“Hardtail” is the name given to bikes that feature front suspension but no rear suspension. Lighter, simpler, less expensive, more durable, and more reliable than a frame with rear suspension, the hardtail is the workhorse of the mountain bike world.

See our top picks below, or scroll deeper for more in-depth reviews of these bikes and other great options, as well as helpful buying tips and advice.

If you’re looking for an efficient race machine, a carbon fiber hardtail might be the bike for you. Hardtails also make great adventure bikes for bikepacking and other long-ride shenanigans. Build a hardtail with a longer-travel fork and plus-size tires and you’ll have a fun ripper for romping around your local trails—and you’ll save a few hundred bucks or more compared to a full-suspension option.

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Hardtails continue to appeal to riders for their simplicity and for the infinite ways you can build them. Here’s what you need to know about hardtail mountain bikes.

Land vehicle, Bicycle, Bicycle wheel, Bicycle part, Vehicle, Bicycle tire, Spoke, Bicycle frame, Mountain bike, Bicycle fork,
A hardtail (left) will tend to be lighter and require less maintenance than a full-suspension bike (right).

Hardtails Cost Less

You can almost always get more bang for your buck with a hardtail. The simpler design allows manufacturers to either reduce the bike’s overall price or include better components than you would find on a comparably priced full-suspension bike.

You Can Save Weight Too

Without pivots, linkages, and a shock, a hardtail frame is generally lighter than a comparable full-suspension frame. For riders who do lots of climbing or spend lots of time in the saddle, the weight saving can make a difference for your rides. Carbon fiber frames have the best strength-to-weight ratio of any material, but are also the most expensive. Despite this, there are desirable characteristics in all frame materials.

Find the Right Fork

Aside from the frame, the fork is arguably the most important part of the build. You’ll find suspension forks with as little as 80mm of travel on some cross-country bikes while trail hardtails, like the Salsa Timberjack NX Eagle 29, may have forks with 130mm of travel or more.

Wheel Size

Hardtails come in many wheel sizes and gearing options. You’ll find wheel sizes of 29 or 27.5 inches, standard tire widths (up to 2.6 inches), plus-size offerings (about 2.7 inches wide or more), and fat tires (more than 3 inches wide). Some hardtails are designed to accept several wheel and tire sizes so you can swap out options to suit your ride.

Unlike most full-suspension bikes, hardtails can easily be converted to singlespeed setups. If the simplicity of that design appeals to you, look for models that employ adjustable dropouts or eccentric bottom brackets to tension the chain without a derailleur. An adjustable dropout also allows you to adjust the length of the wheelbase on geared bikes.

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An adjustable dropout allows a geared bike to be converted to a singlespeed. Because singlespeeds are awesome.

Maintenance and Durability

Fewer moving parts means fewer things that could potentially go wrong, and higher-quality parts means those parts are less likely to need fixing. The simplicity of not having a shock and rear suspension mechanism increases the durability of the bike as it requires less maintenance and fewer replacement parts.

Ride Quality

A hardtail can feel more responsive than a dual-suspension bike when pedaling. The lack of rear suspension creates a more efficient-feeling pedaling platform, so acceleration feels more immediate. Climbers especially will appreciate the extra responsiveness, though you lose some traction (especially under braking) without the rear suspension. Still, for a fast, brutally efficient ride, nothing beats a hardtail.

Hardtail Testing
Trevor Raab

Why It May Be Harder to Find a Bike Right Now

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the bike industry has experienced an exponential boom in sales, partially due to public transit restrictions and also because people are looking for a fun, healthy way to get outside. It has also experienced a shortage of bikes due to factory restrictions and delays. Because of this, many bike shops and online brands are nearly sold out of bikes. If a bike on this list is sold out, you might still have the option to pre-order it or join a waiting list. Or, it might still be available at a bike shop near you, so check the dealers and retailers listed on the site.

How We Tested

These bikes have been ridden, and ridden hard, by our team of test editors. We built a mountain bike test track with most of the trail elements that you’re likely to encounter and rode back-to-back laps on multiple bikes to tease out subtle and not-so-subtle differences. We pushed these bikes hard over flow trails, up and down steep climbs and pucker-worthy rocky descents, and through gnarly rock gardens. Our editors rode these bikes on the terrain best suited for each bike, as well as terrain entirely unsuitable, just to see how far we can push the limits. Most models have been tested by our staff and those that haven’t have been carefully chosen based on their value, quality of parts (most of which we’ve tested separately), our experience riding similar models, and how the overall package meets the needs of the intended rider.

