Mountain biking is a risky yet very fun sport that many people enjoy participating in. one of the things that set mountain biking apart from many other outdoor sports is the required gear and equipment need to ride.
Many sports or outdoor activities only require one piece of equipment or simple infrastructure in order to engage in them. If you plan on mountain biking, you’ll need an array of tools like helmets, knee pads, bodysuits, padded bike shoes, and a lot more.
One of the key components to mountain biking is obviously the bike itself, there are a lot of mountain bike options out on the market however not all of them are designed with the same intended use in mind. One of the most popular and common types of mountain bike is known as a hardtail mountain bike. Traditional mountain bike designs incorporate both front and rear suspension systems to make the trail ride less tough on the rider.
With hardtail mountain bikes, you don’t get rear suspension assistance which is why they’re called “hardtail” mountain bikes. Hardtail mountain bikes only have a front suspension system that is designed to reduce the weight and operation complexity of the bike.
Hardtail mountain bikes are known to be more durable and long-lasting when compared to bikes with full suspension systems. This is largely due to the reduced infrastructure design that helps to alleviate weak points in mountain bike design architecture.
Many professional riders prefer hardtail bikes over mountain bikes with full suspension systems because they’re easier to ride and cost less to repair if you do happen to run into malfunctions.
Hardtail mountain bikes are also known for their efficiency because they require less physical exertion on the part of the rider in order to achieve high speeds. Hardtail mountain bikes are great for those riders who want to go on an adventure without worrying about your bike breaking down or losing its performance capabilities halfway through your trail or expedition.
If you to test the limits of your mountain bike while reducing the number of upfront costs, a hardtail mountain bike is a perfect option for you. Hardtail mountain bikes are known for being relatively inexpensive when compared to their full suspension counterparts however they offer many of the same riding benefits and features.
Hardtail mountain bikes are the epitome of customizable riding options that are resilient and high performance. Many hardtail mountain bikes come with personalization options which allow you to tweak the bike to your exact needs and riding style. There are a lot of hardtail mountain bikes available on the market which can make finding the right one for you quite challenging.
In this guide, we’re going to go over all of the must-have features that everyone should look for in a hardtail mountain bike. We will also cover some of the top recommendations for 2019 in addition to more benefits that are offered by hardtail mountain bikes.
If you’ve been in the market for a hardtail mountain bike and still haven’t found the one that fits you, this guide will help you determine the key factors that you need to have when investing in a hardtail mountain bike.
Up Front Best Hardtail MTBs
- Orbea Alma 29 M50 Hardtail Mountain Bike: Best Overall
- Santa Cruz Chameleon Complete Mountain Bike: Most Versatile
- Diamondback Bicycles Overdrive Hardtail Mountain Bike: Most Affordable
Benefits of Hardtail Mountain Bikes
Hardtail mountain bikes are the preferred option for many riders who are a hobbyist or those who simply want to save money without sacrificing performance capabilities. Hardtail mountain bikes provide an array of advantages over full suspension mountain bike models various areas including customization, build quality, and much more.
Hardtail mountain bikes are also the preferred option for many riders due to the fact that you can rebuild them over time and they’re very simple to operate. We’re going to go over a few of the key benefits that you receive when choosing a hardtail mountain bike over other configurations so that you can make the right purchase decision without any regrets.
Traditional mountain bikes with both front and rear suspension systems tend to be very expensive due to the amount of material and design effort that’s put into building them. With hardtail mountain bikes, the material costs tend to be lower and less expensive thus making them a fully capable biking option at a fraction of the cost when compared to full suspension machines. The amount of money that you save by buying a hardtail mountain bike is reason enough to select them over other bike configurations.
Reduced Riding Stress
Most full suspension mountain bikes have parts such as pivots, shocks, linkages and more. With a hardtail mountain bike, all of the weight of those heavy mechanical parts is reduced significantly in hardtail mountain bike designs (hard rear fork).
For people who engage in rigorous climbing or long rides, the reduced weight of a hardtail mountain bike may be exactly what you’ve been looking for all this time. The reduced weight will save you tons of physical energy exertion while traversing wild terrains so that you can increase your endurance and stamina.
Maintenance and upkeep
Due to the reduction in overall moving parts, hardtail mountain bikes are often times much easier to maintain over extended periods of time. Without complex parts like suspension systems or shocks, the durability of the bike is increased substantially leading to fewer repairs.
