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Best Mountain Bikes For Women Under $1,000

So you want to start mountain biking but don’t want to spend a ton of money to get your first bike.  We get it.  That’s why we’ve rounded up a list of the best entry-level women’s mountain bikes under $1,000. 

These bikes will help you get into the sport, and won’t break the bank.  You can always upgrade later if you find out you really love mountain biking.

In addition to a list of our top sub-$1,000 mountain bikes for ladies, we’ve also included a list of tips on buying your first mountain bike and what you should look for.  Don’t understand the difference between hydraulic disc brakes and mechanical disc brakes?

That’s ok.  Keep reading and we’ll break it all down for you.

Best Women's Mountain Bikes Under $1,000

What to Look For In An Entry-Level Mountain Bike

Feel a little intimidated by all the bike-lingo?  No worries.  Here’s what you should look for when picking your mountain bike.

Women’s Specific Mountain Bikes vs Unisex Bikes

A few years ago, every mountain bike brand on the market was coming out with women’s-specific offerings. Now the pendulum has swung the other way and many brands have removed their “women’s” mountain bikes.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Marketing bikes as “women’s bikes” often relegated women to a specific corner inside the sport.  And who’s to say smaller men and teen boys don’t benefit from smaller frame sizes too?

On the flip side, women’s-specific mountain bikes are sometimes a blessing for smaller women who don’t fit on traditionally-sized bikes, and for ladies looking for bikes in more feminine designs and colors. Generally, they also come with components that fit a larger range of women better–lower standover height, narrower handlebars, shorter cranks, and perhaps most important of all: women’s-specific bike saddles (seats). 

top down view of the ergon smc sport gel womens saddle

On this list you’ll see a mix of “women’s-specific” bikes as well as unisex bikes. These are bikes that are offered in smaller sizes and will work well for women regardless of their gender designation.

The bottom-line is that you don’t feel like you’re limited a “women’s” bike.  If you find a mountain bike that meets all the other criteria we’ll mention below and that is in your price range, go for it.

Suspension

For a sub-$1,000 bike, expect to buy a bike with front suspension only.  Bikes with full-suspension will be more expensive or of inferior quality.  But that’s okay.  A “hardtail” bike is a good place to start.

All the bikes on this list have a pretty similar suspension fork.  The SR Suntour fork can be found on most bikes in this price-point and it’s a pretty decent little fork.  It ranges between 100mm and 110 mm of travel, which isn’t a ton, but it’s enough to get started.

It is a lot stiffer than a higher quality fork, and you may feel like you get shaken around a bit. A good fork is the biggest reason to spend more money on a mountain bike. (We’ll talk more about this later).

But if you’re sticking to easy, mellow trails, the Suntour fork will do okay for you.

suntour fork

Wheels and Tires

Mountain bikes come with several different wheel sizes — 26″, 27.5″, and 29″.   Which size is best is largely a personal preference. 

You’ll notice that fewer and fewer bikes are being offered with 26″ wheels (it used to be the norm).  Bigger wheels roll easier over obstacles, but also take a little longer to get up to speed and to maneuver in corners.  For this reason, our personal favorite wheel size is 27.5″.

Tires come in a wide variety of sizes too.  Of course, you’ll need tires that match your wheel size (26″, 27.5″ or 29″), but there are also variation in widths.  Again, this is largely a personal preference. 

A 2.0 tire is super narrow, and a 2.8 tire is beefy.  In general, the more rocky and technical the terrain you are riding, the wider the tire you’ll want.  If you’re sticking to gravel paths, a narrower tire will roll faster.

Finally, some wheels and tires are tubeless or tubeless-ready.  This means that they can be ridden without tubes like traditional bike tires.  Most bikes in this price range are not tubeless-ready, but a few are, and we’d highly recommend it.  Since switching to tubeless tires, I’ve cut down on the number of flats I get by like 2,000%.

Drivetrain

The drivetrain of the bike is everything that works together to propel the bike forward and to shift between gears.  This includes the front and rear derailleur, the cassette, the front chainring(s), the shifters, shifter cables and chain.

drivetrain on the polygon xtrada

Between the bikes on our list, there isn’t a ton of differentiation.  The biggest difference you’ll notice is the inclusion or lack of a front derailleur.

Over the last few years, higher end bikes have all but dropped a front derailleur. This trend is now trickling down to entry-level bikes as well.

