budget hardtail mountain bike buyers guide

Buying a hardtail mountain bike on a budget is a right of passage into the sport of mountain biking. Whether you’re just getting started in the sport, or even if you’re a more accomplished rider who simply wants an affordable mountain bike, everyone wants to get the best value for their money.

This hardtail mountain bike buyer’s guide is designed to help you do just that.

The Commencal Meta AM HT is one of the most affordable all mountain hardtails on the market, and the base model comes spec’ed with an alloy frame, a RockShox Sektor Silver RL Air fork with 140mm of travel, a SRAM X5 2×9 drivetrain, Tektro HD-M 285 hydraulic disc brakes, and wide 27.5×2.4″ Maxxis Ardent EXO tires.

Technically, the $650 Diamondback Hook above may be considered an all-mountain hardtail by some, but the 140mm fork on the Meta AM beats out the 120mm fork on the Hook handily.

Salsa Timberjack $999-$1,400

Salsa has rolled out several affordable and well-spec’ed bikes within the last year, with the base model of the Timberjack being especially notable. This rig features an aluminum frame, 29″ wheels, a Manitou M30 120mm fork, Tektro Auriga Hydraulic disc brakes, and most notably–a SRAM NX 1×11 drivetrain, the only 11-speed drivetrain on this list.


As I mentioned above, this list is far from comprehensive. But with these key models, you can easily compare the hardtail mountain bike you’re considering buying to the bikes on this list to see how it stacks up and compares.

And remember, be sure to shop around! While some of these bikes might be the best at MSRP in their category, that’s not to say that you can’t find a killer deal in a hole-in-the-wall bike shop downtown.

More Hardtails Information

Hardtails are super-fun, if your budget allows consider these 10 hardcore hardtails and even more hardtails.

Check out the hardtails archive for even more info and the latest news about these bikes.

Your turn: Know of a great budget hardtail mountain bike that we didn’t include? Talk it up in the comments below!

Last Updated on May 29, 2017, at 7:55am MDT by Greg Heil.

# Comments

  • bravesdave

    The best way I know to get a nice bike on budget is through Craigslist. If you live around a major city, like Denver, there are A LOT of nice bikes posted. If you are patient, you can get a lot bike for the money.

  • Jeff Barber

    I’m actually really impressed with this list–some sweet looking bikes for under $1K!

    That Giant ATX 27.5 is a nice looking bike. I also really like the steel Redline Monocog (though I’d probably want to put a suspension fork on it) and the Diamondback Line. Great picks!

  • pearsth

    I think it is great that you found Bikes Direct, but you should have looked a bit more at the product line. For $1299, the Fantom29 Pro easily would top this list and price point. It has the Reba of the Goblin, but is dripping with XTR/XT drivetrain goodness instead of X9/X7 and has XT brakes.

  • dgw2jr

    I don’t need an in-depth review of a $400 bike. Now when I start thinking about spending thousands, well then I’m gonna be doing some serious research and that’s why we see so many reviews for high dollar bikes.

    I wouldn’t review a $2 hammer so why review a $350 “mountain”/bike path/rail trail bike? Methinks the Facebook complainers are just mad they can’t afford a nice, new, expensive bike.

    • Greg Heil

      “Methinks the Facebook complainers are just mad they can’t afford a nice, new, expensive bike.”

      I’m sure there’s a lot of that 🙂

    • singlecoil

      I hear you, damn plebs and their wanting something that fits their budget! How dare anyone spend less than $1000 dollars on a bike! God knows that there aren’t any people out there with $5,000 road bikes who are looking to get into MTB and want something affordable – or you know kids who work part time pumping your gas who can only dream to have the fancy bikes you guys rave about.

    • Tekime

      Reality check: $400-500 is a lot of money for most people to spend on what is essentially a toy. I do just fine but I still research the life out of my gear purchases even if it’s a $50 accessory!

  • Sean Foster

    Don’t forget about Fezzari! Imo they make one of the best direct ship bikes one the market, because with every bike, even their cheapest models, they size it to you with their 23 point sizing program. Best fitting bike I’ve ever owned. Plus being direct ship they cut out all the middle man price hikes you see elsewhere.

    • Jeff Barber

      Check out our list of budget FS bikes that just dropped today. The Fezzari Wiki Peak made the list!

