Best Mountain Bikes for Women—Finding the Right Bike for You
- Type: Choose a bike type that suits your riding style. If you need a bike that can do it all, XC and All-Mountain are good options.
- Suspension: There are three types of suspension, full, hardtail and rigid. Full-suspension bikes are pricier whereas hardtail bikes are affordable.
- Wheel size: The size depends on where you’re riding. Larger 29-inch wheels roll over rough terrain easily, whereas smaller wheels are better for going fast.
- Importance of wheel size: The wheel size should suit your height. A quick rule of thumb is riders measuring around 5’6’’ will fit 27.5-inch wheels, but riders above 6’ will find 29-inch wheels more comfortable.
Mountain bikes for women used to be smaller versions of men’s bikes with a few pink details.
Luckily, they’re now designed and built with intension—featuring geometrically adapted frames and unisex features.
With that said, let’s gear up and get started.
The current top 4 best mountain bikes for women are:
Before we get stuck into the detailed reviews, our below guide will help you pick the right one for you.
What Is the Difference Between Women’s and Men’s Mountain Bikes?
There’s no specific female body type, so how does a bike qualify as a “women’s bike?”
While some brands’ approach to women’s mountain bikes is to “shrink it and pink it,” other brands have dug a little deeper to modify them.
Some brands choose to focus on the contact points, such as modified saddles that fit different shapes, smaller grips to accommodate smaller hands, shorter cranks and narrower handlebars. Other brands simply focus on smaller sizes.
In saying that, these features are some of the most basic components you often alter on your own. For example, narrow handlebars can interfere with handling—you can always cut a handlebar to fit your exact size. You can also easily replace a saddle and grips, if necessary.
This begs the question: Do these modifications add value, or are they merely “pink and purple” fluff?
If you’re a petite woman who struggles to find a suitable bike, a women’s bike could be an excellent option. However, tall or larger women might find these bikes to be uncomfortable or simply too small.
Another alternative that women often have to go with are unisex bikes. However, one common problem with these is that they’re tuned to accommodate a male rider’s average weight.
This can lead to suspension issues, with the suspension being crucial on mountain bikes. You see, if a 130-pound cyclist rides a bike tuned for a 160-pound cyclist, they’ll struggle to find the right air pressure. This can lead to a bumpy ride and difficulty controlling the bike properly.
Finding the Right Bike for You
Being a woman doesn’t mean you automatically have to go for a woman’s bike. The most important thing is that the bike suits you, your size and riding style, so focus on these aspects:
1. Mountain Bike Types: What Types of MTB Are There?
There are four main categories of mountain bikes:
- Cross country.
- Dirt jump.
Mountain bikes are incredibly versatile, and although you can use one type for nearly everything, if you want to focus mostly on one category, getting the right style is essential.
This is the most common type of MTBs, and they’re lighter and faster than other types. XC bikes can cost you anywhere between $1,000 and $7,500, depending on their level.
There are two types of bikes within this category:
- XC trail: Heavier and designed to go from dirt roads to trails smoothly.
- XC race: Lighter than trail bikes and more nimble in design, enabling them to accelerate faster. These will generally have weight-forwarded riding positions that help the rider remain balanced. They aren’t made for high jumps or hard impacts. Instead, they’re designed for tight corners and ascending.
If you’re unsure of which bike you should go for, this is a good “do-it-all” bike.
It’s similar to an XC trail bike but with a more robust frame and slightly more travel in the suspension.
Enduro/all-mountain bikes generally come as full-suspension to help the rider conquer more technical and steeper trails and obstacles.
If you’re looking for a rush, are fearless or have incredibly good health insurance, a downhill bike could be right up your alley!
They’re designed for speedy descents with wider wheels and rims, high pedals and durable gears and frames.
Freeride bikes are very similar to downhill MTBs but usually feature a slightly more compact frame for easier maneuverability. The flexible structure makes them ideal for jumping and technical stunts.
Both types typically have a suspension travel between 160mm and 200mm, making them suitable for downhill riding but a pain if you’re going uphill. A longer travel will slow the steering slightly, making it more stable when descending.
These look like a cross between freeride mountain bikes and BMX bikes, while also known as street or urban mountain bikes. They generally only feature front suspension.
If you like aerial stunts when out on the trail, this is the type for you. It typically features oversized handlebars, single-speed gears, single brake, low seat posts and smaller frames.
Side note: Dirt jump bikes are also excellent for fearless bikers with good health insurance!
There are three distinct types of mountain bike suspension:
- Full: Typically pricier than the others, and understandably so as it shocks at the front and rear. It effectively reduces fatigue and makes the ride more comfortable. Additionally, it offers more control as you ride on rough terrain.
- Hardtail: Feature shocks in the front fork, reducing upper limb fatigue. They also keep your hands secure on the handlebars and help you steer on rough trails.
- Rigid: Old-school MTBs that have made a comeback recently, offering easy maneuvering and pedaling.
If you’re new to mountain biking and want an affordable yet solid first bike, a hardtail is an excellent choice.
Full suspension is more comfortable and less tiring, but it might not suit your budget.
Additionally, a good-quality hardtail bike is better than a mediocre full-suspension MTB.
There are two types of shocks on mountain bikes: wound steel springs and air-sprung forks.
Both types work well, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be air-sprung forks as these are lighter and adjust easily.
3. Wheel Size: What Size Are Mountain Bike Wheels?
Three wheel sizes are available for mountain bikes:
This is the largest wheel size, and although they look like wagon wheels, they’re ideal for taller riders.
