Buying your first mountain bike can be a confusing and intimating process. When you’re first getting into the sport, how do you know what to look for, and what makes a good bike?
A lot of what goes into making a bike great is the parts. Look for bikes with quality suspension and good tires. A good mountain bike will come with hydraulic disc brakes. Many of these components can be upgraded with aftermarket parts.
Mountain biking can be a difficult sport when first getting into it. Even if you’re comfortable riding your bike around town and on gravel roads, there is some technique to riding single-track. You’ll want a bike that is forgiving to your mistakes and can take some abuse while you learn.
Top Rated Women’s Mountain Bikes for under $1000
Let’s look at some women’s mountain bikes for under $1000
Marin Wildcat Trail 3 WFG – $630
The Marin Wildcat Trail 3 mountain bike is designed specifically for women riders. Marin has achieved this by carefully selecting saddles, grips, and short-reach brake levers designed to suit female body ergonomics.
The Wildcat is built onto a lightweight Series 2 aluminum alloy frame. This frame features women-specific long and low geometry, perfect for trail riding. Combining these components and geometry figures, the Marin Wildcat Trail 3 is suited to anyone from weekend recreational riders and more serious singletrack riders alike.
This competent mountain bike rolls on 27.5” wheels, which add to the bike’s agile handling. To improve the ride quality and to help with traction on rough ground, the Wildcat is fitted with an SR Suntour XCM HLO fork with 120mm of travel.
The 2×8 drivetrain consists of a mix of Shimano and MicroShift components. This combination is extremely effective while keeping the bike’s price down.
The fact that this bike comes with hydraulic disc brakes is a huge reason why it is one of the best women’s mountain bikes under $1,000. These brakes are powerful and responsive, giving you plenty of control when taking on technical descents.
For a well-priced and fun mountain bike that will last you a while, the Marin Wildcat Trail 3 is a great choice.
Cannondale Trail Tango 3 Women’s Bike – 2020 $780
REI is a great resource for mountain bikes. When you buy a bike from REI you’ll get a free adjustment after your first 20 hours of riding and have access to different classes on mountain biking from tips and techniques to bike maintenance.
First, let’s look at the Cannondale Trail Tango 3 Women’s Bike sold at REI. For $780, this is going to be a good starter mountain bike. The Tango 3 comes with a basic parts package to get you started.
The C3 alloy aluminum frame is designed with trail riding in mind. This frame comes in three different sizes; extra-small, small, and medium. The extra-small and small frames come with 27.5 inch rims and the medium frame comes with 29 inch tires.
All tire sizes are 2.25 in wide. The wide handlebars and short stem will give you better balance and control. This bike is designed to provide stability and confidence on your descent.
The Tango 3 comes with 18 gears; a 2-by upfront and 9 speeds on the cassette. Hydraulic disc brakes also come standard on the bike. The front fork offers 100 mm of suspension. Altogether, the Tango 3 weights 31 lbs. 4.8 oz. based on the small frame size.
Trek Marlin 6 Women’s – $649.99
The Trek Marlin 6 Women’s mountain bike is an excellent choice if you’re considering using your mountain bike as your daily commuter.
For $649.99, this bike performs well on the trail but will also make a great daily commuter. The Marlin also comes in the Marlin 5 Women’s at $549.99 and Marlin 4 at $489.99.
The 2 x 8 drivetrain provides smooth shifting over 16 gears. Whether you’re climbing up a steep trail or tackling the hills on your way to work, the 16 gears give you all the climbing range you will need. Hydraulic disc brakes are there to help you efficiently slow down and stop when you need to.
The small and extra small frames come with short-reach brake levers. This allows smaller women with small hands to more efficiently and comfortably pull the brake levers.
In addition to brake levers, there are a few other differences on the small and extra-small sized bikes. These two sizes both come with 27.5 inch tire and have a curved top tube for lower stand-over height.
The medium and medium-large sizes both come with 29 inch wheels and do not feature the curved top tube. All four sizes come with a women’s specific saddle.
Internal cable routing keeps this bike looking sleek and neat. If you do want to use this bike for commuting or longer rides, the frame is built to be outfitted with a rack and kickstand.
Overall, this bike will be a great balance between a mountain bike and a commuter if you only have space and money for one bike.
GHOST Lanao 4.7 27.5” Women’s Bike – 2019 $849.95
Another great bike that is sold exclusively by REI is the GHOST Lanao 4.7 27.5” Women’s Bike for $849.95. This women’s specific bike features a Lanao aluminum frame with a low stand-over height that is specific for women.
