You’re in the market for a mountain bike and you have some money to spend.
Maybe you’re upgrading from a cheaper entry-level mountain bike (under $500), or maybe your budget for your first mountain bike is high enough for something beyond budget entry level.
What can you get at the sub $1,000 price point?
Let’s take a look at 8 of the best mountain bikes under $1,000 today.
|Mountai Bike Model||Gearing||Fork Travel||Wheel Size|
|Specialized Rockhopper Expert||1x9||100 mm||2.3"|
|Cannondale Trail 5||2x9||100 mm||2.25"|
|Trek X-Caliber 8||2x10||100 mm||2.2"|
|Scott Scale 970||1x12||100 mm||2.25"|
|Giant Talon 3||2x8||100 mm||2.2"|
|Marlin San Quentin 1||1x9||120 mm||2.3"|
|Diamondback Overdrive 2||2x9||100 mm||2.25"|
|Kona Lava Dome||2x9||100 mm||2.25"|
1. Specialized Rockhopper Expert
The Well-Known Rockhopper Just Received An Upgrade
The Rockhopper Expert offers some nice upgrades from its lower end model. At the top of this list are Shimano Deore components, which are a significant step up from the Altus and Alivio components on other bikes at this price point.
Paired with these components are a 11-42T cog set and 30T front chainring.
The Rockhopper also has the unique feature of offering two different tire types, Specialized’s Ground Control Sport tires on the front and FastTrack Sport on the back. The two different tires offer a combination of tread and fast roll.
Brakes are also on the higher end, with Shimano’s MT200 hydraulic disc brakes offer plenty of reliable stopping power. Specialized has also revamped its Rockhopper with higher grade alloy, which means smaller tubes and less weight.
2. Cannondale Trail 5
A Compliant Ride with a Strong Set of Components
This hardtail bike from Cannondale offers some excellent value at a price that’s well under $1,000.
Cannondale is known for frame designs that make for smooth rides. Such is the case with the Trail 5, which smooths out rough trails thanks to a frame that’s constructed with thin seat stays for maximum flex. Short chainstays make for a shorter wheelbase that facilitates responsiveness and quick turns.
Components are a mix of Shimano Altus and Acera, which is a step up from the Cannondale Trail 8, which is fitted with mostly Tourney components. The FSA crankset includes a 36/22 chainring set-up while the rear cog set is a 9-speed 11-36T and a pair of Cannondale flat platform pedals.
Shimano’s MT200 hydraulic disc brakes offer excellent stopping power while the 29-inch wheels include wide 2.25-inch tires for traction. The front fork is the Suntour XCM-RL, which offers an adequate 100mm of travel.
3. Trek X-Caliber 8
A Great All-rounder for Cruising or Racing
The Trek X-Caliber 8 does an excellent job of offering what most cyclists want at this price point, a bike that is aggressive enough to be race capable but also relaxed enough for casual rides around town.
The X-Caliber 8’s geometry features steep seat tube and head tube angles coupled with a longer wheelbase, making it responsive enough for race use but also stable enough for high-speed downhills.
Despite these qualities, the X-Caliber 8 eschews the trend toward 1x drivetrains and instead sticks with a 36/22T double chainring coupled with a 10-speed rear cog set that is 11-36T.
The X-Caliber 8 instead puts its money in the rear derailleur, which is the higher level Shimano Deore model. Other highlights include hydraulic disc brakes, Bontrager MTB saddle and 2.2″ Bontrager XR2 tires.
4. Scott Scale 970
Ride A 12-Speed Drivetrain at an Affordable Price
Coming in at the top end of this price range is Scott’s Scale 970.
The Scale 970 features SRAM’s latest entry into the 1×12 speed market, the SRAM XS Eagle components, which makes up the bike’s rear derailleur. And yes, this features a full 12-speed rear cogset with a gigantic range of 11-50t. This cogset is paired with a single front 32t chainring.
Other features on the Scale 970 include Shimano disc brakes and a RockShox Silver fork with 100mm of travel.
This bike is also fitted with Scott’s patented remote RideLoc system, which allows you to unlock the fork for flats and downhills and lock it for more stiffness for uphills without having to take your hands off the handlebars.
5. Giant Talon 3
An Affordable, Excellent Entry Level Mountain Bike
The 27.5” Giant Talon 3 offers a number of value-adds at a price point that puts it just outside of the sub $500 price range. This is an excellent deal from one of the largest and most respected bike manufacturers in the world.
The Talon 3’s relaxed frame geometry makes this a great starter bike for x-country mountain biking and trail riding.
The drivetrain is full Shimano with Altus shifters and an 8-speed Acera rear derailleur with a 12-32T range and a 36/22T double chainring. Other highlights include Tektro hydraulic disc brakes and a Suntour front fork with 100mm of travel.
Wheels are 27.5” with beefy 2.2” thick tires. It comes in metallic blue and olive green colors.
6. Marin San Quentin 1
An Aggressive Trail Bike for Technical Terrains
Want a bike that is designed top to bottom for aggressive no-holds-barred trail riding that doesn’t cost a fortune?
Named after the California prison of the same name, the San Quentin 1 is designed for rough trails, jumps and bombing downhills. One of the first things you’ll notice about the San Quentin 1 is its aggressive frame geometry, which features a 65 degree head tube angle that facilitates excellent handling on descents.
