A mountain biker takes a break from riding to check his phone on his ROKFORM V4 Pro Series Bike Phone Mount.

The 3 Best Mountain Bikes for Beginners in 2023

Fresh off your first few trail rides, and hopelessly hooked on mountain biking? We get it! You're starting down a path that can lead to a lifelong hobby. Now it's time to find the best mountain bikes for beginners!


If you've done your first few rides, you'll know that you can't just bring any bike to the trail. When you’re looking for your first mountain bike, you need to find a bike that will hold up to the high demands that trail riding places on it. There’s a lot to consider- price point, riding style, and key features like suspension all make a big difference to how well your bike will fit your needs. If you are unsure what bike to go with, this guide will help you make the right choice when you head to your local bike shop or search online for a bike. There will even be a few recommended models at the end!


ROKFORM is no stranger to mountain biking- our line of phone mounts for your bike is designed to keep you connected and having fun while you ride. Whether you prefer the ultimate security of the V4 Pro Series Bike Phone Mount or the flexible mounting of the Sport Series Bike Phone Mount, our compatible phone cases provide an unmatched level of security to make sure that you and your phone make it home safe. Our Rugged Samsung Galaxy cases are the perfect choice for making sure your phone is safe – without stuffing it into your bag when you start the ride.

What Are the Top Tips for Choosing Mountain Bikes for Beginners?

For beginners, choosing a mountain bike can be overwhelming. To make the process easier, consider your budget and the type of riding you'll be doing. A bike that fits you properly is also crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable experience.


Finding the right mountain bike for you will take some time, and there are different ways to go about it. The easiest way to secure a great bike is to visit your local bike shop- they'll have an experienced employee that can guide you to the best bike for you. This is a great option since you'll be able to test different sizes and different models quickly to find your first bike. However, you'll be paying a premium for a brand-new bike, as well as the markup for the shop's cut.


Shopping online or at a used bike store is a great way to lower the price range of entry-level bikes, but you'll need some basic knowledge to understand what type of mountain bike will work for your needs. Here are some guiding factors that you can use to determine what's worth your money or not. Don't get discouraged if you don't find the right bike at first, especially if you're shopping secondhand. Great deals on bikes pop up all the time- slow and steady wins the race!

1. Pick Established Brands

If this is your first mountain bike purchase, one way to know that you're going to get a good value is to choose a brand that has made a name for itself in the industry already. Brands like Santa Cruz, Marin, Specialized, and Trek are all well-known for their contributions to mountain biking and will have perfectly good entry-level mountain bikes.

How Much Do Mountain Bikes for Beginners Cost?

The amount that you spend on your bike can directly correlate to the level of quality and components of your mountain bike. Check out the table below to get a better idea of the different range of specs you can expect depending on your budget, as well as some of the brands to go for.

Mountain Bike Price Ranges and Specs

 

Low Range

$

Medium Range

$$

High Range

$$$

Frame

Steel

Titanium, Aluminum

Carbon Fiber

Suspension

Rigid Frame

Coil Front Fork

Full Air Suspension

Brakes

Rime Brakes

Mechanical Disc Brakes

Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Brand

Cannondale, KHS, Huffy

Trek, Giant

Specialized, Santa Cruz, Canyon

If you're shopping secondhand, one of your best guideposts to getting great value for the price is to stick with these brands. While it's always nice to have the latest and greatest, iconic bikes like the Specialized Rockhopper have been a solid choice for mountain bikers for decades. Even if you can't find something made in recent years, it's worth serious consideration to go with one of these brands.

A Specialized S-Works mountain bike using a ROKFORM Sport Series bike phone mount to hold a smartphone.

2. Check the Brakes

Mountain biking often means riding at fast speeds down unpredictable, rough pathways. You need a bike that's going to have lots of stopping power so you don't end up running off the trail on a tight turn.


Most mountain bikes come standard with mechanical disc brakes or hydraulic disc brakes, but older models may not. Especially if you plan on tackling more technical trails, make sure that you pick a bike that has the right brake system. If you're not sure how to identify what type of brakes a bike has, you can usually look up the bike on the internet. There are also guides to identifying different brake types online.

3. Suspension Defines the Ride

When it comes to mountain biking, one of the main upgrades that you get as you go further up the price range is more suspension. Cheaper bikes will probably only include a front fork, which takes the edge off of the impact of the trail but does little for your rear end going over the trail.


Full-suspension mountain bikes include rear suspension, which absorbs the impact of the trail on the back half of the bike. In combination with a front suspension fork, a rear shock can completely transform your ride. Some riders prefer a hardtail, or a bike with only a front suspension, but it's worth getting as much suspension as you can afford, especially if you're not used to how rough the trail can be on your bike and body.


The main way to assess suspension quality is by looking at the mm of "travel" that your potential bike has. While there are exceptions, generally the more travel the better. "Travel" is the distance that your suspension is able to move before "bottoming out", or impacting the other end of the shock. Aggressive riders will feel more comfortable going for bigger jumps and going over bigger potholes with more mm travel under them, while more relaxed riders will simply enjoy that the bike takes more oomph out of the bumps you'll inevitably encounter.

