- So, what should you think about when choosing a mountain bike?
- Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes On The Market Reviews
- Overall Best Bike: Raleigh Tokul 2
- Runner Up: Diamondback Overdrive 1
So, what should you think about when choosing a mountain bike?
There are many components to consider: frame size, wheel size, price, amount of suspension, gears, brakes, warranty, specific audience, etc.
This article will outline how to choose the best hardtail mountain bike, one that will suit your needs and will help you succeed in the sport.
It is important to follow a size guide from the manufacturer when you are choosing the right bike.
Mountain bikes are typically sized from S-XL, some brands have XS bikes as well.
Each size is correlated with a number, for example, a Medium bike is usually 18”. This number is the measurement from the center of the crank axel up to the top of the seat tube — or the vertical part of the frame, just below the seat and not including the seat post.
This chart outlines the typical rider height for different frame sizes.
|Rider Height||Frame Size (in)||Frame Size|
|5’2 – 5’6||15”-16”||Small|
|5’6 – 5’10||17”-18”||Medium|
|5’10 – 6’1||19”-20”||Large|
|6’1 – 6’2||23”-24”||X-Large|
There are two prevailing wheel sizes for modern hardtail mountain bikes: 29” and 27.5”. This number measures the diameter of the wheel. While most bikes use either 29” or 27.5” wheels, some bikes still use 26” wheels. 26” wheels can occasionally be found on women’s specific bikes, kid’s bikes, or older mountain bikes.
29” wheels provide riders a greater capacity to roll over rocks or roots. The larger wheel size can feel more stable and is often considered faster than a 27.5” wheel.
27.5” wheels provide a snappy ride and allows the bike to turn more quickly. Additionally, riders who are shorter may prefer 27.5” wheels to make the bike feel smaller and more manageable.
26” wheels are most suitable for children or other small-frame people. They do not roll as easily over rocks, but they can make the bike a better fit for small riders.
Typically, riders looking for speed will choose 29” wheels, while riders looking for playfulness while riding will choose 27.5” wheels.
Mountain bikes can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars, to more than $10,000.
Typically, bikes are more expensive when they are lighter. Lighter bikes are easier to ride quickly because the rider is carrying less weight with them as they pedal.
One primary component of a bike’s price is the material of the frame. Aluminum is the most common material for entry-level mountain bikes. High-end mountain bikes are usually carbon, a lightweight, woven plastic. Some high-level bikes are titanium or steel. Typically, carbon is the lightest material, followed by titanium, then aluminum, and finally steel is generally the heaviest material.
The benefits of an aluminum bike are the intersection of durability and price. Aluminum bikes can withstand crashes as well as years of wear and tear. Carbon bikes may break during crashes which is not only an expensive but a potentially dangerous flaw of the material. Aluminum is also the cheapest material to use for a bike build. Bikes often see a large price jump once the frame is made of carbon or titanium.
As bikes become more expensive, they toe the line between providing the most highly functioning components and remaining lightweight. The bikes reviewed here are all made of aluminum or steel and have a variety of components, all contributing to the ride quality.
Hardtail bikes vary substantially in performance, but looking for quality components and a reasonable weight is the goal when shopping for the best hardtail mountain bike.
Some hardtail mountain bikes are built for aggressive handling and riding quickly. Others are built for a more comfortable ride, allowing the rider to sit more upright.
Depending on your goals, it is important to consider which style of mountain bike you are looking to ride.
Other notable features that can affect ride comfort are the seat, grips, and tires.
Finding a seat that is comfortable for you can make riding significantly more enjoyable.
Typically, women find seat widths from 140-170mm most comfortable. Men’s seats are usually narrower than this range.
It is important to note that most bikes come with seats designed for men. These seats can be uncomfortable for women. If you have a seat that is uncomfortable, it is worthwhile to consider purchasing a different seat. This can drastically change the comfort of a bike.
Women’s specific bikes will often come with a wider seat that may be more comfortable.
Grips should be the right thickness for your hands and feel comfortable on rocky terrain. Some grips feel great in dry conditions, but if they are wet, will quickly become slippery without gloves.
Many riders like Silicone grips such as ESI grips. These grips are thick and squishy, providing increased comfort and reducing hand fatigue while riding.
Much like seats, it is important to find a grip that feels good on your hands.
Read more: (TOP 13) Best Mountain Bike Grips
Larger volume tires will also improve the comfort of a ride. By choosing the proper tire pressure as well as considering the tire volume, the ride quality can change dramatically.
Large volume tires provide a smoother ride, while smaller tires will feel more jarring, but may roll faster. Again, it is important to think about your riding goals when choosing between tire size. Typically, mountain bikers prefer tires between 2.2” and 2.6” in diameter.
Within the range of typical mountain bike tires, tires can have a range of knobs that change how the bike handles in varying terrain. Tires with more knobs, particularly knobs on the sides, are preferable in the mud while tires with smoother overall tread are more ideal for dry conditions.
Riders who will be in rough and rocky terrain may find a larger volume tire with bigger knobs more comfortable.
