Mountain Bike Reviews
There’s something about that crisp, clean mountain air that makes me feel alive. In my opinion there’s no better way to experience it than atop my mountain bike and cutting across the best trails that North America has to offer. When you’re dodging boulders and trying to avoid falling tree limbs, your blood sure gets pumping.
The first time I ever hit a real challenging trail I did it on a rickety old bike that had seen much better days. I still have that bike, but it’s gathering dust in my garage these days. It wasn’t long after that precarious ride down that obstacle-strewn mountain course that I realized it was time for an upgrade. My search for a bike that could handle those trails took me on a journey that’s taught me all I need to know about mountain bikes.
My Top 8 Picks
When you’re pedaling in the open air your mountain bike becomes an extension of your person, and it takes you away from the everyday mundane routines that make up your daily life. With so much variety available in the mountain bike niche it’s tough deciding what bike really fits your individual needs, and that’s why I put together this group of reviews of my own best picks. There’s no need to build this up anymore – here are my 8 best picks in the mountain bike category.
Best Trail/Street Combo Bike
Merax Finiss 26″ Aluminum 21-Speed
This bike has a classic mountain bike look, and with a 26-inch wheelbase you’ll power through trails with ease. I remember the first time I hit a real trail with a friend of mine with a lot more experience than myself; I was doing my best to keep up, and 26-inch rims would’ve come in handy then. My entry-level mountain bike just didn’t have rims with the wheelbase to keep up. If you’re looking for a bike that can handle the trails and the street as well, this is a great choice and it’s priced right.
Sturdy and Reliable
With its heat-treated aluminum frame the Merax Finiss is designed to take a beating. The last thing you want on a mountain bike is a cheap frame that can’t handle the pounding. It also has an 80mm suspension to help you navigate the difficult trails without worry. If there’s one thing that’s essential for a mountain bike that’s going to be used off road it’s a good set of forks. It also has a nice, comfortable seat for a smooth ride whether you’re on the trail or on the road. Trail riding can also be tough on the body, so a little extra cushioning is certainly a good thing.
Shift into Gear
With a Shimano 21-Speed derailleur you know you can rely on this bike to respond quickly to your shifting maneuvers. It’s nice to have options, as you never know what the trail’s going to throw at you. With those kind of shifting options you can easily adjust to your environment whether it’s road riding or trail riding. The Merax Finiss 26-inch weighs in at less than 40 pounds, so it’s also easy to whip around those turns and remain in control whether you’re on the street or on the trail. >> Full Review
Best Mainly Street Bike
Schwinn Protocol 1.0 Men’s Dual-Suspension
There was a time when the name Schwinn was considered the premier name in bicycles, but since that time Schwinn has fallen on hard times and nearly went out of existence altogether. As someone who loves nostalgia I think it’s great to see Schwinn making a strong comeback. One of the main reasons for their downfall was their failure to accept that mountain bikes were more than just a fad, but today they have a strong presence in the mountain bike category; the Schwinn Protocol 1.0 is a great choice if you use your bike predominantly for riding on streets or basic trails.
Built for Comfort
This bike from Schwinn is built with your comfort in mind. Its dual suspension system can handle trails, but it also makes for a really comfortable ride on the roads. The one thing I found with other economically-priced bikes that I’ve owned is that they tend to be a little uncomfortable – you feel every bump on the road and the alignment is often off. With this one you get a nice, even ride and hardly feel the bumps. It’s a smooth move.
The Protocol 1.0 makes shifting a breeze. With Shimano’s E-50 trigger shifters you won’t have to worry about being able to shift gears in time to react to the situation around you. The handy trigger shifters react to your split-second decisions as if they’re an extension of your own arm. There’s nothing worse than a gear shifter that doesn’t do its job properly, but you won’t have to worry about that with this bike. It’s built to handle your quickest reactions. >> Full Review
Top Performance Bike
BEIOU® Carbon Fiber 650B Mountain Bike
I love a deal as much as the next guy, but when it comes to mountain bikes, if you truly want to take your riding to the next level you have to be willing to pay for it. The BEIOU® Carbon Fiber 650B is going to cost you a pretty penny and it’s worth every cent of it. To put it simply, this bike is a cross country crushing machine. It’s got it all – the top-quality brakes, the top-quality gears, the top-quality suspension, and it looks great to boot. That’s why I place this bike clearly at the top of the performance category.
