Q: How much to start mountain biking? A: £605.00

by 55

Contrary to what mountain bike websites may imply, you don’t have to be a millionaire to start mountain biking.

how much to start mountain biking? beginners guide
Pic: Voodoo Cycles

Mountain biking may not be as cheap as some other sports but, as we all know, it is the best sport of all time. And to experience the best sport of all time, need not cost the earth.

Bike shops vs shops with bikes

You’ll probably notice that for the purposes of this feature, the products and brands we’ve chosen are from Halfords. Shock. Horror. This is because, like it or not, Halfords is where a lot of newbies feel most confident shopping.

The extra cost of going to a decent bike shop is arguably £0.00 more expensive, but the added non-fiscal benefits are immense. Advice, experience, trail knowledge, a relationship.

If you’re a beginner, or have not even begun yet: Go to a proper bike shop.

This guide is more of a retail experiment brought about by various conversations we’ve had in the Singletrack Office. Is mountain biking an expensive pastime? How expensive though? Can we put an actual figure on it?

I foolishly put my hand up and said, “Yes, I can put a figure on it”. So here we are.

Er. What’s mountain biking?

how much to start mountain biking?
Pic: Voodoo Cycles

First off, what is ‘mountain biking’? I used to rag around on a late-1980s microscopic BMX when I first rode off-road tracks and trails and it’s perfectly possible to ride a gravel/CX bike around most trail centre loops. Neither of those activities are really mountain biking.

My definition of ‘mountain biking’ for this thought-piece is Helvellyn. I think for anything to be called a ‘mountain bike’, it has to be capable of doing the classic Helvellyn-Sticks Pass route. And it has to be fun. Not a terrifying ordeal that you never want to do ever again.

This is the stuff that I’ve selected. I’ll go into my reasoning below the items.

Voodoo Braag

how much to start mountain biking?
Pic: Voodoo Cycles

Why this bike? Because it has pretty capable geometry and is specced with good stuff where it counts. It also is not a dead-end purchase. This bike can be adapted and upgraded as you go.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. This bike is fine from the get-go.

The head angle is fine (approx 66°), so it’ll be alright downhill. The seat angle is fine (approx 75°), so it should be okay on climbs. The BB height is fine (approx 310mm), so it should be fine at fun stuff. The standover is generous, so it’s shouldn’t be offputting when things get tricksy.

Parts-wise, it has hydraulic disc brakes with decent size rotors. The tyres aren’t amazing but they aren’t wholly useless either.

The suspension fork is coil which, in my opinion, is a better bet than a cheap air fork. Sure, the spring weight of the coil isn’t going to be bang-on for all riders but at least the fork will have significantly less stiction than a cheap air-sprung fork. And it’s 120mm travel, which is fine and much better than 80-100mm jobbers.

The cockpit is really good. 45mm stem. 780mm handlebars. Lock-on grips (not harsh push-ons that will fly off when it rains).

The drivetrain is 1x 9-speed. Again, fine. The chainring is 32T paired to a 11-46T cassette. That’s not far off the sort of range ratio as top-end MTBs really.

And oh yeah, the bike is a 29er. Which is the best bet for the vast majority of people. 29in is just more stable, grippier and comfier.

A helmet

  • Price: £30 for this Lazer Compact
  • From: Halfords

Even if you are a feckless and reckless goon, have a thought for the poor person who will have to deal with you should you come off your bike and stove your head in on a rock. Wear a helmet for other people, as well as yourself.

And… arguably, that’s all you need. A decent bike and a lid.

Fundamentally, you don’t need that much.

It’s really useful and just plain nice to have some other stuff (listed below) but it is not absolutely necessary.

Other stuff

This stuff will come in useful. No rush. Get hold of it as and when you’re able to (and before you try Helvellyn – I’ve chosen the bike as being capable of Helvellyn, but it needs a rider to get it up and down again, in one piece. You’ll need some kit and some skills to do that safely).

  • Liner shorts
  • Multitool
  • Pump
  • Inner tube
  • Bottle
  • Bottle cage
  • Knee pads
  • Dropper post

Money vs mouth

And now I guess I need to prove my theory by taking a sub-£600 bike up to the top of Helvellyn and back down Sticks Pass then?