Here are 15 hardtails we recommend. The last four on our list cost less than $1,050.


Trek Roscoe 7 Women’s

Roscoe 7 Women's
Trek trekbikes.com

  • 120mm RockShox Judy Silver fork (100mm for size XS)
  • SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain

  • 32 pounds is on the heavy side for a hardtail

There is so much to love about this bike, it’s hard to decide where to start. The SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain, with a 30t chainring and 10-50 cassette, provides a massive range of gears and plenty of low-range options for easing the pain of climbing steep hills. Its 27.5-inch wheels are maneuverable in tight, technical terrain, and the 2.8-inch tubeless-ready tires offer great traction and a plush ride. The RockShox Judy Silver fork has plenty of travel for getting rowdy (1oomm for the extra-small frame size, 120mm for small through large) and can be locked out for more-efficient, off-trail riding. And speaking of rowdy, a 100mm dropper post is a very cool addition to a bike at this price.


Specialized Rockhopper Expert

Rockhopper Expert 29
$1,250 specialized.com

  • Incredible value for this level of capability

  • SRAM SX Eagle doesn't shift as crisply as higher-priced drivetrains

The unicorn of affordable mountain bikes, the Rockhopper Expert boasts three key components—tubeless-ready wheels and tires, a 1 x 12-speed drivetrain, and an air-spring fork—so rare in this category that the presence of just one would be enough to set a rig apart from the $1,000 pack. Factor in the wheels and drivetrain, and you have a special bike on your hands. Although it can handle extremely rocky and technical trails, that kind of terrain isn’t the Rockhopper’s forté. But that’s the beauty of this bike. It’s most at home on flow trails and moderately technical terrain, yet it has the chops to get you through the rugged stuff.



Specialized Epic Hardtail Pro

Courtesy of Specialized
Epic Hardtail Pro

  • Slacker head angle and longer reach than previous version
  • Roval Control carbon hoops
  • SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain

Redesigned and relaunched in 2019, the new Epic Hardtail boasts better vertical compliance than its predecessor thanks to trimmed-down seatstays. You also get a larger-diameter seat tube, which is now compatible with most dropper posts. It’s an insanely light and lively bike that’s surprisingly forgiving when bashing through rough trails. Rolling on Roval Control Carbon hoops and hung with a SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, our size XL test bike tipped the scale at just 21.3 pounds. Factor in the unrivaled pedaling efficiency of a hardtail and you get a bike that, like a thoroughbred in the start gate, gives the impression that it wants to jump out from under you with each pedal stroke.



Scott Contessa Scale 930

Contessa Scale 930
Scott scott-sports.com

  • Carbon frame
  • 100mm RockShox Judy Silver TK Solo Air fork

  • 26 pounds is on the heavy side for a carbon hardtail

The Contessa Scale 930 is perfectly appointed for moderately technical, high-speed, fitness-forward mountain biking. It starts with Scott’s HMF carbon frame, which uses what the company calls EvoLap technology to make the frame stiff where it needs to be and more compliant where you need some give. A reliable RockShox Judy Silver TK Solo Air fork with 100mm of suspension takes the edge off the rough stuff and can be adjusted on-the-fly via the RideLoc switch on the bar. Lock it out on smooth service roads, set it midway for the stuttery stuff, and open it up when you’re on more technical tracks. The wide-range, wall-scaling SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain with an 11-50t cassette keeps you pedaling when the going gets steep.


Salsa Timberjack NX Eagle 29

Timberjack NX Eagle 29

  • Copious mounts and adjustable dropouts
  • 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain climbs like a goat

The Timberjack is a fun, adventure-ready aluminum hardtail that’ll run 29-inch or plus-sized 27.5-inch wheels. Short chainstays keep it nimble in tight situations, while a longer top tube provides stability. For the NX build, Salsa gives you a RockShox Sektor RL fork with 130mm of travel—enough for most trail rides. SRAM’s NX drivetrain components provide crisp shifting, and the bike comes with SRAM’s powerful Level hydraulic brakes. The Timberjack has internal cable routing and mounts for a rear rack for light bikepacking or whatever adventures you plan. Salsa’s Alternator dropouts make it possible to run the Timberjack as a singlespeed, too.



