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 women’s mountain bikes for ladies 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 7 sub-$1,000 mountain bikes, 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.
What to Look For In An Entry-Level Women’s 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 Other Mountain Bikes
Until recently, there was no such thing as women’s-specific mountain bikes. There were just mountain bikes. Men rode them and women rode them.
The introduction of women’s-specific mountain bikes has been both a blessing and a curse. They have been a blessing for smaller women who didn’t fit on traditionally-sized bikes, and for ladies looking for bikes in more feminine designs and colors.
They’ve also been a curse because they’ve 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? Also, not all women want feminine colors on their mountain bike.
All in all, we still think they’re a good place to start especially for new women entering the sport. They 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).
That said, 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.
In fact, you’ll notice that while we’ve listed several womens’-specific bikes on our list of top picks, there are also some that are unisex. These are bikes that are offered in smaller sizes and will work well for women regardless of their gender designation.
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.
What you will notice differs between the bikes is the remote lock-out fork. This means that you can stiffen up your fork for climbing without even taking your hands off the handlebars. It’s not a huge selling point (I don’t personally have one), but it’s nice to have.
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%.
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.
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 derrailleur.
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 derraileur. 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.
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.
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.
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.
7 Best Mountain Bikes For Women Under $1,000
|1||Liv Tempt 1||$920|
|2||Cannondale Trail 5 Womens||$950|
|3||Diamondback Lux 2||$999|
|4||Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.2||$999|
|5||Specialized Rockhopper Sport 27.5||$925|
|6||Trek Marlin 6 Women’s||$699|
|7||Norco Storm 2||$949|
Liv Tempt 1
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 Temp 1 is the lightest bike on our list, which pushes it into our top spot.
The bike offers Tektro mechanical disc brakes and 100mm of travel thanks to the Giant air fork. We also appreciate that it comes in an XS frame to fit women as small as 4’11”.
Cannondale Trail 5 Women’s
The CannondaleTrail 5 proves that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a nice bike. Like many of the bikes on this list, the Cannondale Tango rocks the SR Suntour air fork, a highly capable short-travel (100mm) suspension fork. We also love that it has hydraulic disc brakes, and SAVE micro-suspension in the rear triangle to make the ride a bit more comfortable.
Diamondback Lux 2
Diamondback is known for making quality bikes at realistic price points. The Lux 2 is their entry-level women’s offering. Aside from looking more expensive than it is, the bike offers brand-name components including Kenda tires, Shimano drivetrain, and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes.
It also happens to be one of the lighter bikes on this list which makes it a top pick in our book.
Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.2
If you’re an REI member with a dividend burning through your pocket, the Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.2 might be attractive. Co-Op Cycles is the REI bike brand and they make pretty decent bikes for the money.
The frame is dropper-post compatible for when you are ready to upgrade. The Tektro hydraulic disc brakes are some of our faves at this price point, and we dig the internal cable routing and remote-lock out on the suspension fork.
The one thing to be aware of, however, is that this bike is HEAVY. At over 32 pounds, it’s the heaviest bike on this list, so we wouldn’t recommend it if you live in an area with a lot of climbing.
Specialized Rockhopper Sport 27.5
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.
That said, it’s improved about over the last decade or two. The Rockhopper offers 27.5″ wheels, SR Suntour fork, and Shimano Altus drivetrain.
Trek Women’s Marlin 6
The Trek Marlin 6 has a sloped top-tube to provide a lower standover height for smaller women. The frame is built up with decent components including hydraulic disc brakes and a Suntour 100mm fork with lockout.
This is the most affordable bike on this list so may be attractive if you’re tight on funds. Like many other bikes on this list though, it’s HEAVY, so keep that in mind if you plan on biking in an area with lots of elevation change.
Norco Storm 2
The Norco Storm 2 mountain bike is a great starter bike to give you a taste of what the singletrack life is all about. We appreciate that while this is an entry-level priced bike it has a 1×10 Shimano Deore drivetrain which is a little nicer than most of the bikes on this list.
We also like that the progressive wheel size and tiny frames. Smaller frames are offered with 27.5″ wheels while the medium frame has 29″ wheels. The XXS frame fits riders as short as 4’6″.
Comparison Chart: Women’s Mountain Bikes Under $1,000
Not sure how these bikes stack up? Here’s how they compare side-by-side. If you’re not sure what all this stuff means, read on for some additional guidance.
|Liv Tempt 1||$920||Yes||28.5 lbs||Giant SXC32-2 RL 27.5 or 29, 80mm or 100mm||27.5" /20" (size dependent)||Shimano Deore 1x10||Tektro hydraulic||Maxxis Rekon 27.5 or 29x2.4|
|Cannondale Trail 5 Women's||$780||Yes||31.5 lbs||SR Suntour XCM, 100 mm||27.5" / 29" (size dependent)||microSHIFT 1x10||Tektro hydraulic||WTB Trail Boss 2.4|
|Diamondback Lux 2||$780||Yes||28.5 lbs||SR Suntour XCM-HLO, 100mm travel||27.5"||Shimano Altus 2x9||Shimano BR-M200 Hydraulic Disc||Vee Tire Rail Escape Front 27.5x2.35 Rail Rear 27.5x1.95|
|Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2||$899||No||32.5||SR Suntour XCR 120mm||27.5"||Shimano Altus 2x9||Tektro hydraulic||WTB Trail Boss; 27.5 x 2.4 in|
|Specialized Rockhopper Sport 27.5||$925||No||SR Suntour XCM 80/90/100mm travel (size-specific)||27.5"||Shimano Altus 2x9||Tektro hydraulic||Ground Control Sport, 27.5x2.3"|
|Trek Women's Marlin 6||$650||Yes||31.6 lbs||SR Suntour XCT 30, 80mm/100mm (size specific)||27.5" / 29" (size dependent)||Shimano Altus 2x8||Tektro hydraulic||Bontrager XR2 Comp, 2.20"|
|Norco Storm 2||$949||No||30 lbs||RockShox 30 Silver Solo Air TK, 100mm Travel||27.5"/29" (size dependent)||Shimano Deore 1x10||Tektro hydraulic||Maxxis Rekon DK60 2.25"|