The GT Zaskar is one of our favourite hardcore hardtail trail bikes
MTB

8 of the best hardtail mountain bikes for hardcore trail riding

© Mark Noble
Looking for a fun and reliable ride for your weekend session? These trail-shredding hardtail mountain bikes are the best you can currently buy.
Written by James McKnightUpdated on
Hardtail mountain bikes are renowned for making great cross-country and dirt jumps bikes, but there’s also a massive range of choice when it comes to trail hardtails. Also known as hardcore hardtails, they are defined by their front-suspension fork and rigid frame, low-slung geometry, robust build and, most importantly, versatility. These machines love to hammer out singletrack loops or hop on a shuttle for the occasional day of downhilling, and they are perfectly at home hitting massive jumps.
Why would you opt for a hardtail instead of full-suspension build though, especially when there are similarly priced full-suspension bikes out there? There are several reasons: firstly, on some big-brand options, the frame is often cheaper, meaning the components are likely to be higher-grade. Secondly, there are fewer moving parts to go wrong (no need to service suspension bearings). But above all, they are a lot of fun to ride – they accelerate fast, give you a lot of speed when you pump, and help push your comfort zone.
Trail hardtails are popular in the UK as they make great winter bikes that don’t clog up with mud or need lots of attention, so you’ll find plenty of options from small British brands or individual frame builders. But with the style of bike gaining popularity the world over, many bigger companies now offer a trail hardtail in their line-up.
Here are eight of the best trail hardtail mountain bikes you can currently buy.

1. Pace RC627

Pace RC627 frame 2021
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Price: £599 (frame only)
Sizes: M, L, XL
Wheel size: 27.5”
Frame material: Reynolds 853 steel and Pace Chromoly
Highlights: Heritage brand still making stunning bikes 30-plus years later
Find out more information here
Pace Cycles has been a staple of the British mountain bike scene since the 1980s and, although the company has seen surges and lulls in its prominence, it has always stayed at the core of the sport and remains a family run business.
The RC627 features 27.5” wheels and accepts 130-150mm suspension fork, it has ample standover clearance and modern geometry with a slack 64-degree head angle. Plus, it’s finished with utmost care, receiving a special corrosion-protecting coating beneath the base paint coat and an ‘easy-care’ gloss clearcoat to ensure it looks great for many winters to come.

2. GT Zaskar LT Elite

GT Zaskar LT Elite 2021 trail hardtail mountain bike
The Zaskar's 'Triple Triangle' design is still going strong
Price: £1,099
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Wheel size: 29”
Frame material: Aluminium
Highlights: Heritage
Find out more information here
The Zaskar has been at the core of GT’s line-up since the ‘90s and the unmistakable ‘Triple Triangle’ frame design is still going strong.
This LT Elite model has a solid frame with a range of budget components; it’ll serve you well for winter rides or as a robust starter mountain bike. The dropper seatpost and mudguard are seemingly small details but they are areas where other brands might have cut costs at this price point.

3. Commencal Meta HT AM Origin

Commencal Meta HT AM Origin 2021 hardtail trail mountain bike
The Origin model pairs solid components with a robust frame for less
Price: £1,150
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Wheel size: 27.5”
Frame material: 6061 triple butted alloy
Highlights: Bargain price
Find out more information here
Commencal’s Meta HT AM ticks all the boxes of a hardcore hardtail mountain bike while offering a range of price points. The Origin model is the cheapest Meta HT AM but it offers a solid components package and robust frame for the modest price tag.
This latest incarnation of the bike features a lower seat tube height, meaning the seat can be slammed lower for descending and longer-travel dropper seatposts can be installed. A 160mm-travel fork and 27.5” wheels ensure the Meta HT AM Origin is ready to tackle jumps, drops and enduro-style riding.