Cannondale F-Si Carbon 2

F-Si Carbon 2
Cannondale cannondale.com

  • 100mm Lefty Ocho fork
  • Tubeless-ready Hollowgram 23 carbon wheels

  • Proprietary front hub and rear wheel spacing means you can only use Cannondale-specific wheels

Cannondale’s F-Si Carbon 2 hardtail has everything you need to blow past the competition on your way to the podium. Its full-carbon frame, all-new Lefty Ocho fork, Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain with an XTR derailleur, and carbon wheels make it ideal for cross-country and endurance racing. At $5,550, this bike ain’t cheap, but you get a level of components that typically come on even higher-priced bikes. That makes this a solid deal for racers who want the best.



Trek Procaliber 9.7

Procaliber 9.7
Trek trekbikes.com

  • Bontrager Kovee Elite 23 Carbon, tubeless-ready wheels
  • Lightweight carbon frame with IsoSpeed decoupler
  • 100mm RockShox Reba RL fork with remote lockout

  • 720mm handlebar is on the narrow side

Trek did a masterful job with this bike, skimping in the right places to save money and splurging in the areas that count for performance. The carbon frame is extremely lightweight; our size XL test bike weighed in at only 21.6 pounds. The IsoSpeed decoupler at the junction of the seat tube and top tube offers so much vertical compliance you can actually see the seat tube moving if you bounce on the saddle. Tubeless-ready Bontrager Kovee Elite 23 carbon wheels also keep weight in check and roll very quickly when wrapped in (stock) 2.2-inch Bontrager XR2 Team Issue tires. Be warned, though, these are race day tires for dry conditions and not well suited to daily trail riding or muddy courses. SRAM’s NX Eagle drivetrain and alloy Truvativ Stylo crank keep cost in check and can stand up to plenty of hard riding and abuse. They do add significant weight, though, which makes this bike’s lightness all the more impressive. Our tester was surprised, however, to find a narrow 720mm handlebar on this bike. He said it felt strange at first but admitted after a few minutes of riding he didn’t notice it anymore.



Specialized Fuse Comp 29

Courtesy Specialized
Specialized Fuse Comp 29
$1,675 specialized.com

  • Dropper post
  • 130mm fork

Come for the 130mm fork, stay for the slack front end and long-travel dropper post (100mm for XS/S, 120mm for M, 150mm for L/XL). The Fuse Comp 29 is a mid-fat hardtail with the suds to go big. The grippy 2.6-inch tubeless-ready tires deliver excellent traction on rocks, snow, and slick clay. Our tester also appreciated the steep seat angle and long reach when climbing. She noted that the rear wheel maintained good traction on steep trails and she was still able to keep enough weight over the front wheel to steer. SRAM’s SX Eagle keeps cost in check while still providing a wide range of gears. The wide, 780mm handlebar is great for stability through the most technical trails. Whether you’re new to mountain biking or a veteran trail rider, the fun-loving Fuse can turn every ride into a party.



Giant XTC Advanced 29 3

XTC Advanced 29 3
Giant giant-bicycles.com

  • Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain
  • Lightweight and tubeless ready XC race tires

  • Some may want tires wider than 2.25-inches

With its composite frame and 29-inch wheels, Giant’s XTC Advanced is ready to rip your local cross-country track or help you win your next weekend ride. For 2021 the Advanced 3 gets a RockShox Recon Silver RL fork with 100mm of travel to smooth out the bumps. Shimano’s Deore 12-speed drivetrain offers reliable shifting for the 10-51t cassette. The XTC Advanced 29 3 also gets the 2.25-inch Maxxis Rekon Race EXO tubeless tires, which save weight and allow for trail-gripping low tire pressures, although many riders might prefer wider rubber.


Santa Cruz Chameleon Carbon

competitive cyclist
Chameleon Carbon
Santa Cruz

  • Compatible with 29- and 27.5-inch wheels
  • Adjustable chainstay length
  • 150mm dropper post

The Chameleon trail hardtail is Santa Cruz’s most versatile frame. It is compatible with both 29- and 27.5-inch wheel sizes, with clearance for tires up to 2.6 inches wide and 3 inches wide, respectively. It also has an adjustable chainstay length, so it can be converted to a singlespeed. It can rip rocky singletrack or be loaded up for backpacking, making it ideal for backwoods adventures. The new carbon model should satisfy riders who want all the shreddy attitude of the Chameleon but refuse to compromise on weight. The new frame is stiffer and more responsive than the aluminum option, according to Santa Cruz representatives, and also 250 grams lighter (size large). The carbon Chameleon has several build kit options, all anchored by a SRAM drivetrain. The top model is the SE Reserve build, which includes Santa Cruz Reserve Carbon rims built to blue Hope hubs and a matching Hope headset.


