Updated September 8, 2023
Getting into mountain biking can be a serious investment. The huge swath of new bikes to choose from makes it challenging and intimidating to settle upon any one bike. Nowadays there is a bike for just about everything, gravel, cross-country, enduro, trail, downhill, and down-country. The list goes on. With all these different variations it can be hard to know where to start your search for a new mountain bike.
So where do we start?
An affordable, aluminum trail bike may be the right choice for anyone's first foray into mountain biking. Whether you’re upgrading from an old hardtail, buying your first mountain bike, or just looking to upgrade to something new.
Now, let's take a look at some of our top picks for affordable trail bikes!
99 Spokes is a team of passionate cyclists and software developers who created a platform to help fellow enthusiasts navigate the complex world of bike buying.
Consider us your cycling-obsessed friend who you can turn to for advice on your next bike purchase.
Click here to learn more about the factors we consider when making bike recommendations.
A true jack of all trades, ready to go anywhere the trails might take you.
The Fuel Ex 5 Gen 5 is arguably one of the most versatile, all-around trail bikes on the market. The combination of its slackened headtube angle, steep seat tube angle, longer reach, and reliable frame design makes for a bike that is ready to tackle any terrain. Treks mino link allows riders to adjust bottom bracket height and headtube angle on the fly. Mino link combined with frame clearance for up to 2.6-inch tires makes the Fuel Ex easy to adjust for specific rider needs across all spectrums of mountain biking. 130mm of rear travel paired with a 140mm fork land itself in a goldilocks zone that is fast and nimble on the climbs but also ready to eat up the bumps and chunks on the descents.
A slack headtube angle, sticky specialized tires, and stiffer RockShox 35 Silver fork make for a capable and confidence-inspiring trail bike.
Since the first Stumpjumper was unveiled in 1981, the Specialized Stumpjumper has continued to define and redefine what a trail mountain bike should be and what they are capable of. 130mm of frame travel and 140mm of fork travel make for a well-balanced and solid platform to take your riding to the next level if you’re ready to go there.
When it comes to functional, nimble, and efficient trail bikes, the Trek Top Fuel leads the pack.
The Top Fuel frame is built on 120mm of rear travel and a slightly steeper head angle than its big brother the Fuel Ex. The bike is ready to take on marathon trail rides, eat up the single track, and can even hold its own in an impromptu cross-country race. On top of being a fast efficient short-travel trail bike, Trek has built in some fantastic utilitarian features like internal frame storage, knock block, mino link and ABP (Active Braking Pivot). The Top fuel is the only available aluminum trail bike to include internal frame storage (a fantastic place to store an extra tube, snacks or even a jacket.) Treks mino link allows riders to fine-tune the geometry of the bike to their liking and the knock block not only protects cables and parts from damage in a crash but it also allows for a stiffer and straighter downtube. The Fuel Ex is a fantastic choice for trail riders looking for an efficient, fast trail bike that blurs the lines between trail and cross country.
The Polygon Siskiu D7 earns its position amongst the ranks of other top-rated modern progressive trail bikes but stands out because of its impressive value.
Like many of the bikes in the short travel trail category, the Siskiu offers a dropper seat post, a 1x drivetrain, 29” wheels, and a full suspension design. With all these valuable features included, Polygon still manages to slide in at a considerably lower price point than its competitors. One contributor to the lower price is a Shimano Deore 11-speed drivetrain, as opposed to the 12 speed Deore, SX and NX drivetrains found on comparable brand models. Using an 11-speed drivetrain (with nearly just as much range as 12-speed designs) means that Polygon can offer a high-performing trail bike at a better price and value without sacrificing quality.
If you love technical features and thoughtful design, the Spark will be right up your alley.
The Spark is sophisticated and detail driven. On first look, it is easy to recognize just how neat and tidy the Scott Sparks is. This is all thanks to an internally mounted rear shock, clean steerer tube cable management, and twin lock remote lockouts. The Scale doesn’t just look neat though, it is an impressive trail machine ready to clean the steep climbs and mop up rowdy descents. The internally mounted shock design makes for a streamlined and clean-looking bike but it also helps to keep the shock clean and free of mud and debris. Access to the shock is relatively simple through a port on the bottom of the frame. Scott’s Twinlock system allows for simple and efficient changes between suspension lockout settings making it quick and easy to adapt the bike to meet the needs of the trail on the move.
|Weight||34.6 lbs||35.1 lbs||33.7 lbs||34.6 lbs||33.0 lbs|
|Fork||RockShox Recon Silver RL||RockShox 35 Silver||RockShox Recon Silver RL||RockShox Recon Silver RL||RockShox Judy Silver TK|
|Wheel Size||27.5″ / 29″||29″||29″||27.5″ / 29″||29″|
|Groupset||Deore||SX Eagle||Deore, Shimano||Deore||NX Eagle, SX Eagle|
|Drivetrain||1 × 12||1 × 12||1 × 12||1 × 11||1 × 12|
|Travel||130mm rear, 140mm front||130mm rear, 140mm front||120mm rear, 120mm front||120mm rear, 120mm front||120mm rear, 130mm front|
|Where to Buy|
At Bikes Online