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13 Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes of 2023

By Atticus Lee   /  Last updated - September 26, 2023   /  Best-Of-Reviews, Hardtail, Mountain Bikes, Reviews

salsa timberjack on a nice trail

Hardtails are mountain bikes with front suspension only. They’re less complex and cost less than full-suspension mountain bikes, making them popular with a broader range of riders. 

Hardtails also offer other advantages over other mountain bikes. Most importantly, they are more efficient when pedaling, lighter, and more durable.

In addition, if you’re a beginner, you can improve your skills and technique faster on a hardtail before upgrading to a more forgiving and capable full-suspension bike. 

This article is a roundup of some of the best hardtail mountain bikes available in 2023. 

Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes for Men in 2023

Best PerformanceRocky Mountain Growler 50
Best for Commuting –  Marin Pine Mountain 1
Best ValueOrbea Alma H10
27.5″ & 29″ MixSanta Cruz Chameleon

Giant Fathom 29 2

giant fathom 29 2 hardtail mountain bike

MSRP: $1,500
Mike’s Bikes

The Giant Fathom 29 2 secured its place on our list thanks to a premium ALUXX SL frame and excellent components, making this bike a capable and durable option. 

With 130mm travel in the front, a slack head tube angle, a Giant Contact Switch dropper, and modern geometry, the Fathom is about as playful and fast as they come for a 29er hardtail.

Modern trail geometry means you can take drops without a worry, as the Giant Crest 34 RCL fork will soak up the impact and keep you rolling. A 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain keeps things light while providing a solid climbing gear ratio from the 11-46t cassette.

Tektro TDK143 hydraulic brakes and Giant AM 29 tubeless-ready wheels paired with Maxxis Minion DHF/Dissector 2.5″ tires also add to this bike’s positive overall impression on any rider.

  • ALUXX SL Aluminum frame
  • Tektro hydraulic disc brakes
  • Giant Crest 34, 130mm
  • 10-speed Shimano Deore
  • Maxxis Minion/Dissector EXO 2.5″ tires

With a high-end build at an affordable price, the Fathom 29 2 is an excellent choice for cyclists who want a lot of fun and trail readiness.

Buy from Mike's Bikes

Cannondale – Trail 5 Women’s

Cannondale - Trail SE 4 Women's

MSRP: $960

The Cannondale Trail series is one of the top MTB ranges due to its great selection across different price ranges and the high-level technology from the brand.

The bike features a well thought-out frame design with a SmartForm C3 Alloy frame and StraightShot internal cable routing. Additionally, slack geometry and 2.25″ WTB Ranger Comp tires offer excellent performance on diverse terrain.

Finally, the women’s Trail 5 has hydraulic disc brakes and a durable microSHIFT Advent X 10-speed drivetrain, incredible for just $960.

  • SmartForm C3 Alloy frame
  • 68° head tube angle with a 100mm fork
  • 1×10-speed microSHIFT Advent X
  • 11-48t cassette
  • Tektro M275  hydraulic disc brakes
  • WTB SX19 rims

Buy from REI

Salsa – Rangefinder

salsa rangefinder

MSRP: $1,699

When comparing the specs to the price tag – there must be something we’re missing out on. This is a truly awesome bike at well under the $2,000 price mark and by a well-known bike brand like Salsa Cycles.

Well, sometimes the good deals are there for unknown reasons, which is the case with the Rangefinder. We’re surprised to see the SR Suntour XCR34 Boost coupled with Shimano Deore M6100 drivetrain and MT200 hydraulic discs. Also, the TranzX dropper seat post is a nice addition to the bike.

  • Maxxis Rekon 27.5 x 2.8″
  • SR Suntour XCR34 Boost 120mm travel
  • 6061-T6 frame
  • 11-speed Shimano SLX 10-51t
  • Shimano MT200 hydro brakes
  • TranzX dropper post
  • WTB ST i40 rims

Buy on REI.com

Santa Cruz Bicycles – Chameleon

Santa Cruz Bicycles Chameleon Mountain Bike

MSRP: from $2,399
evo.com  / Mike’s Bikes

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. 

