7 Best Beginner Mountain Bike Reviews | 2020 Models and Buying Guide

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So you’re buying your first beginner mountain bike. I know how hard it is to find the best beginner mountain bike with so many options available online and offline. It's easy to lose track of what you need with all the awesome features, especially on updated mountain bike models. This is why I created this comprehensive review of some of the top beginner mountain bikes in the market. I’m sure you’ll find the correct one for your needs soon. You’ll also get good ideas on more entry-level mountain bike reviews online. 

Editor's Rating:

4.2/5

Diamondback Bicycles Hook Hardtail Mountain BikeDiamondback Bicycles Hook Hardtail Mountain Bike

  • For tight trails or rough terrains
  • With a modern frame with a low-slung design
  • Easily moves along trail obstacles
[Best for the Money]
Vilano 26” Mountain Bike

Editor's Rating:

3.9/5

VILANO 26” MOUNTAIN BIKEVILANO 26” MOUNTAIN BIKE

  • Basic features for easy and light riding
  • Made from durable frame materials
  • Strong wheel frame materials

Editor's Rating:

4.3/5

RALEIGH BICYCLES TOKUL 2 HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKERALEIGH BICYCLES TOKUL 2 HARDTAIL MOUNTAIN BIKE

  • Lightweight and durable aluminum frame
  • Safe and reliable hydraulic disc brakes
  • Safe on the road and in park trails

How To Choose the Right Mountain Bike for You 

Whether you’re buying your first mountain bike or you’re looking for a bike to replace your old one, you should never settle for the first one you see at a shop. Always take your time and check the following important components: suspension, frame, wheel, drivetrain, brakes, tires, and shocks. Consider the weight of your bike, as this may affect the way you ride. Also, if you have a particular budget in mind, it pays to look for quality mountain bikes and to compare.  

Best Beginner Mountain Bike Reviews

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Editor's Rating:

4.2/5

Diamondback Bicycles Hook Hardtail Mountain BikeDiamondback Bicycles Hook Hardtail Mountain Bike

One of the best features that I like about the Diamond Bicycle’s Hook Hardtail is its progressive, low-form geometry, which I think is perfect for trail riding. Although I’m more of a road-riding type, sometimes you can’t help moving through rough roads, and this bike will make this effortlessly. 

In front is a large suspension fork for easy, smoother rides in and around trail obstacles. You can easily transition from the road to a rough road without discomfort. The handles may lack that comfortable feel, but I find this easy to grip and is firm. It comes with a single-ring drivetrain, a basic setup for simpler and smoother shifting 

This is long at the front and short from the back, low-slung means its easier to maneuver no matter what terrain you are. The wheels are 27.5” designed for easy maneuverability. The frame is full aluminum, so it's durable and will last forever. The brakes are Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes, so it's efficient, safe, and fail-proof. 

Now for some creature comforts. The seat is a basic adjustable mountain bike seat, which is long and narrow with very minimal padding. But I find this more comfortable than well-padded saddles because it helps me to stand up quickly to ride elevated terrains. It also helps me crunch down and maintain a tucked position. Also, the streamlined shape enhances the movement of the bike; this is why this type of seat is mountain bike-specific. 

This is not equipped with tubeless wheels but performs well on dirt and rough terrains. I find the overall design simple yet efficient, a good beginner mountain bike. The Diamond Bicycle’s Hook Hardtail is our best overall mountain bike recommended for first-time riders and for people who want a basic bike to handle different terrains. 

If this is your first time to ride a mountain bike, then I personally recommend this best overall bike for its modern frame design, good ride-ability, and comfortable accent features. 

Things We Liked

  • With a modern frame with a low-slung design
  • For tight trails or rough terrains
  • Basic drivetrain for simpler and smoother shifts
  • Easily moves along trail obstacles

Things We Didn't Like

  • Some find the seat too long and narrow
  • Tires are not tubeless

Editor's Rating:

3.9/5

Vilano 26” Mountain BikeVilano 26” Mountain Bike

I find the Vilano Ridge 2.0 MTB fun to ride and recommend this for light riding. But I know you won’t resist taking this far, and there’s no problem with this at all because this best mountain bike for beginners has the features to take you further. 