The 27.5 inch tires provide control, speed, and maneuverability on the trail. The tires are on the narrower side at 2.2 inches wide. For suspension, the GHOST Lanao 4.7 uses a SunTour SCM fork ith 100 mm of travel. This fork can be locked out for climbing. Though not included, this bike is compatible with an aftermarket dropper post.
The 2 by 9 drive train gives you 18 gears for climbing. Hydraulic disc brakes can assure you will be able to slow down and stop efficiently. All together this bike weighs 30 lbs. 13.8 oz.
Specialized Pitch Comp 1X – $700
Specialized makes a series of Pitch bicycles for women, from the higher end Pitch Expert 1X to the basic Pitch 27.5. For $700 we chose the Pitch Comp 1X because it included a better parts package at a reasonable price.
You can also choose the Pitch Expert 1X for $875 with a nicer parts package, or the Pitch Sport for $640 or the Pitch 27.5 for $520 for a less expensive but lower quality parts package.
The Pitch Comp 1X comes with 27.5 inch Ground Control Sport tires. The 2.3 inch wide Ground Control Sport tires provide excellent grip and control on the trail. Having good tires also makes a difference in your control.
The A1 Premium aluminum frame is designed to be nimble but strong. All tubes are designed to be women-specific and give all smooth ride even on rough trails.
This frame is designed to be set up with internal cable routing to keep your bike neat and organized. The SR SunTour XCM front suspension also helps with a smooth ride. Depending on the size frame you choose, the front fork offers 80 to 100 mm of travel.
This bike does come with considerably fewer gears. The 1 x 9 drive trail only gives you nine gears for climbing. However, this wide-range MicroSHIFT drivetrain is designed to work well on steep climbs.
Though you only have nine gears to work with, you may find that only having one shifting level is more beneficial to you. Complete with hydraulic disc brakes, this bike will handle quick turns, deacceleration, and stops on the downhill well.
Norco Storm 2 Women’s – $729.00
Another good option if you’re looking for a bike that will perform on the trail and also work as a commuter is the Norco Storm 2 Women’s for $729.00.
You can also choose to upgrade to the Storm 1 with a higher quality parts package for $949.00, or save money and go with either the Storm 3 or 4 for $619.00 or $519.00 respectively.
The X6 aluminum frame is designed to perform well on the trail but double as a commuter. This frame is designed to be light and nimble, but still gives you confident performance on the trail.
With the 2 x 9 drivetrain, you will be able to pedal uphill efficiently and powerfully with 18 gears. The Storm 1 and 2 both feature internal cable routing while the Storm 3 and 4 have external cable routing.
The front suspension features an SR SunTour XCM 100 mm travel fork to smooth out your ride on rough trails. Though this bike comes with 2.25 inch wide tires but you can upgrade your rubber to fit a 2.35 inch tire giving you a little more contact and stability on the trail.
The XX-small, extra-small, and small sizes are designed to fit 27.5 inch wheels and the medium fits a 29 inch wheel. Hydraulic disc brakes give you maximum control and stopping power on the downhill.
Liv Cycling Tempt 2 – $750
The Liv Cycling Tempt 2 is another great option for those who want a versatile mountain bike. This bike would make an exceptional town cruiser or mountain bike and everything in between.
For those looking to spend a little more and upgrade their parts package, the Tempt 1 retails for $1,050 or if you’re looking the save money the Tempt 3 retails for $550.
The ALUXX aluminum frame is designed specifically for women with a low stand-over height. The frame is lightweight but still capable and durable. The RockShox XC30 front fork can be locked out for maximum pedaling uphill. When riding down, the shock offers 100 mm of travel.
The Tempt 2 comes with 27.5 inch Maxxis tires. These tires are wider than the other previous bikes at 2.4 inches wide. The wider tires will give you better traction and control on the trail. Hydraulic disc brakes make sure you have plenty of slowing and stopping power for the downhill.
What To Look For When Buying a Women’s Mountain Bike
Here we break down some things to look for when buying a new bike and getting into mountain biking.
If you’re serious about mountain biking, you should only consider a bike with hydraulic disc brakes. Disc brakes will give you much better control when slowing down and stopping on the trail. The stopping power generated by disc brakes is substantially greater than that of rim brakes.
This saves you from using all your hand strength to squeeze the brake to stop. You will be able to slow down and stop efficiently on a mountain bike with disc brakes.
Most stock bikes come with an inexpensive set of plastic pedals. While this may seem like a minor detail, upgrading your pedals will make a big difference in the performance of your bike.
