Best Mountain Bike Under $300 (Year 2018)
Mountain biking is a popular and versatile recreational activity for individuals from all walks (or rides) of life. Best of all, other than the cost of the bike and safety equipment, biking is free!
Trails and courses can be accessed at no charge all over the country, from local suburban parks to large national ones. Even the bike itself doesn’t have to cost much, which means this hobby can quickly become a new passion—and for far less than you might expect.
Our buyer’s guide will answer some common questions from first-time bike buyers. We’ll also look at four options for riders of varying experience levels, all under $300.
I’m new to mountain biking. What should I look for in a bike?
This largely depends on the kind of riding you want to do, and where you’ll be doing it. There are single-speed models for advanced riders, full-suspension for cross-country riding, free-ride bikes for “urban off-roading,” such as skate-park style tricks and use on stairs, as well as bikes meant more for comfortable on-road rides with a little rural landscape thrown in.
A common first choice (and a favorite for even seasoned riders) is a hardtail model. This has a front-end shock absorber for lessening the impact of ruts and rocks. It’s also lightweight, which makes it ideal for navigating most mountain trails.
While only you can decide which type will best suit your needs, there are some elements of quality to look for when shopping for mountain bikes:
- Steel or aluminum frame, which are durable; steel tends to be heavier and prone to rust, but is stronger than aluminum overall.
- Mounting features for racks, mudguards, etc., depending on your needs.
- Replaceable derailleur hanger (chain and sprockets mechanism; in the event of a crash, you should be able to replace this instead of bending your frame back into place, which aluminum will rarely tolerate).
- Quality tires and rims.
- Plain, uncolored brake systems. The types of brakes you get will be dependent on your riding needs. Most mountain bikers prefer disc, because of its durability and superior response.
- Even welding at joints.
- Comfortable bike seat and handlebars, though you can upgrade if needed.
I don’t live in an area conducive to mountain biking. Should I still get one?
Maybe. This is a personal choice, because only you know how often you’ll be able to take trips to more rural areas with trails and biking routes—and only you can decide if those trips will occur often enough to justify the price of the bike.
For some people, one or two annual camping and biking trips is well worth the cost of a mountain bike, which others would only get one if they knew they could use it every weekend.
Of course, you don’t have to live in a “mountain town” to mountain bike. Trails through local parks and off-road options exist in most cities, too. Consider the kind of biking you plain to do most often, and go from there.
It’s also helpful to connect with local biking enthusiasts in your area, especially if you’re new to the sport—experienced riders might have a treasure trove of premium riding locations you’d never find on your own.
Can I use a mountain bike for daily city riding, too?
Technically, you can—and if you live in a mixed-terrain area (where you might be cutting through woods/across lawns, as well as asphalt roads), it can be a great option.
If you plan on mountain biking regularly, though, you don’t want to wear down those tires in the city and have insufficient tread (or even a flat) when a big camping trip comes up.
Another factor to consider is that mountain bikes tend to be heavier and more difficult to get in and out of your home or office buildings than thinner commute-designed bikes.
If you would like a bike that offers the best of both worlds, consider a hybrid model. Like mountain bikes, they tend to have thicker tires than standard road bikes (a must for uneven or littered city streets), but usually come equipped with more mounts for accessories commuters might require—child seats, baskets, lights, etc.
Another option for commuters who’d like to hit the trails on the weekends is to purchase two bikes: one for daily commuting, and one for trails and rural riding.
Folding bikes are quite small even when assembled, so some riders might like the compact ease of them as a daily bike, then a full-fledged mountain bike for weekend getaways. These are also good for anyone who has to take a bus, subway, or taxi for part of their commutes.
Are there actually any differences between men’s bikes and women’s bikes?
Yes, and while these differences might seem arbitrary or even discriminatory, they are actually made with a great deal of forethought. Structurally, men’s and women’s bikes are designed for the average body differences between the sexes, and chosen to provide the most comfortable experience possible.
Women’s bikes often have slanted top bars, the bar between one’s legs in front of the seat. This is so it’s easier to mount; men’s top bars are level with the ground.
