7 Best Entry Level Mountain Bikes for Beginners in 2020 (Review)
Your budget can make buying a new mountain bike seem daunting. How can you be sure that your investment won’t be wasted? We’ve gone and looked at various bikes, and we can now make this easier for you with our 7 best entry level mountain bikes for beginners in 2020 guide.
After our mountain bike reviews, there will be a guide to help you in knowing exactly what you need when buying your new mountain bike. We’ll also offer a little bit of advice on suspension, and a guide on how much money to spend. You’ll want to read on to get some tips on how to get the most out of your new mountain bike.
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The Best Entry Level Mountain Bikes For Beginners
1. Akonza Cobra 26″ Beginner Mountain Bike
The Akonza Cobra is a good choice if you have a teenager that is reluctant to try cycling. It is a bike that looks cool and should help to encourage them to get out and ride, even if it is only to school. The Akonza Cobra is a basic full suspension bike, so don’t expect superbike performance.
As the bike is a basic model, it comes with entry level Shimano gearing, including their version of twist shifters. These shifters are not as good as Shimano’s EZ-Fire shifters, but they will function and are seen as being cooler among children. They can take a little getting used to, especially if you want to avoid accidentlaly shifting if you’re bunny hopping up curbs.
The one thing that might not be seen as being cool is the anti-skid tires. The good news is that the anti-skid name only means they won’t slide out on wet or slippery surfaces. You can still pull skids on the Cobra with judicious use of the rear V-brake.
- Full suspension design
- Shimano twist shift gearing
- Anti-skid tires
Colors: Green, red, white
Gears: 21 speed
Sizes: One size
2. Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 Beginner Mountain Bike
Like the Diamondback Overdrive, the Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.2 is a 27.5” wheeled mountain bike. The Co-op is more suited to general trail riding. Rather than the 80mm of travel found on the Diamondback, you’ll find a 120mm SR Suntour XCR fork on the DRT 1.2.
The next upgrade that will help with trail riding is that you’ll find a set of Tektro HD-M290 hydraulic disc brakes on the bike. These will bring you much greater stopping power. When riding, wildlife likes to jump out in front of you. Once you’ve fitted your brakes, you can pretty much forget about them. Hydraulic disc brake requires little maintenance and just work.
You’ll also find internal cable routing on the DRT 1.2. Internal cable routing keeps your cables and hoses hidden from the worst of the weather and dirt, and grime. You’ll have longer lasting cables, and your gear changes will feel great for longer on an internally routed frame.
- 27.5” wheels
- SR Suntour XCR 120 mm fork
- Tektro HD-M290 hydraulic disc brakes
Colors: Army cot green
Weight: 32 lbs
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
3. RALEIGH Bikes Tokul 2 Beginner Mountain Bike
The Raleigh Tokul 2 looks like a modern trail mountain bike. It has a hardcore hardtail style frame, a frame that wants you to hit jumps, rail berms, and fly off drops. It is a bike that is designed to be fun and leave you with a huge smile at the end of each run.
One of the first things you might notice is that the Tokul 2 only has 9 gears. To give you these 9 gears it uses a mix of Shimano Alivio and Altus parts. Now, you might be thinking that you are getting short changed with only 9 gears.
Mountain bikes now are ditching the front mech and only using the rear cassette for gearing. Doing so will save you a lot of time on maintenance, you’ll have better mud clearance, and most people never use the full spread of gears that their mountain bike features.
The Tokul 2 is all about fun on the way down, which is another reason you don’t need a lot of gears and why you’ll find an SR Suntour 120mm travel XCR fork at the front. To help you control your descent, you’ll find a set of Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakes.
- 9 speed
- SR Suntour XCR 120 mm fork
- Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakes
Weight: 29.7 lbs
Sizes: S, M, L
4. Diamondback Bicycles Overdrive ST
The Diamondback Bicycles Overdrive is listed as a trail ready 6061 aluminum alloy framed cross country (XC) bike. We feel that it veers more towards an XC bike. The reason is the SR Suntour XCT fork is a coil sprung suspension fork that offers 80 mm of travel. 80 -100 mm travel is more suited towards XC than trail riding.
