The 5 Best Mountain Bikes

By Andrea Cannon on 17 August 2016 1 comment

A quality mountain bike can help you explore tough terrain. Every riding style requires a different bike style, so it’s important to find the right type of bicycle that will allow you to ride the way you want to.

Mountain bikes are heavier than road bikes, so they aren’t suited for road riding. They are ideal when you want to go off-roading and need something to bear the rough road conditions ahead. (See also: The 5 Best Road Bikes)

What Is a Mountain Bike?

A mountain bike is designed for off-road biking on a variety of surfaces and obstacles, like gravel, rocks, roots, sand, and dirt. Mountain bikes have unique features, like suspension on the frame and fork, more durable heavy-duty wheels, more powerful brakes, and lower gear ratios. They also usually have wider deep-treaded tires for better grip and traction, enhanced durability, higher clearance, and better performance in rough terrain. They have a light, sturdy, upright frame and multiple gears for enhanced comfort and control.

Top 5 Mountain Bikes

Mongoose Impasse Dual Full Suspension Bicycle

The Mongoose Impasse Dual Full Suspension Bicycle offers a smooth ride. The solid aluminum full-suspension frame maximizes comfort and performance. It features quick release tires, 29-inch wheels, 21 speeds, Shimano rear derailleur with SRAM twist shifters, and alloy front and rear disc brakes. The Element Suspension fork rolls over tough terrain with ease, evens out bumps, and increases control. Consumer Reports considers Mongoose to be one of the best brands of mountain bikes. It is available in two colors, has rave reviews online, and is recommended by a number of mountain bike retailers and review sites.

Currently $278.27 on Amazon

Diamondback Bicycles Sorrento Hard Tail Complete Mountain Bike

The Diamondback Bicycles Sorrento Hard Tail Complete Mountain Bike has a heat-treated aluminum alloy frame. It has features like a seven-speed rear derailleur, three-speed front derailleur, 21 different gear combinations, and 27.5-inch wheels for easier rolling and better traction. It has full suspension, Shimano shifters, and linear pull brakes for more effortless braking. It comes in various sizes, ranging from 16-22 inches, so you can find the perfect size. This comes from the popular Sorrento line and has outstanding online reviews.

Currently $340.83 on Amazon

Schwinn Protocol Men's Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike

The Schwinn Protocol 1.0 Men's Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike has an aluminum dual-suspension frame with a steel rear triangle, making it lightweight and more capable of handling bumps. It has 26-inch wheels, 24 speeds, front suspension, Promax front disc brakes, and rear alloy linear pull brakes. The red aluminum bike has impressive features, like a rear derailleur, Shimano EF-50 trigger shifters, three-piece cranks, double-walled alloy rims, a Suntour suspension fork, an MTB handlebar, alloy high profile rims, and metal pedals with rugged metal rims to prevent your feet from slipping. Schwinn is the “oldest and most trusted name in bikes in America.”

Currently $292.98 on Amazon

Merax Finiss Aluminum 21 Speed Mountain Bike

The Merax Finiss 26" Aluminum 21-Speed Mountain Bike has a heat-treated aluminum mountain frame for a lightweight mountain bike. The aluminum bike features 21-speed derailleurs, smooth gear shifters, and 26-inch double wall aluminum-rimmed wheels for easier rolling and better traction. It has suspension fork alloy 80mm travel, which ensures smooth bumps and easy control. It also has front and rear mechanical disc brakes, which offers great stopping power. This consistently ranks as one of the best bikes for the money and has outstanding reviews online.

Currently $289.99 on Amazon

Kent Thruster Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike

The Kent Thruster Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike is the least expensive option on our list, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. It is a well-built aluminum bike with 21-speed shifters, rear tourney derailleur, and 26-inch wheels. It features full-suspension, a floating beam suspension design that is mated to a suspension fork, alloy wheel rims, and disk brakes on the front and rear. It comes in various colors and has outstanding reviews online.

Currently $175.27 on Amazon

And those are our recommendations for the best mountain bikes. As always, be sure to check Wise Bread's Buying Calendar to learn when and how to buy just about anything!

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Guest's picture
Dann Albright

I apologize in advance if I come across as a dick in this comment—I really don't mean it that way. But as an avid mountain biker, a former bike seller, and a current finance writer, I feel like I should comment here.

These are not the best mountain bikes. You might be able to make the argument that they're the best mountain bikes under a certain price, but there are a lot of bikes out there around the same price point that are going to better serve riders. Something like the Giant Sedona, for example, which is $330. It comes from a reputable company, and is designed to ride well and last a long time. The bikes above simply aren't.

I assume that the majority of the people reading this article don't really need a mountain bike; they need a bike that'll get them comfortably, effectively, and safely around things like dirt and gravel trails. And if that's the case, a real mountain bike is overkill. The above bikes may technically have full suspension, but it's not going to be quality suspension; it might soak up some of the bumps, but it'll likely still be really choppy and probably won't last very long.

A comfortable bike that fits well (i.e., that you get from a bike shop) is going to be a better choice, even if only has a suspension fork—or no suspension at all. The Sedona, or something like the Specialized Roll, doesn't make claims to being mountain-ready, but they're high-quality bikes that will work better, last longer, and—despite not being full-suspension—be more comfortable. Yes, they're more expensive. But the cost per year as well as the quality of riding (which contributes to more time spent on the bike) will be much better.

Like I said, I don't mean to sound like a bike snob—any bike that gets you where you need to go is the right one. But calling these the best mountain bikes just isn't true. There are a number of things in the article that I think are slightly misleading; it's well-intentioned, yes, but might not serve readers as well as Wise Bread does with much of its advice. And the fact that phrases like "suspension fork alloy 80mm travel" made it past the editor make it clear that it no one who's familiar with bikes worked on the article. Sorry again if this comes across very negatively; I just want to help readers make the best decision, especially when it comes to spending money on a bike!