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Best Mountain Bikes for Beginners in 2020: Affordable Quality

Road cycling is fun, but getting off-road on a thick wheeled mountain bike is even better. Dirt tracks, mountain slopes, forest, and even muddy fields will certainly take you further into the great outdoors and further from motor traffic than asphalt. But, before hitting the nerve testing downhill tracks you’ll want to get some practice of gentler trails. For that, you’re going to need a mountain bike.

As you’ve probably noticed, there are a lot of wallet breaking mountain bikes about. And the high prices might even be putting you off the sport. Fortunately, as a beginner, an entry level hardtail mountain bike with decent gear range and an aluminium frame will be just fine to start out. While experienced mountain bikers will swear by dual suspension and carbon fibre frames, these advanced features will drive the price up at break neck speeds and they’re certainly not necessary on beginner tracks.

So, which is the best entry level mountain bike in 2020?

Here at Cool of the Wild, we’re big biking fans and we know that you are too. If you’re new to the sport then be sure to check out our beginners’ guide to mountain biking.

So to make the first step to getting out on the trail as easy as possible, we’ve put together a beginners mountain bike buyers guide including our top picks of the best mountain bikes for beginners.

Summary of the best mountain bikes for beginners

Disclaimer: We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

ProductNo. of gearsBrake typeFrameCost
Diamondback Hook24Mechanical discAluminum$$$$
Co-op Cycles DRT 1.121Hydraulic discAluminum$$$
Cannondale Trail 8 Bike21Mechanical discSmartForm C3 Alloy$$
Raleigh Tokul 2 Hardtail Mountain Bike9Hydraulic discSteel$$$
Marin Bolinas Ridge 1 Mountain Bike21Mechanical discAluminum$
Orbea MX 30 29” Bike20Hydraulic discAluminum$$$$
Co-op Cycles REV 20 6-Speed Plus Kids' Bike6Mechanical discAluminum$

The best mountain bikes for beginners in 2020

Diamondback Hook Mountain Bike

Diamondback Hook Mountain Bike

The Diamondback Hook Mountain Bike is for riders who want to take on more than just unpaved roads and tracks. It’s made with Shimano components and you can rely on the 8-speed SRAM x3 single-ring drive chain for smooth gear shifting. It’s 27.5” wheels and 120mm coil sprung suspension fork, make it suitable for pretty tough terrain. Meanwhile, its wide handlebars enable easy steering. Additionally, the Hook mountain bike is designed with a lower than average, hardtail aluminium frame, which is longer at the front and shorter at the back. This provides the control and manoeuvrability that you need for serious trail riding. There’s no doubt in our mind that the Diamond Hook is right up there with the best mountain bikes under $1000.

Key features:

  • Shimano single-ring drive chain
  • 8-speed
  • 120mm front suspension
  • Aluminium frame
  • Value for money

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | EMS


Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 Mountain Bike

Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 Mountain Bike

This unisex model of the Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.1 is available in three sizes. However, Co-Op Cycles also offer this mountain bike in specific men’s and women’s versions. It has a 3 x 8 drivetrain, giving you a generous total of 24 gears to ride with. Meanwhile, the Shimano Altus front and rear derailleurs provide accurate shifting.

Another key feature is the responsive hydraulic disk brakes which require less power to use and give more accurate stopping. Hydraulic brakes are something that is rare to find in beginners mountain bikes in this price bracket. Additionally, the DRT 1.1 comes with 100mm coil sprung front suspension which offers more accurate handling as well as a more comfortable ride.

Key features:

  • Tektro hydraulic disc brakes
  • Shimano 8-speed
  • 100mm front suspension
  • Available in various sizes

Find the latest price on:
REI


Cannondale Trail 8 Bike

Cannondale Trail 8 Bike

Cannondale is known for producing reasonably priced mountain bikes which are built to last, and the Trail 8 certainly lives up to that expectation. Its SmartForm C3 aluminium frame is mega durable with dirt-tailored geometry that brings both quickness and composure; ideal for beginner to intermediate riders. Although the Cannondale Trail 8 is designed for beginners, its 7-speed drive chain provides a sufficient gear range for cross-country rides and moderate uphills. Additionally, the Shimano front and rear derailleurs and disc brakes offer functional and precise gear changing and controlled stopping.

The Trail 8 also features front suspension which can handle a variety of terrains. Its components may not be the highest tech, however, the standard size and unisex frame makes it easy to upgrade to an intermediate level bike further down the line. We, therefore, think that the 2020 version of the Trail 8 is one of the best entry level mountain bikes for the money.

Key features:

  • 7-speed Shimano drivechain
  • 75mm front suspension
  • Tektro mechanical disc brakes
  • Excellent value for money
  • Easy to upgrade
  • Durable frame

Find the latest price on:
REI


Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 Hardtail Mountain Bike

Raleigh Tokul 2 Hardtail Mountain Bike

Balancing stability with quick handling, the Raleigh Tokul 2 Hardtail is an ideal option for beginner mountain bikers looking to progress to more technical trails. With 120mm of travel, the SR Suntour XCR 32 Coil front suspension forks offer a forgiving ride further boosting confidence on tough trails. Likewise, the powerful hydraulic disc brakes give you fast and controlled stopping power even on wet or dusty tracks. The Tokul 2 Mountain Bike also features a simple 1×9 Shimano drivechain which means there’s only one gear-shifter to deal with, not to mention less maintenance and easier cleaning!