The Vilano Ridge 2.0 frame is made from double-butted 6061 aluminum, and this means that although it’s light, it’s durable and ideal for long-hours of use. I’ve used bikes made from other frame materials and find this one exceptional despite being and all-aluminum frame bike. 

You’ll notice that the wheels in this mountain bike are different from other best mtb for beginners. Instead of standard spokes, the magnesium alloy wheel frame boasts of three large spokes that are parts of the frame. These have made the tires look unique, and I think it adds to the bike frame’s overall durability.

You’ll ride on all-purpose tires, so cruising through wet, dry, or slippery surfaces won’t be a worry. The Vilano Ridge 2.0 comes with safe, easy to maintain mechanical disc brakes. Riding on any terrain is much safer and less worrisome with this type of disc brakes.   

This is a 21-speed mountain bike. The rear and front derailleurs are Shimano Tourney TZ50 and Shimano TZ30, respectively. Shifters are Shimano brand as well the EF-51 Easyfire 7spd for fast and precise shifting no matter what surface you’re on. 

I would prefer it if this bike had tubeless wheels, but it seems this is hard to find in basic mountain bike setups. But despite this, this bike is a cut above other best beginner mountain bike models. The Vilano Ridge 2.0 MTB is our best for the money mountain bike too because it has good, upgradable features and an affordable price.

If you’re looking for a budget bike with all the works, then the Vilano Ridge 2.0 MTB may be the mountain bike you’re searching for. 

Things We Liked

  • Basic features for easy and light riding
  • Made from durable frame materials
  • Strong wheel frame materials
  • Rims more durable and more rigid

Things We Didn't Like

  • The saddle is standard issue mountain bike saddle
  • Not comfortable for most users

Editor's Rating:

4.3/5

Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 Hardtail Mountain BikeRaleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 Hardtail Mountain Bike

Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 is a standard hardtail mountain bike that's great for beginner riders. It comes with simple yet upgradeable features that you might be looking for in a beginner downhill mountain bike.  

The frame is made from durable, strong, and lightweight aluminum, which is ideal for street riding and trail-riding. With a light aluminum frame and a lot of practice, you'll be tackling uphill and downhill conditions with ease. An easy aluminum frame also allows you to stand to climb higher and to crouch down if you want to move faster during downhill riding.

Rather than standard mechanical brakes, the Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 uses hydraulic disc brakes. This brake provides improved stopping power, enhanced control over rougher terrains, and lets you move safer as you turn. Although most standard mountain bikes use mechanical brakes, the Tokul 2 gives you better performance and added safety, whether you’re on concrete or any kind of rough terrain. 

The wheels are not tubeless, something standard in beginner mountain bikes. I would prefer tubeless over other tires because these are easier to handle and tougher on the road. But the Tokul 2 is a basic mountain bike that’s open for upgrades, and I think this should be your first upgrade for this standard bike. 

The Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 has a durable suspension fork, which will take you from the concrete bike lane to the rough park trail. This is why we recommend the Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 as the best park trail mountain bike. 

Overall, the Raleigh Bicycles Tokul 2 is comfortable to ride, especially on rough trails. It’s open for upgrades, just make sure that you only use genuine and efficient parts. It’s efficient uphill and is fast downhill, and it’s safe on the road with its powerful hydraulic brakes. And the limited lifetime warranty gives you more value for your money.

Things We Liked

  • Lightweight and durable aluminum frame
  • Safe and reliable hydraulic disc brakes
  • Safe on the road and in park trails
  • More value with a limited lifetime warranty

Things We Didn't Like

  • It comes with a hard, standard-issue saddle
  • Uses standard tires but may be upgraded to a tubeless tire.

Editor's Rating:

4.1/5

Gravity 2020 FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain BikeGravity 2020 FSX 1.0 Dual Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The Gravity 2020 FSX is a full-suspension mountain bike with outstanding features. At first glance, you can easily tell that it has a design that's uncommon for a beginner mountain bike, but I can assure you that the design may look different, but it's for the good of a beginner user.

