In this article, we break the best mountain bikes for beginners in 2016. If you like the idea of spending your weekend flying down woodland trails, or just want a fun and healthy new hobby, mountain biking is an excellent choice. There’s nothing like the sense of freedom that comes with cycling, and it can be a relatively inexpensive hobby to start.
They are designed for uneven ground (check out our top 5 picks), bumpy tracks and unpredictable trails. They are sturdier than road bikes, have wider wheels and are often built with suspension forks. The trade-off is that they are heavier and less responsive than their road counterparts.
As any experienced rider will tell you, cycling is only fun if you have the right ride. Poor quality models are often heavy and sluggish to turn. Components such as the gear shifters and suspension are also likely to function disappointingly on a bad one, which can make riding a chore rather than something to look forward to.
Choosing a beginner mountain bike isn’t always easy, especially as there are so many choices available. Trying to pick one from the wide range of different brands, component manufacturers and styles can be confusing.
Don’t worry though – you don’t need to be an expert to choose a great mountain bike. Listed below are the top three rated that are suitable for beginners. All of these provide excellent value for money, and are sturdy enough to cope with any trail you might want to ride.
Top 3 – Best Mountain Bikes for Beginners
1. SE Bikes Big Mountain
If you’re looking for value, then the SE Bikes Big Mountain is a great option. With a double-butted aluminum frame, Shimano shifters, mechanical disc brakes and an attractive design – all for less than $550 – there aren’t many mountain style options that can match the value for money. The SE Big Mountain is also built with 29” wheels, for added grip and trail-worthy performance.
The Big Mountain has received excellent reviews from buyers on Amazon. A reviewer called “The Fix It Guy” said that it’s a great choice for an entry level model, and that it has coped well with heavy use on rugged trails. Another reviewer said that its definitely an option to consider if you’re looking for a great product at a very reasonable price point.
A potential downside of the bicycle is that it’s heavier than more expensive models. This is partly due to the front suspension fork, which is a useful addition for trail riding and makes it much more comfortable. If you’re a beginner to mountain cycling and need a sturdy, reliable model that feels great to ride, then it’s worth owning.
2. Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike
The Schwinn is one of the cheapest mountain bikes we saw, at just $250, so it isn’t going to win any awards for performance. Even so, if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get started – or if you aren’t sure mountain biking is something you’ll enjoy in the long term – then it could be an excellent option.
This is a hardtail (front suspension only) and is built with a Schwinn frame. Other components include a Shimano derailleur and SRAM shifters, along with linear pull breaks and quick-release seat.
A reviewer called “James Lofton” says that it is great for casual riding. He also says that it was relatively quick to assemble. Other reviewers say that it is smooth to ride, durable and provides excellent value for money.
As you’d expect from a relatively cheap model, the Schwinn High Timber is a heavy model. Several reviewers mention that it is heavier than others they tested. Considering the price, and the fact that it comes with some brand name components, we think it still provides great value for money.
3. Diamondback Overdrive 2014
The Overdrive is the most expensive model on this list, but its sleek appearance and fast performance justify the extra cost. It’s an excellent model for beginners, and can match the performance of many more expensive models.
With a butted aluminum frame, 29” wheels and front suspension, it’s suitable for almost any trail. The Shimano disc brakes provide extra breaking power that’s effective even in wet weather.
A cyclist called “Kevin Lambert” gave the Overdrive 2014 a five-star review, and said that it was a “great deal” and is built with high-quality components. He also says that he’s pleased with the 29” tire size, as it rolls over obstacles such as rocks and tree roots much easier than smaller wheels.
As with most mountain bikes, the Overdrive doesn’t come with a great seat. This is often an area where manufacturers try to save money, and its common to get a poor quality seat even on more expensive models.
Mountain biking is a fun way to keep fit, get some fresh air and enjoy the countryside. Buying a beginner model doesn’t have to be expensive – you can probably get started for much less than you think.
The main considerations when buying are whether you need suspension, the type of frame and the size of the wheels. These choices come down to personal preference, although for most beginners a hardtail aluminum unit is a good option.
We usually recommend avoiding full suspension unless you can spend above $1000. Suspension forks are heavy and relatively expensive, so cheap models with both rear and front suspension usually sacrifice performance in other areas. If you mainly want to ride on undemanding paths or even roads, then you could also consider a rigid frame.
If you aren’t sure which one to buy, the SE Bikes Big is a great option for beginners. It’s capable of riding on almost any trail, and the disc brakes give you extra confidence when riding in wet or muddy conditions. While there are cheaper models available, if your budget can stretch to around $500 then it’s a good one to consider (read about top mountain bikes under $1000).