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The Best Mountain Bikes Under $600 Of 2021 Helpful Guide

Mountain biking is a really fun way to spend a few hours riding trails. It can be a relaxing ride down an uncrowded easy flowing trail or it can be an adrenaline pumping exciting trip down a roller coast like flow trail. $600 is a really good price point for finding your first mountain bike. At this level you get real Shimano or SRAM components, suspension forks, disc brakes, and 27.5 or 29 inch wheels. If you are ready to go mountain biking then let’s have a look at the best mountain bikes under $600.

Best Mountain Bikes Under $600 Buying Guide

Below are my 3 favorite under $600 mountain bikes available today. I run a Meetup that does casual mountain biking events. I get asked several times a year “What bike should I get?” If I was going to buy one today or recommend a bike to my friend I would suggest either the Giant Talon 3 29 for 29 inch wheels or the Specialized Rockhopper Sport 27.5 for 27.5 inch wheels. Both of these represent really good values and can be purchased in a bike shop so you can go test ride it before buying. My wife and I personally ride Specialized bikes. I have a Camber and she rides a Rockhopper.

Top Pick 29er

Giant Talon 3 29

Giant Talon 3

Top Pick 27.5

Specialized Rockhopper Sport 27.5

specialized rockhopper sport 27.5

Top Pick Online

Mongoose Switchback Comp

The Top 5 Best Mountain Bikes under $600

Top Pick 29er

Giant Talon 29 3

Giant Talon 3
  • Built on a lightweight ALUXX aluminum frame that features classic hardtail design plus the balanced riding characteristics of larger diameter 29-inch wheels
  • The frame geometry is specifically designed for its wheel size and a 100mm suspension fork
  • It’s a confident ride that’s perfect for ambitious riders who want to take their off-road skills to the next level.

Summary

The Giant Talon 3 is a really great bike value. It will be a great first bike for anyone to try their hand at trail riding. Giant is one of the biggest bike maker in the world and they have been at it a long time. They produce the bikes for a lot of other bike brands such as Specialized as well. This allows them to always make great bikes and good prices. The Giant Talon 3 is avaialble in a 29 or 27.5 wheel version.

It has Shimano Altus and Acera driveline components. It has a 2x driveline instead of the more typical 3x at this price range. It has a Suntour XCT front suspension fork. To top it off, it even has Maxxis tires for original equipment. Maxxis tires are very well known for producing great high performance tires that are found on bikes costing several thousand dollars.

Components

  • Wheel Size – 29inch
  • Suspension Fork – SR Suntour XCT30
  • Front Derailleur – microSHIFT FD-M282
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Acera
  • Shifters – Shimano Altus
  • Brakes – Tektro HDC M275, hydraulic disc
  • Chain Rings – 2
  • Rear Cogs – 8
What We Liked
Shimano Altus and Acera shifting
2x driveline
Hydraulic disc brakes
29er wheels
Maxxis tires

Top Pick 27.5

Specialized Rockhopper Sport 27.5

specialized rockhopper sport 27.5
  • A heart of gold, presented in our lightweight yet durable Premium A1 Aluminum, the Rockhopper features butted aluminum tubes in order to keep weight low and strength high, all while providing increased standover clearance, slick internal cable routing and dropper-post compatibility.
  • Reign in speed and dial up your confidence with powerful braking from Tektro’s M275 hydraulic disc brakes.
  • 2x Shimano Altus shifting handles drivetrain duties while you focus on the ride.

Summary

The Specialized Rockhopper Sport 27.5 has one of the best build specs of any $600 mountain bike. It has Altus shifting, a 2×9 driveline, hydraulic brakes and a Suntour XCM fork. All of these are a level upgrade over what is found on most bikes at this price point.

Specialized has been building mountain bikes for a long time. The Specialized Stumpjumper was one of the original production mountain bikes when it was first introduced in 1981. The Rockhopper has been it’s little brother since sometime in the 1980’s. It has always been a great value for recreational mountain bikers.

