Giant Talon MTB 2021
© Giant

The best mountain bikes you can buy for under £500

Looking for your first MTB? Here are the best value mountain bikes available in 2023 that should suit any budget.
Written by James McKnight
6 min readUpdated on
Although mountain biking can seem like an expensive hobby to get into, it doesn't have to be. In fact, it's possible to snap up a trail-ready hardtail mountain bike (meaning front suspension only) for around or under £500.
At this price, you can get a bike from a reputable big-name brand that will be able to take on anything a first-time mountain biker or returning rider wants to tackle – be it gravel roads, slaloming your way around local singletrack, or even trips to UK trail centres.
Although anything around £500 or less is considered a budget mountain bike, at this price point a bike should have a basic but reliable suspension fork, a lightweight rigid (no suspension) aluminium frame, hydraulic disc brakes, a wide range of gears and sturdy finishing parts.
While a £500 mountain bike is not going to have an all-singing, all-dancing components list, it should be a good starting point to get into the sport. And who knows, if you enjoy it, you'll have a solid frame that you can start to upgrade componentry around.
Due to current global supply chain issues, many of the bikes below might not appear to be in stock on the manufacturers’ websites, usually because the brands are selling any new stock directly to dealers. You’ll probably need to do a bit of shopping around to find a local bike shop with these bikes available. It’s also worth noting that a number of the picks are in fact a shade over £500. The days of picking up a truly good value MTB with change from £500 are numbered, and most reputable brand’s ranges start north of that magic marker.
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Here are some of the best under £500 mountain bikes you can get in 2023.

1. Trek Marlin 4

Trek Marlin 4

The Marlin 4 gets you a bike from a big brand without a big price tag

© Trek

Price: from £475

Frame sizes: XS, S, M, ML, L, XL, XXL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size: 27.5” (XS, S) or 29” (M-XXL)

Suspension travel: 100mm

According to Trek, the Marlin 4 is for everyday riders venturing out on trail rides and also using the bike to get about. The devil is in the detail, and the Marlin 4 not only looks great but also ticks all the boxes for all-round usage: rack and kickstand mounts, SR Suntour 100mm travel suspension fork (80mm on size XS), Tektro mechanical disc brakes and a selection of Bontrager finishing parts. Size XS and S bikes also have a dropped top tube for increased standover height and easier manoeuvrability. While most of the colour options will set you back a shade over £500, you can pick up this magenta number and still have £25 change.

2. Giant Talon 3

Giant Talon 3

Most models can come with either 27.5" or 29" wheels

© Giant

Price: £499

Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size: 27.5" (XS, S, M, L) or 29" (S, M, L, XL, XXL)

Suspension travel: 100mm

Giant’s bikes are known as no-fuss workhorses and the Talon 3 fits that bill. It has Tektro hydraulic brakes, a 100mm-travel SR Suntour fork (80mm travel on size XS) and the bike is finished with Maxxis Ikon tyres – a fairly low-profile set that offers up minimal rolling resistance. Giant gives you the option to choose 27.5” or 29” wheels on some of the sizes (S, M, L), with the XL and XXL rolling on 29” wheels only.

3. Cannondale Trail 8

Cannondale Trail 8 MTB 2021

The Trail 8 has the same frame as models that are much more expensive

© Cannondale

Price: £500

Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size: 27.5” (XS, S) or 29” (M-XL)

Suspension travel: 75mm

The Trail range of hardtails from Cannondale stretches across the price brackets (topping out at the £1,750 Trail SE 1), but this introductory Trail 8 is a steal. Tektro mechanical disc brakes, WTB Ranger Comp tyres and a 75mm-travel SR Suntour fork are some of the basic-but-functional components on this aluminium alloy frame. Cannondale own-brand finishing parts complete the package. Its internal cable routing keeps cables out of the way and gives the bike a sleek aesthetic. The two smaller sizes (XS and S) feature 27.5” wheels, with the bigger bikes rolling on 29” wheels.
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4. Merida Big Nine 15

Merida Big.Nine 15 MTB 2021

Merida also do the Big.Seven – the same bike but with 27.5" wheels

© Merida

Price: £600

Frame sizes: M, L, XL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size: 29”

Suspension travel: 100mm

Merida is perhaps the least known brand on this list, but it is nonetheless a major manufacturer with a range of value and performance bikes. The Big Nine 15 is the best value in a line of similarly priced hardtail mountain bikes but it packs a solid punch for the money.
As with most bikes at this price, it comes with a SR Suntour 100mm travel fork and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. There are only three sizes available (M, L, XL) – if you’re looking for something smaller you’ll want the identically-specced Big Seven, which has smaller 27.5” wheels (available in sizes XS, S, M, L).

5. Specialized Rockhopper Sport

Specialized Rockhopper Sport

The Rockhopper Sport is at home on singletrack

© Specialized

Price: £629

Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size: 27.5” or 29”

Suspension travel: 90mm or 100mm

Specialized has an enormous range of mountain bikes, from budget to bank-breaking. The Rockhopper has been a staple in the brand’s line-up for decades now and it remains a favourite for singletrack trail riding. The Sport model features comfortable and confidence-inspiring geometry and a smart selection of dependable components including hydraulic disc brakes and 90- or 100mm-travel forks. Wheel size is selected for each size (27.5” for smaller sizes, 29” for bigger ones).

6. GT Aggressor Expert

GT Aggressor Expert

The Aggressor Expert is ideal if mixing road and off-road

© GT

Price: £550

Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size: 27.5” (XS-L) or 29” (S-XL)

Suspension travel: 80mm

GT pitches the Aggressor Expert as a versatile entry-level mountain bike for riding on- and off-road. The Aggressor’s fast-rolling WTB Ranger tyres and 80mm fork travel are best suited to riding on smooth, hard-packed surfaces. Hydraulic disc brakes, size-specific wheels and a wide range of gears means it will get you safely and smoothly through most urban and light mountain bike rides.

7. Cube Aim

Cube Aim 2022

The 2022 edition of the Aim features a completely revised frame

© Cube

Price: £549

Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL

Frame material: Aluminium

Wheel size: 27.5” (XS, S) or 29” (M, L, XL, XXL)

Suspension travel: 100mm

Cube’s value hardtail has Tektro hydraulic disc brakes and a 100mm-travel SR Suntour suspension fork. The cheapest model in the German manufacturer’s Aim range it still features neat internal cable routing, while hidden rack and mudguard mounts make it a great option for off-road commuting. Two wheel sizes are available (27.5” and 29”) depending on frame size.

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