You’ll notice that the bikes on our list either have a 1x (one-by) drivetrain or a 2x(two-by) drivetrain. On a 1x drivetrain, there is only one gear up front and no front derailleur. On a 2x drivetrain, there are two gears up front and a front derailleur to move between the two gears.

I’d highly enourage you to look for a bike with a 1x drivetrain. Beginners often have a lot of trouble with shifting, and this keeps things simple.

In terms of brands, at this price point, expect a mixed-bag of component groups from a reputable brand-name company such as Shimano or SRAM. The nicest bikes on this list have a Shimano Deore drivetrain.

Brakes

Modern mountain bikes come with disc brakes.  This is different than mountain bikes of yesteryear that had rim brakes.  Disc brakes offer significantly better-stopping power than rim-style brakes.

You’ll notice there are two different types of disc brakes: mechanical disc brakes and hydraulic disc brakes.  Mechanical disc brakes are the cheaper and easier to maintain of the two.  Hydraulic disc brakes, on the other hand, offer better modulation and performance but add additional cost and maintenance.

sram level brakes

In general, we’d recommend choosing a mountain bike with hydraulic disc brakes. Just a few years ago, nearly all entry level mountain bikes had mechanical disc brakes, but today there are cheaper, reliable hydraulic disc brakes available.

You’ll notice that the majority of bikes on our list have Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. They are simple and work well, though lack the stopping power of the brakes you’ll find on more expensive mountain bikes.

Weight

Unfortunately, what these bikes save in price, they make up for in weight. Meaning that compared to more expensive mountain bikes, the rides on this list are HEAVY.

This will be more noticeable if you live in an area with mountainous terrain (like Colorado), as opposed to an area with mostly flat trails (like Florida). It’s also a reason to be kind to yourself if you are struggling to keep up with friends on hills…a heavy bike is slower.

Once you’ve decided that mountain biking is your jam, you’ll probably want to invest in a lighter bike. Until then, have fun, be kind to yourself, and pick the lightest bike you can find in your budget.


Our Top Picks

BikePriceWhat We Like
1 Liv Tempt 1 $950A brand just for women!
2Cannondale Trail 5 Womens$950 Sloped top tube for lower standover
3Canyon Grand Canyon 5$749Direct-to-consumer brand offers great value
4Specialized Rockhopper Sport$750Local bike shop support
5Trek Marlin 6 Gen 3$999Good quality suspension fork
6Polygon Xtrada$799Can usually get on sale

Liv Tempt 1

liv tempt 1 womens mountain bike

Liv Cycling makes some of the best women’s specific bicycles out there, and some of the best sub-$1,000 bikes, period. The Liv Tempt 1 is the lightest bike on our list, which pushes it into our top spot. 

We appreciate that it comes in an XS frame to fit women as small as 4’11”, and it has a female-specific saddle. While it doesn’t come with a dropper post, it does have internal cable routing to add one later on.

The bike offers Tektro hydraulic disc brakes and 100mm of travel thanks to the Giant air fork. All the components on the bike are brand-name, and everything is durable.

liv tempt mountain bike

Price: $950

Cannondale Trail 6 Women’s

cannondale trail 6

The CannondaleTrail 6 proves that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a nice bike. It’s a women’s specific bike, and features smaller frame sizes and thoughtful components like the Cannondale Stage 2 Women’s saddle.

Cannondale doesn’t cut corners with cheaper, off-brand components on this model. Instead, they’ve equipped the bike with entry-level but name-brand parts. The Trail 6 includes a Shimano drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes, ensuring reliable and smooth performance.

The Trail 6 is also ready to grow with you. It has routing for a dropper post and has tubeless-ready tires, so you can upgrade when you have the desire or funds.

Designed thoughtfully for smaller riders, the extra-small frame accommodates those as petite as 4’6″. The slightly curved top tube lowers the standover height, making it easier and more comfortable to mount and dismount.

However, the bike’s weight could be a sticking point—it’s a bit heavier than the Liv Tempt. This might be a concern if you frequently ride in hilly areas.

Also, it features a 2x drivetrain, which includes two chainrings in the front, diverging from the modern trend of a single chainring setup that many prefer for its simplicity.

Price: $950


Specialized Rockhopper Sport

specialized rockhopper

Thanks to the fact that Specialized is one of the biggest bike manufacturers in the world, they manage to produce high-quality bikes at a fraction of what other smaller brands can manage.  The Specialized Rockhopper was actually my first mountain bike some 15 years ago, and it still serves me well as a commuter bike. 

