Why a hardtail mountain bike? Simply put, they are the all-around, do-everything, go-almost anywhere, jack-of-all-trades of mountain bikes. Sure, you probably wouldn’t want to use one for serious endure or rugged downhill, but for everything else – cross-country, bikepacking, racing, whatever – a good hardtail mountain bike might just be the best choice. They’re also usually cheaper, requiring less moving parts than a full-suspension bike, and thus often a good buy for beginners not ready to drop a bunch of money on a high-end bike yet. And since there’s no shortage of good hardtails out there, so you’re bound to find one in your price range that fits your needs. We’ve gone ahead and rounded up five of the best hardtail mountain bikes out for 2018. Some more expensive than others, some on the more affordable end.
What should you look for in a hardtail mountain bike? Other than your budget (always our first consideration), decide first where and what you’ll be riding. Cross-Country? Downhill? All-mountain? Like we mentioned above, hardtails may not be the best choice for downhill, where a full-suspension might come in handy. But for anything else a hardtail will provide the best bang for your buck.
Under $1000, your pickings for a good mountain bike will be pretty limited. If you’re willing to spend $1200-$1500+, options really begin to open up and you can grab some nicer bikes with real suspensions, nice wheels and decent frames.
Try to find a bike with a good fork, a good amount of travel (about 100mm) in the front suspension, and a decent drivetrain. Most smaller, less-expensive hardtails will have 27.5″ wheels, which are big enough for trail-riding but still fast for cross-country. You can also spend a little more and grab some 29’s for serious trail-ready fun. At this price, you should also have no problem getting good disc brakes, which are a practical necessity. Also pay attention to the head-angle and slack in the head and handle-bars; the more relaxed, the
As for the frame, look for at least aluminum, which will provide the best balance of strength, light weight, and price. Once you’re a pro and are ready to drop big bucks, you can move up to a carbon fiber frame, like on the S-Works Epic Hardtail below.
Ready to see for yourself? Here’s our 5 favorite hardtails for 2018.
No doubt you’re familiar with Cannondale. They’re one of the premier names in bikes of all kinds, and their offerings rarely disappoint. The Cannondale F-S1 Carbon 5 is a lightweight, race-ready XC hardtail that will have you flying effortlessly over all kinds of terrain, with a light Ballistec Carbon Frame, RockShox Reba RL fork, and 100mm of air-cushioned travel. a Shimano XT/SLX Group drivetrain, paired with a Cannonale Si Crankset, make shifting smooth and easy. Also included are tubeless rims, paired with Schwalbe’s Racing Ralph tires, which provide the perfect combo of traction and speed. You can choose from both 27.5” and 29” for more speed or larger wheels.
Simple, fast and relatively affordable, this is a great pick for a fast bike on a (modest) budget.
This awesome hardtail from Giant costs less than $1200 – a relative bargain in the world of mountain bikes – but delivers all the quality, performance and speed you’d expect from a Giant. With a lightweight ALUXX SL aluminum frame and geometry designed for the trail, such as a relaxed angle head – 67-degree – made for accommodating a 120mm fork. and perfect for both fast XC speeds and carving through singletrack. It has a S R Suntour Raidon XC LO-R DS 120mm-travel fork with 15mm thru-axle, Shimano Deore 2×10-speed drivetrain with Shimano M315 hydraulic disc brakes, internal cable routing, and Giant XC-2 Disc wheels with Maxxis Ardent tubeless tires measuring 27.5”. For a bit more, you can grab a 29” version for even tougher terrain. But for a fast, easy-to-ride and handle hardtail for a cheap price, this is an excellent bike.
Another budget option, this time from mainstay bike maker Trek, and designed for people who want at totally smooth, offroad bike, without the steep price tag. It has a 120mm RockShox Judy TK Solo Air fork, mounted on an Alpha Gold Aluminum frame and paired with 27.5” tires. Light, sturdy and ready for anything. The RockShox Solo Air Fork is adjustable to each rider’s weight and ride preferences.
A Shimano 11-speed drivetrain shifting smooth and fast, while Shimano M315 hydraulic disc brakes ensure you stop, and the very short stem, coupled with the wide handlebars, give you lots of control. To top it off, it looks pretty slick.
This big hardtail bike from Kona offers precise handling, sharp corners, and big, burly 27.5” wheels with lots of traction. The front suspension offers 120mm of travel on a RockShox Recon Silver RL Solo , the crankset and drivetrain are an 11-speed Shimano NX (like the Roscoe 8 above), the frame is Kona 6061 Aluminum Butted, with an elegant, curved downtube. Kona doesn’t intend it for any one use, instead positioning it as an all-purpose hardtail capable of shredding singletrack and handling downhills and corners with ease. Maxxis Rekon tires give it some grip and traction on dirt and rock and ensure nimble handling.
Nothing fancy, but a solid bike. It’s a bit more expensive than the few bikes above, but not as pricey as some real high-end bikes.
This bike certainly cheap, but if you’re looking for the best hardtail money can buy – well, this one can compete (barring custom bikes, etc). It’s ultralight and stiff, designed by famed bike engineer Peter Denk, and the 12m carbon frame comes in at only 845 grams. This thing is a veritable rocket for XC biking, and that’s exactly what you’re looking for. It has a RockShox SID World Cup 29 fork with Brain, which provides 90/100mm of travel. Brain technology is also capable of distinguishing between the rider and terrain to maximize power. What that means and how that works, we have no idea. The drivetrain is a Shimano XTR Di2 11-speed groupset, with 36/26T gearing up front and 11-40t in the back; it’s the first ever electronic groupset for a mountain bike, and it delivers smooth, effortless shifting and precision. (It also makes up about a third of the price of the bike).
All around, it’s a beautiful, high-performing top of the line hardtail, perfect for XC or just about anything you’d like to use your hardtail for.
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