Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes: Top 5 Picks

Last updated: March 26, 2020
BEST OVERALL
Carbon Frame and Fantastic Suspension
Read Review
BEST BUDGET
Durable, Affordable and High-Quality Components
Read Review
BEST LIGHTWEIGHT
Cutting Edge Frame, Fast and Stable
Read Review
BEST WITH STEEL FRAME
Sturdy, Customizable and Great Handling
Read Review
BEST 20 SPEED
Versatile, Durable and Powerful Brakes
Read Review
Your guide

Investing in a high-quality bike matters – and this is all the more important with mountain bikes. If you’re in the market for a hardtail, you should prioritize reliability and performance.

Mountain biking with a hardtail can be a bit challenging – so it’s all the more important to find a well-made model that features high-quality components to make up for the lack of a rear suspension.

You should also factor in weight, tire size, and handling. But you happen to be in luck – we’ve done the research, and we’re happy to share our results with you.

Top 5 Hardtail MTBs

Hardtails provide a fun, no-nonsense approach to mountain biking. With a lighter frame weight and a simple suspension, they’re much more manageable and easy to use than full-suspension mountain bikes.

Thomson Elite Hardtail MTB

For most people, the lack of a rear suspension won’t even be noticeable. A full-suspension setup can make a difference – but only on the most technical and difficult of trails.

But for the regular cyclist, a hardtail setup provides more than enough versatility and control to conquer rough terrain.

We’ve prepared a review of this year’s best hardtails, all of which are available online. So take a closer look – one of these off-road machines might just be the bike for you.

1. Best Overall - Trek Procaliber 9.6

Specifications:

  • Gearing → 12 speeds
  • Wheel size → 29 inches
  • Weight capacity → 300 lbs
  • Weight → 24.36 lbs

Key Features:

  • RockShox Recon Gold fork
  • Tubeless-ready wheels and tires
  • Remote handlebar mounted suspension lockout
  • OCLV carbon frame

Trek Procaliber 9.6 Review

Durable, reliable, light, fast and incredibly adaptable, the Procaliber 9.6 is a high-performance bike – meaning that it’s also quite a large investment. But if you can afford to foot the hefty bill, you won’t be disappointed – and you’ll get the very best of the best.

With an incredibly modern frame, a pair of high-end tires, powerful brakes, and a front suspension fork with plenty of travel, the bike can handle anything that you’ll come across.

Light, Modern, and Well-Designed

The Procaliber 9.6 most impressive feature is the high-quality OCLV Mountain Carbon frame. The frame has a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds, although the entire bike weighs just 24.36 pounds.

The Bontrager Comp alloy handlebar is 720mm wide and mounted on a Blendr compatible stem with a 7-degree angle. It’s wide, ergonomic, and easy to retain control of – and the nylon Bontrager XR Trail Comp grips provide plenty of comfort, owing to their unique finned texture.

A 6061 aluminum alloy seatpost that is 400mm long supports a comfortable Bontrager Arvada saddle. The saddle features hollow chromoly rails, and it is 270mm long and 138mm wide. It has a good amount of padding and is large enough to be comfortable to a wide variety of riders.

The VP-536 nylon platform pedals are large and provide a solid footing, while still quite light at 330 grams a pair, while the Shimano SLX M7100 chain is light, reliable, and durable.

The bike utilizes a pair of tubeless-ready double-walled Bontrager Kovee rims which support a pair of Bontrager XR2 Team Issue aramid bead tires. The tires are also tubeless-ready and feature an impressive TPI rating of 120 – more than enough to protect them even on the most treacherous of terrains.

Versatile and Easy to Control

The bike has a wide range of gears, with the 12-speed Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain providing a lot of versatility. The 1×12 drivetrain is easy to use and can easily overcome all the obstacles that a high-end hardtail can encounter. The Shimano SLX M7100 shifter is smooth, and the gears shift quickly, smoothly, and reliably.

The tires are fast-rolling and versatile, offering a good, consistent amount of traction across a variety of weather conditions and terrain types. They’re light, have a low rolling resistance, and provide great cornering action.

The bike’s handling and control are further improved by the Shimano MT400 hydraulic disc brakes, which are controlled by an MT410 brake lever. They allow you to easily adjust your speed or come to a complete halt – while the RockShox Recon Gold suspension fork provides an incredible amount of stability.

The front suspension features a motion control damper, as well as a remote lockout feature that can be engaged from the handlebar. It has an impressive 100mm of travel – allowing it to effortlessly absorb large amounts of road shock

Pros
  • Low weight
  • High-quality suspension
  • Durable tires
  • Powerful brakes
Cons
  • High price
  • Could use a better pair of pedals

2. Best Budget - Cannondale Trail 8

Specifications:

  • Gearing → 21 speed
  • Wheel size → 27.5 / 29 inches
  • Weight capacity →  275lbs
  • Weight → 32 lbs 8 oz.

