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The Best Mountain Bikes Under $300 Of 2021 Helpful Guide

best mountain bike under $300

Mountain bikes are a really fun way to spend a few hours riding trails or exploring dirt roads. It can be a relaxing ride down a country dirt road trail or an exciting trip down a mountain. If you are ready to go mountain biking then let’s have a look at the best mountain bikes under $300.

Below are out top picks. Keep reading for more detailed reviewed, bike buying guide and FAQ.

Our Top Pick

Huffy Summit Ridge

Best Full Suspension

Northwoods Aluminum Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Best Value

Dynacraft Vertical Gauntlet Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The Top 5 Best Mountain Bikes under $300

Top Pick

Huffy Summit Ridge Hardtail Mountain Bike

  • The indexed Shimano TZ-31 rear derailleur combines with the micro-shift twist shifter to deliver 21 speeds
  • 26 X 1.95 knobby tires tear into dirt bike paths with ease; linear pull hand brakes deliver consistent stopping action
  • Slight-rise handlebar enables upright riding to minimize back and shoulder strain

Summary

Huffy has long been known as a maker of high quality value bikes. They have been building bikes since 1892. The Huffy Summit Ridge is no exception. It makes a great starter bike for those looking to spend some time on trails or backroads. It has all Shimano shifting with twist shifters and a 3 x 7 driveline. It has a quick release seat so you can quickly make adjustments without bringing tools along.

Components

  • Wheel Size – 26 inch
  • Suspension Fork – Kolo 1200 fork
  • Front Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Shifters – Shimano Tourney Twist Shift
  • Brakes – U Brakes
  • Chain Rings – 3
  • Rear Cogs – 7
What We Liked
Shimano Tourney Shifting
26 inch wheels
Coil spring front suspension
Quick release seat post
3×7 driveline

Best Full Suspension

Northwoods Aluminum Full Suspension Mountain Bike

  • Full Suspension Aluminum Frame with 50mm Steel Crown Fork
  • 26 Alloy Rims
  • 21 Speed Twist Shifters

Summary

The Northwoods Aluminum Full Suspension Mountain Bike is a cheap way to get into a full suspension mountain bike that will smooth out all the ruts and pot holes on your favorite dirt roads. It has a single pivot rear suspension and undamped coil springs so it won’t be the greatest climbing bike out there. For cruising down dirt roads and bumpy paths it will keep you feeling comfortable.

This bike has Shimano Tourney components with a 3 x 7 driveline (21 speeds) and u-brakes. One complaint about this bike is that it has no water bottle mounts. You will have to carry water by hydration pack or some other way.

Components

  • Wheel Size – 26 inch
  • Suspension Fork – Coil spring front and rear shock
  • Front Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Shifters – Shimano Tourney Twist Shift
  • Brakes – U Brakes
  • Chain Rings – 3
  • Rear Cogs – 7
What We Liked
Front and rear coil spring suspension
Shimano Tourney shifting with twist shifters
26inch wheels
Aluminum frame
3×7 driveline

Best Value

Dynacraft Vertical Gauntlet Dual Suspension Mountain Bike

  • Full suspension mountain bike frame
  • 21 speed Shimano index derailleur
  • Front and rear V-brakes

Summary

The Vertical Equator 26″ Dual Suspension Mountain Bike full suspension mountain bike value that will give you a smooth ride out on the lumpiest of dirt roads. It has a single pivot rear suspension and undamped coil springs so it won’t be a great climbing bike. For cruising down rails to trails paths or backcountry dirt roads it will work great.

This bike has Shimano Tourney components with a 21 speeds (3 x 7 driveline) and u-brakes. One short coming of this bike is that there is no water bottle mounts on the frame.

