Best mountain bikes under $1,000

Bikes for all types of off-road fun

Want to check out mountain biking or jumping further in with a new bike? That's awesome, because MTBs under $1,000 are super fun and there are loads of different styles to tackle all types of riding.

Being both tough and reliable lets these versatile bikes go anywhere; from sinewy trails snaking around the woods to cruising around the urban landscape, or even taking on the pump track and dirt jumps.

MTB Buyer's Guide

Most mountain bikes under $1,000 are referred to as 'hardtails', meaning they have bump-absorbing suspension on the front wheel only. While there are some full suspension bikes (front and rear suspension) in this price bracket, we'd strongly recommended steering clear of them as their quality is often lacking. 

There are also bikes without suspension lurking within this price zone. If going after a rigid bike, it's advisable to look for plus-size (with wide 2.6in to 3.0in tires) or even fat (3.8in or wider) tires.

You'll likely find two wheel sizes, 27.5" and 29" within the plus-size category. Most of the bigger, cushier, winter-oriented fat bikes still roll on 26" wheels. 

Of course another option is buying a used bike. Just like anything else, buying pre-owned involves a bit of a risk as it takes lots of knowledge to accurately assess the item's condition. 

The same know-how extends to buying a bike online, sight unseen. There are many brands that sell consumer direct, and they offer excellent bikes, but like buying used it pays to know what to look for and what you want.

Buying new from a bike shop should mean a properly built bike and will often include some bonuses such as free tune-ups, deals on parts or even better, new riding friends to show you the trails. Buying new also keeps your bike up to date and lessens the chance of obsolete parts or components.

However you go, these entry-level mountain bikes are a terrific way to get into off-road riding. Here are seven bikes worth checking out when your bank account turns off around the $1,000 mark.

Specialized Rockhopper Sport 29

The Rockhopper Sport 29 is proof the hardtail will never go extinct
The Rockhopper Sport 29 is proof the hardtail will never go extinct

  • $625
  • Frame: A1 Premium aluminum frame
  • Fork: SR Suntour XCM Coil, 80/100mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Altus, 3x8-speed
  • Wheels: Stout 29 alloy / Shimano hubs
  • Tires: Specialized Ground Control Sport, 29 x 2.1in

Bicycling technology is always evolving, but there's a good reason hardtail mountain bikes are one of the sport's few constants, it's because they work.

The Rockhopper Sport has 29in wheels and a healthy helping of Shimano on the drivetrain. It's also inspiring to see Shimano hubs as well as the widely loved hydraulic disc brakes too, as they're known for durability and easy maintenance. 

Plus, even though this Rockhopper is on the starting end of Specialized bikes, rest assured it still has a bit of the same feeling as the brand's spendier rigs. 

Trek X-Caliber 7

Trek's X-Caliber 7 is loaded with trickle-down technology from one of the biggest brands
Trek's X-Caliber 7 is loaded with trickle-down technology from one of the biggest brands

  • $899
  • Frame: Alpha Gold aluminum frame
  • Fork: RockShox 30 Silver, coil, G2 offset, 100mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano, 2x9-speed
  • Wheels: Bontrager rims / Formula hubs
  • Tires: Bontrager XR2, 29 x 2.2in

Mountain bikes such as Trek's X-Caliber 7 are a fine way to get hooked on biking. This cross-country style 29er hits the trails with a lot of technology borrowed from its much-spendier stablemates. 

The G2 geometry makes the steering accurate yet stable and the wheel size correlates to the frame size: larger frames rock 29-inch wheels while smaller bikes get better fitting 27.5-inch wheels. 

The X-Caliber 7 gets the job done with a lightweight alloy frame, RockShox fork, Shimano drivetrain, and even Shimano hydro disc brakes. Like the Giant Fathom and Specialized Rockhopper listed here, if rolling up to an XC start line seems like a possibility, the X-Caliber is an exceptional starting point. 

Giant Fathom 29 2

Giant's Fathom 29 3 is a fantastic starting point for XC riding and racing
Giant's Fathom 29 3 is a fantastic starting point for XC riding and racing

  • $920
  • Frame: ALUXX aluminum
  • Fork: SR Suntour Raidon XC LO-R, 100mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Alivio / Deore 2x9-speed
  • Wheels: Alloy double-wall rims / Giant hubs
  • Tires: Maxxis Ikon, 29 x 2.2in

Cross country and non-technical trail riding bikes are arguably the most common and accessible forms of mountain bike, and Giant's line of Fathom bikes are ideal at game.  

With its 100mm travel suspension fork and racy seating position, Giant's Fathom 29 2 has the looks and the spec of a pure cross-country bike. Its 29-inch wheels are wrapped in the XC-favorite Maxxis Ikon tires and the 18-speed FSA/Shimano Deore drivetrain has the gears for spinning up climbs and reaching eye-watering speed on the descents.