Other notables on this bike include a beefy front fork with 130mm of travel and internal cable routing. The drivetrain is a 1x 9 speed with a 11-36T cog set with Shimano Altus rear derailleur.
7. Diamondback Overdrive 2
Top Quality Components and Wheelset at A Budget
Expect to find a lot of value in the components and brakes of Diamondback’s mountain bikes. This is one of the perks of buying from a company that doesn’t have the established name that bigger companies like Specialized, Trek and Giant have.
The Overdrive 2 offers some great features at a budget price including a 2×9 drivetrain with a Shimano Alivio and Acera front and rear derailleur. The gearing combination gives you enough gears to tackle most of the cross country trails except those very steep climbs.
The Rockshox Judy Silver fork, meanwhile, offers a full 100mm of travel. The Overdrive 2 also offers plenty of traction with its 2.25″ wide WTB Nineline tires.
8. Kona Lava Dome
Built to be Ridden in the Most Technical Single-tracks
At 15kg, Kona’s Lava Dome comes in at a higher weight than most other bikes at this price point. That said, the Lava Dome has a lot to offer.
The bike is manufactured by Washington-based Kona, which has been making bikes since 1988. The Lava Dome is equipped with an 11-36T, 9-speed rear cogset and36/22T chainrings. Components are a mix of Shimano Altus and Alivio.
A small triangle in the rear coupled with a steeply angled head tube make for excellent handling and control on downhills while the hard tail still makes climbing very manageable.
The Lava Dome is fitted with 2.25” wide Trail Boss tires, which are more than capable of handling tough single track terrain. Brakes on the Kona are Tektro mechanical with a pair of alloy flat pedals.
What to Expect in A Mountain Bike Under $1,000
Wondering what you can get in a mountain bike at the $1,000 price point?
This buyer’s guide below will give you a rough idea what to expect at this price range for everything from frame materials to drivetrain and wheelsets.
1. Type of Mountain Bike
Just as there are subsections of road bikes, there are also subsections of mountain bikes. And since the terminology is a bit vague, it can be difficult to understand which bike is for what need.
The majority of the bikes you’ll find on this list are classified as hardtail bikes.
What’s a hardtail mountain bike?
As the name suggests, hardtail bikes have a suspension on the front fork but no suspension in the rear of the bike. In most bikes, the fork will have a travel of 100mm. In some rare cases such as the Marlin San Quentin 1, the fork as a longer travel at 120mm.
A hardtail mountain bike are generally used for either cross country (XC) or trail riding.
Cross Country Riding
Cross country is what some refer to as the purest form of mountain biking, which is riding meandering trails specifically designed for mountain biking use. These trails might be hard packed, loose dirt, or gravel with such obstacles as tree roots and small logs.
Dual suspensions aren’t necessary here and may actually reduce performance with too much power given away with flex during pedaling. Rear suspensions also generally add weight. As such, it’s better to trade the expense of a dual suspension bike for a lighter weight hardtail with a higher end drivetrain.
Trail riding is a step up from cross country in that it involves more technical riding.
Trail bikes fall in between cross country riding and all-mountain bike riding. They are designed for flats, descents and climbs. Expect more dual suspension bikes for trail riding with a large gear range for taking on whatever terrain one might encounter.
2. Frame Materials
At a price point below $1,000, you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to material.
Aluminum is pretty much the only material you’ll find.
Highly prized carbon frames start at a significantly higher price point. That said, expect the quality of the aluminum alloy and the construction of the frame to be a step up from entry-level aluminum frames.
3. Components, Drivetrain and Brakes
When it comes to drivetrain, expect to find a broad range of configurations as mountain bikes below $1,000 can be found specced with 1x and 2x front chainrings.
Most rear cog sets at this price point will be either 9 or 10 speed, a step up from the 7 or 8-speed cassettes you find on cheaper mountain bikes, especially those below $500.
For most doubles, expect a rear cog set with a range of 11-36T. A rear cassette with an 11-42T or even as high as 50T is typical for a 1x set up.
What makes one better than the other?
Personal preference is really at play here. However, 1x drivetrains have gained a following due to ease of use. Executing a front derailleur shift while barreling down single track is a heck of a lot harder than flicking your thumb for a rear derailleur shift. The 1x drivetrains are also lower maintenance as no front derailleur is required.
Most mountain bikes below $1,000 have graduated from your standard mechanical disc brakes to higher performance hydraulic brakes. Rotor sizes are also larger on these bikes with a minimum of 160mm in diameter.
Why does this matter?
The bigger the rotor the better the stopping power.
4. Tire and Wheel Size
Tire size options are pretty much standard across all price points for mountain bikes.
As such, expect to find plenty of selection in both the 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes for sub $1,000 mountain bikes. For some models such as the Trek Marlin 4, the wheel size is dependant on the frame size. A bigger frame will use a 29″ wheelset, while a smaller frame will have 27.5″ wheelset.
Tire widths will be a little beefier than lower-priced bikes in order to handle tougher terrain. Expect to find tires up to 2.3” wide.
5. Total Weight
Lighter weight wheelsets, better-engineered aluminum frames, and lighter components mean overall less weight for bikes in this class compared to more cheaply price mountain bikes.
Expect to find bikes in the weight range of 12 to 14kg in the sub $1,000 market.