(Last updated on September 28th, 2022)
Looking to improve your mountain bike skills out on the trails? Mountain bikes under $1000 offer a great entry point to enjoying hard-hitting paths, but not all models are worth the price tag. I’ve hand-picked the crème de la crème featuring quality suspension forks, mountain-specific groupsets, grippy tires, and more.
Read through this comprehensive buyer’s guide to learn about the best mountain bikes under $1000.
- How to Choose the Right Mountain Bike: Buyer’s Guide
- How I Picked the Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000
- Compare the Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000 at a Glance
- The Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000
- Best Value Mountain Bike
- Best All-Rounder Mountain Bike
- Mountain Bike with Best Frame Design
- Best 29er Mountain Bike
- Best Mountain Bike for Downhill Riding
- Best 11-Speed Mountain Bike
- Best Budget-Friendly Mountain Bike
- Best Overall Mountain Bike
- Mountain Bike Size Chart
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How to Choose the Right Mountain Bike: Buyer’s Guide
Unlike road bikes, mountain bikes come in a variety of wheel sizes, so riders have to choose the right one for their needs. 26” was a common MTB wheel size back in the day, but modern bikes come with either 27.5” or 29” rims.
27.5” are the smaller option and are lighter and more maneuverable in technical terrain or tight curves. This option is ideal for smaller riders or MTBers that prioritize a zippy, agile ride feel over stability.
29er wheels are the traditional choice for cross-country and downhill racing because of their fast-rolling capabilities over tough terrain, but they have become a fan favorite across many disciplines. The larger diameter makes it easier to tackle bigger obstacles and offers more traction. If you enjoy high speeds and serious jumps and bumps, 29” wheels are a sure bet.
Brakes: Rim, Mechanical Disc, or Hydraulic Disc?
Mountain bike choice can come down to the type of brakes. With a budget of $1,000, the most affordable mountain bikes come with mechanical disc brakes, but some models run less-powerful rim brakes or ultra-capable hydraulic disc brakes.
Rim brakes are fine for recreational riding, but disc brakes are a more reliable option once you hit the trails. Disc brakes especially outperform their rim-brake counterparts in wet weather and on long descents where brakes come under heavy strain.
Mechanical disc brakes work via a metal cable and are more affordable and easier to self-service. Hydraulic brakes are actuated by brake fluid (typically mineral oil) and are more consistent, but they have a higher price tag.
Drivetrains: 1x or 2x?
Mountain bikes under $1,000 run either 1x or 2x drivetrains. A 2x setup features a pair of chainrings up front to double your gear options, but it’s more susceptible to dropped chains over rough terrain. Some bikes on this list have 2×9-speed groupsets for a total of 18 gears— a wider range of gears can make for easier climbing and faster flat-out speed.
Higher-end mountain bikes come equipped with a 1x system with a single front chainring. It provides smooth, straightforward shifting with a reduced risk of dropping your chain. The rear cassette typically has a wider range than normal, so you won’t be missing out on appropriate gears.
Front Fork Travel… And Full Suspension?
Most mountain bikes on this list are hardtail models meaning they run front suspension but not a rear shock. This keeps costs and weight down and should provide plenty of cushion for the trail riding we expect from an entry-level mountain bike.
Bikes under $1,000 come equipped with around 80-100mm of fork travel. As your skills improve, you’ll want to hit bigger trails, so we suggest purchasing a bike with the most fork travel that your budget can afford. Most forks feature a lockout option that makes the fork rigid and more efficient over smooth surfaces like pavement or light dirt trails.
At this price point, full-suspension bikes are largely out of reach. There are options available, but they are often very heavy or made of cheaper components that will slow you down on everything except gnarly terrain. If the original mountain bikers of the 80s and 90s did all of their crazy tricks on hardtails (and fully rigid frames), then it’s good enough for us!
How I Picked the Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000
The mountain bikes featured on this list are the best models among a popular and competitive category of bikes on the market. Almost every mountain bike brand offers an affordable entry-level bike for around $1,000 for consumers looking to start mountain biking. With so many options available to buy, how do we know which bikes are worth the money?
I conducted in-depth research of manufacturer specs from top MTB brands, user reviews, and expert opinions to narrow down the best bikes of 2022. I prioritized well-known brands with bikes that are widely available both online and in your local bike shop, keeping in mind the current bike shortage due to the pandemic.
I considered specific criteria to determine my final selection and ensure that every bike on this list is a quality choice in the long run:
- Utility: A mountain bike has to stand up to intense use on the trails and perform on sloping climbs and steep descents. The bike has great capabilities over technical and demanding terrain.
- Ride feel: Mountain bikes should feel responsive and maneuverable, even in the trickiest of terrain. The right amount of comfort and stability inspire rider confidence on the mountain.
- Durability: The manufacturer chooses quality components that will withstand the rough conditions out on the trail. The $1,000 price tag is an opportunity for a reliable groupset and strong disc brakes.
- Price: $1,000 approaches the top of the entry-level category of mountain bikes. Everyone appreciates a deal, and the bikes on this list offer plenty of bang for their buck.
