£500 has long been seen as the benchmark price for a good entry level mountain bike. It is where you start to see bikes from the big international brands like Specialized and Trek and where you will get a really good quality bike that is capable of being used off road and will last a decent amount of time.
This is a competitive price point and there are lots of bikes available around the £500 mark. Here we round up some of our favourites for 2018.
Specialized Pitch Sport - £475
The Specialialized Pitch bikes have already been super popular and it has been a struggle to keep some of the sizes in stock in our stores because they have been selling so fast. The standard Pitch comes in at £400 while the Pitch Sport at £475 has upgraded components for smoother and longer lasting gear changing.
The Specialized Pitch Sport uses tried and tested geometry built around one of Specialized’s A1 Premium Aluminium frames. Specialized have opted to use 650B (27.5”) wheels on the Pitch bikes. This keeps the bike stable off road and makes it easier for smaller riders to handle the bike (it also makes it easier to do wheelies). As this is a Specialized bike you can be sure that the Pitch will perform off road, but it will also handle general riding with ease.
Trek Marlin 6 - £475
While the Specialized Pitch Sport is designed as an all round mountain bike the Trek Marlin 6 is inspired by their cross country race bikes. The Marlin range uses Trek’s ‘smart sizing’ so that the smallest bikes (13.5” and 15.5” frames) use a 27.5” wheel and the larger bikes use a 29” wheel. This makes the bikes faster, especially on less technically challenging terrain. So if you were going to use the bike for commuting, or use it on cycle paths and trails a lot it would be quicker than the Pitch. However, the race inspired geometry on the Marlin 6 will make handling slighty less forgiving on really technical off road rides.
The gears and forks on the Marlin 6 are similar to what you would find on the Specialized Pitch but it does also come with hydraulic disc brakes rather than cable ones. This will give you greater stopping power, especially in wet and muddy conditions.
Marin Bolinas Ridge - £425
Marin were one of the original mountain bike companies and have been designing and building mountain bikes since 1986. The Bolinas Ridge is their entry level mountain bike and is designed for new riders who want a bike capable of handling real off-road riding. Like the Specialized Pitch the Marin Bolinas Ridge uses 27.5” wheels, a Suntour fork and mechanical disc brakes. This is a really well equipped bike for the money and would make a great first mountain bike.
Merida Big Nine 20-D - £500
The Merida Big Nine 20D is a very similar bike to the Trek Marlin 6. It has 29” wheels, race inspired geometry and hydralic disc brakes. Like the Trek this is a bike designed for going fast which will handle proper off-road riding but will also be speedy if you want to use it for commuting or more general leisure rides. As is to be expected with Merida it is a very impressive specification for the money. However, Merida bikes tend to come up quite large and unlike the Specialized, Trek and Marin there is no 13.5” frame size. This means that Big Nine won’t suit every rider.
Top Women’s Mountain Bikes Under £500
The range of women’s specific mountain bikes under £500 is much more limited than the men’s range. There is also a bit of a mixed approach at this price point. Some of the brands are making completely separate women’s models while others are making customised versions of the men’s models.
Specialized are providing almost the same specification bike for men and women in the Pitch Sport and Pitch Sport Women’s bikes. The women’s version of the Pitch Sport uses a different frame from the men’s bike. It has tweaked geometry so it works better in the smaller sizes and has shorter reach as women tend to have shorter torsos and arms than men. The Pitch Sport women’s also comes with a women’s specific saddle and grips to make it a more comfortable ride.
Trek Skye SL - £475
In their higher end bikes Trek are moving towards having the same models for men and women but at the sub-£500 price point they are still maintaining separate bikes. Whereas the men’s bike at this price point (the Marlin 6) is intended as a fast cross country bike the Skye SL is designed as a more all-round bike. The Skye SL is a capable off-road bike with hydraulic disc brakes, suspension fork with a lockout and a decent gear range Trek emphasise that it is also ideal for commuting and can easily take mudguards, racks and kickstands.
Marin Wildcat 3 - £500
Marin are another brand who are taking the approach of having a completely separate women’s mountain bike at this price point. Marin have two types of geometry in their men’s range; sport and trail. The sport geometry is for general use mountain bikes while the trail geometry is for more demanding off-road riding. For their Wildcat bikes Marin have mixed the two to create what they describe as a “full featured trail mountain bike”. On the equipment side that means hydraulic brakes, a suspension fork with lockout and a wide gear range.