I am going to let you in on a secret. When buying any bike, you are buying the components over any other thing. Effectively, frames are all about the same, and at this price range, generally made of aluminum. With that, the majority of your money goes towards brakes, derailleurs, wheels and the like.
For high-quality bikes below $500, there are only a few choices that have true value. Other bikes have much inflated prices, so be careful and shop hard. The best women’s mountain bike under 500 is the Iron Horse Maverick 2.1 27.5.
Ironhorse was recently bought out by an international sporting goods company Dorel. Coming back into the market, Ironhorse has always offered excellent bang for the buck, and the Maverick is no exception.
Top Pick: Iron Horse Maverick
If you are considering a top choice in this price range, more than likely the bike is truly going to be used. With that, the IronHorse Maverick is an easy top pick. It has the features and components to provide good riding experiences.
The unfortunate thing about bikes, is many of them are ridden a few times and then they collect dust. A key reason is the bike is uncomfortable for the rider. Proper sizing is beyond important, and with that, adjustments to the seat, height and handlebars go a long way in making things work right.
The next piece is choosing a bike that will work properly where you intend to ride it. Many low-end bikes have few sizes, reduced adjustability, and poor components. The Maverick is a great choice as it is offered in a number of frame sizes to match your height and leg length. It also adjusts top tube length accordingly, so that the handlebars are in the right position. It also features components that have a good service life to them.
There is one feature that specifically caught my eye, and makes a significant difference with this bike against others in this price range. That is wheel size. Bikes are never sized by the wheels, always by the frame. The frame creates the proportions to fit the rider, and due to that, wheels never indicate how they fit a specific rider. The Maverick features 27.5″ wheels, which for trail use are superior to 26″ wheels.
Wheel size helps determine how a bike is going to roll on uneven terrain. Trails are never perfect. There are bumps, rocks, roots and a host of other obstacles. Ideally, we want the largest diameter wheel- within reason. There are 36″ wheels, but most riders find them annoying, and the frame sizing is near impossible for shorter riders.
A 27.5″ wheel is a great choice as it is a happy medium between a small wheel that accelerates well, and a large wheel that rolls over rocks easily. Many cross country race bikes opt for a 29″ wheel size, but it isn’t for everyone, and with that, the 27.5 is an excellent alternative.
The Maverick also features a deluxe drive train with excellent shifting, disc brakes front and rear, and a reasonable suspension fork. Any bike in this price range should have these features standard.
Best Budget Mountain Bike: Mongoose Women’s Switchback Sport
In the $200 range, the Mongoose Women’s Switchback Sport is a great choice. The medium red paint and white graphics are a good match and fairly appealing to the eye.
The Switchback’s frame is well made, featuring gussets at the head tube for strength, and high quality 6061 T6 aluminum throughout. The welds look of good quality.
At this price level, the brakes are a step-down and are rim type V Brakes. These perform reasonably well overall, and have good adjustments for smaller hands.
The drivetrain is rather basic. It has entry level Shimano derailleurs and is a 24 speed. That provides a very wide range of gears, with reasonable gaps to find that perfect cruising gear for your current conditions. The Rapidfire shifters are super easy to use and take little effort to make gear changes.
Best Choice for Taller Riders: Mongoose R2780 Impasse
At $250 a surprising value can be found. The Mongoose R2780 Impasse Full Suspension offers quite a few features at this price point.
For an avid rider, low cost full suspension bikes are annoying. The suspension is quite basic, and for real trail riding, will only help slightly. Adjustability is beyond basic. However, the good thing with this Mongoose Impasse, is that the low cost is a great way to enter the market and see if full suspension is worthwhile to you.
The Impasse features a 21 speed drive train. At this pricing, they cut corners on the drivetrain. It features Shimano derailleurs and Gripshift shifters on the bars. Mechanical disc brakes are also equipped on this bike. You would have to go to around $1000 for a hydraulic disc brake usually. Disc brakes are good no matter what for beginners, as it takes less hand strength to get good braking power.
This bike only has one size frame available, unfortunately. It also has 29″ wheels paired with a medium sized frame geometry, that makes this a better choice for taller riders. Someone 5’6″ and above would enjoy this particular model, and find that the size is reasonable and comfortable.
Features to Look For
The number one thing to look for on any bike purchase is proper sizing for your height and body type. In order to do this, different size bike frames are made. These are proportional, as they grow taller, they also lengthen usually in a 1:1 ratio. Many people try to stand over a bike to determine if it is the right size. While that might give a clue, what is better is to sit on the seat in a normal riding position, and feel the distance of the bars away, and the height. This gives a better sizing overall.
Once sizing is set, customize other parts of the bike to your liking. Saddles can be changed easily to match your dimensions. Grips are easy as well.
Brakes are quite important, and just any old brakes won’t do. The best performing brakes are normally hydraulic disc brakes. These take less hand force to generate stopping power. From there mechanical discs are next best, followed by V-Brakes and cantilever.
Drivetrains are the focus for a bike and how long it will last. A good drivetrain will have normally 24 gears or more. Anything less is using poor quality that is easily decades old in design. 24 gears are derived from 8 gears on the rear wheel and 3 on the crank. Some more advanced bikes may increase to 9 or 10 in the rear, and 2 in the front for 18 or 20 speeds. That doesn’t make it inferior, just a different way to achieve the many ratios needed for riding and to simplify shifting.
Wheels are very important. Cheap wheels are heavy and do not last very long. The poor quality starts with the rim design itself, where the aluminum alloy is inferior, and will not hold up to abuse. Better quality rims lower the weight, making it easier to pedal, but also are stiffer, and absorb vibration and shock better, and in doing so last longer.
Based on the key features it is easy to see why the IronHorse Maverick became our best choice. Multiple frame sizes, a nice sized wheel for performance, disc brakes and a good drivetrain made this an easy decision. The Maverick is a perfect starter bike for the rider who wants to get in shape, and try mountain biking out.
For taller riders, the Mongoose R2780 Impasse is an excellent choice. Although this bike is only offered in one frame size, the 29″ wheels help out. The larger wheels will roll over rocks, bumps and debris with ease.
Buying in the below $500 price point is becoming harder with tariff increases. There is still excellent values if you look for the right features and match them to the rider and terrain. Check out the Ironhorse Maverick, our best women’s mountain bike for under $500.