  • Jes Gearing

    LOVE my monocog and, for some like me, starting on a SS can be a total game changer. I found it to be the best way to pick up some skills and really get comfortable on the trails. Definitely recommend getting a decent fork though, rigid ain’t no joke for newbies…

    Rad round-up!

  • KnightRyder

    Sorry to hear Trek Marlin small frame no longer comes in 29, the Marlin (15.5 frame) was my introduction to MTB 3 years ago. Being new to the sport I did want to sink a lot of dough into a bike and then not enjoy riding. 3,000 miles later there’s not much left of the original bike except the frame, manitou fork, SLX hydrolic brakes, maxis tyres, new drive train and WTB seat have all been added along with a few other goodies to make for a sweet reliable ride. So if you are new to MTB try one of these, to can always upgrade components.

  • David Lanner

    Oh dont forget the DeVinci Wooky line. But maybe a little higher end above the budget grouping. At any rate….

  • bikeman24

    Cannondale trail sl 2 it goes for about 1100$ 3 seasons in and doing me right

  • Martina Cuper

    Oh here is some great bikes just i saw.And the price is more comfortable.Anyone can visit this site……and buy a bike

  • harrisonjg

    Great article. As a student this was much appreciated. 500 may not be much once one has a job, but for a student it might be all of ones disposable income for several months!

    I bought a Novara Ponderosa and was pretty happy with the build for 1000. Its great to support your local bike shop, but that Ponderosa has really stood up well, would recommend it to anyone that rides hard on an extreme budget

  • kirkbeachum

    I purchased a Fuji Tahoe from my local bike shop for $1200. Living in San Antonio it has met all my needs on the local trails. Great bike for the price.

  • Joseph McKinney

    Thanks for writing this article. I am in the market for a lower end hard tail and there are some I didn’t know about in it.

  • bikemtb05

    Thanks Greg!! Nice summary. Saw a couple of these at Sea Otter. Also the indonesian brand patrol bike caught my attention – black 27.5 HT and red 29er. not bad. starting at $800

    • Greg Heil

      Thanks man! I hadn’t seen the hardtails from Patrol, just their FS bikes, so thanks for the heads up!

  • AtlantaSue

    Just entering this “sport” and had hoped this would be a chilled welcoming group….I CHOOSE to not invest thousands of dollars to get started….. so its not so much cant afford…. its choice for some. I want to enjoy the rides but would prefer to not invest so much. Trust me if I could find a rental near here, I would do that for a few months! Ive found BIkes Direct and some other places on ebay and googled this article for some brands. Im a newb fo sho! any advice is welcome . Hey I grew up riding my banana bike in the woods and did pretty darn good!

  • fsherfy

    Someone tell me more about bikes direct. I’ve heard stories about bikes arriving not in the best condition, etc. the prices seem almost to good to be true.

    • pearsth

      I have four in my household and assembled one for my neighbor. All arrived in good shape and bolted together and needed no adjustments out of the box. I have the 529HT listed here that really only sees neighbourhood duty (daughters bike) and also is Frantom Pro 29 and Night Train bullet fat bike that see local trails. Also have a roaf bike with electronic shifting. My neighbor got the base Fantom.

      I have no complaints about the bikes. I also have a Specialized Stumpjumper and Voodoo Hoodoo and had a Stumpjumper Carbon. Bikes direct just offers more bike at a lower price point without sacrificing quality. They key difference you will find is in the wheels in some cases. They are not as good as other bikes with the same groupset by another brand, but not so much so that it is a break even since the typical name brands cost so much more.

    • coot271

      fsherfy, I don’t know what to say, but both the bikes I bought from BD were in good shape. I did have a bad experience with another bike..but that is another story and a different bike shop. You just never know with shipping I guess. And yes, the bikes are definitely bang for your buck, You cannot beat the prices with really good componentry. BD just released downhill bikes and some dually 27.5+ rigs…..they have something for everybody.

  • Greg Heil

    This article was just updated on May 29, 2017 at 7:55am with fresh models and updated statistics!

  • coot271

    I am glad the Motobecanes are making the lists. I cut my teeth on a Moto Outcast 29er…..it was a great bike and I had good times riding and doing upgrades.

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