The hardtail mountain bike is incredibly underrated
For 15 years that I publish The Radavist, a cycling website, I’ve written in-depth reviews of over 30 mountain bikes, including some of the best money can buy. So it may come as a surprise that my favorite style is the modest hardtail. I fell in love with the balance of simplicity and capability built into these bikes. Riding one gives me a sense of pride that I haven’t felt on any other bike.
That said, there are challenges to riding a hardtail. You can’t just point the bike and let it do its thing like you can with a full suspension bike. You have to guide him through even the smoothest lines while enjoying a playful jib here and there. Speed is your friend in tough conditions, but only if you stay engaged with the ride, the terrain and your body. There’s no lazy way to get down on a hardtail.
No other mountain machine climbs the steep, rocky trails of Santa Fe, where I live, like a hardtail. It’ll ride up fire roads efficiently and pedal smoothly through town to the trailhead – you’ll experience no pedal bob and very little energy loss, and there’s no rear shock. to compose. With a meaty tire you have all the traction you could ask for.
The experience is especially liberating when you find the perfect match between frame geometry and terrain. My own preference is a 140-millimeter-travel 29er with 2.6-inch tires, 820-millimeter handlebars and a long-travel dropper post. I traverse ten miles of causeway to arrive at our most popular route, the Winsor Trail, without hesitation. Once I get to the top, I don’t hesitate to take it down on some of the rockier descents, because I know my limits as well as those of my bike. And if I want to go even further from home, a hardtail is also ideal for that. Last summer I cycled 215 miles across the Uncompahgre Plateau from Telluride, Colorado to Moab, Utah, hitting some spicy trails along the way.
Hardtails aren’t just for seasoned cyclists. Over the years I have helped many people get into mountain biking and often recommend one as an introduction to the sport. Hardtails tend to be more affordable than other styles. (You can get a good one for $2,000, while a decent full-suspension bike will set you back at least $2,500.) And with a 120-140 millimeter-travel fork, just about any trail green or blue becomes immediately accessible. You can learn the skills to steer a bike properly, fine-tune your suspension, and have fun exploring new lines.
Bikes should be simple. With no pivot points and linkage bearings, a hardtail requires far less maintenance than a full ride. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to do a major repair on mine.
Riding a hardtail is a very pure form of mountain biking that anyone can enjoy. It makes you feel more connected to the terrain, makes you a better rider, requires minimal maintenance, and can be one of the most versatile bikes you own – or dare I say, the only bike you own.