Whether it's for a young teenager looking for their first proper bike, a bike to ride with the kids or simply something to trial the sport with, in this article, we've shortlisted our picks of the best budget mountain bike models to consider. Despite the name, mountain bikes of this price point aren't genuinely built for riding rough off-road trails; instead, they offer a versatile bike for getting around that's capable of tackling smoother, well-maintained trails.
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The frames of all the selected bikes are made from aluminium and can host pannier racks, kickstands, and other popular accessories. Expect a hardtail mountain bike with a rigid rear triangle and suspension in the front forks with limited travel (the amount of movement in the suspension). This travel provides a comfortable ride and will vary from between 60mm and 100mm on most models at this price.
A few bikes on this list also feature the option to close off the suspension for use on smooth roads; this is known as a lock-out. Most, however, will only offer preload adjustment, which allows a small amount of control over how firm the suspension spring is.
The braking system will be either rim or disc brake, the latter the preferred option as it typically performs better in the wet. However, at this price point, bikes with rim brakes will normally be lighter. Both braking systems are likely to be operated by mechanical cables, although a few offer hydraulic systems (sealed fluid replaces cables).
Tourney and Altus are the introductory groupsets from Shimano and are commonly found on kids mountain bikes and mountain bikes under AU$600. Designed for recreational riding, rough and muddy off-road riding is beyond these value-orientated options' design criteria. From our experience testing bikes of this category, you want to look for bikes with an aluminium handlebar, and it also pays to look for wheels that feature “Double Wall” rims to ensure they stay straight. All bikes selected here tick all these boxes.
So without further ado, here are our picks (in no particular order) of the best budget mountain bikes costing under AU$600.
Giant ATX 2
Giant, the world's largest bicycle manufacturer, certainly knows a thing or two about quality aluminium frame construction. Rolling on 27.5in wheels, the ATX 2 offers a proven frame matched with a rudimentary but confidence-inspiring SR Suntour M3030 fork with 75mm of travel. Complete with a 21-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain, the ATX offers a respectable range of gears for fast on-road speeds and tackling steep inclines.
Alloy v-brakes are a bit old school compared to other options on this list but should be effective in keeping a check on speed. Rolling stock comes courtesy of Giant in the form of its double-walled alloy rims with proprietary Giant Off-Road 2.1” tyres providing the grip.
Trek Marlin 4
Offering confidently large 29in wheels in all but the smallest frame sizes, the Marlin 4 borrows several design characteristics from Trek's proven performance mountain bikes to make it steer with class. A full Shimano 21-speed drivetrain offers a gearing range more suited to off-road and path riding.
There’s a short travel 75mm SR Suntour fork featured upfront, whilst stopping power comes courtesy of Tektro. Subsidiary brand Bontrager provides the double-walled alloy wheelset, and the build is finished with capable 2.2in wide Bontrager XR2 rubber.
Reid MTB Pro Disc 27,5”
A brand known for cutting out the middleman and providing great prices direct to the customer, Australian-brand Reid sure packs a punch in the value stakes.
The MTB Pro features a Zoom 100mm fork with lockout, Tektro mechanical disc brakes and wide 2.1in wide tyres to wrap the aluminium 27.5in wheels. Perhaps most notable is the upgrade in drivetrain quality combined with the lower price point. This bike features a Shimano 24-speed drivetrain providing a more comprehensive range of gears than any other found on this list.
Haro Flightline Two
Best known for its BMX Bikes, American outfit Haro has expanded its focus in recent years but is still committed to the dirt. Sticking with its tried and true value proposition, the company sports a strong budget mountain bike lineup for the coming year.
The Flightline two featured here rolls on 27.5in wheels shod with Kenda tyres. A SunTour suspension fork with 100mm of lockout travel appears, as do Jak-7 mechanical disc brakes mated to 160mm rotors.
The Shimano 24-speed groupset with a 12-32T speed cassette offers easy pedalling and suits the beginner trails and fire roads the bike was destined to traverse. The bike is finished with a Pivit aluminium handlebar and stem combined with a proprietary saddle providing riders with a comfortable perch.
Polygon Cascade 4
The Indonesian outfit Polygon Bikes is another brand that often ranks high on the list for value for money. Its entry to mid-level bikes are widely lauded for their giant-killing specification, build quality and riding dynamics.
In addition to an SR-Suntour XCE 100mm fork, this bike offers a cassette-style rear hub (a more durable design, known as a freehub), mechanical disc brakes and is available with 27.5in. The Shimano/Sun-Race 27-speed drivetrain also earns a decent range for tackling super steep off-road inclines and fast road sections with the cassette-style gearing. Finishing off this budget trail shredder build are trail-ready 2.1in tyres.
Avanti Montari 1
New Zealand outfit Avanti is well-known for offering wallet-friendly options to consumers, and the Montari is a perfect example of that.
The Montari bolts its 29” wheels into a solid aluminium frame and features a Zoom XCE fork with 100mm of travel. This is the only steed on this list to feature hydraulic disc brakes. Hydraulic disc brakes are favoured thanks to their ability to provide consistent brake modulation and power, with no cables that can stretch and decay over time. A freehub-style rear hub hosts a Shimano Altus 21-speed drivetrain and rounds out this impressive bike.
Merida MATTS 7.10 MD
Second only to Giant in terms of bikes produced, Merida is another Taiwanese powerhouse responsible for churning out an astonishing number of bikes from its factories for numerous different brands. The Matts 7.10MD represents the mid-range sport-leisure offroad option in the Merida bike range.
Like most other options on this list, the Merida offers a 21-speed Shimano drivetrain with a freewheel-type hub. Mechanical disc brakes fitted with 160mm rotors aid in bringing the bike to a stop, whilst 2.1in All Terra 27.5in rubber provides the Matts 7.10 with its all-important grip on the trail.
XDS Strike 6.0
Another big name riders may be familiar with at this price point is the Chinese brand XDS. The Strike 6.0 features 27.5in wheels, an XDS MT30 100mm coil suspension fork and a Shimano 21-speed drivetrain. The frame of the XDS is the main selling point here, with the hydroformed aluminium frame promising a lighter weight, increased stiffness and top-tier reliability.
We hope this guide has been helpful; for more information on choosing an off-road ride to suit your needs, check out our comprehensive guide to buying a Mountain Bike.