The Ultimate Hardtail Mountain Bike Guide
Since their introduction into the biking market in the 1980s, the hardtail mountain bike has been considered the “biker’s bike” and has grown to be one of the most popular and versatile types of bikes available. The main characteristic of the “traditional” hardtail is that it comes with a frame and a fork, along with wheels in a rigid configuration, where the suspension is achieved by having a shock-absorbing spring in the front.
Its geometry makes pedalling on any terrain effortless, with the suspension system allowing bikers to traverse rough terrain with no additional equipment. Being a versatile bike with a specific niche in the biking market, riders get to enjoy a range of riding styles, from relaxed cruising to the most aggressive freeride downhill riding, via the varying compressions of the front-end shock absorbers.
Finding the Right Market for Hardtails
Though the popularity of the hardtail continues to grow in the biking market, it is difficult to generalize the number of bikers in the market. While its popularity is expected to increase, it is not expected to become the largest segment of the biking market, since the traditional rigid bikes still have a large market share. But then, hardtails are generous welcoming newbies that are interesting in mountain biking.
Their affordable price tags are worth mentioning, which is why a growing number of new and existing riders are considering purchasing one. Apart from their agility on different terrains, the availability of more models with varying geometry and suspension characteristics makes it easy to shop for the right hardtail. What’s more? They are suited for a wide age bracket.
The Beginner’s Choice
From the most entry-level rigid bikes, hardtail’s compatibility with advanced components allows riders to customize their bikes to their individual needs. This provides a vast range of biking experiences. These lightweight bikes are tailored to cruise low-graded trails, which most new beginners find welcoming. Also, maintenance is easy, compared to full-suspension mountain bikes (MTBs).
However, unlike their premium counterparts, these entry-level hardtails tend to sacrifice component quality and frame. Of course, many of them come with rear suspensions. But then, for a pro rider, the experience would be undeserving. Nevertheless, they are an ideal starter pack for riders who are new to the world of mountain biking.
The Pro Rider’s Dream
The high-end and technologically advanced hardtails on the market boast the best components, which provide the desired response from each ride. Most hardtails in this realm start at above $1,000, which might be pricey. Nonetheless, their pristine handling characteristics and durability set them apart from the rest. As such, pro riders prefer these hardtails over other models. The best part? They are more forgiving than some other full-suspension mountain bikes.
The dream of any rider is a bike that goes beyond just being an inexpensive mode of transport. It’s one that makes them feel powerful, fast, and confident as they cover all terrains. There’s a lot of choices when it comes to such bikes. So what exactly would a bike lover consider? A carbon hardtail is a dream for anyone who looks for sturdiness and high performance.
Within the hardtail category are other classifications with unique designs and components tailored to different bikers’ tastes. They range from cross country (XC) hardtails to electric versions. With so many in between, it’s up to the individual rider to choose the perfect model for their riding style. With this being stated, here are some highlights for the category.
Cross-Country (XC) Hardtails
XC hardtail bikes are designed for riders who travel more or less exclusively in the upright position and often with more of a trail rider’s outlook. Many XC hardtail bikes feature suspension forks. These are most effective when coupled with knobby tires. This is most popular with bike racers and downhill riders but is also appreciated by those who like to explore nature and camp out in campgrounds.
With a wider riser, the suspension fork is designed to allow for a greater range of motion, while providing a more comfortable riding position. While trail bikes have wider bars with short stems and long reach, many other hardtail categories such as XC and fat bikes use shorter, stock-like bars and short stems, which result in a more natural riding position. For the mountain biker, the shorter stem provides a better and more ergonomic reach into turns, while still allowing the rider to lean forward into a downhill start, which is essential for this style of riding.
Think of a hardtail with a more relaxed slacker head tube, combining the experiences of other hardtails into one, and one would have a trail hardtail. This bike features wider bars, shorter stems, and front travel covering between 100mm and 150mm. The benefit of these bars is that the rider’s body can lean forward more naturally to increase their leverage in braking.
Trail hardtails come with suspensions that provide steady and easy descent without sacrificing climbing ability. This results in better traction, efficient handling, and less trail chatter. Riders who have a hard time finding a biking niche can get a hold of this bike for all-around travel.
An enduro bike can be defined by its geometry and suspension, as opposed to having to consider weight, trail features and frame materials. When looking for the right size enduro, it is helpful to consider a slightly shorter reach (to enable easier handling in rougher terrain), shorter head tube, wheelbase, and the ability to lower the bottom bracket to increase trail clearance.
It also has a longer top tube to provide additional clearance to the brake/shifter and to aid with handling. These changes will have a big impact on the handling of the bike and on the rider’s ability to find and follow lines easily. Enduro or full suspension trail bikes are designed to handle steep, technical terrain in one riding session.
There is a significant difference between electric bikes, like most pedal-assisted models, and traditional upright bikes. Electric bikes are usually designed to have a low centre of gravity, with a low bottom bracket, relatively long wheelbase and tall head tube. As a result, bikers can use an electric-assist system, which compensates for their heavyweight, to climb steep trails and still be able to ride downhill easily.
There is no right or wrong type of bike for a beginner or a seasoned rider. What is more important is to understand one’s needs and set out to buy the right size and style for them. Hopefully, this guide has provided detailed information on finding the perfect bike.