LAST UPDATED: November 4, 2019
Best Mountain Bikes: Conquer Trails With Ease
These are the strongest, most durable and stylish mountain bikes to take on your off-road adventures
The Review Team
How We Decided
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
PUBLISHED ON November 4, 2019
Mountain biking is a sport with a rich history, and it has grown into a range of disciplines. As a result, mountain bikes also have undergone a lot of developments to serve every rider’s needs, from traditional cross-country biking to the recent trend of urban and street cycling. With a huge variety of types and options to choose from, it may be difficult to make a decision. Here’s our list of the most versatile and tough mountain bikes available on the market.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Mountain Bikes
- Get fit. If you enjoy the outdoors and you want to get in shape, invest in an MTB. There are many beginner bikes that can get you started and will help you burn a lot of calories.
- Enjoy nature. While you could spend time on an indoor bike at home or at the gym, it's much more enjoyable to ride outdoors on a local trail. You will soak in the sunshine and feel good when you breathe in the fresh air.
- Be adventurous. Riding a mountain bike can pump up your adrenaline. As opposed to riding on a flat road, you must navigate around obstacles, cross bridges, avoid branches, climb hills, and travel on rough terrain.
- Spend time with friends and family. The great thing about mountain biking is it's an activity that the whole family can enjoy. If your kids are too young, you can join a club for mountain bikers and ride with them or with friends instead.
Types of Mountain Bikes
Trail bikes are good all-around bikes for the typical rider. They are designed to traverse a variety of terrain, including bumpy surfaces and hills. If you are just getting into mountain biking and are figuring out your riding style, you’ll want to consider a trail bike. They feature sturdy frames and wheels.
If you plan on participating in competitions on a mountain bike, then you should plan on getting an enduro bike. This type of bike is designed to provide power and strength, particularly when going downhill. It is also lighter in weight so that you can pedal to the top of a hill without too much effort.
Downhill mountain bikes are exactly what you think they are. They're very rugged and are built to go downhill at very fast speeds. They are extremely durable and can handle abuse at high speeds. The downside is that they tend to be heavy, so they're more challenging to ride up hills.
If you're interested in adding a little extra power to your pedals, you may want to consider an electric mountain bike. An e-bike gives you power when you need it. It allows you to easily ride up hills or ride faster when you're going downhill. You don't get as fatigued when you ride an electric mountain bike.
This bike company is based in Kent, Washington, and started out as a BMX brand in 1977. It expanded to making mountain bikes in 1993. One of its popular products is the Diamondback Overdrive 27.5 Hardtail Mountain Bike.
Mongoose launched in 1974 in Southern California and has been making bikes for over 40 years. It sells a variety of bikes, including mountain and road bikes. One of its top bikes is the Mongoose Ledge 2.1 Mountain Bike.
Schwinn launched in 1895 in Chicago, Illinois. This popular American brand designs a variety of bikes, including mountain, cruiser, hybrid, road, urban, e-bikes, and tricycles. One of its top bikes is the Schwinn High Timber Youth and Adult Mountain Bike.
Mountain Bikes Pricing
- $300-$700: A high-quality mountain bike isn't cheap, so don’t be surprised by the price tag. Expect to fork over several hundred dollars, even for a beginner model. Bikes in this price range are reliable with decent components. However, you may want to upgrade some of the parts.
- $700-$1,500: If you are a more serious rider, expect to pay more for a new mountain bike. Bikes at this price point feature modern drivetrains and more refined and adjustable suspension components. They also tend to be much lighter in weight, which improves overall performance.
Many mountain bike frames are made of aluminum. It is light and strong and is often featured on beginner as well as more advanced bikes. A less common option is carbon fiber. This type of material is light and strong and is often used when designing high-end bikes. Other high-end bikes are made with steel frames that are very strong with narrow tubes.
Bike wheels come in a variety of different sizes. If you want to ride cross country as well as some trails, you can't go wrong with 29-inch wheels. They may take a little bit of effort to get going, but they maintain your speed and help you go faster. They're also good for moving around and over obstacles. Trail and enduro bikes usually have 27.5-inch tires for agility, so they can make tighter and more maneuverable turns.
Many mountain bikes feature tubeless tires. They have a sealant to prevent flats and do not have inner tubes. They are lightweight and can be used with lower pressure in order to maintain a grip on rough surfaces. There are also plus-sized, fat, or wide tires, which are commonly used on 27.5-inch wheels. While they are grippy and shock-absorbing, they are heavier and increase drag.
The majority of mountain bikes have mechanical shock absorbers in either the front fork, the rear frame, or both. The suspension provides a smoother ride and more comfort on rough surfaces. Rigid bikes do not have any suspension at all; the tires absorb all the impact. Hardtail bikes have front fork suspension, while full-suspension bikes have both front and rear suspension.
