If you're new to off-roading and want to get the most out of your newfound skills, you can go a long way with one of the best entry-level women's mountain bikes.
Nothing beats the exhilaration of flying down a trail on your mountain bike, whooping with sheer joy as the world flashes by. And to maximize your fun, progress your skills and ride with friends, it’s worth investing in a good quality mountain bike to ride. Luckily, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great bike. If you’ve got a bit more cash to splash, our guide to the best women’s mountain bikes has some outstanding rides, whether you like to ride trail, cross-country or enduro.
This selection includes bikes made specifically for women, such as those by bike brands Liv and Canyon, and unisex bikes by brands like Specialized and Trek. For even more unisex bikes, check out our guide of the best mountain bikes for beginners.
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Women’s specific bikes have been tailored specifically to suit the average body dimensions of women. This includes running to smaller sizes, featuring women’s specific grips, and having the suspension set up to suit the lighter-on-average weight of women riders. Liv bikes are designed specifically for women, using female body dimension data, with a team of women engineers. Many women find that they work really well for them, as they often have elements like a women’s specific saddle and narrower grips, which means a better fit straight off. However, you don’t have to ride a women’s bike and not every woman gets on with them.
Unisex bikes are made to be suitable for the average rider, irrespective of gender. Specialized, for example, uses body dimensions data taken from its own database, including men and women, and designs its bikes tailored to rider size and related requirements. Plenty of women ride unisex mountain bikes, though you may find if you opt for one that you’ll need to swap the saddle to get a comfy perch - check out our list of the best women’s MTB saddles for suggestions.
Whichever you opt for, most brands will tailor the components and frame design to each size of bike, so you get a similar-feeling ride whatever size you go for. For example, smaller sizes will often have narrower handlebars, as smaller riders usually have narrower shoulders, and slightly smaller wheels to keep everything in proportion.
Jump ahead to: What to look for in an entry-level women's mountain bike
Best entry-level women’s mountain bikes
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The Liv Embolden is a great entry-level full-suspension bike based around an aluminum frame with 130mm of front travel and 120mm rear. It’s perfect for tackling trail centers and wild paths, progressing skills and having a whole heap of fun.
Liv is a bike brand catering specifically and exclusively to women, with bikes like the Embolden designed by a team of female engineers based on women-only body dimension data. In addition to women’s specific contact points such as the saddle and grips and a women’s specific suspension tune designed to work with the lighter on average weight of women riders, the frame itself is designed to give the best possible fit and performance.
Maneuverable 27.5in wheels, good quality Rockshox suspension, plus Maxxis Ardent and Rekon tires set up tubeless make for a package that offers great value for money and is plenty capable, too.
The Canyon Neuron 5 WMN isn’t just a great entry-level mountain bike for women; it’s also a bike that accommodates smaller, more petite riders thanks to it being offered in a size 2XS, which is pretty rare in the MTB world.
That’s not its only selling point, however. Built around a unisex aluminum frame, it has women’s specific finishing kit in the form of saddle, grips, handlebars, cranks, plus a lighter shock tune. These add comfort and improve performance.
130mm of travel front and rear combined with 27.5in wheels (29in on the size medium), a great quality SRAM SX Eagle 1x12 group and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes form a really well put-together package that’s everything you need in a MTB. It even has a dropper seat post.
The Scott Contessa Genius 920 is built to handle the rough technical stuff. A slack head angle provides confident handling on descents and is combined with 29er wheels, which roll easily over obstacles. The addition of 150mm of well-tuned suspension provides plenty of traction. If you’re looking for a bike that will help you progress, this is it. And if you’re already a confident rider and want a bike that will perform well over a range of terrain and you don’t want to spend a fortune, this is also it.
Built around a unisex Genius frame, the Contessa model features women’s specific finishing kit (saddle, size-specific handlebars and cranks), plus a lighter shock tune so the suspension is more reactive for lighter riders.
The bike is also compatible with 27.5in wheels and has adjustable geometry so you can pop it in the high setting for flatter or more climb-heavy trails, or the lower mode when the direction is mostly downhill.
