Best Mountain Bikes Under 1000 Dollars – Reviews and Buying Guide
Mountain bikes are a great opportunity to get outdoors and point yourself in the direction your heart desires. Their ability to go ‘just about anywhere’ without having to worry about terrain lets you do just that. As a bonus, you get to develop some ‘rad skills and fitness along the way.
As we’ve mentioned in our road bike guide, there are quite a few advantages to buying a bike online. Primary amongst them is the fact that you often get a better deal by bypassing the logistics and branding costs that have to be borne by physical stores which are passed down to the customer.
We think it’s a great idea to support your local bike shop but that can also be done via spares, parts and service. Whatever you do though, don’t try a bike out in a store and then buy it online. That’s just plain wrong!
We will list some bikes that have a unique value proposition towards the end of the article. We try to stick to links from Amazon.com as they provide nationwide coverage, including some considerably remote areas. It’s also nice to have an added layer of protection for your purchase. That being said, In the event that we want to recommend something not carried by Amazon, well do just that.
But first, let’s focus on some mountain bike basics that will help you select the right bike: –
Mountain bikes aren’t as sensitive to sizing as road bikes. However, it is still important to get into the correct ballpark if you want to get the most out of them. The following chart will help you get there: –
There really shouldn’t be any difference in a women specific frame except that those are usually easier to step through. If the size is right, gender should not matter. As it tends to be, the sizes will vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. If you find yourself between sizes, choose the slightly smaller frame and you should be good.
Types of Mountain bikes
While there are specific bikes for different mountain biking disciplines such as Enduro, Cross-country, Freeride, Downhill etc., were primarily going to cover the two classes of bikes, namely Hardtail and Dual-suspension.
Hardtails are bikes that have only have front-suspension and therefore a hard-tail or rear. In other words, only the front wheel is suspended via shock absorbers in the fork. These bikes tend to be faster and more efficient over moderately uneven terrain as opposed to full-on off-roading, where they might be less so. They may also end up being lighter than dual-suspension bikes of the same price. When buying an entry to mid-level bike, it’s a good idea to stick to hardtails as they offer better value. We’re big fans of how they feel and that will be reflected in our recommendations.
Full or dual suspension bikes, as the name suggests have both wheels suspended. While this adds complexity weight and cost, it can have a number of performance benefits. Consider these when buying a high end bike or if you plan on racing.
If you’re unfamiliar with Mountain bikes, you may be surprised to know that they come with different wheel sizes. We’ll list the 3 most common options available with a brief description so that you can make an informed choice: –
29-ers are the most popular wheels currently on the market despite the fact that they are a fairly new wheel size for MTBs. The bigger wheels mean that they can carry more momentum and are therefore more efficient. They can also be a good choice if you are going to want to roll over big obstacles while off-roading. They are compatible with many hybrid tires giving you a bit of flexibility if you want to convert the bike to more on-road use. Choose these if you want speed or out-and-out performance.
26-ers are the traditional Mountain bike wheel size. This relatively small sized wheel has been the industry standard for a long time. These wheels are stronger than the similar wheels of a larger size due to a shorter spoke length. The smaller size also lets you change directions quickly and as such they are suited for more technical off-roading with lots of turns and twists. For obvious reasons, they are also lighter.
27.5 inch or 650b is the latest wheel size and one that tries to offer the best of both worlds, combining the benefits of 26 & 29-ers without going too far in either direction.
We will specify the type of bike and wheel size in our recommendations and also provide options wherever possible to help you choose.
Carbon fiber and aluminum are the most popular choices for Mountain bike frames and parts alike. Carbon parts are lighter, stronger (in areas designed to bear load/impact) and more expensive. Aluminum provides better value & a satisfactory balance between lightness, durability and stiffness. A word to the wise, buy parts that you could easily replace if needed. What we’re trying to say is that while carbon parts may have bling value and performance, replacing a broken handlebar or stem should not become a strain on your wallet. This is particularly true for a sport like mountain biking where falls and impact are part of the game. All of cycling is more about the rider and less about the machine. That being said, go with carbon if you desire the very best but keep in mind that aluminum won’t hold you back either.
Steel is an interesting choice for an MTB frame because while it is by far the heaviest, it is a very absorbent material. Steel bikes offer superior comfort and are extremely cost effective. A steel frame makes for a great entry-level/recreation bike and so if you aren’t too concerned with weight and want a strong, reliable bike, it is a material worth considering.
The mechanical parts of the bike are collectively known as the groupset. These include the brakes, crankset, front and rear mech., chain, brakes and gear shifters. These parts may need to be replaced over time as there Is wear and tear involved. They can also be upgraded, either partially or as a set, for better parts as needed. Shimano and SRAM are by far the most popular manufacturers. The following is a handy chart that will help you understand their hierarchy: –
As with road groupsets, improvements in performance are insignificant once you go past the mid-range to enthusiast tiers. What does keep going down is the overall weight, something that might be worthwhile if you plan on entering competitions.
1x or ‘one-by’ groupsets do away with the front derailleur/chainrings, eliminating chain slap/slack, reducing weight and improving shifting performance.
