Having finally decided to buy a new mountain bike, I set my budget at $1000 (a stressful but doable figure).
Not knowing too much about the subject, I wanted to the experts to guide me, so I started searching for “best mountain bikes under 1000” reviews.
The top site on the first page of Google results was an absolute pleasure. A decent range of options, lots of detail, and the pros and cons of each bike listed.
Beiou T700 carbon fiber mountain bike
There was certainly enough information to start edging me towards a decision.
But just to confirm my initial thinking, I took a casual look at site number 2.
The two lists did not have a single model in common.
So I put my initial thinking on hold and had a look at the site in the third position.
And then kept going.
By the time I got to review number 31, I was a seriously confused buyer.
I had 178 different models to choose from.
There were some names I knew, many more I had not heard of – and yet most of the 178 machines got enthusiastic (or at the very least, quite good) reviews.
Here's an example - you'll find some of the bikes mentioned in the lists below - but certainly not 10 of them!
How could they all be great? The most common page title was "Top 10 mountain bikes" - but how could there be 178 in the top 10?
Maybe looking at brands would make things easier?
Diamondback, with its large range of models, was the clear leader, with 35 mentions – roughly 20% of the reviewers had suggested one or other of the Diamondback models.
But after that the number of mentions fell off sharply.
Here is how the brands stacked up when I finished the first run through of all 178 reviews (I cut off at 4 brand mentions).
No. of Mentions
% of Total
For a new buyer looking for guidance online, it was a bit disturbing to find that (at least in this initial walk-through of what experts say) only one manufacturer achieved double figure recommendations.
When it came to the actual models, the percentages were even lower. Predictably, the highest score by any bike was a Diamondback model, the Hardtail, with 10 recommendations.
Eventually, to try and simplify the decision making, I excluded any mountain bike model that did not get at least four recommendations from the 31 reviewers (call it a popularity rating, or consensus rating,) of at least 13%, and also any models that had been discontinued (some of the reviews were a little out of date).
I also excluded the bikes at the bottom of the price range; the objective was not to find the cheapest, but rather a suitable machine that would cost somewhere between $500 and $1000 and give a reasonable balance between affordability and quality.
As a result I ended with this final list:
Beiou Carbon Fiber
Giant Fathom 2
Specialized Rockhopper Comp
It is probably not too surprising that the bigger companies with marketing and promotion programs have grabbed a decent market share. The eight brands listed in this table got 84 reviews in all, or 47% of the total.
The balance was shared by a further 57 manufacturers. Of these, 28 models featured only once. All the rest had two or three recommendations.
So what does this all mean for anyone trying to decide what to buy based purely on the information available online? Go with the big brands, or opt for something unknown, based purely on a reviewer’s opinion?
Which Bike Experts to Follow?
Most of the sites I researched featured reviews that demonstrated a high level of expertise. There was lots of detail, and the arguments for and against each machine were clearly explained.
The problem is – which experts do you follow? If you go for those who like the the big brands, you will almost certainly be missing out on some potentially very good machines, often with high-quality components, built by experts who sometimes offer them at surprisingly good prices.
On the other hand, the bigger brands might offer better sales, service and distribution – and the assurance that they will probably be around for some time when you need spares and/or repairs.
Mountain Bike Suspension Options
Broadly speaking, there were a few things all the reviewers agreed on.
If you are in the “budget” zone, wanting to spend $1000 or less, then:
- You are likely to get a better quality components in a hardtail machine than a full suspension machine, because suspensions add cost and the final price goes up; and
- Go for an aluminium frame rather than the lighter carbon fiber option – because carbon fiber is more expensive so some other component on the bike will have to be lower quality/less expensive to compensate (although Beiou seem to be standing this theory on its head a little).
The list of candidate machines (above) seems to support those arguments - there is one full suspension machine and one carbon fiber. The rest are hardtails (as is the carbon fiber).
Bikes on the Short List
Here are some brief details on the nine bikes that made it on to my personal short list.
Beiou CB004 Toray T700 Carbon Fiber.
This bike appears to be the exception to the generally held belief that “you will get a better hardtail than a carbon fiber bike for under 1000” and is a very good machine – particularly at this price.
Frame, handlebar and seatpost are all carbon fiber, giving you a responsive, lightweight bike that will handle both cross-country and medium-level single-track trails.
Beiou T700 Carbon Fiber
Front fork: The very capable GTMRK 330 hydraulic unit.
Wheels: Ruituo M20026”, which are smaller than the more usual 27.5 or 29s.
Brakes: Mechanical, wire dual disc brakes with G3 Disc.
