In order to scale mountain ranges quickly, or simply looking for exciting rides on rugged dirt paths, a hardtail mountain bike will provide you with fun and excitement on a cross country path or a trail ride. In this review, we will show you what makes a quality mountain bike as well as which ones on the market that you should consider buying.
Since the start of the pandemic, the $1000 and under market has been extremely competitive due to supply chain issues. Many great MTB manufacturers have focused their efforts on their most expensive line of bikes. Nevertheless, we’ve done our research and found the best brands and models we could find, reviewed the bikes, and found a few we can recommend in this price range.
Not all mountain bikes are the same, though. Some have more features than others, and some even have minor differences from one another that makes the bike a whole new bike entirely. Some riders prefer a full suspension mountain bike for their type of riding, while others like the simplicity and durability of a hardtail mountain bike. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a hardtail mountain bike.
Hardtail Mountain Bike Key Factors
Every other aspect of a hardtail mountain bike comes second to the size of the frame. One thing to consider is that there is no universal size of reference; each manufacturer defines their own size of frame, and this can be problematic in the process of comparing one bike from a manufacturer to a different bike entirely. What one company classifies as a medium might be rather small for another.
Instead, look for what kind of bike fits you the best. Examine and compare how you feel on each bike. Does the seat feel comfortable? Do you feel safe when you hold onto the handlebars? Do your feet and legs move fluidly as you pedal? These are all things to take into consideration when you mount the bike for the first time.
Standard mountain bike wheels are 27.5 inches, and are made for rocky trails and downhill paths. Wheels that are 29 inches in diameter are for cross country (or XC), racing and trails of almost any kind. 29 inches are likely to be the norm within the next several years.
One unwritten rule to remember is that smaller wheels can withstand harsher trails, while bigger wheels are better for longer ones. All of the bikes in this review have wheel that are of 29 inches, so you know they are all for long, enjoyable runs in the wilderness.
Weight is vital, but strength is even more so when it comes to riding off-road. When riding over treacherous rocks, ruts and roots, flimsy is the last thing you want to describe the bike that you are riding on. On a lightweight bike, steering, cornering and your nerves all take a hit. With a beefier bike, you will be more confident while steering and controlling at optimal levels.
Not only do you want a bike with sturdy materials, but also one that feels professional. It is one thing to buy what you may think is the safest and sturdiest bike in the world, but when you get on it, you might feel like everything about the bike is held together by glue.
Does the bike you want feel great when you mount it? Do all the parts work like a well-oiled machine? This is another thing to consider when looking for a hardtail mountain bike.
Suspension is very vital when riding on bumpy and rocky terrains. Good suspension allow shock to be absorbed so that you nor your bike do not suffer pain when you land a jump or ride over bumpy trails.
On the bikes that you are reviewing, see how the shocks and forks on full suspension fare from separate reviews, and be sure that you identify their exact models. Suspension units can usually be lower in specifications than ones that you buy separately.
When it comes to suspension, quality trumps quantity. A few good shocks will typically give you a better riding experience over a handful of mediocre ones. Some bikes come with their own suspension systems, some bikes have forks that absorb impact, and other bikes have no means of absorbing shock at all, outside air in the tires. A bike with no shock absorption means that the impact of landings and bumps will go to your rump and legs, and they will hurt.
Mountain bikes can cost as little as two hundred dollars and can max out at over eight thousand dollars, with extra add-ons and perks. Spending more money on a bike is expected to result in better handling, suspension, steering, durability and comfort. The more expensive the bike that you are looking at, the better the material of the frame will be as well. The three most common materials are steel, aluminum and carbon fiber, with carbon fiber being the most expensive.
For bikes in between 500 to 1000 dollars, hardtail bikes are common within this price range. Not only that, buy they make for good entry-level mountain bikes. Most hardtail mountain bikes have hydraulic disc brakes, which require smaller maintenance and give you better modulation and more pedaling force.
These hardtail mountain bikes are also meant to serve the rider a number of years until the rider either outgrows the bike or becomes more skilled. Whether you move onto a bigger bike or a more professional bike, you are expected to pay more money, beyond the thousand-dollar limit that the hardtail bikes in this review have.
