Rigid Mountain Bike Selection for Gravel Roads and Singletracks
Before the arrival of high-tech suspension components, the rigid mountain bike opened up mountain trails to adventurous bikers.
Compared to hardtails and full-suspension mountain bikes, this type of bike continues to offer distinct benefits. Rigid mountain bikes are cheaper to buy and repair, easier to maintain, lighter, and faster on roads and uphill.
These differences are enough to appeal to riders who don’t tackle harsh mountain terrain but want the broad capability of a mountain bike.
Check out our short guide to rigid MTBs below and see the best nine models available for 2023.
A Quick Guide on Rigid Mountain Bikes
Why Use a Rigid Fork On a Mountain Bike?
Riding a fully rigid mountain bike has a few advantages compared to suspension MTBs.
Firstly, you will improve your handling and technique faster on a rigid fork as they are less forgiving.
Rigid forks are also cheaper and easier to maintain than suspension, meaning you can have higher-end components in other areas.
Finally, rigid forks are much lighter and more efficient when climbing and road riding.
The rigid fork experience isn’t for everyone, so if you’re used to suspension, test-ride a rigid MTB before making a purchase or choose a bike corrected for suspension.
What Are Rigid Mountain Bikes For?
Rigid mountain bikes are for riders who want the general capability of a mountain bike but don’t want the downsides of suspension components.
Suspension adds weight, reduces efficiency on the road, requires extra maintenance, and costs more. These disadvantages make rigid mountain bikes more appealing if you don’t tackle advanced trails.
Rigid mountain bikes are adequate for cross-country riding but don’t perform well in gravity-style trails.
How Hard Can You Ride a Rigid Bike?
You can ride a rigid mountain bike relatively hard if you’re a skilled mountain biker.
Rigid bikes won’t be comfortable or forgiving on harsh terrain, but they’re still capable of tackling it if needed.
It would be difficult for a beginner or intermediate mountain biker to ride a rigid MTB hard.
Therefore, we recommend sticking to smoother trails on one of these bikes. You can, however, ride hard on the uphill sections as rigid forks are much more efficient when climbing.
Which Is Better Rigid Fork or Suspension?
It’s hard to say which is better when comparing a rigid mountain bike vs. suspension bike, as they are very different.
If you ride on smooth-ish trails and gravel with plenty of roads mixed in, a rigid fork is better than suspension as it is more efficient.
However, if you ride bumpy trails and technical singletrack, a suspension fork will improve comfort, traction, and control, making it the better choice.
Can You Put Suspension on a Rigid Bike?
Yes, you can put suspension on a rigid bike. Some of the bikes in this article are corrected for suspension (like the Surly Wednesday), meaning they can handle a fork up to a specific stroke length, typically around 100mm.
However, adding a suspension fork won’t be possible if the frame isn’t corrected for suspension.
Rigid MTB vs. Gravel Bike
The geometry and handlebars are the most significant differences when talking about gravel bikes vs. mountain bikes.
A rigid mountain bike typically has slacker and longer geometry to improve stability and handling on rough trails. Additionally, they have flat bars that make it easier to manipulate the bicycle and put you in a more upright position for assuming an attack stance.
Gravel bikes have steeper geometry to ensure a more aerodynamic ride position, meaning they’re less capable on mountain terrain.
Gravel drop handlebars are also more effective for aerodynamics and allow you to assume a more efficient and comfortable position for long-distance rides.
Best Rigid Mountain Bikes in 2023
- Gates Carbon belt drive
- Hydraulic disc brakes
The Priority Sauce is a rigid fork mountain bike designed to be the perfect bikepacking companion.
The frameset is lightweight 6061 aluminum with internal dropper post routing and clearance for 27.5×2.4″ tires. In addition, this frame has compatibility with a 100mm travel fork.
The Sauce is stable and predictable, perfect for loading up with bikepacking bags for a multi-day tour. Priority carefully selected the rest of the components to ensure versatile performance off-road in varied conditions.
For the job, you have powerful hydraulic disc brakes, 2.25″ Goodyear Peak tires, and tubeless-ready Sun Ringle Helix TR25 rims.
The Sauce has a single-speed Gates Carbon belt drive which is super durable and smooth but useless for climbing hills. Overall, this is a solid choice for adventure riders who want an affordable and long-lasting rigid mountain bike.