A mountain biker rounds a tight corner.

4. Check the Wheel Size

Mountain bikes generally come in two wheel sizes- 29-inch wheels and 27.5-inch wheels. If you're buying used, it's possible you'll also encounter a 26-inch wheel. You can find the measurement of the wheel on the side of the tire.

29 inch v2 27.5 inch wheel size

Generally, a smaller wheel will accelerate faster but needs more active stabilizing in order to keep your balance. A larger wheel will absorb more of the trail but will be slow to get going. For more information on this, you can check out our guide to mountain bike wheel sizes.

Our Picks for Best Mountain Bikes for Beginners

If you are looking to buy new and don't want to spend all day comparing models, we've picked a few bikes that stand out to us as the best choice for new riders that are looking to get a smooth ride for a great price. 


There's no shortage of good bikes out there–these are just a few models that stood out to us. Don't be afraid to look for yourself, armed with the basic guidelines above.


Once you've got a bike, our pick for the best beginner gear is a good phone mount! Keeping your phone accessible and secure is important for so many aspects of trail riding- navigating to the trail, keeping your favorite songs on the playlist, and catching that picture-perfect moment all require your phone at your fingertips.


For the demands of trail riding, our V4 Pro Series Bike Phone Mount threads directly into your handlebar stem, so you never have to worry about it coming off or slipping during a ride.

Paired with the unmatched protection of our Rugged iPhone and Galaxy phone cases, you can confidently put your phone within reach without worrying about breaking it in a crash. Don't wait until you lose your way to the trailhead for the first time- invest in durable protection for your phone and fan the flames of your mountain biking passion.

Trek Marlin 4

Trek has been a major player in the US bike industry for decades, and their entry-level mount bike, the Trek Marlin 4, has everything you need to get out on the trail, and plenty of capability to serve as a daily commuter.


With a 100 mm front fork, mechanical disc brakes, and a 3X7 drivetrain, the Marlin 4 delivers comfort, safety, and the ability to handle steep climbs at a remarkable $530 price point. With mounts for a back rack and fenders, you can easily upgrade this bike into a commuter and make use of it off the trail. Still, Trek has designed a bike that is ready to ride tough, technical terrain without skipping a beat.

Specialized Rockhopper

Since the release of the iconic Stumpjumper, Specialized has been known as a company at the forefront of mountain bike development. The Rockhopper has a decades-old history as one of Specialized's premier trail riding bikes, making it a great choice for first-time buyers who want to know what quality feels like. With a 2X8 Shimano MicroSHIFT drivetrain, you'll have plenty of gear range to tackle tough hills and make the most of steep downhills.


A custom Suntour front fork gives you the perfect amount of suspension. With Radius mechanical disc brakes rounding out the build, you have everything you need to have a good time on the trail. Retailing at $650, this bike is a great starter bike for any rider.

Marin Bobcat Trail 3

​For those willing to spend a bit more, the Marin Bobcat Trail delivers some nice upgrades that you'll thank yourself for as you get more seriously into mountain biking. Marin's name is based on Marin County, one of the birthplaces of mountain biking, and since 1986 they've been pioneers in the sport.


The Bobcat Trail is their entry-level offering and is perfectly set up to get you on the trail and keep you riding happily for years to come. Their Suntour front fork has 120mm of travel, more than any bike on this list. The Shimano Altus 2X8 drivetrain is sturdy and gives you plenty of options. Impressively, the Bobcat Trail 3 comes with Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, which offer superior braking power and durability as compared to mechanical disc brakes. At a $699 price tag, sometimes it pays to splurge a little!

When you get the right bike underneath you, you can tackle any trail!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are good places to find a second-hand mountain bike for beginners?

There are plenty of good places to find used mountain bikes! If you live in a more urban area, you can often find a used bike shop in your area that will have a wide variety of bikes to choose from. If you're looking online, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay have a very active bike trade that you can take advantage of if you have the right eye for quality. If you're looking for a more curated experience, websites like The Pros Closet sell more vetted bikes, but they will be at a premium. Don't be afraid to look around for a while before making a decision! New (to you) bikes are being sold all the time.

What are some signs that a mountain bike is bad quality?

​There are a few things to look out for to make sure that the mountain bike you found on Craigslist is actually worth buying:

  • Does it have disc brakes? Mountain bikes with rim brakes will need more maintenance, and won't have as much stopping power, making it more dangerous to get up to high speeds.
  • Does it have full suspension, with a suspiciously low price tag? If the bike is cheap and has a lot of features, then chances are that each individual component is low quality. It's better to go for a bike that has less impressive features if it means it was made with quality in mind!
  • Does it have any components that are significantly degraded or broken? Whoever you buy from should be able to talk about the repair history of the bike, as well as what is currently in need of fixing. You're too early in your journey to take on any significant repair project- invest in a bike that's ready to be used without too much effort.
A closeup of a mountain biker with a ROKFORM Sport Series bike phone mount on his handlebars.