Key Features:

  • C3 aluminum alloy frame
  • SR Suntour M3030 suspension
  • Slack head angle
  • Tektro mechanical disc brakes

Cannondale Trail 8 Bike Review

Hardtails are available at a variety of price points – from very affordable entry-level models to premium high-performance bikes that can easily cost thousands of dollars.

If you’re on a tight budget, but still want to maximize the amount of value that you’ll get for your money, we’ve got the perfect bike in store for you.

Cannondale’s Trail 8 bike is a versatile machine that incorporates a lot of high-quality components. It offers a level of performance that far surpasses that of similarly priced models but still manages to retain a lot of durability.

Build Quality and Design

The Trail 8 is available in four different size options – which will accommodate users from 5’2” to 6’4” tall.

The frame of the bike is made from a high-quality C3 aluminum alloy, providing it with a fantastic mix of durability and low weight – fully assembled, the bike weighs 32 lbs and 8 oz, but it has a maximum weight capacity of 275 lbs.

The bike features a 6061 aluminum alloy riser bar that is 720mm wide, which is mounted on a short stem that is made from the same material. Wide and low-set, this combination allows you to almost effortlessly retain complete control of the bike.

The Trail 8 has a slack head angle – meaning that the wheel is located a farther distance away from the headset. This design choice also greatly contributes to the overall stability of the bike – all in all, the Trail 8 has a confidence-inspiring geometry.

The handlebar is quite ergonomic – which is good because this goes a long way in making up for the average saddle and unremarkable platform pedals. On the other hand, the long-lasting chain is quite durable.

The saddle and pedals can easily be changed – Cannondale has wisely chosen to focus on what really matters. A well-made, high-quality frame that features such a good design far outweighs the cons of a few easily-replaceable components.

Performance, Versatility, and Handling

The bike’s drivetrain mostly consists of Shimano’s components – and at 21 speeds, it offers a lot of adaptabilities. The wide gear range allows you to handle a large variety of inclines and makes maintaining high speeds much easier.

The Trail 8 uses Shimano Easy Fire EF41 shifters, which double as brake levers. Speaking of the brakes, the bike utilizes a pair of powerful Tektro mechanical disc brakes with 160mm rotors that can easily bring the bike to a full stop.

Depending on the size option, the size of the wheels on the bike ranges from 27.5 to 29 inches. The front tire will always be a WTB Ranger, while the rear can be either another WTB Ranger or a WTB Nineline.

Both are surprisingly fast-rolling, offer a great deal of traction and good cornering, and maintain great performance over a variety of terrains and weather conditions – with the most major difference being that the Ranger tires outperform the Nineline in wet conditions.

Fast, versatile, and easy to control, the Trail 8 is made even better by the inclusion of a high-quality SR Suntour M3030 suspension with 75mm of fork travel. It does a remarkable job of overcoming obstacles and absorbing road shock.

Pros
  • Versatile drivetrain
  • Low price
  • Great build quality
  • Top-notch handling and control
Cons
  • Average saddle
  • Average pedals

3. Best Lightweight - Epic Hardtail Comp

Specifications:

  • Gearing → 12 speeds
  • Tire size → 29 x 2.3 inches
  • Weight capacity → Not listed
  • Weight → 18 lbs

Key Features:

  • FACT 11m frame
  • Tubeless-ready tires
  • Hydraulic disc brakes
  • RockShox Reba RL 29 suspension fork

Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp Review

The latest technological advances have made it much easier to produce carbon fiber frames – and those frames are getting lighter and cheaper as time goes on.

Specialized’s Epic line of hardtails has been releasing fantastic models in the last couple of years – and the 2020 Comp version does not disappoint. It’s another standout product – an incredibly light, well-made bike that features cutting-edge design and materials.

If the weight of your bike is your biggest priority – this is the hardtail for you.

One of the Lightest Frames on the Market

The FACT 11m carbon fiber frame is incredibly light – weighing in at just 915g. If you’re not familiar with the metric system of measurement, that’s just a quarter of an ounce above two pounds.

Fully assembled, the bike weighs approximately 18 pounds. The frame features a tapered head tube, as well as a neat internal cable routing system that gives it some added durability.

The 750mm wide aluminum alloy Minirise handlebar is very ergonomic and features a pair of comfortable specialized trail grips. Combine that with the 6-degree rise of the alloy stem and the width of the handlebar, and you’re left with a very user-friendly bike.

The 30.9mm alloy seatpost supports a Body Geometry Power Sport saddle. The saddle is quite well-padded and wide, and features hollow chromoly rails, ensuring a great mix of both durability and low weight.