Hardtail bikes are mostly made of aluminum and are slightly lighter than steel. The ideal hardtail bike comes with an 8-speed cassette with a double or triple crankset. Its tires will also come with better treading for improved performance and ride quality.
As mentioned previously, take the bike that you are looking at for a test ride. You would not want to buy a car without riding it first, and the same can be said for a bike that you want to ride on mountain trails.
When going for a test ride, do not just make a decision after riding across the store’s floor. If applicable, see if you can try it out somewhere that will give you a simulation of what riding on it feels like. Some brands will offer demo areas in your town, for customers to try out their bikes before they buy one. Some shops also might have a private area or simulation where you can try out bikes that are for sale.
For a quality mountain bike in this price range, selection is very limited, especially during and after the 2020 pandemic. Luckily there are a few brands that are building great bikes in this price range.
7 Best Hardtail Mountain Bike Under 1000
Here’s the complete list of this years mountain bikes under $1000 we can recommend.
|Cannondale Trail SE 3|
|State Bicycle Co Pulsar 10 Speed|
|Mongoose Tyax Comp|
|Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.2|
|Cannondale Trail 8 Bike|
|Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.1|
|Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.0|
Cannondale Trail SE 3
- Weight: 32 lbs
- Frame: Aluminum
- Wheel Size: 29″
- Drivetrain: 1×11
- Fork: RockShox Judy Silver
Editors Choice winner! Mid-range components for under $1000 in a 1×11 drivetrain. If you can catch this one on sale, it may be had for under $1000 and you should buy immediately! Otherwise, it’s a stretch to get it, but we think it’s worth it.
The Cannondale Trail SE 3 mountain bike is a great choice for people who are just getting into the sport of mountain biking. The price tag may be more than you can afford, but it’s worth it to buy this entry-level bike because it will last and won’t need repairs as often as other bikes.
The bike also comes equipped with an aluminum frame which is lightweight but strong enough to take some hard knocks without bending out of shape.
Built for low-impact trails, gravel roads, and a leisurely ride around the neighborhood, Cannondale’s Trail SE is perfect for new riders.
Built on a lighter aluminum frame with relaxed geometry and WTB wheels that are tough enough to handle light off-road adventures.
Shimano M275 hydraulic disc brakes
It comes with Shimano M275 hydraulic disc brakes which give you amazing stopping power and control when you need it most. These brakes are durable and will last a while before needing repairs or replacement themselves, saving money in the long run on brake pads that can get expensive if replaced too often
RockShox Judy Silver TK 120mm Fork
The RockShox Judy Silver TK 120mm fork is an entry level XC fork that absorbs the bumps and keeps the front wheel on the ground.
The Judy has a travel of 120mm and is available with coil or air spring configuration. The Silver TK model comes equipped for people who want to be able start out on an adventure without breaking the bank, while still getting quality components that will last them years as they progress from beginner rider into intermediate level mountain biker!
Standard on high-end mountain bikes, the tapered steering tube is found on the best suspension forks on the market. This type of advanced feature is unheard of at this price point.
In a nutshell, this is the best mountain bike you can buy, that’s in stock, right now. If you find it close to $1000, buy it now before it sells out.
State Bicycle Co Pulsar 10 Speed
- Weight: 28.9 lbs
- Frame: Chromoly Steel
- wheel Size: 29″
- Drivetrain: 1×10
- Fork: Rockshox Recon Silver TK
This years Best Value Winner! The lightest bike on this years list at only 28.9 lbs, the Pulsar has quality mid-range components at a price that won’t break the bank. It’s a great first MTB I’d recommend to anyone looking to get into the sport with a bike that has many miles to go until you outgrow it’s capabilities.
The State Bicycle Co. Pulsar mountain bike is our Best Value Award winner this year. It has all the key features you want in a mountain bike and delivers it at the $1000 price point. You get a lot of performance and a ridiculously affordable price.
State Bicycle is known for its single speed and fixed gear urban style bikes, but back in 2016 they collaborated with Dustin Klein to create the Pulsar 29er mountain bike. It has a great geometry which is perfect for riding cross country terrain. The bike also comes with a nice set of components that will surely satisfy the needs of most riders in this price range.
