Mountain Biking

Best mountain bikes under £500: The 5 greatest bargains – Red Bull

Getting started with mountain biking doesn’t have to mean spending thousands on the latest bike and kit. For £500 and under, you can snag a great value hardtail mountain bike (meaning front suspension only) that’ll comfortably take on a range of terrain – from gravel roads and single track blasts, through to trail centre trips.

What should you be looking for in a good quality, budget mountain bike for less than £500? At this price point, a bike should have a basic but reliable suspension fork, a lightweight rigid (no suspension) aluminium frame, mechanical (cable) or hydraulic disc brakes, a wide range of gears and sturdy finishing parts. It is also possible to get something from a reputable, established brand.

While a sub-£500 mountain bike is not going to have an all-singing, all-dancing components list (some might have been made specifically for production bikes and aren’t available otherwise), it should be a good starting point to get into the sport. And who knows, if you enjoy it, you’ll have a solid frame that you can start to upgrade componentry around.

Here are some of the best under £500 mountain bikes you can get in 2020.

1. Cannondale Trail 8

The Trail 8 has the same frame as models that are £150 more expensive

© Cannondale

Price: £399.99

Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size(s): 27.5” (XS, S), 29” (M-XL)

Suspension travel: 75mm

The Trail range of hardtails from Cannondale stretches across the price brackets (topping out at the £1,400 Trail 1), but this introductory Trail 8 is a steal. Tektro mechanical disc brakes, WTB Ranger Comp tyres and a 75mm-travel SR Suntour fork are some of the basic-but-functional components on this aluminium alloy frame; Cannondale own-brand finishing parts complete the package. Its internal cable routing keeps cables out of the way and gives the bike a sleek aesthetic. The two smaller sizes (XS and S) feature 27.5” wheels, with the bigger bikes rolling on 29” wheels.

2. Cube Aim Pro 29

The Aim Pro 29 comes in this orange and black, or an eye-catching green

© Cube

Price: £449

Frame sizes: 14”, 16”, 17”, 19”, 21”, 23”

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size(s): 27.5” (14”, 16”), 29” (17”-23”)

Suspension travel: 100mm

Cube’s value hardtail has Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, Schwalbe Smart Sam tyres and a 100mm-travel SR Suntour suspension fork. The second-cheapest model in the German manufacturer’s AIM range (a step-up from the entry-level AIM), the Pro has neat internal cable routing, while hidden rack and mudguard mounts make it a great option for off-road commuting. Two wheel sizes are available (27.5” and 29”) depending on frame size.

3. Specialized Pitch Sport

Hydraulic disc brakes, 100mm travel and internal routing – all for sub-£500

© Specialized

Price: £474

Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size: 27.5”

Suspension travel: 100mm

Specialized’s 2020 Pitch Sport is a beautiful looking bike that draws from the Californian brand’s decades of experience to create a sleek and sturdy frame with intelligent components choices (hydraulic disc brakes, 100mm suspension travel with lockout, chunky 2.3” wide tyres). The bike’s 27.5” wheels (all sizes) are, Specialized says, the perfect middle ground between “old” 26” and bigger 29” wheels, making them manageable, plus they roll efficiently over rough ground.

4. Giant Talon 29 3

Although loaded with 29″ wheels, it’s also available with 27.5″ hoops

© Giant

Price: £475

Frame sizes: M, L, XL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size: 29”

Suspension travel: 100mm

Giant’s bikes are known as no-fuss workhorses and the Talon 29 3 fits that bill. It has Tektro hydraulic brakes, a 100mm-travel SR Suntour fork with lockout option for climbs and smooth surfaces, and its big 29” wheels are perfect for optimal stability and tackling technical terrain. The bike is finished with Maxxis Ikon tyres – a fairly low-profile set that offers up minimal rolling resistance. For smaller riders, Giant offers a version of the bike with 27.5” wheels.

5. Trek Marlin 6

The Marlin 6 is also available in a women-specific build

© Trek

Price: £475

Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size(s): 27.5” (XS, S), 29” (M-XXL)

Suspension travel: 100mm

In Trek’s own words, the Marlin 6 is aimed at beginner mountain bike riders “testing the waters of off-road riding”, but it’s no slouch and is fully stocked with trail-ready features straight out the box. As you might have noticed by now, major components such as forks and brakes are limited in range at this price; the Marlin features the same SR Suntour XCT fork and Tektro brakes as some of the other bikes in this list. But the devil is in the detail, and the Marlin 6 has all its bases covered: internal cable routing, rack and kickstand mounts, seven available frame sizes (with two wheel sizes depending on size), shorter reach brake levers on narrower handlebars and a special low-slung top tube on the XS and S options. Oh, and it looks great to boot.