Okay. Game on. Stay tuned.

Coming in your inbox once a week

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive Singletrack editorial wisdom directly in your inbox.

Each newsletter is headed up by an exclusive editorial from our team and includes stories and news you don’t want to miss.

We hand pick these deals and refresh them every week.
Singletrack may earn a small commission from any purchases you make

While you’re here…

Thanks for popping by - why not stay a while?IT'S FREE

Sign up as a Singletrack Member and you can leave comments on stories, use the classified ads, and post in our forums, do quizzes and more.

Join us, join in, it’s free, and fun.


Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 55 total)
  • Q: How much to start mountain biking? A: £605.00
  • Premier Icon Sam Forward
    Full Member

    It strikes me as a little dangerous to imply to an absolute beginner they could ride up (and down) helvellyn armed with nothing more than a bike and helmet.

    Premier Icon tonyf1
    Free Member

    I’m not a fan of this bike price snobbery trend. GCN keep doing it with the Eurobike vs super bike which makes me cringe. My first bike was a £10 cast off from the neighbours and it was as much fun as current bikes that cost 100’s of times more.

    Not many people are going to try and tackle Helvellyn full stop so hardly a benchmark.

    Premier Icon Hannah Dobson
    Full Member

    @Sam_Forward that wasn’t the intention, I’ve edited to clarify.

    Premier Icon 1981miked
    Free Member

    I started with a bike and a helmet about 27 years ago and I’m still here to tell the tale.

    I was riding a Trek 930 with V Brakes and some Rockshox forks (can’t remember the model but they were silver).

    I’m all for people getting a bike and a helmet and getting out there and riding.

    Premier Icon matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    +1 on we get so focussed on kit, not on the ride.

    Premier Icon andyspaceman
    Full Member

    Gloves. I know not everyone rides with them, but for any beginner they should surely at least be on the ‘other stuff’ list? Saving one’s palms from the inevitable early spills, as well as preventing blisters on hands unaccustomed to gripping handlebars for several hours at a time.

    Premier Icon jonnyboi
    Full Member

    It’s exactly how I started out, a 26” Carrera Vulcan from halfords, (which was the go to beginners bike ) a cheap helmet and pair of muddy fox cycling shirts worn under normal shorts. Rode natural trails and didn’t die.

    Looking back I wasn’t missing out as everyone rode similar kit.

    Premier Icon Kayak23
    Full Member

    My favourite bike is my £500 Go Outdoors fatbike. You don’t need to spend loads*
    .
    .
    .
    *second favourite is ebike at £5k 😂😳

    Premier Icon Hannah Dobson
    Full Member

    @andyspaceman I’m with you on gloves. Benji rides without gloves. Every time I do that something bad happens, so I wear gloves.

    Premier Icon kerley
    Free Member

    I am a very keen cyclist (3 or 4 rides per week all year round) and my bike would cost around £800 to put together and it is my only bike. Of course it can be done, just that people are gullible, fall for marketing, unable to make their own decisions, peer pressure etc,. etc,.

    Premier Icon Tom Howard
    Full Member

    I am a very keen cyclist (3 or 4 rides per week all year round) and my bike would cost around £800 to put together

    Edit, don’t you ride a rigid, brakeless, fixie?

    Premier Icon frankspencer1979
    Full Member

    Of course it can be done, just that people are gullible, fall for marketing, unable to make their own decisions, peer pressure etc,. etc,.

    It’s not as simple as that though really. I started on a relatively cheap bike and a £20 Halfords helmet.

    But then you realise that actually, fiveten freeriders are much better than whatever crappy old trainers you might have. Some endura Humvees are better than some old shorts from Next. A waterproof, well-laid out hydration pack is better than that free rucksack that’s been lying around the house for 20 years. A Giro helmet fits better etc etc’.

    Doesn’t mean everyone needs a 5 grand bike, but spending on a few sensible items makes the whole experience a bit more pleasurable.

    Premier Icon James
    Full Member

    we get so focussed on kit, not on the ride.

    that’s the benefit of not reading the mag (or any MTB mag/news, which is funded by kit/bike manufacturer ads). Don’t know what’s out there, don’t need it, don’t miss it.