- Drivetrain: The drivetrain has several components. The shifters on the handlebar control the gears, and the crankset holds the pedals, which transfer power to the drivetrain. The chain moves the power from the crank to the rear wheel. Derailleurs pass the chain from one gear to another. The cassette is the group of rings above the rear wheel, and the larger ones are used for hills. The majority of new mountain bikes have one front ring, no front shifter, and 10-12 rings in the rear. However, some bikes have front and rear shifters, as well as derailleurs and several front chainrings.
- Fixed or Dropper Seat Post: The height of the seat post can be adjusted in response to the trail's terrain. You can raise it to have more power and control when climbing and lower it to allow more body movement when going downhill. You must adjust a fixed seat post manually before riding, while you can automatically raise or lower a dropper seat post with a control button while you’re riding. Dropper posts are preferable if you plan on making a lot of transitions.
- Brakes: The best brakes are hydraulic disc brakes, and they are the most common brakes, even on entry-level mountain bikes. You can get brake rotors in a variety of sizes, such as 160mm, 180mm, and 200mm. If you want more stopping power, opt for larger rotors.
Best Mountain Bikes Reviews & Recommendations 2020
You’ll see a lot of Diamondback mountain bikes on our list, and there is a rather good reason for that—they are one of the best brands in the market. This particular mountain bike features large, fat tires to get over the most strenuous terrain with ease. This includes sand, loose dirt, shallow water, and snow. The tires' huge size also raises the pedals, making them more efficient at clearing the ground so they can easily maneuver over the terrain as well.
The mountain bike is developed with a level link design that raises its rear suspension to 130mm. Plus, the bike’s light and stiff carbon fiber frame makes it easy to carry around and stow in the garage or on your bike rack. Its Fox 34 Performance Float and Fox Float DPS EVOL LV rear shock provide plenty of suspension and make for a much smoother ride. You’ll be able to get around quickly with the bike’s SRAM NX Eagle 11-50T single-ring drivetrain.
The first thing you may notice with this bike—and other Diamondback models—is the price. Due to its premium name and fancy equipment, you will pay a pretty penny for it. It is also only available in a 17-inch model, so taller riders may find it more difficult to fit on safely and comfortably. However, you may be able to find it in larger sizes elsewhere.
The Mongoose 2.1 Ledge is an affordable mountain bike built to travel over rough and difficult off-road tracks. It’s designed with an aluminum alloy suspension frame which helps reduce bumps and vibrations so you can enjoy the ride without being too uncomfortable. The bike is also equipped with a 7-speed Shimano gear shifter, rear derailleur, and a three-piece crank. All of this ensures that the bike shifts quickly, brakes safely, and rides comfortably.
The mountain bike comes with large and beefy 20-inch wheels and tires that allow it to roll over pebbles, rocks, and other debris that you may find on an off-road trail. Plus, its sturdy steel handlebars and padded grips help increase your grip while you ride. Doubled with the padded seat, your butt won’t go numb from pain either.
However, you may find its pedals aren’t the best quality and may fall apart after a few rides. To solve this, you could buy another pair of pedals that are better quality. Also, the seating position can be difficult to set in place and the tires aren’t the toughest.
The Diamondback Release 3 is a high-end mountain bike with top-of-the-line parts that make it effective at tackling the most difficult terrain. It is built with a stiff hydroformed aluminum frame and finished with a matte sand color. It even features a crisp Shimano XT 11-speed drivetrain for increased handling, control, and stopping power.
The bike’s level link design boasts a 130mm rear suspension to get over rocks, debris, and stumps without a problem. Plus, its 148 x 12mm Maxle dropout increases stiffness in the aluminum frame without making the ride uncomfortable.
However, these additions do not come cheap and you will end up spending quite a bit of cash on the bike. You may also find the steel handlebars can get uncomfortable after a lengthy ride.
If you’re looking for a high-quality and durable mountain bike, then you can’t go wrong with Diamondback. It's on our list a couple of times, and each bike is reliable, strong, and sturdy on off-road trails. Plus, the Release 5 Full Suspension model comes in six different colors, has a 130mm suspension, and a light carbon frame.
The bike also comes with an LS LEV Si dropper post, complete with a southpaw remote lever for any left-handed riders out there, that enhances maneuverability on declines. The bike also has excellent shock absorption and vibration reduction technology due to its Fox 34 Performance Float and Fox Float DPS EVOL LV rear shocks.
As far as drawbacks go, the first thing you will notice is the bike doesn’t come cheap. Diamondback is a premium brand, so all its products are going to be more expensive, but you get a quality and reliable bike for the price. Another thing you may find is the seat can be uncomfortable when riding on longer rides. However, you can easily upgrade the seat to something far more comfortable, if necessary.
Merax might not be a name that is popular among the biking community, but its bikes are a great choice for beginner riders. The first thing you may notice about the Merax mountain bike is the way it looks. It forgoes the standard straight frame and opts for a curved aluminum one for a sleeker, more streamlined, aerodynamic look.