Airborne Seeker 29

Airborne's Seeker 29 is the prototypical XC bike with big wheels, an air-sprung fork, and two-chainring crankset
Airborne's Seeker 29 is the prototypical XC bike with big wheels, an air-sprung fork, and two-chainring crankset

  • $930
  • Frame: Hydroformed 6061 aluminum
  • Fork: RockShox Recon Gold TK Solo Air
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X5, 2x10-speed
  • Wheels: Weinmann rims / sealed hubs
  • Tires: Vee XCV, 27.5 x 2.25in

Airborne offers its bikes online only with the premise that the parts attached are a level higher than similarly priced bikes. 

Airborne's Seeker 29 is aimed at cross-country and trail riding with big 29-inch wheels, a short-travel RockShox fork, and narrow, low-tread tires. 

Also highlighting its XC intentions are SRAM's X5 drivetrain bits with a wide-range 2x10 set up, and the hydraulic SRAM disc brakes, although they're only clamping on relatively small 160mm rotors likely to save weight.

While the front of the frame is ready for a fork upgrade thanks to the tapered head tube, the back of the bike isn't due to the now defunct quick-release open dropouts. 

Commencal Absolut

Take to the air aboard Commencal's dirt jump, slopestyle, pump track-specific Absolut
Take to the air aboard Commencal's dirt jump, slopestyle, pump track-specific Absolut

  • $999
  • Frame: V3 Aluminium
  • Fork: Manitou Circus Expert, 100mm
  • Drivetrain: One-speed
  • Wheels: Alex rims FR30 / Formula front; Novatec rear hub
  • Tires: Maxxis DTH, 26 x 2.3in

Not all entry-level mountain bikes have to be confined to the cross-country and endurance sides of the sport. Within this dollar range, bikes designed for dirt jumping, skate parks and other gravity-fed, big air shenanigans can be had, such as Commencal's Absolut. 

True to the demands of the genre, the Absolut rolls with a one-speed drivetrain powered by super stout chromoly cranks. The wheels are 26-inch, which may be a by-gone era for other MTBs, yet are the smart choice here where tailwhips, barspins and tabletops necessitate smaller, easily maneuverable hoops. 

The Manitou fork is made for hard impacts, the Maxxis tires built for maintaining speed, and the rear-only Tektro disc brake keeps the front of the bike clutter free. 

The most important part of the Absolut is the fact this rig is purpose-built tough for the hard life of crashes, cased jumps, and misjudged run outs. 

Fezzari Wasatch Peak 27.5

Fezzari 27.5in Wasatch Peak comes ready for XC action with a light alloy frame, uncluttered 1x10 drivetrain and air-sprung RockShox fork
Fezzari 27.5in Wasatch Peak comes ready for XC action with a light alloy frame, uncluttered 1x10 drivetrain and air-sprung RockShox fork

  • $989
  • Frame: Hydroformed, double-butted aluminum
  • Fork: RockShox 30 Silver TK Solo Air, 100mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Deore/SRAM, 1x10-speed
  • Wheels: WTB STP i25 rims
  • Tires: Maxxis Ardent EXO, 27.5x2.2in

Direct-to-consumer brand Fezzari follows the model of offering a higher tier of components on its bikes. If you're a seasoned rider and/or confident in what size and features you want on your next bike, the mail-order system could work well. 

The Wasatch Peak 27.5 is a decidedly XC bike with a short-travel front fork, aggressive geometry, and light alloy frame. It'd be ideal for riders who don't have a ton of vertical at their local trail zone or for a roadie who's curious about MTBs, but doesn't want to stray too far from the head-down, go-fast plot of road cycling. 

However you ride, the Shimano shifting bits and hydraulic disc brakes are worthy components. It's also impressive to see WTB rims and Maxxis tires on board, especially tubeless-ready versions at that. 

Mongoose Tyax Supa Expert

The plus size tires on the Mongoose Tyax Supa Expert are wider than normal MTB tires, yet smaller than full-on fat bike rubber
The plus size tires on the Mongoose Tyax Supa Expert are wider than normal MTB tires, yet smaller than full-on fat bike rubber

  • $999
  • Frame: XC aluminum
  • Fork: Suntour XCR Air, 100mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Deore/FSA 2x9-speed
  • Wheels: Alex 40mm
  • Tires: WTB Trailblazer, 27.5x2.8in

One of the latest mountain bike wheel size offerings is called 'plus size'. Plus size wheels and tires are typically 27.5in (there are 29in versions, but they're more rare) with a 2.8 – 3.0in width. This is much larger than a standard MTB tire, yet smaller than a bulbous fat bike tire.

Mongoose Tyax Supa Expert wears plus size tires and it turns an ordinary hardtail into a much more capable machine. The big, cushy tires eliminate trail vibrations, provide reassurance and stability, and can add grip on certain surfaces. 

The big tires are helped out by a 100mm travel suspension fork and the 2x9 drivetrain offers a range of gears for climbing and descending. 

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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