You don't necessarily have to compete in XC races or make bike marathons your hobby to get the most out of a hardtail. You can also safely leave the daredevil descents that get your pulse racing to bikers on other bikes. A hardtail stands for mountain bike action, but in a relaxed way and not too hard. It also stands for brisk, enjoyable pedalling through nature. But please not too much either. Let's call it ... Pleasure action!
A hardtail represents purism in mountain riding, delivering a direct, dynamic and unadulterated feel. It works in hilly landscapes, it also gets on in the mountains, as long as the surfaces there are reasonably firm. Thanks to the good performance it builds up decent speed, so it also brings training rides, bike tours or on the trails of everyday life performance en masse. But what exactly is a hardtail and why can't you really answer this question without also taking a closer look at fullys?
This is a hardtail - things to know about unsprung mountain bikes
Hardtail mountain bike, here you can already see what it's all about. A mountain bike. Where the term "Bergrad" actually points in the wrong direction, you may well go mountain biking in the flatlands. The gradient isn't really the deciding factor, it's more about the terrain. Mountain bikes are away from the roads in the unpaved terrain at home. Creek beds, boulder fields, trails and the also like blocked, rooted and bumpy, here is a mountain bike expert. Ok, if it goes properly uphill, you can exhaust yourself, downhill shuttling provides the adrenaline rush. But there are also excellent mountain bike areas in the flatter parts of Europe. No other type of bike has so many specialised versions that are suitable for uphill, downhill or cross-country riding. To buy the right mountain bike, you first and foremost have to inspect the terrain ahead of you. And then you have to weigh it up: Do you want to go forward or high?
What is a hardtail mountain bike?
A hardtail is an off-road specialist, and the gear, tires and suspension fork make sure of that. Unlike the full-suspension bike (Fully), it has no additional suspension in the frame. It has a rigid rear end, hence the name. Therefore, it delivers an efficient power flow because the frame shock of a fully swallows a lot of energy. Compared to a fully, it is smoother running and cheaper. It needs less maintenance and service. It's also significantly lighter.
Hardtail or Fully?
Let's first clarify the most important question: do you want to buy a hardtail or a Fully? The brief comparison of the two bikes will help here. A hardtail is an off-road bike without additional suspension, a fully has a shock in the frame. Roughly simplified, if your focus is on distance traveled, a hardtail is the better choice. If you want to pull off as many stunts as possible along the way, a Fully is more your thing. Fullys are more bouncy and there's really no terrain - apart from steep walls, perhaps - where they can't cope. Hardtails can also be ridden offroad, but the terrain may not get quite so rough. Instead, the focus is on efficiency; a hardtail likes to go fast. But also a hardtail is not just a hardtail, here there are the most different alignments, which adapt to the different requirements in equipment, tires and geometry.
- Marathon mountain bikes: Don't worry, you're not meant to run alongside. If you want to rack up miles on your hardtail, a marathon hardtail is perfect for you. Endurance racing is the magic word here.
- Race MTB: See above, but faster. You're riding big trails off-road, and you're doing it fast - buy a cool racer! These bikes are all about top speeds.
- Trail Hardtail: A trail hardtail is the fun machine among hardtails. It comes all dressed up in the serious garb of a long-distance runner, but bounces, jumps, drops and jumps casually and rides (almost) like a fully.
- XC Hardtail, Cross Country Hardtail: Little travel in the fork and plenty of stiffness in the frame, you'll shoo an XC over big distances with no problem.
- All Mountain, AM: More and more hardtails are currently making inroads into classic Fully territory. For many years, all mountain tended to be Fully terrain, because if you want to conquer the whole mountain, a bike with full suspension is in principle not a wrong choice. But jumpy hardtails can get behind that pretty well. Let's just call them "Almost All Mountain."
- Dirt Bikes:At first glance, dirt bikes look nothing like mountain bikes; their quirky geo somehow doesn't quite want to fit with balanced mountain bike frames. But the bottom line is that a dirt bike is a hardtail - with a somewhat idiosyncratic seating position and a very specific area of use.
The designations of the individual bikes are not always the same, however, often the divisions can not be separated by a hair's breadth. Each manufacturer divides its bikes slightly differently, calls them differently or sets a different focus.
What do you mean by "unsprung"?
First of all, there's a misunderstanding to clear up here: unsprung does not mean "completely without damping". A hardtail may not have a bouncy frame shock, but it does have a suspension fork - at least in about 99.9% of all cases. There are completely unsprung mountain bikes, but you'll have to look for them like a needle in a haystack. Also, hardtails, like all MTBs, stand on thick tires, which add extra cushioning to your ride.