Components

  • Wheel Size – 26 inch
  • Suspension Fork – Coil spring front and rear shock
  • Front Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Shifters – Shimano Tourney Twist Shift
  • Brakes – U Brakes
  • Chain Rings – 3
  • Rear Cogs – 7
What We Liked
Full suspension with front and rear coil spring shocks
3×7 driveline
Shimano Tourney shifting with twist shifters
U Brakes
26inch wheels

Kent T-29 Men’s Mountain Bike

  • A lightweight 6061 heat treated aluminum frame provides an excellent foundation
  • Shimano RS25 Shifters and TZ31 Derailleurs ensure a precise and crisp drivetrain
  • Lightweight alloy 29-Inch rims provide lower rotational weight compared to steel rims making the bike feel agile

Summary

The Kent T-29 mountain bike is one of the few value bikes with 29inch wheels as opposed to 26 inch wheels. This gives the bike better smoother rolling then it’s smaller wheel cousins. This bike has Shimano Tourney derailleurs with Shimano Revoshift twist shifters. It has a quick release seat post as well for making quick adjustments.

Components

  • Wheel Size – 29inch
  • Suspension Fork – Coil Spring Fork
  • Front Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Shifters – Shimano RS25 Revoshift
  • Brakes – U Brakes
  • Chain Rings – 3
  • Rear Cogs – 7
What We Liked
29 inch wheels
Quick release seat adjustment
Shimano Revoshift twist shifting
3×7 driveline
Aluminum frame

Huffy Hardtail Mountain Trail Bike

  • The lightweight aluminum hardtail frame is backed by our limited 10-year frame warranty
  • An all-Shimano drivetrain and indexed rear derailleur deliver 21 speeds of ultra smooth, precise shifting
  • Front suspension delivers the right response for whatever terrain you ride

Summary

The Huffy Hardtail Mountain Trail Bike is an excellent entry level mountain bike for those looking to explore some trails. It is a great value bike similar to all Huffy’s. It has Shimano Tourney components with trigger shifting and 21 speeds (3×7 driveline). It has a coil spring front suspension fork to make the trail a little smoother. It has a quick release seat post for easy seat height adjustment out on the trail.

Components

  • Wheel Size – 6inch
  • Suspension Fork – Coil Spring
  • Front Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Rear Derailleur – Shimano Tourney
  • Shifters – Shimano Tourney
  • Brakes – U Brakes
  • Chain Rings – 3
  • Rear Cogs – 7
What We Liked
Shimano EZ fire Plus trigger shifting
3×7 driveline
U-Brakes
Coil spring front shock
26 inch wheels
mountain biking on a path

Best Mountain Bikes Under $300 Buying Guide

I run a Meetup that does casual mountain biking events. I get asked several times a year “What bike should I get?” If my best biking friend asked me what to buy if he only had $300 to buy a bike I would recommend shopping for a used bike a few years old. New bikes at the $300 price range really have a lot of compromises to hit that price point. I understand that some people do not like buying used.

At $300 you can still find some good values but understand the bike will have some performance and durability limits without exception.

What should a $300 Mountain Bike Have?

The better end of $300 mountain bikes tend to all have the following:

  • Most will be hard tails without rear suspension
  • 26 inch wheels. There are a rare few with 27.5 or 29inch wheels
  • A generic undamped coil spring suspension fork
  • Shimano Tourney components.
  • U-Brakes. There are a rare few with mechanical pull disc brakes.
  • 3x driveline meaning it will have 3 chain rings and between 7 rear cogs.
  • It will weigh between 30 and 40 lbs.
  • Most have a quick release seat post

What Won’t A $300 Mountain Bike Have?

A $300 mountain bike will not have any components above Shimano Tourney level. Expect things to break with hard trail riding. There won’t be quick releases for the front or rear wheels. This is a giant shortcoming because you can’t remove a wheel to fix a flat tire without a couple of wrenches to loosen the nuts holding the wheels on.

There won’t be any damping in the suspension. You will get a pogo stick feel to the bike if you hammer on it hard pedaling. Likely you will get all generic wheels and tires and any other part on the bike.

Can you still enjoy riding this under $300 bike? Absolutely. Understand it’s limits when you take it out on the trail. It will work fine for a smooth flow trail without many roots or rocks. It will be great on dirt roads. It may not last long on a technical trail with lots of roots and rocks or any kind of jumps.

