There is, perhaps, nothing better than the feeling of wind blowing against your face as you blow down the side of a mountain pass on your bike, your seat, and bones, vibrating as you roll over rocks and upturned roots.
For those who mountain bike, the experience is somewhere between happiness and adrenaline. But not everyone has thousands and thousands of dollars to spend on the most pristine, advanced mountain bikes. That's why we've put together a list of the best mountain bikes for under $500.
1. Cannondale Trail 8
The Cannondale Trail 8 is an awesome bike for mountain bikers, especially those who are interested in a lightweight option. The frame is made of aluminum, which helps keep the weight down without a reduction in performance.
Other features in this bike include a Shimano Tourney drivetrain, which provides for a 7-speed rear cassette with an 11-34T range, and a Prowheel alloy crankset, including triple chainring with a 42/32/22T setup. Plus, the bike comes with Tektro mechanical disc brakes and 29" wheels.
All of these impressive specs allow this bike to climb steep terrain with ease, but what's most impressive about this product is its appearance. Its graphite color and sleek but simple design give it an intimidating, albeit very cool, look. On this bike, you'll undoubtedly be the envy of all the other bikers on the mountain.
2. Trek Marlin 4
The Trek Marlin 4 is a very high-quality bike, also featuring a lightweight, aluminum frame and a Shimano Tourney, 7-speed drivetrain.
Most impressive about this bike are the add-ons that you typically only see on far more expensive, higher-end bikes, like brake cables that are routed through the frame. This way, your brakes can't get pulled out of alignment if you're caught on an obstacle.
Other impressive parts of this bike include its front crank with triple chainrings with a 42/34/24T range and a range of 14-28T on its rear cassette.
Perhaps more important than these stats is the reputation of the Marlin Bike. This particular line of bikes has been around for many years, having been very popular under the brand Gary Fisher (which was acquired in 1993 by Trek).
The Trek Marlin 4 also features a Bontrager mountain bike saddle that you will only find on a Trek bike.
3. Giant ATX 3
At less than 14 kg, the Giant ATX 3 is one of the lightest mountain bikes you will find for under $500. On this bike, the frame is significantly thinner than most other bikes. Paired with a fast-rolling wheelset, high rear cassette range, and a tall seat post, the Giant ATX 3 is fantastic at climbing.
The bike's Prowheel crankset is fitted with 24/34/42T chainrings, and the rear cog set goes up to 34T. And the bike's other components include Shimano Tourney from and read derailleur, Tektro mechanical disc brakes, and Giant's custom mountain bike saddle.
All those things in mind, there are some things to consider before purchasing a Giant ATX 3. While the bike's tires are great on hardpacked trails, their tread isn't deep enough for technical singletrack.
4. Orbea MX40
At $500 or under, the Orbea MX40 is a tremendous deal, especially given the high-quality components the bike incorporates.
The Orbea is unique, in part, because of the 9-speed rear cog set with an enormous range of 11-36T. Considering this, and the bike's triple chainring, you can handle any and all kinds of terrain with this product.
The Orbea MX 40 also boasts hydraulic brakes, which is a great deal on a bike of this price. And, if that wasn't enough, it also features a full Altus groupset.
Although Orbea isn't as popular a brand as Trek or Giant, it has been around since 1930. They are based in Spain and are widely known for their excellent quality products.
5. Diamondback Overdrive
The Diamondback Overdrive is yet another bike from the well-known Diamondback company, which is practically synonymous with BMX biking. It's full of high-quality components, including a drivetrain fitted with a Shimano Acera 9-speed rear derailleur with a range of 11-36T.
This bike's other features include Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and high-end Suntour fork, which offers 100mm of travel.
And, unlike most of the bikes on this list that are best suited for light trail riding, the Diamondback Overdrive is best suited for technical singletrack. Short chainstays make the bike easy to throw in and out of turns. And this also makes it easy to pop the bike over obstacles.
If it wasn't obvious before, given this bike's wide-range of high-quality features, this bike is an absolute steal.
