How to Choose Your First Mountain Bike

Mountain bikes are the most popular type of bicycle among beginners because of their versatility. However, it is important to choose the right bike for your intended use if you want to avoid disappointment.

Specialized Rockhopper Specialized Rockhopper

If you are reading this, you have probably already tried out a bike that you rescued from the garage or borrowed from a friend, but found it does not meet your needs. Or perhaps you are looking for information on purchasing your first bike, after hearing how your friends enjoy their weekends mountain biking. Whatever the situation, once you start to look at bikes, you will discover an incredibly complex world of specifications and technology with an endless list of abbreviations and categories (XC, Trail, Down Country, Marathon, Enduro...) and with prices ranging from hundreds to many thousands of euros.

This article aims to give advice on how to choose an entry-level mountain bike that is suitable for your intended use and within your budget.

Professional Advice

We always start by recommending you seek professional and personalised advice provided by specialised stores, such as Mammoth. They will help you choose the bike that best suits your needs and avoid common beginners’ mistakes, which can lead to buying the wrong bike or spending more than necessary.

Mammoth Store


The frame and components are what will define the character of the bike and determine its price. We are going to look at those that have the greatest impact on both the price and performance, focusing on the range of entry-level bikes, between 300 € and 1,000 €.

Frame and Wheel Size

The predominant frame material of an entry-level mountain bike is aluminium, which offers excellent value for money. A top-of-the-range aluminium mountain bike can feel almost as light as one made of carbon. Steel, with few exceptions, has been relegated to very basic entry-level bikes. Bikes with carbon frames usually have a starting price of around 1,000 €

Hardtail bikes (bikes with front-suspension only) are the most logical choice for the entry-level range. It is not hard to find hardtail bikes that are lightweight and reliable, with good components. However, full-suspension bikes under 1,000 € tend to be very heavy, with poor quality components and ineffective suspension systems.

Regarding the wheel size, 26” wheels are in decline and are now mainly used on children's bikes when riders are not yet tall enough for larger wheel sizes. Most mountain bikes nowadays have a 27.5" or 29" wheel, although XC, trail and marathon bikes mainly use 29" .

Suspension Forks

There are two types of suspension forks:

  • Coil
  • Air

This is one of the most influential components regarding the behaviour of mountain bikes, so bear this in mind when choosing. The suspension fork system depends on the type of terrain.

In the lower price range, forks will have coil suspension with no rebound control. This means the firmness of the suspension system can only be adjusted with a dial that compresses or extends the spring, increasing or decreasing the stiffness, respectively. But this adjustment range is very small and to increase it, you would have to change the spring for another that is harder or softer.

In the higher price range, you can find air suspension forks. Apart from giving better performance, they allow you to customise the fork according to the rider's weight or type of terrain, vary the air pressure and rebound speed, and even the compression, on more advanced models.

For less technical trails, coil forks are sufficient, but if you intend to ride on more demanding, technical trails, you should consider the option of air forks.


Triple crank sets are becoming less common, but they are still used with 7 or 8 speeds in the lower price range, while double cranksets with 9 or 10 speeds are found in the mid range. Mountain bikes in the higher price range, usually have a single chainring system. Let’s compare the three options:

  • The double crankset is a very good option with under 11 speeds for an average cyclist.

  • The triple crankset, with 7 or 8 speeds, is the only system that guarantees a good range of gear ratios.

  • The single chainring is gaining popularity in mid to high-end bikes with 11-speed and now 12-speed groupsets, because it covers a wide range of gear ratios, which are similar to those of a multiple chainring, and is easier to use and maintain. Sram has expanded its 12-speed range with mid-range groupsets at an excellent price, such as the SX Eagle, which we can see in highly competitive models, at around 1,000 €.

ScottScale ScottScale 970 2021 with SX Eagle 1x12 single chainring


Disc brakes are indisputable on mountain bikes, and we highly recommend them if you plan to ride trails in the hills and mountains. Disc brakes are much more powerful than V-brakes, are not affected by possible rim off-centring and work quite well in the rain, which is the weakest point of the V-brake.

There are two kinds of disc brakes:

  • Mechanical, have a cable pull that offers several benefits compared to a V-Brake, but the pads need to be adjusted frequently and they are less powerful than hydraulic brakes.

  • Hydraulic, provide by far the best braking power and are self-adjusting. The drawback is the higher price and the regular maintenance required, which involves bleeding the circuit to remove air bubbles and changing the fluid, which needs doing once a year.

Our recommendation is clear; if you enjoy demanding trails: use hydraulic disc brakes, preferably by Shimano, who offer the best value for money. For less demanding use, V-Brakes or mechanical disc brakes are perfectly suitable and require less of an investment and less maintenance.

Other Components

Although other components, such as handlebars, stem, seatpost, saddle and wheels can also affect the behaviour of the bike, it is less significant and there are fewer variations between different brands in the same price range. For this reason, we will not go into more detail here.

Choosing Your Bicycle

To narrow down the choice, we are going to focus on bikes that are in line with your goals and intensity of use.

  • For short rides on undemanding terrain and easy trails, the investment can be at the lower end of the range, with prices between 300 and 500 €.
    These bikes have aluminium frames, spring forks, V-Brakes or mechanical disc brakes, 7 or 8 speed drivetrains with triple crankset, and the quality and reliability needed to get out on your bike and start enjoying the experience.

    Giant Talon 4 GE 2021 Giant Talon 4 GE 2021
  • If you want to tackle all types of terrain and extend your routes on a bike that guarantees reliability and comfort, we recommend you move up to the next price range, between 500 and 700 €, where you can find components from the Shimano Altus range or higher, 9 speeds, and even hydraulic disc brakes on some models.

    Orbea MX 50 Orbea MX 50
  • For sportier, longer rides or technical terrain, we recommend you choose air suspension forks and hydraulic brakes. There are interesting options in the price range between 700 and 1,000 € and this range will give you a lot of room to evolve as a cyclist. At around 1,000 €, we particularly liked the Scott Scale 970 2021, which we long-term tested and reviewed in the following video:

It is important to be realistic about the use you intend to give your bike, but it is also important to think about how you want to evolve in the future, so that you don’t start thinking about changing your bike after just a few months. There are certain situations that indicate this evolution and they should be taken into account:

  • If you are already involved in other sports, you are more likely to get hooked on cycling and evolve quickly.
  • If you plan cycle with a group, be aware of the type of activity and the average level of its members, because you will probably end up doing the same.

However much you try to plan ahead when choosing which model is most suitable, if you get hooked on MTB, you will certainly progress over time until you are able to face challenges that are currently unthinkable. When that time comes, you will want a higher quality bike and components that allow even greater possibilities, but for now, we will try to ensure you get the most from your investment for as long as possible. In the meantime, make the most of this wonderful sport at every single stage.

Sizing Your Bike

One last piece of advice. Whatever type or model of bike you choose, it is essential to get the correct size. Most brands have applications on their websites to calculate the size, according to your measurements, and you can get advice at our stores, both on the size and on basic postural adjustment.

At our Youtube Mundo Mammoth channel, you can find numerous videos with tips on postural adjustment. We also show you how to choose the right size of bike, for mountain biking or road cycling, in this video:

You can find the largest range of mountain bikes at Mammoth, including entry level bikes in all the price ranges discussed.

Other Tips for Beginner Cyclists

Once you have chosen your bike, we recommend you read the following article where we give basic tips for getting started in cycling. It includes information on the essential equipment and accessories.

You can also find more information in this list of related articles and videos that will make your cycling experience much easier and more satisfying:

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