A beginners guide to buying your first mountain bike

Photos thanks to Calibre Bicycles

Buying your first mountain bike can be a pretty daunting thing. The options are seemingly endless and opinions from friends, websites and magazines come thick and fast.

Never fear though! Armed with a bit of expert advice you can breeze through buying your first mountain bike and emerge with a top-quality bike that’s perfect to hit the trails.

First things first… decide your budget.

An obvious one to start. Decide how much you’re willing to spend. Nailing down your budget is a great way to prune down those endless options.

Expect to spend at least £500 on your first mountain bike. There are some brilliant first-time bikes for around £500 to £1000 but a vast number of rotten ones. Go for something that gets good reviews on websites like BikeRadar and MBR, that your local bike shop recommends and has great upgrade potential.

Don’t forget to also budget for a decent lock, insurance to keep your bike safe and some dedicated mountain bike kit. A proper mountain bike helmet is an absolute must too.


Where and what are you going to ride?

Take a look at what you’ll ride and where you’ll ride. Pick the bike that’s most suitable for the riding that you’ll actually do.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Are your local trails smooth and easy or will you be tackling some big and tough terrain?

Will your rides be short and sharp or big, long and all-day epics?

How often will you ride? Are you going to be out several times a week or just once a month? Will you ride through the winter?

Are you likely to head to many bike parks, do any racing or head abroad on a mountain bike holiday?

We’d advise picking the bike that best suits the type of riding you’ll do 75% of the time. That’s the bike you’ll get the most fun out of and will be the most useful for the largest amount of your riding.

If you’re erring on the side of occasional riding on beginner level trails you can get away with spending a bit less and considering a hardtail with a lighter-weight kit. If you’re all set for trips abroad, racing, rough trails and winter riding you’ll likely need to spend a bit more and will benefit from a full-suspension bike.

Hardtail or full suspension?

Simply put, you’re better with a good hardtail than a poor full suspension bike.

If your budget is around £1000 we’d advise you to buy a hardtail. You’ll get better quality components, and you won’t have to worry about maintenance as much. As you get a bit more cash you can always upgrade your kit. Hardtails are fun, fast and an absolute riot to ride!

The Calibre Line 10 is a fantastic starter hardtail mountain bike that costs just £749. We’re also big fans of the Vitus Nucleus 275 VR (£489) and the Marin Nail Trail 6 (£1,100)

If you can stretch to £1000 or more then those shiny full suspension bikes start to become an option. They’re best if your trails are a bit rougher and more technically demanding.

If you plan on riding some BikeParks, doing a bit of racing or heading abroad to ride some big mountains now and again you’ll definitely benefit from full suspension, wider tyres and better quality components.

Great first full-suspension mountain bikes include the brilliant Calibre Bossnut (£899) and the Marin Hawk Hill (£1350).

If your budget is a bit more exciting then there are some amazing bikes around the £2500 mark. There’s the Canyon Spectral (£2600), Nukeproof Mega 275 Comp (£2400) or the YT Capra AL (£2,200).


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Wheel size.

You’ll hear a lot said about wheel sizes. The most common wheel sizes are 26”, 27.5” and 29”. All are available with standard size tyres or large volume ‘plus’ sized tyres.

Whichever you choose will have very little effect on how much fun you have or how fast you go. There are good bikes and bad bikes in all wheel sizes.

Pick the one that suits your budget, get some decent tyres and enjoy riding whatever wheel size you end up on. They’re all great fun, trust us!

New or second hand?

When buying your first mountain bike the second-hand market can look pretty appealing – and rightly so.

A new bike from a bike shop or online retailer will be properly checked and tuned before you get it. You’ll get a warranty. You’ll often get free servicing. You’ll also get peace of mind your bike hasn’t been flogged senseless in its previous life.

Second-hand bikes can be an absolute bargain but you need to be cautious.

Try to buy from bike shop mechanics, pro-riders or race teams as they’ll have usually maintained their bikes carefully throughout their lives. Take an experienced friend along when you buy and have a proper, no-nonsense check before you commit. When you buy, use something like PayPal which protects you if the bike turns out to be a deathtrap. If your second-hand deal seems too good to be true or feels a bit fishy, give it a miss.

Direct sales or bike shop?

The traditional route to buy a bike is through a bike shop. These days though, many manufacturers sell their bikes direct to customers online – called ‘direct sales’.

A good shop can give you some advice on what’s the best bike for you. You can try before you buy and you can swap out a kit that you don’t like. The shop will also build your bike up and check it’s in tip-top condition. Free service after 6 months isn’t uncommon either.

The ‘direct’ sales route makes the bikes cheaper. You’ll usually get better components for less money than you would in a bike shop. It’s harder to try before you (but not impossible) and you won’t have a local, hard-working bike shop o give you advice and help you out. That said, direct sales brands are doing a great job with customer service and are often quick and easy to reply to calls and emails.

Our advice? Pick the one that offers the best bike for you for your budget. Also, don’t forget that a bike bought online can still be fixed in your local bike shop. Whatever you buy, get into your local bike shop for repairs, spares and advice.

Get a demo ride

A spin on a mate’s bike is all well and good… but a proper demo-day organised by a manufacturer or a shop is a great thing. A try-before-you-buy is essential to make sure your potential new bike fits and rides like you

think it will.

You’ll find demo days advertised on mountain bike websites and on bike manufacturer’s websites or social media pages. Many shops also have demo bikes and that you can borrow and ride on your local trails.

Smiles not miles.

Last but not least and the most important of all!

Buying that first mountain bike can be a tricky process. Don’t forget that ultimately it’s the bike that puts the biggest smile on your face that you should buy.

Decide your budget, do some research, ask around, get a demo ride and then just buy something and ride the hell out of it!

Don’t forget to check out Pedalcover’s specialist mountain bike insurance policies when you buy your new bike. They’ll keep you and your bike safe if things don’t go entirely to plan!