First, it has a very durable aluminum frame that can withstand rigorous use day in and out. You can use this mountain bike on the street, bike lanes, and even on rough terrain. It comes with the adjustable suspension at the front and at the rear. The rear suspension has been cleverly integrated into the bike frame, and design allows the entire body of the bike to hold your weight more efficiently.

It has front and rear disc brakes for added safety and efficiency, especially if you plan to ride in rough bike trails. With disc brakes, you’ll always be ready and the brakes responsive. The wheels are easy to change and service with the quick-release feature. Just loosen the quick release lever and outcomes the wheels in the front or at the rear with ease. 

You’ll remain safe despite any challenges on the road with the durable Shimano shifters. And since you have Shimano parts, replacement and upgrades are readily available. Be sure to buy and use only genuine Shimano parts for your bike.

Another thing that you'll probably notice is that the wheels come with a unique radial pattern that you won't find in other mountain bike wheels. Although this is a standard style tire and is expected of a basic mountain bike, it would be great to upgrade this to a tubeless tire so you can enjoy a smoother, safer, and less complicated ride.

The Gravity 2020 FSX 1.0 mountain bike is available in four different colors and a variety of sizes. This is a good way to make sure that you’re getting the right bike size for your specific needs. Use the sizing guide to help you find the right bike size that will suit your body and height.

Things We Liked

  • Made for all kinds of terrains
  • Durable and reliable disc brakes 
  • With quick-release wheels at the front and rear
  • Easy to maintain and replace

Things We Didn't Like

  • Still uses a standard saddle
  • The complicated adjustable suspension feature 

Editor's Rating:

4.5/5

Merax FT323 Mountain Bike 21 Speed Full Suspension​Merax FT323 Mountain Bike 21 Speed Full Suspension​

The Merax FT323 mountain bike is a 21-speed full-suspension bike. Just like the previous model, this Merax mountain bike has an adjustable rear and front suspension, so you can correct suspension problems and ride safely and more comfortably anywhere. 

Move from one gear to another with the easy Revo Shift Shimano 21-speed shifters and derailleurs. It adds to smoother gear shifting no matter what terrain you are in. Because of this, the Merax FT323 can be used on various surfaces. The Revo Shift changes from speed to speed using a circular switch rather than a regular lever switch. 

And you'll stay safe and secure on the road with its linear-pull braking system. This is an entry-level bike with a 330 pounds capacity and gives you more value for your money with a one year warranty. 

There are only a few setbacks when riding the Merax FT323, and one of these is the complicated frame design. I would prefer to use a regular frame with a basic design since a basic frame distributes the different forces that act on the bike evenly. 

I found the Merax FT323 easy to handle, smooth, and very efficient in moving through rough terrain, but the frame is something to get used too. It took me a few tries to adjust it, but once I was comfortable with the suspension, I was ready to take this bike anywhere. 

And a fair warning to new riders: ask a professional to adjust your bike’s suspensions. Never attempt to do this unless you have previous experience. 

Things We Liked

  • With efficient dual-suspension design
  • With a basic design that’s upgradable
  • With good quality, lightweight frame
  • Linear-pull brakes for improved stopping power

Things We Didn't Like

  • With a complicated frame design
  • With regular tires replaceable with a tubeless tire

Editor's Rating:

5/5

Merax 26” Aluminum 24-Speed Mountain BikeMerax 26” Aluminum 24-Speed Mountain Bike

Aluminum is one of the most popular bike frames because of its durability and resistance to most pressures on the road. This material is upgraded and tapered to create the Merax aluminum mountain bike. 

The Merax 26” aluminum 24-speed mountain bike has a stunning heat-treated aluminum 17” frame. It looks very impressive as the frame body gradually changes in diameter from the front to the back. It comes with a 26” suspension fork that will let you move safely and effortlessly in rough roads. You can ride on the street and transfer to a rough bike terrain easily. Aluminum rims partner with the flexible suspension fork for easy and smooth riding even over bumpy surfaces. 