An inexpensive set of flat pedals under $50 will make a big difference in the contact of your foot to the pedal. These pedals have metal nubs or spikes that help keep your foot stationary on the pedal.
The added grip of a pair of mountain bike shoes will also improve your pedaling. Eventually, you may benefit from upgrading to clipless pedals and a pair of mountain bike specific cleats. Having your feet connected to the pedals improves your uphill pedaling by about 15%.
It is important that your mountain bike is properly sized to you. While you may be able to get away with riding a bike that is not properly sized around town, when you’re putting miles of trail on your bike, its good to be a proper size.
If you can shop for your bike at a retail store, ask the employees to help measure you and see if you can take the bike for a short test ride, even if it’s around the parking lot.
If you can’t try out the bike beforehand or are ordering online, measure your inseam to find your size. Wearing the shoes you would wear biking, stand with your feet 4 to 6-inches apart and straddle a book.
Measure straight up from the floor to the top of the book. Use this measurement to determine what size of bike is best for you. All companies are different so while a small may be good for one company, a medium bike might be better for another.
When working with a budget, it’s best to stick with a hardtail mountain bike. This means the front of the bike uses a suspension system, but the rear triangle is fixed. Hardtail bikes have fewer moving parts making them much less expensive and more difficult to break.
There are a few things that can help make your hardtail bike ride smoother. Generally, you want to look for a bike with at least 100mm of travel in the front suspension.
This will provide enough suspension to smooth out rough trails without getting too pricy. Shocks made by RockShox or Fox are two of the better brands, but SunTour still makes quality and economic shocks.
Having suspension that locks out will make pedaling uphill much easier. By locking out the front suspension, you will get more power from each downward pedal stroke.
In other words, the front fork won’t be working against you in absorbing your pedaling and therefore making you work harder.
Your ride may not be as smooth on the uphill but for some sections of trail, having the added power by locking your front fork makes a difference.
In addition to the suspension, your tire width can help cushion your ride. Wider or “fatter” tires give you better support and contact with the trail.
The wider tire gives you more contact with the trail and therefore better control. Fat tires will also help absorb bumps, roots, and rocks in the trail.
Fat tires 2.8 inches or wider are going to be more forgiving and beginner-friendly. That being said, there is still nothing bad about 2.3 inch tires since the majority of mountain bikes under $1000 will come with that width.
Most mountain bikes will be one of two different wheel sizes; 27.5 in or 29 in (29er). Each has their benefits depending on what you want to get out of your bike.
Having 27.5-inch wheels will allow you to accelerate faster and give you better maneuverability on the trail. On the other hand, 29 inch wheels are better for longer rides with lots of pedaling.
Although 29ers are slow to accelerate, once you reach full speed they become more efficient. Since these wheels are bigger, they are more difficult to maneuver tight turns on the downhill.
Chainring to cassette ratio
The chainring and cassette have to do with how many gears your bike has. The chainring up front between the pedals can either be one by, two by, or occasionally three by. The cassette in the rear can have anywhere from 7 to 12 gears.
Most modern mountain bikes use a one by upfront on the chainring. This way, you only have to worry about what gear you are using on your cassette.
Add in more chainrings, and although you may get more gears, you now have two places to think about when shifting. Gear ratios have improved that a one by chainring can be just as great pedaling uphill as a two or three by.
One thing to consider as you progress in mountain biking is upgrading to a dropper post. The dropper post allows you to adjust your seat height on the fly. This way if you encounter a short descent, you can quickly lower your seat.
Once you begin pedaling again you can quickly raise your seat back up and keep going. Though not necessary, once you experience the convenience of a dropper post you won’t want to ride without one again.
Whenever you go out to ride, make sure you have the supplies to change a flat tire. The basics are a spare tube, two tire levers, and a hand pump or CO2 cartridges.
Even if you don’t 100% know how to change a flat tire on the trail, it’s best to be prepared. Mountain bikers are generally friendly and will help out someone in need.
If you are prepared to change your flat with you’re your own supplies people will be more receptive to help. If in doubt, you can always walk your bike to the trailhead though it could be a long walk.
Determine which style of mountain biking best fits you. Are you more about pedaling long distances without technical downhills? Or are you likely to encounter some technical downhills with tight turns?
If you are unsure, generally a 27.5 inch wheel size is going to work for most women. The smaller tire size allows the bike frame to ride closer to the ground and is overall better for smaller people.
Emily is an outdoor enthusiast living in Steamboat Springs, CO. She is an avid outdoor adventurer who particularly enjoys skiing, rock climbing, and mountain biking.