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The 5 Best 2020 Mountain Bikes for Beginners

Mountain biking might be one of the most intimidating sports for beginners to get into - there’s just so many different types of bikes, with all sorts of different technologies catered to unique riding styles and terrain. But choosing your first mountain bike doesn’t need to be frustrating and confusing. To help out, we’ve put together this list to help you answer the question, what is the best mountain bike for beginners?

The best mountain bike for beginner riders will be the one that allows you to learn and progress. This means a mid-travel (120-140 mm) frame with affordable parts that are durable, and modern geometry. For beginners, good geometry trumps just about everything. A bike with modern geometry, and an affordable component spec will help you build confidence on the way up, and down, whereas an older bike, with old geometry, and nicer parts is just a liability. These bikes may weigh a bit more than more expensive options, but it’s always easy to upgrade in the future and shave some pounds, whereas you can’t just upgrade to better geometry. With these aspects in mind, we’ve brought together a list of our top five mountain bikes for beginners.

2020 Santa Cruz Bicycles 5010 A D​+

The 5010 is Santa Cruz’s 27.5” wheeled all-round trail bike. It’s not the longest, or the shortest travel bike in their lineup, instead it’s designed to do most things really well, while delivering a playful, fun ride. What makes this one of the best mountain bikes for beginners? The 5010 performs well across all types of riding without making any sacrifices. In other words, it will help you progress your riding and learn what style suits you best.

Like the Devinci, the 5010 A D+ has an aluminum frame, but it pairs a 130 mm Rockshox fork with 130 mm of rear travel. The “D+” build comes with 2.6” wide Maxxis tires. These “plus” sized tires make for a smoother ride, and better traction - this helps beginner mountain bikers feel more comfortable in corners and on more technical trails. The 5010 comes with a great SRAM SX Eagle 12 speed drivetrain, and SRAM brakes. However, it doesn’t come with a dropper post, which is an upgrade most beginners will appreciate. The Santa Cruz 5010 A D+ is a great choice for anyone looking for a good all-round bike that pedals efficiently. It won’t handle really steep trails as well as the Troy, but will be more playful in mellower terrain.

 Fork TravelRear Suspension Travel  Wheel Size Price
 130mm 130mm 27.5"+ $2,699

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2020 Devinci Troy 29 SLX evo Exclusive -
Coming Soon

We’ve teamed up with Devinci bikes on the Troy 29 SLX evo Exclusive to create the ultimate beginner trail bike. With 140 mm of rear travel and 29” wheels, this is the most aggressive beginner mountain bike on our list, and works best for someone who wants to ride technical terrain. It pedals very well, but will really stand out when the trail turns downhill. The evo-exclusive part comes down to the component spec. We worked with Devinci to source the ideal parts for someone who’s looking for the most bang for their buck. Shimano’s 12 speed SLX drivetrain is the best value on the market, and is reliable and durable. A Fox 36 fork pairs well with the Rockshox Deluxe rear shock. The Troy’s build is neary future proof, with a mix of time-tested parts. The Devinici Troy 29 SLX evo Exclusive is our top choice for beginner riders looking for a bike that can handle the most challenging terrain.

 Fork TravelRear Suspension Travel  Wheel Size Price
 150mm 140mm29" $2,999

2020 Marin Nail Trail 6 - Coming Soon

The Marin Nail Trail 6 is the cheapest beginner mountain bike on this list, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on performance. The Nail Trail 6 is our best recommendation for someone who’s looking to get into mountain biking at a more affordable price. It’s a hardtail, which means it doesn’t have any rear suspension, but its progressive geometry means it still provides a capable ride. Hardtail mountain bikes are good for beginner riders who aren’t looking to immediately tackle steep riding and technical terrain, plus they’re lighter and more efficient to pedal. A Rockshox fork handles suspension duties up front, and the Nail Trail comes with SRAM’s very reliable NX 11 speed drivetrain. It also comes standard with Shimano hydraulic disk brakes. The Nail Trail is a durable, capable, and very affordable mountain bike, and is perfect for the budget-conscious beginner mountain biker.

 Fork Travel Rear Suspension Travel Wheel Size Price
 120mm NA (Hardtail) 29" $1,300

2020 Juliana Joplin A R

Juliana is the female-specific branch of Santa Cruz bikes. They use the same frame designs, with better paint jobs, and woman-specific seats, grips, and shock tunes. The Joplin A R is Juliana’s short-travel, do-everything 29er, and is one of the best beginner women’s mountain bikes out there. This bike is shockingly versatile, confidence-inspiring, and super fun.

Even though it’s only got 120 mm of travel in the rear, Santa Cruz has tuned the suspension to use every millimeter of that travel as well as possible, while still pedaling efficiently. And its modern geometry means the Joplin feels comfortable even on steep, technical terrain. The R build of the Joplin pairs an aluminum frame with a price-conscious, and practical component set. Fox handles the suspension front and back, with a SRAM NX 12 speed drivetrain, and SRAM Guide brakes. Like the Devinici it comes stock with 29” Maxxis Minion tires front and rear, which provide great traction. The Joplin is a great choice for any ladies looking for one bike to do it all, and dudes looking for a competent trail bike should take a look at its sibling, the Santa Cruz Tallboy.

 Fork Travel Rear Suspension Travel Wheel Size Price
 130mm120mm 29" $3,399

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2020 Liv Embolden 1 - Coming Soon

Liv’s Embolden 1 is our top choice for female riders looking for the most affordable full-suspension bike out there. Like Juliana, Liv is the women’s line for Giant bikes, and features tweaked paint, touchpoints, and shock tunes. The Embolden 1 is Giant’s take on the XC Trail bike. It pedals efficiently, with plenty of travel to take the edge off bigger hits. The Embolden is the only bike on this list that has a front derailleur, its 2x10 Shimano drivetrain offers plenty of gear range, but isn’t quite as reliable as a 1x system. Its 120 mm of front and rear travel is covered by Rockshox suspension, and the real highlight of the build is the Giant Contact Dropper post. It’s rare to find a dropper post on this affordable of a bike, and the Contact dropper is one of the most reliable ones on the market. The Liv Embolden 1 is our top choice for beginner women mountain bikers looking for a reliable full suspension mountain bike that won’t break the bank.

 Fork Travel Rear Suspension Travel Wheel Size Price
 120mm120mm 27.5" $3,399

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