    Premier Icon multibikestu
    Full Member

    My first bike cost £300 and I didn’t have a helmet*
    Rode Snowdon like that and didn’t die.
    *Helmets just weren’t a thing back then and bikes were a curiosity on Snowdon.

    Premier Icon kerley
    Free Member

    Edit, don’t you ride a rigid, brakeless, fixie?

    Nope, not since August 2021. The most recent MTB I had (2019) actually cost £400 used (was £1000 new) and it was great.

    Premier Icon Superficial
    Free Member

    Doesn’t mean everyone needs a 5 grand bike, but spending on a few sensible items makes the whole experience a bit more pleasurable.

    Yeah. It took me far too long to realise that the right clothing makes rides way more enjoyable. Compared to having XTR written on your rear derailleur, it’s miles better value!

    Premier Icon kimbers
    Full Member

    Good article!

    Even good clothing doesn’t have to break the bank tho

    Places like freewheel often have great sales on clothing

    Decathlon also offers some good stuff at decent prices

    Premier Icon acyclist
    Free Member

    Totally agree and a great idea for a article. So much more ineteresting then here is the latest overpriced and over marketed object. I stopped reading bikepacking.com due to the hilarious and insane cost of everything they reviewed or discussed – it just felt obscene.

    The bike I’ve done the most miles on over the last couple of years (thousands) is a second hand Arkose which cost me £800 (£400 for the bike and £400 on upgrades).

    My road bike was an experiment in how much I could build up (new and secondhand) for a budget of £500. Ended up with a really nice ride weighing 8kg. Its only got Sora which is a pain tbh but thats genuinely the only downside.

    My MTB is a secondhand Dialled Alpine from before Jesus was born – though to be fair I am replacing  that this year! (my 15 year old daughter has a better mtb than I do!)

    I’m in the happy position of being able to spend on bikes but I generally choose not to and tbh its pretty easy these days to get a cheap good set up, easier than its ever been I reckon.

    Premier Icon dmorts
    Full Member

    It may be a great bike but it’s a shame it comes from Halfords. They are “box shifters” who detract from businesses who are real specialists. They offer poor advice on bikes, car seats and car parts in my experience. While they will have good staff members, the company as a whole seems not to have invested in training or even care about offering good service.

    Premier Icon cookeaa
    Full Member

    I guess the obvious follow up article is to test the “used bikes are better value” mantra, i.e. Take that same £605 and throw it at used bikes/parts and see if a better bike can be obtained for the same or less spend, this is what lots of people do for their second or third MTB ond so on. Those noobs that get hooked are going to start thinking about their next bike eventually. If £600 gets you started, what do you do next? Could you do the same with half the amount of money? Is exponentially more and more spending inevitable or can you not get more ‘serious’ without flogging a kidney?

    The obvious benchmark for value and function being the Voodoo you’ve just bought for this piece, and then the next inevitable question looms, would the money be better spent on upgrades?

    Premier Icon cookeaa
    Full Member

    But then you realise that actually, fiveten freeriders are much better than whatever crappy old trainers you might have. Some endura Humvees are better than some old shorts from Next. A waterproof, well-laid out hydration pack is better than that free rucksack that’s been lying around the house for 20 years. A Giro helmet fits better etc etc’.

    Doesn’t mean everyone needs a 5 grand bike, but spending on a few sensible items makes the whole experience a bit more pleasurable.

    That’s also probably an article waiting to be written, what kit/accessories genuinely makes a difference during ‘year one’ (maybe on into year two?) of a noobs MTB experience, what is the realistic cost, and what is a more worthwhile use of limited funds, what is a potentially frivolous waste?

    You might as well set out to write a series of these now, based around the fictitious experiences of imagined noobs (both male and female)…

    Premier Icon Hannah Dobson
    Full Member

    For those keen on more of this sort of thing:

    We’ve already done ‘How to buy a second hand mountain bike’: https://singletrackworld.com/2021/10/how-to-buy-a-second-hand-mountain-bike/

    And we did a ‘best upgrades’ a while back too: https://singletrackworld.com/2018/12/our-teams-top-5-upgrades-for-your-new-bike/

    And it’s a sponsored piece, so all the products are from Freewheel, but the advice on the bits of kit to consider buying and why is still sound: https://singletrackworld.com/2020/11/kit-guide-for-new-riders-how-to-have-safer-happier-bike-rides/

    Premier Icon idlejon
    Full Member

    It may be a great bike but it’s a shame it comes from Halfords. They are “box shifters” who detract from businesses who are real specialists.