The bike also comes in two colors and has a 24-speed Shimano gear shifter for a more reliable and smooth ride. It also features dual disc brakes that help increase its stopping power while also reducing stopping distance. Do note that it has a maximum weight capacity of 330 pounds and comes with a one-year warranty as well. It comes with 26-inch Kenda wheels, 1.95-inch tires, and a 19-inch frame, all for a reasonable price.
You will be required to assemble the bike when it arrives, and that can take a bit of time. It will also require some information about how to properly build a bike, like connecting the brakes. Plus, the instructions can be confusing. You may also want to invest in a beefier set of tires if you plan on tackling any difficult off-road terrain.
Royce is another brand that may be new to some bike enthusiasts, but it is a solid off-road bike. The Royce Union is built with an aluminum rigid hardtail frame which makes it strong and lightweight at around 37 pounds. The bike also comes with a Shimano Sora 9-speed index and Shimano 2 x 9 shifters for a total of 18 speeds.
The bike’s alloy rims pair nicely with the Nano 700cc tires. This allows the bike to roll smoothly over rough surfaces while reducing vibrations and shocks. You won’t be looking for a new seat either, as the Volt saddle is comfortable even on longer rides. You also get dual Shimano disc brakes for improved braking and handling.
Like most other bikes ordered online, you will have to assemble this one yourself. However, the company does have an option to have it pre-assembled by an expert beforehand at an upcharge. Also, the bike does not come with water bottle mounting points, which is a bummer. It may also be more difficult to ride for taller riders.
The Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike is another great choice for riders who want to hit more difficult off-road trails. It’s well-priced and comes with some of the largest tires ever to fit a mountain bike. The tires are what really make this bike stand out from other brands. They are considered fat tires and make climbing over difficult terrain just a bit easier.
The mountain bike is durable and comes with a hi-tensile steel frame for increased strength and its suspension fork cuts down on vibrations and makes for an all around smoother ride. That, and the bike’s Shimano rear derailleur, combined with its 7-speed shifter, make it easy to climb hills.
However, you will need to assemble the bike upon delivery, which can be time-consuming. Plus, due to the bike’s steel frame, it is on the heavier side and can be difficult for younger riders to carry, as it weighs just under 60 pounds.
When you hear the name Schwinn, you know you’re getting an excellent bike, and the company’s mountain bike is no exception. With the Schwinn High Timber bike, you get a selection of 11 different bikes to choose from, each ranging in size, color, and price. The one we’re focusing on here is built with an aluminum frame and features disc brakes.
The Schwinn includes 7-speed Shimano twist shifters for more precise control and handling on the trails. Coupled with the front and rear alloy linear pull brakes, the bike handles like a dream and stops quickly and efficiently. It also includes large 24-inch wheels for a more comfortable ride over difficult terrain.
Like with other bikes, though, you may find the seat on this one to be particularly uncomfortable, so you may want to invest in a new one. You will also have to assemble this as well. Plus, the handlebars can be rough and may end up hurting your hands.
- The frame size of a mountain bike is the distance from the center of the crank to the top of the frame at the seat tube. This handy chart shows you the right size mountain bike you need based on your height.
- When you receive your bike, make sure you have all the parts before beginning to assemble it. After you are done, double-check every nut and bolt and make sure everything is tight to prevent any accidents.
- Regular preventive maintenance can go a long way in keeping your bike rolling for years. Make sure to clean your bike, inspect all moving parts—especially the brakes—and lube the chain during every maintenance round.
Q: Should I get a fat bike or a normal mountain bike?
A: This depends on the weight of the bike and the strength of the rider. Fat bikes are generally good for beginner riders due to their enhanced traction, handling, and climbing performance. An added advantage of fat bikes is that due to the fat tires, the pressure is spread over a wide area, and hence these bikes are much more useable on beaches and in the snow. However, it is important to note that a higher bike-to-rider weight ratio can make the bike difficult to handle.
Q: How do I know if a wheel I received is true or untrue?
A: Turn your bike upside down so that it rests on the saddle and the handlebars. Spin each wheel and watch them carefully. If the wheel wobbles left and/or right and is not centered, then it is not true and needs to be “trued.”
Q: Why do some mountain bikes not have a rear suspension?
A: In full suspension (front and rear suspension) mountain bikes, although the rear suspension provides a much smoother ride, it uses up some of the energy that the rider puts into pedaling the bike (pedal energy). Hardtail (no rear suspension) bikes are a lot more efficient if you use your bike for regular commuting and if your trail involves plenty of pedaling.
Our top pick is the Mongoose Malus Fat Tire Bike. The thick and larger tires make it easy to ride over any type of terrain.
For a more budget-friendly option, consider the Diamondback Overdrive 27.5 Hardtail Mountain Bike.