Tire pressure is also important for ride quality. Riders under 150 lbs typically choose a tire pressure between 22 and 30 psi. Riders up to 220 lbs should ride a pressure between 30 and 45 psi.
By choosing the proper tire and tire pressure, you can significantly improve the ride quality and comfort of your bike.
Hardtail mountain bikes generally have a front suspension fork, and as the name suggests, there is no rear suspension. Most hardtail mountain bikes on the market have a fork with between 80mm and 140mm of suspension.
A fork with more suspension will be slightly heavier but will feel smoother while riding on rough surfaces. Larger forks are geared towards downhill riding and will excel on descents while feeling less comfortable on climbs.
Some forks have the ability to lockout, meaning they have a knob which will prevent the fork from compressing. This is a useful tool if you will be riding your hardtail mountain bike on roads or smooth surfaces where you do not want suspension.
The majority of mountain bikes today have disc brakes, meaning the brake caliper is near the center of the wheel and squeezes a metal disc. Some mountain bikes and most road bikes have rim brakes, where the brake squeezes the rim of the wheel as opposed to a separate disc.
Disc brakes are a safer option than rim brakes, providing more braking potential and increased control.
Within disc brakes, there are mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes. Mechanical disc brakes have a cable from the lever to the caliper, whereas hydraulic brakes lines are filled with pressurized fluid as opposed to a cable.
Hydraulic disc brakes provide the most braking control and will be the safest option for aggressive mountain biking. Mechanical disc brakes are a reasonable option for riders who want to ride trails, but will not be riding in excessively steep or dangerous terrain.
Hardtail mountain bikes can have a variety of gear ratios. Some bikes have only one gear option in the front gears (attached to the pedals and cranks). Other bikes have multiple front chainrings for a wide variety of gear options.
The important number to consider is the gear ratio from the lowest gear to the highest gear. This number will tell you how easily you’ll be able to pedal uphill and how hard you’ll be able to pedal downhill without spinning out.
On steep climbs, having a low gear ratio is important. High-end mountain bikes may have a gear ratio as low as .64, meaning the front chainring can have 32 teeth, and the easiest gear in the back can have 50 teeth. The gear ratio of .64 is the front chainring size divided by the rear chainring size.
In order to pedal through descents, having a high gear ratio is beneficial. This ratio, while important, is less critical to ride quality because there is less variability in high gear size. High-end mountain bikes have a high gear ratio of 2.9.
Manufacturers offer various different warranty options. Some bikes come with crash replacement, while others only offer warranty for manufacturer defects.
Often, damages to the bike become a cost incurred by the rider.
Looking into the warranty of your bike before you purchase it can save you money and hardship pending any accidents.
Some hardtail mountain bikes are targeted for women.
These bikes will often feature a shorter top tube to account for smaller body frames.
Women’s specific bikes typically have seats that are catered to wider hips and offer added comfort for women while riding. Some bikes also have narrower handlebars to match women’s narrower shoulders.
While it is not necessary for women to ride women’s specific bikes, some women find the nuanced differences advantageous.
Another specific audience is riders who will be primarily riding in snow or sand. These riders may want to consider a fat bike. These bikes have significantly larger tires and will float on top of snow or sand much more effectively than standard hardtail mountain bikes.
Fat bikes are not able to carry the same speed on packed trails or roads but do allow riders to enjoy riding on surfaces that are typically inaccessible.
Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes On The Market Reviews
Each of these bikes is available on Amazon and has a sufficient number of reviews.
1. Diamondback Mountain Bike Overdrive 1 Hardtail Aluminum
This low-price bike offers an aluminum frame that provides a lightweight and stiff ride quality. Riders can choose either a 27.5” wheel size or a 29” wheel size.
The SR Suntour XCT fork has 80mm of suspension. This is enough to ride on bumpy surfaces but should not be used on advanced terrain.
The Overdrive 1 offers three gears in the front and eight gears in the back which provides 24 different speeds.
The geometry of the Overdrive 1 is a reasonable middle point between a comfortable upright fit and an aggressive race fit. This bike should feel comfortable on roads, around town, as well as on trails.
2. Diamondback Mountain Bike Overdrive 29 2 X Hardtail
This bike is built with lightweight aluminum and offers stiff handling and precision.
The Overdrive 29 2 X offers a wide range of gears in the back and no front derailleur. The simplicity of this system still offers a wide range of gears for riding any terrain.
The higher price tag of this bike comes with simplified shifting, stronger braking, a higher quality fork, and a decrease in weight.
This bike is perfect for a beginner to intermediate rider who will spend the majority of their time on the trails.
3. Schwin Bonafide Mountain Bike
The Bonafide bike is an inexpensive, entry-level mountain bike. There is plenty of fun to be had on this aluminum frame.
The 29” wheels are paired with three gears in the front and eight gears in the back, allowing you to ride over various terrains.
I recommend the Bonafide mountain bike as a budget option that will get you where you need to go. This bike will feel good on moderate to smooth terrain for people new to mountain biking.
