I love the feeling of ripping a turn on a mountain bike. You can feel the suspension sink into the berm and your tires kicking up some dirt. Then you’re back on the pedals and cranking into the next one. My purpose-built 27-pound carbon fiber mountain bike makes trail riding euphoric and similar to skiing powder. I added different handlebars, a chainguide, new tires, and other bits and pieces to complement my riding style. My bike is my bike and… wait a second… it isn’t my bike at all now that I think about it. My bike belongs to the bank.
As fun as they are, mountain bikes can be EXPENSIVE. Like all caps to make a bigger emphasis, expensive. Highest-end models are starting to break the $10,000 mark. A mountain bike like the Specialized Stumpjumper Evo will run you $6600.00 if you buy it off the shop floor. Of course there are cheaper full suspension models but they still are in the $2,000-3,000 range. All the engineering, the subtleties that make a bike great come together to help your riding. Some features of a bike make a huge difference in your riding (lightweight wheels) and others you may never even know are there.
A New Hope
All of these mountain bike components and upgrades add up to the final cost. But it is very hard to justify spending large amounts of money on a mountain bike, especially if you are just getting into mountain biking. So what are the best bikes for the buck? I have four mountain bikes under $1000.00 that will get you on the trail and still have a great time doing it.
1. The Specialized Rockhopper 29. You get a very good performing mountain bike under $1,000 with a solid parts kit. The 29-inch wheels roll over trail obstacles very well and the 3×9 drivetrain gives you a large range of gears. What we don’t like are the Tektro brakes. While they are hydraulic, modulate well, and powerful, there are better brake options out there that are easier to service and have parts more readily available in more locations. An easy upgrade would be to Shimano’s Deore disc brakes. Parts would be easier to find and they are very easy to service, usually in a matter of minutes.
2. The entire Specialized Hardrock line comes in at under $1000.00. They have a wide range of bikes with wheels varying between 26 and 29 inch. The higher end model at $700.00 has disc brakes and a 3×8 drivetrain. The lesser models come with simpler and cheaper parts. What is cool about the Hardrock line is that all the models come with a suspension fork. This gives you a far more comfortable ride in varying terrain.
3. Another great bike out there is the women’s specific Trek Cali. A cheaper purpose-built women’s mountain bike is great for first time riders. The Cali comes in at just $729.00 and has disc brakes, a 3×9 Shimano drivetrain, and a blend of Shimano and Bontrager components to make it fun off or on the road. And the low standover height combined with geometry tailored to women, the Cali will have you shredding with confidence.
4. 29er hardtails are pretty fun and the Trek Wahoo packages the fun for under $1000.00. Big 29 inch wheels let your roll over anything and the durable Shimano 3×8 drivetrain lets you easily power over rough terrain. Bontrager and Shimano parts adorn the Wahoo and will have you excited to get out and ride.
These four bikes that I outlined above are all safe and reliable and will work well for many riding seasons to come. They are great beginner mountain bikes. Trek and Specialized have been in the bike game for many years now and the technology that they develop for their top-of-the-line product trickles down to their lower-end bikes. And at this point in the evolution of bike technology and the industry, that trickle-down effect means the consumer is purchasing a quality product for a lot less money.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
As you become a better rider you might be looking for upgrades that help you progress more as a mountain biker. When you do upgrade to a better bike, inexpensive bikes like these make for great townies. And that means you won’t have to drive!
So get over to your local bike shop or stop by Jans in Park City and scope out the bike that works for you. And remember, buying a mountain bike doesn’t have to put you in poverty.
By Paul Boyle, Marketing Specialist
Note: This post was originally published in July 2013 and may be out of date.