The 10 Best Mountain Bikes Under $1000

Looking for your first mountain bike but on a budget? Cycling Expert Thomas Olmsted lists his top 10 mountain bikes under $1000 that will all be great choices for you.

Mountain Bikers on the Ridge

Photo by Jan Muelbach

When looking to make a big purchase, it can be hard to know whether you are getting a good deal or not. And it can be even more difficult just figuring out where to start. It is no different when navigating the cycling industry. This guide does some of the hard work for you and highlights 10 of the best mountain bikes that you can get for under $1000.

This list includes common household brands like Trek and Giant but also features some lesser-known options that are killer deals. And while you’ll see that the majority of these budget-friendly bikes have front suspension, there are some great deals on full-suspension bikes if you know where to look—like this Expert does. With so many awesome options at this price point, use this guide to help you push off on your mountain bike purchasing journey!

What Makes a Bike a Good Deal Under $1000?

Possibly one of the most important questions when it comes to shopping for mountain bikes at this price point is: what makes it a good deal for the <$1000 price tag? It can be difficult to know what features to look for or to figure out which ones are good value for the price. Before I go into what makes a bike a “good deal” under $1000, keep in mind that, depending on your needs, the trails available to you, or how much you might ride, a good deal will vary from person to person. It is important to analyze how and where you’ll be riding to know which features of a bike to prioritize. My recommendations are based on the maximum value at a given price point. So, let’s get into what I think constitutes a good deal. Things you should take into consideration are: 1. Drivetrains 2. Braking Systems 3. Suspension 4. Frame Type

Drivetrains

Mountain bikes under $1000 are primarily going to have either 1x or 2x drivetrains. This means that the bike will have either one or two chainrings attached to the pedals. With road bikes, it is beneficial to have two chainrings as it gives riders more speed options to choose from. However, with mountain bikes, this can become a problem. Since these bikes are typically used on rougher terrain, a mountain bike with multiple chainrings can be at risk of rough shifting or the chain falling off.

Almost all higher-end mountain bikes have a single chainring, resulting in smoother shifting and fewer problems when changing gears. But, unless you’re specifically looking for a cross-country mountain bike that will be used like a road bike, I would recommend sticking with a 1x drivetrain when possible.

The other consideration with drivetrains is the number of gears or speeds available. Most bikes in the sub-$1000 category will offer nine or ten gears, which is perfect for beginners. This range allows for a wide variety of speeds without making shifting gears too complex. Some mountain bikes can have up to eleven or 12 gears, which can often lead to confusion for beginners as well as significantly higher costs. 1x9 and 1x10 drivetrains still offer a huge amount of value and can be utilized by riders from beginner to experienced levels.

The two main brand names you’ll come across in the <$1000 range are Shimano and MicroSHIFT. Both offer 1x9 and 1x10 drivetrain options, however, Shimano is a bigger brand name and components are typically a bit more refined and polished. Shimano also offers many more drivetrain options, like 1x11 or 1x12, if you ever wanted to upgrade. MicroSHIFT is a bit more budget-friendly and focuses on reliability and function while accepting that components might be a bit heavier. MicroSHIFT has only a few drivetrain options, limiting how much you’re able to upgrade, but they offer lots of value at a price point that is hard to pass up.

My preference, however, leans towards Shimano. For me, this is one of those areas where it is worth spending a few more dollars to get a drivetrain that is lighter, has tons of technology packed in, and can be worked on and upgraded with relative ease.

Braking Systems: Rim Brakes, Mechanical Disc Brakes, and Hydraulic Disc Brakes

It is most common to see mountain bikes with either mechanical or hydraulic disc brakes. Although rim brake bikes will save you a few dollars, dirt and debris will get into the brake track and significantly hamper your braking ability. This is not something you want to fail while cruising down the mountain!

Hydraulic disc brakes are considered the top-of-the-line option as they provide the most braking power and the fastest braking. However, mechanical disc brakes are no slouch. Mechanical disc brakes offer far superior stopping ability to rim brakes, and utilize pistons to clamp on the brake rotor (like the way a car brakes). This piston mechanism is how hydraulic brakes work too, the difference being a mechanical system has a cable pulling the brake, and a hydraulic uses fluid. Mechanical systems are much easier to repair in the event that something goes wrong. Braking tech has come a long way, and problems are few and far between so, if presented with the option, I recommend spending a few more bucks and going with hydraulic disc brakes.