Kona Honzo DL

Kona Honzo DL
$2,399 konaworld.com

  • 140mm RockShox Revelation RC DebonAir fork

  • Only 1 water bottle mount

Kona deserves some credit for making hardtails cool again. The original Honzo was a unicorn. In a time when all hardtails were for beginners or elite racers, Kona brought forth a rigid beast meant for having fun on any type of trail. It had the geometry and components of an all-mountain model, but the simple reliability (and more attainable cost) of a hardtail. Now, Kona has eight models, including a few with carbon frames. We like the DL because the aluminum frame keeps the price down, but the parts won’t hold you back.

4 Bikes Under $1,000


Trek Marlin 7

Marlin 7
Trek trekbikes.com

  • 1x10-speed drivetrain

  • Wheels aren’t tubeless-ready

One of the cheapest bikes on this list, the Trek Marlin 7, which also comes in a women’s version, is ideal for aspiring racers, everyday trail riders, and casual commuters alike. Riders who like to pedal fast will appreciate its steep, aggressive head and seat angles, and a high bottom bracket that offers decent pedal clearance on the trail. Its cables are internally routed, too, which is not common on bikes at this price. It has a 1x10-speed Shimano drivetrain that provides plenty of gearing options. And even though the RockShox Judy 100mm coil-spring fork is heavier than some comparable air-spring models, it does a surprisingly good job on super-rocky trails. Add to that the 2.2-inch-wide Bontrager tires on 29-inch Bontrager Connection rims, which never squirmed too much on sketchy terrain, and you have a bike that not only looks fast but also offers the kind of sharp handling and precise steering you’d expect from higher-priced racing models.



Giant Talon 29 2

Talon 1
Giant giant-bicycles.com

  • 1x10-speed drivetrain
  • 100mm fork

  • Modulation on Tektro brakes isn't as good as Shimano or SRAM

This hardtail is an excellent choice for both the dirt-curious wanting to explore singletrack and riders wanting to try their hand at racing. This most recent model has numerous upgrades, including Giant’s own SXC32-2 RL suspension fork (100mm), a 1x10-speed drivetrain, wider and more rugged tires, and updated geometry with a slacker head angle. The new frame is also compatible with internally routed dropper posts. Like the Trek Marlin 7, this bike is equally well suited to entry-level racing as it is to recreational rides. It shares many of the same attributes as the Marlin, but a shorter reach and lower stack make it a good alternative for riders who want a more upright and comfortable riding position. Possibly the Talon’s best feature, and a big perk on a bike at this price, are the tubeless-ready aluminum rims (although you’ll need new tires, sealant, and valves).



Kona Mahuna

Kona konaworld.com

  • Maxxis Forekaster tires offer a good balance between speed and grip

  • Wheels aren’t tubeless-ready

The Mahuna is an aluminum-framed hardtail with a RockShox Judy Silver TK Solo Air fork that masterfully handled all but the most technical of trails. Given the way it rides, we were surprised to learn that the bike weighs 31 pounds. The 29-inch wheels roll fast and smooth out bumps better than the 27.5-inch kind, and the 2.25-inch tires are light and quick with enough tread to really bite into the trail. Plus-size tires have their place, and they work really well on bikes like the Trek Roscoe 7 Women’s and the Rocky Mountain Growler, but we appreciated the faster tires on this bike. A 1x10-speed drivetrain simplifies shifting decisions and offers plenty of gearing choices at both the low and high end. And the Mahuna comes with flat pedals, so it’s ready to go right out of the box.



Trek Roscoe 24

Roscoe 24
Trek trekbikes.com

  • 8-speed drivetrain
  • Wide 2.8-inch tires

  • Not suitable for kids under 4'2"

The Roscoe 24 is a great bike for older children who want to take their riding skills off road. Designed to accommodate riders between 4-foot-2 and 5-foot-3, this bike comes with 24-inch wheels, 2.8-inch tires, a 1x8-speed Shimano groupset, and Tektro mechanical disc brakes, making it a well-equipped bike for younger riders as they learn how to navigate trails.