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Me and my wife are looking to start cycling in the nearby nature. We aren't expert biker cyclers but are in reasonable shape (we're in our 20s). We're looking for two entry level bikes, each up to the price of 350 USD. The nearby nature includes mostly 4X4 paths, sometime narrower but in general in such a paved manner. Could anyone recommend good bicycles in this price range that will fit our requirements?

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    You're not going to get a specific product recommendation here. However, your description matches a simple front-suspension MTB or even a rigid/hybrid bike. In addition to a cheaper new bike, do consider a lightly used one. I know that idea is treated with disdain by Americans, but its worth exploring. You/she might not even enjoy riding, so a new bike is a commitment. Also, ask around neighbours and family. You could borrow a bike and see how the style suits before committing to purchase new/used. – Criggie Apr 24 '16 at 21:46
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    @Criggie: See my answer for reasons why the type of bike you buy may not only decide if you break your wallet but also if you break your interest in riding. – errantlinguist Apr 25 '16 at 13:27
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    @Criggie, regarding Americans' attitudes towards used bikes, we're not quite that homogeneous; I think such attitudes depend quite a bit on how wealthy the local area is and what income bracket the rider belongs to. Personally I'd be quite pleased with a not-too-used mountain bike that had been treated right. – rclocher3 Dec 15 '16 at 18:33
  • I just recently got into MTB as well and I can tell you, it's going to be hard to find a decent bike in that price range unless you go the used route. Even then it will be hard. Don't look for full suspension because at that price point they will be terrible. My suggestion would be to try to raise your budget. Also, look for forks with rebound adjustment if you can find some in your price point. – npsantini Jan 8 '17 at 15:36
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First of all, why do you want a mountain bike?:

The nearby nature includes mostly 4X4 paths, sometime narrower but in general in such a paved manner.

This is definitely not what a mountain bike is for: They are intended for serious trail use, i.e. broken paths with lots of obstacles/debris. Given what you're describing and your beginning riding "style", I'd personally recommend either a lower-end touring or hybrid bike with tires more meant for off-road use: They will be more comfortable to ride for longer periods, will be easier/more enjoyable to ride fast (less rolling resistance) and can be easily used for stuff other than trail riding such as hauling groceries with a rack and panniers. Mountain bikes are a pain to use for anything other than, well, mountains.

However, in order to get a new bike which you will really enjoy riding and can depend on for a long period of time without it breaking, you'll unfortunately have to spend a lot more than $350 USD (cf. a 2015 ranking of good entry-level mountain bikes, on which most start at around $500). Unfortunately, although bikes at e.g. Walmart may be in that price range, you will regret spending that much when just a few hundred more will get you a very respectable machine.

However, you can find a great deal on a used mid-range bike on sites such as craigslist: By buying used, you save the instant "drive it off the lot" depreciation which comes with a brand-new machine. If you don't know anyone who can help you find a good deal on a used bike, however (it's like buying a used car: be careful and always be ready to pay for repairs after buying it), many reputable LBSs will have a few used bikes for sale or will know someone who does.


Although this recommendation is biased since this is my absolute favorite type of bike to ride, if you really are into doing mixed light off-road stuff like you describe, consider getting a so-called "adventure bike", which is basically a road bike for people who aren't afraid of getting dirty. These bikes are ridiculously fun to ride on nearly any surface and you can still carry groceries with them when needed.

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  • This is one of the few types of riding where the hybrids with minimal front suspension might be useful. Some hybrids max out at quite narrow tyres so do check. And definitely start with a used bike if you can get one in your size (I'm too tall to find one easily) or even hire for a day or two. – Chris H Dec 15 '16 at 12:48
  • Why would it matter what the maximum width of tires are on a hybrid?-- getting wide tires is probably the best way to take the fun out of cycling. – errantlinguist Dec 16 '16 at 16:02
  • Riding on loose stuff on 32mm tyres saps the fun pretty quickly too. I can really notice the difference on dry/sandy paths now I've got 28 and 32mm rather than my previous 35s (which also ran a bit too soft for me on tarmac). – Chris H Dec 16 '16 at 16:07
  • Yes, riding on sand/snow/etc. might be better with wide tires, but the term "4x4 path" doesn't seem to conjure images of sand in my mind but rather hard-packed dirt... or are you saying the same thing I am? Nevertheless, I'm not sure what exactly is considered "wide" these days; Is 28mm not the "typical" width for cyclocross-style tires? – errantlinguist Dec 16 '16 at 16:18
  • I don't ride CX but I thought it was wider. I mainly ride a hybrid. Hard-packed dirt that gets chewed up by 4x4s can get loose pretty quickly when it dries out. I don't think we're in significant disagreement, I just want the OP to be sure to have the choice of tyre width. – Chris H Dec 16 '16 at 16:24
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First of all, mountain bike riding is a great thing for a couple to get into. A great entry level bike for around $350 is a Giant Revel. It is considered an entry level bike because it doesn't have disk brakes and only has front suspension, which is all you will need for your kind of riding. I started out with this bike and had no problems with beginner riding. I later upgraded but I feel like this bike would be the best fit for you guys as of now.

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    "Product recommendations are off topic" Please don't bother naming specific brands and models. Instead you're better to answer something like "A front suspension bike would be the best fit...." Remember Stackexchange is on the global internet, not everyone is in your country or uses your currency. – Criggie Apr 30 '16 at 10:40

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