They’re also slightly slower for acceleration, but once you gain momentum, there’s no stopping you—except for the brakes!
Such a larger size also allows you to roll over smaller bumps and stones more easily.
These wheels are somewhat new to MTB, offering you the best of both worlds—giving you the smoothness of the 29-inch and the acceleration of 26-inch wheels.
27.5-inch wheels are commonly used on freeride bikes and jumpers.
For a long time, this was the only wheel size for mountain bikes; however, they aren’t as common anymore. They do offer quick acceleration and are known to be fast in downhill races, though.
Does Wheel Size Matter on a Mountain Bike?
Yes, wheel size clearly matters on a mountain bike, and which size to go for depends on a few things.
Most importantly, your height. Riders measuring around 5’6’’ will likely find a 27.5-inch wheel size easier to maneuver than 29-inch wheels. However, riders 6’ and above will benefit more from the added height 29-inch wheels offer.
Terrain is another factor. Larger wheels are excellent for rough trails, whereas smaller wheels are ideal for jumps and quick acceleration.
Your riding style will also impact the wheel size slightly. For example, choose larger wheels if you’re often taking on rough terrain, or smaller wheels if you’re racing or jumping.
Top 4 Best Mountain Bikes for Women
Now you know what to look for in a bike, it’s time for the best part.
Here are the full reviews of the best mountain bikes for women:
Wheel size: 26-inch
This seven-speed Schwinn mountain bike is an excellent fit for beginners, offering reasonable control and stability.
It’s made with a 17-inch aluminum frame and 26-inch wheels with alloy double-wall rims, giving you good stability on different terrains.
The aluminum frame makes the bike lightweight and easy to maneuver.
Note that the front suspension isn’t as good as with more high-end bikes, but it’s fair at entry-level and on more easy trails. In particular, the front and rear disc brakes give you good control when out on the trails.
It also features a rear mudguard, rack mounts, downtube bottle mount and side stand bracket—nice additional features on a budget-friendly bike.
Be aware that a few customers mentioned that the brake wasn’t aligned correctly, so they had to either fix it themselves or get professional help.
- Lightweight aluminum construction.
- Good starter bike.
- Front and rear disc brakes.
- Brake isn’t aligned correctly.
Type: Cross-country (XC trail)
Wheel size: 26-inch
The rugged alloy linear-pull brakes are what sets this bike apart from the rest. In addition to that, the machined alloy rims provide a powerful yet smooth stop.
The 17-inch lightweight aluminum hardtail frame provides more momentum for greater speed and quicker acceleration. Note that Huffy’s 10-year warranty covers the aluminum frame.
Additionally, it features the Shimano EZ Fire plus trigger and TY-30 indexed rear derailleur. It’s a 21-speed setup that gives you smooth changes over varying terrain. However, some riders found the gear ratio slightly off and the highest gear to be stiff and hard to pedal.
You can quickly switch between gears using your thumb and index finger, and the padded ATB saddle is comfortable and stitched for added durability.
Also, the slight-rise handlebar gives you a more comfortable upright position, minimizing fatigue in your back and shoulders.
Before the first ride, some noticed that a few of the components required tuning, including the brakes, cables and tires.
- Light frame.
- Excellent shifting.
- Powerful linear-pull brakes.
- Comfortable positioning.
- Might require some tuning before the first ride.
- Gear ratio issues.
Wheel size: 29-inch
The Schwinn High Timber features a durable aluminum and steel frame with front suspension and 29-inch wheels. It’s an excellent option for taller riders with slightly more experience.
You get a Shimano 21-speed EZ fire shifter, which improves acceleration and provides easy gear changes.
The bike also features mechanical disc brakes that give you a little more control as you’re speeding around the trail.
Like the Schwinn Surge, this one also features high-profile, double-wall alloy rims that are durable and light. Additionally, the tires are designed for slightly rough terrains, so are excellent if you like to go off-road.
Despite the larger wheels, the frame is quite compact, which some found challenging when riding.
- Durable frame.
- Good size for taller riders.
- Strong rims—good for off-road biking.
- Easy shifting.
- The frame is slightly small.
Wheel size: 26-inch
This heavy-duty mountain bike is made of an aluminum frame with a floating beam suspension design mated to the fork. It’s a good setup for off-roading as it keeps the chain taut.
It also has 26-inch wheels and double-wall alloy rims featuring 36 spokes, adding strength to the tires. Like the other bikes, this one also features the 21-speed Shimano rear derailleur and shifters, which is excellent at this price range.
On top of this, the bike has a front disc brake and rear linear-pull brake, giving you good control when hitting the trails.
A few bikers noted that the parts’ overall quality isn’t as good as more expensive bikes. However, they’re good quality for this price range.
Furthermore, some also noted the pedals were slightly too small, but you can easily replace these with pedals that suit you better.
- Light aluminum frame.
- Durable wheels and rims.
- Smooth gears.
- Powerful brakes.
- Lacking in quality compared to the competition.
- Small pedals.
Hitting the Trails
Women don’t need specialized bikes—as long as the bike fits your size, expertise and riding style, who’s to say otherwise?
After having a good look at the best mountain bikes for women, my top choice for beginners is the Schwinn Surge Mountain Bike. It offers a good build quality at an affordable price.
However, if you’re a little more advanced, you might prefer the Huffy Hardtail Mountain Trail Bike. It’s of a slightly higher quality and features more powerful brakes.