Mountain biking might sound hardcore—and of course, it certainly can be—but there are trails and environments for pretty much every skill level. Whether you have years of tackling rough roads under your belt or you’re a beginner blazing through less-intense trails, there’s a mountain bike – and an off-road experience – for you. That said, there are many different types of mountain bikes out there and finding the best mountain bike for your needs may require you to contend with a slew of unfamiliar technology and terminology. Trends shift seemingly overnight and changes in tire widths, wheel sizes, components and frame geometries can make the process a little bit confusing. For example, 26-inch wheels were all the rage several ago, but now they’re nowhere to be found.

So what kind of mountain bike do you need? Not only should you understand the basics of today’s mountain bike design, but it’s also important be honest about your own riding ability and style. What kinds of trails do you intend to ride? Are they soft and rolling or are they steep and rugged? Will there be tons of trees, rocks, debris, and obstacles, or are you mostly looking for a rugged bike for casual riding? Our tips section at the end will provide some additional guidance to help choose the right type of mountain bike before forking over your hard earned cash.

And while buying a new bike can be a big decision, don’t sweat it too much. Save the sweating for the trail this summer. We’re here to take some of the stress out of buying a new mountain bike with our thoroughly-researched favorites in each category.

Best Mountain Bike Overall

The Swiss Army Knife Of Mountain Bikes

One of Santa Cruz’s best selling bikes for years, the Tallboy is now in its fourth iteration. Lightweight and nimble with just enough suspension, this mountain bike is your one-bike quiver that will allow you to tackle a variety of trails and riding conditions.

Dubbed the “downhiller’s XC bike,” it climbs up steep technical terrain like a chamois while floating over the chunkiest of rock gardens thanks to its mid-level travel (120mm of rear travel and 130mm of travel up front) and 29-inch wheels. In addition to upping the travel on this iteration, Santa Cruz mimicked the geometry of its longer travel bikes in order to deliver a more confident and stable ride on those white-knuckle descents, or when navigating rough terrain. 

Santa Cruz bikes are designed not only to last a lifetime, but also to be easy to work on—a key consideration when buying any mountain bike. The company ensures that parts, specs and other information are always available so you can fix any issue with your bike. 

Offered in a variety of builds to suit your needs or budget, the Tallboy is the Swiss Army Knife of mountain bikes. You get the same basic design with a variety of frame materials, wheels, and components on offer, all of it resulting in a top quality bike that is fun to ride. As one 5-star reviewer puts it, “If you are looking for a jack of all trades, the Tallboy is the bike for you.”

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Best Entry Level Mountain Bike

Don’t Break The Bank On Your First Set Of Wheels

For beginner riders excited to try out off-roading without breaking the bank on a new bike, the Huffy Stone Mountain can’t be beat. This entry-level mountain bike has a durable steel hardtail frame that can handle some serious abuse as you slowly gain confidence on the trails. A twist shifter on the right grip lets you toggle through 21 different speeds to make tackling hills a bit easier, while front and rear pull brakes ensure you can stop quickly and safely whenever needed. 

A slight rise in the handlebars puts you in a more upright riding position to ease the strain on your back and shoulders, which can be especially important for new riders who are still learning proper positioning. A front suspension fork, 1.95-inch tires and a padded saddle lessen the impact of all those bumps and dips in the road or trail to deliver a smoother ride. 

The quick-release seat post can be easily adjusted up or down on the fly to deliver the perfect fit for each rider. The Huffy Stone Mountain bike is available in both a men’s and women’s version and comes with all the required tools to assemble it, so there’s no need to hire a professional bike mechanic. That said, if you’re brand new to biking, it wouldn’t hurt to swing by your local shop to have them look over your work (and to maybe give you some tips on where to ride).

Best Mountain Bike Under $500

A Great Value For Basic Off-Road Exploration


For those in search of a good quality, hardtail mountain bike for some basic off-road exploration, the Rockrider ST520 fits the bill. With its lightweight aluminum frame and 27.5-inch wheels, this mountain bike effortlessly shifts through 24 different speeds to get you up and over any terrain quickly and seamlessly. Mechanical disc brakes enable easy braking on long or steep descents and the relaxed frame geometry makes for easy handling. A front suspension fork offering up to 80mm of travel and 2.0-inch tires work together to smooth out your ride. An ergonomic saddle and a more upright riding style also add an extra level of comfort out on the trails.  The bike comes in four different sizes to fit riders from 4’11” to 6’5” in height.

Global sports retailer Decathlon easily beats most other retailers on price as they sell only their own brands. They’re also vertically integrated, meaning they take 100 percent capacity at most of their factories. With an average review of 4.2 stars out of 5 on the Decathlon website, we found that most reviewers were very pleased with the specs of this mountain bike for the price.  To sweeten the pot, Decathlon also gives a lifetime warranty on the frame, stem and handlebars so you can buy (and ride) with confidence.

