If you’re looking for a good quality machine you can take anywhere, then a hardtail mountain bike may be the best option for you. There are now a plethora of top performing hardtails, which makes choosing the best very difficult.
This is why we’ve compiled a list of the best hardtail mountain bikes on the market, so you can find the product most suited to you. Our list includes:
- Vitus Rapide 29 CRX Mountain Bike (2021) – Best Overall
- Kona Lanai Hardtail Bike 2021 – Best Brakes
- Cube Aim Race 29 – Best for Racing
- GT Aggressor Expert 29 – Most Affordable Bike
How To Choose A Hardtail Mountain Bike
When buying a mountain bike, you must decide between two types: full suspension or hardtail. Full suspension mountain bikes have both a rear shock and front suspension. This makes them better suited for rugged terrain, but also more expensive.
Hardtail mountain bikes are typically cheaper, but need smoother trails to function comfortably since they lack any rear suspension (hence the naming!). If you’re not riding on technical trails, which most beginners aren’t, a hardtail bike is the more compelling option.
Because of this, the high-end Vitus Rapide 29 CRX Mountain Bike is cheaper than a similarly performing carbon-fiber frame full suspension bike. Even though it may not offer rear suspension, a hardtail can still be a great trail bike.
If you’re still choosing between a hardtail or full suspension MTB, check out our article here which can help you select the right one for your needs.
Hardtails have a simpler design, compared to full suspension bikes. The absence of the rear shock, linkages and pivots also make the hardtail frame the lighter option.
A good hardtail mountain bike should weigh around 30 pounds, give or take. This weight includes the frame, tires and pedals. Anything beyond this will be considered quite heavy and you will have to work quite hard to get ride up certain mountains!
Much of the weight is dependent on the bike’s frame. Carbon fiber frames have impressive strength-to-weight ratios. They’re lighter than common metallic frames but possess more durability in the long haul. However, you’ll be paying for this premium product.
Fork And Frame
A fork is the component located on the front part of your bike that your wheel attaches to. Most hardtails have suspension forks, with built-in shock absorption.
Some bikes list fork travel, with their specs, meaning the amount of shock a bicycle can compress at once. This is usually listed in millimeters and a good number to aim for with these mountain bikes is between 100 and 170mm.
This gives your bike enough dampening and keeps your ride enjoyable and responsive.
One thing to watch out for in terms of the frame is a strong, corrosion resistant and shock absorbing frame. This will keep you plowing through with confidence on the trails.
Your options include:
- Aluminum: Lightweight, resistant to rust and budget-friendly
- Carbon: Even lighter and stronger to boot, more expensive.
This boils down to the consumer’s choice and budget. High quality bikes feature both of these materials, so you shouldn’t have an issue finding the right option for you.
Groupset And Drivetrain
A groupset is the entire collection of parts including the brakes that make the drivetrain. In mountain bikes, it’s common to see parts manufactured by different brands.
Most mountain bikes come with Shimano groupsets. However, you’ll often find they consist of a few components from other manufacturers to keep costs low – brakes or chainsets for example.
The most popular groupset is the Shimano 105. This was the company’s first performance groupset, and is known to be a good combination of value, performance and durability.
Bike geometry indicates the bike’s proportions, from the bracket height to the seat angle. This factors into your comfort levels as a rider.
For example, if a seat angle is too low, you might experience back pain as a result. If the wheelbase is on the short side, it might lead to lack of stability leading to rough rides.
Consider the following:
- Seat angle: The optimal seat angle is between 73 and 78 degrees. This puts you in a balanced position and allows for easy shifting of your weight, backwards or forwards.
- Wheelbase: Modern bikes have long wheelbases for agility and stability. Look for a hardtail with a wheelbase between 1100 and 1300mm.
A good set of tires can’t be emphasized enough. It reduces friction and decreases the energy needed to move your bike. I spent my first year mountain biking with a bad set of tires. My rides were difficult and everything seemed to change when I bought a good set of tires. If you’re looking to do any upgrades to your bike, go with a new wheelset.
Hardtails come in a variety of wheel sizes, the most common being 27.5 to 29 inches. These have a standard tire width of around 2.6 inches. But there’s a possibility to order wider tires—up to 3 inches—if you need them for more challenging trails.
