Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes for 2021: Do Read Before Buying

Looking for a hardtail MTB? You are in the right place.

The best part about our job here is testing the bikes and we did just that so you get value for your money when buying a hardtail mountain bike.

These bikes were tested on various aspects like frame quality, seating, tires, after-sales, etc. to ensure all-round comfort for you.

Let’s dig right into our top picks.

8 Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes

1. Commencal Meta HT AM Origin

Commencal Meta HT AM Origin
Image: Reddit

Specs:

  • Fork: 160 mm Travel
  • Wheel Size: 27.5”
  • Frame Size: S, M, L, XL
  • Frame Material: Butted Aluminum
  • MTB Type: Hardtail Trail Bike

Commencal Meta HT AM Origin is a terrific hardtail bike for beginners. Talk of a hardcore hardtail mountain bike, and Commencal Meta HT AM will be the bike that will top your list if you’ve already experienced it.

The hardtail is one of the most affordable bikes you can come across. The latest version of the bike can be fitted with a dropper seat post.

With 160 mm of front travel, the Commencal Meta HT AM Origin can tackle most of the trails and cross-country tracks in your area. It’s also an excellent bike for enduro-style riding.

The HT is the most versatile hardtail in the Commencal lineup. Whether you take it to the pump track, enduro, off-road, or an urban playground, the bike will still shine.

The bike features a 1×10 Shimano Deore drivetrain and Tektro brakes. For the forks, it’s equipped with a RockShox 35 Silver R, though with a coil spring instead of air-sprung.

The Commencal Meta HT AM Origin is the bike for you if you are looking for a budget hardtail with unique features.

It’s a great climber and a fast runner on smooth trails. It’s also one of the bikes your kids can ride and improve their trail riding skills.

The bike is unisex, meaning it’s comfortable for both men and women. The only downside is that this light aluminum bike does not come with a dropper post. You’ll have to buy one separately.

2. Cannondale F-Si World Cup

Cannondale F-Si World Cup

Specs:

  • Fork: 100 mm Travel
  • Wheel Size: 29”
  • Frame Size: S, M, L, XL
  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • MTB Type: Hardtail XC Bike

The Cannondale F-Si World Cup is one of the most expensive bikes on this list. Once you see the words “World Cup” after the name of a cross country bike, get prepared to shake your bank account.

Cannondale has been building bikes for beginners looking for budget bikes, as well as for elite athletes.

If you consider yourself an elite athlete, then Cannondale F-Si World Cup is the right bike for you.

This bike is packed with nothing but the best components in the market. It’s a lightweight carbon bike with high strength and performance.

The head-turner is the new generation Ocho Carbon single crown fork with 100 mm of travel. The lefty fork has been Cannondale’s pride since its introduction.

It’s also tunable to the rider’s liking. The frameset of the F-Si is unmatchable in terms of design and weight.

You can expect this bike to have the most expensive drivetrain in the game – SRAM XX! Eagle AXS electronic.

There is no derailleur cable involved here like in the traditional bikes. You also get Level Ultimate hydro disc brakes to stop the bike whenever you want to.

The Cannondale F-Si World Cup is the bike for you if you race cross country. It’s one of the best XC you can buy, that’s if you can afford it. If not, maybe your club can buy it for you.

It’s fast on descents and a fast climber. It’s the bike that has what it takes to sweep the gold medals.

You’ll have no reason whatsoever to lose in your next race, as this might be the lightest bike in the race. Ensure you practice enough to improve your fitness.

3. Cannondale Trail SE

Cannondale Trail SE
Image: Reddit

Specs:

  • Fork: 120 mm Travel
  • Wheel Size: 29”
  • Frame Size: S, M, L, XL
  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • MTB Type: Hardtail Trail Bike

Cannondale Trail SE was one of the bikes I enjoyed riding when I was starting, and I can confidently admit that Trail SE is a great beginner bike.

Besides, the price for this bike is rock bottom. That’s the best price for a bike with a 12-speed SRAM Eagle SX drivetrain and 29×2.3” wide tires.

Let’s say it would be a real deal if you went for this bike. The 2021 model comes with updated geometry and is more ready for modern trail-focused hardtails.  It’s lower, longer, and lighter to improve your ride quality.