Suspension: Front Suspension or Full-Suspension

As I touched on above, most quality mountain bikes under the $1000 price point are going to have front suspension. Instead of including a rear shock, these bikes have lighter, superior drivetrains and might have hydraulic brakes but, most importantly, will include a quality suspension fork.

If you compare this to full-suspension bikes around $1000, the less expensive bikes are typically going to be quite a bit heavier and have less reliable parts. That isn’t to say a good full-suspension setup can’t be achieved for $1000, but you need to be mindful of their limitations.

Bikes with only front suspension, or hardtail mountain bikes, are ideal for paved to moderate trails but are less so for extremely rocky or technical terrain. Given this, most hardtails will have suspension in the 80-120mm range. The higher end of this range is often more beneficial. And if you find that you want less suspension, most suspension forks offer a lockout feature that makes the fork rigid.

Frame Type: Aluminum/Alloy or Carbon Fiber

Bike frames are traditionally made from one of two options: aluminum alloy or carbon. While carbon is extremely light and sturdy, it is also extremely expensive. For that reason, bikes under $1000 will almost always be aluminum-built. Aluminum bikes can certainly hold their own, as their frames are lightweight and very durable while still being cost-effective.

A huge benefit of aluminum frames is that aluminum is pliable. If you crash or fall and your bike takes a dent or bend, it is typically easy to fix. Aluminum frames stand up well compared to carbon frames. If a carbon frame takes a large crack or breaks, repairs are often expensive—if it can even be repaired. Also, if you see a bike in this price range being offered as “new” with a claim that it is made of carbon, be highly skeptical. Chances are that the frame is of poor quality and probably won’t last very long.

All the bikes I recommend are going to be lightweight aluminum/alloy frames, perfect for beginners or anyone looking to keep costs a bit lower. Utilizing the cost-effectiveness of aluminum while still offering durability, these frames allow riders to get out on the trails without worrying about damaging their bikes, and just focus on having fun!

Keeping these four factors—and their pros and cons—in mind while shopping for a mountain bike will surely lead you to the best deal for your riding style. But you don’t have to look very far for some excellent deals because I’ve made a list of what I believe to be some great bikes under $1000. And before I present the 10 best of these mountain bikes, I want to point out that I have no relationships with any of these brands, so this is my honest opinion!

1. Cannondale Trail SE 4

Product image of Cannondale Trail SE 4 Mountain Bike

What I Love

We start this list off with an absolute beast—the Cannondale Trail SE 4. This bike, currently retailing for $920, is perfect for exploring both trails and backcountry. The Trail SE 4 comes equipped with a 1x10 Shimano Deore drivetrain and is geared towards the entry-level rider who wants quality performance. A 1x10 Shimano Deore groupset is a really great value, offering lightweight components that provide extremely reliable shifting. A SR Suntour XCR suspension fork that offers 120 mm of travel—a ton for this price range—is combined with Tektro hydraulic disc brakes to provide outstanding performance at a great price point. The Cannondale Trail SE 4 is one of my favorites and is often a personal recommendation of mine. It's hard to find better quality and specs within this budget.

What I Wish Was Different

The Trail SE 4 is only available as a 29er, meaning it only comes equipped with 29-inch wheels. Someone who needs a small or medium frame may find the wheels a bit large and sluggish compared to a 27.5-wheel size.

2. Polygon Xtrada 6 1x11

Product image of 2022 Polygon Xtrada 6 1x11

What I Love

The Polygon Xtrada 6 1x11 is a bike I truly love, but it isn’t widely heralded because Polygon is a lesser-known brand. Don’t let Polygon’s somewhat lower profile trick you into doubting what is packed into this bike. At $899, currently $849, this mountain bike is equipped with a Shimano Deore 1x11 drivetrain, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and a Suntour XCR 32 suspension fork that offers 120mm of travel. The 1x11 drivetrain is the best and most versatile you’ll see on this list, so if groupset and shifting are your top priorities, I highly recommend considering this bike. Two out of those three features are found in the Cannondale Trail SE 4 favorite listed above, and these are all quality components that will keep you riding and enjoying the thrill of the mountain!