You also don’t have to worry about replacement parts that often with hardtail mountain bikes because they use very few moving components, to begin with. This is another reason why many riders choose hardtail mountain bikes over standard models that have full suspension systems.
Hardtail mountain bikes come with a variety of wheel sizes (commonly 27-inch wheels or 29-inch wheels) that you won’t find in similar full suspension bikes. Some hardtail mountain bikes are configured for a variety of wheel sizes so you can change your tires at any time to fit your current riding style.
Hardtail mountain bikes can also be easily converted to single speed setups as long as you choose a bike that is capable of providing tension on the short chainstays without the use of a rear derailleur.
Hardtail mountain bikes typically use adjustable dropouts and eccentric bottom brackets to achieve single speed functionality. Many hardtail mountain bikes also come with varying gear options so that you can adjust your ride the way you want.
Trail Ride Response
Hardtail mountain bikes generally tend to be more responsive while riding due to the absence of ride assisting components. The single suspension design of many hardtail mountain bikes allows you to feel the terrain in a more realized way as opposed to dual-suspension bikes that mediate much of the impact for you. Hardtail mountain bikes are perfect for those riders that want a fast and efficient bike that doesn’t come with any features to hold them back.
Cross Country and Crossover Appeal
With a hardtail rear fork (and front suspension bike), you can flex between rough terrain, dirt trails, dusty roads, and pavement (even or rough). Increasingly, it’s these crossover mountain bikes (sometimes referred to as cross country bikes) that are gobbling up market share from new buyers.
Key Features to Look for in A Hardtail Mountain Bike
When you begin looking for a premium hardtail mountain bike that offers the resilience and performance capabilities you need, it’s important to ensure that your chosen bike has basic features that everyone needs.
One of the most important things to make sure your hardtail bike has is a great value ratio, by ensuring that your bike meets the perfect point between price and functionality you can make an educated purchase decision that will give you real value on your biking expeditions.
Another very important factor to look for when purchasing a hardtail mountain bike is its durability. While hardtail mountain bikes tend to be more resilient and long-lasting when compared to their full suspension counterparts, they can still encounter malfunctions or issues which will require repair before continuing use of the bike.
Read the reviews surrounding the company who produces the hardtail mountain bike you’re interested in so that you can make sure they have a verifiable history of manufacturing quality bikes. You can also check a hardtail mountain bike’s durability by asking simple questions like what material the frame is made from and more.
Comfort should also be a priority on your list if you plan on riding your bike for prolonged periods of time in one session. Hardtail mountain bikes come with various seat materials and designs so it may be wise to try sitting on your desired bike prior to purchasing it to make sure that you’ll be comfortable once you get out on the track.
Your height and weight play a huge role in how comfortable you’ll be on any given hardtail mountain bike which is something to consider also when choosing the right bike option for your needs.
All of these features are critical for those who are serious about taking their biking game to the next level. Perform accurate research about the hardtail mountain bike that you’re interested in before purchasing to ensure that you’re purchasing a bike that will meet your needs and remain functional over a long period of time.
Types of Hardtail Mountain Bike Frames
Not all hardtail mountain bikes are created equally and some of them use various materials in order to create the frame, tires, and many other components. One of the most critical features of any hardtail mountain bike is the frame upon which it sits, without a durable frame to support the weight and other features of the mountain bike, it’s virtually useless.
In this section, we’re going to cover some of the most popular hardtail mountain bike frame options that you’ll find on the market so you can make the right purchase decision when it comes to the bike that is perfect for your needs and intended riding style.
All of the frame materials mentioned below are great however some materials provide more benefits in terms of durability and performance so you want to keep that in mind when searching for the perfect hardtail mountain bike that you want and need.
Aluminum is a light-weight material that was the first alternative to the steel bike frame. Even though it’s one-third the density of steel, you’ll notice that aluminum tubes are larger in diameter than steel tubes.
This is due to the fact that the material is also one-third of the rigidity and one-third the strength of steel. Aluminum is commonly used on mountain bikes today and offers a lighter, durable and efficient ride. It is an affordable lightweight option that many serious riders love and enjoy.
Boasting one of the highest strength ratings to weight ratios of any metal, titanium is lighter than steel but equally as tough. Because of the welding tightness (titanium is known to react aggressively to oxygen) and the cost of extracting the raw material, it is also typically an expensive material. Titanium can bend while maintaining its shape so well that it is also used as a shock absorber on some bikes. You commonly see titanium frames on higher-end mountain bikes.