4. Kingdom Vendetta X2 29

Kingdom Vendetta X2 29 2021
Always dreamed of a Ti bike? The Vendetta X2 could be it
Price: €1,245 (frame only)
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Wheel size: 29”
Frame material: Titanium
Highlights: Lower-price titanium frame from small company
Find out more information here
Kingdom Bike is a small British brand run from Scandinavia that specialises in Titanium frames. Its Vendetta frame, which first appeared in 2010 and has since been tweaked and morphed into its current guise, was one of the early pioneers of the all-mountain/enduro type hardtail with a super-low top tube, long wheelbase and reasonably slack head angle.
The X2 is a cheaper version of the classic Vendetta that cuts costs by removing some of the finer finishing details of the original while retaining the geometry and Ti tubing; this 29er version is ready to tackle everything in its path.

5. BTR Fabrications Ranger

BTR Fabrications Ranger 2021
The independent frame builder allows for any custom tweaks
Price: from £1,350 (frame only)
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Wheel size: 26”, 27.5”, 29”
Frame material: Reynolds 853/653 steel
Highlights: Handmade frames with customisable everything – just ask
Find out more information here
BTR Fabrications is the epitome of hardcore. These beautiful frames are handmade with absolute care in the UK by Paul Burford, an ex-downhill racer-turned-welder extraordinaire. When you contact BTR, you are contacting Paul directly, which means you can request pretty much any custom tweaks you wish.
The Ranger is BTR’s enduro hardtail and, like any BTR, it defines the long, low and slack movement. It’s tough as nails and will serve you for many years, regardless how tough the terrain you ride or conditions you ride in. The price tag reflects the care, quality and craftsmanship that goes into every BTR bike.

6. Stanton Switchback Gen 3 Rolling Chassis Standard

Stanton Switchback Gen 3 Rolling Chassis Standard
The Switchback can be bought as a frame, rolling chassis, or complete build
Price: £1,500 (rolling chassis only)
Sizes: 16.5”, 18”
Wheel size: 27.5”
Frame material: Triple butted 4130 chromoly (Taiwan) or Reynolds 631 (UK)
Highlights: Rolling Chassis option comes with forks, wheels and headset for a value price
Find out more information here
Stanton bikes has been a main player in the UK hardtail market for a long time now, and for good reason. The company’s bikes are affordable, look great and they offer pretty safe but solid geometry.
The Switchback is aimed at technical, enduro-style terrain and its ‘Swapout’ dropouts mean you can specify what rear wheel standard you would like (12 x 142, 12 x 148, single speed, etc.). It’s available in a range of build versions, with the partially built Rolling Chassis Standard including the frame, fork (RockShox Pike Select), wheels and headset. Stanton manufactures in the UK and Taiwan — you can choose where your Switchback is made. The UK-made version features Reynolds 631 tubing and costs a supplementary £350.

7. Nukeproof Scout Pro 290

Nukeproof Scout Pro 290 2021
The Scout Pro offers up an amazing value complete set-up
Price: £2,100
Sizes: M, L, XL
Wheel size: 29”
Frame material: 6061 triple-butted Aluminium
Highlights: RockShox Lyrik Charger 150mm-travel fork; DT Swiss M1900 wheelset
Find out more information here
Nukeproof is known for its great value mountain bikes, with the Scout a cheerleader for the brand’s excellent bang-for-your-buck rides.
Already one of Nukeproof’s most popular models, the new for 2021 Scout Pro hardtail sits at an almost unrivalled price point for a bike with its components. It isn’t handcrafted or overly beautiful, but the Scout Pro 290 has dialled geometry and – for the money – there aren’t many better options.

8. Marin El Roy

Marin El Roy 2021 hardtail trail mountain bike
Mad for Marin? El Roy is a new addition that is comfortable on any terrain
Price: £2,295
Sizes: Regular, Grande
Wheel size: 29"
Frame material: Series 3 double-butted and formed chromoly steel
Highlights: Marzocchi Z1 140mm-travel fork; X-Fusion Manic dropper seatpost
Find out more information here
Californian brand Marin has been around since the beginning of the sport, and it uses its decades of experience in its modern and affordable bikes that comprise its 2021 range.
The El Roy is new for Marin and is a little different to the company’s popular Matt Jones-inspired San Quentin hardtail. El Roy is a sturdy, slack beast that Marin says is at home on downhill and enduro tracks, and happy when it’s ‘slashing berms’ in ‘all conditions’.