The suspension fork
The suspension fork dampens uneven surfaces, it also helps your bike stay on track. There are different suspension systems inside the fork. You'll rarely find suspension forks with an elastomer damper these days. In cheaper suspension forks, a steel spring compresses when your ground gets rough. On a high-end hardtail you will probably find an air-suspension fork. These forks are particularly light, and they also come with plenty of options for adjusting the fork to your own individual preferences.
> If you want to know more about suspension forks, you should surf over to our suspension forks. You'll find a lot of additional information there.
The suspension travel
How much suspension travel does a mountain bike need? Good question - bike nerds can talk their heads off on this one! How much travel you really need depends on a number of factors, most importantly how challenging your trails are. On hardtails, suspension travel has settled at between 100 and 150 mm, with taste, terrain and current trends all playing a role.
The tires of a hardtail MTB
All mountain bikes are built to progress off-road and on dirt tracks. That's why they have wide tires covered with chunky coats
- You have the option of fitting wide or even wider tyres on many bikes, here you'll find details of the tyre clearance in the MTB's specifications, which will tell you how much tyre width you can allow yourself.
- A bike designed to go the distance rolls more efficiently onnarrower tires, so tires 51mm wide or 2.1 inches and up are common here.
- The more technical the terrain under your tires, the broader the slacks may become. On a mountain bike, up to 2.6 inches or 61mm is possible.
- For the tires, the following rule of thumb applies: the narrower the tires, the faster and more efficient you ride. Wider tires cushion better, they also have better grip on the ground. Do not forget: thick wheels are also heavier!
What tire size is best for an MTB hardtail?
You can buy hardtail MTBs with different wheel sizes. If you don't want to commit, some models also give you the option of riding with different wheel sizes.
- 27.5 inches: For years, maneuverable 26-inchers were the standard for mountain bikes, currently this tire size is rather "out". 27.5 inch tires bring enough agility for technical rides, they are lighter and on brisk rides you benefit from the good acceleration.
- 29 inches: The bottom line is that a hardtail is the bike for the long haul. For tricks, acrobatics and other stunts are rather fullys responsible. That's why you tend to find 29" tires on hardtails. Smooth running and improved rollover behaviour are the decisive arguments here. But they are more sluggish and less maneuverable.
Carbon or aluminum?
Carbon frame or an aluminum bike - that is for many bike buyers primarily a question of price. Carbon is undoubtedly the more noble material, which is reflected in the price. Buying a carbon hardtail is simply more expensive than an aluminium MTB. On the other hand, carbon frames are significantly lighter than aluminium versions. Until a few years ago, carbon frames were considered rather fragile and were therefore frowned upon in bicycle sectors where the material is taken hard. Thanks to improved manufacturing techniques, carbon frames are now also widely used in mountain biking and they can now withstand quite a bit.
The dynamic geometry of a hardtail
Compact, forward-focused, edge-deep or more casual, the geometry of a mountain bike doesn't just affect your riding position, and therefore your comfort on the bike. It also has a say in how the bike rides. You've seen above how many different hardtails you can buy here in the BMO online shop. Each manufacturer builds their bikes a little differently, each model setting its own focus. Lots of reach, a big wheelbase and 29ers make a hardtail a long distance runner - length runs! Short wheelbase and 27.5s are more for cruising. Then there are downhill-oriented geometries, an XC geo or well-groomed all-rounders. Just have a look at the specifications of our hardtails, there you will find more information about the individual models.
By the way, there are fewer and fewer mountain bikes specifically for men and women, a good fit depends more on the frame size than the gender of the rider. There is a bike for every woman and man with feel-good geometry, most bikes today are unisex models.
> You can stop by our mountain bikes from Liv, though. Liv builds exclusively for women.
Durable components on a hardtail
- Shifters on the hardtail: 1-speed shifters are trending, you've probably picked up on that. The gears then have 11 or 12 gears instead of 30 gears and a large spread, which supports you perfectly in the terrain, but does not bring too much weight. That the circuits thus need fewer parts that need to be maintained and that you would have to pay of course, you will certainly not mind.
- Hardtail brakes:Disc brakes have become standard, you'll get a set of bite-sized discs on every hardtail. Cheaper models brake mechanically, but hydraulic disc brakes are usually installed.
- What you'll look for in vain on a hardtail is a solid everyday kit. Lights, luggage racks or side stands - no way! Not only does this make the bike lighter, it also makes it cheaper. If you miss the attachments, you'll have to reach for the screwdriver and retrofit them quite easily.
