Some say the hardtail is dead, that even the pro XC racers ride duallies, that modern suspension is so advanced the rigid bike has become a dinosaur. We don't agree! In fact, on a personal note, after riding a lightweight and efficient 120mm travel carbon dually, all I really want is to be back on a hardtail.
I dream of simpler days, when the sun was a warmer yellow and I didn't have to check the air in my rear shock before every ride, or have uncomfortable illusions that the suspension pivots had become loose while nailing a tight descent. Oh for those heady days of jumping on a hardtail and just riding everything FAST!
Fear not rigid rear end lovers, the hardtail is not dead - it just got better! This collection of 29ers all fall between $2500 and $3500 - these are not entry-level general purpose bikes, these weapons are for the trails and to race as hard as you like.
This is pure bike love. Read on.
Giant XTC Advanced 1
For those in the market for affordable performance, you can't miss the Giant XTC Advanced for ticking all the right boxes. Affordability. Performance. Technology. The XTC is a legend of the hardtail circus. These were going around when I started riding mountain bikes in a former life. The XTC looks very classy, especially in an era where stupendously bright colours make everyone different, but exactly the same.
The bike comes standard with some top notch components attached to a lightweight carbon frame. Notably, a Fox Evolution fork gives riders access to elite level suspension performance and tuning. A Shimano SLX/XT mixed groupset offers precise shifting and braking in all conditions, while a set of Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires keep you pinned to the ground in all conditions.
Cannondale F29 Carbon 4
A hardtail with a little bit of fancy. Cannondale have been at the forefront of technological advancement for some time now, and this bike is testament to their ability. The F29 Carbon comes in two frame options, one alloy and this carbon model. Both bikes share the same racing geometry, offering performance on two budgets.
Component selection is typically Cannondale, with lots of FSA bits as well as Cannondale's in-house Lefty Fork. Equally elite components can be found in Shimano's SLX / Deore groupset as well as the ZTR Rapid wheelset and Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires.
Specialized Stumpjumper EVO 29
In a world of carbon promises, it's nice to see an equally capable alloy frame bike. This no-nonsense approach allows you to just thrash the Stumpjumper EVO 29 and not worry about the implications. To accommodate this added trail abuse, a sturdy set of Rockshox Pike RC 29 forks have been fitted, along with Roval's Traverse Fattie rims. Specialized Ground Control tires can tackle anything and the same goes for the full in-house Specialized cockpit.
Performance is greatly improved courtesy of a SRAM 10 speed groupset, combined with Shimano SLX brakes and rotors. The whole package is perfectly assembled for entry level racing, or weekend shredding on XC trails.
With a strong focus on lightweight XC performance, KHS have developed the Saguaro. A full carbon race rig, with everything you need for your next race meet. Suitably, Rockshox have fitted their Reba RLT fork which comes standard with remote lockout. Rims are another talking point, with a pair of Stans Rapid rims fitted, along with Maxxis Ikon tubeless tires.
Components are also weight conscious, with a well-blended SRAM X7-X9 groupset. The 10 speed setup is perfect for very varied terrain, unlike the 'new' 11 speed options of todays' elite bikes. Last of all, SRAM Guide R brakes offer the stopping power on a matching 160mm rotor setup.
Check out the comparison: Four 29er hardtails under $3500 by Giant, Cannondale, Specialized, KHS
BikeRoar Editors Pick
Trek Superfly 9.7
One of the leaders in 29er technology brings you this: the Superfly 9.7 with a full carbon frame and race orientated componentry selection. Trek have nailed their 29er geometry, (based on the old Fisher designed G2), offering precise handling at any speed - so much so, that they even offer this bike in a geometry specific 27.5" wheelsize.
A full OCLV carbon frame offers lightweight performance and stiffness, while the Fox Evolution 32 CTD forks allow you to fly through rooted sections or zip up the next climb. Lightweight Shimano XT/SLX shifting speaks for itself, while tubeless ready Bontrager wheels beg for a tubeless conversion. The rest of the bike is full of in-house Bontrager components, from handlebars to seat and anything in between. Award winning tire design comes complimentary with this rig, featuring Bontrager's XC specific XR1 Expert rubber. Winning!
This has either made your choice easier - or just added 5 additional bikes to the mix! Either way, I encourage everyone to add at least one good hardtail to their stable. The next step? Try line-up a test ride at your local bike shop when it comes to crunch time and embrace the rigid triangle!