LAST UPDATED: October 25, 2019
Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes: Ride Smoothly on Rough Trails
Increase your stability when you hit the trails with these hardtail mountain bikes
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON October 25, 2019
Hardtail bikes give you the authentic experience of mountain biking since they can maneuver through all types of terrain. These bikes also have a simple yet strong design that can be used by beginners and accomplished riders alike. Our buying guide will help you find the best hardtail bike for off-road riding.
A lightweight yet stiff hardtail bike that rolls smoothly over obstacles and offers quick handling.
It has an attractive, sporty look. It offers a safe ride. Durable wheels. It offers a wide gear range to move you through any kind of terrain. The mechanical disc brakes offer incredible and fast stopping power. Available in frame sizes of 16, 18, 20, and 22 inches.
The seat may shift back and forth during inclines and declines. The pedals may come off with heavy pedaling.
This bike has a TORAY T800 carbon fiber frame and a SR Suntour fork with 100mm of suspension travel. It comes nearly fully assembled.
The gears may make a clicking sound when you're freewheeling, and it's a good idea to get it professionally tuned before riding it.
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Benefits of Hardtail Mountain Bikes
- Simplicity. Hardtail bikes do not have a rear suspension and no rear pivots. Therefore, these bikes make for pleasant, worry-free rides as there is less chance of things going wrong.
- Maintenance. There is no suspension, there are no bearings, and hence there’s not much you need to service. A quick, clean wipe down is good enough and you’re ready for your next ride.
- Efficiency. Unlike full suspension bikes, all the energy you make goes into forward motion. Hardtails are, therefore, the fastest bikes on pump tracks.
- Cheaper. Hardtail mountain bikes offer much better components for the same amount of money as compared to full suspension bikes. Being cheaper, these are great for beginner riders looking for an entry-level bike to start on.
Types of Hardtail Mountain Bikes
Cross Country Hardtails
Cross country hardtails are designed for quick handling. They generally feature suspension forks between 75 and 100 mm of travel. These bikes feature drivetrains with a high gear range that is a great advantage in racing. With narrower tires and bars, they are meant for covering large distances.
Trail hardtails feature slacker angles, wider tires, and a longer suspension travel than their XC counterparts. These bikes make for confident trail riding thanks to the added stability. The longer suspension offers more cushioning, and the wider tires provide excellent traction. With simple 1x drivetrains and wider handlebars, the rider feels more in control while tackling a difficult trail.
In enduro racing, you are timed only on your descents. Enduro hardtails are therefore specifically designed with descending in mind. These bikes feature even more suspension travel and a larger frame that inspires more confidence and the feeling of control at high speeds. These bikes are very light and easy to fix—two important aspects when it comes to enduro racing.
Diamondback Bicycles is a major bicycle brand based out of Kent, Wash. The brand has been around since 1977 and is credited for pioneering the Knuckle Box Suspension. Diamondback also manufactures fitness equipment like ellipticals, uprights, recumbents, and indoor cycles. The Hook and Overdrive 29 are two great hardtail bikes from the company.
Schwinn is an American company that was founded in 1895. The brand is now an industry leader and makes some of the best mountain bikes, including the Bonafide. Schwinn bikes are trusted by professionals and even by winners of mountain biking national championships. They produce several types of bikes such as cruisers, road, hybrid, urban, and biking accessories.
Hardtail Mountain Bikes Pricing
- $400 to $500: Hardtail mountain bikes in this price range provide good performance at an affordable price. Mostly meant for beginner riders, these bikes feature mid-level components and manufacturers aim to provide a fun riding experience.
- $500 to $900: Hardtail mountain bikes in this price range provide excellent performance as they use mid to high-level components. You will often find features like hydraulic disc brakes, superior drivetrains, and tires with very good traction. Powerful and built to last, these bikes are great for beginners and experts alike.
- $900 and up: Hardtail mountain bikes in this price bracket use high-level components for hardcore mountain biking. Premium components like carbon fiber frames and top-of-the-line branded suspensions and drivetrains are common. Built for professionals, these bikes are manufactured with no compromises when it comes to performance.
When choosing a new bike, you will come across bikes with aluminum, steel, alloy, and carbon frames. A mountain bike’s frame material is the most important factor that decides its weight. Bikes with steel frames are generally quite heavy. You will find a number of aluminum and aluminum alloy bikes, as these are lighter than their steel counterparts. When it comes to weight, carbon fiber is a game-changer. These bikes are the lightest of the lot, and therefore agile and easy to handle.
The suspension travel in hardtail mountain bikes is generally from 75mm to as high as 140mm. This is because different types of hardtails require different lengths of suspension travel depending on their intended use. See the “Types of Hardtail Mountain Bikes” section above to know which bike is right for you, depending on your riding style.
Unlike a few years ago when 26 inches was the only wheel size available, hardtails now come in three popular wheel sizes: 26, 27.5, and 29 inches. The smaller wheel sizes favor shorter riders and are faster, lighter, and more maneuverable. 29ers are more efficient and offer excellent traction, but are heavier and favor taller riders.