Components

  • Wheel Size – 27.5inch
  • Suspension Fork – SR Suntour XCM
  • Front Derailleur – Shimano Altus
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Altus
  • Shifters – Shimano Altus
  • Brakes – Tektro HDC M275, hydraulic disc
  • Chain Rings – 2
  • Rear Cogs – 9
What We Liked
Shimano Altus and shifting
2x driveline with 9 rear cogs
Hydraulic disc brakes
27.5 wheels
Suntour XCM fork

Best Value

Mongoose Switchback Comp

  • Tectonic T1 aluminum frame for lightweight durability
  • Mongoose MTB saddle keeps you comfortable on long rides
  • 27. 5” tires provide a stable and smooth ride

Summary

The Mongoose Switchback Comp is an excellent 27.5 inch wheel entry level mountain bike. It has a Shimano Altus 2×9 driveline and shifters as well as mechanical disc brakes. It is spec’d with Kendra Small Block tires which have been a long time favorite for many mountain bikers regardless of bike price. This is an overall good package although we would like to see a nongeneric suspension fork and hydraulic disc brakes to be really competitive with other offerings at this price.

Mongoose is a well established bike brand that has made entry level through several thousand dollar high end bikes for years.

Components

  • Wheel Size – 27.5inch
  • Suspension Fork – XPosure Fork
  • Front Derailleur – Shimano Altus
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Altus
  • Shifters – Shimano Altus
  • Brakes – Tektro aluminum mechanical disc
  • Chain Rings – 2
  • Rear Cogs – 9
What We Liked
Shimano Altus shifting
2×9 driveline
Mechanical disc brakes
Kenda “Small Block” Tires
27.5 inch wheels

GT Men’s Ricochet Plus Sport 27.5+

GT Ricochet Plus Sport
  • Power through all terrain and crush every obstacle you face on the singletracks with the GT® Ricochet Plus Sport 27.5+ Mountain Bike.
  • Featuring 27.5” plus tires that are 2.8” wide and a 6061 T6 extremely strong aluminum frame, the Ricochet Plus Sport delivers increased traction, easy maneuverability, and unmatched stability to dominate loose gravel trails and rocky gardens.
  • Push the boundaries with the Ricochet Plus Sport 27.5+ Mountain Bike.

Summary

The GT Ricochet Plus Sport 27.5+ is a 27.5 inch wheel mountain bike with plus tires. Plus tires are usually 2.8 to 3.0inches wide. Regular mountain bike tires tend to run 2.0 to 2.3inch wide. Plus tires give you a more plush ride than regular tires because of the bigger air cushion they create. They give you a boost in traction on loose surfaces such as sand. The downside is they are heavy tires and they give a bit more smooshy feeling when cornering. The GT Ricochet is an overall good package with Suntour XCM fork and shimano Altus shifting and 2 x 9 driveline. The brakes are only cable pull rather than the hydraulics found on most other bikes in this price range.

Components

  • Wheel Size – 27.5inch with Plus tires
  • Suspension Fork – SR Suntour XCM
  • Front Derailleur – Micro-Shift FD-M642 D
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Altus
  • Shifters – Shimano Alivio
  • Brakes – Promax Mechanical Disc
  • Chain Rings – 2
  • Rear Cogs – 9
What We Liked
Shimano Altus shifting
2x driveline with 9 rear cogs
Suntour XCM Fork
27.5 wheels with plus tires
Mechanical disc brakes

Kent Hawkeye Mountain Bike

  • 6061 18.5 inch aluminum frame and aluminum crown front suspension
  • 29 inch double wall alloy rims with 29 x 2.30 tires and
  • Shimano 7 speed freewheel, front and rear derailleurs and rapid fire 21 speed shifters

Summary

The Kent Hawkeye is a top end “Department store” level bike. You can find it online from $300 to $600. It has Shimano components, an unknown brand generic front suspension fork and a 3x driveline with 7 cogs. The brakes are mechanical disc brakes. At $300 this bike may represent a good value. At $600 you can really do much better. This bike entirely depends on what price you can find it for. It is missing several features you would expect to find at $600 such as any upgrades to driveline or fork and does not have quick release wheels either.

Components

  • Wheel Size – 29inch
  • Suspension Fork – Unknown brand
  • Front Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Shifters – Shimano
  • Brakes – Shimano Mechanical Disc
  • Chain Rings – 3
  • Rear Cogs – 7
What We Liked
Shimano shifting
Mechanical disc brakes
29inch wheels
3×7 driveline
Low price

What should a $600 Mountain Bike Have?