On women’s bikes without a slanted top bar, the length is often shorter, to compensate for the fact women generally have shorter torsos and long legs in relation to their heights, while men have long torsos. This also means the seat is higher on women’s bikes.
Additionally, women’s bikes sometimes have wider seats; men’s seats are designed narrowly, and longer. This is to accommodate the differences in pelvic bones and provide maximum comfort.
Handlebars on men’s bikes are longer by 2 to 6 inches, due to men having broader shoulders, overall.
Unisex bikes also exist, with mediums between these standards to comfortably suit almost everyone. They won’t provide as comfortable riding experiences, or the best performance available, but they do offer just enough and might be worth the sacrifice, especially for male-female couples who share the bicycle.
All that said, you don’t need to buy the bike “meant” for your gender. If you find a bike that fits your body type and allows you to ride comfortably, go ahead and get it! None of us are built exactly the same, and your height, shoulder width, arm length, experience, and personal preferences will be totally different from any other rider you encounter. Take these into account when shopping for a bike, regardless of who it’s designed for.
Best Mountain Bike Under $300 Reviews
1. Kent Thruster KZ2600 Dual-Suspension, 26-Inch Review
With a slightly slanted top bar and mid-sized handlebars, the Kent Thruster KZ2600 is a unisex option that will suit most adult bikers on a budget. Its aluminum frame comes in an attractive black-and-blue combination, and it features a front disc brake for reliable stops on uneven or compromised terrain.
The KZ2600 is a good option for adults of average height who plan to ride on mostly dry trails. Short or tall riders might find the lack of adjustment options uncomfortable. Additionally, its combination-brake system—which offers greater stability than only-pull systems, but isn’t as pricy as all-disc ones—will be suitable for most riders, but probably not racers or anyone who likes biking in the rain or mud.
2. Merax Finiss 26” Review
For riders at the very top end of this budget range, the Merax Finiss might provide all the features you’d look for in a mountain bike, but without the extra dollar signs. It boasts 21 speeds, disc brakes, and a choice of three designs that will appeal to most riders.
Another average-height option, the Merax Finiss offers some of the most important elements of a good mountain bike—disc brakes, sturdy tires, and a light but durable frame—without a “pro bike price.” Its color combinations are attractive, as well, and the tires feature a unique curved spokes design for those who enjoy form just as much as function.
3. Merax Hardtail, 26” Review
As a hardtail model with front suspension instead of full (which means its front and rear pieces do not move independently), the Merax Hardtail has a solid frame, better acceleration, and a lower price—all commonly cited advantages of hardtail models.
This is a good option for beginners, anyone looking to save money, and those who don’t plan on climbing steep trails or tackling very rough terrain.
Whether or not to get a hardtail model vs. a full-suspension one is largely up to you. Riders of all experience levels and terrain preferences use both, so it’s ultimately a matter of opinion. Note that hardtails, because their rear wheels do not move independently, will have trouble gaining traction on rough terrains, and very steep hills. For beginners or cross-country riders, the Merax Hardtail featured here is a sturdy model with impressive performance—for a very fair price.
4. Mongoose Impasse, 29” Review
A full/dual-suspension model, the Mongoose Impasse is good for riders on bumpy landscapes with a lot of hills to go up and down. While it’s only offered in one style (chrome and black), it’s an attractive design that should appeal to most buyers. Its top bar is slanted in a way that appears integral to the design, making it a suitable unisex option, as well.
Mongoose has been around since 2001 (its parent/merger company, BMX Products, Inc., was founded in 1974) and is today synonymous with quality bicycles. The Impasse is no exception. Suitable for both beginners and experienced riders, this model offers must-have features and sleek aesthetic at a very affordable price.
Riders can tackle rough and fierce trails through the mountains, quiet paths through state parks, or winding country roads as they see fit—and all options offer a fun way to exercise, as well as get out into nature—and the ideal bike for each of these doesn’t have to cost a fortune. We hope our buyer’s guide has shed some light on the options available to bike enthusiasts on a budget.