Similar to the diamond frame being the most common frame design, steel tubing is the most popular bike framing material. Steel can, and usually is, butted—meaning that the walls are thinner in the middle than the ends of the tubing.
Thicker walls commonly appear at the ends because this is where the tubing is stressed the most and is also where the tube is welded or brazed to other frame tubes.
When speaking of bike frames, two types of steel exist high-tensile steel and Chromoly (chrome-molybdenum). High-tensile steel is known for being durable and long-lasting, but not quite as light as Chromoly steel. In general, steel is the least expensive bike framing metal available.
Durable and exceptionally lightweight, carbon fiber is made up of a bunch of knitted carbon fibers that are bound together with glue to form a near impenetrable seal. This non-metallic bike frame material is also resistant to corrosion and can be molded into any desired shape.
Because carbon fiber lower impact resistance, carbon fiber will likely be damaged if you get into an accident or crash. This material is increasingly popular but notably expensive.
There are several factors to take into consideration before selecting a material that is right for you and your riding style. Your weight, how long you plan on owning your bicycle and your preferred budget are all important things to consider before deciding on a final bike frame material.
As far as weight goes, mountain bikers who may be leaning towards the “Clydesdale” category should choose an increased strength frame material. Although this may add a bit of weight to your frame, you’ll be satisfied in the end with a bike that can flex without breaking.
Another important factor to consider when deciding on a hardtail mountain bike frame material is how long you plan on owning the bike and where you will be riding it. Live in Southeast Alaska where a constant mist greets you every morning? You may want to consider an aluminum frame over steel, as aluminum won’t rust as fast.
Not looking to remortgage your home to purchase for your new bike? Steel, while very heavy, is the least expensive metal available on the market. Titanium is the most expensive. Aluminum and carbon fiber are increasingly becoming more affordable.
Many different bike framing options exist these days, including steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, and titanium. Not all of these materials are created the same, but because your frame is the backbone of your hardtail mountain bike, it is important to know the difference between them and why you should choose one material option over another.
Consider all of these factors before making the final purchase decision on which hardtail mountain bike is best for you to avoid any regrets or a bike that simply doesn’t meet the standards you need for traversing the trails.
Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes [Recommendations]
Now that you’ve got a good grasp on what hardtail mountain bikes are and exactly how they work, it’s time to look at a few models up close to see which one fits you.
Below, you’re going to find the top hardtail mountain bike recommendations for 2020 based on quality, durability, versatility, and price. All of the hardtail mountain bikes listed below come equipped with all of the must-have features that everyone should have on their mountain bike. Read each description carefully to ensure that you select the right hardtail mountain bike that will allow you to excel in your biking performance.
#1 Orbea Alma 29 M50 Hardtail Mountain Bike
The Orbea Alma 29 M50 Hardtail Mountain Bike comes with Shimano MT201 hydraulic disc brakes (vs mechanical disc brakes) that provide ultimate stopping power in a wide range of different terrains and conditions.
It was designed for ultimate performance capability and durability with an Orbea Alma Carbon OMP frame that gives you extreme power with the benefit of a lightweight frame. This enables you to get more direct energy transference responsive maneuvering capabilities that many full suspension bikes don’t offer.
The Orbea Alma 29 comes with 29 inch wheels / tires for maximum traction when you are blasting through corners and hammering through tight corners or even coming up against rugged patches of rocky areas.
You can acclimate your bike’s absorption ability by customizing the PSI so that the bike runs according to your specific body weight and performance needs. It comes with extremely wide tires which make it easy for you to climb complex areas with lots of rocks or other debris without losing traction.
This hardtail also uses a modern frame design that has slack geometry and boot axle spacing to provide you with ultimate versatility when traversing a wide array of different tracks and mountains. You can even expand the tires on the Orbea Alma 29 up to 3” wide so that you have maximum traction control and maneuverability.
Furthermore, it also features an internal cable routing system that makes it easy to conceal those pesky wires or other framing components and uses a carbon frame to deliver resilient performance with a reduction in standard weight that you would experience in similar bikes within the same class.
The Orbea Alma 29 has a 1×12 drivetrain that provides enough range for any adventure and consists of an SRAM NX Eagle shifter and real derailleur for maximum maneuverability and resistance in addition to SRAM Stylo cranks an SRAM NX PG Cassette, and a 34-tooth chainring.
