Biking

The 5 Best Mountain Bikes For Beginners – [2018]

Since you are here, you have probably discovered mountain biking is a great sport. Not only can you have lots of fun, but you also stay fit and healthy at the same time.

Don’t be fooled by the photos you will see advertising mountain bikes, it is not all about huge jumps and drops at breakneck speed.

You can still enjoy mountain biking by staying on easier trails and increasing the difficulty as you gain experience.

To get started, you should read this beginners guide to mountain biking to get a better idea about the sport. You will find all sorts of information about different bike types and the clothing that will keep you comfortable.

The big question is about the bike: What is the best beginner mountain bike?

Obviously this is a serious consideration because you certainly want to get a capable machine but at the same time you might not be comfortable shelling out lots of money for a top of the line mountain bike.

If you are, then great and you can check out our recommendations of the best enduro bikes.

For more of my top gear recommendations, have a look through these popular Outside Pursuits guide links: MTB PedalsMTB Helmets, MTB Shoes.

Quick Answer: The 5 Best Mountain Bikes For Beginners

  1. Diamondback Bicycles Line Hardtail Mountain Bike
  2. GT Zaskar Comp Hardtail Mountain Bike
  3. Framed Marquette Alloy Mountain Bike
  4. Orbea Loki 27+ H30 Hardtail Mountain Bike
  5. Kona Precept 150 Mountain Bike

Here is a feature overview of my top 3 overall picks. Our guide and comparison table of the top rated beginner mountain bike will help you choose the right one for you.

Best Beginner Mountain Bikes

 Diamondback Line Hardtail Mountain BikeGT Zaskar Comp Hardtail Mountain BikeFramed Marquette Alloy Mountain Bike
editors choice
Frame:6061-T6 aluminum alloy frame GT Speed Metal AluminumAluminum Alloy
Tires:Schwalbe Tough Tom 27×2.35″WTB Nineline 29×2.25″Framed Minnesota 27.5 x 3.0″
Drivetrain:SRAM 1×9 speed Sunrace CS-MS8 11-42, 11 speedSRAM XG-1150 Full Pin 11-42, 11 speed
Brakes:Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brake with 180 front/160mm rear rotorsShimano Hydraulic DiscSRAM DB5 Hydraulic Disc Brake 180mm Front, 160mm Rear
See the GT Zaskar at JensonUSA

Beginner Mountain Bike Reviews

#1 Diamondback Bicycles Line Hardtail Mountain Bike

Diamondback Bicycles Line Hardtail Beginner Mountain Bike

Diamondback Line Hardtail Mountain Bike at a Glance:


  • Frame: 6061-T6 aluminum alloy frame
  • Tires: Schwalbe Tough Tom 27×2.35″
  • Drivetrain: SRAM 1×9 speed
  • Brakes: Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brake with 180 front/160mm rear rotors
  • Shocks: SR Suntour XCR 120mm travel fork
  • Weight: 36 lbs

With its modern frame geometry and great price, the Diamondback Line is our Editor’s Choice for the best beginner mountain bike.

FRAME

As you can probably see, it’s a hardtail with a low bottom bracket height and length of the frame allow you to ride fast through rough terrain while the rear triangle is kept short to give the ride a playful feel.

Designed to be a do-it-all hardtail, you will be able to get all the basics of mountain biking mastered on the Line.

SHOCKS & SUSPENSION

The SR Suntour XCR fork with 120mm of travel is an excellent choice for a bike at this price range. You may not get the impeccable performance of forks that cost more than this whole bike, but you do get a fork that can hold its own on rough trails.

SR Suntour forks are present on the majority of entry level mountain bikes not only because they are affordable, but also because they are reliable and can be trusted to get the job done.

The XCR has 32mm wide stanchions (legs) to boost stiffness and you can set the preload or even lock out the fork for climbs.

It does struggle a bit with big hits and really chunky rock gardens but you will need to learn the skills to deal with those on smaller features first before this becomes a concern.

DRIVETRAIN

A SRAM 1×9 drivetrain gives you an acceptable range of gears. This should just about be enough range for you to enjoy a ride.

If you have lots of steep hills in your area, you may want to try out some smaller chainring sizes to help you get up them, but this will come at the expense of a slower top speed. Consider upgrading to 1×10 at some point.

WHEELS

The Line rolls on 27.5” wheels and the chunky, knobbly 2.35” Schwalbe Tough Tom tires have got your back through any terrain, including mud. When it is time to slow down, Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakes are there for you.

