Mountain Biking Q&A: What Is A Mountain Bike Hardtail


Often cyclists do not fully understand the difference between a regular mountain bike and , what is typically called a “Hardtail” mountain bike. In short, a Hardtail mountain bike is a bike that does not have suspension on the rear wheel, however there are greater details that you want to be aware of to have a better understanding of what a Hardtail mountain bike is, and all of the important advantages that could benefit you from owning a Hardtail. Read below to find out more…

Table Of Contents

  • What Is A Hardtail Mountain Bike?
  • Why Would I Get A Hardtail Mountain Bike?
  • What Terrain Are Hardtails Typically Used?
  • What Types Of Hardtails Are There To Choose From?
  • What Are The Differences Between Cross Country Hardtail & Trail Riding Hardtail?
  • What Are The Advantages Of Having A Hardtail Mountain Bike?
  • What Are The Disadvantages Of Having A Hardtail Mountain Bike?
  • How Much Are Hardtail Mountain Bikes?
  • How Much Are Electric Powered Hardtail Mountain Bikes?

What Is A Hardtail Mountain Bike?


A Hardtail mountain bike is a mountain bike that has only front suspension, it does not have rear wheel suspension like most other mountain bikes. Hardtail mountain bikes usually have a suspension fork or suspension as its front wheel suspension. 

Typically mountain bikes come with full suspension, which is suspension at the front and rear wheels, hardtail mountain bikes just have front suspension, hence the name “Hardtail”, as the landing of the rear wheels is typically harder with no suspension buffering the contact to the ground. The hardtail name can really live up to it’s name on a terrain that is very treacherous and rough, like that of a off road cycling circuit

Hardtail mountain bikes are just another variation from the typical mountain bike that has full suspension, nowadays there are many varieties of mountain bikes (hardtail, electric, and even foldable mountain bikes)

Why Would I Get A Hardtail Mountain Bike?


Typically cyclists would go for a Hardtail mountain bike because they tend to be lighter and cheaper in most cases (depending on the model you buy), full suspension mountain bikes can be very expensive so a hardtail mountain bike offers a cheaper and lighter beginner friendly alternative, similar to a entry level mountain bike

However hardtails can be favoured by experienced cyclists as well, Hardtail mountain bikes are not just beginner level mountain bike users, they can be well suited to specific cyclists that like their style and ride quality. 

Hardtail mountain bikes can be a matter of personal taste for most cyclists, accomplished riders may prefer the lighter weight and overall feel of a hardtail mountain bike, so there is not one definitive answer to this question as you can imagine

What Terrain Are Hardtails Typically Used On?


Hardtails are a very versatile type of mountain bike so they can used in a variety of terrain types, however the higher the specification of a hardtail mountain bike, the more suited it is to off road (most green and blue off-road) cycling routes

However hardtail mountain bikes are ideal for off road and on road use which makes them a very popular choice of bike for any casual mountain bike cyclist enthusiast. There is not a favored terrain type with hardtails mountain bikes so it’s entirely up to you as the cyclist in which terrains to cycle with your hardtail mountain bike

Having said all of that, the trail type of hardtail mountain bike is specifically designed for off road cycling routes/circuits. These hardtails have a specification and design that makes them best suited to black diamond standard off road trails.  

What Types Of Hardtails Are There To Choose From?


Hardtails may seem very simple on the surface however like so many product categories in cycling there are many different variants and types of hardtails to choose from. As mentioned before there are different varieties of hardtails to suit the end user. There are hardtails for beginners and entry level cyclists, and there are hardtails for more experienced and accomplished riders all offering specific advantages for each rider

There are two main types of hardtail mountain bikes to choose from, the first one is “Cross Country” and the second one is “Trail Riding”. Depending on the type of rider you are and your cycling intentions, the choice will be clear on whc type of hardtail is for you

Hardtail Mountain Bike Type 1 – Cross Country (XC) Hardtail 

Cross country is the main type of hardtail bike that is ideal for beginner, off road cyclists, you would typically start at this type of hardtail mountain bike as it’s perfect for the type of cyclists that enjoys off road tracks that have lots of twists, inclines and adrenaline pumping downhill payoffs

Cross Country hardtail mountain bikes are ideally fitted to beginner or moderate leveled off road circuits, that the hobbyist cyclist enjoy as a recreational adventure with their friends on the weekends at their local circuit. It is best suited to beginner friendly or moderate circuits and skill level which makes it ideal for your first hardtail mountain bike

Hardtail Mountain Bike Type 2 – Trail Riding Hardtail 

Trail riding hardtails is the second choice of hardtail mountain bike that are best suited to more experienced riders, this type of hardtail mountain bike is usually used by more seriously intended off road cyclists. A trail riding hardtail is perfect for that cyclists that go on the “black diamond” level of road trails and any other trail that have bigger risks and challenge