- Versatile capabilities
- Plenty of mounts and customization options
- Reliable drivetrain
- Heavy at 35.6llbs
- Low-quality brakes
The Surly Wednesday is a fully rigid mountain bike with fat tires that allow you to tackle snow, sand, and mud.
The Wednesday uses a typical 4130 Chromoly steel frame with tons of mounts for front and rear racks, three-pack mounts, fenders, and bottle cages.
Additionally, this frame is corrected for a 100mm suspension fork, has thru-axles, and has 4.6″ tire clearance.
The build kit on the Surly Wednesday is capable on varied terrains. The 160mm Tektro hydraulic disc brakes are consistent but weak.
The tires are Surly’s Nate 26×3.8˝ tubeless-ready set that makes it possible to ride on any surfaces you find.
Surly chose SRAM’s SX Eagle with an 11-50t cassette for the drivetrain so you can haul this heavy bike up hills with a full load.
The ride quality of the Wednesday is typical of a rigid fork fat bike. It’s stable, confidence-inspiring, and a little slow in steering and rolling speed. However, this is a worthwhile trade-off for all-terrain capability.
Choose the Surly Wednesday if you want a durable fat tire mountain bike for trail riding or if you’re looking for one of the best bikepacking bikes.
Zize Bikes Yonder
- Huge payload of 550lbs
- Fits riders up to 7′
- Unique double-clamp seatpost
- Comfortable geometry and wide Q-factor
- Poor gear range
The Zize Bikes Yonder is a unique men’s rigid mountain bike. Zize Bikes makes bikes for men up to seven feet tall and 550lbs, and this is their versatile off-road option.
Each aspect of the Yonder is customized to withstand massive payloads and make riding comfortable for tall, heavy cyclists.
The frame is made with tough TIG-welded Chromoly steel. In addition, it has an extra-wide bottom bracket with a wider Q-factor that makes pedaling feel natural.
The wheels are 26″ double-wide aluminum with wide hubs for increased strength and 36 spokes. These come with Compass 3″ tires to deliver traction on varied off-road terrains.
The groupset includes Clark M2F hydraulic disc brakes and a Shimano Deore 10-speed with a small-range 11-36t cassette.
Finally, the Yonder ensures comfort with a shock-absorbing saddle and a wide, upright handlebar with an adjustable stem.
Don’t miss out on the Yonder rigid mountain bike if you’re a bigger rider who needs the extra capacity or height allowance.
- Stable and balanced geometry
- Tons of mounts
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Lots of tire clearance
The Surly Krampus is the brand’s plus-sized rigid mountain bike and an all-rounder personality and a reasonable price tag.
The Krampus has stable geometry, capable of tackling light singletrack and smoother trails. This design and the 3″ tires allow it to perform better than other rigid MTBs.
As a Surly bike, you’ve got the expected Chromoly steel frame with a double-welded main triangle and several mounts that allow you to personalize it for bikepacking adventures. The Krampus also comes with a set of Surly Dirt Wizard 29 x 3.0″ tires as stock.
Other notable components include a Shimano Deore 12-speed MTB drivetrain with an 11-51t cassette, Tektro HD-M275 hydraulic disc brakes, and WTB ST i40 rims.
Overall, this is an excellent choice for bikepackers and adventurers who want the comfort and grip of plus-sized MTB balanced with the capability of a bikepacking machine.
Marin DSX 1
- Fast and lightweight
- Wide gear ratio
- Carbon fork
- Not a pure MTB
- Weak brakes for off-roading
The Marin DSX 1 is a mix of flat bar gravel and mountain bike that creates a highly versatile package with broad appeal.
This affordable off-roader has a 6061 aluminum frame and carbon fiber fork. The frame has clearance for 700c x 45mm or 29″ x 2.1″ tires so that you can transform the bike based on your preferred terrain. Additionally, it has internal cable routing, rack and fender mounts, thru-axles, and dropper post compatibility.
The build kit includes an 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain with a massive 11-51t cassette for tackling steep gradients. Additionally, you have 160mm-rotor Tektro hydraulic disc brakes and 45mm WTB Riddler tires.
