Buying Your First Mountain Bike – How Much to Spend?

Buying Your First Mountain Bike, to hit trails like these

Your first mountain bike can take you amazing places

Of all the questions that come through to me through this site, the number 1 is, inevitably, “I’m new to mountain biking, how much to do you think I should spend on my first bike?”

No doubt, it’s the most common question asked of just about anyone that’s a public face around any hobby or sport. Of course, it’s simply because no-one wants to spend too much on getting into a new pastime. After all, how many people can honestly say they haven’t wasted a bunch of time and money on a new hobby, something they were going to do for the rest of their lives, only to find that it was a passing fad and the kit now lies gathering dust in the garage.

Mountain biking is no different – I’m pretty sure we could all ride happily for the rest of our lives on amazing bikes sourced from cobweb ridden sheds and lock-ups around the country. Imagine the shiny new kit that’s just mouldering away. Oh the humanity of it all!

So, in that vein, I thought I’d offer up the standard advice I give to anyone who asks me that question in person. And that answer is….. it depends.

Before you throw the nearest heavy object you have to hand at me, stop! Wait. It really does…

Buying a Budget Mountain Bike

For: Anyone who hasn’t cycled since they were a kid

The first option, and the one most people go for, is just to buy a cheap, but serviceable bike that’ll last 6 months and give you a taste for the sport. This is what I recommend for most people that have really never cycled before.

Many who want to get into mountain biking have literally never turned a pedal since they were 14, but some of their mates are into it so they thought they’d give it a go. This is the ideal candidate for a sub £400 bike.

You want it new, because you wont know how to fix the little things that go wrong with a second hand bike. You want it cheap because there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll ride it 3 times and then never touch it again. But, you want it to not be a piece of crap because, on the off-chance that you stick at it and grow to love the sport, you’ll want that bike to last at least 6 months on decent, rough off-road trails before you decide what type of decent bike you want to upgrade to.

There are a few options for buying this kind of bike. For the super-cheap, Tesco actually sell a large range of bikes, including the ever present Raleigh. If you find a decent deal on a Raleigh it’ll serve you well. Or, you can go a little higher and get one of the entry level big brand bikes. The Specialised Hardrock is a great choice, or the Trek 3500. Both are great brands with bikes that serve the experts well, so you know you’re in good hands.

The key here is not to get sucked into the absolute drivel that some places sell. Stick to a Hardtail, and, better yet, a brand you’ve heard of like Specialized, Trek or Raleigh. Never, ever, EVER buy a new full suspension bike for less than £750, and especially not for £150. Unless you’re a 14 year old wearing bright white trainers with a propensity for mugging old ladies.

Buying A Second Hand Mountain Bike

For: Anyone coming to mountain biking from another cycling discipline.

On the other hand, if you know a little about bikes already, perhaps from a road biking background, or you’re a particularly mechanically minded person, then you can’t beat a good second hand bike for a cross between value and quality.

eBay, Gumtree and the local papers are chock-full of the bikes that we mentioned earlier – bought in haste and discarded like last week’s news. You can get an absolute bargain if you can tell your Shimano from your SRAM and are willing and able to fix up a few little things when the bike arrives.

The only problem with eBay is the choice, and there’s a lot of crap on there. Have a look at my post on buying second hand bikes to learn how to find the good amongst the bad.

I buy all of my bikes second hand – I haven’t bought a new bike since the very first mountain bike I owned and then sold again second hand 6 months later. Mostly, I shop on eBay as there’s so much choice and, if you’re canny with your bidding you can save at least 50%, often more, on the as-new price. The postage can be a bind though, so Gumtree can be a good alternative.

People tend to list bikes on Gumtree way above what they’re worth second hand though, so a bit of negotiating is often required. Get your average price from eBay and then stick to it when you’re bartering – people find it hard to argue with that.

Give Me Your Advice

I’ve given that advice out to so many people now that eBay probably owe me about a million quid. I’d love to hear from you though if you think it’s crap, or if you have other alternatives to prospective new bikers. Let me know in the comments below where you bought your first bike, what it was and whether you’d recommend someone else do the same.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Img Credit: Trailsource on Flickr


Colin started mountain biking in the early 2000s and has haphazardly, and with barely increasing skill, dragged his bike around the majority of Scotland's trail centres since then. Colin has oodles of hard earned experience in how NOT to do things - listen, be warned and don't repeat his mistakes...   More about Colin... Google+ Colin

17 Responses

  1. Simon says:

    Buy from eBay or Gumtree if you do not mind buying a stolen bike. I’ve had a few bikes stolen now, and while it would be more economical to give in and buy second-hand, I would find it hard to get over the fact that it may well have been stolen. The only way to stop the thieves is to cut off the demand for second-hand bikes. Be moral. Buy new.

  2. Colin says:

    Thanks for the comments Simon. You’re right to bring it up, it’s definitely a risk with second hand. I think saying don’t buy 2nd hand at all though is a bit overkill. There’s such a huge market of legitimate second hand bikes that it can’t be ignored for those that have a bit less funds.

    I’d definitely agree that second hand buyers need to be responsible though. You can check up on second hand bikes with the police before you buy – just get the serial number in advance. And check all over for security marks once it turns up.