This bike is the perfect option for those who are looking for a fully capable bike that comes at a reduced weight and expense when compared to similar models on the market.
- RockShox Reba Tk 100 fork for ultimate stability and performance handling on a wide range of terrains and trails
- Maxxis Ikon 2.20” FB 60 TPI Dual tires that provide maximum resilience and traction for slashing through any obstacles on your riding path
- Orbea Alma Carbon OMP frame that is lightweight yet very durable and performance ready so that you never miss a beat
- Mach1 Klixx 23c Tubeless Ready wheelset that makes it easy to adjust your wheel settings to the perfect configuration for your riding style
- SRAM NZ PG-1230 Eagle 11-50t 12-speed drivetrain that gives you the ability to perform in an array of versatile conditions without sacrificing performance
- Shimano MT201 Hydraulic Disc brakes that provide ultimate stopping power regardless of the trail or terrain
- Lacks full suspension which requires more physical input on behalf of the rider
#2 Santa Cruz Chameleon Complete Mountain Bike
The Santa Cruz Chameleon Complete Mountain Bike features a modern geometry frame design that makes it easy for you to take on virtually any terrain. It was designed to provide riders with a versatile and adaptable riding option that provides stability and high performance in a lightweight package.
The Santa Cruz Chameleon gives you the ability to effortlessly change your tires at any time so that you can get the right configuration for your riding needs. Furthermore, this MTB features a FOX 34 fork which is great for blasting through debris, roots, rocks and a lot more without having to worry about damaging your bike.
The Santa Cruz Chameleon manages to obtain the perfect balance between cross country performance and affordability by incorporating high-performance parts where it matters most and leaving the rest up to you for the final call. It also comes with a compression dial that allows you to adjust the suspension bike tension based on the route that you’re currently on.
This bike features a SRAM XG1275 Eagle 1×12 drivetrain that lets you adjust your riding speed with minimal effort anytime you need to and encompasses all of the features that you want in a mountain bike without stifling your ability to control the bike the way you want to.
The Chameleon features a SRAM lever brake system which makes stopping instantly a breeze regardless of the trail you’re on. If you’re looking for a fully capable mountain bike that is affordable and long-lasting, the Santa Cruz Chameleon is the perfect option for you.
- 6000-series aluminum frame that is lightweight yet durable enough to handle the stress that you put on it while riding
- Race Face AR 40 wheelset that lets you manage power output and cycling the way you want
- Maxxis Rekon 3.0 27.5”x3.0” tires that can handle rocks, roots, and other debris which may be on your riding path
- SRAm Level TL brakes that make it easy for you to engage accurate stopping power without sporadic movements or jerks
- SRAM XG1275 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain that gives you maximum flexibility in terms of how fast and forceful your bike is while riding
- FOX 34 Float Performance fork that keeps you at a nice elevation and provides maximum stability while riding
- No dual-suspension system to offset some of the impact riders receive while out on the track
The Santa Cruz Chameleon is ready to adapt to its local environment, whatever direction your imagination takes you. Unlike its smarmy, insurance peddling gecko cousin, the Chameleon commands more than just 15 minutes of your time.
#3 Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Comp
The Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Comp was designed with ultimate performance and cost savings in mind (Diamondback bicycles are generally on the less expensive side). It uses a classic mountain bike design with modern elements of comfort and versatility woven into the very core of the bike itself.
The Diamondback Overdrive features a rear boost axle and a slack head angled body that gives you the perfect posture for riding on long expeditions or trails and gives its riders the ability to easily change parts as they need to in order to improve the bike’s overall performance abilities and durability.
This bike features a unique design that aids you on your rides by requiring more energy during descents and allowing you to remain calm while taking corners. It also comes with powerful tires that allow you to take on roots, rocks, debris, and other potentially damaging factors without even thinking twice about it.
Furthermore, the Overdrive features a rather hard suspension bike system which reduces the direct force felt on the rider when coming in contact with hard bumps and a 1×11 drivetrain that comes with shifters and derailleurs so that you can easily adapt to any trail conditions or riding style that you want.
The Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Comp has 740mm handlebars and a 70mm stem to provide maximum control and support for riders of all types. It is a fully functional and high performing hardtail mountain bike that has a lot to offer its riders.