Unlike many XC bikes, the Overdrive comes with 27.5” wheels, most XC bikes will come with 29” wheels. 27.5” wheels make the mountain bike more maneuverable; the 29” wheel size makes the bike easier to roll over obstacles. With 27.5” wheels, you’ll find the bike more fun to rail around berms.
To keep you under control you’ll find the Overdrive equipped with a set of Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes. Mechanical discs are pretty easy to set up, and you’ll find them a lot easier to make trailside repairs to than a set of hydraulic brakes.
The Diamondback Overdrive is a great choice as a good entry level mountain bike.
- 6061 aluminum frame
- SR Suntour XCT fork
- Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes
Weight: 44.1 lbs
Sizes: 18, 20”
5. Trinx MTB
The Trinx MTB is a classic aluminum framed hardtail. It looks like how many of us would imagine a mountain bike to look. It is a good choice for a budget hardtail, and as it is an affordable mountain bike, it comes with parts that are known to work but might not be the flashiest. When you’re out riding good reliable gear is more important than the latest trends or fashion.
You’ll find a 100mm coil sprung fork to help bring you some comfort and control when out on the trail. As the fork is basic coil sprung fork, you’ll find it to be less adjustable than the forks found on other bikes in this review.
Shimano Tourney has been picked by Trinx to handle gear shifting duties. The mix of a 7-speed freewheel a triple chainset means you’ll have a wide spread of 21 gears. Tourney has been proven time and time again to just work, especially when it is EZ-Fire shifters as it is here.
Then to slow you down, Trinx has gone for no-nonsense mechanical disc brakes. These brakes will bring you more stopping power than rim brakes, but a little less bite than you’d get from hydraulic disc brakes.
- 100mm travel suspension fork
- Shimano Tourney gearing
- Mechanical disc brakes
Gears: 21 speed
Sizes: 17, 19 in
6. Diamondback Bicycles Hook
Coming in at the same price as the Atroz 1 is the Diamondback Bicycles Hook. You might think that the full suspension Atroz is better value. The Hook has a lot of modern features that you don’t find on the Atroz. They help your entry into mountain biking to become more fun. One hidden example is the dropper post routing. You can upgrade to a dropper post in the future.
Like the Atroz the Hook has a 120mm travel SR Suntour XCM fork and a set of Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes. After that, they start to diverge. The Hook comes with a mix of SRAM X3 and X4 drivetrain parts. These parts bring you an 8-speed drivetrain.
As we said earlier this is the more modern standard, your new mountain bike won’t look out of place at a trail center. On the Hook, you’ll find a Narrow Wide chainring and an ISCG chain guide. When you’re tearing downhill, these two parts will make sure your chain doesn’t come off, and they help to highlight how much of a hardcore hardtail mountain bike the Hook is.
- SRAM X3/X4 groupset
- SR Suntour XCM 120mm fork
- Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes
Gears: 8 speed
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
7. Mongoose Impasse
The Mongoose Impasse is an aluminum full suspension mountain bike. Having an aluminum frame allows Mongoose to build you a light dual suspension bike. The front suspension duties are carried out by an Element suspension fork that looks great in its black colorway.
The Impasse comes with a 21-speed groupset that is a mix of two big brands. There are SRAM twist shifters mixed with a Shimano rear derailleur. You then get quality shifters working to function a quality rear derailleur. The mixing shows that Mongoose has been thinking about how to maximize your budget.
To go with the aluminum frame, Mongoose has outfitted the Impasse with a set of 29” alloy quick release wheels. 29” wheels are great for riding down rocky tracks. They will help to give you a new confidence in your riding skills as they roll over boulders. To help you slow down, Mongoose has fitted mechanical disc brakes to these wheels to give you full braking power, even in the rain.
In the reviews for the Impasse on Amazon, there are a few pictures of damaged cranks. Looking through the photos, it seems like the wrong pedals were fitted, and incorrectly fitting them destroyed the crank threads. Bike pedals are sided, and you need to put a left-hand pedal on the left-hand crank arm and the right-hand pedal on the right-hand crank arm. You should not need to use a wrench to put pedals on.
