Mountain bikes under £500 to take you to the trails

Want to start mountain biking? Here are some excellent mountain bikes in the sub-£500 category to get you started.

Women mountain biking

by Ellen Kinsey |

If you are new to the mountain biking scene, you may not want to spend a lot of money if the sport is not for you. So we have picked out the best mountain bikes for under £500, some specifically for women and unisex bikes but suitable for both shorter and taller women. All of these bikes are suitable for beginners, so you can hit the trails running.

What does geometry mean on a bike?

More seasoned mountain bikers will know that frame geometry is important, but it's a very complex subject. Mountain bike geometry is 'responsible for how a bike looks, rides, and handles,' explains Bike Exchange. It is good to have a basic idea of the key figures as it will help you compare different bikes and what is the best fit for you. Check out the Bike Exchange's guide for a thorough guidebook of bike geometry.

Start by checking the bike manufacturers’ recommended sizing for the models you’re interested in. Most brands will have a section with a geometry chart. Then you can note down the key measurements for the bikes you’re considering to ensure you get a suitable one.

Do you need to choose a gender-specific mountain bike?

This is often a debated subject; for some, a bike designed with a woman in mind will be beneficial. For example, women on the shorter side or proportions who aren’t compatible with unisex and men's bikes will benefit from these models.

However, if you are taller or have a longer upper body, you may find that women's bikes are too small, so it all comes down to personal preference. Essentially women's bikes are smaller and 'better-looking' versions of unisex bikes. Still, some brands have made adjustments such as different saddle padding to differentiate from their unisex counterpart.

The best mountain bikes for under £500

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The Carrera Vulcan has been designed with new geometry for a new level of comfort. If you are a rider on the shorter side or like to go on tight trails with sharp corners, then a bike with 27.5-inch wheels will be good for you. There is also a men's model for this bike; however, if you get on with bikes more suited to women, this would be a good choice for you. Additionally, you have the option to switch through a large number of gears on the Carrera Vulcan while the hydraulic brakes will ensure you a smooth ride.

Key specifications:

Weight: 15kg

Frame: Lightweight and made with a durable Alloy frame

Tyres: Designed with an extra puncture resistant layer

Gears: 18-speed Shimano Altus gears

Wheels: 27.5" double-walled rims for extra sturdiness

Saddle: Carrera memory foam saddle for additional cushion

Lifetime Frame Guarantee

Review: "I haven't ridden a bike since I was young but wanted to get out more; service was great from Halfords and collected without ease. Overall happy with the service and the bike is surprisingly comfortable and really easy and smooth to ride."

Another mountain bike from the Carrera range is the Carrera Vengeance - the brand's most popular mountain bike. It has been recently renewed with more extensive handlebars and new relaxed geometry to suit beginner riders. Made with 27.5-inch wheels, a durable alloy frame, 2x Shimano drivetrain, and mechanical disc brakes, the Vengeance would be an excellent introductory mountain bike for those new to off-roading. Additionally, in terms of the female-centred characteristics, the Vengeance is made with a memory foam saddle and an adjustable fork so you can calibrate the suspension to your liking.

Key specifications:

Frame: Lightweight and made with a strong Alloy frame

Tyres: Designed with an extra puncture-resistant layer

Gears: 16 speed Shimano Altus gearing for easier hill climbs

Wheels: 27.5" double-walled rims for extra sturdiness

Saddle: Carrera memory foam saddle for additional comfort

Lifetime Frame Guarantee

Review: "Bought the vengeance womans bike for my 11-year-old daughter to go to high school and it’s a brilliant bike for the price, loads of extras, We are very happy with it overall. It is still a FAB bike."

This entry-level hardtail mountain bike has the same frame as many higher-end models, including the more expensive mountain bike in Cube's range, The Analog. The Cube's agile geometry makes it easy to control due to the short chainstays and steep 74-degree seat angle. Plus, with the 27.5-inch wheels and remote lockout suspension fork, you can be sure that the Aim Race will have your back on the roads.

Key specifications:

Frame: Made twitch Aluminium Lite, AMF, internal cable routing and easy to mount

Gears: 24

Wheels: 27.5 inches (650b)

Saddle: Natural Fit Venec Lite material

Weight: 14.3kg

Tredz review: "With its choice for wheel size and colour schemes the Cube Aim is a hardtail mountain bike that offers an ideal introduction to MTB trail riding, while still being versatile enough for family cycling and commuting."

Best bike for a stretching budget

The Marin Bobcat Trail 3 is not strictly a women's mountain bike, but it comes in varying sizes, making it ideal for shorter or taller riders. It comes with a retro-style frame that is anything but old-school when it comes to its geometry. It features 27.5-inch wheels on the smaller versions and 29-inch wheels on the largest, making it a flexible option.

Key specifications:

Frame: Series 2 6061 Aluminium and internal routing

Saddle: Marin Padded

Tyres: 27.5 or 29 inches

Review: "I bought this bike through the Cycle to Work scheme. The bike was delivered promptly and is great for my needs."

Our verdict:

Our top pick would have to be the Carrera Vengeance; not only is it a bike for women, it is ideal for beginners, but the outstanding features alongside the low standover height and compact geometry, make the Carrera Vengeance a great pick. We also love that it is made with some extra cushion with the memory foam saddle and an adjustable fork, allowing you to fine-tune the suspension.

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