Drivetrain: Suntour XCT 42/32/22T
Shifters: Shimano Altus
Wheels: RUITUO M200 ETRTO 559x19
Tires: Chaoyang 26*1.95 60tpi provide good grip and traction
Cannondale Trail 7
Cannondale Trail 7
It is a first-class entry-level hardtail, easy to control (particularly when jumping) and with a very good cross-country and trail geometry.
It includes some features you would only expect to find in more advanced/expensive bikes. For instance, while the gears are Shimano 18 speed in a 2x9 configuration, you can remove the front derailleur and convert to a single chain-ring if you would prefer that configuration (many experts prefer something like a 1x11).
The rear brakes are routed internally, and you can also fit a dropper seatpost using the internal routing.
Rims are easy to convert to no-tubes, and you can fit wider tires for more difficult terrain.
The front fork has progressive lockout.
There is a range of sizes available. To ensure consistent handling, the Small is fitted with 27.5" wheels; Medium and Large are 29”
Frame: CAAD Aluminium (patented Cannondale Advanced Aluminium Design)
Fork: SR Suntour XCT, 100mm travel, lockout function.
Gears: 18 speed, 2x9
Drivetrain: Shimano Altus
Brakes: Shimano M315 Hydro Disc brakes with 160mm rotors front and back.
Crankset: FSA Alpha Drive, 22-36 teeth. Cassette range 11-36.
Tires: WTB Ranger Comp, either 27.5” or 29”, and 2.25” width.
Weight: 31 lbs.
Diamondback Atroz 2
This is the first full suspension on the list, and with its lightweight 18" frame, it sits somewhere in the middle of the range between an entry-level suspension mountain bike and the more expensive options.
If you buy online, it will require some assembly (Amazon says it comes 85% assembled).
Diamondback Atroz 2
It’s available in a wide range of sizes: XS=5'-5'3", S=5'3"-5'6", M=5'6"-5'9", L=5'9"-6', XL=6'-6'4".
Frame: T6 6061 aluminum alloy
Suspension front: SR Suntour XCM, 120 mm travel.
Suspension rear: SR Suntour Raidon-R air-sprung suspension, 120 mm travel.
Gears: SRAM 9-speed. Single chain-ring, easier for beginners to manage.
Tires: Kenda Nevegal X 27.5"×2.35”
Brakes: Shimano M315 hydraulic disc
Weight: 33.4 lbs
Diamondback Lux 2
Diamondback Lux 2
This women’s mountain bike is a favorite with many riders and is regarded by most reviewers as the best aluminium women’s hardtail bike available for less than $1000.
There are four models in the range, Lux 1 to 3, and Lux Comp, with the 3 usually being just over the $1000 mark.
Its 27.5" wheels cope well with terrain up to the intermediate level. The Lux 2 has a 3x9 cassette, while the Lux 3 has a more advanced GX 11-speed on a single chain-ring.
In general, the less expensive models have Shimano components (Altus, Acera), while the higher-priced ones have SRAM (GX and NX).
Similarly, depending on what you spend, you will either get mechanical disc brakes and 80mm of fork travel, moving up to hydraulic discs, 100mm of travel and even a 1x drive-train.
Key Specifications (Lux 2):
Frame: 6061-T6 Aluminum Frame with Super Low Top Tube
Giant Fathom 2
You may have to search a bit, but this excellent bike can be found just at or just under the $1000 mark.
The 120 mm travel on the front suspension offers more comfort on cross-country trails, while its 67-degree head angle promises more control and stability on tougher terrain.
Giant Fathom 2
Frame: ALUXX-SL Grade aluminium with internal cable routing
Suspension: Suntour Raidon XC 120mm
Drive-train: Shimano Deore 2x10 speed (upgrade available to 1x11).
Brakes: Shimano M315 brakes with 180/160mm hydraulic discs
Wheels: 27.5” with 2.25” tyres
Tires: Maxxis Ardent tubeless
Mongoose Men’s Tyax Supa Expert 27.5”
Mongoose Tyax Expert
Available in three models - the Sport (starting out at about $700), the Comp and the Expert.
An excellent choice for anyone riding a variety of surfaces, the Tyax is a responsive bike that will handle cross-country, single-track or hardpack equally well.
Thanks to the SR Suntour XCR Air 100mm travel fork you can adjust lockout and rebound to suit your style and the terrain.
The wheels and tires are the standard 27.5" but are slightly wider at 2.8”, which gives better traction and more stability.
The tires and the Shimano Deore/Micro Shift 2×10 will help you climb well, and easily handle steep descents and bumps.
Fork: SR Suntour XCR Air 100mm
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore/Micro Shift 2×10
Brakes: Shimano B-M365 hydraulic disc brakes with 180 mm rotors
Wheels: 27.5" x 2.8"
Tires: WTB Trailblaze 27.5" x 2.8" tires
Cranks: FSA comet boost crank
If you thought that only commuters use folding bikes – think again.