29er and 27.5″ adaptable geometry in one bike

So, which one to choose?

  • The 29er offers speed, better rollover, and is more suitable for taller riders
  • The 27.5″ wheels are better for technical riding, shorter riders, and have faster acceleration
  • The Mullet spec is available on 2023 models

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

Buy from evo.com Buy from Mikesbikes.com

Co-op Cycles DRT 2.1

co-op cycles drt 2.1 hardtail mountain bike

MSRP $1,599

Hands down one of the most fun aluminum hardtail mountain bikes in its price range. The Co-op Cycles DRT 2.1 is a trail ripper that presents itself as one of the best entry-level hardtail mountain bikes for beginners and intermediate riders on a budget.

The SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain is reliable and has plenty of gearing for steep climbs. A size-specific Suntour SR AIR 120/140mm travel fork gives confidence and helps save energy over rocky terrain. On top of that, the 27.5″ wheels and 2.8″ tires provide extra stability and grip.

Other highlights include tried and true Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakes, an X-Fusion Manic dropper post, and a very attractive paint job.

The DRT 2.1 is a fantastic starter for those who want a capable trail bike to learn and grow with.

  • Frame – Aluminum
  • Fork – SR Suntour AIR 120mm or 140mm
  • Drivetrain – SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed
  • Brakes – Tektro Auriga hydraulic 
  • Tires – WTB Ranger Comp  2.8″

Buy from REI

Rocky Mountain – Fusion 40

Rocky Mountain Fusion 40 hardtail mountain bike

MSRP: $1,439
Jenson USA

This bike is great for newer cyclists seeking greater confidence on singletrack trails.

Rocky Mountain is a well-known MTB brand, and the Fusion 40 is their take on a trail bike built off a 29-inch wheelbase and tubeless-ready rims. 

It comes with a SRAM SX Eagle 12-Speed drivetrain that’s notably durable and has reliable shifting. In addition, the bike has a 100mm RockShox Judy Silver Fast Black TK Air fork for suspension.

Rocky Mountain also has a set of WTB Ranger Comp 29 x 2.4″ tires, a great all-rounder with a durable casing. 

  • Number of gears – 12
  • Frame material – Aluminium
  • Fork – RockShox Judy Silver Fast Black TK Air 100mm
  • Shifters – SRAM SX Eagle
  • Brakes – Clarks M2 2-Piston hydraulic, 160mm rotors

Buy on Jenson USA

Marin – San Quentin 1

marin san quentin 1 hardtail mountain bike

MSRP: $999
Jenson USA

Marin San Quentin 1 is one of the most affordable MTBs with huge fork travel, a dirt-jump-inspired frame, and Vee Tire Co. Flow Snap 27.5×2.6″ tires.

The suspension fork is an SR Suntour XCM34 Boost 130mm and promises good fun on local singletrack. The lightweight, responsive Series 2 frame also sports sleek internal cable routing.

With an attractive price tag and many customization options, this bike is a great choice for anyone who puts emphasis on casual fun over competition-optimized carbon frames.

  • Frame – Series 2 Aluminum
  • Fork – Suntour XCM34 130mm
  • Brakes – Tektro M275 Hydraulic
  • Shifter – MicroSHIFT SL-M9195-R 9-speed

Buy on Jenson USA

Orbea – Alma H10

orbea alma h10 hardtail mtb

MSRP: $1,999
Jenson USA

Here is a more exclusive way into mountain biking – an affordable trail MTB with excellent components.

The Alma H10 is in its own league of bike engineering for this price, as Orbea is one of the more known bike brands. The SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed and SR Suntour Raidon 32 100mm travel fork perform well for their intended use – take it with you on a race, or enjoy those unridden trails, this bike offers excellent ride characteristics on cross-country terrain.