Compare the Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000 at a Glance
|Model||Summary||Front suspension||Wheel size||Price||Where to buy?||Gearing||Rating|
|Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2||Best Value Mountain Bike||120mm||27.5”||$999||Click here||2×9||9/10|
|Giant Talon 1||Best All-Rounder Mountain Bike||80mm/100mm||27.5”||$980||Click here||1×10||8.5/10|
|Cannondale Trail 5||Best Frame Design||100mm||27.5”/29”||$950||Click here||1×10||8/10|
|Specialized Rockhopper Comp||Best 29er||100mm||29”||$1,000||–||1×9||9/10|
|Marin Bobcat Trail 4||Best for Downhill Riding||120mm||27.5”/29”||$748.94||Click here||2×9||9/10|
|Kona Blast||Best 1×11-Speed Mountain Bike||100mm||27.5”||$1,049||–||1×11||9.5/10|
|BMC Blast 27||Best Budget-Friendly Mountain Bike||100mm||27.5”||$799||Click here||1×10||9.5/10|
|Trek Marlin 7||Best Overall Mountain Bike||100mm||27.5”/29”||$1,029||–||1×10||9.5/10|
The Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000
Best Value Mountain Bike
1. Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2
REI’s in-house bike brand continues to deliver serious performance at a competitive price with the all-mountain DRT 1.2. Perfect for beginners starting on singletrack or veterans getting back into trail riding, the hardtail aluminum bike has 120mm of front travel and 27.5” wheels.
Integrated cabling is a luxurious touch on the otherwise standard 2×9-speed Shimano Altus groupset. I would like to see a 1x drivetrain at this price, knocking the rating down slightly, but the hydraulic disc brakes and knobby WTB Trail Boss 2.4” wide tires recuperate the bike’s trail capabilities.
Best All-Rounder Mountain Bike
2. Giant Talon 1
Let loose on the singletrack routes with the impressive Giant Talon 1 from powerhouse bike brand Giant. The largest bike manufacturer knows a thing or two about producing a fast-rolling bike at an affordable price and offers this hardtail with either 27.5” or 29” wheels.
The lightweight ALUXX aluminum frame pairs with a cushy front suspension fork and mountain-specific Shimano Deore 1×10-speed groupset for smooth shifting. The relatively small fork travel docks a point from my rating, but the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes and grippy Maxxis Rekon 2.4” tires boost confidence on the trails.
Mountain Bike with Best Frame Design
3. Cannondale Trail 5
The Cannondale Trail 5 is built around a lightweight and durable SmartForm C3 alloy frame for excellent handling on light trails and gravel roads. It’s a perfect upgrade from an entry-level mountain bike to take your skills to the next level. The Suntour XCM fork offers 100mm of travel, and Cannondale’s SAVE micro-suspension technology adds extra flex for a controlled ride.
Similar to the Trek Marlin 7, smaller frame sizes come with 27.5” wheels, and larger models have 29ers to achieve the best fit for any rider. The slack 68° headtube angle provides excellently stable handing on steep descents.
The Trail 5 has mountain-specific 1×10-speed gearing, but while the microSHIFT Advent X groupset works fine, I would’ve liked to see Shimano Deore. Reliable Tektro hydraulic round out the bike’s componentry, making this model a sure bet for amateur mountain bikers.
Best 29er Mountain Bike
4. Specialized Rockhopper Comp
The Specialized Rockhopper Comp is a purebred 29er designed for hard-hitting adventure and fast-rolling singletrack. While other models on this list only pair 29” wheels on the larger frame sizes, this bike is purpose-built to rock the big rims. The Rockhopper Comp comes in right on budget and features a Suntour XCM fork and quality Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes.
The hardtail Premium A1 aluminum frame looks great and is available in a variety of stylish colorways. The microSHIFT Advent drivetrain only runs nine gears, but the 11/42t cassette offers an ultra-wide range of cogs for efficient climbing and flat-out speed. At this price, the average groupset is the price you have to pay for the extra performance of the 29” wheels. If 29er is what you want, you can’t go wrong with this trail machine from one of the best mountain bike brands on the market.
Best Mountain Bike for Downhill Riding
5. Marin Bobcat Trail 4
The Marin Bobcat 4 is an aggressive hardtail mountain bike with impressive downhill capabilities for the price. The slack 67° headtube angle and 120mm front fork travel give it superpowers on steep descents, terrain normally beyond the limits of most affordable mountain bikes.
This model comes with a few upgrades over the entry-level Bobcat Trail 3, including a Shimano Altus 2×9 drivetrain and Suntour XCM HLO DS fork. The only other bike on this list with such long front suspension travel is the Co-op DRT 1.2. The 2x groupset is a bit of an outdated choice, but the other specs make up for that small detail.
The Bobcat Trail 4 is a purebred cross-country bike with a large appetite for singletrack trails and backwoods paths. The larger frame sizes come with 29” wheels and the smaller sizes run agile 27.5” rims. WTB Trail Boss Comp 2.25” tires feature a great tread pattern and tan sidewall. The Bobcat Trail 4 won’t break the bank and is the perfect upgrade to take your downhill skills to the next level.