On the component front, the Rockhopper Sport boasts a dependable Shimano drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes, providing reliable shifting and excellent stopping power in all weather conditions. Like the most the bikes on this list it has a dependable, though entry-level Suntour fork.

Interestingly, the bike is offered in 26″, 27.5″, and 29″ wheel offerings, so you can pick whichever wheel size you prefer, and it comes in XS to XXL frame sizes.

While many bikes on this list are direct-to-consumer, Specialized allows you to order a bike online OR head to your local Specialized dealer. This offers the best of both worlds.

Price: $750

Canyon Grand Canyon 5

canyon grand canyon womens mountain bike

Until recently, this bike came in a women’s-specific version. It doesn’t anymore, but I’d still recommend it.

Canyon is a direct-to-consumer brand. This keeps their prices low by cutting out the middle man. You get a lot of bang for your buck with Canyon including hydraulic disc brakes, a Shimano 1x drivetrain, and tubless-ready Schwalbe tires.

canyon bike in action

Like all Canyon bikes, the paint quality is great and the overall aesthetic is pleasing. It looks like a more expensive bike than it is.

There are a couple of significant drawbacks. The first is the fact that it comes with a steel coil fork rather than an air fork. Secondly, the XS only fits riders 5’4″ and taller which is definitely a miss for shorter ladies.

Price: $750

Trek Marlin 6 Gen 3

Like other brands on this list, Trek recently got rid of the women’s version of this bike, but the Marlin 6 is still worthy of your consideration. Like Specialized, Trek is one of the biggest bike brands around which means you get nicer components for a lower price, and it’s easy to get local bike shop support if you need it. Trek bikes have a great warranty, and I know from personal experience that they take good care of you.

While this bike just barely scrapes in at under $1,000, the little bit of extra dough is worth it. The bike comes with a RockShox Judy fork which is a definite step up from the Suntrour fork.

Also, the Marlin is one of the better fit options for small ladies. The XS frame size fits riders as small as 4’9″.

Like many other bikes on this list, the biggest drawback is that it’s heavy. If you can afford to spend more for one of the next levels of the Marlin, you might want to consider it.

Price: $999

Polygon Xtrada 5

gray and red polygon xtrada mountain bike in front of a white garage door

The Polygon Xtrada is a direct-to-consumer “budget” mountain bike. This is a great bike to get started on.

Despite it’s hefty weight, it’s a pretty decent climber. I felt fast on this bike when on flats or uphills.

Like other bikes on this list, the Suntour fork definitely felt a bit stiff on the descents. For mellow beginner trails, it will feel fine, but once you start to progress, the fork will be a limiter.

mountain biking on the polygon xtrada mountain bike

My biggest complaints is that there is no routing for a dropper post should you choose to add one later on, and the base level Xtrada 5 has a 2x rather than 1x drivetrain. You’ll have to upgrade to the Xtrada 6 or 7 for a 1x.

Review: Polygon Xtrada

Price: $799

When You Should Consider Spending More

If you’re just starting out mountain biking, getting a budget bike to start out might make sense. You don’t know yet if this is sport you want to invest big dollars into.

That said, if you already sold on mountain biking, and know that you’re excited and ready to progress, you should consider spending a little bit more. There are plenty of hardtail mountain bikes in the $2k-$3k range that will grow with you longer than these will. They will offer features like a more comfortable suspension fork, a dropper post, tubeless wheelset, thru-axles, and more. With a little shopping, you’ll also find some options that aren’t as heavy as the hardtails on this list.

An example of a little higher end hardtail that will get you further is the Specialized Fuse.


More Resources to Help Get You Started In The Sport

About The Author

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @kristenlbonkoski

3 thoughts on “Best Mountain Bikes For Women Under $1,000”

  1. Why is there no 1x drives on this list? Wouldnt that be alot easyer to manage for a beginner when it comes to shifting? Plus overall cheaper to maintain/fix etc

    Reply
    • Hi JB,
      100%. Unfortunately, the 1x really hasn’t trickled down to the under-$1,000 pricepoint yet. The Liv Tempt 1 for instance (which is just over $1,000 and an upgrade to the Liv Tempt 2 listed here), does have a 1x.

      Reply
  2. Very very helpful!
    Thank you!

    Now just to find a bike with my specifications…called 15 bike shops in my area and they’re all sold out of entry level mt bikes!
    But thank you so much for the info, this should make it a lot easier knowing the info…especially if I’m buying from Craigslist or fb marketplace.

    Reply

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