Best Mountain Bike Under $1000

A High-Spec Hardtail At An Affordable Price

When creating their own-brand line of mountain bikes, the Co-op Cycles design team at REI took a fresh look at everything from geometry and suspension to wheel and tire size. Never one to simply follow the latest mountain bike trends, REI turned to their own membership base to better understand what it was they were looking for in a mountain bike. The number one answer they found? Fit.

To achieve a better fit, the Co-op Cycles team not only designed a wide range of durable-yet-lightweight aluminum frame sizes, from XS up to XL, but they also adapted the wheel size accordingly. The XS to M frames received 27.5-inch wheels while the larger frame sizes all adopt 29-inch wheels. In either case, just throw on some 2.4-inch WTB Trail Boss tires and you have an ultra cushy ride. The front suspension fork features 120mm of travel to help you roll over the rough stuff, making for an even more comfortable ride.

The rims and tires come tubeless ready because REI wanted to make sure it was easy for riders to set them up on their own just by buying a valve stem and some sealant. A Shimano 2 x 9 drivetrain provides 18 gears to help you conquer a variety of terrain, and the hydraulic disc brakes quickly engage with just one finger. Online reviewers are overwhelmingly pleased with the quality and price of this bike. “If you are looking for a hardtail that overshoots its price, then I would recommend this one,” remarks one happy REI customer. 

Best Enduro Mountain Bike

For Tackling The Most Challenging Trails

Want to crush the most challenging trails around? Then an enduro bike might be for you, with its plush rear suspension that dampens rough descents and nimble front handling for navigating tricky trails sections.

The Specialized Stumpjumper EVO features 160mm of travel in the front and 150mm in the rear to absorb everything from small bumps to big drops so you can just about fly over features.

Despite its plush suspension, this mountain bike still pedals and climbs responsively thanks to Specialized’s Rx Tune and the bike’s sag value—the amount that your suspension settles under your own weight when you’re in the riding position—is set specifically for each bike. 

Lots of room in the cockpit means you can keep centered on the bike for better traction and control on sketchy terrain, while the low bottom bracket and slack headtube angle add a level of stability. A shorter chainstay also helps keep things nimble for a long travel mountain bike.     

The Stumpjumper EVO comes in six style-specific sizes (S1-S6), meaning that you can choose your frame size based on your own personal riding style instead of just being limited by your inseam length. Additionally, the head tube angle, bottom bracket height, and even the wheel sizes are all adjustable and you can even go for a mullet setup with a 27.5-inch wheel in the rear and a 29-inch wheel up front.

Best Hardtail Mountain Bike

A Ride That Helps You Get In The Flow

If you are riding long miles on mixed terrain or happen to prefer flowy, smoother trails, you may want to ditch the rear suspension altogether and buy a hardtail. The smooth, lightweight RockShox fork and upgraded parts on the Marlin 7 by Trek Bikes make it a top choice for new riders that want a fast cross country hardtail that can hold its own against higher-end racing bikes while also not breaking the bank. After all, if you’re just getting into mountain biking, you probably don’t want to drop $4,000 on a new bike, right?

And despite the lower price tag, the stylish Marlin also has some great features that are usually found only on more expensive bikes, like an internal shift cable and brake hose routing that can extend the life of your cables by protecting them from the elements. And while this is a hardcore mountain bike, no question about it, rear rack mounts mean you could also use it for commuting or mountain bike camping adventures. Smaller riders will also appreciate that the XS and S frame sizes have a curved top tube and a lower stand-over height that makes it easier to mount and dismount.

Best Electric Mountain Bike

A Little Assistance On Climbs And Long Rides

Electric mountain bikes have started to sell like hotcakes. Not only can they help balance out the competency among different riders, but they enable anyone to go further and faster than they could with a traditional bike. Even so, you don’t necessarily want an ebike that looks like a sci-fi prop. Thankfully, Trek has produced a suite of electric bikes that both look and feel like a mountain bike while being fully equipped for dirt trails and varying terrain.

The Rail series ranges from $5,650 to $13,800, depending on what features matter most to you and your budget. Higher end models boast an ultra-light and ultra-strong carbon fiber frame, a wireless electronic drivetrain and a powerful Bosch Performance Line CX motor with extended battery range. They’ll also come with a new smart system LED remote and Kiox display that pair with the eBike Flow app, which provides activity tracking, navigation and Bluetooth connectivity. Don’t need (or don’t want to pay for) all the perks? The lower-end models are still excellent e-bikes that will let you ride further, longer and more comfortably than most mountain bikes on the market.

