Oct 23, 2018 by Evan Bailey
$1000 for a mountain bike may not seem like much to those that have been in the sport for years and have paid that much for just a front shock, but for many just starting out in the sport, that can be a lot of money.
I meet new people every few months who express to me that they would like to get into mountain biking again. Sometimes they have old mountain bikes from college that have been sitting for years collecting rust and are wondering if they are worth salvaging.
Many no longer own a mountain bike and want to know how much it will take to get back into the sport. Living in Houston, many laugh at me when I tell them I frequently mountain bike with the usual joke of “Ha ha, what mountains are you riding?!” to which I respond, “no mountains moron, but I ride some sweet root trails along the creek!” which usually shuts them up after I show them some pictures and where the trails are located.
All joking aside many would like to start riding in Houston (or whatever city) but want to know how much money it will take to get started. They may have a limited monthly budget and/or need to save and plan ahead before they make a big purchase. If you’ve got kids, you know that they can be expensive and your excess funds may be getting used up.
I usually encourage people to start looking for a used mid-grade full suspension mountain bike. This does take a good amount of patience, research, and knowing when and where to look. Some people do not have time for that they would rather just buy a newer “decent” bike.
Say you can only justify spending $1000 to start in this new sport? What are some good options out there for beginners or those with limited disposable income? Can you really get a full suspension mountain bike for less than $1K?
I compiled a list of 5 full suspension bikes that won’t break the bank if you want to try out mountain biking and may prevent you into robbing from your kid’s college fund. Some of these bikes (ok most of them) will need some upgrades almost immediately so they may not be for everyone and especially not for those who are mechanically challenged.
Most lists similar to this $1K range that I have seen only mention hardtail mountain bikes (bikes with front suspension only) and this could be a better option for some that do not want/need that extra cushion in the back. I haven’t ridden a hardtail in years and am partial to full suspension so my list only includes full suspension.
These are listed from the cheapest to the most expensive (in this category).
#1. Hyper Hydroform Ultra Lightweight - $199 (walmart.com)
Pros: Quick Release front and rear hubs, disc brakes, aluminum frame that is hydroformed. All for $200?!
Cons: 7-speed freewheel (so can’t upgrade), single wall wheelset (not as durable), riveted 3-ring crank (cannot remove rings), it’s heavy (like 37+ lbs), you need to be around 6’ or taller for this bike unless you have longer legs, funny name and color
Overall: A great budget option if you want to ride now on the road and very easy light trails, don’t have a lot of cash, and don’t mind upgrading as you go. With some upgrades, this could be a good beginner bike and good introduction into the mountain biking world.
The Hyper is leaps and bounds better than what I remember being out there when I started mountain biking, especially for $200. If you want to try out biking and don’t mind spending some money pretty soon on some upgrades then this could be an option. If you love upgrading bikes and have a lot of spare parts lying around this is a great buy. Check out my article on different upgrade options you could do for the Hyper here.
However, if you don’t feel comfortable doing your own upgrades and would rather spend the money up front to get something that is likely to last longer in it’s stock form than continue reading… actually probably read past the next bike too :-)
#2 Mongoose XR-Pro - $307 (walmart.com)
Pros: SRAM 8-speed drivetrain, Rear cassette (not freewheel) so rear upgrades are possible, Crank has removable chainrings so you could easily convert to poor man’s 1x8 or another configuration later. Fairly large upgrade community if you need tips and upgrade suggestions.
Cons: Very heavy, crummy suspension (but for this price, what do you expect?!), big bike 6’ or taller rider needed, getting parts in the future could be an issue
Overall: A few better specs on this than your Hyper Hydroform and a good beginner bike IF you are willing to do some upgrades and tinker around with parts.
Like the Hyper Hydroform the XR-Pro is a good option for those on a tight budget that do not mind doing their own upgrades down the road. It has a lot of potential and is easier to upgrade right out of the box compared with the Hyper. The rear cassette as well as the removable rings on the front crank could allow you to go to a 1x8 setup very easily which would simplify the ride especially for beginners and lose a little weight in the process. If you don’t mind upgrading I would seriously consider this bike but just like the Hyper if you don’t want to mess around with certain upgrades right away then keep reading and spend more money up front.
#3 Motobecane Fantom DS Trail - $900 (bikesdirect.com)
Pros: Good wheelset that should make it easy to upgrade to tubeless tires. Front and rear shock lockout option, hydraulic disc standard with large rotors
Cons: Too many speeds (most people no longer want 27 speeds). Frame parts could be scarce down the road.
Overall: You get a pretty decent bike for $900 that could be upgraded pretty easily in the future if you aren’t getting the performance you want or something breaks.
If you can make it through the sometimes confusing website of bikesdirect (maybe it’s just me) and don’t mind buying a smaller brand name bike, then you should keep the Motobecane on your short list. I like that it comes with a Deore derailleur but wish they would have just modified it and gone with a 1x9 setup since most people are going to go that route these days. Luckily you can easily upgrade it if you wish. Do note that the suspension appears to be older models so if something breaks, it could be an issue getting parts if it is no longer in production.
I do like that it comes with hydraulic disc with larger rotors even it is from a lesser respected brand such as Tektro. Having a wheelset that is tubeless compatible is a nice unexpected option at this price once you wear out your first set of tires.
#4 Fuji Reveal 1.3 (2016 model) - $900 (bikesdirect.com) or (bikeshopwarehouse.com)
Pros: Though older, has a pretty good thru-axle shock compared to the other bikes on this list. Alivio components are below Deore but still good for this price range.
Cons: Only limited sizes available at this price. A 1x9 drivetrain would have been preferred out the door
Overall: If you can find one in your size the Fuji could be a good option and comes with slightly better than average suspension at this price point.
I’ve heard the Fuji name throughout the years but do not know a ton about them. This seems to be a pretty good build even if it is using some older year components such as the suspension. Like the other bikes they could have gone to a cheaper 1x9 setup but this can be easily converted with the Alivio drivetrain. If you can find it in your size at this price it may be a good option for you.
#5 Diamondback Atroz 2 $900 (aventuron.com) or (diamondback.com)
Pros: Well known and respected brand, 1x9 drivetrain out the door, Shimano hydraulic brakes, different size options available
Cons: Don’t love the color but maybe it’s better in person, Cheaper Acera components
Overall: A pretty good beginner build from a larger manufacturer that may not require immediate upgrades though the fork would be the first thing to modify.
Diamondback did a good job providing an inexpensive beginner full suspension bike here with a 1x9 drivetrain and Shimano hydraulic brakes. I would have liked to have seen them use Alivio components but they obviously were trying to keep it in a price point at $900. Taking everything into consideration if you don’t mind waiting a little while to upgrade your front suspension fork, this could be a great option for you to buy and get out there and start enjoying the trails!
Well, you have 5 pretty good options to consider. You may not agree with them and if you think of some other ones, please comment. This list may end up growing in the future as models come and go so we will see what happens. In the end, yes it is tough to buy and therefore tough to build a good full suspension bike.
Suspension systems and wheelsets are not easy to make to handle the stress and the weight requirements that a mountain bike requires. I still think that we can get a lot more for our money these days than when I was just starting out in the sport.
Hopefully one of these will for for some people out there and they can then get into this wonderful sport as soon as possible. If these don’t work then you could always go the hardtail route and save a little more money and weight or keep your eye out for a good used full suspension bike in your area.