The Pulsar is their entry into the mountain bike world and they’ve been positively received. The Pulsar provides a high end ride at an affordable price.
The bike is available in either the 27.five or 29 inch wheel size, but both versions will provide you with a great riding experience on any mountain terrain and cross country course that your heart desires.
Many consider the Pulsar a “budget” mountain bike since the features it brings to the market you typically see on $2000 bikes.
Unlike the other aluminum bikes that made our list this year, this is the only one made out of a 4130 chromoly steel frame. They’ve designed it well as the final bike weight isn’t reflective of the heavier metal.
Based out of Tempe, Arizona, we are huge fans of the Pulsar in this price point. If I only had a $1000 budget, this is the bike I’d buy.
Mongoose Tyax Comp 29er
- Weight: 31.5 lbs
- Frame: Aluminum
- Wheel Size: 29″
- Drivetrain: 1×11
- Fork: SR Suntour XCM
While the Mongoose didn’t win any awards this year, it still came in as our #3. Mongoose is a brand I used to ride way back when BMX was the only offroad bike game in town. There’s a lot to like in this bike! If you’re uncomfortable spending your hard earned money on the State Bicycle (brand you’ve never heard of), then this may be the bike for you.
Mongoose has been building bikes since 1975 and is the second bmx bike I owned as a kid. They’re a super popular brand for kids bikes and they’ve since added mountain bikes for the older population.
Specializing in making mass produced bikes at affordable prices, it’s no wonder the Tyax Comp made our list this year.
Mongoose Tyax Comp 29er Aluminum Frame
The Tyax Comp 29er comes with a light yet stiff Tectonic T2 aluminum frame with a 100mm suspension fork.
It has 15mm rise handlebars, which is great for those of us who have shorter arms and need to reach further forward than the standard “randonneur” position.
The brakes are made by Tektro with hydraulic discs on both front and rear wheels so you can stop really quickly when necessary.
Internal Cable Routing
What makes the Tyax Comp mountain bike stand out is unique cables that run inside a frame instead of on top of it. The inserts within the bike prevent debris from getting in or staying where they are on top for keeping any unwanted damage away from internal components.
Mongoose has extended the top tubes and decreased the length of the stems on the Tyax Comp. This placement allows for you to maintain balanced positioning between the seat, stem, and wheels, which translates into a more responsive handling experience when riding through mountain or technical terrain.
Mongoose built in a drop-out that lets you swap between our standard 141mm QR hub spacing and the stiffer 148mm spacing on our ride. This bike is perfect for beginners who are just starting out or intermediate riders who want to refine their skills.
T2 Tectonic Aluminum
Aircraft quality in your bike without compromising on overall frame stiffness. That’s Tectonic’s Tyax Comp mountain bike with a 50% increase in strength and 30% decrease in weight when compared to regular T1 aluminum used by other bike manufacturers.
Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.2
The Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.2 mountain bike, sold exclusively by REI, is a terrific bike at this price point and one that you should seriously consider.
The frame is made from 6061 aluminum, making it light and durable for those tricky mountain bike trails. At over 32 lbs, the aluminum frame is light. The frame is also durable and can withstand the wear and tear of off-road riding
The Co-Op Cycles DRT has a hard tail, meaning that it does not have any shock absorbing suspension on the back end of the bike. This isn’t an issue for riders who are just starting out with mountain biking or those who need or want simplicity.
The DRT 1.2 rides on 27.5″ wheels which have a nice balance of speed and agility. 29er tires would be preferable, but definitely not necessary for a new MTB rider.
The drivetrain is made up of older 2x configuration of 18 speeds, which is a bit disappointing. Call me spoiled, I know it’s a lot to ask for in the $1000 price range, but there are 3 bikes on our list that were able to do that.
Mountain Bike Components
Besides the frame and drivetrain, the components selection are what separate the good from the great bikes. The DRT 1.2 comes with front and rear disc brakes, a suspension fork, shifters on the handlebars instead of triggers and spindles that are alloy.
All in all? The DRT is an average mountain bike for a great price if you’re looking to get into it without breaking the bank. It’s sold by REI, a brand known for quality and they’ve got a stellar reputation overall.
