Mountain biking is booming around Australia, and why not? We can ride almost all year round in most areas and there are trails being built for us in just about every corner of the country. The only catch is that mountain biking can be an expensive sport to get started in. Mountain biking costs more than activities like swimming or running as bikes that cut the mustard for off road jaunts typically start at prices deep into three figures, if not four.

Aldi might be better known for their groceries, delicious chocolate, ski gear and tasty soft cheeses, but their range is often more expansive than you might think. Aldi has won the Canstar Blue for the most satisfied supermarket customers, which included recognition for their special buys.

If you have been to an Aldi supermarket you'll know what the special buys are. From discount ski clothing, to bathroom accessories, log splitters, garden furniture, flat screen televisions, water efficient front loading washing machines, cycling accessories or in this case – a Premium 29er mountain bike. These items are only available once a year, and in some shops they sell out as soon as the boxes hit the shop floor. Aldi have been offering mountain bikes for those ready to dip their toes in the water, or dirt, for a number of years and have released an update to their Premium Mountain Bike for 2020.

The Aldi Premium 29er Mountain Bike sells for $449. Having had a sample in the shed to build, look over and take for a ride – it's an extra $100 above the 2018 model that is well worth it for those who are mountain bike curious.

A closer look at the Aldi Premium 29er Mountain Bike

The black aluminium frame has a SR Suntour XCM suspension fork with a lock out. There's a little bit of adjustment for preload on the left fork leg, you won't get fine-tuning for light weight or heavy riders. But with 30mm stanchions it's still going to be stiff enough for light off road use.

The frame has smart geometry, mixing a 70 degree head angle with long top tube and plenty of standover. Aldi have even jumped into the reduced fork offset concept, pulling that back to 44mm! While the Aldi Premium 29er Mountain Bike is not longer, lower, slacker like a modern trail bike, it's not short and steep like most bikes you would find in a supermarket, or selling for a similar price in a bike shop. The geometry, or how the bike handles, compares very favourably with most intermediate hardtails, and is far better for riding off-road than you would find on most bikes at a few hundred dollars more.

The fork and frame use quick releases, as does the seat post for easy seat adjustment. The internal routing for the derailleur cable housing and disc hydraulic hose are a nice touch.

One of the big changes compared to the 2018 Premium 29er Mountain Bike is a move to Tektro dual-piston hydraulic brakes from cable-actuated. Hydraulic brakes take far less maintenance than mechanical thanks to a self-adjusting system, plus they tend to have more reliable stopping as they adjust with pad wear. That's a win for anyone looking at this bike, and so is the 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain. A wide range 11-42 cassette and a single chainring (with chain guide) replaces the 2x9 drivetrain of 2018, and the clutch rear derailleur means chain security is guaranteed. For anyone getting into mountain biking, having a simple 1x system is a real boon. Shift one way for harder gears, one way for easier gears. It's a simpler system to get your head around and the 11-42 cassette range is perfect.

Hydraulic disc brakes not only require less maintenance, but they have better stopping power as well.

What's in the box?

That's right, the bike is in a box. Aldi are a supermarket and the bikes will be lined up in the centre aisle, ready for you to take to the check out. There's no test rides, you have two size options, you have to be happy with matte black, and you will need to build it yourself.

Our bike-in-a-box had the seatpost and seat out of the frame, the front wheel needing to be fitted with the quick-release put in the hub, pedals needed to be threaded into the cranks and the handlebars had to be fitted to the stem. This does take a little bit of specific know-how, but it's by no means difficult and your local bike shop should be able to help if this isn't a task you're familiar with. Try this video to start with.

Once built there was minimal fuss getting the Aldi Premium 29er Mountain Bike ready to ride. On our medium sample, the seat post is a little short and restricts the seat height to under 700mm, so if you're not certain on sizing, bear that in mind. It does mean the seat can go completely down into the frame, making it a perfect option for growing riders. A new, longer seat post could increase the range of the bike for about $25 or less down the track.

Need workshop tips? Try here.

On the trail

When a bike shifts gears properly, keeps air in the tyres, and has brakes that work, they are a whole lot of fun no matter the price. Bikes provide freedom, adventure and a sense of wellbeing. And that's exactly what we found with the Aldi Premium 29er Mountain Bike. Thanks to full size 29x2.25” tyres the bike has a good foot print on firetrails and singletrack, which partners with smart geometry to make for a confident ride.

It is easy to feel centred and balanced on the bike, and there are enough stem spacers to get the bars right where you need them to be comfortable. Kudos to Aldi for making sure the bike has a short stem and reasonably wide riser bar as well.

It's hard to not emphasise how useful a quality 1x10 drivetrain is on this bike, as it shifted superbly even under load and thanks to the chain guide and narrow-wide ring – we didn't drop a chain. Plenty of riders getting into mountain biking are often put off by bikes or parts that don't work, and with well-known gears and brakes Aldi have really invested in the right areas.

On rougher trails the bike rides like you'd expect, a little out of its depth. But it should be obvious that the Aldi Premium 29er Mountain Bike isn't the bike for big days at the bike park or setting PRs on Strava. Where the bike is really at home is jaunts down the bike path and onto some trails, from hilly fire trails to fun and flowing singletrack. Riding bikes is fun, and even on this $449 mountain bike that did not change.

So who makes it?

The Aldi Premium 29er Mountain Bike comes via Polygon, and Bicycles Online do the product support here in Australia. James van Rooyen of Bicycles Online said that working with Aldi has given them a real insight into how the German powerhouse operates, including their high level requirements on ethics and recycling. Aldi stipulate that the factory the bike is built in has to be ethically and socially certified by a third party – so it's not coming from a sweat shop. But the packaging needs to be fully recyclable and each component is individually tested to the Australian Standard AS1927. On top of that they undertake random batch testing to make sure nothing is missed.

With neat welds and a frame gusset, the frame is well-made.

Having a known Australian retailer supporting the Aldi Premium 29er MTB is good to know, as just like any bike you'll likely need spares at some point. While anything from new tyres, to the square taper bottom bracket or the straight steerer threadless headset will be available via any bike shop, Bicycles Online have compatible items like derailleur hangers available for the Aldi mountain bike.

Is this the bike for you?

Aldi are known for offering special items that are stonkingly good value, and this bike is no different. There is no mistaking it for a high end mountain bike that an experienced rider would buy. But the Aldi Premium 29er Mountain Bike is perfect for an introduction into mountain biking, and arguably better equipped than bikes twice its price from the biggest bike brands. 

I used to say that if you wanted to get into a cheap sport, try running. But with Aldi offering a bike that can perform with this level of control and safety, for about the cost of  two pairs of running shoes, I would have to rethink that.

If the entry cost into mountain biking has put you off in the past, the Aldi Premium 29er Mountain Bike ticks all the boxes for a reliable and safe first mountain bike to go and hit the dirt - figuratively, not literally! With two sizes available (medium and large) we would suggest going to a large if you're much taller than 170cm due to the short seat post length out of the box Unfortunately if you're someone who needs a very small frame or something akin to a farm gate, this bike won't be for you. But if you have been waiting for a low-cost opportunity to taste some trails (not literally) then the Aldi Premium 29er Mountain Bike is your opportunity.

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