While the DSX 1 isn’t a pure rigid mountain bike, it’s faster, more efficient, and more well-rounded overall. Consider it if you want a great, affordable bike that blurs the line between the mountain and gravel disciplines.
Orbea Alma M LTD
- Full carbon frameset and build kit
- Most advanced electronic groupset
- Elite level wheels and tires
- Very light
The Orbea Alma M LTD is a rigid carbon mountain bike with a sumptuous design and one of the most impressive specs you’ll ever see.
This XC mountain bike is stiff and light, allowing racers to climb and sprint efficiently. The Alma M weighs just 19lbs, thanks to this high-end frameset and the elite-level components.
The drivetrain is SRAM’s most advanced XX1 Eagle AXS 12-speed electronic drivetrain with a 10-50t cassette that delivers unmatched performance and reliability. This pairs with Ultimate Carbon Stealth-a-majig Black hydraulic disc brakes, the best money can buy.
The Alma M LTD also comes with DT Swiss XRC-1200 Spline carbon wheels, OC3 Carbon bars, and a Selle Italia SLR Boost Fill Carbon Keramic saddle.
The wheelset is tubeless-ready and comes wrapped in Maxxis Rekon Race 120TPI 29×2.35″ tires that deliver incredible grip and rolling speed for fast cross-country races.
Overall, this is an exceptional machine designed for cross-country racers who want to push the limits of speed and performance.
State Bicycle Co. 4130 All-Road
- Tubeless-ready wheelset
- Lots of tire clearance
- Plenty of mounts
- 1x drivetrain
- Mechanical disc brakes
The State Bicycle Co. 4130 All-Road is one of the best rigid fork mountain bike options for under $1,000.
The 4130 All-Road is not a pure mountain bike but a blend of mountain and gravel. This two-in-one bike can run fast 700c wheels or off-road 650b wheels. The 700c build comes with Vittoria Terreno Zero 38mm tires, and the 650b comes with Vittoria Barzo 2.1″ tires.
State Bicycle Co. chose a Chromoly steel frame and fork for this bike to ensure comfort, stability, and durability. In addition, they included mounts for two bottle cages, fenders, and a rack.
For gearing, you have a low-maintenance 1×11-speed proprietary groupset with a 42t crank and an 11-42t cassette, which is excellent for most riding situations but slightly limited as a mountain bike.
Other characteristics that make this bike handle well off-road include the wide MTB handlebars, the stable geometry, and the ability to run tubeless tires.
Add this cheap rigid mountain bike to your shortlist if you want versatility with a limited budget.
- SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes
- Internal dropper routing
- Carbon fork
- Tons of mounts
The Salsa Mukluk is a fat bike that makes it possible to ride on any terrain you encounter. The suspension effect of the 4.6″ super fat tires helps compensate for the stiffness of the rigid mountain bike fork.
The Mukluk is a solid bike typical of Salsa’s range. The frame is a 6061 aluminum alloy with a rearward center of gravity for extra stability, a carbon fork for front-end stiffness, and tons of mounts for bikepacking.
The Salsa Mukluk has 26″ SUNRingle Mulefut SL rims wrapped in 45NRTH Dillinger 5 tires with deep treads. These tires allow you to tackle soft mud, snow, and sand with ease.
The drivetrain is a Shimano Deore 11-speed with an 11-51t cassette for steep climbs, a solid addition in this price range. Another notable feature is the SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes.
All things considered, Salsa Mukluk rigid mountain bike is a strong choice if you’re looking for an affordable option with fat tires and reliable components.
Haro Steel Reserve 1.1
- Durable build
- Perfect for pump tracks and dirt jump parks
- Limited on pure mountain trails
The Haro Steel Reserve 1.1 is an affordable dirt jumper blending BMX and dirt jump riding. This single-speed rigid mountain bike suits those who love pump tracks and dirt jump parks.
Haro uses a durable Chromoly steel frame and fork to balance costs with performance. In addition, this frame is suspension corrected so that you can upgrade to a dirt-jump-specific fork for more extreme riding.
Like all best dirt jump bikes, the Steel Reserve 1.1 has a single Tektro Aries mechanical disc brake on the rear to provide stopping power.
Other notable features include the BMX-style Kenda K-Rad 2.3″ tires and high-strength 26″ Weinmann XM260 alloy wheels that keep going after taking a beating.