    Yep. Halfords are doing as much to kill the LBS as the internet.

    Premier Icon ampthill
    Full Member

    Aren’t Halfords a local bike shop?

    Premier Icon Matthew Hornby
    Full Member

    Halfords is one of our better local bike shops. There’s a motor factors that expanded into bikes and repairs a few years ago which is decent too, but after that you’ve got a traditional bike shop with opening times entirely at the whim of the owner, who’s standard response to even the most basic spares is, ‘I’ll get it from the wholesalers on Thursday’. Oh yes and there’s also…

    Dave Hinde. 😱

    The lads in Halfords are quite helpful and interested.

    Premier Icon acyclist
    Free Member

    Yep – my local halfords guys are really nice and have helped me several times by lending me a tool or finding a small part for me.

    by contrast my two nearest LBSs couldn’t give a toss unless you are after an eBike.

    Premier Icon footflaps
    Full Member

    Aren’t Halfords a local bike shop?

    +1

    Brand snobbery (of the bike shop kind). When Tesco wanted to open a mini market next to the local coop half the town was up in arms as it was ‘Tesco’. Apparently Sainsbury, Londis, Coop are absolutely fine, but Tesco selling the exact same stuff in the exact same way, at near enough the same prices is killing the high street.

    I’ve bought loads from our local Halford bike shop – excellent service.

    Premier Icon Josh
    Free Member

    Gloves. I know not everyone rides with them, but for any beginner they should surely at least be on the ‘other stuff’ list? Saving one’s palms from the inevitable early spills,

    I’ve warn gloves ever since the local shop got a number of phonecalls asking if the paper boy (me) was okay.

    I like to think it was the guardian readers and that all the telegraph/mail readers just filed it under a good honest days graft for a tenner a week

    Premier Icon zerocool
    Free Member

    People that are new to biking (calling them Noobs isn’t very inclusive and inviting if they’re reading this and makes us seem a bit dickish) are probably better off buying a decent new budget bike that going second hand as there are lots of people selling truly trashed bikes for too much money.

    It’s a complete minefield if you don’t know what you’re looking at (Once you end up replacing the trashed drivetrain, servicing the forks, changing the brake pads, maybe getting an LBS to service the whole thing for you as you don’t know much about the above) your £850 FB marketplace/eBay bargain is looking rather expensive.

    If they buy something half decent like the Voodoo a or Calibre etc then they can try the sport out and upgrade or replace from there.

    Like it or not Halfords, Decathalon and Go Outdoors are gateways into the sport and to think otherwise is just snobbery.

    Premier Icon idlejon
    Full Member

    Aren’t Halfords a local bike shop?

    Only if you equate Tesco or Sainsburys to your local corner shop.

    Premier Icon aberdeenlune
    Free Member

    I agree with the comments about the media telling you what you need to promote business.
    Not sure why I need to make these additional purchases. Is this just marketing?
    What is wrong with bib shorts. Why do I need to wear mountain bike shorts over the top?
    Why are there no rear pockets on mountain bike tops? Is this just to make sure I buy a biking backpack?

    Premier Icon thegeneralist
    Full Member

    Liner shorts

    Nah!

    Been mountain biking for 37 years I think and only ever owned one pair of liner shorts, which I used about 5 times

    Horrid things.

    PS, can I come up Helvelyn with you on the test? Sounds like fun if you can find me another Voodoo 🙂

    Premier Icon boriselbrus
    Full Member

    It may be a great bike but it’s a shame it comes from Halfords. They are “box shifters” who detract from businesses who are real specialists. They offer poor advice on bikes, car seats and car parts in my experience. While they will have good staff members, the company as a whole seems not to have invested in training or even care about offering good service.

    Just not true I’m afraid.