There are more and more e-bikes, that's no secret. Especially since there are specialized drivetrains that make an MTB really shred, the number of E-MTBs is growing by leaps and bounds. If you want to treat yourself to some assistance every now and then, an e-hardtail is a fine thing. Especially if you want to get uphill without a long lift line, an e-bike is a good alternative. Of particular interest are light e-bikes, which were first spotted in 2021. The idea behind them is excellent! The e-bike brings only a small, light, inexpensive drive that pushes briefly in dicey situations, otherwise you ride "bio."
Generally, a hardtail is a sporty all-rounder with good propulsion that is popular off-road, on bike tours and also in everyday life.
Is a hardtail mountain bike the right bike for you?
If you're going to take on terrain that doesn't turn out too nasty, and then eventually get there in the process, you should buy a hardtail. Hardtails usually balance dynamic propulsion with the ability to leave the paved road to the left. As the price goes up, the components get better and more durable, so the radius expands. But regardless of price range, you can expect a sturdy and durable bike. The fact that it needs little maintenance is another plus.
A lightweight bike is especially handy if you need to carry it to a bike basement, lift it onto the train, or onto a bike rack on your car. If you appreciate a bike that endears itself with easy handling, a lightweight hardtail is right up your alley, especially if you treat yourself to a carbon ride.
The affordable purchase price makes hardtails an interesting option for those who are new to the world of MTBs and want to get started with an inexpensive bike.
You want to enjoy your weekend on the trail, but your bike needs to be good for commuting to work during the week? Then you'll really appreciate the off-road capability and efficiency of a hardtail! By the way, you can retrofit a hardtail with plug-in mudguards and a clamp-on luggage rack, which increases its everyday suitability by quite a bit.
From time to time, you plan a biking trip with the whole family? Even then, a hardtail is a really good idea, because if a lot of your pedaling power just disappears into the shock on a bike ride, the fun is also rather muted. Especially if a child seat, luggage or even a child trailer are up for discussion, a hardtail is clearly cooler than a trekking bike, but also clearly more practical than a fully.
By the way, hardtails are also great for training laps and endurance fitness!
The features of a hardtail at a glance:
- suitable for longer distances and bike tours
- good propulsion
- off-road and asphalt capable
- practical and suitable for everyday use
- good exercise equipment and fitness bikes
- suitable for beginners
How does a hardtail ride?
A hardtail mountain bike rolls over hill and dale, and does so with endurance. It brings a more or less stretched riding position, depending on its geometry. The suspension fork provides comfort, while the frame needs to be stiff, because you want to move forward. The wide-ranging gears deliver good climbing characteristics and open up versatile terrain for you. Where a fully gets spongy and nervous thanks to frame shocks and a lot of suspension travel, a hardtail is stable on the road, delivering a direct ride feel with excellent power transfer.
The specific geometry and tires determine whether your hardtail runs more straight or rides agile to playful.
The weight of a hardtail has an influence on the riding characteristics, but also on the overall handling of the bike and last but not least on pushing passages or routes where you have to shoulder your bike. A lightweight hardtail weighs about 8 to 10 kg, and some models are a few kilos heavier.
The frame material not only affects the purchase price and weight of the bike, it also has an impact on ride comfort, because depending on the aluminum alloy and carbon mix, the frame will get more flex or turn out more rigid.
Of course, a hardtail is mandatory if you want to participate in competitions and races in the corresponding disciplines.
For comparison,if you want to be more comfortable, a trekking bike would be a good idea. If you want to go fast, you can go for a race bike or a gravel bike. The suspension on a fully makes difficult terrain rideable.
A summary of the riding characteristics of a hardtail:
- dynamic and sporty to aggressive
- brings great smoothness or agile ride
- Sporty to casual driving posture
- strives forward
- shifting with a wide range
- little weight for easy handling
What are the advantages of a hardtail?
Fast, but also capable of off-road riding. Lightweight, but also sprung. Sporty, but suitable for everyday use. A hardtail MTB is comfortable to ride on gravel roads, in the woods, or on dirt trails. It's fun on firm surfaces with zippy speeds, but also plows uncompromisingly through scree fields.
Want to do your bike touring without a map, and just ride where you feel most comfortable? The end of the bike path is far from the end of your tour? Then a hardtail is the perfect bike for you; since it can move forward on almost any surface, offroad doesn't mean "Turn around!", but "Now the fun really begins!"