Best 11-Speed Mountain Bike
6. Kona Blast
Legendary mountain-specific bike brand Kona designed the Blast to be the perfect all-rounder hardtail mountain bike for off-road adventures. The component spec level is second to none for the price— enjoy the RockShox Judy Silver 100mm fork and mountain-specific Shimano Deore 1×11-speed drivetrain.
The nimble 27.5” WTB wheels come with grippy Maxxis Forekaster 2.35” tires to handle any backwoods terrain. The name-brand parts extend to the quality Shimano MT201 hydraulic disc brakes. This bike is $49 over budget, but this deal is too good to pass up.
Best Budget-Friendly Mountain Bike
7. BMC Blast 27
Here we have another rockstar mountain bike named “Blast”, this time from Swiss manufacturer BMC and at a more affordable price than the Kona Blast. The budget-friendly cross-country hardtail features a 100mm Suntour fork and Shimano Deore 1×10-speed drivetrain.
The Maxxis Ardent Race 2.2” are slightly skinner than other models on this list, but they perform well on XC circuits and lighter terrain. Shimano hydraulic brakes round out the mountain-specific components, making this bike one of the best available for the money.
Best Overall Mountain Bike
8. Trek Marlin 7
At the upper end of the Marlin range, the Trek Marlin 7 is a race-worthy hardtail mountain bike rocking a long-cage Shimano Deore 1×10 drivetrain and RockShox Judy 100mm fork. Sizes XS and S come with 27.5” wheels and the larger frames have fast-rolling 29” wheels. Smaller frames run a curved top tube to lower the standover height and facilitate mounting the bike.
The advanced aluminum frame features internal cable routing for a clean look as well as rack and kickstand mounts if you want to use the Marlin 7 as your daily rider. For the price, I would have liked to see an 11-speed groupset, but feel free to browse the entire Marlin lineup to find the perfect bike for your budget.
Mountain Bike Size Chart
|Height (ft/in)||Height (cm)||Leg inseam (inches)||Leg inseam (cm)||Suggested Frame Size (in)||Suggested Wheel Size|
|4’10 – 5’3″||147-160cm||25 – 28″||62-70 cm||13 – 14″||26″|
|5’4 “- 5’7”||160 – 170cm||25 – 30″||63 – 76 cm||15 – 16″||26″|
|5’5″ – 5’9″||165 – 175cm||26 – 31″||66 – 78 cm||16 – 17″||27.5″|
|5’9″ – 6’0″||175 – 183cm||27 – 32″||68 – 81 cm||17 – 18″||27.5″|
|6’0″ – 6’3″||183 – 190cm||28 – 33″||71 – 83 cm||18 – 19″||29″|
|6’1″ – 6’6″||190 – 200cm||29 – 34″||73 – 86 cm||19″ +||29″|
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
I’ve rated the Trek Marlin 7 as the best overall mountain bike, but if you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2 model is a great value with 120mm suspension and hydraulic disc brakes. For people on a tighter budget, the BMC Blast 27 is one of my favorite bikes that looks great and features a top-spec 1×10 Shimano Deore groupset.
Yes, a $1,000 mountain bike can be a high-quality entry-level model to improve your skills and enjoy the trails. Bikes at this price point are a step up from budget options and typically include up to 100mm of front travel, mechanical disc drakes, and upgraded groupsets.
Take an updated measurement of your height and use our mountain bike size chart to determine the correct frame size. Mountain bikes also come in various wheel sizes depending on your height and riding preferences. Most adults choose between nimble 27.5” wheels or large, faster-rolling 29” rims.
For just a little more money, riders can purchase the upgraded Trek Marlin 7 and still be around the $1,000 budget. There are several Marlin options to choose from, but I appreciate the RockShox Judy fork and 1×10-speed Shimano Deore groupset on the Marlin 7. The Giant Talon 1 is a comparable mountain bike for the price.
The Trek Marlin and Giant Talon mountain bikes both made it on this list because of their stellar performance for the price. Both models feature the MTB-specific 1×10-speed Shimano Deore groupset and come with large 29” wheels on the bigger frame sizes. The Marlin has a higher quality RockShox Judy fork, while the Talon’s ALUXX aluminum frame is a bit better.
Trek and Giant are two of the largest bike manufacturers in the world, but choosing a favorite is mostly up to personal preference. Both brands offer a wide range of mountain bikes to fit any budget. The most popular models around the $1,000 mark are the Trek Marlin 7 and the Giant Talon 1.
Jeffrey Brown is a writer, editor, and professional bike mechanic with over 7 years of experience working in full-service and community-based bike shops. As a bicycle educator, he has supported youth programs across the US that teach bike mechanics and life skills to prepare the next generation of cyclists.
Jeffrey began his professional mechanic career at his university bike co-op, so he recognizes the grassroots power of the cycling community. Initially self-trained as a mechanic, his subsequent positions as manager and lead educator gave him official training. He has won various awards and grants for his role as a bicycle and environmental advocate.