The better end of $600 mountain bikes should have a few things.

  • It will be a hard tail meaning no rear suspension.
  • 27.5inch or 29inch wheels.
  • Suntour XCM or XCT front suspension fork.
  • Shimano Altus or Tourney components.
  • Disc Brakes that may be hydraulic or cable pull.
  • 3x driveline meaning it will have 3 chain rings and between 7 and 9 rear cogs.
  • Presta valves on the tubes
  • It will weigh between 30 and 35 lbs.

What Won’t A $600 Mountain Bike Have?

It should not be full suspension. Any full suspension bike below about $1500 is just putting on junk parts and will have no damping. Too many corners are being cut for it to be a good usable bike at this price point. It should not have 26 inch wheels. If the bike has any of these you should avoid it. It’s not a good value and you can do better.

What Can I Get If I Spend More Than $600?

Going above $600 you will get upgrades to driveline and suspension fork. Parts will get more durable and lighter weight. You’ll move from a 3x driveline to a 2x or 1x. They will also start adding in things like tubeless ready rims and tires and all brakes will be hydraulic.

1x drive trains are wonderful and absolutely worth it if you can up the price a bit more to get one. SRAM Eagle 12 speed systems are incredibly smooth with lots of gear range.

Should I Buy A New Or Used Bike?

There is some great value out there in used bikes. You absolutely can get more bike for the money going used. Beware there are a lot of junk used bikes out there for sale too. If your new to mountain biking and you want to buy a used bike it’s really good advice to seek out the help of an experienced mountain biker to help you find a good used bike.

What To Look For On A Used Bike?

Bikes lose value quickly just like used cars do. Expect a used bike to sell for 30-40% less than new. If you buy something a few years old you should be able to get several levels higher in components and suspension for the same price.

There is a good website for used bike values called Bicycle Blue Book.

Where Should I Buy A New Bike At?

There are lots of places you can get a bike. You can go to a bike store and have a look and test ride bikes. You can also go online and buy a bike there at various places. In looking at a lot of $500 to $600 bikes for this guide. There are just as good of values available from bike brands you can only buy at a bike shop as there are with bike brands you can buy online. There really is no money to be saved by avoiding the bike shop.

Shimano and SRAM Components

The 2 main producers of mountain bike components are Shimano and SRAM. The majority of bikes in the $500 to $600 will have Shimano Tourney or Shimano Altus components. A few rare bikes will have SRAM X3 and X4. Bikes typically have a mixture of levels where some parts are 1 to 2 levels up from others.

Shimano mountain bike component levels go in the following order from low end to high end:

  • Tourney
  • Altus
  • Acera
  • Alivio
  • Deore
  • SLX
  • XT
  • XTR

SRAM mountain bike components go in the following order from low end to high end:

  • X3
  • X4
  • X5
  • X7
  • NX
  • GX
  • X01
  • XX1

SRAM Eagle components denote their 12 speed 1x component sets. There are GX and NX components in both 1x with 12 cogs and also 2x with 10 cogs and a few other combinations.

To read more about mountain bike component levels click here.

mountain biker looking out scenic view

Suntour Suspension Forks

Most bikes in the $500 to $600 range will have either a Suntour XCT or Suntour XCM front suspension fork. There are better forks out there by RockShox, Fox, Manitou and several other brands. You won’t find them in this price range on a new bike. You may find them on a used bike.

XCT – basic coil spring fork with no damping. Preload is adjustable and they can have a mechanical lockout.

XCM – a slightly upgraded XCT slightly larger stanctions, and the option of a hydraulic lockout on the top model. Remote lockout is an option.

XCR – A decent coil spring fork, with dampening and a hydraulic lockout. Adjustable preload and rebound damping. Remote lockout is an option. Also available in an air spring version.

3x vs 2x vs 1x Drivetrain

1x or 3x refers to the number of chain rings on the bike attached to the pedal cranks. High end mountain bikes all have 1 chain ring only and 12 rear cogs. Mid range bikes in the $800 to $1100 range have either 2 chain rings and 10 rear cogs or 1 chain ring with 10 or 11 cogs. Under $800 bikes all have 3 chain rings and 7 or 8 rear cogs.

