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Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes of 2021

With a constant rise (and hopefully unseen fall) of improvements in the mountain biking industry, where carbon full-suspension bikes dominate the market, there is a solid foundation we have to look back to and appreciate!

It is the hardtail mountain bike where it all started out in the 70s.

Hardtails back in the day were the setting-stones to the whole bicycle component design and engineering standards due to the fact bikes in the MTB discipline had to withstand extreme stress and environments.

Why are mountain bikes more expensive than other types of conventional bicycles?
It is the reason that the best mountain bike manufacturers want their bikes to last, therefore they had to engineer solid bikes.

mountain bike

The main reasons experienced cyclists prefer a hardtail over a full-suspension mountain bike are the ‘rigidity’ and ease of climbing. Some mountain bikers like to be in control of the bike while standing up which gives a better response on the chosen line. There’s a lot to adjust on a hardtailset of wheels, tires (pressure, tire pattern, width, type), suspension set-ups, and much more to make riding on demanding trails a blast.

Long story short, the idea of this article is to give you a brief overview of the role models in the world of mountain bikes – the best hardtails MTBs of 2021.


Conclusions: Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes for Men in 2021


Best PerformanceYeti ARC, Ibis DV9
Best for TouringSurly Karate Monkey,  Marin Pine Mountain 2
Most ExpensiveCannondale F-Si Hi-MOD World Cup
Best ValueCo-op Cycles DRT 2.1
27.5″ & 29″ MixSanta Cruz Chameleon

salsa timberjack on a trail


Ibis – DV9 Deore

A rare hardtail – Sold out at the moment

ibis dv9

XC-spec, Trail-ready

MSRP: $2,775
Ibis Cycles

Ibis is one of the top boutique mountain bike brands due to its die-hard fans, and the DV9 is their only current selection of hardtails.

The bike features a well though-out frame geometry with carefully chosen components, from head to toe. As it is placed at the very top of the list, it deserves to be noted due to its super-wide clearance, a unique carbon fiber monocoque frame, and Ibis custom S35 wheels. Ibis as a brand has also made one of their most affordable full-suspension bikes – the Ripley, on an aluminum frame this year. We are excited to check out their new, upcoming 2022 DV9 by the end of this year!

Carbon fiber
67.4° head tube angle with a 120mm fork
68.5° head tube angle with a 100mm fork
Tire clearance for up to 2.6″ tires
Internal cable routing

1×12-speed Shimano Deore M6100
10-51T cassette
Shimano Deore M6100 hydraulic disc brakes
Ibis S35 aluminum rims

schwalbe tires on ibis dv9

Schwalbe Nobby Nic & Hans Dampf

Read more



Cannondale – F-Si Hi-MOD World Cup 🏆

Very exclusive carbon 29-inch hardtail MTB

A unique carbon hardtail 29er by Cannondale

ENVE carbon rims laced up to Lefty and DT Swiss hubs make for a world-class wheelset.

XC Performance Spec

MSRP: $11,000

Cannondale has been making bikes for elite athletes for 50 years.

The FSI HiMod World Cup is a reflection of their continued commitment to precision engineering and impeccable quality. Here you will find nothing but the absolute best of components, designed to maximize strength and performance while minimizing weight.

A Hi-MOD BallisTec Carbon frame has been mated with the iconic Lefty Carbon Ocho fork, creating a frameset that is simply unmatchable by other carbon bikes with traditional fork designs. All across this build, you will find nothing but the finest quality Carbon and Titanium components.

If your future plans include standing on the podium at a World Cup Race, or just owning an unbelievably nice bike, then this is the choice for you.



Santa Cruz Chameleon

29er and 27.5″ adaptable geometry in one bike

santa cruz chameleon

Carbon (left) Aluminum (right)

Trail / All-mountain spec

MSRP: from $1,949
Santa Cruz Bicycles

The name Chameleon was most likely chosen due to the fact that it can transform into any environment where a hardtail can possibly perform. From a 29er to a 27.5″+, single speed and geared – all thanks to the interchangeable dropout.

With 120mm/130mm travel on the front, available in both aluminum and carbon, the bike is also well-equipped for longer hauls – It’s got two water-bottle mounts and extra eyelets on the bottom of the downtube for added versatility, the build quality is well-suited for the whole capability of the well-designed geometry.

So, which one to take?

29er = Speed, better rollover
27.5″ = Technical riding, faster acceleration

When it comes to mountain bikes, you can rest assured that your hard-earned money will serve you well when it is made by a Santa Cruz Bicycles.

Related: Santa Cruz Bicycles Chameleon



Yeti – ARC Carbon C2 Bike 2021

Hands down one of the best carbon hardtail mountain bikes ever made 🏆

29er hardtail mountain bike yeti arc carbon

Bonus points for the always eye-catching paint jobs – Turquoise (Brand icon color scheme), Raw/Gray, 35th year anniversary

Trail & All-Mountain spec

MSRP from $3,900
Jenson USA

Yeti ARC Review

The only hardtail on their range, made by the boutique mountain bike brand Yeti – the ARC Carbon C2 is a Trail ripper that offers up serious competition as one of the best mid-range hardtail mountain bikes available today.

The SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain is found on many higher-end bikes and produces quick, clean shifting. A Fox Performance 34 fork and Fox Transfer dropper post give confidence and help save energy over rocky terrain. The DT Swiss M1900 wheelset is a great addition, coming from another brand renowned for quality and durability.

The history of ARC (dates way back, and there’s a large following of their bikes – check out Yetifan.com‘s fan page if you want to be among the legacy.

What is the meaning of the term ARC? The name originates from Alloy Racing Composites.

The ARC Carbon C2 is a fantastic investment for those who want a highly capable trail bike that will last a long time.

  • Frame – Carbon
  • Fork – Fox Performance 34, 130mm Travel
  • Shifters – SRAM GX Eagle, 1×12-Speed
  • Brakes – SRAM Level TL
  • Tires – Maxxis Minion DHF 29 x 2.6″ / Maxxis Rekon 29 x 2.6″



Co-op Cycles – DRT 2.1

Best Value 27.5″+

co op cycles drt 2.1

This bike is great for newer cyclists seeking greater confidence on single track.

Trail & All-mountain spec

MSRP: $1,399
REI Co-op

Co-op Cycles is the in-house brand of bikes from the iconic outdoor retailer REI. The DRT 2.2 is their take on a cross-country bike built off a 27.5-inch wheelbase.

It comes with a 1×12 SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain, with state of an art shifting response and gear range. For the front suspension, the bike boasts a RockShox Recon RL fork with 120mm of travel (140 on the XL model). Co-op Cycles also decided to include an X-Fusion Manic dropper post to help on rocky descents.

The DRT 2.1 is the most advanced hardtail by REI’s in-house brand Co-op Cycles:

DRT 1.0 – $599
DRT 1.1 – $599
DRT 1.2 – $999
DRT 2.1 – $1,399
DRT 2.2 – $1,899

A great benefit of the DRT 2.1 is unlimited free tune ups offered by REI in the first year after purchase.

  • Number of gears – 12
  • Frame material – Aluminium
  • Fork – Suntour SR Air-Boost
  • Shifters – SRAM SX Eagle
  • Brakes – Tektro Auriga Hydraulic



Surly – Karate Monkey

Best hardtail MTB for touring & single tracks

Light green hardtail bike by Surly


MSRP: $2,300

Many modern trail riders would scoff at the idea of a Chromoly frame, however, Surly continues to prove that steel is real and here to stay.

The Karate Monkey, their most trail-oriented frame, comes in both suspension and rigid fork versions.

  1. The rigid fork version offers riders plenty of braze-ons for attaching bikepacking bags, water bottle cages, or whatever else you manage to bolt on there.
  2. The suspension fork build comes with a RockShox 35 Gold RL fork with 140mm of travel and promises good fun on local singletrack. Even if you choose the front suspension model, the Karate Monkey frame comes with rack eyelets on the seat stays so you can easily go touring if you want to.

With an attractive price tag and tons of options for customization, the Karate Monkey is a great choice for anyone who puts emphasis on casual fun over competition optimized carbon frames.

  • Frame – 100% Surly Chromoly Steel
  • Fork – RockShox 35 Gold RL
  • Brakes – Tektro Gemini HD-M520
  • Shifter – Shimano Deore XT, SL-M8100



Sage – Powerline X01 JensonUSA Exclusive Build


Unique Sage Powerline MTB that has been exclusively built by JensonUSA

MSRP: $5,440
Jenson USA

Here is a more exclusive way into mountain biking – a rare titanium trail MTB with top-of-the-line components.

Sage Titanium has no chills standing out in their own league of bike engineering, as they are one of the more known bike brands that have stuck to using titanium. The X01 Eagle and RockShox Ultimate forks speak well for the deserved purpose of their intended use – take it with you on a race, or enjoy those unridden trails, this bike offers unmatched characteristics to any possible journey.

Good luck finding a bike with more character and toughness than this mighty beast.

  • Frame – 3/2.5 Titanium
  • Fork – RockShox Pike Ultimate Fork 29″, 130mm Travel
  • Shifters – SRAM X01 Eagle
  • Crankset – SRAM X01 Eagle B148, 32T
  • Brakes – Shimano XT BR-M8000



Marin – Pine Mountain 2

Good hardtail trail bike for long treks

Marin Pine Mountain 2 with a classic steel frame and large volume 29+ tires.

MSRP: $2,200
Jenson USA

The Pine Mountain 2 clearly stands out due to its slack head tube, and the number of eyelets on its frame.