The Fuel EX 5 Deore is Trek’s entry-level full-suspension mountain bike, but that doesn’t mean it's any the less capable. Based around a unisex Fuel frame with the same geometry seen in much pricier models, this great value package includes 29in wheels, 130mm of plush, trail-railing suspension, and a Shimano Deore 1x12 groupset. By all definitions, this is a great bike.
Trek no longer offers a women’s specific bike line; instead, it has adapted many of its models to suit a wider range of riders. So, for example, the Fuel EX5 is available in a whopping seven sizes, including S and XS for smaller riders, and a M/L for riders who otherwise sit at the intersection of the M and L sizes and find it difficult to get a really good fit. The XS comes with 27.5in wheels, while interestingly, the S comes with a choice between 27.5in or 29in to suit rider preference, and across the range the components selected will be size-specific.
When you’re getting into mountain biking, hardtails - which have a front suspension fork but no rear shock - are absolutely brilliant. They’re ideal for learning good riding techniques on, they’re efficient at climbing and holding speed through flatter terrain, they’re versatile, and they’re a whole lot of fun.
The Grand Canyon 5 WMN is a women’s specific offering from Canyon that ticks all the boxes without breaking the bank. It has pretty much all the features you want from a great bike, including a good quality 1x12 groupset with plenty of gears for spinning up climbs and sprinting along flats, powerful hydraulic brakes which allow you to control your speed easily, and women’s specific finishing kit such as the Iridium WMN Fitness saddle, designed to offer comfort and performance for female riders.
Brilliantly, this bike is also offered down to a 2XS making it a great choice for smaller riders, too.
What to look for in an entry-level women's mountain bike
1. Choose your MTB discipline
There are different categories of mountain biking - cross-country, trail, enduro and downhill being the most common - so it's important to get a bike that's fit for the job at hand. Depending on your chosen discipline, you'll need some specific qualities in your bike, from the amount of suspension travel, geometry, and components.
Cross-country bikes have steep angles, narrower tire clearance, shorter travel (generally up to around 100mm), and come with a choice of hardtail or dual-suspension models.
At the other end of the spectrum, you'll find downhill bikes with super slack angles and up to 200mm of travel, designed to plummet down the steepest and gnarliest descents.
Trail bikes fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and would be our recommendation if you're not planning to race cross-country or downhill. They're available as hardtails and dualies and are designed to be all-rounders that perform well in most situations. They offer around 120-140mm of travel, stable handling and comfortable geometry for all-day riding. These are definitely what we'd recommend for more generalist riding and skills practice.
2. Think about suspension
There are several considerations to make when it comes to suspension. First off, do you want to go hardtail or dual? Modern suspension technology is amazing and does an excellent job of smoothing out bumps in the trail. If you're taking on some really gnarly stuff and would prefer to feel as comfortable as possible, then dual-suspension can be a great option. However, if you're keener to develop your skills, finetune your technique and feel more connected to the trail, then go for a hardtail. We would recommend beginners to start with a hardtail to develop stronger fundamentals and then move onto dual later down the line.
Another consideration here would be what you want to spend your money on. As an entry point into the sport, you may not want to spend a fortune on this bike, so you might need to choose where your priorities lie. Dual-suspension bikes are more pricey because you're getting two lots of suspension, so if you want value for money, you'll see savings elsewhere on the bike. Would you prefer a dual suspension bike with average components, or a hardtail with a top-rated groupset, for example?
Finally, if you have a choice between air or coil suspension, opt for the former. Air suspension can be tailored to your weight, offering you the exact amount of support you need without bottoming out or pogoing you around.
3. Women's specific kit
We've alluded to this throughout the article, but there are certain components and kit that are designed specifically around women's needs. The most important of these is the saddle, especially if you're likely to be sat down, pedalling and climbing hills for a large part of your rides. Women's saddles are designed to work better with female anatomy, whereas spending too much time on a unisex or male-specific saddle could lead to discomfort and potential damage to delicate tissues.
Other features to consider are handlebar width (which should be around the same as the width between your shoulders), women's specific grips that work well for smaller hands, and crank length.