This bike has a carbon fiber frame. If you’re not overly familiar with this type of frame, it’s a top-of-the-line construction material used on the best mountain bikes. Not only is this frame tough, it’s extremely lightweight. Including the frame and all the equipment on the bike you’re still looking at less than 25 pounds. That actually makes it one of the lightest bikes we’ve reviewed, as most mountain bikes normally fall into the 30 to 40 pound range. Every once in a while you come across a point in the trail that you can’t ride over and this bike makes it easy for you to just pick it up and carry it around the obstacle.
A Gear for Every Occasion
It almost goes without saying that shifting with this bike is a dream, but that’s not only because of the quality workmanship of the gear shifter – this bike has 30 gears! That’s a pretty awesome number, especially when you consider that most mountain bikes have 21. Those extra gears make it easy to make incremental adjustments as the trail ahead of you changes quickly. I remember being pretty excited as a child when I got my first 12-speed; I never imagined there would one day be bikes with 30 different gears! >> Full Review
Best Convenience Mountain Bike
Stowabike 26″ MTB V2 Folding Dual Suspension
If you’re looking for a bike that makes an easy travel companion then you’ll definitely want to keep the Stowabike 26″ MTB V2 in mind. This bike handles the roads and trails quite well, and it conveniently folds up for easy storage if you’re traveling or if you don’t have a lot of storage space. It’s ideal if you live in an apartment or a dorm. I remember my first year in university and, believe me, I relied on my bike to get me everywhere. Unfortunately, it was a pain carrying it up my dorm’s steps as we didn’t have an elevator – I sure would have loved one of these back then.
You might think that a bike designed to fold for easy storage would be a little more lightweight, but there are certainly lighter bikes out there than this one. Having said that, this is not overly heavy, coming in at just under 40 pounds; most people will be able to handle the weight just fine. It’s certainly manageable at that weight and doesn’t really detract from the portability of the bike. Personally, I’m willing to accept a little extra weight if it means I can quickly pack my bike up in the car and take it on a long ride to hit the best trails around.
Nice Wheel Size
When I discovered this folding bike one of the first questions that came to mind was what corners were they cutting? In particular, I was worried that the wheel base would be a little smaller than normal to accommodate the folding nature of the bike. But it turns out I was wrong; this bike has a 26-inch wheelbase, which is about average for mountain bikes of decent quality and makes for a pretty fast ride. I’ve got short little legs and a long body so my legs need all the extra help they can get; that’s why I was happy to find out that they hadn’t cut corners with the wheelbase.
Best Manual/Electric Mountain Bike
Cyclamatic Power Plus
I’ve always been amused any time I’ve seen someone riding along down the road on a motor-assisted bicycle, as I’ve always wondered what the point is. My opinion had been that a bicycle is a great form of exercise as well as an environmentally friendly way of getting around an urban environment. But this bike can really extend your range, and after talking this over with some friends one night I changed my opinion. They convinced me that it’s sometimes okay to have a little assist now and then. If you want to get from A to B, but you’ve already had your workout for the day, the Cyclamatic Power Plus Electric mountain bike can get you there and still minimize your footprint on the environment.
While the fact that this bike has a built-in motor is cool enough, what really put it over the top for me was that you can still pedal it. It’s not extremely heavy at 60 pounds, so peddling this bike is by no means impossible, and even if you’re not using it for exercise, when your battery dies it’s nice to have that backup. If you’re climbing a steep hill you can turn the motor on and still pedal to give yourself that extra push. Unfortunately, I often travel a fair distance for work so I’m not quite ready to give up my car just yet, but this bike is a nice backup for when I am working in town.
Let’s face it, if you’re buying a mountain bike equipped with battery-assist the main reason you’re purchasing it is to use it for urban commuting. Sure, you’ll probably do some pedaling with it from time to time but that’s not its main purpose. The real reason this bike is such a popular item is because it’s motorized. That’s why it’s good to know that you can fully recharge this bike in about 2 to 3 hours. To be honest, I expected the process to take closer to 24 hours so I was pleasantly surprised with this fact. A single charge will also take you about 27 miles, which is generally adequate for urban travel.
Best Women’s Starter Bike
Huffy Bicycle Company Ladies Number 26335
I don’t recommend that anyone should run out and spend a fortune on their first mountain bike – you need to figure out if you really enjoy riding before you spend a lot of money. It’s always a good idea to look for a reasonably priced and reliable bike when you’re starting out. The Huffy Ladies Number 26335 is the ideal women’s starter bike. It’s designed specifically with women’s needs in mind and it’s got a strong steel frame to ensure you’ll enjoy many years of riding it.