With a featherlight frame that is accompanied by many smart design choices, the Specialized Epic Hardtail Comp stands out – even among other lightweight hardtails.

Lightning-Fast, Adaptable, High-Performance

The bike uses a pair of grippy tubeless-ready Specialized Fast Trak tires. At 29 x 2.3 inches, they’re both large and wide, providing the rider with a fair balance of speed, acceleration, and traction.

The tires are quite durable, boasting a TPI rating of 60, and they’re treated with the proprietary GRIPTON compound, which enhances performance in wet conditions.

The SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain allows this light hardtail to easily adapt to a wide variety of terrain. The trigger shifters provide rapid, intuitive shifting, allowing you to easily maintain high speeds.

The speed of the bike is balanced out by two SRAM Level TL hydraulic disc brakes, which provide a good amount of consistent, almost effortless stopping power.

As far as handling goes, the remarkably good tires mesh well with the impressive front suspension. The RockShox Reba RL 29 suspension fork has 100mm of travel and features a motion control damper, allowing it to easily absorb huge amounts of road shock.

Pros
  • Incredibly light
  • Durable construction
  • Stable
  • Fast
Cons
  • Price
  • Weight capacity isn’t listed

4. Best with Steel Frame - Marin Pine

Specifications:

  • Gearing → 11 speeds
  • Wheel size → 26 inches
  • Weight capacity → 300 lbs
  • Weight → 32 lbs

Key Features:

  • 4130 Chromoly steel frame
  • Double-walled and tubeless-ready rims
  • 29-inch Vee wire bead tires
  • RockShox Recon RL front suspension fork

Marin Pine Mountain 1 Bike Review

A hardtail mountain bike with a steel frame is a rare sight nowadays – and a good hardtail with such a frame is rarer still. Once upon a time, most hardtails had steel frames – but they’ve gradually been phased out.

However, steel frame hardtails are still a fantastic entry-point for beginners. If frame durability is a priority for you, if you want to take a trip down memory lane with a bike that handles like a hardtail from a few decades ago, or if you simply want a good bike for a beginner – then Marin’s Pine 1 deserves a closer look.

Durable, Sturdy, Modern Design

The Pine 1 is available in 4 different sizes, which can support riders from 5’3” to 6’4” in height. The bike features a high-quality series 2 formed and double-butted 4130 Chromoly steel frame that incorporates 141mm dropouts.

The steel tubes are sturdy, stiff, and absorb plenty of road shock – and they aren’t too heavy, as far as steel goes – with the entire bike weighing in at 32 lbs.

The frame features three water bottle cage mounts, fender and rack mounts, as well as a large number of bosses across the frame that can support a variety of options for customization. It also makes use of a quite tidy cable management system.

The Pine 1 has a 780mm wide Marin Mini-Riser bar that is constructed from 6061 double-butted aluminum alloy. This wide handlebar also features 28mm of rise, and a pair of comfortable Marin Bearpaw Locking grips.

The wide handlebar meshes well with the bike’s comfortable seat and 66.5-degree head angle – making for an enjoyable, easy to control ride. The bike doesn’t come with any pedals – so you’re going to have to take care of that segment yourself – but on the plus side, the nickel-plated KMC X11 chain is quite high-end for this price range.

Drivetrain, Brakes, and Tires

The Pine 1 uses an 11-speed Shimano SLS drivetrain, which provides it with just the right amount of gear range. The MicroShift lever shifters are reliable and responsive, and the 1×11 drivetrain is simple, easy to use, and quite versatile.

The bike makes use of a pair of large 29-inch Vee Flow Snap wire bead tires. At 2.6 inches wide, they offer a lot of traction – but their large size guarantees an impressive amount of speed, despite the steel frame’s heavy weight.

The tires are mounted onto Marin’s aluminum double-walled and tubeless-ready rims, which are both light and durable.

The Pine 1 features a pair of Shimano MT400 hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors. The brakes do a tremendous job of improving the bike’s overall handling – providing it with plenty of consistent, rapid stopping power.

The steel frame, overall weight of the bike, and large tires absorb plenty of road shock as it is – but the bike also has an outstanding RockShox Recon RL front suspension fork. It features an impressive 120mm of travel, allowing it to easily handle all but the most challenging obstacles – and if you need more than 120mm of travel, you’re much better off getting a high-quality full-suspension mountain bike.

Durable, well-designed, versatile, and unexpectedly fast, the Pine 1 is a remarkable bike – one which proves that steel-framed hardtails still have a place in today’s world.