- Mechanical disc brakes
- Full suspension
- 29” alloy wheels
Weight: 44 lbs
Dimensions: 57 x 9 x 31 in
How to Choose a Mountain Bike as a Beginner Cyclist – 5 Tips to Avoid Disappointment
Buy a Hardtail
A full suspension might seem like a better idea than a hardtail, but you’ll be getting a heavier bike th at needs more maintenance. A full suspension will also hamper your development as a rider. We’ll talk about that below.
Tuning your suspension is a skill in itself, and it is easier to learn if you’re only looking at one part on the bike to tune that ride. Once you’ve mastered tuning your fork, if you decide to get a full suspension, you’ll be able to set the bike up to you easily. At the cheaper end of full suspension bikes, you’ll find that the suspension can’t be tuned at all.
Get the Right Size
Don’t kid yours , buy a mountain bike that is designed for your height. It’ll keep you safer when out riding in the back end of nowhere. If you sit in between sizes, get the smaller bike. The smaller bike will be easier to throw around and get used to riding.
A bigger bike may be suitable if you want to try your hand at marathon style events. With less technical sections to ride a longer, almost the same length as road bikes, length may suit you more. The rule here only suits a tiny minority of people, so don’t sweat it too much.
Don’t worry about weight
It is easy to get caught up in the weight argument and think a lighter bike is better. The issue is that going lighter at the more affordable end can lead to a broken bike. You also want to focus more on geometry. A light bike can be a nightmare to pedal uphill if the seat tube angle is wrong. All of the bikes in our test have tried and proven geometry.
One of America’s most famous mountain bike entrepreneurs, Keith Bontrager, once said the best bike to buy is the one in the color you like. You won’t ride your bike if you don’t like the color.
Don’t Blow Your Budget
Make sure you have budget left for other items such as a helmet, tools, clothes, and spare parts. Whichever bike you buy, you need to make sure you have enough money left to keep it running. You don’t want to buy a bike with Deore parts if you can only afford to replace them with Altus parts.
How Much can you Expect to Pay for a Top Beginners Mountain Bike?
You should be able to find some good cheaper mountain bikes under $200. The bike trade though wants the serious hobbyist to be spending around $500 for a bike. At that level and above you can start to expect great quality beginners bikes. At around $500 you’ll find a lot of very good bikes clustered together to take your money.
The next level is considered to be $1000+. At the $1000 mark, you can expect to find the very best beginners bikes. You’ll find air sprung forks, Shimano Deore, and a well thought out parts list that will see you through the next few years. In our review above you’ll find a carbon fiber bike, and that is an outlier. You’ll generally be looking at closer to $2000 for one from one of the big brands of cycling.
Between $700 and $1000, you should see the best mountain bikes that have futureproofed. Mountain bike standards are changing fast. Ironically there are new standards almost monthly. You want a mountain bike that can be quickly and easily adapted to these standards. Old standards make pretty expensive bikes almost worthless. If you don’t know what to avoid, this can make buying secondhand an expensive mistake.
Are Entry Level Mountain Bikes Usually as Good Off Road as Expensive Ones?
Yes, entry level mountain bikes can be as good offroad as mountain bikes around $2000, or even more expensive. The main advantage of a beginner mountain bikes over a more expensive one is that you’ll learn to ride more proficiently on an affordable mountain bike. It’ll also cost you less to repair any broken parts when you’ve had the inevitable tumble.
You might remember earlier that we said you want to buy a hardtail mountain bike over a full suspension model. You’ll find that an expensive full suspension model will make riding easier. That may sound like something you want, but really you’re better to learn the basics well at first. Once you have mastered the basics, offroad riding will be a lot more fun regardless of the bike.
A hardtail mountain bike will not compensate for any mistakes you make. A full suspension bike will, and the travel will save you when you should have crashed. A hardtail forces you to learn the skills that will make sure you don’t crash. The upside to this is that when you ride a more expensive or full suspension bike, you’ll be much faster.