What I Wish Was Different

There is not too much I’d change, if we are being honest. The bike is on the heavier side, but even then, the value that is offered from the rest of the build is pretty top-notch.

3. Marin Bobcat Trail 4

Product image of Marin Bobcat Trail 4 Mountain Bike

What I Love

Firstly, I love the look of the Marin Bobcat Trail 4 due to the great color presentation that Marin delivers. It looks fast and has a great color scheme. Marin bikes are super recognizable due to the fun contrast between the frame coloring and the coloring of the brand name on the down tube.

Its $919 price tag gets you an SR Suntour XCM 120mm suspension fork with hydraulic lockout and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. This bike also comes equipped with a nice pair of WTB Trail Boss Comp Tires which are perfect for rugged trails and smooth gravel alike.

What I Wish Was Different

For a bike at this price point, I really would like to see a 1x10 MicroSHIFT instead of the 1x9, offering that additional versatility to more closely match some of the other competitors on this list.

4. Rocky Mountain Soul 10

Product image of Rocky Mountain Soul 10 Mountain Bike

What I Love

Rocky Mountain is another very solid bike brand that flies under the radar. Their Soul 10 bike retails for around $909, offers a lot of value, and is also quite easily upgradeable. It has a very solid Suntour XCM suspension fork with 120mm of travel, a 1x9 drivetrain, and hydraulic disc brakes. But what I really love about this bike is that it is dropper post-compatible. This is a worthwhile upgrade for many riders, so it’s great to see the manufacturer providing customers the option for adjusting seatpost height on the go.

What I Wish Was Different

I really would like to see a 1x10 MicroSHIFT or a 1x9 Shimano drivetrain, but the potential to add the dropper post to the bike makes up for this downside.

5. Trek Marlin 7 Gen 2

Product image of Trek Marlin 7 Gen 2

What I Love

Trek’s Marlin 7 Gen 2 is another bike that I think is gorgeous. If you can’t tell by now, I like bright and flashy-colored bikes! The Marlin 7 comes equipped with a RockShox Judy fork with 100mm of travel, a mix of Shimano Deore M4100 and M5120 1x10 drivetrains, and hydraulic disc brakes. The combo of drivetrains is nothing to be concerned about, as you’re still getting very lightweight and reliable parts. If you’re willing to spend a few extra dollars for its $1029.99 price, this is a great option.

What I Wish Was Different

The price is a bit steep as some of the bikes on this list offer better price points for similar builds. I would also have preferred it if this price range had 120mm travel instead of 100, just to give the rider a bit more versatility.

6. Diamondback Mason 1

Product image of Diamondback Mason 1 Mountain Bike

What I Love

The Diamondback Mason is (currently) one of the best deals on this list. Although it typically retails for over $1000, this bike is available for purchase right now at $795—a reduction of almost $300. The Mason offers a really quality build with Shimano Deore 1x10 M6000, which will provide incredible shifting. A Suntour XCR fork that supplies 120mm of travel and mechanical disc brakes, along with the Mason’s other specs, make it a persuasive option in this price range.

What I Wish Was Different

I do wish the Mason had internal cable routing to prevent issues of dirt and mud from getting into cable housings but, typically, this is a non-issue. Diamondback could also offer the Mason at a lower price as it has mechanical disc brakes instead of hydraulic ones. Mechanical disc brakes will still provide crisp and effective stopping power, but hydraulic discs would’ve been a nice addition to this build.

7. Polygon Siskiu D5

Product image of 2022 Polygon Siskiu D5

What I Love

It’s tough to find a good deal on full-suspension bikes, and understandably so, considering how many more suspension elements are involved when compared to a solely front-suspension bike. These additional elements add quite a bit of cost for the manufacturer, and that is reflected in the bike’s pricing. However, if you are really set on getting a full-suspension option, the Polygon Siskiu D5 is arguably the best bang for your buck at under $1000.

With 120mm of travel in the fork and rear shock, and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes to ensure safe stopping, the D5 highlights what an affordable cross-country mountain bike can be. It’s currently on offer for $350 off, which makes this is one heck of a bargain!

