Earlier this fall we compiled a list of 10 great hardtails priced under $2,000, and now we’re making things even more affordable. On this list of great mountain bikes under $1,000, there is likely one that most folks would be happy to add to their quiver.
There are several themes present among the bikes currently offered in the $0-1K price range. For starters, all of the frames are made of aluminum or steel, and a majority of them align with a classic cross-country geometry. Additionally, the lion’s share of these pocket-friendly whips are powered by 1×10 drivetrains, their build kits are largely comprised of the manufacturer’s house brand components, all sport rigid seat posts, and many of them stop with hydraulic disc brakes.
To pare down our list to the best options in this price range we selected bikes with disc brakes, tapered steer tubes, and single chainrings whenever possible. These bikes can easily be upgraded as desired, or shredded as is.
|Cannondale Trail 5||$1,000||XC||1x10||27.5/29er||100mm RockShox XC30 TK|
|Airborne Seeker||$800||XC||2x10||29er||100mm RockShox Recon TK Gold|
|Specialized Rockhopper||$810||XC||1x9||29er||80-100mm SR Suntour XCM 29|
|GT Avalanche Expert||$900||XC||1x11||29er||100mm RockShox Recon RL|
|Fezzari Wasatch Peak||$980||XC||1x10||27.5||100mm RockShox 30 Silver|
|Diamondback Line||$900||Trail||1x9||27.5||120mm SR Suntour XCR|
|Specialized Ruze||$950||Trail||1x11||27.5+||80mm SR Suntour XCM32|
|Jamis High Point A1||$979||Trail||1x10||29er||120mm SR Suntour XCR 34|
|Marin Bobcat||$990||Trail||1x10||27.5/29er||100mm RockShox TK Silver|
|Vitus Nucleus 27||$970||Trail||1x10||27.5/29||120mm/100mm Suntour SF19 Raidon32|
Spoiler alert: There isn’t a single full suspension bike on this list. Sure, there are sub-$1000 full suspension mountain bikes on the market, but we can’t recommend any of them.
Cross country (XC) mountain bikes
- XC race
- 27.5 wheels (sizes S-M), 29″ (sizes M-XL)
Cannondale’s Trail 5 takes the top spot on the list because it is the only bike we found priced at exactly $1000, and it is a pretty sweet whip.
The Trail 5 cuts one component from many riders’ upgrade lists, with a dependable 1×10 Shimano/Sunrace drivetrain. Squish is handled by a 100mm RockShox XC30 TK, and the bike stops with Shimano’s MT200 hydraulic brakes. The cockpit spreads wide with a 780mm riser bar, and each model gets a moderate-length stem to suit its reach measurement.
Though it’s named the Trail 5 we would put this bike in the growing aggressive XC or “downcountry” category, with its 68° headtube angle for 27.5″ wheel sizes, and 68.5° on 29ers. Reach and chainstay measurements for the Trail 5 are quite long for an XC-oriented bike, at 425mm and 445mm respectively, which should help stabilize the bike on descents.
The Trail 5 comes in black or “acid red” (shown).
Buy Cannondale Trail 5 at REI
- XC race
- 29″ wheels
The Airborne Seeker 29 sits on the more classic bend in the XC spectrum and could be the perfect first weapon for a new racer, or a sweet training bike for any XC veteran.
The bike is equipped with fast rolling Vee XCV, 29×2.25” tires, a full SRAM X5 gruppo, and smoothes out the trail with a tapered 100mm RockShox Recon TK Gold fork.
The geometry table is where we really start to see its classic XC character, with a 71.5° headtube angle, and a short 109mm head tube. This, paired with the more modern 74° seat tube angle, should make for a ripping fast bike on the way up the hill.
The Seeker does suffer from an unnecessarily narrow handlebar, at 660mm. Fortunately, that can be fairly inexpensive to swap.
Buy Airborne Seeker on Amazon.com
- XC race
- 29″ wheels
The Rockhopper needs little introduction, having been in the Specialized lineup for quite a long time.
The drivetrain is a mismatch of Microshift, Shimano, KMC, and Sunrace components. The fork is an SR Suntour XCM 29 coil springer, and nearly all of the other components are from Specialized house brands.
The latest version of this heritage machine slides toward more modern XC angles, with a reach of 441mm on the size large and a headtube angle of 69.8°. Fork travel changes across the size run, with XS bikes being built with 80mm of squish, 90mm on the small, and 100mm on all other sizes.
The Rockhopper Comp looks like a great opener to the world of XC racing, and with a 30.9mm seat post, I can imagine the first potential upgrade being a proper dropper post.
- XC race
- 29″ wheels
The GT Avalanche Expert is arguably the best outfitted XC bike on our list.
With Shimano’s 11-speed SLX shifter and derailleur, Shimano hydraulic brakes, Sunrace cassette, and a RockShox Recon RL 100mm Boost fork, the Avalanche is well prepared for a weekend XC race or a rip with friends. Equipped with GT’s Slim Line Flat Pedals the bike is ready to ride right out of the box.
With a 429mm reach (size medium) and a 69.5° headtube angle this bike also falls squarely in the modern-XC camp, despite its slacker 72.2° seat tube angle.
The short seat tube with a 30.9mm internal diameter leaves the door open for a dropper post in the future, and the solid black frame should hide the external dropper cable quite well.
