Mountain biking is a great sport for those that want to mix an adrenalin rush with the great outdoors. With a top women’s mountain bike, you can handle the terrain with ease and comfort and enjoy a great escape to the countryside. However, some of the best mountain bikes for women are also pretty expensive. So, should you pay out for a high-end bike or can you get a decent model on a budget?
In this guide, you will find 5 of the best mountain bikes for women under $500. Each review is objective with the best features and limitations based on the price. From there, you will also find a buying guide with tips on features to look out for with these bikes. Before that, let’s consider why it might be better to choose a budget mountain bike instead of a top-of-the-line model.
Is it possible to get a top mountain bike for women under $500?
$500 doesn’t sound like a lot of money when you look at some of the expensive mountain bikes that are out there. This is at the lower end of the price scale and, as such, you might expect that the bikes won’t offer much value. But what if you only have a $500 budget?
The good news is that you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to get a mountain bike that you will be happy with. For a start, if you overspend on a bike, you might feel guilty and sour the experience. Or, you might get precious over the bike and not want to take it out for fear of damaging it. Instead, you can find something within your price range that you know is suitable. It might not have the very best features, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right for your needs.
Also, remember that these cheaper women’s mountain bikes are better for those with little to no experience. You don’t want to pay thousands on a bike, get out on the trails, and then find that the hobby isn’t to your liking. It is better to get a cheaper, entry-level model that gives you an introduction to the sport. From there, you can adapt the bike to your needs or upgrade at a later date as you get more into the hobby.
The 5 best mountain bikes for women under $500
The models of bike below all fall into this category of a budget model. While they are much cheaper than some of the advanced bikes, they can still offer all the right features to get you started with the sport. They may have small flaws here and there but they are still a good starting point. You can pick one of these models or use the reviews to guide you as you compare other options.
Trek Marlin 4 Women’s Mountain Bike
This first option is an example of a bike where you can get more for your money than you might expect. The Trek Marlin 4 has some nice little extras to the specification, such as the cable routing in the saddle. This keeps everything nice and tidy so the cables don’t snag the undergrowth on the trials. There are also mounts for racks and fenders, should you choose to make upgrades, and a choice of colors available. You can go for a gray one or a bright pink one.
The frame is lightweight at 14.5kg thanks to the use of aluminum. You also get a decent amount of suspension and a 7-speed rear cassette. With this model, there isn’t that much to shout about in terms of the key features and specification. It is a machine that starts out simple with room for expansion and a couple of neat tricks.
This is something to consider if you are new to mountain biking. Do you try and find the perfect specification already set up on your dream bike? Or, do you go for something adaptable like this and play around? This could be perfect for those that aren’t sure what they want in terms of specialist elements, such as bigger wheels or different suspension. Or, it might prove to be disappointing.
- Just enough suspension, speed and responsiveness to get started
- A light aluminum frame
- Some neat details such as the cable storage
- There are more advanced specifications out there
Schwinn Bonafide 29-er Mountain Bike
This next option from Schwinn will stand out to women that want a sporty bike that doesn’t look all that different from a men’s bike. This is proof that brands don’t need to mess with the design and specification too much to please female riders. This sporty black and red model stands out because of its wheels and tires. You can head out with the family and not feel like your bike is in any way inferior because it is so similar to the men’s version.
One key feature here is that this is a 29-er bike with bigger than average wheels for confident handling. There is the sense that this bike will be able to handle rougher terrain because of the thicker tires and good grip. With the addition of the mechanical disc brakes and an extra speed, this has a lot of potential for riders that want to challenge themselves.
A factor to be aware of here is that the bike doesn’t arrive fully assembled. This could be a pro or a con depending on previous experience. The last 10% of the work is yours, which means you are responsible for the fine-tuning before you head out. Some fully assembled models can be too loose or too tight, leading to hazards on the first ride.
- The sporty shape and design
- The components and features are pretty much the same as the men’s model
- The 29-er tires could be a good choice depending on the terrain
- Some assembly required to get it ready for the trails
Mongoose Impasse Dual Suspension Women’s Mountain Bike
The standout feature with this Mongoose bike is the dual suspension system. This is something you won’t see on a lot of bikes at this price point. Dual suspension can make a big difference to the comfort of the rider. It simply means better shock absorption through both wheels. As a result, you may find the confidence to attack dips and jumps with greater speed because you know there will be a softer landing. A gel seat cover with the money saved could improve that comfort further.
The bike also looks great with a shape that is clearly meant for adventure riding. It has an aluminum frame, although it is heavier than other models at 19.9kg, and also has 7 speeds. It is pretty responsive on the trails with decent brakes and handling so it a nice starter model for those that are new to the sport.
One issue that some riders have is with the gear shifters. This is one area where Mongoose appears to have made a compromise in order to add in that extra suspension. It is a twist shifter rather than the more user- friendly lever. If you have no experience with biking as yet, this might not be a problem. So, if you are keen on a dual suspension model and think you can learn to use the shifter, you might not have a problem.