What I Wish Was Different

In order to keep a build like this at an affordable price point, there must be a couple sacrifices. First, the drivetrain is a 2x9 Shimano Alivio setup. It can certainly hold its own, but having the 2x9 setup can be problematic. It can lead to rough shifting and chain slipping or skipping gears for anyone doing any kind of technical riding, which you might be thinking about if you’re getting a full suspension bike. Second, this bike comes in at almost 37 pounds, which makes it not only much heavier than the bikes on this list, but also heavier than other entry-level mountain bikes.

8. Giant Talon 2

Product image of Giant Talon 2 Mountain Bike

What I Love

Giant is a well-known and beloved bike maker and, as another of their affordable bikes that doesn’t sacrifice quality, the Talon 2 affirms why this brand has had decades of success in the bike industry.

The Talon 2 comes in comfortably under the $1000 cap, being offered at $735 while still offering a MicroSHIFT 1x9 drivetrain typically only seen on bikes at, or around, $900. Also notable is the Talon’s SR Suntour suspension fork, which provides 100mm of travel and is great for flat to moderate terrain. Giant adds hydraulic disc brakes on top of that, making the Talon 2 a great option for those looking to have a quality rig at an affordable price point. This is a great bike for beginners as you may not have preferences regarding drivetrains, frame type, etc., and are just looking for something reliable to get out on the trail.

What I Wish Was Different

I would prefer to see a Shimano drivetrain instead of a MicroSHIFT one but, given that the current setup of the Talon 2 is a 1x9 drivetrain with hydraulic brakes, I can’t complain too much! The lower price tag also helps negate any of the downsides of this build.

9. Liv Tempt 2

Product image of Liv Tempt 2 Mountain Bike

What I Love

With the Tempt 2, Liv—which is owned and operated by Giant—have made what is essentially the women’s-tailored version of the Giant Talon 2. This Liv bike offers women’s-specific geometry while still hitting the major drivetrain and braking system points with a 1x9 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes. Its price is very close to the Talon 2’s as well.

There is always the question of whether women need a gender-specific bike. It’s one that my fellow Cycling Expert Julie talks about in this article. Without getting into the nitty gritty of mountain bike sizing, the answer is: it truly depends. But, generally, women tend to have shorter arms and torsos. To accommodate this, these bikes are made with a bit shorter reach.

What I Wish Was Different

I would really like to have seen at least 100mm of travel available in this build. 80mm is fine for singletrack or cross-country riding but it won’t offer enough bounce once you start dealing with more rocky or rough terrain.

10. Kona Fire Mountain

Product image of Kona Fire Mountain bike

What I Love

This is a great build and geometry for someone who sees themselves putting in a lot of miles on cross-country-style trails. The Kona Fire Mountain comes equipped with 27.5” wheels meaning, when necessary, you can still rip through those technical sections on the trail. It is also equipped with hydraulic disc brakes and a 1x9-speed drivetrain. At $875, the Kona Fire Mountain is a great option that should please those fans of the Kona brand name, while still providing some high-quality components on the bike.

What I Wish Was Different

As with a few of the other bikes on this list, I would have liked it if Kona offered 10 speeds to bring the Fire Mountain more closely in line with some of the other budget bikes. I would also have preferred a Shimano or SRAM drivetrain over the MicroSHIFT.

Because many of these bikes are similar, it’s important to consider other factors like sizing to determine which bike will be the best for you. But even though each person has different needs and priorities, there is likely a bike here that will bring you joy on the trail and mountain—and that’s what biking really is about.

With only 10 options listed, this is far from an exhaustive list of the $1000 and under mountain bikes on the market. For additional help and a consultation with an Expert, send me a message on Curated where I’d be happy to find a bike that can do the best job of connecting you with the outdoors, whether you’re riding to sightsee or doing it for the thrill of the ride.

Cycling Expert Thomas Olmsted
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Thomas Olmsted
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Hi Friends! I'm excited to help you find whatever gear you need to pursue your passion of hitting the road or trail. I've been on bikes ever since I was little, and have been lucky enough to find ways to continue finding new places to ride as I have gotten older. I originally was into Mountain Bikin...

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