This bike comes with a Shimano 24-speed derailleurs plus shifters to reliable changes between speeds. You can conquer any terrain, climb up and scoot downhill with ease with dependable Shimano parts. And these components are also good on regular roads in the city and even in urban or rural areas where road conditions greatly vary. 

It comes with a mechanical front disc brake for safe stops all the time. This bike can handle weights of up to 330 pounds, and thus, it is one of the most durable beginner mountain bike models. 

As with almost all the mountain bikes I have reviewed, this bike has a regular saddle: it’s stiff, long, and uncomfortable. I have personally encountered this many times, but still, this design is better or even far better than heavily padded seats. This saddle lets you crouch down and pedal easily to move up inclines or to speed through other racers. This design also improves speed and performance overall. 

And again, the tubeless bike tire is still superior to tube tires. Although this bike is equipped with standard tires, I would propose an upgrade to tubeless ones for more efficiency and easy maintenance.   

Things We Liked

  • Made from lightweight, heat-treated aluminum
  • Has a smooth ride with an efficient suspension fork
  • With durable aluminum rim wheels
  • With durable Shimano derailleurs and shifters

Things We Didn't Like

  • The saddle is uncomfortable for riders
  • Uses regular tires and not tubeless tires

Editor's Rating:

3.7/5

Mongoose Impasse Men's Mountain BikeMongoose Impasse Men's Mountain Bike

Mountain bikes are not just for rough terrains anymore. You’ll also find these on the road, in cities, and in rural areas. This is because most mountain bikes have adapted a versatile design, which is what  you’ll find in the Mongoose Impasse mountain bike.

Another beginner mountain bike with a unique frame design is the Mongoose Impasse Men’s Mountain Bike. This bike has a stunning painted aluminum suspension frame. Despite its complicated frame design, it is said to improve comfort and maximize the rider’s performance.

The front suspension makes the front wheel more flexible, while the back wheel has a unique suspension system that allows the back wheel flexible and able to withstand constant pressure on any terrain. The suspension fork makes rough terrain smoother and more bearable. 

It’s powered by a 21-speed Shimano rear derailleur along with SRAM twist-shifters. Instead of pulling a lever or clicking a switch, which makes you leave your hand on the handlebar, you simply move the shifter by twisting it with your fingernails, not leaving the handlebars for safety. 

The alloy wheels are stronger than regular aluminum and thus will resist warping, twisting, or bending when placed in constant pressure. It also comes with a quick-release front, so wheel changes are easier and faster. Finally, you also get efficient and reliable disc brakes in the front and rear wheels. Disc brakes provide stopping power, especially during long descents.  Mongoose Impasse Men’s Mountain Bike works better compared to rim brakes, especially during rain or wet weather. 

The Mongoose Impasse Men’s Mountain Bike has a few disadvantages. First, the frame is a bit complicated, but despite this, it eases moving on rough terrain. The saddle is too small and has no padding, but despite this, it’s easy to adjust and makes uphill movements easier. The Mongoose Impasse Men’s Mountain Bike is available in three different colors with an upgraded Mongoose Impasse HD. The HD has a threadless headset for easy steering and aluminum three-piece crankset.   

Things We Liked

  • Strong aluminum suspension frame
  • Enhanced comfort and improved performance
  • With SMRA twist-shifter for quick and easy shifting
  • Alloy wheels with a quick-release front.

Things We Didn't Like

  • This bike has a complicated frame
  • Quick-release only for the front wheels

The Features to Look For In a Mountain Bike for Beginners

Hardtail or Full Suspension?

The difference between a hardtail and a full suspension is the weight. A full-suspension bike is heavier with additional rear shock and tubes. So if you want to ride uphill, a lighter bike is easier to handle than heavy ones. If you prefer to ride offroad, then a good bike with full suspension is better since it provides proper traction and rear suspension for a better ride.   If you’re lucky to test a hardtail or full-suspension, then you can personally find out which is the ideal one for you.