Best Women’s Mountain Bike

Great Components, An Affordable Frame Made With Women in Mind

Make no mistake: women don’t need to buy a women’s bike. Any bike that fits well and rides well is all you need, regardless of whom it’s designed for. But the Cannondale Trail 8 is a superb bike that’s especially well-suited to women thanks to a unique frame geometry, lightweight aluminum alloy frame and comfortable seat.

Not only does this bike look great—with a slight bend in the frame to make this somewhat of a step-through model—but it also has a great assortment of high-quality components despite its modest price. You get Shimano derailleurs in both the front and rear, for example—not the highest end varieties, but more than sufficient for most riders. The shifter delivers 14 gears and there’s some solid stopping power in the 160mm mechanical disc brakes. And the hardtail bike features a front suspension that offers 75mm of travel.

If you’re a serious rider and want to tackle some aggressive trails, this bike probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for an affordable all-around bike that leans into trail skills, this is a superb choice.

Just because a rider is young, doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t serious about powering through rugged rock gardens. Sure, there are more affordable kids’ mountain bikes on the market but if your kiddo is becoming—or already is—a serious rider, you’ll want to invest in a more rugged ride that candle the beating it’s surely about to get. Basically, this is just a smaller version of Diamondback’s do-anything adult-size hardtail mountain bike. Aluminum is used to keep the bike somewhat affordable while still ensuring a durable and sturdy construction.

The Line 24 by Diamondback is a dynamic hardtail mountain bike with stiff and aggressive 24-inch wheels that offers superb handling on punchy uphills and rapid descents. The Suntour fork gives 80-millimeters of front suspension travel, so despite its smaller size, it will still perform like a normal-sized bike. While intended for kids ages 8-12 years old, smaller adult riders who are 53-62” would also do well on this frame.

What Are The Types Of Mountain Bikes?

When you’re ready to buy a mountain bike, the first decision you need to make is what type of mountain bike you need. Cross country (XC), trail, enduro, downhill—what does it all mean? Generally, mountain bikes are classified by the amount of suspension as well as frame geometry. When choosing the type of mountain bike, you need to consider the terrain you plan to ride the most.

An XC bike is generally lightweight with 120mm or less of travel up front. Designed to go fast and crush climbs, many XC bikes are hardtails (they have front suspension only) or come with very minimal suspension in the rear. These bikes are perfect for those that race, ride long distances or normally ride fast, flowy, not-too-technical trails.

More popular: so-called trail bikes, which are known for their ability to climb and descend equally well and are capable on a wide variety of terrain. Trail bikes add more suspension than XC bikes—somewhere between 120mm to 150mm of travel in the front and back—and feature a more relaxed geometry. This is the type of bike you want to buy if you are looking for a do-it-all one-bike quiver.

Enduro bikes were originally built for races where riders have to pedal uphill under their own power but only the downhill sections of the course are timed. These bikes add a bit more suspension than a trail bike—generally from 140mm to 180mm in front and back. They’re designed for those willing to earn their ride but are really in it for the technical downhill and airtime on trail candy.

Downhill bikes are designed for those who want to skip the pedaling and ride only chairlift-accessed laps at the bike park or take on shuttle-accessed terrain. With anywhere from 170mm to 250mm of travel in the rear and 180mm to 200mm up front, these bikes are for highly skilled riders looking to bomb down steep, gnarly terrain.

What To Consider When Buying A Mountain Bike

Now that you’ve chosen the type of mountain bike you need, there are a few more things to consider such as budget, frame size, wheel size and components.

The single most important consideration is the size of the frame. Proper sizing and fit is critical not just for your comfort while riding, but also to maximize your body’s output, making you a more efficient rider who’s able to ride further distances. Your local bike shop (or the manufacturer’s website) can help you determine which size bike would fit you best. If you are right between two sizes, sizing up will give you more stability, while going with the smaller size will give you a more maneuverable bike. Not only is it important to support these local resources, but doing so up front means you’re less likely to have to visit your local bike shop again to tweak an ill-fitting frame.

When it comes to wheel size, consider whether you prefer the playful maneuverability of a 27.5-inch wheel mountain bike or the speed and rollover ability of a 29er. Taller riders tend to prefer a 29-inch wheel, while shorter riders may want to opt for a 27.5-inch wheel. Many manufacturers spec their wheels differently according to frame size to help with the decision, so be sure to do your research.

Once you have chosen a frame and set of wheels, it’s time to consider components, which often determine the overall end price of a mountain bike. This is where your budget comes into play and the sky’s the limit in terms of possibilities. Regardless of whatever upgrades you may choose for your bike, make sure it has good brakes and appropriate gearing for whatever terrain you plan to ride.

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