Best Mountain Bike Under $200 (Year 2018)
Mountain biking is a versatile sport and leisure activity, and one that’s rapidly growing in popularity: in the United States, over 40 million people engage in some form of it annually. It’s been on a steady up-and-up since 2001, and shows no signs of slowing.
The best part about this sport? It’s pretty much free to do, once you’ve invested in a quality bike and some equipment. Maintenance is important, but largely consists of cleaning your bike and lubricating the chain, with occasional parts replacement or upgrades as needed. This gives it a low barrier for entry, meaning just about anyone can get started.
What if you can’t afford a hefty investment, though? Fortunately, quality mountain bikes can be found for under $200, with some diligent research and savvy shopping. Our buyer’s guide will address some common consumer concerns, as well as showcase a few of our favorite budget-friendly mountain bikes.
What is mountain biking, exactly? Is it really just tearing up rugged dirt trails?
Mountain biking first began in the 1800s, when soldiers modified their bikes for off-road use. It evolved into cyclo-cross, a form of endurance exercise, in the early 1900s, which eventually became its own sport.
In the 1970s, riders in California began modifying vintage cruisers with thicker tires, more gears, and BMX-style handlebars so they could take the bikes down mountain trails.
While it wasn’t called “mountain biking” just yet, this was the beginning of the sport as we know it today. Later that decade, some companies started to manufacture commercial off-road bikes, but the industry as a whole considered it a passing fad.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that mountain biking, BMX biking, and motocross became popular and well-known in the mainstream. Since 2001, the sport has grown to involve a range of off-road activities, and has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity throughout this new millennium.
The sport of mountain biking includes everything from slower cross-country rides and gentle park trails, to “Enduro” rides on rough mountains or dug-out tracks with dirt jumps. In simplified terms, any time you’re riding your bike on anything other than a paved road, you’re mountain biking.
This versatility means almost anyone can participate in the sport, in settings appropriate to their unique skill levels and health, and forms conducive to the area in which they live.
Why can’t I use a regular bike?
Road bikes, commuter bikes, etc., are designed for level and paved surfaces. Their tires are often thin and narrow, because these models require lightweight builds; their seats, handlebars, and even frames are designed for comfort and/or speed, rather than shock absorption.
Mountain bikes, however, have the thick and rugged tires off-roading demands, shock absorbers to help riders feel less jostled when traversing rocky trails, and powerful brakes for reliable stops on uneven or compromised terrain.
In short: no, don’t use a “regular” bike to tackle a mountain. Some hybrids (bikes with elements of mountain bikes, road bikes, and/or touring bikes put together) will work for casual mountain biking, such as cross-country trips, but are not suitable for very rough trails.
What should I look for in a mountain bike?
The main factor you need to consider when shopping is what kind of riding you plan to do. Exclusive cross-country trips will require a very different mountain bike than if you plan on pedaling up a mountain.
Think about the features your preferred activities, fitness level, and skill level will require, such as how many speeds you’d like and what kind of brakes you’ll need. Suspension, materials, and how the bike fits you/feels are also important.
What are disc brakes? Do I need them?
Disc brakes squeeze a rotor/disc, which slows the rotation of the wheel. They’re more durable than other brakes, have superior response times, and perform better in muddy or wet conditions.
Most mountain bikes come with disc brakes already, or have dual systems (one wheel is disc, the other a lever/pull-brake).
Riders who plan on frequenting park trails on sunny days don’t require these braking systems, and would do just fine with pull-level or other styles—but anyone who rides in rainy conditions or in very rural areas should purchase a bike with these, or upgrade a bike to get them.
Best Mountain Bike Under $200 Reviews
1. GTM 26” Seven-Speed Folding Shimano Hybrid Mountain Bike Review
This hybrid will suit those with small budgets—and small cars! With a foldable design, this model can fit in typical car trunks, closets, and more. While it isn’t a true mountain bike, it does offer the durability and specs riders will need during cross-country rides and weekends on park trails.
For riders who expect to hit park trails or country roads occasionally, but need a regular bike in the interim (or people who just want a good bike on hand for camping trips and don’t have much storage), the Folding Shimano Hybrid from GTM is worth consideration. Anyone who plans to ride more rugged trails, however, should skip this model and look for true mountain models, instead.
2. Northwoods Aluminum Full Suspension Mountain Bike Review
This model from Northwoods is a smaller bike and suitable for shorter riders (youth, teens, and most women), but can work for adults of taller heights, depending on preference.
Its aluminum frame is durable but lighter than steel, and full suspension design will allow riders expert navigation of uneven trails without discomfort.
This model is best for trail and course riders; cross-country/long-trip bikers probably won’t enjoy the handlebar-to-seat height ratio. 21 speeds in a handle-twist design make this good for beginners as well as experienced riders. If you plan on hitting more rugged trails, climbing steep hills, or performing jumps, this model could suit you well.
3. Men’s Alpine Bicycle by Huffy Review
Huffy, a popular bike brand since the Great Depression, continues its impressive legacy with a range of mountain bikes for modern riders. The Alpine Men’s Bike features 26” knobby tires for superior grip and stability, 18 speeds, and a hardtail frame that many riders prefer over full-suspension.
Hardtail bikes aren’t for everyone, but they have a dedicated following and are frequently recommended for beginners and riders on tight budgets. We recommend the Huffy Alpine to anyone seeking a more “engaged” ride, especially those who wish to improve their skills on trails and courses.
4. Women’s High Timber Mountain Bike by Schwinn Review
As another “big bike brand,” Schwinn loads this bike with impressive features and a comfortable design intended for most women.
At only 16” frame size, it’s best for riders with heights between 5’5” and 5’9”, although it could comfortably seat anyone between 5’1” and 6’0”, as well, depending on personal preference.
The Women’s High Timber from Schwinn is a reliable hardtail option for shorter riders. We recommend it for trail and cross-country use, as well as most rough trails—be aware, however, that it has linear-pull brakes and might not be suitable for all-weather riding. Its price is at the high end of this budget range, but still very reasonable, especially for the reassurance some buyers receive when purchasing from a well-known brand.
5. 26” Granite Peak Women’s Bike from Roadmaster Review
Though listed as a women’s bike, this option doesn’t have a heavily slanted or curved top bar, and comes in a gray-black design with red accents, so we think it would make an excellent unisex bike for anyone within the height range.
It’s also very inexpensive, so we think it will be popular with budgeting riders and newbies, who aren’t ready to invest too much, too soon.
This is one of our favorite models for its low price, attractive yet simplistic design, and front-only suspension. We imagine it would be most popular with cross-country and park trail riders, rather than Enduro ones.
Finding a quality mountain bike for under $200 is certainly possible, but will take some careful research—especially before you even start looking! First, determine what kind of riding you’ll be doing, and the type of landscapes you’ll encounter. Next, decide which features are most important to your preferences and needs: if you need easier mounting, look for slanted top bars; if you need a very forgiving ride, seek models with dual suspension, rather than hardtails.
We hope our buyer’s guide has been helpful in beginning your search for a budget-friendly mountain bike. Whether your weekends will feature untamed wilderness or calmer, quieter trails, the right bicycle should provide you with a comfortable and fun ride—at a price you can afford.