Frame Material & Size

Carbon steel is most commonly used because of its high tensile strength and can last forever. Meanwhile, aluminum is light but stiff and strong and thus ideal for climbing. Titanium is lighter and just as durable as steel but is one of the most expensive. Finally, carbon fiber is tough and is the strongest.

About the size of the bike frame, there are several methods to find out the right one for you. You can use your height to find out the most suitable size. Here is a chart to guide you

Height

Bike Frame Size

4’11” to 5’3”

13 to 15 inches

5’3” to 5’7”

15 to 16 inches

5’7” to 5’11”

16 to 17 inches

6’ to 6’2”

17 to 19 inches

6’2” to 6’4”

19 to 21 inches

6’4” and above

21inches and above


Wheel Size

a person on the bike

Bicycle wheels are classified according to a diameter, which is the measurement across the wheel's width from the rim edge, moving over the hub axle towards the opposite edge.

The width of the rim should also be considered. This is measured between the inner walls of the rim.  Also, the tire width is measured across the width of the tire. 

When the tire is inflated, this gives you how wide the tires you must use according to particular rim width.

There are three-wheel diameters for mountain bikes: 26", 27.5" and 29". Rim widths across these diameters are similar to the widths from 19mm for cross country lightweight bikes and 40mm for bikes used downhill.

Drivetrain 

The 11-speed drivetrain is now the new standard for mountain bikes and road bikes. This drivetrain provides a smoother and efficient shift ratio and thus better for regular riding and climbing. 11-speed drivetrains are known to be more efficient and shift faster to give you more flexibility on the road. Finally, this type of drivetrain will be lighter to move. A mountain bike with a triple front ring, a better 2x11 setup, will further reduce weight and enhance your drivetrain. 


Brakes

Disc brakes are the new standard for mountain bikes. There are mechanical disc brakes that works using cables similar to rim brakes and hydraulic disc brakes. This type of brakes is more efficient and safer but requires more maintenance. Disc brakes can last longer than ordinary brakes but are more expensive and need professional installation. And no matter what type of brakes your mountain bike has (regular brakes, manual or hydraulic disc brakes), you should regularly maintain it for safety.


Tires

I prefer to use tubeless tires because this offers a better grip, weighs less, and has improved resistance to punctures. Despite taking the time to set up, I find these more efficient compared to tubes. Make sure to get the right tire pressure because too much can affect your grip and your overall comfort. 

How to find the right tire pressure? Start with higher pressure so you can check what riding on high pressure is like. Slowly reduce the pressure until you get the right feel while on the road.

For tubeless tires, a 2.2 Bar or 35 Psi at the front and back would be enough. If you weigh more than 80 kg, use 2.4 Bar or 40 Psi. Most of the bikes we have on our list are not yet tubeless tires. We recommend you consider this type of bike tires for your MTB. 

A bike tire

Shocks

When it comes to rear shocks, choose from coil or air shocks. Air shocks are lighter and are easier to adjust according to the rider's weight and spring rates. Meanwhile, coil shocks require the right spring to match your weight and riding style. Coil shocks are sensitive and provide a more accurate control; this is why it's the most popular. Rear shocks adjustment must be made carefully; for beginners, please ask a professional mountain bike installer to help you out.

Don’t Worry About Bike Weight

I prefer to consider the rider weight than the bike weight because, in my opinion, the more your ride, the faster and more efficient you get. Yes, a lighter bike is easier to ride, but when you lack exercise and training, you’re still bound to run slower. Plus, a lighter bike means you must be prepared to pay more, even twice or thrice more than a regular mountain bike. Most light bikes are made from strong but light materials, which are more expensive than the regular type of frame materials.

a girl lifting the bike

Don’t Blow Your Budget

Don't splurge on an expensive bike. I like to run over the specs and even consider a cheaper setup rather than go for an expensive one with specs that won't match my game. Take your time and check the specs and make sure that these match yours. Compare specs, features, and ratings as much as possible. And if you really don’t want to spend money, consider buying a second-hand mountain bike instead of splurging on a brand new one.

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