On the front, you get a 120mm squish. RockShox 35 Gold RL is the primary fork here. It’s air-sprung but doesn’t come with a remote lockout, and you’ll need to bent to turn the lockout on and off at the fork crown.

An addition to the bike is a free dropper post. Not many hardtails come with it for free, so consider it a favor.

Trail SE features an SRAM SX Eagle crank, cassette cogs, shifters, SRAM NX Eagle chain, and rear derailleur, which make up the 1×12 drivetrain.

The Cannondale Trail SE is your type of bike if you want a bike to take you around town and on the trails whenever you feel like doing it.

The versatility of the Trail SE is fascinating, as you can even ride in an XC race. Cannondale put a lot of attention into this budget bike to make it worth it.

You’ll never regret buying this bike. It’s a great climber as it’s fast on the road and flatter trails.

4. Marin El Roy

Marin El Roy

Specs:

  • Fork: 140 mm Travel
  • Wheel Size: 29”
  • Frame Size: S M, L, XL
  • Frame Material: Cromoly Steel
  • MTB Type: Hardtail Trail Bike

The Marin El Roy is among the newest additions to Marin’s lineup. The hardtail bike is designed to hit trails and race downhill, enduro, and shine in the bike park.

Don’t be cheated that a hardtail can’t do what full suspension bikes do, but it will be slower. The El Roy is named after a spot in Marin County, but that’s not what will interest you with this bike.

The bike is quite ridable and enjoyable to cruise on from the top of the hill. The bike is built with properly treated butted cromoly to prevent it from corrosion.

For the geometry, the Marin El Roy features long, low, and slack geometry to make your ride most comfortable.

They also come in different lengths, namely, Regular and Grande. Regular gets a 150 mm dropper post, while the Grande gets a 170 mm one.

As for the drivetrain, the bike comes with Shimano Deore 12 speed cassette, rear derailleur, shifter, an FSA crank, and a KMC chain.

The brake-set is all-Shimano based. On the front, you get a Marzocchi Z1 air-sprung fork with 140 mm travel with a lockout on the crown.

This is the best trail bike for you if you are looking for a unique bike. It’s the bike to ride whenever you feel the Mexican vibes and desiring some tacos.

Why buy three bikes when you can have one for three activities?

The El Roy is the most versatile bike on the list. One disadvantage, though, is it’s slightly heavy even though it’s something you can ignore. It also has some little drag.

5. Marin San Quentin

Marin San Quentin

Specs:

  • Fork: 130 mm Travel
  • Wheel Size: 27.5”
  • Frame Size: S, M, L, XL
  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • MTB Type: Hardtail Trail/XC Bike

Yet another Marin going by the name of San Quentin. This hardtail is a fantastic bike that you won’t help but fall for immediately you set your eyes on it.

There are three Marin San Quentin options to choose from. The lowest budget option is the San Quentin 1. Sant Quentin 3 sits on top of the pyramid as the most expensive option available. San Quentin looks like a dirt jump bike.

As much as it can jump, it’s a trail bike. Marin combined the elements of modern geometry from various bikes and put some 27.5” wheels on the bike to make it unique, and it’s indeed a crossbreed of several disciplines.

The San Quentin 1 comes with a 1×9 MicroShift drivetrain, San Quentin 2 comes with Shimano Deore 1×11 wide-range drivetrain, and San Quentin 3 comes with Shimano Deore 1×12 drivetrain.

For the forks, the first San Quentin comes with Suntour XCM forks, while the second and third bikes get Rockshox Recon and Revelation RC, respectively.

The forks park 130 mm of travel. With all that squish, you can shine in the pump track and chase glory on the singletrack.

This is the type of ride to buy if you want to save money. Wondering how? Well, this is not an expensive bike, and it can be used for dirt jumping, trail, and XC riding. You can also ride it to town.

How many bikes would you have bought for all that? Besides, it’s a great climber and fast on smooth and flat terrain.

Also, you have three options available. Your money will determine which San Quentin will come out of the box.

Also Read: Best MTBs For Your Money in 2021

6. Santa Cruz Highball

Santa Cruz HighBall

Specs:

  • Fork: 100 mm Travel
  • Wheel Size: 29”
  • Frame Size: S, M, L, XL
  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • MTB Type: Hardtail XC Bike

What a hardtail list without a Santa Cruz? One of my most exciting riding experiences is with Santa Cruz Highball.