As a true mountain bike, it is an excellent climber, so it can be ridden in the mountains. But if you don't want to let your bike gather dust in the corner before and after your holiday in the Alps, you can just as well use a hardtail as a means of transport in the city or in the village.
With a few add-ons, you can tune it for bikepacking or turn it into a real commuter, many hardtails offer enough riding comfort for that.
So above all, a hardtail is versatile!
A huge advantage that hardtails offer compared to other bikes is the cheap price. Even top manufacturers have a few basic hardtails in their range for a few hundred euros. Hardtails are also light and don't need much service. An unsprung frame and 1-speed gearing entail little maintenance, which makes them popular with anyone who wants to get on a bike on the spur of the moment without worrying much.
The advantages of a hardtail at a glance:
- versatile usable
- rideable off-road, but also suitable for road use
- best suited for city and country
- can handle sports and everyday life
- Rides well on flat land, in hilly areas and in mountainous landscapes
- low maintenance
How much does a mountain bike hardtail cost?
Hardtails come cheap, you've already read that above. But from what purchase price makes a hardtail also really fun?
- The entry level of hardtail mountain bikes actually starts at a few hundred euros. If you rarely use your bike and it may then rattle a bit, there is nothing wrong with buying such a hardtail. Also as a second bike a cheap hardtail is a good idea. For off-road rides, these bikes are only conditionally intended, the components do not put away very much. Bikes from 800 euros to 1000 euros are somewhat more durable. With such a hardtail you can also plan day trips or leave leveled paths.
- The mid-range hardtails range from 1200 euros to 1500 euros. Here the gears get better, which is especially noticeable on off-road tours. You also have better brakes on board. If you want to master climbs and descents, you should not get a cheaper bike, because lack of braking power is not only problematic here, worst case it becomes dangerous!
- Top hardtails are available from around 2000 euros. The components are getting better and more durable, they can withstand greater loads and are therefore also very good for off-road riding. The better materials make it possible - the bikes are not only more robust, usually they are also lighter.
The costs at a glance:
- From 800 euros to 1000 euros you can get a cheap hardtail
- The mid-range hardtail ranges from 1200 euros to 1500 euros
- Top hardtails are available from around 2000 euros
What should you look for when buying a hardtail?
If you have decided to buy a hardtail, the next thing you need to think about is which hardtail should move in with you. Here are a few questions to help you choose:
- How long do you want to ride?
The longer your tours turn out, the more it pays to buy a good hardtail. The components will be more durable, the punctures less frequent and the riding comfort greater. If you rarely sit in the saddle and then just ride to the next beer garden, an entry-level hardtail is sufficient. From one or two hours riding time the middle class is perfect, for longer tours you should treat yourself to a good bike. Especially on long distances through the pampas you don't want to get stuck with a damaged bike, do you?
- Long wheelbase, big wheels?
And you've already read it above: For long distances, a mountain bike with a large wheelbase is ideally suited, in challenging terrain, a bike with a small wheelbase rides more agile. Large wheels make the bike run smoothly and provide propulsion, smaller tires make it more agile and accelerate at points.
A mountain bike really turns on "bad" surfaces, that's what it's there for. A good quality frame and components will pay off especially here, the bike will ride more comfortably, cause less trouble and it will last longer too, no matter how you tackle it.
- Why is an expensive hardtail worth it? Or a cheap Fully?
A hardtail is cheaper than a fully, it just saves some components, the frame construction is much simpler and therefore cheaper. But if your budget allows for an expensive bike, you don't necessarily have to go for a Fully! There are advantages to investing all the money in a better hardtail. You get a good fully or an excellent hardtail for the same price. Durable components, the best build quality, snappy brakes, a top of the line shifting group, sounds tempting, right? As the price goes up, the durability improves and the ride comfort increases as well.
- How to find a hardtail in the right size
There are mountain bikes in many different fits and in a wide variety of frame sizes. To help you choose the right size when you order, we have a frame size calculator on our blog to help you determine the best bike size for you.
Buy a mountain bike from the best manufacturer!
We have mountain bikes from Bombtrack, Cannondale, Giant, Trek or Ghost. There are also ladies bikes from Liv. Here you can be sure that the riding fun does not come too briefly, the quality convinces you and the price performance ratio is correct.
Don't know which bike you want to buy? Here at BMO, you can easily compare. We explain what mountain bikes, gravel bikes, urban bikes and city bikes, touring bikes, dirt bikes, race bikes, and E-bikes can do. Plus, we'll help you buy a cool kids bike for your little one. Just read our buying guides and you'll know which bike you'll be happy with!