Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes of 2021
With the rise and (hopefully) unseen fall of 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!
Hardtails back in the day were the setting-stones for the whole bicycle component design and engineering basics due to the fact that those bikes had to withstand extreme stress and environments. Most bicycle types have mountain bike-inspired designs in some areas of their design, and by the end of the day, most of them are ‘hardtails’ in a sense.
Why is that? It is obviously the reason that the best bike manufacturers want their bikes to last, just like back in the day.
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.
Down here you’ll find a selection of the best hardtail mountain bikes for men in 2021.
Conclusions: Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes for Men
Best Performance – Yeti ARC
Best for Touring – Surly Karate Monkey, Marin Pine Mountain 2
Most Expensive – Cannondale F-Si Hi-MOD World Cup
Best Value – Co-op Cycles DRT 2.2
27.5″ & 29″ Mix – Santa Cruz Chameleon
1. Cannondale – F-Si Hi-MOD World Cup 🏆
Very exclusive carbon 29-inch hardtail MTB
MSRP $11,000 Aventuron
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.
2. Santa Cruz Chameleon
29er and 27.5″ adaptable geometry in one bike
MSRP Starting 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.
Related: Santa Cruz Bicycles Chameleon
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.
3. Yeti – ARC Carbon C2 Bike 2021
Hands down one of the best carbon hardtail mountain bikes ever made 🏆
MSRP $3,900 JensonUSA
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″
4. Co-op Cycles – DRT 2.2
MSRP $1,899 REI
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 2.2 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 2.2 is unlimited free tune ups offered by REI in the first year after purchase.
- Number of gears – 12
- Frame material – Aluminium
- Fork – RockShox Recon RL
- Shifters – SRAM NX Eagle
- Brakes – Shimano MT500 Hydraulic
5. Surly – Karate Monkey
Best hardtail MTB for touring & single tracks
MSRP $2,300 Aventuron
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.
- 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.
- 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
6. Sage – Powerline X01 JensonUSA Exclusive Build
MSRP $5,440 JensonUSA
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
7. Marin – Pine Mountain 2
Good hardtail trail bike for long treks
MSRP $2,200 JensonUSA
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
8. Niner – AIR 9 RDO 5-Star Bike
Best carbon hardtail race bike
MSRP $6,500 JensonUSA
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
9. Orbea – Laufey H10
Aggressive hardtail MTB
MSRP $1,999 JensonUSA
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.
- Hydroformed aluminum frame
- Shimano Deore/SLX 12-speed drivetrain
- Tubeless-ready rims and tires
- Shimano M6100 hydraulic disc brakes
- OC2 dropper post
10. Norco – Torrent HT A1 29″
Hardtail MTB for aggressive trail and mountain riding
MSRP $1,799 JensonUSA
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
- Shimano Deore CS-M6100 drivetrain
- Playful and slack geometry
11. TREK – Procaliber 9.7
One of the best 29er hardtail race bikes
MSRP $4,200 Trekbikes (Can be purchased 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
The Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes – Under $3,000