While some cyclists may be putting their bikes away now that the days are getting shorter and the weather’s getting more grim, it’s actually the perfect time of year to get out in the woods and discover the joy of mountain biking. Splashing through puddles and coming away from the trails splattered in mud is half the fun of autumn and winter mountain biking, so don’t be fooled into thinking that your next few months will be relegated to the turbo trainer.
If you’re new to the sport, you may not want to lay down huge wads of cash for the latest and greatest premium mountain bikes, so we’ve taken the liberty of rounding up some of the best women’s mountain bikes you can buy for under £500. All of these bikes are beginner-friendly and perfectly capable of taking you on some fun laps of your local trails.
Of course, once you’ve chosen your new bike, don’t forget to invest in some good MTB gloves, and perhaps some knee pads if you’re really new to the sport. If you’ve got a bit more money to spend, then don’t miss our pick of the best women’s mountain bikes, including full-suspension models. Finally, if you’re planning to get the whole family involved, why not check out our roundup of the best kids’ mountain bikes?
If you’re not sure how to decide on a bike, then you can jump straight to our handy guide on how to choose the best women's mountain bike for you.
Best women’s mountain bikes under £500
The Liv Tempt 3 has a lightweight and capable ALUXX-Grade aluminum frame optimized for women’s physiology, designed using Liv’s 3F (Fit, Form, Function) philosophy. This means geometry that’s tailored to women, placing them in the optimal riding position for efficiency, comfort and control on multiple terrains.
If you’re an off-road beginner, or looking for a first bike that will serve well as a commuter and a leisure bike, then the Tempt 3 is a solid choice. It has a low standover height to offer confident maneuvering off-road, and stable geometry that inspires confidence on the trail. A slack 68-degree head angle coupled with a steep 74-degree seat angle makes it ideal for climbing and keeping traction, while the low bottom bracket drop brings your center of gravity down to help you feel in complete control. With a very long wheelbase, the Liv Tempt 3 feels stable and comfortable off-road, while the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes deliver adequate stopping power to help you feel in control in all weather conditions.
Depending on which wheel size you opt for, you’ll either get an 80mm or 100mm travel fork, which is just enough to soak up the bumps and make the trails feel more forgiving, without it being overkill. Both options come with 2.2-inch wide tires and have clearance for 2.4 inches if you want maximum traction in the mud.
In order to be as accommodating as possible for riders of all sizes, the Liv Tempt is available in sizes ranging from XS to L, with XS having 27.5-inch wheels and L having 29-inch wheels, to ensure handling is consistent throughout the range. However, to be as versatile an option as possible, the S and M frames are available with both wheel sizes so you can choose your ride. Opt for 29er wheels if you want a speed machine that rolls over just about anything, or 27.5-inch wheels for a more playful and nippy mountain bike to see you zipping through the local woods and getting up to mischief.
The Tempt 3 is dropper post compatible, so should you wish to make some upgrades later on, this addition will make maneuvering around the bike incredibly easier and help to hone your confidence and skills.
Technically this isn’t a women-specific one, and that’s because Specialized designs bikes for the individual, as per its ‘Beyond Gender’ philosophy. This results in a more inclusive and tailored size range for all riders regardless of gender. However, the Rockhopper - a heritage line in Specialized’s repertoire - absolutely deserves its place here, thanks to its recent overhaul, which starts out with a cross-country inspired frame and dials up the performance. It comes in a whopping eight size options, with the choice between 27.5 and 29-inch wheels, so it’s incredibly versatile.
The size-specific Rx tune tailors the ride while keeping the price low. The SR Suntour XCE suspension fork features size-specific travel and spring rates (depending on frame and wheel sizes) while maintaining consistency across geometry, handling and performance.
Built around a Premium A1 aluminum frame with butted tubes for high strength to low weight, there’s ample standover clearance for riders with shorter legs, and the size of the wheelset is tailored to the frame size to keep proportions the same across the entire range. The frame is dropper post compatible, so when you’ve really caught the mountain biking bug you can start upgrading to your heart’s content.