Reviews Of The Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes
Picking a great performing hardtail bike isn’t easy. Especially with all the options available. But the four below fulfill the criteria we set out above on what makes a hardtail bike great. Read on and discover the best hardtail mountain bikes.
The Vitus Rapide is a well built bike that features a Shimano 12-speed groupset. This includes Shimano’s top performing M1800 brakes. With gear like this, the Vitus Rapide is designed to effortlessly tackle technical cross country courses.
There’s a race-winning RockShox suspension system, which is equipped with the patented TurnKey blow-off design that absorbs shock and unexpected impact. This is complemented by 29 inch WTB KOM light rims. These will help provide a secure grip.
The high-end carbon frame on this bike makes it lighter in weight and adds to the shock absorption factor. It also has a modern geometry, with a wheelbase of 1105mm and seat angle of 73 degrees.
The bike comes built and tuned. This is a great advantage for beginners who don’t know their way around a bike.
Two major drawbacks here are the price tag and the limited color choice. The carbon frame and premium components inflate the price; and if you’re going to pay so much, one expects at least some color choice.
The Kona Lanai is an affordable hardtail bike that includes enhanced components. Take the integrated Shimano brake levers and shifters for example. These will help provide a responsive front shifting for steady control when on the trail.
An aluminium frame provides tough and reliable performance that will last you a long time. The frame has a tapered head tube. This means there’s more bulk at the bottom of the head tube, distributing impact forces better and ensuring a more comfortable ride.
Small and medium size options in this bike feature 27 inch wheels, while the large size has a pair of 29 inches. This trail bike uses Shimano Altus brakes which are the cable disc type. They’re very responsive and are a common feature in premium bikes.
The seat angle is an ideal 75 degrees and the wheelbase of 1168mm is great for balance and maneuverability. At this price point, there’s very little to complain about when talking about this 8-speed trail bike.
Despite aluminium being lightweight, the bike feels heavier than expected. This is a consequence of the tapered head tube and other components.
The Cube Aim Race is an accessible hardtail built to be reliable. It features a SR Suntour fork, which has brilliant shock absorption properties. The trail bike weighs 31.5 pounds, making this a suitable upgrade for riders who want a lighter bike without burning through their pocket.
A Shimano drivetrain is paired with hydraulic disc brakes, providing great acceleration and smooth transmission between gears as you maneuver through cross country trails. The hydraulic disc brakes are particularly responsive at corners, ensuring you always stay in control.
The kickstand-ready aluminium frame is complimented by a Cube ZX20 Wheelset that features Schwalbe Smart Sam Tires.
With a variety of colors on offer, this bike offers great looks along with good performance. The one thing you need to be mindful of is the sizing. The bike’s seat post is raised, which allows taller people to use shorter bikes. If you’re unsure on which size to choose, you can always contact customer support from Cube.
This is a great budget option.
The aluminium frame has a SR Suntour suspension system. This brand isn’t as popular as Shimano but offers decent suspension systems that are also affordable. Notable features in the fork include a lockout mode for climbing and a coil with a preload adjuster on the left side.
An 8-speed drivetrain provides the essential gears needed for cross country cycling. The hydraulic disk brakes do a great job in ensuring you remain in full control of your bike.
The bike comes built and tuned and delivery includes a handy multi-tool kit.
But there’s just one minor specification you should take note of. The fork travel seems a bit too low. At 80mm, this falls out of our ideal range of 100 to 170. This does mean your bike won’t be as versatile and there are some cross country trails it’ll struggle to complete properly.
Time To Take On The Mountains
From the list, our favorite is the Vitus Rapide 29 CRX Mountain Bike. Yes, it’s the most expensive product (by quite a margin!) and it justifies its price with all the premium level performance it offers.
It’s not the most visually compelling bike, but that won’t bother many people.
The other products shouldn’t be overlooked. Take the Kona Lanai Hardtail Bike for example. It offers quality shock absorbing features at a competitive price point.
Hardtail bikes don’t have rear suspension and usually don’t have the comfort levels of full suspension bikes. But the ones on this list compete seriously in comfort and performance.
Whichever hardtail mountain bike you choose, enjoy the great outdoors and cherish every moment you’re out there!
Thanks for reading and please drop us a comment down below if you have any questions.
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