If you are thinking about buying a new mountain bike and wondering what's available for 2017, we've done the searching for you and come up with what we deem the best hardtail mountain bikes for $1,000 (in no particular order). We've selected all hardtails at this price point because while you may be able to find a new dual-suspension mountain bike, in all honesty, they are not worth owning. The entry price range for a reliable dual-suspension option typically starts from a minimum of $1,500.
We recently profiled the best budget mountain bikes for $500, but despite being referred to as mountain bikes, they aren't truly built for regular off-road riding. The good news is if you are able to up your budget to between $800 and $1,000 you can get yourself a quality mountain bike that will get you started on basic to intermediate trails.
Hardtails are distinctive as they have a rigid rear triangle and suspension in the front fork, as opposed to dual-suspension bikes that have suspension in the front and rear of the bike. Bikes at this price point will have aluminium frames. The amount of movement in the suspension is referred to as 'travel' and is typically 100mm for the bikes listed below, the greater the travel, typically the greater the control on descents. In addition to the amount of travel, when comparing the front forks, look for a 'lock-out' switch, which, will enable riders to close off the suspension for use on smooth roads.
The braking system for bikes on this list moves from either cable orientated rim or disc brakes to hydraulic disc brakes that use a fluid system to transfer force from the brake lever to the brake pads. Being a sealed system, it’s incredibly low maintenance, easy to operate and provides more power and better modulation (control) in all weather conditions.
In this category, a 9-speed cassette (rear cogs) paired with a double or triple crankset is a minimum, with a triple chainring (the front cogs) providing 27 gears in total and a large range to tackle steep climbs and flowing descents. Get to know more about mountain bike groupsets and gearing by reading our in-depth guide.
While many of the bikes listed here have a similar frame, fork and groupset, the real debate lies in the wheel choice. You'll see a mix of 27.5in and 29in options below and dependent upon who you speak to in the mountain bike world, it's likely you'll get a variety of opinions as to which is better. The trend in recent times has been to opt for larger wheel sizes to improve roll-over ability and traction, which, is why the original 26in wheels have become all but redundant. 27.5in wheels are lighter, stronger and typically more nimble than 29in options. Shorter riders or those who like to jump the bike may be well suited to this smaller wheeler size.
29in wheels are obviously larger than 27.5in wheels, and because of that provide more traction, greater roll-over ability on technical obstacles and a smoother ride from increased air volume. The additional size does add to the weight, and for some, they can become cumbersome in small frame sizes. Typically speaking, no compromises are made for riders on a medium frame size or larger.
Spending a little more and moving up a price bracket will put you in the market for an entry-level dual suspension mountain bike, although the addition of rear suspension comes at the expense of weight and cheaper parts. For this reason, we still suggest a hardtail for the next price above. Such a bike will move to 10-speed gears and likely a double or single chainring on the front, which, reduces the risk of mechanical issues and improves ease of use without compromising on gear range. The biggest changes in next price up are likely better wheels and improved suspension. Suspension forks get the larger diameter ‘stanchions’ and thru-axles for improved steering precision, but most importantly, an adjustable air spring instead of a coil and adjustable ‘rebound’ to control the damping of the fork – both factors that let you fine tune how the suspension behaves on the trail.
To get a better understanding of mountain bikes, read our Ultimate Guide to Buying a Mountain Bike that explains the different types of mountain bikes, the type of riding you can do with them, and just how to choose the right one for you. And if you are new to mountain biking, or a road cyclist looking to mix things up, check out our Roadie to Mountain Biker - Your Skills and Technique Foundation guide.
GT Avalanche Comp
The Avalanche is one of GT's longest running models and a historic name in mountain biking. Its triple-triangle design seen where the top tube intersects the seattube is a feature that has remained constant through its historic past. The 27.5in wheels the Avalanche is equipped with makes it lighter and more nimble than its 29in counterparts. The slack headtube angle should improve stability but the relatively narrow bars (680mm) may result in twitchier handling on rougher trails.
The finish of the bike is what we would expect in this category; SR Suntour XCM-HLO fork with 100m of travel, steel stanchions and hydraulic lockout. There’s an All-Terra V-401 triple crankset paired with a 9-speed cassette providing 27 gears, and double walled rims with quick release hubs front and rear. Important to note the rear derailleur is Shimano Deore, a standout for this category.
- MSRP: $770
Norco Storm 9.1
The Norco Storm 9.1 is the first 29er on our list and has a few nice features that set it apart from other bikes here. While most bikes listed have handlebars 700mm or below, the Storm 9.1's are 720mm, which, offer greater leverage, therefore more control and are more often seen on more expensive models. The wider WTB Nine Line 2.25in tires are also a feature, providing good levels of traction and roll-over ability, which, will help newer riders tackle more demanding trails.