Multiple chain rings requires a front derailleur and shifter which adds something to the bike that can brake. Front derailleurs shift the chain on the loaded side when your pedalling so they get a lot more wear and tear if you shift them while stomping on the pedals which most new riders do. Eventually you learn to downshift chainrings when your approaching a hill.

Rear cogs and the rear derailleur shift from the unloaded side of the chain so they can shift just fine while your stomping down on the pedal during a climb.

Disc Brakes vs U-Brakes

Disc brakes on mountain bikes were one of the best innovations ever when they started appearing. They have so many advantages and almost no downside. Disc brakes have much more powerful stopping ability. They aren’t as susceptible to getting full of mud. They aren’t affected by a wheel being out of true. You don’t need to unhook a cable or anything else to remove a wheel.

U-Brakes are the traditional bike brake that brakes by clamping on the rim of the wheel. If the rim gets wed or muddy they can quickly lose stopping power. If the wheel gets a little bent and out of true then it causes the brakes to clamp unevenly. To remove your wheel you have to disconnect the cable from the brakes to release them.

Hydraulic vs Cable Pull Disc Brakes

Hydraulic brakes have one big advantage over cable pull disc brakes. Mechanical advantage. With a cable pull disc brake force is limited by how hard you can pull the cable with the brake lever.

With a hydraulic disc brake system the brake calipers are pushed by the hydraulic fluid. The brake actuation cylinder and caliper can multiply the force by several factors. With a cable pull system you may have to squeeze the lever pretty hard to stop quickly.

With a hydraulic system you can screech yourself to a halt with 1 finger effort. The downside is you have to learn to control how much you squeeze your brakes so you don’t send yourself over the handlebars trying to stop.

27.5inch vs 29inch wheels

There are 2 popular wheel sizes out there right now for mountain bikes. 27.5 inch and 29 inch wheels. Nothing is made with 26inch wheels anymore above Walmart store level bikes.

29 inch wheels roll a bit faster and are better for cross country riding. They make the bike less likely to endo if you stick the front tire on something. They can make the bike feel a bit sluggish. All cross country race bikes are 29inch wheels.

27.5 inch wheels are a bit lighter and the bike will feel a bit livelier. Some people prefer them for more technical riding. Most downhill race bikes are 27.5 inch wheels. Some Enduro Bikes are 27.5. Some are 29inch.

mountain bikers on a mountain trail

Mountain Biking FAQ

Q: What mountain bike should I get if I have $600 to spend?

Find the bike with the best components, fork, and driveline you can afford. It’s helpful to ride a bike too if you can because different frame geometries feel different when riding.

Q: Should I Just Buy A Really Cheap Mountain Bike From Walmart?

Obviously everyone has a budget. You can get around a lot of mountain bike trails just fine on virtually any bike out there. Once the trails begins to have a lot of roots and rocks to roll over it will start shaking and destroying parts on a cheap bike. There are tons of videos out there on Youtube showing the effects of trail riding on really cheap bikes.

The below video shows some good information on how well very inexpensive Walmart mountain bikes hold up to trail riding.

Q: Should I buy at bike at a bike shop or online?

At the $500-$600 price range there really isn’t much of a bargain to be had online. If you look at what bikes are coming with, the bikes sold strictly online aren’t coming with anything better for the same price and in many cases have a lot of unknown parts like suspension forks that it is impossible to find any information on. If you have a local bike shop I would go there. If you don’t then go shop online for a bike.

Sooner or later the bike will need maintenance or replacement parts and you’ll probably be going to a bike shop at that point whether you bought it there or not.

Q: Should I wear a helmet while mountain biking?

Yes. You should ride a helmet while mountain biking. I have mountain biked for a long time now and have had a few scares along the way. Several of my worst falls were on trails I think are easy. Overconfidence can lead to bad things happening sometimes. Helmets aren’t that expensive and can really save your day sometimes.

Q: What is a 29er?

A 29er is simply a mountain bike with 29 inch wheels. Originally almost all mountain bikes had 26 inch wheels. When 29inch wheels came onto the scene people referred to bikes with 29 inch wheels as “29ers”. Today a majority of mountain bikes have 29inch or 27.5inch wheels and 26inch wheels are virtually non existent.

Q: Where Can I Get A Bike Fixed At?