Cannondale Trail 8 Bike
- Weight: 32.9 lbs
- Frame: Aluminum
- Wheel Size: 29″
- Drivetrain: 2×7
- Fork: SR Suntour M3030
Our Low Price Favorite! Coming in about half the price of our other 2 winners this year is the Cannondale Trail 8. If you’re really stuck on a budget, the Trail 8 is a serious MTB you should consider. For an incredible price, you get 29″ wheels, and components good for beginner trails. If this is your first start in mountain biking and you’re not sure if this is something you’ll stick with, get this bike, you won’t regret it.
The Cannondale Trail 8 mountain bike is our Low Price Favorite winner this year. Coming in almost half off the other bikes above, the Trail 8 is a great beginner bike!
It features an aluminum frame that is lightweight and durable, as well as quick release wheels that allow for easy maintenance on the go. The Shimano 2x drivetrain with 14 gears isn’t to my liking, but at this price point I won’t complain much. It provides riders with enough gears to take them up steep hills or across flat trails at their own pace.
If you’re a beginner rider or someone who isn’t sure the mountain bike life would become your passion, the Trail 8 by Cannondale is a great first bike. It has the key things a novice is looking for: recognizable brand name, entry level pricing, quality bike components, strong, and great looks.
The Trail 8 comes in a variety of sizes to fit every size of rider:
- XS: 4’6″ – 5’2″
- Small: 5’1″ – 5’4″
- Medium: 5’4″ – 5′ 8″
- Large: 5’7” – 6’0″
- X-Large: 6’0″ – 6’3″
What I really like about a bike at this price point, is that it’s the type of bike you can buy as a beginner, and if you find out you really like mountain biking, you can sell a Cannondale like this for a decent price as a used bike. Then you can take that money and upgrade to a $1000 – $2000 bike!
If you’re on a budget of around $600, I’d buy this bike without hesitation. Anything else you may find would be much lesser of a bike.
Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.1
- Weight: 31.6 lbs
- Frame: Aluminum
- Wheel Size: 27.5″
- Drivetrain: 3×7
- Fork: SR Suntour
The DRT 1.1 is the grown up version of the DRT 1.0. It’s a cheap bike designed for the beginner MTB’er. While we really like the Co-Op brand, for our money, we’d go for the Cannondale Trail 8. They’re the same price and I feel it’s a much better value.
The DRT 1.1 by Co-Op Cycles is a decent entry-level bike. It looks good and rides great. It uses a 3x drivetrain for a total of 21 gears, which in my opinion is a bit out-dated and too much mechanical movements especially for a beginner.
It rides on 27.5″ wheels with frame sizes coming in at XS – XL. It’s a step below the DRT 1.2, but it still comes with hydraulic disc brake, at the expense of lower grade components everywhere else. The tires are one of the areas I’d suggest upgrading soon after you buy the bike. You might even want to buy new tires when you place the order for your bike!
While it’s a decent contender in the $600 price range, I still find the Cannondale Trail 8 a superior bike at the same price. But there’s no doubt, it’s a sexy bike and comes in 2 great colors.
Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.0
The Co-Op Cycles DRT 1.0, in our findings, is the same as the DRT 1.1 except it comes in as an XXS size and a beautiful mineral blue color. It’s obviously designed for shorter legged riders.
The one notable difference vs the DRT 1.1 is that it comes with 26″ wheels instead of 27.5″. Everything else is pretty much the same and even the price at around $600 is spot on.
As a great grown-up bike for kids or short adults, it’s a way to get into mountain biking with a bike that fits. We don’t have any bike on our list that is this small. If you have a small bike requirement, this is the one to get from our list!
Terrific bikes we’d still like to recommend but they’ve been out of stock for over a year and we don’t know when they’ll be back in stock.
- Marin San Quentin
- Marin Wildcat Trail
- Orbea Alma H50
- Jamis Komodo Expert
- Jamis Eden Expert
We will examine each bike and accentuate all of their ups and downs. At the end of our review, we will declare our top pick for the best hardtail bike under a thousand dollars.
