woman on bicycle

Most lists of “best mountain bikes” only cover men’s bikes. Here we’ll look at the best entry-level mountain bikes for women.

And if it’s your first mountain bike, you’re probably on a budget, so ultimately we’re looking for the best women’s mountain bike under $500. I’ll review some bike choices and include tips about how to find the best one for your specific needs.

Which bike should I buy?

With gas prices on the rise and everyone wanting to get in shape and lose weight, bicycling has seen a rise in popularity. With that, I’ve been getting more questions relating to “buying my first bicycle.”

Here are a couple questions relating to getting a woman’s bike…

I’m 5’4 height & want to buy a new bike. I don’t know much about bike – so I’m asking what is a good starter bike, what size 16″, 17″, 19″, etc.. also, I’m looking for a cheaper bike $200-$400 range. Any advice appreciated, thanks. Woman’s mountain bike

What type of cycle would you recommend for an out of shape, overweight woman who wants to cycle a few blocks during her lunch break to at least begin (slowly) to do some type of exercise?

Hi gals,

Thanks for writing in. I commend you on your desire to start riding and get in shape! In addition to improving your fitness, I bet you’ll also have a lot of fun!

But first, you need a bike.

How to Choose a Bike

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for a bike:

Be wary of department stores

If you’re on a budget, you’re probably tempted to buy a bike from a department store like Walmart (sometimes called a “big box bike”). Almost all their bikes are in the $100-300 range, while a real bike shop might only have 1-2 bikes that are under $500. So you’d think the selection is better.

Unfortunately, not only are those bikes low quality, they are often poorly assembled and even dangerous to ride. Those big box stores rarely employ competent bicycle mechanics.

Find a good bike shop

For any bicycle purchase, I highly recommend finding a bike shop in your area and asking for their expertise. They should be able to match you with a bike that suits your needs and fits your budget. Then you can test ride multiple bikes to see which you like best, and the shop employees can make sure the bike is setup properly.

The first thing to look for is a shop that actually cares about you and seems to put an effort into making sure you get the right bike. If you don’t like the people (perhaps they have an elitist attitude) or they don’t let you test ride bikes, find a new shop.

Note: REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods are not bike shops, but they do sell entry-level bikes that are built and assembled properly.

Make sure the bike fits

The second thing is the bike itself. But if you find a good shop, getting a good bike is the easy part. Just be sure to:

  1. get the right size bike
  2. get a proper bike fitting

Related: Mountain Bike Sizing Explained

If the bike doesn’t fit, you won’t enjoy it, and that means you won’t ride it.

(Some shops don’t offer good fitting services, and some will actually try to sell you the wrong size just because it’s something left over from last year and they need to to make way for new models!)

I’ve also written another article about making sure you get the correct frame size.

Best Women’s Mountain Bikes Under $500

If you plan to do most of your riding on dirt roads and rough terrain, check out these budget mountain bikes:

  • Trek 820 WSD
  • Liv Bliss 3 Disc
  • Specialized Pitch
  • Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1W
  • Cannondale Foray 3
  • Raleigh Eva 3
  • GT Laguna Pro

Trek 820 WSD

An excellent entryway to a world of off-road adventures. It’s the most affordable mountain bike in Trek’s lineup and the ideal choice for women who are interested in the MTB life but also want a hybrid bike with a confidence-building stepthrough frame and a saddle made specifically for women.

Retail price: $399.99

Website: Trek 820 WSD

Liv Bliss 3 Disc

Bliss delivers front suspension, wider tires, and a relaxed riding position that keeps you more upright and comfortable in the saddle. Liv’s 3F Design Philosophy lets them create bikes that are specifically tuned for female riders, balancing riders properly over the bottom bracket and ensuring they get the most confidence-inspiring position. Integrated dropouts allow you to install a rack or add a kickstand to transform the bike into capable commuter. When variable weather conditions arise, or the path gets bumpy, capable front-end suspension, braking precision and traction keep you riding smoothly. Open up the possibilities and go find adventure with Bliss.

Retail price: $480

Website: Liv Bliss 3 Disc

Specialized Pitch

While I really liked the Specialized Myka women’s hardtail, the new Specialized Pitch is a good bike, too.