The difference between the two types of hardtails are really defined by the intention of the rider, a hobbyist and recreational type of off road cyclist often cycle a Cross Country type of hardtail. Where as a more seriously and focused rider will cycle a Trail Riding hardtail that gives that extra bit of performance and edge when cycling on  “black diamond” level of trails

Hardtail Mountain Bike Type 3 – Electric Hardtails 

We have spoken about the two choices of hardtails that you can choose, they are the main categories that you look at when buying a hardtail. However now you have a third option as well, electric hardtails. Electric hardtails have come on leaps and bound over the years giving you a seriously string third contender to the Hardtail mountain bike niche

Electric hardtails are designed and have a specification just like the XC’s and the trail hardtails with the advantage of battery power assists when your legs need a little boost. Electric powered assistants do come with a disadvantage of giving the hardtail more weight however that disadvantage can be balanced out by giving you that boost of power asists on steep inclines and longer trails

Electric hardtails gives you the ability to go further and faster than you would normally cycle on a pedal powered hardtail in most cases. If that’s a advantage that you would like then it is definitely worth considering

What Are The Differences Between Cross Country Hardtail & Trail Riding Hardtail?


Fundamentally the differences between a cross country and a trail hardtail is that they are designed and built differently to suit two different types of riders. The main differences for each bike gives a better and more suited performance for each riders experience level and intention. As mentioned before depending on the type of rider you are and your cycling intention, the choice will be clear on what type of hardtail is for you

Often it is fairly simple to spot the differences between a cross country and a trail hardtail by the physical difference and features of the bike. They are often subtle but important differences that allow for a different type of riding style and goal

Front Fork Differences Between XC & Trail


The main difference between a XC and a trail is the size of the front fork, typically a XC fork will be between 100mm and 120mm. On a trail the fronk fork will typically be bigger, coming in at around 130mm and 170mm. The larger sized trail, front fork is best suited to handle more demanding terrain, this could involve bigger drops, landings and generally a more technically challenging terrain overall  

Another important difference between the front forks is the weight and stiffness of the front fork. A XC front fork will typically be lighter, giving a more sensitive response to bumps on a trail. A trail front fork is a lot heavier and stiffer giving the rider greater steering control at speed. Most XC and trail hardtails have air spring forks to keep the overall weight of the fork down, however some trail hardtails have coil spring options available

Suspension Differences Between XC & Trail


Generally speaking XC’s bike can have an option front and rear suspension, some XC’s hardtails have just the front suspension which means all of the peddling power is channeled into moving the rear wheel

When you have a XC’s hardtail with front and back suspension, then the front and rear tyres then they are able to better absorb shocks and bumps with an air sprung shock making it far more efficient when cycling on flat terrain. XC’s hardtail with front and back suspension allow for more control and less fatigue on more technical terrain 

Trail hardtails come in both front and rear suspension, trail hardtails are designed for extreme trail rides which means they can cakewalk most rocky and ruff terrain in its stride. Trail hardtails can also handle technical terrain, cycling on rocky terrain at speed, drops and inclines as they are a more extreme version of the hardtail bikes

Another difference between a XC and a trail hardtail, is that a trail hardtail can allow you to take a more tailored route, or line when cycling round a corner. Trail hardtails can handle a greater amount of terrain obstacles allowing you to a rougher racing line when on a racing circuit. The suspension on a trail hardtail, is that bit more better and a specification up, allowing you to ride on harder off road circuits and for a longer distance, like that of a more aggressive, black diamond trails

Trail hardtails sometimes come with a rear air shock lockout switch that allows you to firm up the rear suspension before going on an off road circuit. Again this is another specification up from the normal XC off road hardtail bikes, in s many cases, the trail hardtails are just that spec up in their on bike equipment and ride quality

Design Differences Between XC & Trail


Generally speaking XC’s bike can have a steeper head bike angle which allows for sharper turning and better handling overall. This can be great for turning corners at speed when cycling down hill at fast speeds. Another altered design attribute to a XC’ hardtail bike, (that is not found on a trail) is the top tube of the bike frame may be shorter on some bikes giving you the ability to turn sharp corners easier 

What Are The Advantages Of Having A Hardtail Mountain Bike?


There are a number of advantages to buying a hardtail mountain bike over a full suspension mountain bike, here they are:

Maintenance


Typically hardtail mountain bikes are less complicated and a lot more simple, which results in them being easier to maintain on a regular basis. Full suspension bike tend to be a lot higher specification which means you have to be far more vigilant and careful about keeping the bike maintained on a regular basis

Another positive is that there will be no cleaning of the rear suspension after an epic off road adventure, so often on full suspension mountain bikes the dirt that builds up around that front and rear suspension can be very significant. This can result in you cleaning of, the dreaded “hardened dirt” of the front and back suspension for many hours, luckily with a hardtail mountain bike you only have to clean the front suspension, half the work!