These are very much entry level brakes and do not offer too much power or control. They will still be able to stop you though, and they can certainly stop you better than any mechanical brake.

For beginner purposes they are absolutely fine.

Diamondback Bicycles Line Hardtail Beginner MTB
Diamondback Bicycles Line Hardtail Mountain Bike

HEADTUBE

Despite the modern geometry of the frame, it is surprising to see a non-tapered headtube. Most modern frames use this wider design and matching fork for stiffness.

At the beginner level you do not really need to worry about the difference in performance but the presence of a non-tapered headtube dramatically limits your fork upgrade options in the future.

As a result, when you feel that you have reached the limits of the Line in its current build, you will have to purchase a whole new bike to get something with better suspension.

Despite this, the Line is still an excellent choice as the best entry level mountain bike you can buy in it’s price range!

You will not be disappointed with its performance and it will provide the platform you need to dive into proper trails and get to grips with mountain biking.


#2 GT Zaskar Comp Hardtail Mountain Bike

GT Zaskar Comp Bike Beginner MTB

GT Zaskar Comp Bike at a Glance:

  • Frame: GT Speed Metal Aluminum
  • Tires: WTB Nineline 29×2.25″
  • Drivetrain: Sunrace CS-MS8 11-42, 11 speed
  • Brakes: Shimano Hydraulic Disc
  • Shocks: Rockshox 30 Gold TK 29 100mm of travel
  • Weight: N/A

If your looking for the best mountain bike for the money, you will find it here with the GT Zaskar Comp!

The Zaskar has been around for over 25 years. Back in the day it was known as a bike to do anything on and was popular with cross country racer, slalom racers, as well as riders who liked to hammer their bike through the roughest terrain they could.

FRAME

One reason for the Zaskar’s popularity is the strong frame design.

Obviously GT have obviously made changes to the frame over the years. Originally it was only available for 26” wheels (as all mountain bikes were back then).

Now it is available in 27.5” and 29” versions, with modern frame standards like a tapered head tube and wider axles. All of the fun and reliable aspects of the original remain.

This 29” version is the perfect beginner mountain bike if you think your riding will tend more towards all day adventures and the occasional XC race.

SHOCKS

Softening the front end is a RockShox 30 Gold TK fork with 100mm of travel. Being a XC fork, it performs best soaking up trail chatter when planted firmly on the ground.

While it will do its best to deal with big hits or even the odd drop, it is not really intended for such maneuvers. If you want to get to grips with the airborne side of mountain biking, then you should look elsewhere and also for a bike more intended for gravity.

DRIVETRAIN

To help take you up and down mountains all day long, or at speed around a race course, the Zaskar has a Shimano SLX 2×11 drivetrain with a Sunrace cassette and KMC chain.

Video: See the Zaskar take on the trails.

The SLX group has the same performance as higher groupsets but at a lower price. Accurate shifting is what you should expect from any modern drivetrain and you get exactly that.

WHEELS

WTB Nineline 2.25 tires are only really good on dry hardpack conditions.

There is a good chance that you will encounter dust, loam, gravel, mud, and wet conditions on your rides, so it would be a good idea to swap these tires for some that are more specific to your trails. Save these for race day on a dry course.

Alex rims on centerlock hubs keep you rolling fast and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes will slow you down with all the power you need.

Many years later, the Zaskar retains all the reasons why it became the best starter mountain bike! Now available with 29” wheels, you do not need to look any further for a beginner mountain bike to take you on big adventures in the hills.

See the GT Zaskar at JensonUSA


#3 Framed Marquette Alloy Mountain Bike

Framed Marquette Alloy Beginner Mountain Bike

Framed Marquette Alloy Mountain Bike at a Glance:

  • Frame: Aluminum Alloy
  • Tires: Framed Minnesota 27.5 x 3.0″
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XG-1150 Full Pin 11-42
  • Brakes: SRAM DB5 Hydraulic Disc Brake 180mm Front, 160mm Rear
  • Shocks: Rockshox Reba RL 120mm of travel
  • Weight: 30 lbs

Framed produce all manner of affordable yet capable bicycles across all genres of the sport. It is no surprise that they released this alloy version of the Marquette to complement the earlier carbon frame model.

To keep the final price of their bikes down, Framed design and build as many components themselves. On the Marquette you will find their own handlebar, stem, wheels, and tires.

