechanic will see that it’s done well and you can ride out the shop with confidence.
On budget bikes suspension forks can be a let-down – and not in a good way. Do you really need a suspension fork or would a better quality rigid fork be the right option? If you are going the hardtail route look for branded forks – RockShox and SR Suntour both appear on bikes in this price bracket. Avoid full suspension on a new bike at this price.
Rim or disc brakes, that is the question. Well, it’s not really – go for discs if you can. Brakes on bikes in the less than £500 category will usually be mechanically actuated but you might be lucky and find one with a hydraulic system, which will last longer and take more stick out on the trail.
Like shocks, look for brands, in this case, Shimano or SRAM. Branded systems are generally better built, more robust and easier to repair thanks to good spares availability.
Buy to fit
A bike that is comfy is more fun to ride something expensive and ill-fitting. A well fitted bike will also save you from unnecessary aches and pains. Follow the BikeRadar guide to buying a mountain bike that fits and ask shop staff to help you out too.
The wheel size conundrum
Yup, the nagging question of mountain bike wheel size now needs consideration for bargain hunters – most brands are offering 26in, 650b and 29ers. Go for larger 29er wheels if you’re riding on open cross-country style trails and hard surfaces, 26in wheels if you’re a traditionalist wanting lots of spares and tyre options and 650b if you want the best of both worlds and an agile, trail centre orientated bike.