I like a good mountain bike as much as the next guy which means when shopping for the main exercise bike, many things get weighted up and if the quality and price tag seem to match instead of purely based on the frivolous value of branding, I would consider buying it. I think many consumers are in the same boat. It is a good analysis of the object’s value, I think. However, having said that, many people mistake good value with cheap value. There is a reason why these two objectives are not merged into one word. Good value means you get something at its intrinsic value. Intrinsic means you pay its true worth (or closest to the worth of an object) and what you purchased is of decent quality, instead of what the seller would like it to be valued. It is essential to establish upfront what the term, “best for the money” means. It means value, not cheap.
Perhaps back in 2018 and 2019 many of us still have the luxury to pay more than necessary for many goods but since the hit of the COVID-19 epidemic, one would be hard-pressed to disregard budget mountain bike. For a good budget bike, say around the range of 700-800 Dollars the following criteria should be considered so you can enjoy the ride, have a great experience.
Stick to hardtails and a rigid frame instead of opting for a full-suspension mountain bike you can get straight from the supermarkets no matter how tempting this option maybe. By making the choice of purchasing from a supermarket, you would most probably end up with a bad overall mountain bike because the manufacturer is now forcing so many functionalities into one by compromising on each part. Scaling down with the hardtail, manufacturers get the chance to focus on more important parts and sticking them onto the frame such as good tires, brakes, suspension fork, etc (you get the gist). The saying, “Nothing is for free”, applies quite well in this context. You cannot have everything without any compromises and it is the un-known compromise you need to watch out for.
Lightweight aluminum frame, disc brakes (hydraulic is highly recommended), and a good suspension fork. These are the parts that would be abused the most and very frequently. They are the essentials and will influence your experience with riding a mountain bike, either it is rocky terrain, rolling downhills or on road. You would much rather pay more for these components than the bells and whistles that do not do much and will wear out eventually anyway.
Make sure to get one that suits your size. If you are of shorter stature, there is no point in going for the 29-inch wheels, better stick with say 27.5-inch but, if you are a tall person, 29 would be a very reasonable option, even though it may be more expensive. This is something you can not compromise on.
Now that the theory has been established, shall we get down to business?
Best Mountain Bikes For The Money
Marin Bob Cat Trail 3
A machine that seems and gives an experience of a much more expensive bike than it is. A solid bike that delivers a lot of fun but still helps you keep a tap on spending.
While the Bob Cat Trail 3 is the basic line of the range, it is, like the others, a solid built with sleek internal cable routing and beautifully finished welds. It does not come as a surprise because the brand has undergone a major revamp of the production line in recent years, perhaps due to more intense competitions. Its styling and geometry are quite spot on. This line is only the start of Marin’s quite “proper” mountain bike lineup, however. If you have more to spend, the next one up is rather interesting as well.
Caliber Two Cubed
When it comes to bargain, not many can beat the Caibre’s Two Cubed. Compared to other bikes with similar pricing, it offers amazing value with genuine performance rather than something just pretends to look rugged.
The Calibre’s Two Cubed comes with a 9-speed drivetrain, an amazing aluminum frame, and a brand name kit along with superb handling that is suitable for a range of riders from beginners to experienced.
Vitus Nucleus 29 VR
A great thing about Vitus brand is that they have their own direct sales channel instead of going through middlemen, so a lot of the savings are put into the bike’s specs such as an upgrade-ready frame, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes (remember what we established about disc brakes?), Shimano 2X9 Altus groupset and large volume WTB tires which allows both stability and prevents sliding around the corner, giving users much more confidence. All of that benefits and for 700 USD I would say is a good bargain.
Specialized Rockhopper Sport 29
If you are a sucker for brands then I am sure Specialised would get your attention, only the third most popular bike brand globally. Sporting a Shimano Altus drive train as well as hydraulic disc brakes, it seems this Rockhopper means business even though many people might be fooled by the price point. However, it is worth keeping in mind that The Rockhopper Sport only comes in 29inch wheels hence audience outreach is not that wide.
Trek X-Caliber 7
All the good bits for a fair price, the Trek’s X Caliber 7 is a great choice for a first bike. If you would like to be hooked onto something, biking would be a great idea. This mountain bike comes with everything an entry point should have, it allows for both 29inch and 27.5-inch wheels, hydro disc brakes from Shimano, lightweight allow frame, RockShox fork. You simply cannot go wrong with this as a starting point.
And if all those fails, there are still second-hand bikes that can be purchased in specialty shops. I hope with these choices in mind, your experience with mountain bike cycling would be much more pleasant, enjoyable, and safe.