DRIVETRAIN

Despite this, it is still a surprise to see a SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain on the Marquette, giving you all the gears you need for big days in the mountains as well as reliable and accurate shifting.

WHEELS

The 3.0 plus tires do a great job of absorbing small bumps and minor trail chatter. They also give incredible traction when climbing and have grip for days when hammering downhill. Anything that gets past the tires is left to the RockShox Reba RL fork.

SHOCKS & SUSPENSION

This 120mm travel fork is designed for cross country racing. It therefore performs well when both climbing and descending, as long as you do not throw anything too extreme at it, which you are unlikely to do at the beginner level anyway.

The Reba also has a remote lock out so you can climb with even more efficiency.

Framed Marquette Alloy Beginner MTB
Framed Marquette Alloy Mountain Bike

BRAKES

SRAM also take care of the braking with their impressive DB5 brakes. These hydraulic disc brakes feature all the important internal aspects of their bigger brothers (SRAM Guide) to give you huge braking power and modulation.

The DBRs feature reach adjust (how far the lever sits from the handlebar), so you can dial them in to your hand size, albeit with a tool so you cannot do so on the fly.

FRAME

At the heart of any bike is the frame and the Marquette does not disappoint. The long reach may feel stretched out to some but helps you when climbing and the length of the bike gives stability at speed.

The head tube is tapered and the rear axle is wide and stiff, following the 12×142 standard.

The only disadvantage of the bike is that the wheel hubs have unsealed bearings, so will not last as long if you regularly ride in wet and muddy conditions.

Overall, the Marquette is a highly capable plus sized bike at a more than affordable price point. The plus tires add a level of comfort and confidence with their bump absorbing properties and grip.

Perfect for any beginner and might be the best budget mountain bike!


#4 Orbea Loki 27+ H30 Beginner Mountain Bike

Orbea Loki 27+ H30 Beginner Mountain Bike

Orbea Loki 27+ H30 Bike at a Glance:

  • Frame: Aluminum Alloy
  • Tires: Kenda 1184A Havok 27,5×2,8″ FB 60TPI
  • Drivetrain: Sunrace CS-MS8 11-46t, 11 speed
  • Brakes: Shimano M365 Hydraulic Disc
  • Shocks: Rockshox Recon RL 130 Air Q15 110mm of travel
  • Weight: N/A

Spanish brand Orbea have built the Loki to be a shapeshifting hardcore hardtail for trail riding.

Why shapeshifting?

Loki is a viking god who can change shape and likes to cause chaos. The Orbea Loki can accept 27.5” wheels with plus sized tires or faster 29” wheels with normal width tires.

Each of these set ups will give you a different ride and different types of chaos…good chaos though!

FRAME

Modern geometry such as a slack head angle and short chainstays ensure that you have confidence on steep or rough descents. With big plus sized tires, the Loki is certainly not a light bike to ride, but it does not want or need to be a featherweight race machine.

What it wants to be is a tough machine capable of taking a hammering. And this is exactly what it is with a huge portion of fun thrown in.

SHOCKS & SUSPENSION

Up front you get 120mm of travel from the RockShox Recon RL fork with boost axle spacing for stiffness. This fork will eat up the big and small hits flawlessly, albeit with a bit of flex in the stanchions.

A lock out lever means you can stiffen the fork up for climbs before opening it again to enjoy the descent.

DRIVETRAIN

Shimano spec the Loki with a 1×11 drivetrain on a Sunrace cassette and 32-tooth chainring. Beginners or anyone in areas with steep climbs may find this chainring a bit too big so consider changing to a 30-tooth until your legs get stronger.

WHEELS

Strong Sunringle Duroc rims spin on Modus boost hubs to keep the Loki rolling on a stiff and strong platform. The Kenda Havok 2.8 tires have huge amounts of grip and comfort once you have found your perfect pressure.

You will almost certainly need to invest a fair bit of time to find the right tire pressure, but once you have found it, you will absolutely love the feel of these beasts.

Orbea Loki 27+ H30 Mountain Bike
Orbea Loki 27+ H30 Mountain Bike in gray

BRAKES

Stopping duties are taken care of by Shimano M365 brakes. Thanks to trickle down technology from more expensive brake models, the M365s can provide you with all the braking power and performance that you need.

There is also reach adjust to dial in the lever position to match your hand size.

Giving the bike a clean look is the internal cable routing to keep the cables out of site. There is even internal routing for a dropper post, which would make a great upgrade to the stock post.