The Women’s Pitch 27.5 unlocks the potential of your ride. With a light aluminum frame and Women’s Sport Trail 27.5 Geometry, you’ll be feeling comfortable and confident regardless of the terrain. And with corrosion-resistant hardware and kickstand compatibility, this Pitch provides the long-term durability and ease-of-use that every bike should strive for.

Retail price: $500

Website: Specialized Pitch

Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1W

Designed for women trail riders, the Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1W offers nimble handling, obstacle-gobbling 27.5″ wheels, a versatile 3×8 drivetrain and the solid stopping power of hydraulic disc brakes.

Very rarely do you find hydraulic disc brakes on a bike under $500. You get more stopping power and less finger fatigue. I highly recommend hydraulic disc brakes for women.

Retail price: $499

Website: Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1W

Cannondale Foray 3

A foray into fun, igniting a love of cycling, the Cannondale Foray 3 women’s bike has a lightweight aluminum frame, sporty riding position and wide gear range to make it street- and singletrack-ready.

Retail price: $499.99

Website: Cannondale Foray 3

Order online: Cannondale Foray 3

Raleigh Eva 3

From town to trail and back again, the Eva 3 is equally at home on the dirt and on the pavement. This women’s bike offers comfort and control along with mountain bike style. The durable aluminum frame offers women’s sizing and lower stand over for maneuverability. Float smoothly over rough pavement and trails thanks to the SR Suntour suspension fork. Shimano trigger shifters provide reliable shifting to ensure you are in the right gear every time. Wide knobby tires grip the corners while disc brakes have great stopping power you can rely on. Ride on the pavement, and dabble in the dirt — the Eva 3 does both with easy confidence.

Retail price: $549.99

(But you can find it under $500.)

Website: Raleigh Eva 3

GT Laguna Pro

Explore the off beaten path with the GT® Women’s Laguna Pro Mountain Bike. The 6061-T6 Aluminum Triple Triangle Frame is strong and durable, yet lightweight and nimble. The Shimano shifters offer easy and smooth transitions while the mechanical disc brakes provide ample stopping power when you need it. With 27.5” All Terra Cypher tires, the Laguna Pro delivers traction and control on the road and on the trails.

Retail price: $599.99

(But often on sale for $400.)

Website: GT Laguna

Order online: GT Laguna Pro

Note: If you are cruising through town on a lunch break, or mainly riding rail trails, you’d be better off with some sort of “hybrid” bicycle – sort of like a mountain bike but with smoother, skinny tires.

Good choices for a women’s hybrid bike include:

  • Trek 7.1 FX
  • Trek Shift 3 WSD
  • Giant Cypress
  • Giant Sedona
  • Specialized Crossroads Sport Women’s
  • Specialized Globe Women’s
  • Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1 Step-Through Bike

I’m sure there are more out there though, so just get the one you like best!

Photo credit: pedrosimoes7

This article was originally published on September 15, 2008. It was updated and re-published July 27, 2019.

4 Comments
  1. Hi,
    Looking for a bicycle???? It is simple u can search for the best one in the internet.But i would recommend u to have a walk after ur lunch or dinner.It will really keep u fit. U can even consult in gym for it.

  2. @Atbikes

    Umm… no. Buying a bicycle isn’t as simple as searching for one on the internet. Did you read the article where I mentioned the importance of going to a bike shop and test riding bikes?

  3. I’m buying my first higher end bike. I’m looking for a hybrid/comfort bike. I really want a cruiser for my 4 weeks at the beach, but the rest of the year I live in Westchester County, NY with plenty of hills and lovely bike trails. Help because I am completely torn between the Specialized Crossroad Women’s and the Giant Cypress women’s. Both ride beautifully. I like the extra space between me and the handle bars, the slightly larger handle bars and slightly wider tires. They cypress has an equally wonderful ride and I prefer the seat and the color. And the price is $50 lower. Can you help please?

  4. @Hillary

    Both those bikes are good machines. The rule of thumb is: when you test ride two bikes and still can’t decide, choose the color you prefer!

    So it sounds like the Giant Cypress is the one for you.

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