4. Raleigh Tokul 2
The Raleigh Tokul 2 is a great aluminum mountain bike that offers a simple combination of components to minimize weight and maximize fun.
This bike has only one gear option in the front, and nine gears in the back. This limited range is great for riders who will spend most of their time on flatter terrain.
The geometry of the Tokul 2 capitalizes on the lower top tube to shift your weight down for increased stability.
The tan sidewalls on the tires and simplified frame of the Rokul offer a modern aesthetic making this bike a great looking middle of the road option.
The Rokul 2 offers a slightly more upright position than some other mountain bikes, providing added comfort and a more playful feel than more aggressive mountain bikes.
5. Diamondback Hook 27.5
The Diamondback Hook 27.5 hardtail is designed for more aggressive downhill riding. This aluminum bike offers a slack headtube angle, moving closer to the geometry of a downhill bike.
This bike will feel more comfortable on descents, and slightly less ideal on the climbs.
The 27.5” wheels and higher volume tires will offer a sense of quickness and maneuverability.
This bike only has nine gear in the back and one in the front. The small range of gears means this bike will be harder to pedal uphill but will feel great on flat and downhill terrain.
6. Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Steel 26” Rigid
The Mongoose Dolomite stands out for many reasons amongst the hardtail mountain bikes on this list.
The Dolomite is considered a fat bike, referring to its massive tires. While most of the other bikes have tire widths of 2.25”, the Dolomite’s tires are 4” in diameter.
This bike is ideal for riding in snow or sand but can still be ridden on trails or the road.
The Dolomite is heavy, the steel frame and large tires will not offer snappiness, but the Dolomite will excel in the sand or the snow, where most other hardtails will suffer.
Due to the massive tires, the diameter of the wheels on the Dolomite are 26”. The added tire volume will account for the small tire size, making the bike still feel like a manageable ride in rocks and roots.
7. Schwinn High Timber
The Schwinn High Timber is a budget-friendly steel frame mountain bike. This bike offers 29” wheels which will roll quickly.
The High Timber has rim brakes, these will work well for moderate riding but should not be used for more intense mountain biking or steep descents.
This bike does offer a comfortable position and is great for people who want a way to get around on various surfaces.
8. Raleigh Eva 2 Women’s
Raleigh’s women’s specific mountain bike is a relatively lightweight, aluminum bike that will feel great on the roads as well as on the trails.
This bike has narrower handlebars and a wider seat to accommodate female riders.
The rim brakes will suffice on mellow terrain, but will likely not hold up in more intense circumstances.
This bike has 27.5” wheels which may feel more stable for smaller riders.
|Diamondback Mountain Bike Overdrive 1 Hardtail Aluminum||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Diamondback Mountain Bike Overdrive 29 2 X Hardtail||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Schwin Bonafide Mountain Bike||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Raleigh Tokul 2||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Diamondback Hook 27.5 – $700||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Steel 26” Rigid||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Schwinn High Timber||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Raleigh Eva 2 Women’sr||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
Overall Best Bike: Raleigh Tokul 2
After reviewing each of these bikes, I believe the Raleigh Tokul 2 is the best hardtail mountain bike available on Amazon. At a reasonable middle price point, the Tokul 2 boasts impressive components at a reasonable price.
The slightly more slack headtube angle, leaning towards the geometry of a downhill bike, means this bike will excel on the descents while still feeling reasonable on the climbs.
The 1×9 drivetrain will simplify shifting and minimize the potential for mishaps on the trail. It is important to note that if you plan on riding incredibly steep trails or long sustained climbs, the 1×9 drivetrain may not suffice.
The aesthetics of the Tokul 2 far surpass the other bikes on the list. This bike looks sleek and mirrors many of the trends of more expensive mountain bikes. The tan sidewalls of the tires and simple frame will help you feel good about the bike you’re on and build confidence while riding.
If you are looking for a beautiful do-it-all bike with an emphasis on riding downhill, the Raleigh Tokul 2 is an incredible option.
Runner Up: Diamondback Overdrive 1
The Diamondback Overdrive 1 is a great entry-level mountain bike and town bike.
The 27.5” wheels will feel quick and playful, offering space for improvement while having fun. The slightly smaller wheels may also suit smaller riders or female riders.
The 29” wheel option will allow riders to move quickly through rough terrain and will allow riders to learn quickly.
This bike does not have hydraulic brakes, limiting its braking power and thus the capacities of the bike. Additionally, the 3×8 drivetrain will offer lots of gear options but is also slightly more challenging to navigate than a drivetrain with only one chainring in front.
Aesthetically, the Overdrive 1 looks sleek and confidence-inspiring. This bike is a great option for riders who want to spend time on the trails as well as on a bike that is plenty reasonable to ride around town.
Emily Schaldach is a professional cyclist from Colorado. She grew up racing mountain bikes and competed at the University of Colorado, Boulder where she expanded disciplines to race downhill, road, and cyclocross. Emily is currently on the Firefly Bitchstix Cycling team, also known as Team BitchnGrit, and competes primarily in cyclocross and gravel events.