Trek 820 Review: Best “Basic” Mountain Bike?

Trek is a respected “name brand” mountain bike company renowned for manufacturing some of the best and most expensive mountain bikes in the world.

However, in recent times, the company has been making moves in the budget-bike category, hoping to gain a larger market share via the average biker who isnʼt willing to break the bank to purchase an expensive mountain bike. 

The perfect case in point is the introduction of the Trek 820, a bike that’s much cheaper than other Trek models.

The Trek 820 is as basic as mountain bikes come. This model has been specifically designed for around-town riding and easy, light trails. 

Featuring 26-inch wheels, old-school rim brakes, a front fork that only provides 3 inches of travel, and a drivetrain that has seven gears in the back and three in the front, it is clear that the Trek 820 won’t fulfill the role of a big-hit machine, proper off-road bike, or racer. As a result, it generally doesn’t appeal to seasoned riders.

But, does it deliver on its promises? Well, letʼs find out in this Trek 820 mountain bike review. Have a look at what you can get from an alleged “off-road” bike that costs under $450!

Trek 820 Mountain Bike Review – Crucial Components 

Brakes

As I mentioned earlier, the Trek 820 mountain bike only features old-school rim brakes. This means that the brakes on the Trek 820 donʼt perform as well as disc brakes in wet and muddy conditions. 

However, even though the brakes use old-school technology and aren’t disc brakes, the Trek 820 is still a good bike capable of controlling your speed and stopping well on a light singletrack trail.

Frame

To ensure that the pricing on the Trek 820 mountain bike stays as low as possible, the manufacturers have incorporated a steel frame, instead of an aluminum frame, onto the bike. With steel frames, you’re assured of fantastic frame durability. 

The only thing, though, is that, unlike an aluminum frame, it’s a bit heavy, and the bike weighs more, which can weigh you down on uphill climbs. 

As far as the steel-frame design goes, it is sleek with outstanding paintwork. The finish on the durable frame also benefits tremendously from impeccable welds.

Front suspension

The Trek 820 mountain bike boasts a common coil-spring front suspension fork from SR SUNTOUR that offers 3 inches of travel. Compared to other bikes, the travel is not long nor does it have fantastic suspension by any stretch of the imagination. 

Thankfully, it is still long enough to handle a decent level of shocks and bumps on rough roads and curb drops. In essence, it does offer a fairly comfortable ride on rough trails. 

Drivetrain

The Trek 820 comes equipped with a Shimano Tourney drivetrain that has seven gears in the back and three in the front. The shifters—backed by a front Shimano Tourney derailleur (Shimano Tourney TY500) and a rear derailleur (Shimano Tourney TY300)—are also provided by the Japanese company. 

Only the cheapest Shimano drivetrain components have been used on the Trek 820 mountain bike. However, the affordable price doesnʼt mean that they donʼt operate well. 

There are more than enough gears to deal with level ground and moderate climbs. As for the steeper climbs, you’ll have to be somewhat of an expert to shift smoothly and precisely.

If you want the drivetrain components on the Trek 820 mountain bike to stand the test of time, you’ll have to tune them often and use a proper shifting technique at all times.

Mountain bike wheels

Itʼs rather disheartening that the Trek 820 mountain bike is only available in a  26” wheel size. Although 26” wheels were the norm in previous years, this wheel size is no longer the preferred size by mountain bike enthusiasts.

Fortunately, the wheels do come with durable and effective formula hubs. I also like the Wellgo nylon wheels as they help prevent rigid pedaling. 

The Bontrager tires and rims are also solid, to say the least. Unfortunately, as far as the performance of the Bontrager LT3 tires goes, they donʼt excel in any specific department. 

They only offer average grip in moderate, lighter trail conditions. The fact that they donʼt offer massive tire drag on cement also doesnʼt help one bit. 

Since they have an average performance on varying surfaces, without excelling in any specific segment, you could call them jack-of-all-trades, master of none tires. So, apart from being affordable, this bike isn’t the best at anything. 

Truth be told, this bike reminds me a lot of a hybrid bike. 

Overall review of the bike components

Though most of the components on the Trek 820 mountain bike are cheap, they are still extremely solid and reliable. In other words, the components are capable of doing their job and holding up to abuse.

Additionally, I also like the fact that the 820 steel frame facilitates rack mounts and has  a mounted kickstand to make your life easier on MTB trails. 

Overall, I would say that even though the 820 is not the best bike available, it is a great introduction to MTB life. 

Trek 820 Mountain Bike Review – Features of the Bike

Now, letʼs review some of the features of the bike.

Size

The Trek 820 mountain bike is available in two different versions—for men and women. The menʼs version, available in five sizes, from XS to XL, can accommodate riders measuring 4’6” to 6’8”. 

Meanwhile, the womenʼs version has an extremely alluring feature for the ladies—a sharply dissenting top tube that ensures low standover height. This specific feature allows women to ride the bike smoothly with minimal fuss.

Bike geometry

Almost everything about the Trek 820 mountain bike is traditional, including its geometry. As a result, youʼll find that the front wheel of the Trek 820 lies completely under the handlebars. 

Though this positioning offers stability and a smooth-riding experience on paved roads and uphill climbs, the bike can be quite difficult to maneuver on steep downhills and rocky paths. During descents, you’ll have to adjust your mountain biking position several times for a smooth ride.

Performance

In a nutshell, it would be fair to say that the Trek 820 mountain bike doesn’t punch above its weight. There are department store bikes that cost almost as much as the 820; however, unlike the Trek 820, they arenʼt as reliable and solid on rough terrain. 

Plus, they usually have loose parts, and they squeak and rattle—things you wonʼt find with the Trek 820.

The Trek 820 delivers on its promise but offers nothing more. It serves its purpose as an errand bike, recreational bike, and around-town bike diligently. 

Although you could argue that a proper road bike has more speed and is more efficient, it wonʼt be as stable, secure, and comfortable as the Trek 820.

The shifting and gears on the bike offer enough for level ground and moderate climbs. However, I wouldnʼt recommend this street-model bike if you’re keen on riding steep hills.

If you want to check out the differences between the Trek 820 mountain bike and other more expensive Trek models, you’ll have to take the Trek 820 out for a test ride on tough trails. 

On the Trek 820, you will need to rely more on your mountain biking skills to negotiate past rocks, bumps, and other obstacles on extremely rough terrain. You’ll need your knees to work as shock absorbers, change your riding position according to the climbs and descents, and even have to stand up to pedal now and then. 

On the bright side, even though it may seem like hard work, you’ll be more skillful as a rider in the end.

Conclusion

Thankfully, Trek doesnʼt discriminate between their low-end bikes and high-spec packages. Hence, they have given as much care to the Trek 820 as they do to their expensive bikes. 

Of course, there’s a startling lack of premium features to ensure that the bike stays at an affordable price. But, as far as reliability and durability go, the solid frame of the Trek 820 will serve you just fine on a mountain track. 

This bike is a great bike for burgeoning mountain bikers as it is probably the best, most affordable mountain bike around. But unfortunately, the bike isn’t equally suited for both novice and experienced riders. 

Make no mistake, this bike is suitable for those looking for a daily ride to work and rides around town or on potholed city streets. However, if you’re a seasoned rider experienced in the sport of mountain biking and looking for off-road adventures, Iʼd say go for something else as the Trek 820 only qualifies as a basic entry-level bike. 

You’d be better off saving a little more and looking for an exclusive mountain bike (a nice XC bike) that is designed for a specific type of riding (for example, cross-country, trail-riding, and off-road adventures).