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MTB Buying Guides

A Guide to Buying a Hardtail Mountain Bike

Thinking of buying a hardtail this year? Here's our guide to help you out...

Whether you’re just getting started in the world of MTB, or you’re an experienced trail shredder, a hard tail bike is a staple of any riders arsenal.

A hardtail mountain bike is exactly that, hard tailed. Unlike the big rig downhill bikes with their super slack geometries and full front and rear suspension, a hardtail has a fixed rear end and has only an impact-absorbing fork at the front.

Hardtail bikes are perfect for charging down trails, cycling fire roads, bridle paths and climbing those winding single tracks. They have the stability and efficiency of a rigid bike, but with the added comfort of front suspension forks for eating up rougher terrain.

If you’re thinking of investing in a new hardtail, there are a few things you need to consider first…

Why choose a hardtail?

Hardtails are really fun to ride, regardless of your mountain bike skills and experience. Some professionals prefer them to full suspension bikes for a number of reasons:

MECHANICS: Hardtail bikes are a lot simpler to service and maintain. Without a rear shock, and pivoting triangle to worry about, it’s really a case of keeping it clean, well lubed and well loved.

How to keep your bike in Good Condition all year round

EFFICIENCY: Having a full suspension bike means your rear end absorbs shock as well as a little of your pedal power. A rigid rear end allows all of your pedalling energy to be converted into forwarding motion.

LIGHTER AND CHEAPER: Without that rear shock, pivoting triangle system, additional bolts and fittings, a hardtail bike is generally a lot lighter in weight.

With a more simplified mechanical system, it places hardtails in the lower end of MTB bike prices, with entry level bikes starting at just £300.

FUN: Hardtails are fun to ride in all conditions and most terrains. Because hardtails can be used for all-mountain riding, it adds a difficulty element that challenges you to learn new skills to confidently make it down the trail. With the rear end unable to absorb any impact, a hardtail has a playful bounce when shredding the trails.

Hardtails Vs. Full Suspension MTB?

Is it fit for YOUR purpose?

If you’re looking at buying a new set of wheels, you need to ask yourself what style of riding you want to do with it. Your answer will affect the geometry, the spec and the price of the hardtail you choose to buy.

There are a couple of recommended features you should look for: the wheel size and the braking system. Wheel sizes have evolved from the old standard of 26″ to the new standard of 27.5″ (650b). For more cross-country riding, the big boy 29″ wheels are great for climbing, rolling over obstacles and clearing more ground, but less favoured for all-mountain and downhill action.

Read: Do 29er mountain bikes suit women? 

Disc brakes are most common in off-road riding for their responsiveness and strong braking power, however, you can still get calliper brakes on mountain bikes, but I wouldn’t recommend these for off-road and fast trails.

It’s also worth considering whether you want to go ‘women’s specific’. Women’s mountain bikes might have a slightly altered geometry as some brands say we have a slightly different centre of gravity or slightly different average measurements.  Other brands simply provide an identical bike with smaller grips, narrower handlebars and a female specific saddle along with perhaps shorter cranks. Some women find female specific bikes more comfortable – others don’t – the only way to decide what’s right for you is to test ride a few.

Your needs will vary depending on your riding style and experience level – here’s a look at what’s out there…  

Beginner: If you’re new to the MTB scene, and you’re looking for something to get the wheels rolling then you don’t need to spend a great deal of money, or look for anything with a race spec and carbon features.

For an entry level bike, you can expect to spend anything upwards from £300, and get a good package with 60mm – 100mm of travel in the forks, disc brakes and a strong durable frame.

Essential MTB Tips for Beginners

Example: This new Giant Liv Tempt has 100mm of travel, disc brakes and a 27.5″ (650b) wheel set for under £500.

 

All Mountain: Do you want to tackle those heftier trails, and you’re willing to spend a little more for a high spec? Then all mountain hardtail bikes are for you. These will come equipped with higher end components such as a Shimano SLX/XT groupset, and more travel than the entry level bikes – around 100mm – 140mm.

Example: This beautiful Cube Access WLS hardtail which has 100mm travel, light aluminium frame, 27.5″ wheelset and a high-end Shimano groupset. The suggested retail price is £949 but might vary between dealers.

Cross Country – XC riders cover longer distances over a variety of road and off-road terrain. The differences between these bikes and all-mountain is a more upright but stretched out frame geometry, which makes it more comfortable for long days in the saddle.

Many XC riders favour the larger 29″ wheels as they are more suited for covering ground and rolling over obstacles, whilst making climbing easier. Fork travel will varying from 80mm to 120mm, but tend to come equipped with a lock-out mechanism for smoother riding over the flatter sections of an XC ride.

Example: The Specialized XC performance Jett Expert 29 which is a women’s specific bike, purposely built for XC riding with its 29″ wheel size and 80mm front fork travel. This one comes in at £850.

If you’re looking for a hardtail to race, then be prepared to shell out a few more pennies for something super lightweight and efficient. Most race bikes will be constructed from a lightweight carbon fibre frame, with titanium features to shave off those crucial grammes. The price range shoots up from £1500 to a staggering £6000 in some cases.

Dirt Jump – Perhaps you want a bike for stunts, jumps and pumps. Something small and light to take to the indoor parks and skills areas… then you need a dirt jump bike.

Dirt bikes have a super slack geometry, so much so that you barely even need a saddle. They tend to have a smaller wheel size of 26″ with a short travel amount of the forks, roughly 80mm. They also have minimal gears or just one as they aren’t for riding as much as they are for getting air and throwing shapes.

Example: The new NS Movement 1 is an eye-catching bike with a super lightweight aluminium frame, you’ll be sending it sideways on those jumps in no time. It retails at around £1,000 – still not exactly a bad deal for a machine that will provide hours of fun!

We always advise that when buying a new bike to try-before-you-buy. It’s important to research the bikes available, and ensure they are fit for purpose, and within your spending budget.

Hardtails are really fun to ride, even if you’re new into the MTB scene, you’ll find yourself still loving your hardtail in years to come.

You may also enjoy:

Top 10 Hardtails for under £500

MTB Skills: How to Manual

Guide to Buying a Full Suspension MTB

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