- The dual suspension system for a more comfortable ride
- The responsiveness for first-time riders
- A nice design that looks perfect for its surroundings
- The design of the gear shifters and the heavier weight
Royce Union All-terrain Women’s Mountain Bike
This next option from Royce Union is all about speed. A lot of top mountain bikes around the $1000 mark will offer a lot more speeds than the 7-8 seen in the bikes above. This one is different because there is a 21- speed system with the trigger shift mechanism that riders prefer.
This is a nice looking bike for women with the soft blue and white finish and the female-friendly geometry. But, there are also plenty of helpful components to ensure that riders can the experience they are after. There are quality Shimano components across the bike and large 27.5 wheels that are just the right size to be agile and responsive. It is also finished nicely with the seat and grips.
But, the experience is pretty average and as expected for the lower cost. The suspension is good enough for lighter rides but not as helpful as on the dual system. The geometry is also meant to encourage upright riding for a better look at the landscape, which also means you don’t get the weight distribution and aerodynamics you would with other high-end bikes. This might not make a difference for any inexperienced riders. But, those that want to compete over their times could notice a difference.
- 21 speeds with a nice trigger system
- Decent wheels and tires to help with the responsiveness
- Plenty of quality components where it counts
- Not the best design for competitive riders
Mongoose Juneau 26-Inch Fat Tire Bike
The last model to consider here is something a little bit different. Standard mountain bikes are always going to be a great starting point for women that want to ride off-road. But, there is an alternative option. A fat bike is perfect for those that know they will take their bike on bigger adventures and different locations. For example, if you like to head out to the beach quite often or live in a colder climate with a lot of snow, you might need something better suited to the environment.
Fat bikes offer precisely that thanks to their bigger, fatter tires. The low pressure spread out the weight for a better performance on sand and snow. You can get affordable fat bikes for a taste of this experience. There aren’t that many options specifically for women so you will probably need to get a unisex option instead. Therefore, you won’t get the same geometry or narrow handlebars.
Mongoose is a great company to turn to for fat bikes because they have such a wide range. This Juneau mode has 26 inch wheels, an aluminum frame, and sizes small enough for riders 5ft4inches tall. The geometry and features are similar to the mountain bikes, just with those bigger tires. You also get 16 speeds and strong disc brakes.
- The thick tires on the big wheels
- 6 speeds, so more options than most other bikes here
- A lightweight aluminum frame
- Not built for women specifically – so watch the dimensions
Important considerations when choosing the best women’s mountain bike under $500:
As you can see, the products above share a lot of key features. There are important components that need to be in place to ensure the comfort and security of riders, regardless of how much they pay. The right specification with these basic requirements can lead to an enjoyable ride.
- The suspension system
- The number of gears and ease of use in the shifter
- The weight and shape of the frame
- The quality of the tires
- The response of the brakes
- Any additional features that might enhance the experience
The suspension system is a good place to start because you need enough shock absorption in the frame to prevent damage and discomfort. The better the protection, the further and harder you can ride. Most bikes at this price point will only offer single suspension but dual suspension models are out there.
The number of gears and ease of use in the shifter are also crucial elements. The more gears, the easier is it to create that smooth ride and pick up speed regardless of the terrain. Some cheap mountain bikes for women are a little stingy with the speed option. 7-8 is a good average but you can find others with a lot more if you require them.
The weight of the frame will also help to determine your speed and the effortlessness feeling of the ride. Most bikes in this grade have an aluminum frame but the weight can still vary. The geometry helps too to determine your position over the handlebars as you make your descent. The right shape could shave some seconds off your time. Of course, it will also help to look for women-specific geometry and narrower handlebars. But, this isn’t a guarantee.
The quality of the tires is another important feature to consider when choosing the best women’s budget mountain bike. They need to have the right width and grip to handle the corners and any loose grit and dirt.
Fat bike tires are a step up in the right situation but aren’t common for women-specific bikes. Also, look at the size of the wheels. 29-er wheels are popular with mountain bikers, although 27.5 inches is more common.
Then there is the response of the brakes. The best mountain bikes act like an extension of your body and react exactly as you do to any bumps, corners, or hazards. You can’t see a problem and then stop 20 seconds too late. The best bikes will have strong disc brakes on both wheels to stop dead and help with cornering.
Finally, you need to consider any additional features that might enhance the experience. The bikes listed here tend to focus on key components or one specific upgrade in the suspension or speed settings. There aren’t too many special features at this lower price point. But, you can still find mounts for racks and fenders, neater cable systems for safety, and a little more consideration in the comfort of the seat and grips. If you shop around, you may also find models with other elements such as reflectors or toe grips on the pedals or mounts for water bottles.
Remember that that you get what you pay for with mountain bikes under $500
Take your time to read the specifications and reviews carefully when you get a mountain bike at this price. If the listing sounds too good to be true with lots of features, it might mean that some aren’t the best quality. Brands have to get corners somewhere to keep costs down. If the spec seems basic, you may end up with a simple option that is well made with great components. User testimonials may help you better understand any potential issues.
In the end, you have to go for a product that is right for you. Compare the options in your price range and see which is the best fit. Don’t worry about what looks cool out there or any geeky details that have no bearing on your experience. Find the bike you like the look of that does what you need for the price you had in mind. Ignore any mountain bike snobs out there. You can find top budget mountain bikes for women.