6. Schwinn Bonafide
Schwinn is one of the oldest U.S.-based bike manufacturers, and they have a wide range of great products, including the Schwinn Bonafide. This particular bike features an intense and rather cool-looking, red and black look.
The Schwinn Bonafide's most impressive component is its tires made to handle tough singletrack trails.
Other components of this bike include its full set of Shimano components, including an 8-speed rear cassette, triple front chainring, and mechanical disc brakes.
Keep in mind that if you're looking for a bike you can literally ride out of the store, this might not be the best product. The Schwinn Bonafide comes about 90% assembled, meaning you will have to do a little bit of work before working your way up those mountain paths.
7. Mongoose Impasse
The Mongoose Impasse, unlike the rest of the bikes on this list, is a dual suspension bike. This is a true rarity at under $500. That in mind, along with a full Shimano Tourney groupset, this bike is a great purchase.
Other components of the Mongoose Impasse include a 7-speed rear derailleur and a triple chainring.
On the other hand, the shifters are SRAM twist shifters, which are, generally, a downgrade from the rest of the bikes on this list. If SRAM twist shifters are something you can't see yourself using, this bike is probably not for you!
8. Gravity FSX 1.0
The Gravity FSX 1.0 is also a dual suspension bike and boasts a variety of other impressive features, including Suntour front and rear shocks.
Gravity is a bike brand that is owned by online direct-to-consumer company BikesDirect, which is probably why you've never heard of them. That being said, this bike is fantastic at doing just what the name suggests: use gravity to descend.
Other features on this bike include Shimano components with an 8-speed rear cassette, a triple chainring, and mechanical disc brakes.
The Gravity FSX is also unique in that it uses a 26' wheelset, which is something that might drive potential customers away. If you're not afraid of the smaller wheelset, this bike could be a great option!
How Much Mountain Bike Can You Get For $500
Before we consider specific products, it's important to understand just what you're able to get out of a mountain bike for $500 or less.
At $500 or under, you'll generally be looking at a bike with an aluminum frame.
Aluminum is much less expensive than carbon, which is used in higher-quality bikes. Because of this, bikes with aluminum frames are noticeably thicker, as they need to be strong enough to endure any terrain you might face and prevent cracking.
Drivetrain and Brakes
Sub $500, expect to see triple front chainrings with either 7- or 8-speed rear cassettes. Occasionally, however, you will find a bike with a double chainring with a 9-speed cassette.
Typically, the triple chainring setup for a mountain bike is 42/34/24T.
The rear cassettes on these cheaper bikes also tend to come with larger cogs, around 36T, which makes steep climbs a breeze!
As far as brakes go, most of these cheaper options will feature mechanical disc-brake technology working through cables running from the brake levers to the brake's calipers. Occasionally, you can find bikes with hydraulic brakes at this lower price point, although those are considerably rarer.
As far as wheel size goes, it's usually up to personal preference, rather than price. Bikes with 27.5" wheels have faster acceleration and are more nimble, allowing for a more aggressive attack of corners. On the other hand, bikes with 29" wheels are more efficient and offer better traction.
29" wheels are also a bit heavier.
Having trouble deciding which size is better for you? In general, 27" wheels are better for bikers who are a bit, how should I put this, vertically challenged... On the other hand, if you're quite tall, you will definitely want to try out the 29" wheels.
All of the above specs contribute to weight one way or another. Your bike's components will generally be heavier at a reasonably low price point of $500 or under. Therefore, most of the bikes at this price point will be over 12kg.
If you're looking for a bike under this weight, you will probably have to go up in the amount you're willing to spend.
While some bikes in this price point can be purchased from the store, many others have to be bought online. And, most of these bikes require some assembly.
Usually, the assembly is pretty simple, including assembling the mountain bike saddle, seat posts, pedals, wheels, or handlebars.
While this can be a daunting task, as stated above, it's usually pretty simple. That being said, if you're not comfortable doing this yourself, you can usually pay someone else to assemble your bike for you. This can be done through Amazon or many local bike shops! And, if you originally purchased your bike from one of those local bike shops, they'll likely offer you a discount on assembly, as well as tune-ups and repairs.