Pros
  • Durable, well-made steel frame
  • Powerful suspension
  • Great brakes
  • Good tires
Cons
  • Heavy compared to aluminum and carbon hardtails
  • Pedals not included

5. Best 20 Speed - Raleigh Tekoa 3

Specifications:

  • Gearing → 20 speed
  • Wheel size → 29 x 2.25 inch
  • Weight capacity → Not listed
  • Weight → 32 lbs

Key Features:

  • Heat-treated and double-butted aluminum frame
  • Shimano Deore M6000 shifters
  • Versatile Shimano drivetrain
  • RockShox 30 Silver Solo Air front suspension fork

Raleigh Tekoa 3 Review

Although a large number of gears isn’t necessarily better than a wide gear range, a larger number of gears definitely can’t hurt. And if you’re one of the people who prefer a large number of gears, then we’ve got just the bike for you.

Raleigh’s Tekoa 3 is a durable, maneuverable, and versatile bike that handles incredibly well. It combines a well-made, modern frame with a set of high-quality components – and the result is a fantastic high-performance bike. If versatility and adaptability are priorities for you, then the Raleigh Tekoa 3 deserves a closer look.

Frame and Ergonomics

The Tekoa 3 is available in two size options, which will fit riders from 5’7” to 6’1” tall. The frame of the bike is made from a heat-treated, custom formed and double-butted AL-6061 aluminum alloy. The frame is quite sturdy and provides a great deal of stiffness, and also features a tapered head tube.

Fully assembled, the bike weighs approximately 32 lbs – which is a more than decent weight, considering the frame’s impressive durability. And while we’re on the topic of durability, the KMC X10 chain also deserves praise – it’s a low-maintenance piece of kit that will last for years.

An aluminum alloy stem supports the Raleigh alloy MTB handlebar, which sports a pair of decently comfortable grips. The seatpost has 15mm of offset, and the Raleigh MTB saddle is decent, but nothing spectacular – and the same goes for the Wellgo plastic pedals.

But don’t get the wrong idea – the bike has decent ergonomics. The grips, saddle, and pedals aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination – it’s just that the rest of the bike is much more impressive in comparison.

The Tekoa 3 features an incredibly well-made and durable frame that sports a decent amount of comfort. However, if you would like to bring the ergonomics up to par with the performance, you’ll have to switch out a couple of components – but that’s relatively inexpensive and easy to do.

Drivetrain, Suspension, Tires, and Brakes

The Tekoa’s main selling point is the remarkably versatile 2×10 Shimano drivetrain. The Shimano Deore M6000 shifters allow you to easily change gears and maintain high speeds, while the wide gear range allows you to easily meet any challenge head-on. The drivetrain is fantastic – and it makes quick work of hills, inclines, and descents.

The bike features a pair of light and durable alloy SLD-30 double-walled rims which support a pair of high-quality 29 x 2.25 inch Vee tires. The large size of the tires provides the bike with a lot of speed – and reaching a high speed is quite easy with the Tekoa 3.

To balance that out, the bike makes use of a pair of Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes that feature powerful 160mm rotors. The bike might be able to achieve high speeds quite quickly – but it can grind to a complete halt just as easily.

As far as stability, control, and handling go, the RockShox 30 Silver Solo Air front suspension fork does a great job of absorbing road shock. It features 100mm of travel, as well as a lockout feature.

Pros
  • Very adaptable
  • Great handling
  • Durable construction
  • Stiff frame
Cons
  • Average pedals
  • Average saddle

Hardtail Mountain Bikes: Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Hardtail Mountain Bikes?

Hardtails are mountain bikes that have a front suspension but lack a rear suspension. This helps them achieve a lighter overall weight and makes them much easier to maintain. Compared to full-suspension bikes, hardtails are much more simple and beginner-friendly.

Are Hardtails Worse Than Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes?

No - not at all. Full-suspension bikes are great, but the addition of a rear suspension will do little to help the average cyclist. Full-suspension setups add a lot of weight to a bike - and they cost quite a lot as well.

Full-suspension bikes do a better job when it comes to going downhill - but unless you plan on overcoming some highly technical trails, you’ll be much better off with a hardtail bike.

What Are Some of the Advantages of Hardtail Mountain Bikes?

Hardtails are lighter, less expensive, and feature less complicated components - meaning that there’s less upkeep and maintenance.

The lack of a rear suspension allows you to maintain a good amount of pedaling efficiency, and it also forces you to learn how to think on your feet. Because you’ll still feel a small amount of road shock, you’ll have to maintain a proper body position, and you’ll have to learn how to pick a good path.

What Should I Look for in a Hardtail?

The most important parts of a hardtail are the frame, drivetrain, suspension, and brakes. These are the priorities - saddles, pedals, and other components can easily be replaced.

Your aim should be to find a bike that has a good amount of durability, while still keeping the weight as low as possible. A versatile drivetrain, good suspension fork, and a good set of brakes will help you handle the rough trail conditions, while the build quality of the frame determines how reliable a bike is.

You Might Also Like
Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes: Top 5 Picks for 2020 — Bike Hacks