You can either take it to a bike shop, find a friend who knows how to fix bikes to fix it for you or learn how to fix it and do it yourself.

Q: How Hard Is It To Fix My Own Bike?

There are a lot of things on your bike that really aren’t that hard to do yourself. Replacing tires, adjusting rear derailleurs and replacing most driveline components (except the bottom bracket) are really not that hard to do. ParkTool a popular brand of bike tools has really really good how to articles and videos for doing almost anything on your bike.

Click here to go to the repair help section of Park Tool’s website.

Q: How Hard Is It To Upgrade A Bike?

Most parts of the bike that are easy to fix and replace are also easy to upgrade. It will require a bit of research to find what parts are compatible. If your bike has 7 rear cogs, almost any Shimano or SRAM rear derailleur, shifter or rear cassette will work. Some things are fairly standardized. There is a Youtube video out showing how to do almost any upgrade you can think of doing.

Some really common upgrades to do on new bikes are the seat, pedals and handlebar grips. Those items are your touch points on the bike and you can really make a bike feel different by changing them.

Q: Where Can I Find Mountain Biking Trails?

The best place to start on this search is the International Mountain Biking Association. Click here to go to their where to ride page. You can also Google “Mountain Bike trails near me” to get some help on local trails.

Some areas have their own organization. In Michigan we have the Michigan Mountain Biking Association that has very good trail information on their page. You can see it here.

Q: What Phone Apps Are Good For Mountain Biking?

There are several really good Apps to help you out on the trail. The most popular mountain biking app by far is Strava. Strava records your lap at segment times on trails and you can compare them to other rides. Some people take owning the KOM and QOM really seriously. (King and Queen Of the Mountain).

Trailforks is a really good app for finding trails and finding your way around on trails.

MTBProject is another really good app for finding trails and finding your way around.

Q: How Do I Make My Disc Brakes Stop Squealing?

Squealing disc brakes is a fairly common occurrence and pretty easy to fix. It is almost always caused by brake calipers have have gotten out of alignment.

To fix it do the follwing. Loosen the 2 bolts that hold on the brake caliper. Spin your wheel. Squeeze the brake lever as hard as you can. Release the brake. Spin the wheel and squeeze the brake again. Do this a few times. Spin the wheel one final time. Squeeze the brake lever as hard as you can to stop it. While squeezing the brake lever tightly, tighten the brake calipers back up.

Q: What’s the best way to carry water while mountain biking?

Staying hydrated during a bike ride is very important. 2 good options are water bottles and hydration packs. I personally prefer hydration packs because you can carry more water and it gives you some place to carry your tools and spare tube. See my article on hydration packs vs water bottles for mountain biking to learn more.

Q: How Do I Fix A Flat Tire?

Fixing a flat is really very easy. Remove the tire, use something to remove the tire bead off the rim, replace the tube and put the tire back on. You can use special tire tools. You can use a flathead screw driver also.

The below video shows how to fix a mountain bike flat tire.

Q: What are Tubeless Tires And Wheels?

Most bikes above about $800 price point have “Tubeless ready wheels”. They are setup so that you can remove the inner tube and use just a tire on the wheel. The tires are filled with some liquid sealant that seals any gaps and can also reseal holes from thorns or nails so you don’t get a flat.

You can ride with lower air pressure without worrying about getting a “pinch flat” where the inner tube gets pinched between the rim and tire and gets a hole in it that looks like a snake bite. You save the weight of having an inner tube in the tire.

Almost any mountain bike wheel can be converted to tubeless. The only real difference between a tubeless ready wheel and a regular wheel is a $15 rim tape going around the inside of the rim.

Q: What are clipless pedals and should I get them?

The term clipless pedals is a bit of an oxymoron. Clipless pedals use cleats on the bottom of the shoe that clip into the pedal. If you are going to race your mountain bike then by all means get clipless pedals and shoes. If you are just riding for fun I strongly recommend avoiding clipless pedals. You will save yourself the agony of occasionally falling over when you stop and you’ll feel more confident to try difficult technical features when you are not worried whether you can get your feet unclipped if you need to. See my article on flat pedals vs clipless pedals for mountain biking to learn more.

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selfie for info block

About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water.  I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions.  I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.

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