Marin San Quentin 1
What Marin Says
Developed in conjunction with freeride legend Matt Jones, and taking it’s name from the most rough and tumble piece of Marin County, the all-new San Quentin collection lives up to the notoriety of the namesake maximum security California State Prison. Blending the strength and style of our Alcatraz dirt jump frame with the natural trail-savvy of the Nail Trail hardtail, the San Quentin family of aggressive trail hardtails is the perfect mash-up for the modern trail rider.
- Downhill trails
- Light dirt-jump
- Aluminum Frame: The San Quentin 1 features a Series 2 aluminum frame, with tapered head tubes, 3D forged drop outs, IS disc brake mounts, and semi-internal cable routing.
- Style: Dirt Jump inspired frame style. Taking cues from the Alcatraz, the San Quentin line up provides all the benefits of the DJ style with massive stand over, slick frame tubes, and a sexy paint job.
- Geometry: The slack head tube angle paired with a steep seat tube angle create a ride that will fly uphill with perfect front wheel precision but then descend like it’s on rails. The balanced rider position thanks to the steep seat tube puts your weight between the wheels for impressive climbing and handling on flats, while the slack front end and short rear center help to pull you through the rough descents and corners with an intuitive feel.
- Sizes: One of the best things we like about this entry-level MTB is the wide size range. This bike fits practically everyone.
What We Like
The San Quentin 1 uses a lightweight aluminum frame in a dirt jump geometry with low standover height. Much like a BMX bike, this configuration should make for an easy transition to mountain biking for the new rider. It uses 27.5″ tires and a 1x drivetrain, so all the complexity and maintenance of a front derailleur are eliminated. This is our favorite bike in this price range.
Marin Wildcat Trail
What Marin Has To Say
The Wildcat Trail family crosses boundaries between Trail and Sport mountain bikes, with the Wildcat Trail 5 and Wildcat Trail 3 designed for the female hardtail enthusiast looking for a full featured trail mountain bike, and the Wildcat 1 positioned for the recreational mountain bikers.
- Single Tracks
- Fire Road Riding
- WFG: Womens’ Fit Geometry. The Wildcat Trail features Women’s Fit Geometry to better fit female riders with components like women’s specific saddles, narrower bars, and adjustable reach brake levers.
- Wheel Size: 27.5” wheels fit most riders better and create a lightweight and responsive bike.
- Frame: The Wildcat Trail 3 and Wildcat Trail 2 have a Series 2 6061 butted and hydroformed aluminum frame with a 120mm travel suspension fork and 27.5” wheels.
- Sizes: With the WFG, this MTB fits even the shortest of women and men of smaller stature.
What We Like
Another great entry-level MTB from Marin. Focused on women or vertically challenged men, this is a lightweight, throwable, and easy-to-ride bike. It also uses a 1x drivetrain so it’s super simple to use and maintain keeping you on the trails more.
Orbea Alma H50
What Orbea Says
Alma is for the the quickest lap times. The steepest climbs. Alma is for the strongest accelerations and highest altitudes. Alma is for the biggest stages, the loudest fans and the toughest riders. Alma is for the fiercest competitors, the athletes who accept nothing less than superlatives. When a few fleeting seconds separate fast from faster, Alma is for the fastest.
- Cross Country
- Frame: The Orbea Alma H50 is a budget friendly aluminum framed version of the Alma. It’s a great bike for a rider looking to get into cross-country riding with limited funds. It features similarities to the world class geometry of the far more expensive Alma models. Alma is known as a reliable hardtail that is perfectly balanced for climbing, speed, and compliance. If you are looking for an entry level bike to share your adventures on the trail with, the Orbea Alma H50 is a great choice.
- Fork: This bike not only comes with a great frame but it also comes with great components like the RockShox fork.
- 29″ Tires: The only bike on this list with massive 29″ tires. Normally seen on higher-priced bikes, 29er tires in this price range is rare.
What We Like
Orbea may not be a familiar name like Kona, Trek, and GT, but they’ve been building metal things out of a factory for over 140 years out of Spain. The Alma is a wonderful example of their long tradition of attention to detail in a modern design with fantastic pricing.
This is the best spec-for-spec value on this list. It has 29″ tires, world-class frame geometry, and an international brand name more recognized outside of the USA.