Using a patented system the manufacturer calls FIT (Folding Integrated Technology), the Montague folds down quickly to only 36” x 30” x 12” - yet comes with 26” wheels rather than the more usual undersized folding bike ones, 24 gears, front suspension and front and rear disc brakes.
The Paratrooper is based on work that Montague did for the United States Marines; the result is a rugged, quick-folding machine that can carry relatively
Mongoose Paratrooper folded...
heavy loads and is perfectly at home on rugged terrain. It’s available in three frame sizes (16”, 18” and 20”), and is equipped with a RackStand, the Montague name for what is a traditional cargo rack, kickstand, workstand, and folded bike stand all in one.
The folding design does not break any of the bike’s tubing.
Frame: Custom drawn 7005 Series Aluminum
Fork: SR Suntour XCT suspension. 80mm travel.
Shifters: Shimano RAPIDFIRE Plus Trigger Shifter
Front Derailleur: Shimano Top Swing Dual Pull
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore
Gears: 24 Speeds
Tires: Kenda Kinetics. 26" x 2.10"
Raleigh Bikes Tokul 2
Raleigh Tokul 2
The Raleigh Tokul 2 sits somewhere between an entry-level and intermediate bike, and is certainly capable of tackling somewhat tougher terrain. Its slack geometry means it will be good for cross-country, single-track and some reasonably demanding technical downhill.
Postive points are the lightweight aluminium frame, the
The derailleur is the 9-speed Shimano Alivio, allied with the Shimano Altus shifter and 12-36t cogset.
SR Suntour fork with 120 mm of travel, lockout and rebound control, and the good quality drivet-train. The wheels are 27.5”, branded Weinmann (but remember that the original Weinmann company went bankrupt, so these are probably Chinese-made under licence) and may be a little heavy.
Brakes are Tektro Auriga hydraulic.
There are four frame sizes available: Small (15”) for heights of 5’3” to 5’6”, Medium (17”) for 5’6” to 5’9”, Large (19”) for 5’9” to 6’ and Extra-large (21”) for 6’ to 6’4”.
If you buy from Amazon the bike will be “85% assembled”. Raleigh suggest it will take between 30 minutes (if you are a skilled bike mechanic) to 2 hours (if you have never assembled a bike before) to be up and riding.
Note that the warranty is void if the bike is not assembled properly, so you might like to consider having your local bike shop assemble and tune the machine before your first ride.
Frame: AL-6061 SL custom-butted aluminum
Fork: SR Suntour XCR 32 Coil, 120mm, Lockout, Rebound
Derailleur: Shimano Alivio Shadow 9spd
Shifter: Shimano Altus
Rims: Weinmann U28, 27.5", 32h, 28mm wide
Tires: Kenda Honey Badger 27.5 x 2.2
Weight: 30 lbs
Handlebar, Grips, Seat, and Seatpost are all Raleigh products.
Specialized Rockhopper Comp
This bike offers an outstanding price/performance ratio, and will suit both beginners as well as more experienced mountain bike riders, both of whom will appreciate the good balance between good performance while climbing and confidence-building control on the downhills.
Specialized Rockhopper Comp
The Rockhopper is available in a range of sizes, with front forks that are sized appropriately, ranging from 80mm on the smallest size to 100mm. The remote lockout option means that less experienced riders will not have to take their hands off the handlebars to lock the system.
The quality approach includes the Shimano Deore drive-train and Shimano hydraulic brakes; the 29” wheels, while not the lightest on the market, are durable and provide a greater rolling speed and the ability to cope with small obstacles.
All cables are routed internally.
In all, a well-balanced, quality bike with a remarkably low price tag, given the performance it offers.
Frame: A1 SL Premium alloy
Fork: SR Suntour XCM fork , 100mm (80mm on XS, 90mm on Small frame), Multi-Circuit damping
Brakes: Shimano BR-M31 hydraulic brakes with center-lock rotor (160mm), resin pads
Shifters: Shimano Acera shifters
Geartrain: Shimano Deore drive-train, 9-speed cassette (total 27 gears, 11-36t)
Tires: 2.3” front and 2.1” rear.
What did I choose?
Well, the somewhat oddball idea of a folding mountain bike really appeals to me, so my pick is probably going to be the Montague Paratrooper.
It’s easy to transport, but at the same time, is a real performer.
And somewhat illogically, I love the name - perhaps because when I was younger and a lot more foolish I used to jump out of aircraft that were still flying perfectly well, clutching a rifle and a pack full of things the Army thought might be useful once I hit the ground!