Do these mountain bikes work well for all types of mountain biking?

​The bikes on this list are good all-around picks for the demands of trail riding. If you're looking for bikes that will fit a more specific class of mountain biking, like downhill or free riding, then you need a bike that's more specifically suited for the challenges of those disciplines. 


If that doesn't make sense to you, you're all set from this list! If you're hooked on one specific side of mountain biking, though, you should talk to the members of those communities to get a sense of what the right bike for you will be.

Time to Hit the Trail!

Here at ROKFORM, we know the thrill of mountain biking is born from being able to let go of your daily worries and get caught up in the thrill of riding through nature. We also know that the worst possible outcome of your next trail ride is losing your way on the trail and constantly pulling over to get directions.


When you're in the saddle, you need a setup that's going to make staying on track easy. With a ROKFORM bike phone mount, you can trust that you're keeping the right pace and heading in the right direction by having your phone at your fingertips at all times. Combined with the proven protection of our compatible phone cases, you can be confident that your phone is safe and secure as you tackle tough trails and go for a new personal best.

Why you need a phone on your handelbars

"This device anchors securely and easily, giving me confidence that my phone is visible, at the ready, but secure."

- Henry B.

ROKFORM: Here to Help Your Mountain Biking Journey!

If you're buying mountain bikes for beginners, you're just at the beginning of your journey- get started on the right foot by investing in a bike that will serve your needs for years to come. It may be tempting to spend less at first, but striking the right balance between price and quality will serve you better than going for the cheapest option.


Planning your next big mountain biking trip? Let ROKFORM help! Check out our essential packing guide to make sure you don’t forget anything on your next ride. If you’re dreaming up new locations to push your limits, you can pick from our list of mountain bike destinations that will be sure to deliver on a good trip!


Have questions about our products or which case is right for your smartphone? We are available for online chat or in-person at our Irvine, California showroom. Call us toll-free at 855-765-3676, or email us at info@rokform.com, or visit us at www.rokform.com

Frequently Asked Questions About ROKFORM

Are your cases wireless charging compatible?

Yes. For best wireless charging results, we reccomend the following: For Apple® MagSafe® Wireless Charger USB-C 65W Wall Charger from Anker, you can find it on Amazon by searching ASIN: B08F28BH7C. For a wireless charging Pad: TOZO W1 10W wireless charger, you can find this on Amazon by searching ASIN: B07FM8R7J1 and the Apple® 20W USB-C charging adapter. For in vehicle charging: We cannot guarantee that wireless charging with a Crystal or Rugged case will work with all Qi® chargers and in all vehicles due to the nearly infinite combinations, including vehicle type, charging area, power output, etc. For Crystal case customers: Please be sure to remove the round inner microfiber ring on the inside of the case. We no longer include this with current production but if you have it, please remove it for best performance. Removing the round liner will not affect protection. Questions: If you have any questions, please call our customer service team at 855-765-3676 or e-mail at info@rokform.com

Will the magnet in your phone cases hurt my phone?

NO. Manufacturers have been using magnets in phones and tablets for years. Our specially designed rare earth magnets are proven safe for all smartphones and tablets. In a product overview from MacWorld, they said: "magnet based accessories are safe to use on iPads and pose no threat of scrambling interior electronics.” Our magnets will not harm your credit cards either. Magnets will only affect spinning hard drives found in old laptop and desktop computers. The magnet also may affect a hotel key but then again what doesn't? Bottom line, our magnets are safe but don’t set your phone on your old computer or your hotel key ;-)

What is your return policy?

We have a 60-day return policy. To start a return please email us at info@rokform.com. To view our complete return policy, please click here. Our goal at Rokform® is 100% customer satisfaction. Please call us at 1-855-ROKFORM (1-855-765-3676) with any questions or concerns, and we’ll be happy to assist you. Customer Service Hours: - Monday – Thursday, 8am – 5pm PST - Friday, 8am - 3pm PST - Saturday and Sunday: Closed - Toll Free: 1-855–ROKFORM (855) 765-3676

What is your warranty policy?

We have a limited 2-year warranty on most of our products. If you have purchased a product with electronics those products have a 1-year warranty. To submit a warranty ticket please email us at info@rokform.com. To view our full Warranty Policy visit this link: https://www.rokform.com/pages/warranty

Where can I find ROKFORM in my area?

A list of authorized Rokform re-sellers can be found at the link below. http://www.rokform.com/resellers-list

How do I contact Customer Service?

https://www.rokform.com/pages/contact-rokform

Where can I find more information about shipping?

https://www.rokform.com/pages/shipping-information

What makes ROKFORM cases different?

We could go on and on! Luckily, we've simplified it for you here: https://www.rokform.com/pages/case-comparison

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