Key features:

  • 1×9 speed Shimano drivechain
  • Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakes
  • 120mm front suspension
  • Durable and lightweight frame
  • Easy maintenance
  • Suitable for progressing on technical trails

Find the latest price on:
EMS


Marin Bolinas Ridge 1 Complete Mountain Bike

Marin Bolinas Ridge 1 Mountain Bike

The Marin Bolinas Ridge 1 is the most affordable mountain bikes for beginners on our list. You won’t want to hit the bike park or tackle super technical trails on the Marin 1. However, the components and design allow beginner riders to enjoy easy trails, tracks and cross-country riding. The front suspension forks provide a decent 100mm of travel to absorb bumps in the trail with ease. And the 7-speed Shimano Tourney drivechain provides 21 gear options to keep you riding smoothly on all but the steepest ascents. Like the Cannondale Trail 8, the Marin 1 boasts Tektro mechanical disc brakes for reliable stopping power on those steeper than expected trails! Plus, the aluminium alloy frame ensures you’ll get plenty of riding hours in.

Key features:

  • 7-speed Shimano drivechain
  • 100mm front suspension
  • Tektro mechanical disc brakes
  • Excellent value for money
  • Durable frame

Find the latest price on:
evo


Orbea MX 30 29” Bike

Orbea MX 30 29” Bike

For an entry level mountain bike, the Orbea MX 30 offers high quality components that will go the distance on moderate off-road trails and tracks. It boasts a Shimano Deore M6000 group set and a 2×10-speed drivechain that shares many of the technologies found on Shimano’s higher end group sets. It’s one of the most versatile options on list with some thoughtful features. These include interlocking tread on the types that makes the bike roll easily on the road. There are also lots of options for setting up touring gear (pannier racks etc) on the frame. Plus, there is a load of clearance over the wheels which makes upgrading to larger tyres in the future no problem at all. Add to that, high quality hydraulic disc brakes and you’ve got yourself a superb value mountain bike for beginners and intermediate riders alike.

Key features:

  • 10-speed Shimano drivechain
  • 100mm front suspension
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
  • Highly versatile for touring and road riding
  • Lightweight frame

Find the latest price on:
Jenson USA


Co-op Cycles REV 20 6-Speed Plus Kids' Bike

Co-op Cycles REV 20 6-Speed Plus Kids’ Bike

Suitable for kids aged 6+, the Co-op Cycles REV 20 bike is a superb option for budding trail riders looking for a little bit more out of their off-road escapades. This excellent value bike offers mechanical disc brakes for smooth and reliable stopping power, and a simple 1×6-speed drivechain. This gives plenty of shifting options on gentle trails without overloading riders with gear options. What really makes this kids bike stand out is the plus-size tyres. These provide a load of give and bounce and eliminate the need for front suspension. Plus, their large surface area adds stability and traction to little riders so that they can gain confidence as they progress.

Key features:

  • 6-speed Shimano drivechain
  • No suspension
  • Mechanical disc brakes
  • Extra-wide, 2.6 in. all-terrain tires

Find the latest price on:
REI


What to look for in the best mountain bikes for beginners

Number of gears

It’s important to check the number of gears your bike has. A wider gear range will give you more options and make uphill riding considerably easier. Most mountain bikes will come with a minimum of 21 gears (7-speed) which is usually split into 7 gears on the rear cog and three gears on the front. 24 gears (8-speed) should be sufficient for an entry level mountain bike. More than this will add weight to the bike and require more maintenance and cleaning.

Size of bike

When it comes to the frame size, longer is generally better for hardcore riders and travelling at speed. A longer frame centres the rider and distributes the weight more evenly between the wheels. It thereby offers more stable riding on uneven terrain. An upright seating position, on the other hand, is more comfortable and easier to balance at lower speeds.

You’ll also need to know what wheel size to choose. The most commonly available sizes are 26” to 29” in diameter. The size of the wheel will affect the speed at which you can move and larger tyres can cover more distance with less physical effort. Durable 29” wheels are generally considered the best for mountain biking. Once moving you’ll fly over all types of rugged terrain, however, they can take a little more pedal power to accelerate. It’s worth noting too, that the height can make balancing and manoeuvring the bike more difficult at slow speeds. For this reason, beginners may prefer smaller 26” or 27.5” tyres.

Consider the type of trails you’ll be biking on before choosing the frame and wheel size. Mountain bikes are often available in more than one size so you can check your measurements against the bikes before making your purchase.

Brake types

We believe that the best brake types for mountain bikes are hydraulic disc brakes rather than the more traditional V-brakes or rim breaks that you tend to find on road bikes. These work by squeezing the disc (rotor) in the centre of the wheel rather than the wheel itself. Although disc brakes can be slightly heavier and can interfere with luggage racks, they provide considerably better control when stopping.


Getting off road on your bike is a superb way to get further into the wild and explore more. Whether you’re hitting the beginner routes at your local trail centre or exploring cross-country tracks, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect bike for you in our selection of the best mountain bikes for beginners.

Happy peddaling, happy bikers!

About the author

author-beth

Originally from the UK and currently based in Turkey, Beth Carter is a full-time adventurer, former scout, and vegan traveller. When she’s not hiking long-distance trails with an oversized pack on her shoulders, you’ll probably find her peddling up and down scenic roads, or pitching a tent in a far-off mountain range. On the odd occasion, you might even see her sitting at a keyboard, coffee at the ready, typing about her latest outdoor pursuit.

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