It is not an easy task to come up with a new concept of a bike, especially in the sub-two-thousand hardtail mountain biking scene. This model features a RockShox FS 35 fork, a dropper seat post and a lightweight yet durable alloy frame. Marin bikes is no stranger to mountain bikes, and this exact model is designed for long-distance touring with a capability to push the limits on demanding single trails

Best suited for cyclist who are looking for a comfortable bike to explore all mountain bike disciplines in one bike.

  • Fork – RockShox FS 35, 120mm travel
  • Brakes – Shimano hydraulic disc brakes w/ 180mm rotors
  • Shimano SLX 12-speed
  • 29″+ oversized tires

Also featured in 🏆 11 Unusual Mountain Bikes



Niner – AIR 9 RDO 5-Star Bike

Best carbon hardtail race bike

Orange colored XC hardtail race bike by Niner

MSRP: $6,500
Jenson USA

If we wanted to go into all the details of what makes the carbon layup process employed in making Niner’s AIR 9 RDO frames, it would take hours to read and a good understanding of mechanical engineering to understand.

The short version is that the AIR 9 RDO is a super light, super bomber frame. Niner has been putting out bikes for serious XC racers for quite a while now, and this bike is no exception. An SRAM XO1 groupset sheds further grams while shifting beautifully between gears. Boost rear spacing makes for a stronger and stiffer wheel. The Fox 32 SC Factory fork comes with a remote lock-off to quickly switch between suspension and rigid modes when transitioning between different trail surfaces.

If you’re a competitive cyclist looking to win tournaments, the AIR 9 RDO 5-Star build is a great contender.

  • Niner RDO Carbon Compaction System
  • Niner’s World Cup tested geometry
  • SRAM’s X01 Eagle components
  • Stan’s NoTubes Arch CB7 wheels
  • Low and wide cockpit
niner air 9 2-star bike

$1,700 Niner Air



Orbea – Laufey H10

Aggressive hardtail MTB

Highly versatile hardtail bike that is built for the trails.

MSRP: $1,999
Jenson USA

Orbea’s Laufey H10 build packs in a good deal of desirable features for those trying to up their trail game.

The Laufey frame is made with hydroformed triple-butted aluminum and features a reinforcement next to the seat tube for further strength. Other features on the frame include internal cable routing, super sturdy ISCG05 mounts, and slack geometry with shorter chainstays. The H10 build comes with tons of modern touches like a 1×12 Deore SLX drivetrain, OC2 dropper post, quality Shimano hydraulic brakes, and more.

The front fork is a long travel Marzocchi Bomber Z2 which rounds out the bike’s performance on downhill sections and drops.

Whether you’re an aspiring amateur or an experienced XC rider, the Orbea Laufey H10 is a good mix of performance and value.

orbea laufey hardtail mountain bikes

See the selection – evo.com

  • Hydroformed aluminum frame
  • Shimano Deore/SLX 12-speed drivetrain
  • Tubeless-ready rims and tires
  • Shimano M6100 hydraulic disc brakes
  • OC2 dropper post



Norco – Torrent HT A1 29″

Hardtail MTB for aggressive trail and mountain riding

Extremely quick, agile and strong hardtail mountain bike by Norco.

MSRP: $1,799
Jenson USA

The A1 build of Norco’s Torrent HT frame matches bomber components with a sturdy 6061 aluminum frame.

With long travel in the front, a slack head tube angle, and a tucked rear wheel, the Torrent A1 is about as nimble and playful as they come. Modern trail geometry means you can take drops without a worry, the RockShox Gold 35 RL fork will soak up the impact and keep you rolling. A 12 speed Shimano Deore drivetrain keeps things light while still allowing for a great overall gear ratio.

With an attractive price point and modern geometry, the Norco Torrent HT A1 is a great choice for cyclists who want a lot of fun and trail readiness packed into a mid range budget.

  • 6061 Aluminum alloy frame
  • Shimano BR-MT420, 4 Piston brakes
  • RockShox 35 Gold RL fork, 150mm travel
  • Shimano Deore CS-M6100 drivetrain
  • Playful and slack geometry



TREK – Procaliber 9.7

One of the best 29er hardtail race bikes

Trek's hardtail 29er MTB with a carbon frame.

MSRP: $4,200
Trekbikes (In-store only)

The Procaliber 9.7 is an aggressive cross-country bike aimed at riders who ride fast on rough terrain.

The carbon frame is built with a decoupler at the junction of the seat tube and top tube that will help dampen vibrations and provide a smooth ride. This innovative frame design has been paired with a 100mm travel RockShox Reba RL fork, giving it a surprisingly plush feel for a hardtail. Other high-end features like carbon rims and a 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain make for a lightweight overall package at 23.05 lbs/ 10.46 kg. The Procaliber also comes with geometry suited to technical riding, the straight-down tube keeps the bike stiff enough to rip around corners and down steep descents.

This bike is a great fit for trail fanatics and those who need a high-performance machine to match their skill level.

  • Fork – RockShox Reba RL
  • 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle


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