It’s an expensive bike, I have to admit, but it’s worth it. The dark horse of XC, as Santa Cruz refers to the Highball, is more capable and composed than most XC bikes. What’s more, the Highball can run a single-speed or geared system.

However, the bike is suitable for XC riding, and it’s not gifted with trail racing. The lightweight carbon bike has all the attributes of an XC racing machine and only requires a strong rider to push it to the limit.

Santa Cruz is popular for its VVP suspension technology, which is only used in their full-suspension bikes.

Nobody thought they would pull it with a hardtail bike. Highball clearly showed that the company’s innovative minds had no boundaries.

There’re four varieties of Highball, the most affordable one coming with a FOX Rhythm fork and 1×12 SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain.

The highest-priced option is the Highball XX1 with 1×12 SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS and Fox Factory forks.

The Santa Cruz Highball is for the fun riders and racers. If you want a unique bike, then Santa Cruz’s leading hardtail is the way to go.

You can show up at the bike park and hit the trails next weekend or whenever you feel like it with the Santa Cruz Highball.

It’s not only fast, but it’s also comfortable, thanks to its improved geometry. The bike climbs well too. Consider getting the Highball if you want a lightweight hardtail.

7. Yeti Arc

Yeti Arc

Specs:

  • Fork: 130 mm Travel
  • Wheel Size: 29”
  • Frame Size: S, M, L, XL
  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • MTB Type: Hardtail XC Bike

Yeti is a legendary MTB manufacturer. Much credit goes to them, and their Yeti Arc is one of the trustworthy hardtails in the world right now.

The model is excelling as a high-quality mid-range hardtail MTB today. The ARC was first produced in the 90s, and it has been evolving over the years.

Even though the bike wasn’t built to race at the world cup, any rider who feels like pushing it to its limits can do that. It’s just the kind of bike that will roll as fast as you want it to.

Yeti Arc comes with a 1×12 SRAM GX Eagle found in most high-end bikes. This system provides smooth shifting as you push your bike uphill.

When it comes to the forks, you don’t get anything lower than a FOX Performance 34 fork to cushion all vibrations that would otherwise end in your hands.

In addition, the bike comes with a free Fox Transfer dropper post so that you don’t have to come off your bike to lower or heighten your bike.

Yeti Arc is suitable for you if you love fun riding and can race against your friends if they dare you. It’s also an excellent bike for bike packing.

Arc is not just an XC bike but also an adventure bike that can withstand the most challenging trails to get you to your destination. It’s an epic bike that you’ll enjoy owning.

8. Trek Procaliber 9.7

Trek Procaliber 9.7

Specs:

  • Fork: 100 mm Travel
  • Wheel Size: 29”
  • Frame Size: S, M, L, XL
  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • MTB Type: Hardtail XC Bike

The Trek Procaliber 9.7 is for those riders who ride cross-country and do it fast. The bike is unique in the way it’s built.

Even though it’s a hardtail, the bike has minimal vibrations, unlike other hardtails during an off-road ride.

The IsoSpeed decoupler at the bike’s junction of the top tube and the seat tube is the trick to providing a smooth ride.

The bike also features an OCLV carbon frame which is still to withstand the worst punishment. Procaliber is a race-ready rig that will ask for more power.

It’s also a bike that can hit the trails with the same speed it clocks on a cross country race.

Packed with 100 mm of travel in the front, Procaliber 9.7 comes with a RockShox Reba RL fork, making your rides smoother.

The bike only weighs 23.05 lbs. This lightness in weight is contributed by the carbon rims and carbon seat post.

The slacker, longer, and steeper geometry of this Trek model are suitable for technical riding and racing.

It’s capable of running over obstacles and take sharp corners. For the drivetrain, the bike gets a 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle option.

The Trek Procaliber 9.7 is the most suited XC bike for you if you’re searching for a lightweight carbon hardtail bike with unlimited capabilities.

It’s the bike that can perform many tasks, including bike-packing and ride at the bike park. You will never regret getting this bike as it’s excellent on climbs and descends too.

Conclusion

I started with a budget hardtail, and I look back and remember those unforgettable moments. I still ride a hardtail more than I ride a full suspension bike.

If your favorite bike is not listed here, talk to us, and we’ll try to review it in the next article.

From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 10+ trails across the globe, for Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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