Whether you're just getting started in the world of mountain biking, or you're an experienced trail shredder, a hardtail 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 riders 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.
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 around £500.
FUN: Hardtails are fun to ride in all conditions and 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.
Is it fit for your purpose?
If you're looking at buying a new bike, 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 girl 29" wheels are great for climbing, rolling over obstacles and clearing more ground.
Disc brakes are most common in off-road riding for their responsiveness and strong braking power, however, you can still get calliper brakes on lower-end 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...
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.
The Liv Bliss 1 comes with 100mm of travel in the front, 24 gears, disc brakes and a full Shimano/Tektro groupset. All this for £425.
If you want to tackle 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.
The Saracen Mantra women's trail bike comes with 120mm travel, 650b wheel size, a full Shimano groupset with a 1 by drivetrain. Available in frame sizes 13" to 19".
For a more trail aggressive hardtail with a lot of bang for its buck, take a look at the new Canyon Grand Canyon WMN trail bike.
Canyon has just launched a brand new range of women's specific mountain bikes and they are simply gorgeous. Specc'd out and of great value, you'll be pushed to find more for your money.
With 110mm travel, SRAM groupset and a women's specific frame, the women's Grand Canyon comes in at £1,799. For more information, head over to their website here.
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 to the MTB scene, you'll find yourself still loving your hardtail in years to come.
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