    Most of all, talk to the seller – I’ve found myself in a couple of situations where it was quite obvious that the guy wasn’t a biker. He didn’t know much about the bike at all. If that’s the case, get out of there. Don’t fund the thieves!

    Cheers simon

  3. Kenny White says:

    I’d agree with Colin talk to the seller if buying a complete second hand bike, fairly easy to find out if it’s their bike.
    The real problem is from buying parts second hand, most ‘professional’ bike thieves now know exactly what to look for in a decent bike and instead of selling the bike ‘complete’ break it up and sell components which are a lot harder to track and sell the frame as scrap.

  4. Zofia says:

    Thanks for the advice Colin – especially about the discrepancies in the neogtiating tactics to use when buying second hand bikes on Gumtree and eBay. I’m completely new to mountain biking, so finding it all a bit daunting. Your advice has definitely spurred me to do some more research.

  5. Ben says:

    Sorry I don’t know what happened with my earlier post…

    Thanks for your advice.

    I’m looking at funding a bike through the Cycle to Work scheme. You can only buy a new bike through the scheme though, so this would rule out buying second hand from Ebay and the like. I’m still toying with how much to spend though, as I’m one of those in the ‘I haven’t biked since I was 14’ category.

    I’m worried that if I don’t go for a really decent bike, I’ll end up not enjoying it as much then not really take to it. The cycle to work scheme seems a good opportunity to get into cycling (and keep fit at the same time), whilst being able to get a good discount on cycles and equipment. I’m tempted to spend more as I’m getting a good discount.

    • Colin says:

      It’s a good point Ben – sometimes it’s worth dropping yourself in the deep end, just to make sure you get hooked in the first place. To be honest though, I’m not sure if biking applies. The best rider can still have a blast on a basic bike, even if it’s not quite as much fun as it would be on his own steed. And when you’re starting out you really wont notice many of the differences between a basic ride and a top class bike.

      You could be more motivated to get out on though, and improve your skills if you get your dream bike straight away, so there’s always that argument. Anyway, your question’s about the bike to work scheme, and yes, it’s a great chance to get a great bike for an even better price.

      The only problem is that recently it’s been ruined by some companies that are using the bike to work scheme. The policy’s changed on the final payment so some are charging far more for the ‘sell it to you’ installment at the end and taking away a lot of the discount. Make sure you check how much they’ll charge you to ‘buy’ the bike from them at the end of the year and count that into the cost. It might still be good, but it might not be.

      Let me know how you get on!


  6. Robb says:

    Regarding your comment about never buying a full suspension bike unless you spend over £750 – generally that is sound advice. However Decathlon do an absolute belter for £350 – The Rockrider 6.3. I can highly recommend that bike to anyone looking for a starter full suspension trail bike.

    • Colin says:

      You know what Robb, I saw that bike just recently and definitely stopped for a second look. The components looked good, and couldn’t fault the looks at all.

      I’ve bought a fair bit of B-Twin kit from decathlon recently, particularly biking windproofs and waterproofs, and the quality’s always been good, so I’ve no reason to doubt the bikes.

      So, how much have you ridden yours, and on what type of trails?

  7. Colin says:

    You know what Robb, I saw that bike just recently and definitely stopped for a second look. The components looked good, and couldn’t fault the looks at all.

    I’ve bought a fair bit of B-Twin kit from decathlon recently, particularly biking windproofs and waterproofs, and the quality’s always been good, so I’ve no reason to doubt the bikes.

    So, how much have you ridden yours, and on what type of trails?

  8. lingraju says:

    hi , I needed some advice. I need to buy a bike for my 10 year old son. He has zeroed in on a planets URT 488 with Brakes : ProMax Gear : Shimano Altus. Is this a good bike..What are the other brands that your would recommend in this range..thanks

  9. Colin says:

    Looks like a decent enough spec for a kid’s bike Lingraju – what’s your budget?

  10. lauren says:

    How important is disc brakes, compared to v brakes?

    • Colin says:

      Hey Lauren, thanks for the question! And it’s a good one.

      Disc brakes have a ton more stopping power than V-Brakes, so that’s the big advantage. Saying that, V-Brakes will stop you just fine on a normal day, so don’t count them out.

      Disc brakes tend to stay just as effective in the rain and mud, while V-Brakes lose a lot of their stopping power when it gets really grimy.

      V-Brakes are really easy to maintain – just swap over a brake pad every now and again. But Disc brakes are a bit of a pain to keep working optimally, and the annual brake bleed is a job usually worth passing on to a bike shop. So, V-Brakes win on that front.

      To be honest, for your average rider, especially a beginner to intermediate, you could quite easily go with V-brakes and save yourself a few pounds on the spec. When you’re riding much faster and on more dangerous terrain then Disc brakes are well worth the money.

      Hope that helps!

  11. Mike says:

    Hi Colin, your article on buying a second hand bike is spot on. I am in my forties and wanted to get back into riding for fitness. I bought a mint Cube Acid 29er on eBay for £400. I went to meet the seller, a 200 mile round trip, I checked that the seller had proof original purchase and he gave me a receipt. I saved £500 on the original purchase price with all the bits included. Do your home work and you can get a bargain. Thanks Colin for your great advice. Mike

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  13. SOLOMON says:


  14. SOLOMON says:

    300 to 400 dollars I am not sure I have forgotten it.

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