The Loki wants you to squeeze as much fun as possible out of each trail you take it on. At the end of the day, regardless of any other motivations you have for getting into mountain biking, fun is probably on the list.

So if you want the best value mountain bike in a plus sized hardtail that is guaranteed to give a good day on the mountain, then get yourself a Loki!

See the Orbea Loki 27+ H30 Bike at JensonUSA


#5 Kona Precept 150 Beginner Mountain Bike

Kona Precept 150 Beginner Mountain Bike

Kona Precept 150 Mountain Bike at a Glance:

  • Frame: Kona 6061 Aluminum Butted
  • Tires: Maxxis High Roller II 27.5 x 2.4″
  • Drivetrain: SRAM PG1020 11-36 10 Speed
  • Brakes: Shimano 506 Hydraulic Disc
  • Shocks: RockShox Sector Solor Air, 150mm of travel
  • Weight: 33 lbs

Getting into the world of serious mountain bikes for hardcore riding, the Precept is the little brother of the Process series. While the Precept may have a bit less focus on hardcore gravity riding, it retains the same trail shredding capability of its brethren.

FRAME

The frame cuts a similar shape to the Process frame. There is lots of standover height to help you move around with a long reach and a slack head angle.

In terms of weight, the Precept is quite heavy at 35lb but Kona are so confident about the strength of the frame that it comes with a lifetime warranty.

Although Kona would more than welcome you to take the Precept to an enduro race, as a beginner, you are unlikely to do so. What you need to think about at this stage is how a bike can support you while you get used to mountain biking and learn the basic to intermediate skills.

The Precept definitely has your back. It climbs well and the shock has a lock out setting to stiffen it up on big climbs. Open up the suspension before pointing the Precept downhill and you will find yourself on board a confident bike that begs you to push it harder.

SHOCKS & SUSPENSION

The RockShox Sektor fork and Monarch shock make small work of trail chatter, as well as bigger impacts, such as through rock gardens or drops.

A disconcerting wheezing sound does come from the fork when it compresses and rebounds, but this is nothing to worry about.

DRIVETRAIN

A SRAM 2×10 drivetrain is one of the factors keeping the price of the Precept so low. While this gives you all the range that you need, even for big days in the mountains, it is heavier than a 1×11 setup.

On an already heavy bike, you may want to keep an eye on your savings and upgrade at some point in the future.

Video: If the Kona can handle the Alps, it can handle anything!

WHEELS

The Precept rolls on WTB rims laced to Shimano Deore hubs. 2.4 wide Maxxis High Roller II tires perform very well in all conditions, except deep mud. You will enjoy the confidence and traction that these tires give you.

In keeping with the Precept’s trail shredding attitude, it comes fitted with a KS dropper post. Although the 100mm of travel is certainly welcome when you want to get the seat out of the way for hectic descents, unless you are short, you will find the seat still quite high.

Again, a dropper post with more travel is an upgrade you can make in the future.

Out of the box, the Precept is the perfect full suspension trail bike that will not break the bank. It will flawlessly accompany you on any mountain bike missions you take it on, whether that is big mountain adventures or learning new skills at the bike park.

While it is more than capable in this set up, once you have progressed as a rider and want to start making upgrades, the frame will still be there for you, always prepared to help you take your riding to the next level.

While its a little more expensive than the other bikes on our list, if you want the best mountain bike for beginners, the Kona Precept is for you!

See the Kona Precept 150 Bike at JensonUSA


Beginner Mountain Bike Comparison Table

Hardtail MTBFrameTiresDrivetrainBrakesShocksRating
Diamondback Bicycles Line Hardtail6061-T6 aluminum alloy frame Schwalbe Tough Tom 27×2.35″SRAM 1×9 speed Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakeSR Suntour XCR 120mm4.1 / 5.0
GT Zaskar Comp HardtailGT Speed Metal AluminumWTB Nineline 29×2.25″Sunrace CS-MS8 11-42, 11 speedShimano Hydraulic DiscRockshox 30 Gold TK 29 100mm4.3/ 5.0
Framed Marquette AlloyAluminum AlloyFramed Minnesota 27.5 x 3.0″SRAM XG-1150 Full Pin 11-42, 11 speedSRAM DB5 Hydraulic Disc BrakeRockshox Reba RL 120mm of travel4.0/ 5.0
Orbea Loki 27+ H30Aluminum AlloyKenda 1184A Havok 27.5×2,8″ Sunrace CS-MS8 11-46t, 11 speedShimano M365 Hydraulic DiscRockshox Recon RL 130 Air Q15 110mm4.1 / 5.0
Kona Precept 150Kona 6061 Aluminum ButtedMaxxis High Roller II 27.5 x 2.4″SRAM PG1020 11-36 10 SpeedShimano 506 Hydraulic DiscRockShox Sector Solor Air 150mm4.3/ 5.0