    In the 2 years I worked for Halfords, I did a 1 day PDI course before which I wasn’t allowed to build bikes, a 2 day ebike repair course (never intended to be in depth, but just cover the basics) and a Technician course which was much better than either the Cytech 3 or Velotech Platinum Plus which I also have. Customer service was hammered in to us every day. We were told that we couldn’t compete with online retailers on price so we had to do it on service. Customer complaints were taken very seriously – visits from the area manager, making good with the customer, retraining etc.
    Of the 5 of us who worked in the Bikehut, all were regular riders MTBers, Roadies, BMXers, Tourers. Halfords really tried to recruit enthusiastic cyclists to work in the Bikehut. The problems came when they didn’t have enough staff and someone from the Auto /leisure department had to cover.

    Premier Icon ampthill
    Full Member

    Glad to see support for Halfords. I’ve never really used them until on holiday some cup and cone bearings loosened and I didn’t have the correct spanners.

    Halfords sorted my out really cheaply and while I waited

    They clearly are a shop and if they are nearby they are local

    Everyone is free to use them or not. But they are far less of a distortion of the market than say Canyon or Planet X. Although hands up I own a canyon, although it was in lock down one and I was on course to test ride and buy a Trek before everything shut down

    Premier Icon robertajobb
    Full Member

    It’s fine to tell people to use their LBS. BUT… take a wander into your LBS tomorrow morning (you’d not have been able to go today as LBS are almost all shut at the times most working people are able to go and shop, such as after 5.30pm in the week or on Sundays) and see what bikes they have, and report back here with the price on their cheapest available bike in a size L (or 58 or 19″ as depends on their sizing descriptor) that could safely go up and down Helvellyn. Not medium (we’re not selling a noobie a bike that doesn’t actually fit are we ?) Not an extra small as the noobie in question isn’t a Diddy Man from Knotty Ash.

    I just looked at the web site for 18 Bikes (local for me) and… well your noobie is certainly not getting anything in stock their for £605, even without the helmet).

    I’m absolutely not a fan of Halfords, and do try to avoid as best I can.
    But for a noobie, I see the appeal- you can go and poke around their Web site 1st to get a feel for £££, and are open on a Sunday to go shopping when not at work or collecting the kids from school and making their tea.
    And many noobies are not I’d guess looking to drop a four figure sum on something they don’t know if they’ll like or not.

    2nd hand if a noobie with no mtb knowledge is a complete minefield even with a STW guide ! How do you know it’s not twisted, has hidden / concealed crack, or nicked. (You’re a noobie remember- you’ve not got the experience of seeing 7 different mates Crackandfails broken at the bottom bracket yet). New, even Halfords new, gives a warranty and a half chance of being able to hold them to it.

    All you folks banging on about using (or losing LBS): how many are riding British built bikes (made, not just badged up), or drive British built cars made with British made steel ? Not many I bet. So what’s different about the LBS to all the other local British industries that most have evidently not supported?

    Premier Icon reeksy
    Full Member

    from before Jesus was born – though to be fair I am replacing that this year!

    Read it here first. The Second Coming is due in 2022. Christ on a bike!!!

    Premier Icon happycrenker
    Free Member

    Of course it can be done, just that people are gullible, fall for marketing, unable to make their own decisions, peer pressure etc,. etc,.

    Why does this need to be so judgmental? People like nice stuff.

    Premier Icon kerley
    Free Member

    What is wrong with bib shorts. Why do I need to wear mountain bike shorts over the top?
    Why are there no rear pockets on mountain bike tops? Is this just to make sure I buy a biking backpack?

    Nothing and you don’t. I have worn just lycra shorts for 30 years when cycling and many different types of bike.
    MTB tops are loos and rear pockets would flap about all other the place if you put say a phone in them so as above I have also worn road type tops on many different types of bikes.

    Premier Icon kerley
    Free Member

    Why does this need to be so judgmental? People like nice stuff.

    Not judgemental, just a comment on why many people may think you have to have the nice stuff before you can ride a bike. Of course people like nice stuff, this thread is about not needing nice stuff to start riding bikes.

    Premier Icon Steve
    Full Member

    Only if you equate Tesco or Sainsburys to your local corner shop.

    Tesco are my local corner shop. Best thing to happen to our village. Saved the Post Office, and ensured that the half a dozen shop units put up next to it were finally full after 20 years. They’ve even built two more.

Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 55 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.