Because Mountain bikes are exposed to conditions harsher than most other bicycles, it is important to keep the drive parts of your bike clean. A well maintained drivetrain not only works better, it also feels better. Take care of your equipment and your bike will thank you for it. This should also help you considerably lengthen the lifespan of the parts.
The fork is the part of the bicycle that holds the front wheel. It also houses the most important suspension springs on a Mountain bike, the front shocks. Forks come with varying levels of ‘travel’. Travel simply refers to the distance that the fork can move up or down to stabilize the bike and absorb shock. A fork with a lot of travel will have great ability to soak up the bumps but will also make the steering less direct and generally make the bike trickier to handle. A longer fork also means more material and therefore more weight.
While the ideal amount of travel in the fork would depend on the kind of riding you wish to do, most people would benefit from being somewhere in the middle. That’s what we are going to aim for with our recommendations. If you intend to ride your Mountain bike on paved roads, it might be a good idea to get a fork that has a ‘lock-out’, which lets you make the fork rigid and improve efficiency when the road is smooth.
If you’d like to know more about forks, here’s a detailed article to help you out: – http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/article/mountain-bike-suspension-forks-a-buyers-guide-55/
Because mountain bikes are often ridden over loose and uneven surfaces, the tires are wider, more puncture resistant and ‘knobby’. This type of tread improves the bike’s traction over such surfaces. Tubeless tires can nearly eliminate punctures and are available as an option depending on the type of wheel.
With all the important parts out of the way, let’s move on to our top picks for best mountain bikes:
The Schwinn High Timber – An easy entry into mountain biking
The High Timber is a great starter bike for anyone looking to get into mountain biking and having their first trail experiences. It also makes a great choice for someone who wants a simple, no-nonsense mountain bike that just works. The Steel frame is sturdy and absorbs small bumps and vibrations with ease, making this a relatively comfortable hardtail. The front suspension does its job and takes the edge off larger bumps. Despite the bike’s having an under-$200 price tag, the rear derailleur is a Shimano, as are the grip shifters. This is a lot of bike for the money. There’s even a women’s specific 26-inch wheel version and for a few extra dollars, you have the option of getting a 29-inch version of the bike.
This truly is a bike that anyone can get up and start riding and Schwinn’s lifetime warranty sweetens the deal even further.
The Diamondback Overdrive – Perfect blend of price & performance
The 2016 Diamondback Overdrive is a bike that punches way above its price class. It would not be an overstatement to say that it is one of the best value hardtail bikes out there. At the core of the bike is a hand-built 6061-T6 aluminum alloy frame. The frame lets you power through stones, gravel and mud by making the most of aluminum’s natural stiffness. This stiffness is offset by the plush, 4 inch SR Suntour XCT fork. The 24 speed gears tackle all sorts of grades with ease and the big tires provide grip for days, keeping you rooted to the ground even when the surface is loose. Tektro’s mechanical disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power. The red color really catches the eye. This is a capable and fun bike that’s worth much more than the sum of its parts. There’s also the choice of a 29-inch version.
The BEIOU CB005/CB020 Carbon Fiber – Ultra-light race machine
Discovering this bike was like finding a diamond in the rough. Conventional wisdom might have you staying away from a virtually unknown East-Asian brand but take our word for it, this Is a serious bike with serious performance. The carbon used here is the same grade as you would find on much more expensive carbon bikes from Trek/Giant. The handlebars and seat post are made from the same high-grade carbon fiber. The bike is kitted with Shimano gears and brakes The excellent 30-speed Deore system will let you spin up walls and the M355 Hydraulic disk brakes will let you stop as if you’ve hit one. The bike is nimble and changes direction superbly. There’s also a 27.5-inch version with internal cabling for you to choose from. Both sizes of wheels come with carbon fiber hubs and It even has a lock-out option for the suspension fork. Incredible value for an all-carbon bike.
The Diamondback Mission 2 – Uncompromising performance
It’s probably no secret that we’re fans of Diamondback. Their bikes represent a price to performance ratio that’s really hard to match and this remains true even at the higher end of the scale. The 2016 Diamondback Mission 2 is a dual suspension bike that was designed to ride as many trail miles as you possibly can and then some more. From top to bottom, no compromises have been made while designing this bike. The frame is made out of weapons grade hydro-formed aluminum. The suspension components are some of the best you can buy and the bike actually feels like a hardtail until the rear shock is needed. It comes standard with a KS Lev Integra dropper seatpost that lets you lower the saddle instantly at the push of a button. This helps you quickly switch between an aggressive standing position and an efficient seated positon. SRAM’s 1×11 drivetrain and DB5 hydraulic brakes work flawlessly. The Easton ARC27 wheels are compatible with tubeless tires, should you require the option. From the magnesium lowers in the forks, to the chromoly steel used for the saddle rails, every part of the bike screams quality.
Mountain biking is about nailing your technique and smoothly transitioning from one skill to another. Take time to hone your skills, learn how to move your body weight around and soon you’ll be flowing though the trails. Remember that the rider matters more than the bike.