How to Choose the Best Beginner Mountain Bike

best mountain bike for beginners

Choosing the Right Beginner Mountain Bike

Hopefully by now you have tried out mountain biking a few times with friends. If not, it is advisable to give it a go before purchasing your own mountain bike, just to make sure that you are committed before spending money.

Once you have made that decision, you may be wondering where to start and asking yourself questions like which bike should you buy and what clothes do you need. We are here to help with all of the questions you might have!

Most people will want to start with something more affordable that is more matched to the kind of trails that beginners will typically start on.

At the end of the day, you do not need a long travel race machine if you are not going to ride the advanced trails it has been built for. It is better to master the basics on a capable yet affordable bike and upgrade later.

So with that in mind, here are a few things that you should consider and look out for when buying a beginner mountain bike.

Hardtail or Full Suspension?

starter mountain bike hardtail vs full suspension
Hardtail vs Full Suspension MTB

Hardtail mountain bikes have a suspension fork at the front and a rigid rear end. Full suspension bikes have a shock at the rear as well as a suspension fork.

Which is better?

Neither is necessarily better. Having suspension at the back means you have better traction but less efficiency when pedaling. Hardtails are lighter and cheaper due to the simpler frame design and lack of shock.

So which should you go for? A hardtail will certainly get the job done but you will enjoy a bit more comfort on a full suspension bike.

One thing you should be wary of is the actual fork and shock used. There is a world of difference between a good quality fork/shock and a cheap version.

The former will give you a comfortable ride and enhance your performance whereas the latter could just behave like a pogo stick and cause you problems. The mere presence of suspension on a bike does not automatically mean it is good.

Frame Material

Beginner MTB Frame
Aluminum frame of the Orbea Loki

There are three materials commonly used for modern mountain bike frames: aluminum alloy, carbon or steel. An affordable beginner mountain bike is unlikely to have a carbon or steel frame.

Carbon is expensive to produce and steel is generally used on custom or boutique bikes.

Wheel Size

26” wheels used to be the standard but there are very few new bikes being made with this wheel size. It has been replaced with 27.5” and 29” wheels.

A bigger wheel can roll easier over obstacles on the trail, carries speed better but accelerates slower than a smaller wheel. Acceleration speed should be of no concern to you as a beginner but the advantages of a big wheel definitely should be.

The choice between the sizes will come down to your height. Taller riders often feel more at home on a 29 inch.

Drivetrain

Starter Mountain Bike Drivetrain

On beginner mountain bikes you can expect to see drivetrains with 2 chainrings at the front and a 9, 10, or 11 speed cassette (2×9, 2×10, 2×11). If you are lucky, you will find one with a 1×10 or ideally a 1×11 set up.

A single chainring paired with a 10 or 11 speed cassette will give you the range of gears you need with less weight than a 2x set up (less chainrings, one less gear shifter and no front derailleur or extra cables).

Brakes

beginner mountain bike brakes
Hydraulic Disc Brakes

To enjoy mountain biking, we recommend you settle for nothing less than hydraulic disc brakes. The difference in braking power and performance in comparison to cable pull or rim brakes is huge.

An affordable mountain bike will not have the best brakes, but as long as they are hydraulic disc brakes, you will be able to stop with ease and comfort.

If you are looking at a bike that does not have disc brakes, check to see if the hubs, fork and frame are compatible and consider purchasing a set to fit to your new bike.

Tires

Do not expect too much from the stock tires on beginner mountain bikes. They are likely to be cheap and use hard compound to keep the price of the bike down.

Tires have a profound effect on the handling of a mountain bike, so an upgrade to a set of tires suited to mountain biking is highly recommended.


I hope this guide was helpful in picking the best beginner mountain bike to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a bike I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.

Have fun and be safe out there!

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Richard Bailey

Originally from the UK, Richard is a passionate mountain biker and mountain bike guide. He is currently on a never-ending mission to travel the world and ride in as many places as possible. Richard is happiest when he is on a mountain bike and loves to share the experience with others.

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