- Carbon fiber frame for maximum durability and support in a wide range of different terrains and trail conditions
- SRAM NX 11-speed X-Actuation drivetrain that is versatile and very responsive allowing you to quickly adapt to the current conditions while out riding
- Kenda Honey Badger Sport 29 x 2.2” tires that easily slash through loose rocks, gravel, roots, and other debris
- Diamondback Blanchard wheelset that makes it easy to swap out the wheels and tries to make the bike fit perfectly to your preferred riding style
- RockShox Recon Gold RL100mm travel fork that gives you ultimate support and durability regardless of how much you weigh or how tall you are
- Shimano BR-M315 hydraulic brakes that come with 180mm front rotors and 160mm rear rotors for high-performance braking that doesn’t miss a beat
- Lacks some features that you would find in high-end fully capable mountain bikes
The classic returns this year with 27.5” wheels, 24 speeds, a plush four-inch Suntour suspension fork, and powerful disc brakes. Big knobby tires grip every root and rock, keeping you confident and in control as you explore the trail. Whether you're a diehard hardtail aficionado or looking for a solid starter mountain bike, the Overdrive doesn't disappoint.
All of these mountain bike recommendations come with all of the must-have features mentioned previously in this guide. If you’ve been looking for a reliable, durable, and affordable hardtail mountain bike that provides you with all of the functionality you need, consider some of these options as they are sure not to disappoint you.
There are many more mountain bikes available on the market however these choices caught our attention due to their price and feature list.
See more Hardtail Mountain Bikes reviews here:
- Diamondback Overdrive Review
- Trek Marlin 5 Review
- Trek Marlin 6 Review
- Ibis Hakka MX Review
- Salsa Timberjack Review
- Trek Roscoe 8 Review
- Giant Talon 3 Review
Final Note on Hardtail MTBs [Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes]
A hardtail mountain bike (hardtail MTB) that fits well and is right for your height, flexibility, and riding style is a bike you’ll love riding. A properly fitting hardtail mountain bike can improve your handling and confidence on the trail to help you tackle more technical and challenging rides.
Hardtail mountain bikes come in standard sizes (S, M, L) and are generally similar across brands. Sizes generally relate to your height so that you can rest assured you’re getting the right fir always.
Many hardtail mountain bike manufacturers include sizing charts that list a height range for each bike size. If you’re in-between sizes, it’s best to rely on the smaller sizes as more sizing accommodations can be made with a smaller frame than with one that’s too big.
Armed with a general sense of what kind of hardtail mountain bike you’re looking for, now is a good time to head to REI or another specialty bike retailer to look at some suitable models and try out a few hardtail mountain bikes.
Ask to ride several bikes, with the help of a sales specialist, you should be able to choose between all of the options out on the market to narrow down your options to two or three bikes. Though they may have similar prices and components, each hardtail mountain bike will feel different while you’re riding it.
Take each hardtail mountain bike on a five- to 10-minute ride over some varied surfaces, including up a short hill. In most cases, one bike is just going to feel better to you when compared to the others. You want a bike to feel like a natural extension of your body so that you won’t even notice that you’re riding one while out on the trails or any terrain for that matter.
All of the tips and information included in this guide will help you select the perfect hardtail mountain bike for you and your riding style. There are several hardtail mountain bike options for you to choose from however not all of them will come with the features and design elements that you need.
This is a great benefit for those riders who want to focus more on riding than they do on the actual maintenance of their bike.
Keep all of the recommendations and tips listed in this guide in mind when you begin searching for the right bike that fits your needs. If you want to test the limits of your mountain bike while reducing the number of upfront costs, a hardtail mountain bike is a perfect option for you.
Hardtail mountain bikes are known for being relatively inexpensive when compared to their full suspension bike counterparts however they offer many of the same riding benefits and features. There is a lot of sports retailers who sell premium hardcore hardtail mountain bikes at great prices so you may want to consider doing some research about local bike shops in your area before making a final purchase decision.
As long as you keep your must-have features and budget in the front of your mind while shopping for hardtail mountain bikes, you should have no problem finding the one that fits your needs perfectly.
Make sure you pay attention to the frame material, suspension system, height, gear ratio, and tires that come with your chosen hardtail mountain bike so that you can ensure a perfect ride and a long lasting trail bike. Enjoy your new hardtail mountain bike and take on those trails without fear.