  • Frame – Aluminum
  • Fork – SR Suntour Raidon 32 100mm Travel
  • Shifters – SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed
  • Crankset – SRAM Stylo 6K Eagle
  • Brakes – Shimano MT201 Hydraulic discs

Buy from Jenson USA

Marin – Pine Mountain 1

Marin Pine Mountain 1 29 Bike 2023

MSRP: $1,499
Jenson USA

Marin Pine Mountain 1 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 Recon RL fork 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 the 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 Recon RL, 120mm travel
  • Brakes – Shimano MT420 hydraulic disc brakes w/ 180/160mm rotors
  • Shimano Deore 11-speed
  • Vee Tire Flow Snap 29×2.6″ tires

Buy on JensonUSA.com

Niner – AIR 2-Star

niner air 2-star mountain bike

MSRP: $1,999
Jenson USA

The Niner AIR 2-Star is a light, responsive hardtail on a hydroformed aluminum frame with extra tire clearance and Niner’s Trail Country geometry.

Niner has been putting out bikes for serious XC racers for quite a while now, and this bike is no exception. An SRAM SX Eagle groupset shifts reliably and smoothly between gears. Tubeless-ready rims and tires make for a more durable and comfortable ride, with clearance for a 29 x 2.4″ or 27.5 x 3.0″ setup.

The Marzocchi Bomber Z2 Rail 120mm fork suspension provides plenty of absorption for rolling XC trails, and Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.6″ and 2.35″ tires balance traction and fast rolling. . If you’re a new mountain biker looking to experience the trails, the AIR 2-Star build is a great contender.

  • 6061 Aluminum
  • Trail Country geometry
  • SRAM SX 12-speed
  • Niner Alloy 30mm rims
  • Marzocchi Bomber Z2 Rail 120mm fork

Buy on JensonUSA.com

Kona Honzo

kona honzo hardtail mountain bike

MSRP: $1,899
Jenson USA

Whether you’re an aspiring amateur or an experienced XC rider, the Kona Honzo packs many desirable features for those trying to up their game.

The 6061 aluminum frame is lightweight and responsive with a trail-specific design. The Honzo comes with tons of modern touches like a 1×11 Shimano Deore drivetrain, grippy Schwalbe Nobby Nic TLE 2.4″ and 2.25″ tires, quality Shimano MT410 hydraulic brakes, and a dropper post.

The front fork is a moderate-travel RockShox Recon RL Solo Air with 120mm, rounding out the bike’s performance on downhill sections and drops.

  • Aluminum frame
  • Shimano Deore 11-speed drivetrain
  • 29 x 2.4″ and 2.25″ tires
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes

Buy from Jenson USA

Rocky Mountain – Growler 50

rocky mountain growler 50 hardtail mountain bike

MSRP: $2,299
Jenson USA

The Growler 50 is an aggressive enduro hardtail mountain bike aimed at riders who ride hard on rough terrain.

The alloy frame is built with modern trail geometry to provide stability on gravity-style descents and a comfortable climbing position. This geometry combines with a 150mm travel RockShox 35 Gold RL, fork, giving it a plush front-end feel.

Other high-end features include the WTB ST i30 TCS 2.0 tubeless-ready rims, WTB Vigilante and Trail Boss 2.6″ tires, and a 12-speed Shimano SLX drivetrain.

The Growler 50 also comes with powerful Clarks M4 four-piston hydraulic disc brakes and a dropper seatpost to inspire confidence on fast, aggressive trails.

  • Fork – RockShox 35 Gold RL 150mm
  • 12-speed Shimano SLX

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

Buy from Jenson USA

Scott – Scale 940

Scott Scale 940 Mountain Bike

MSRP: $2,299

The Scott Scale 940 is a demonstration of the brand’s keen eye for design and commitment to impeccable quality. Here you will find solid components for the price and a premium carbon frame designed to maximize strength and performance while minimizing weight.

A sleek carbon frame that balances stiffness, comfort, and impact resistance has been coupled with a decent RockShox Judy Silver TK 100mm fork, creating a frameset that is simply unmatchable at this price. If your future plans include destroying your PRs, taking on your first XC race, or just owning a beautiful bike, then this is the choice for you.

  • Carbon frame
  • RockShox Judy Silver TK air fork 100mm
  • SRAM SX Eagle 11-50t
  • Shimano MT200 hydro disc
  •  Syncros seatpost
  • Schwalbe Rapid Rob | Active Line 2.25″

Buy on Evo.com

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