- Brakes: Good brakes are important, and for obvious reasons. Almost every mountain bike on the market comes with disc brakes. The bigger the rotors, the more stopping power the brakes will have. Be sure to buy a bike that sports powerful brakes from a well-known brand, as this can be the difference between riding confidently at high speeds and constantly worrying whether your brakes will hold up at the speed at which you are riding.
- Tire Width: Tire width is very important in regards to the traction and stability of a hardtail mountain bike. The advantage of wider tires is that the pressure is spread over a large area, making the bike more suitable for riding in loose terrains like sand and even snow. Some hardtail mountain bikes have really wide tires and are known as fat tire mountain bikes or fat bikes. Although fat bikes provide enhanced traction, a high bike-to-rider weight ratio can make it difficult to handle.
Best Hardtail Mountain Bike Reviews & Recommendations 2019
The Diamondback Hook is a great hardtail that offers an enjoyable riding experience thanks to its simplicity. The bike is lightweight at 30 pounds and is available in frame sizes of 16, 18, 20, and 22 inches.
The bike features Tektro mechanical disc brakes that offer great stopping power, and the 120 mm-travel SR Suntour forks provide excellent cushioning on rocky trails. The wide handlebars and 1x8 SRAM drivetrain make for easy and quick handling. There are two locations for storing water bottles. The 27.5-inch wheels are large enough and easily roll over any obstacles.
All in all, the Diamondback Hook is a great first trail bike. It’s great for going fast and handles climbing really well. Plus, it has a ton of room for upgrades and modifications based on your preferences and riding style.
However, there are some downsides. Users report the seat shifting back and forth during inclines and declines, as well as the pedals coming off after heavy pedaling. These issues, however can be easily fixed by tightening the nuts and bolts.
This hardtail mountain bike is built by hand and is shipped almost entirely assembled. All you need to do is install the front wheel, seat post, and pedals as well as pump up the tires. The brakes are dialed in, and the derailleurs are pre-adjusted. The bike has a TORAY T800 carbon fiber frame and an SR Suntour fork, which provides 100mm of suspension travel.
This strong yet lightweight bike comes with Shimano front and rear derailleurs and a Shimano MT200 disc brake system. The bike's internal cable routing system is designed for airflow, and there are three wheel sizes to choose from: 26 inch, 27.5 inch, and 29 inch. The bike is available in 15.5, 17 and 19-inch frame options, catering to both cycling enthusiasts and entry-level professional riders.
One complaint about the bike is that the gears tend to make a clicking noise when you're freewheeling, but that's not abnormal. Also, while it comes mostly assembled, it's a good idea to get it professionally tuned if you can't do it yourself.
Light, powerful, and perfectly equipped, the ultra-lightweight Tundra Pro is a premium class bike for a cross-country racer or an avid marathoner. This bicycle comes 99 percent assembled, so you won't have to spend hours setting it up. The front suspension fork features a remote lockout that can be operated via a button located on the handlebars. This means with the flick of a switch, you can turn it on or off.
The Tundra Pro is a great-looking machine with a contemporary design. Whether you're riding your bike uphill or downhill, you will love how well it handles. The bicycle is very agile thanks to the steep steering angle and short rear section. For a better riding experience, Steppenwolf has used Schwalbe marathon tires.
However, the bike’s saddle is not the most comfortable, so you may have to get a new one before you start riding. The brake calipers are also not of high quality.
- Wear safety gear, including a helmet and knee pads, when mountain biking. Check the weather in advance so that you can dress appropriately for the conditions in the riding zone.
- Carry emergency supplies in case you get lost during an off-road ride. Pack emergency food, a flashlight, and a multitool for repairing your bike.
- Your foot positioning on the pedal is crucial for a fatigue-free ride. If you have more of your toes or the ball of the foot on the pedal, you will get tired faster and your leg muscles may ache.
Q: What's the difference between a hardtail and full-suspension mountain bike?
A: A full-suspension bike is heavier than a hardtail bike since it has a rear shock and extra pivots that are absent in a hardtail bike. The front and rear shocks make it more comfortable for off-road rides. A hardtail bike only has a front suspension or rigid fork; it's lighter and easier to ride uphill.
Q: Will I damage my hardtail bike if I ride through water?
A: It’s better to carry your bike through the water or go around it. If not, you'll expose the bike's frame and bearings to rust and corrosion. Also, the chain may constantly come off the gears or stop when going uphill.
Q: Can I rely on only the rear brake for mountain biking?
A: It feels pretty cool to make skid marks and kick up dirt with the rear brake, but ignoring the front brake could damage your rear tires. The rear tire and the brakes will wear out faster, and the bike could tip over on a steep slope. Try to press lightly on the rear brake and ease into the front brake for a safe stop.
Our top pick for the best hardtail mountain bike is the Diamondback Bicycles Hook Hardtail Mountain Bike. Its lightweight and sturdy design make it a great option for bike packing adventures.
If you are working with a budget, consider the SAVADECK DECK300 Carbon Fiber Mountain Bike.