A low bottom bracket drop and stack place your center of gravity in the optimal position for maneuvering on rough ground, while the slack 68-degree head angle combined with the 73.5-degree seat angle spell out agile climbing for off-road capability that can bring big confidence boosts on the trails.
The Cannondale Women’s Trail 7 is just about to be released in its 2021 guise and has mostly retained many of its qualities but now comes with Shimano Altus gearing instead of Microshift. It’s a low-standover trail bike with 100mm of travel up front to soak up the bumps, great for riding on low-impact trails, gravel roads and towpaths.
The Women’s Trail 7 has some standout features, including Save Micro-Suspension built into the rear triangle. These built-in flex zones within the SmartForm C3 Alloy frame are designed to damp vibrations at the rear while the front fork takes the brunt of the terrain, offering a smooth and comfortable ride.
Up front, Cannondale’s Intellimount stem allows you to mount your smartphone (with an SP-Connect compatible case) directly to your stem for a useful dashboard. If you decide to make upgrades later down the line, the Women’s Trail 7 is compatible with 31.6mm dropper posts, which makes more advanced maneuvering much easier to achieve.
In terms of sizing, the Women’s Trail 7 comes in XS-XL, making it a great option for riders of all sizes. In order to ensure handling is consistent across the range, the XS and S frames come with 27.5-inch wheels, while the others come with 29-inch wheels. Both options come with WTB Ranger Comp 2.25in tires, which are tough, durable, and have a tread pattern that will help you stay upright in the mud.
The Cannondale Women’s Trail 7 also boasts progressive geometry, including a slack 68-degree head angle for exceptionally stable handling, making it an excellent choice for beginners. Meanwhile the short chainstays and Boost spacing positions the rear wheel in the optimal place for agile handling and confident climbing.
The Aim is Cube’s entry-level hardtail mountain bike, which shares exactly the same frame as its higher-tier Analog, Attention and Acid models. This is made from High Performance 6061 aluminum with complex profiles on the top tube and down tube, in order to provide accurate steering and effortless acceleration.
Meanwhile, the Cube’s Agile Ride geometry promises nimble handling, thanks to the short chainstays and steep 74-degree seat angle, while the super slack 69-degree head angle, combined with the long wheelbase promises surefootedness on looser surfaces to boost confidence.
It’s available with either 27.5 or 29-inch wheels (dependent on frame size), so there should always be an option to suit most people. Since Cube doesn’t see the need for women-specific sizing, they’ve instead opted for more fine-tuned sized frames, offering regular and short versions of their models to accommodate different reach requirements.
The only reason it’s more affordable than its higher-end siblings is the more budget-friendly components. The 100mm SR Suntour fork comes with a remote lockout, which makes climbing and riding on tarmac much more efficient. With its hidden mudguard and rack mounts, the Cube Aim Race could double up as a decent commuter if you wanted.
3x8 Shimano gearing offers up a huge range of gears to adequately get you up most gradients, while the powerful and reliable Shimano hydraulic disc brakes instill confidence even when the weather’s not on your side.
The Scott Contessa Active 60 is designed to be ridden on unpaved roads and rough trails, and is suitable for racing cross-country with jumps and drops that are lower than 60cm in height. This makes it a good beginner’s mountain bike, especially for anyone wanting to hone their handling skills, learn to bunny hop and build their confidence rolling over smaller drop-offs.
The lightweight alloy frame is coupled with a Suntour XCE 100mm travel suspension fork, much like the majority of the bikes in this list. A 3x7 Shimano Tourney drivetrain offers a multitude of gears for a range of gradients, enabling you to climb up steeper slopes with loose surfaces. The stock 27.5x2.4in Kenda Booster tires are nice and wide, offering superb traction in wet conditions and while cornering. Meanwhile, mechanical Tektro disc brakes offer a relatively fuss-free approach to powerful braking.
As with most of the other bikes in this list, the Contessa Active 60 features a slack 68-degree head angle to help you confidently descend without feeling like you’re pitching forward precariously close to the bars. Standover height is fairly low, as is the stack, meaning you’ll sit ‘in’ the bike rather than ‘on top’, instilling confidence and providing a sense of stability and total control.