A Comfortable Ride
We shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfort just because were heading outdoors for a little exercise, and the seat on this model by Huffy is designed to give you a comfortable ride – it’s nicely padded and professionally designed for the best ride possible. One of the main reasons my wife gave up riding was because of the extremely uncomfortable seat on the bike we bought her. When I showed her the reviews on this bike she agreed that this may be just the solution we’ve been looking for to get her out riding again.
Perfect for the Occasional Rider
It’s important to realize what this bike is not. It’s not a top-quality mountain bike built to withstand the toughest conditions, but if you’re looking for a decent ride that can be used for an afternoon out with the family this is a perfect choice. It always surprises me when I hear people complain about the quality of a product that they’ve paid very little money for, but I’ve never been one of those people. In fact, my first mountain bike lasted me 10 years and I paid about $125 for it. If you want a bike to ride occasionally but don’t want to break the bank, this is a perfect choice.
Best Men’s Starter Bike
Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bicycle
Given the importance that the Schwinn name has meant to the bicycle industry over the years, it’s not surprising to me that I’ve chosen another Schwinn product for this list. In this instance, the Schwinn High Timber mountain bike is notable for its great quality at a reasonable price. It’s packed full of great features and it has a durable aluminum frame. You might be forgiven for thinking I have a soft spot for Schwinn, but that really isn’t the case. If you’re on a limited budget this is simply one of the best choices out there.
For a reasonably-priced bike this model by Schwinn has some pretty serious shifting power. It comes with 21 different gears and it features SRAM twist shifters that make it a precision shifting machine. All that gear-changing ability comes in handy when you are hitting the trails and this bike definitely won’t steer you wrong. It’s probably not best suited for the most challenging trails, but if you’re using it for everyday street riding and some occasional off-roading, this bike will suit you just fine.
Built to Handle a Big Man
This bike has an 18-inch frame and a 29-inch wheelbase, which makes it big enough for most men. Granted, if you’re pushing 6’5 this bike may not seem appropriate, but you’re probably used to those kind of problems way up in the clouds. Personally, I’m about 6 foot and 230 pounds and this bike is the perfect size. It can handle my weight with ease and a whole lot more. If you’re concerned that a reasonably-priced bike like this might not stand up to the challenge of your weight, you shouldn’t be – it can.
Best Economy Trail Bike
Kent Thruster KZ2600 Dual-Suspension
I wouldn’t choose a bike simply because it looks nice, but there’s no doubting that the Kent Thruster KZ2600 has style. This bike looks like it should cost close to $1000, but actually it’s very reasonably priced and well within most people’s budget. It’s not only a nice-looking machine, it’s also a great ride. This bike is designed to handle the trails just about as well as it handles streets, and it would make a great addition to anybody’s garage. A lot of bikes in this price range simply aren’t built to handle the trails, making them mountain bikes in name only.
If you know a little bit about mountain bikes you’re probably well aware that most cheaper models of bikes have steel frames. In fact, you wouldn’t normally find a mountain bike with an aluminum frame unless you’re willing to spend in excess of $700 for one. This bike is well below that price point and, believe it or not, it’s actually got an aluminum frame. An aluminum frame is not only as strong as steel, it’s also much lighter, making it much better for maneuverability. This fact alone makes this bike a great deal.
The suspension technology on this bike is actually quite advanced. It features a floating suspension design that makes for an extremely comfortable ride. That’s something that comes in handy when you’re hitting those bumpy trails, or even if you’re just trying to avoid potholes on the city streets. Again, it’s a great design that you’d expect to find in a much more expensive product. I have a tendency to find every rough spot on a trail, so if there is an obstacle in the way I’m the one that will find it just about every time. It’s nice to know that this bike will have my back.
Time to Hit the Trail
Mountain bikes are popular because they’re practical for the streets as well as capable of handing the toughest trails. Most people these days don’t like to be limited in their choices and that’s why mountain bikes are so popular. Sure, there are still people who love their street bikes and racing bikes, but neither one of these types of bikes can compare to the versatility of a mountain bike. If you are in the market for a mountain bike I hope you find my top picks helpful, and I hope to see you out there on the trail soon!