What Can I Get If I Spend More Than $300?

Going above $300 you will get upgrades to driveline and suspension fork. Parts will get more durable and lighter weight. You’ll get quick release wheels. 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 disc brakes, maybe even 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. That $700 bike from a few years ago that sat in someone’s garage unused is now $300 or less. Beware there is a lot of junk used bikes out there for sale too that have been totally beaten to death. 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. Likely if you go to a dedicated bike shop they will not have any mountain bikes below the $500 price point. There is a good reason for this because $300 bikes just have too many compromises and things that break easily. To get this level bike you can shop online or go to Walmart or similar stores or sporting goods stores such as Dicks.

Shimano and SRAM Components

The 2 main producers of mountain bike components are Shimano and SRAM. The majority of bikes around $300 will have Shimano Tourney components. There only real difference is that some will have twist shifters and some will have trigger shifters.

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.

Front Suspension Forks

Most bikes in the $300 range will have either a generic coil spring front suspension fork. Bikes in the next price range up category will all start having forks made by Suntour. There are much better forks out there by RockShox, Fox, Manitou and several other brands. You won’t find them on new bikes under $1000. Below is list of the levels of suspension on mountain bikes.

Generic Coil Spring – A very basic front suspension with no damping, adjustments or lockouts.

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

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

Suntour 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.

Forks by Rockshox, Fox, etc. – Much stiffer and lighter weight suspension forks with tunable travel, air springs, damping and lockouts.

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. $500 to $800 bikes all have 3 chain rings and 7 or 8 rear cogs. In the under $300 range all bikes are 3 chain rings with 7 cogs or 21 speeds.

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.

26inch 27.5inch vs 29inch wheels

There are 2 most popular wheel sizes out there right now for mountain bikes. 27.5 inch and 29 inch wheels.

Some bikes may still some with 26inch wheels. The first mountain bikes all had 26 inch wheels but they are not as good for performance as 27.5 or 29inch wheels. They do not roll over objects as easily and are less efficient than the larger wheel sizes.

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.

Front Suspension vs Full Suspension

Front suspension or hardtail bikes only have a front fork with a spring and damping on higher end bikes. They have no rear suspension. Full suspension bikes have a front suspension fork and a rear suspension system.

Front Suspension

Front suspension costs less than full suspension because it has less parts. Front suspension bikes are more efficient to pedal because they don’t have a suspension pivot in the driveline. They are the clear winner in performance for smoother trails or dirt roads. On rough trails they give a rough ride and will transmit every bump up through your seat.

Full Suspension

Full suspension bikes are wonderful on a trail with lots of roots and rocks. They can smooth out a lot of trail chatter. They are good at absorbing jumps and big hits. Full suspension works great when it has damping and multiple pivots and links to let it pedal with high efficiency.

At $300 price point, rear suspensions have only a single pivot and no damping. They are very poor for pedaling efficiency relative to a hardtail. In the under $300 bikes with full suspension you are getting something that is good for smoothing out dirt road pot holes. You are not getting something designed for pedaling efficiency or big hits.

My general thoughts on full suspension are to stay away from it on bikes under about $1500. You won’t get a well designed durable linkage system with damped shock absorber below that.

Mountain Biking FAQ

mountain biking up mountain trail

Q: What mountain bike should I get if I have $300 to spend?

Find the bike with the best components, fork, and driveline you can afford. You can get a much better value from a used bike than a new bike at this price point.

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 $300 you really won’t find any bikes at the local bike shop. They generally have bikes that start at $500 and up. You can find bikes online or at Big Box stores such as Walmart or Dicks Sporting Goods.

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. It’s a good chance to see how their service department reacts and whether you’ll want to buy your next mountain bike from them when it’s time to upgrade.

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.

Bike parts aren’t that cheap. With a couple of upgrade parts you’ll quickly spend enough that you could have bought a better bike to begin with. Think through any upgrade you want before going out and buying parts.

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 pack vs water bottles for mountain biking for more information.

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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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 Gear Craver as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.

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