Learning how to crash and bail from your mountain bike is a pretty important skill to learn. Once you’ve worked out how to fall, you’ll find that most scary parts of mountain biking just disappear. You’ll also find that when you’re on the ground, it gives you a chance to analyze how you’re riding.
If your bike prevents you from crashing, how will you ever know if you made a mistake? Everyone makes mistakes and that is how we learn. You’ll also learn how to fall and that can one day be a life saver.
When you go to a trail center, you’ll find it pretty easy to see those who missed these early steps out. It would be like going straight to university and missing out all other schooling. They will be more fluid, the bike will look like an extension of them, and it will be one of those poetry in motion moments.
You’ll quickly find that spending money doesn’t guarantee you a better time on a mountain bike. Pulling skids, railing berms, and hitting drops is the fun part. You can only show off an expensive bike in the parking lot, on the trail it’s all about your skills.
What Suspension is Recommend for Someone That is Just Starting Mountain Bike Riding?
Buying a mountain bike as a beginner, the best suspension is the one you can afford. That is why it makes sense to buy a hardtail rather than full suspension bikes in this price range. Generally, you’ll be getting a better suspension fork for your money, and a better suspension fork will lead to better performance out on the trail.
The thing you want to look for is air sprung fork. Some people will tell you this is because of weight; they are a lot lighter than coil sprung forks. The main reason is that they are more tuneable.
The majority of air sprung forks can be tuned to suit your weight, your riding style, and the amount of compression you like. The ability to tune your forks can make any bike ride like a dream. It is also not hard to tune forks and once you’ve done it, you’ll probably never want to run a coil sprung fork ever again. It will also make your bike ride like one that is many times more expensive.
You’ll find that many of the best mountain bikes in our review come with SR Suntour forks, and that is because they make the best budget forks. What you might start to find is RockShox forks appear on the $1000 bikes. Your issue here is that you’ll be on air forks with SR Suntour at this point and RockShox will be a coil fork.
You could easily make the point that you are buying a sticker rather than an improvement by picking the bike with the RockShox forks. When looking for forks remember that people don’t always know how to set them up. You should be careful when reading online reviews of forks. A bad fork might just be a bad setup.
Make sure you always remember that no suspension part will be a fit and forget an item. You need to have them setup properly, and you will have to take care of them. Leaving your suspension coated in mud is a fast way to have a system that doesn’t work.
5 Important Tips for a Novice Mountain Biker
Look down the trail
You want to be looking for where you want to be. Looking down directly in front of your wheel means that this is the more likely place you’ll end. Looking further down the trail will make you faster, and you’ll spot potential hazards much earlier and be able to react before it is too late. It will also help with all the other tips below.
When entering berms and corners, you should be looking at your exit — looking at the berm when you’re on it will only result in a crash. Your brain has already seen it and worked out all the complicated physics equations to get you round it. Let it do its job and just look where you want to go.
Stay loose and relaxed
If you tighten up your bike, you will lose some of the freedom it needs to roll over offroad terrain. You need to think of yourself as a fluid extension of your bike. You don’t want any tight joints, because the m inute you do that you and your bike will lose flexibility.
You don’t need to brake anywhere as often as you think you do. You need to set your speed before you hit tricky sections or obstacles. Braking in something like a rock garden will nearly always result in a fall. You need to pick your line early and stick to it. It is also far too easy to pull too heavily on the front brake when you’re feeling a bit out of your depth. Doing so always ends up in a trip over the bars. Be brave and trust your bike and yourself.
Move yourself around
On a mountain bike, you don’t want to just sit on the saddle and pedal. As well as being loose, you want to move around. Shift yourself and your weight back when going downhill and you’ll find the bike much easier to control, and you’ll feel less like you’re about to go over the bars. On a climb, shift your weight forward, and this will stop your front wheel from breaking traction and trying to come up to meet you.
Maintain your momentum
Keeping your momentum ties in with the don’t brake and look ahead rules. If you lose any momentum, you are more likely to fall, as you can’t balan ce. It is sometimes better to maintain your speed into more difficult areas. Momentum will allow your bike to clear the hard areas. Speed can be your friend, as count er-intuitive as that sounds.