Less Power Loss


Because hardtail mountain bikes do not have rear suspension, none of the peddling powering is lost from any movement in the rear suspension that would be in a full suspension mountain bike. Often in full suspension mountain bikes a lot of the pedalling power can be lost from the from the movement of the rear suspension shockers resulting in a lot of your peddling efforts being lost

Versatile – Hardtail mountain bikes give you the flexibility to cycle a wide variety of terrain types, hardtail mountain bikes can be a great bike for cycling in an urban setting as well as cycling on a traditional offroad mountain bike dirt track. Hardtail mountain bikes can be used for cycling to and from work, cycling on the weekends as a recreational trip and as a reliable off road mountiaike for the traditional offroad mountain bike dirt track

Ideal For Beginners


Hardtail mountain bikes are a great starter bike to give cyclists a greater sense if they want to invest in a more expensive and higher specification full suspension mountain bike.  Full suspension mountain bikes can be very expensive and a significant investment so the logical route is to buy a hardtail mountain bike first and then upgrade at a later date to see if your a serious mountain bike cyclist

Cost – Full suspension mountain bikes can be in the same ballpark price range as some hardtail mountain bikes however in those cases the quality of a full suspension mountain bike is compromised resulting in a poor quality full suspension mountain bike. In this case your better buying a higher specification of hardtail mountain bike to get a better ride quality and longevity 

In general hardtail mountain bikes are cheaper than a high quality and specification full suspension mountain bike, this makes it perfect for hobby cyclists that just want a good quality mountain bike without it costing an arm and a leg to get started

What Are The Disadvantages Of Having A Hardtail Mountain Bike?


Like with anything, there are always some disadvantages to buying a hardtail mountain bike over a full suspension mountain bike, here they are:

Rougher Landings


By it’s design, the removal of rear suspension makes for a harder and rougher landing when cycling on off road circuits. Suspension is essentially a inslutating system that suspends you, buffering any shocks generated from hard contact to the ground when cycling at speed and when coming from mid air and hitting the ground

The removal of the rear suspension means there will be no shock absorber resulting in you experiencing a harer landing when the rear wheel hits the ground. This can be a major thing when cycling on treacherous terrain like that of a off road circuit however when cycling on flat terrain, it’s absolutely fine

Overall there are not that many disadvantages to having a hardtail mountain bike, it really is a great mountain bike for beginners and more experienced mountain bike enthusiasts. There are more advantages to having a hardtail mountain bike than not having one.

How Much Are Hardtail Mountain Bikes?


Hardtail mountain bikes come in a variety of prices and specifications, the price, spec and model are all pivotal to dictating the price of a hardtail mountain bike. Most hardtail mountain bikes are a lot cheaper than any serious full suspension mountain bike

Hardtail mountain bike prices vary from the hundreds to the low thousands, typically a hardtail mountain bike costs between £300 to £1000. There are cheaper hardtail mountain bikes priced at around £200, however if you want a good quality and specification of hardtail mountain bike then the lowest price to go would be around the £300 mark. Here is a list of some of the hardtail mountain bikes that are pisces in the range of £300 to £1000:

  • Calibre Two Cubed, £300
  • Vitus Nucleus 27 VR, £500
  • Voodoo Bizango, £650
  • Vitus Sentier 27VR, £1000

There are so many hardtail mountain bikes to choose from, above is just some of the most popular ones, however feel free to source your own shortlist of hardtail mountain bikes that you intend to buy

How Much Are Electric Powered Hardtail Mountain Bikes?


Like so many of the electric versions of bikes, the prices can be significantly higher than the pedal powered alternative, typically electric powered hardtails can cost between $2,000, all the way up to $10,000, which is the top of the range/spec electric hardtail mountain bike. Here’s is a small list of the most popular electric hardtail bikes

  • Focus Jam2 HT 6.8 Plus 2019 Hardtail Electric Mountain Bike Green
  • Focus Sam2 6.8 2021 625Wh Electric Full Suspension Mountain Bike
  • Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works Carbon 2020 Electric Full Sus MTB

These are some of the best selling electric powered hardtails that you can find, the price tag for electric powered hardtails may be very expensive for the hobbyist hardtail user however when you are a serious hardtail mountain biker, the investing a large amount of money may be worth it n the long run if you live and breath hardtail mountain biking 

I hope you enjoyed this article on “What Is A Mountain Bike Hardtail? ”, All of the information has been thoroughly researched and I have plenty of real world experience on this issue to add as well. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

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