By Richard Moy, Cheapism.com
A cheap mountain bike is a great way to get outdoor exercise.The sun has started to make frequent appearances even in laggard pockets of the country that weren't enjoying good biking weather. If you're on a budget, don't let an outdated or unusable bike keep you off the trails. While a new mountain bike that catches the eye of other riders can easily cost a grand, you don't need to buy the most expensive model to come away with a reliable ride. The specs and sturdiness of some bikes between $150 and $400 may surprise you.
Here are Cheapism's top picks for budget mountain bikes.
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- The Diamondback Sorrento offers plenty of features for a starting price of $300 and wins consumers' favor with its lightweight frame and smooth ride. If you order online, it comes partially assembled, and reviews suggest the few remaining steps are quick and simple.
- The Trek 3 Series 3500 is a low-end model from a respected brand that starts at $399. Riders note the high-quality gears and suspension and appreciate that the bike has disc brakes, where most entry-level models come with standard linear-pull brakes. Such components make this mountain bike an impressive value.
- The Schwinn Ridge AL is expressly designed for women, with minor adjustments such as narrower handlebars and a wider seat that can make a major difference in fit, comfort, and control. This mountain bike starts at $225 and earns high marks from reviewers, unlike most other low-cost women's models, thanks in part to smooth braking and good shock absorption.
- The Genesis V2100 is available from Walmart for $159, making it the least expensive mountain bike on our list. Many satisfied customers say the brakes are fast and firm, the gear shifting is fluid, and the ride is smooth. This bike also boasts disc brakes in the front and full suspension, where the others have suspension on only the front wheel.
In general, budget mountain bikes come from national chain stores and online retailers, although the Trek can be found in specialized bike shops. All the models above have aluminum frames, which make them lighter than mountain bikes with steel frames but typically no less durable. An aluminum frame helps make for a faster bike that requires less effort to ride and transport, although it's somewhat less forgiving on rough terrain.
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It's important to note that these aren't the best mountain bikes for particularly rocky trails. They are geared toward casual riders and commuters and intended for well-maintained trails. More serious mountain bikers have started to favor "29ers," with 29-inch wheels that roll easily over tougher terrain. All of the bikes on the list above have standard 26-inch wheels. Overall they should be more than sufficient for day-to-day travel and recreational riding.
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