From there everything is as expected, a triple Suntour XCM crankset paired with a 9-speed Shimano cassette, Suntour XCM HLO forks with 100m of travel and quick releases front and rear.
- MSRP: $649
Focus Whistler Evo 29
Focus is a German brand but the 'Whistler' we've chosen is named after the famed Whistler ski hills and mountain bike park in Canada, showing its off-road intent. The Whistler Evo 29 is another 29in option with good roll-over ability and traction, ably assisted by the quality 2.2in Continental Race King tires. The classy aluminium frame is paired with a 100mm travel Suntour XCM-RL fork that features a handlebar-mounted remote for the lockout. The Shimano triple crankset is paired with a 9-speed cassette, although the Shimano Altus is the equal lowest rear derailleur option on this list.
- MSRP: $799
Giant Talon 2
Late last year we profiled Giant's 2017 mountain bike range, which, featured the Talon, one of the biggest selling entry-level mountain bike hardtails in Australia in recent years. The 2017 version featured an update in geometry that's said to 'create a more confident ride' and is the only bike on this list with a double crankset instead of a triple. Having one less chain ring reduces weight and the risk of mechanical issues without compromising the total gear range of a triple. The double FSA Comet crankset is paired with a 9-speed cassette and Deore rear derailleur, which, as we mentioned earlier is a standout at this pricepoint. The 27.5in wheels are wrapped with Maxxis Ikon 2.2in tyres, and a SR Suntour XCM fork with 100m of travel and hydraulic lockout complete the package.
- MSRP: $710
Trek Marlin 7
We recently reviewed the Trek Marlin 7, coming to the conclusion that it 'should be on your short-list for a starter mountain bike under AU$1,000.' The Marlin has large 29er wheels, big-brand components, and natural, reactive handling, thanks to a slack head tube angle and increased fork offset, a rarity on bikes at this price point. Another benefit is the large size range meaning you're more likely to find the right fit with the Marlin than some other brands. A quick look at the components and you'll see RockShox forks, an upgrade from most others in this category, double-walled Bontrager rims with Bontrager tires, and 9-speed Shimano cassette with the most basic of rear derailleurs the 'Altus', with a triple crankset providing 27 gears in total.
- MSRP: $829.99
Specialized RockHopper Sport
The RockHopper Sport is another quality 29er option that stacks up well against other bikes in this list,one that's ready to attack the trails at speed. The aluminium frame is paired with an SR Suntour XCM fork with 100mm travel and lockout. Much of the other components are Specialized's own; the stem, handlebars, crankset, rims, hubs and tires.
The Specialized triple crankset is combined with a mixture of Shimano components, the 9-speed Shimano cassette providing 27 gears in total. The 29in wheels feature double walled rims, alloy hubs with quick releases front and rear, and are wrapped in 2.1in tires, which, should provide loads of traction.
- MSRP: $624.99
Rocky Mountain Soul 710
A brand with its roots in mountain biking, the Rocky Mountain Soul 710 is a great addition to this list with a couple of standout features that make it perfect for hitting up entry to intermediate level trails. For starters, the travel of the Suntour XCM HLO fork is the equal most of any on the list at 120mm, and the handlebars are a massive 760mm wide that will provide enormous levels of control. The Maxxis Ardent tyres too, are more than what we would expect at 2.25in, the equal largest, which, will help provide traction and comfort when paired with the light and nimble 27.5in wheels. The groupset is the standard triple crankset, in this case provided by Suntour, and the cassette is a 9-speed offering from Shimano. All up, the Soul 710 is edging more toward a 'trail' hardtail which should rock the descents.
- MSRP: $649
Cannondale Trail 5
The Trail 5 is another nimble 27.5in wheel mountain bike from Cannondale who have been innovating and producing quality mountain bikes for decades. The aluminium frame is paired with an SR Suntour XCM-RL fork with 100mm travel and a lockout that's actuated with a handlebar remote. The 27.5in wheels are wrapped with relatively narrow 2.0in tires, something that may affect its total off-road ride given wider 2.1 or 2.2in tires are almost considered standard today. The headtube angle is a little steeper than some others on this list which shows the cross country riding intent of this bike. The groupset, as expected, is a Shimano triple crankset with a 9-speed cassette providing 27 gears. All out, the Trail 5 doesn't scream the same value as some other bikes in this list, but it being a Cannondale, with a high-quality frame and remote lockout was enough for it to make the list.
- MSRP: $819.95
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