- XC race
- 27.5″ wheels
Named after a mountain range that stretches from central Utah to the Idaho border, this 27.5″ bike is ready to play in the hills.
The Wasatch Peak comes with a solid build for its budget price, with a SRAM NX crank, Shimano Deore drivetrain, a RockShox 30 Silver fork, and optional Fox Transfer dropper post (additional $323). One of the bike’s clearest selling features is its tubeless ready WTB rims and Maxxis Ikon tires. Stock tubeless setups are quite rare on pocket-friendly bikes, and Fezzari offers sealant and rim tape shipped with the bike through their online store.
The 73.5° seat tube angle is steeper than most classic XC frames, and with a 71° head tube, this bike was clearly designed with fast climbing in mind. The shorter 430mm chainstays should make it a fun and flickable whip on tight trails.
Fezzari has seen the upgrades their customers want and includes several of them in the purchase process on their website. In addition to tubeless goods and a dropper you can add frame protection and a travel case to your order.
Trail oriented mountain bikes
- 27.5″ wheels
This little bruiser may come with a short 120mm of travel, but it is 100% ready to party.
The Line is well equipped to play on any type of track you prefer, with a burly steel chainring, Shimano 1×9 drivetrain, Shimano hydraulic brakes, a chainguide, SR Suntour XCR 120mm fork with hydraulic lockout, 45mm stem, and 750mm wide bars. The 180mm front and 160mm rear rotors, paired with WTB Vigilante 27.5×2.3″ treads should allow you to brake late and hard without much concern of overheating or losing grip.
Geometry on the Line is dead-center for a modern trail hardtail. The 68° head tube angle is well complimented by a 73° seat tube, to complete a shape that should be as good on the climbs as it is on descents. With 430mm chainstays, riders won’t have any trouble getting the front end of this bike off the ground.
The cost of upgrading to a 1×11 drivetrain is not a small one, but it might be a necessary swap depending on where you ride.
Buy Diamondback Line on Amazon.com
As the only plus-bike on the list, the Ruze is a well-suited option for maximum traction.
With Specialized 2Bliss Ground Control and Fast Track tires, a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, and an SR Suntour XCM32 80mm fork, The Ruze looks like a fun trail ride that won’t eat all your allowance. Some riders may prefer a wider bar than the 720mm option the bike is built with, but that’s an easy swap. The men’s version of this bike, called the Fuse, features a similar build and price tag.
To accompany the trail feel of fatter tires, Specialized has leaned the bike’s headtube back to 68.5° and given it a 73° seat tube angle to keep riders climbing strong. The rear axle is a short 435mm away from the bottom bracket, making this quite a playful plus-bike.
Like those above it, the 30.9mm seat post diameter make this bike’s first upgrade an easy one, and once you set the tires up tubeless this thing should be a traction tank.
- 29″ wheels
With its dual water bottle mounts and an 11-42t 1X drivetrain, the Jamis High Point is a bike packed with potential.
The Shimano Deore drivetrain and SR Suntour cranks paired with Tektro hydraulic brakes set this bike up with durability in mind. Jamis has chosen an SR Suntour XCR 34 LOR 29″ Boost fork for the build, with 120mm of travel. The sturdy 34mm stanchions make this the stiffest offering on any of the bikes listed here.
Moving toward the slacker side of short travel trail bikes, the High Point has a head tube angle of 68° that positions it as a solid descender alongside the bike’s 425mm reach (size medium). With the proper ascent-ready 74° seat tube angle, this bike might be our pick of the litter.
If you throw a handlebar roll and seat-pack on this whip it could also make a great bikepacking bike.
- 27.5″ wheels (sizes S-M), 29″ (sizes M-XXL)
Marin’s Bobcat Trail has the widest size range on the list, from extra small to extra, extra large.
The Bobcat Trail is built with an 10-speed Shimano Deore 1X drivetrain, 100mm RockShox TK Silver fork, hydraulic disc brakes, and Schwalbe’s Tough Tom tread.
The Bobcat is another bike that uses different wheel sizes depending on the frame size a rider selects. The extra-small to small frames get 27.5″ wheels, medium can take either size, and large through extra, extra large frames are fitted with 29er wheels. Geometry shifts a bit between frame sizes, and of course wheel sizes, but all configurations keep the bike well within the bounds of a modern trail bomber.
Whether you are looking for an aggressive XC whip, or a solid trail bike, the Trail 5 looks designed for all forms of fun.
- €850 = roughly $969
- 27.5″ (120mm fork) or 29″ (100mm)
Okay, we had a lot of accolades for the budget bikes above, but this one is definitely tops.
The Nucleus comes with 29mm-wide rims, Schwalbe Addix Magic Mary tubeless-ready tires, a Shimano 6000 Deore drivetrain, a 120mm Suntour SF19 Raidon32 Air fork (100mm on the 29″), and Shimano MT400 brakes to complete a kit that is ready for all the singletrack you want to throw at it. The frame is drilled for an internal dropper post, and sports ISCG 05 chain guide mounts. This bike is seriously well equipped for the price, and more ready for the obvious upgrades (like a dropper post) than any other on the list.
With a 66.5° headtube angle, 438mm reach (size medium), and brief 425mm chainstays, the Nucleus leans into geometry numbers similar to a lot of all-mountain bikes.
Do you have a favorite budget build to share? Maybe a sweet single-speed that saved some cash? Tell us about it below.