Jamis Komodo Expert
What Jamis says
If you thrive on connection to the trail, if you live for the flow of a screaming descent — Komodo will take you there without the added weight and complexity of dual suspension. This is an all-the-time trail hardtail with slack head angles plus 5” of fork travel for high-speed handling, robust frame tubes and thru-axles for big landing durability, and 27.5” wheels for smooth roll-over and agility.
- Plus Sized Tires: A 27.5×3” tire measures out to a 29” diameter and a 26×3” tire measures out to a 27.5” diameter. Combining them with a 40mm rim, results in the ultimate combination of traction, roll-over and versatility without being too heavy, too bouncy, too tall or feeling lethargic on the trail.
- Large Brakes: Bigger wheels and tires generate more rotating mass and traction once they are up to speed. So it only makes sense to use larger rotors to help control that larger wheel in the most efficient manner possible. Sure, 160mm rotors will stop the bike. But when you’re riding like every second counts, braking for the shortest time possible while keeping the bike under control is the goal. And a larger 180mm rotor up front let’s you do this.
- Tubeless: Benefits of a tubeless set-up are reduced rotating weight and the ability to use lower inflation pressures for greater traction without the risk of pinch flats. WTB TCS rims feature a tubeless UST “On-Ramp” profile providing a consistent fit between the rim and the tire for easy installation and inflation.
What We Like
In this price range this is an excellent bike. It comes with a dropper seat post that is a great feature that is often overlooked at this price.
Jamis Eden Expert
What Jamis says
Wide tires provide ultimate traction while you’re out on the trails. Not only do they provide enhanced traction, but wide tires also provide extra cushioning for a smoother ride. The Jamis Eden Expert 26+ Bike uses plus-sized 26″ tires that provide an excellent ride when in loose dirt. It has a lightweight triple-butted 6061 aluminum frame that has a tapered head tube and uses post-mount disc brakes. The frame has Boost dropouts and internal dropper post routing. The geometry of the frame makes it perfect for riding on the trails.
- Tapered Head Tube: Riding fast with control requires steering precision, which starts with the front of the bike. Stiffening this area results in less wheel deflection, more wheel control. A full 1.5” head tube and steerer would achieve this, but would add unnecessary weight and bulk, and limit stem choices. But a tapered 1 1 /8” to 1 1 /2” head tube serves up a significant increase in rough terrain tracking and stability without much of a weight penalty compared to standard 1 1 /8” systems.
- Stout Rear Axles: Securing the rear wheel to the frame by threading a 12mm axle into the rear drop-outs is not only safer, it’s stiffer. The rear wheel tracks directly in line with the frame, for more precise handling, so you can go faster with more confidence. The increase in stiffness of a 15mm fork axle improves steering & handling significantly. It also puts less stress on the fork’s internals, improving fork durability and performance. The hub drop outs provide a self centering feature for the wheel for fast, easy installation.
- Outboard Chain Line: A 12×148 rear hub with 3mm offset chainrings minimizes the chance of chain to tire contact with short chainstays and “mid-fat” tires without compromising any pedaling efficiency to a wider q-factor.
What We Like
The Jamis Eden is an entry-level trail bike that inspires confidence for those that don’t have much off-road experience. If you really like the Jamis Komodo Expert but find it just a little too big, this women’s sized version of it might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Finding the best hardtail mountain bike under 1000 from a reputable manufacturer has been a huge challenge during and post pandemic. But we’ve been able to find 7 great bikes.
Cannondale is one of most widely respected brands in bikes and they also make a great line of quality mountain bikes. It’s no wonder two of their bikes made our Winners list. If you’re ready to splurge, you can’t go wrong with the Cannondale Trail SE 3. It’s the most expensive bike on this list, but it’s an Editor’s Choice.
On the opposite end of the price spectrum, the other Cannondale is the Trail 8 bike that comes in as our Low Price Favorite. It has terrific components, from a global bike brand, and happens to be half the price of the Trail SE 3.
But my absolute favorite on this list, for our “value” buyers, is the State Bicycle Co Pulsar 10 Speed. They’re a boutique manufacturer with super high quality and attention to detail.