The Carrera Vengeance has been recently revamped with wider handlebars, a shorter stem and more slack geometry to create a beginner-friendly mountain bike that feels stable while cornering and sure-footed on the rough stuff.
At this price point you can’t expect a lot of bells and whistles, but the Vengeance is a decent introductory bike for someone who’s never ridden off-road before, though it’s advisable to stick to more tame trails, fire roads and towpaths, rather than taking on anything really technical.
The Vengeance is a durable alloy frame recently updated with chunkier and stiffer tube profiles, combined with a Suntour XCM fork with 100mm of travel, powered by a 2x8 Shimano Altus drivetrain and controlled by mechanical disc brakes, which are easy to maintain at home and provide good stopping power in adverse weather. 27.5-inch wheels offer a nimble and agile ride feel and work well for shorter riders on the small frame. These are wrapped in Carrera Puncture Protect tires by Kenda, hinting at long days on the trails without having to flip the bike upside down too often.
In terms of women-specific features, alongside the low standover height and compact geometry, the Carrera Vengeance comes with a memory foam saddle and an adjustable fork designed to let you fine-tune the suspension.
How to choose the best women's mountain bike for you
Whether or not you want gender to play a role in bike design, you should choose the right kind of bike for your discipline, skill level, the experience you’re looking for, and of course, your budget.
Since we’re focusing on sub-£500 mountain bikes in this list, we’re mostly covering entry-level mountain bikes, or the next tier up for those who have caught the bug and now want something that’s going to take them to the next level. This means hardtails, which are not only more wallet-friendly than full-suspension bikes, but are also the best kind of help you hone your skills and practice technique on the trails. While the front suspension will take the edge off and support your wrists, elbows and shoulders, the rear end allows you to feel the trail features beneath you and learn how to navigate the landscape and your surroundings.
1. Do you need a women’s mountain bike?
This is a largely debated topic in the bike industry, and many brands fall on different sides of the fence. There’s no solid answer to this question because not all women’s bodies are the same. For those who are shorter, or whose proportions aren’t compatible with unisex bikes, women-specific bikes will likely be a godsend. However, if you’re on the taller side, or have a long upper body compared to your leg length, you may find that women’s bikes are too small and cramped for you. It all comes down to preference and personal needs.
At this price point many manufacturers produce ‘shrink-and-pink’ women’s mountain bikes, which are essentially smaller and ‘prettier’ versions of the unisex counterpart. However these days some brands produce better thought-out women-specific mountain bikes. Some will still be a more compact version of the flagship unisex model, with women-specific contact points - meaning a saddle sculpted for female anatomy and narrow handlebars with slimmer grips to accommodate smaller hands - however many will have been more considered in their overall design. Liv Cycling, for example, is a women’s bike brand that specializes in designing women’s bikes from the ground up using global body dimensions data to maximize on women’s unique physiology.
2. Contact points
Women-specific mountain bikes will generally have a geometry that’s tailored to smaller riders, and in some cases at this price point, tunable suspension. However one of the main things you’ll find on women’s mountain bikes is gender-specific contact points: this means the saddle, the handlebars, the cranks, and the grips.
As a general rule, women tend to have narrower shoulders, which means the handlebars are also going to be more narrow than those found on a unisex model. Having said that, if you’re a mountain biking newbie, you’ll probably find them to be much wider than you’re used to anyhow. Mountain bike handlebars are often wide, as they offer more control and allow you to really drive through berms and flowy descents. You’ll often also find slimmer grips on the bars as well, to accommodate smaller hands.
A women-specific saddle is a very important aspect to get right when buying a new bike, however there’s a strong likelihood that you won’t settle on the stock saddle that comes with it. Saddles are a personal preference since we’re all unique in our downstairs anatomy, so you can only really discover what works for you by trying multiple saddles to see what fits.
Finally, with women-specific sizing of bikes comes shorter cranks on the smaller models. The simplest explanation for this is that shorter legs need shorter cranks, so they can comfortably extend to the bottom of the pedal stroke.