Matt Jones tests the Marin San Quentin hardtail
© Marin

10 of the coolest hardtail mountain bikes money can buy

If you're in the market for a new hardtail, or just want to ogle the beauty and simplicity of these semi-rigid bikes, then take a look at our top 10 picks.
By Saskia Dugon/Ric McLaughlin
7 min readPublished on
Hardtail or full suspension? Mountain bike riders will always debate which is better. The truth is that each bike gives you a different ride. Hardtail bikes push you to your limits more than a full suspension bike, and really help you to refine your skills.
If you want to tackle the trails with a sweet new semi-rigid ride, check out our top picks and see which one tickles your fancy.
These are our top 10 bikes to check out this year:
  • Orange Crush Pro
  • Kona Big Honzo
  • Marin San Quentin
  • Kingdom Vendetta X2
  • Nordest Bardino
  • Commencal Meta HT AM Race
  • Genesis Tarn 20
  • Production Privee Shan
  • Stanton Switchback
  • Nukeproof Scout 275 Race

1. Orange Crush Pro

Orange Bikes' Crush Pro 2020 model
Orange Crush Pro 2020
The trusty British brand is back again with the Orange Crush Pro 2020, another addition to their yearly hardtail lineup. This years Crush is a 27.5in wheeled machine and features a 64 degrees head angle and a 1178mm (S) up to a lengthy 1243mm (XL).
The pro model is festooned with hard-hitting components, as you'd expect from an Orange. A chunky Fox 34 fork is mated with a Burgtec handlebar and a RaceFace Chester stem to equal a front end that isn't going anywhere that you don't want it to.
At the minute the Crush is available in Comp and Pro models but there is an R-branded range-topper in the works.
Price: £2,200/ €2,540/ $2,820 complete build

2. Kona Big Honzo

Side on view of the Kona Big Honzo hardtail mountain bike.
Kona Big Honzo
Kona's (then) new for 2019 Big Honzo proved such a success that it's back for 2020 in a new wider range of specs. Full builds start from £1,200/€1,370, with the top-end Big Honzo CR\DL model topping out at £3,699/€4,257, this model has all your preferences covered with aluminium, steel, and carbon options.
As for this bike's capabilities, the 130mm travel, coupled with the 2.8" width tyres, mean it's capable on pretty much anything from short trail centre rides to more adventurous riding high up in the mountains. Kona are a company with serious roots and it's great to see them still producing this kind of machinery.
Price: From £1,200/ €1,370/ $1,560 complete build

3. Marin San Quentin

Marin's aggressive San Quentin has been developed in conjunction with freeride athlete Matt Jones to bring together the best elements of their dirt jump and trail hardtails. With its short 435mm chainstays, slack 65 degrees head angle, 110 x 15mm boost spacing and 130mm travel, Marin have succeeded at combining strength and playfulness create the ultimate fun bike.
Matt Jones 360s the step up on his hardtail jump bike
Matt Jones 360s the step up on his hardtail jump bike
Price: £1,450/ €1,660/ $1,880 complete build
Who is Matt Jones? Find out here:

4. Kingdom Vendetta X2

Side on view of the Kingdom Vendetta X2 hardtail mountain bike.
Kingdom Vendetta X2
Kingdom have taken the best parts of the original Vendetta frame and stripped it back, removing some of their expensive CNC features.
They still offer 130–150mm travel, with an updated head and seat tube angle of 64.5 degrees and 74.5 degrees respectively. While the loss of some CNC features adds a little bit of weight and removes the possibility for plus tyres with 29er wheels, it does mean that if that stuff wasn't what you wanted, you can now get the same playfulness for a fraction of the price. Dependent on what kind of mountain biker you are, this could mean more money in the bank, or, most likely, money saved to spend on your preferred components.
A titanium hardtail is one of those bikes that as a mountain biker it sort of feels obligatory to tick off the list at some stage. They ride like nothing else and if you haven't tried one then you really need to. The Vendetta X2 is one of the best-looking out there in terms of the overall package.
Price: From £1,140/ €1,299/ $1,470 complete build

5. Nordest Bardino

Side on view of the Nordest Bardino MTB frame.
Nordest Bardino Frame
New to the hardtail scene is Portuguese brand Nordest. With their entry into the market they've introduced their Bardino,a long travel enduro hardtail that's available in steel and titanium. Their CRMO 4130 steel frames are designed to take up to 160mm travel forks. This, coupled with a slack 65 degrees head angle, and the ability to take 27.5" or 29" tyres (up to 3” width tyres in the 27.5" configuration), means you'll be tearing to the top of the hill and ready to slay the down it.
Price: €518/ £/ $665 frame only

6. Commencal Meta HT AM

Commencal Bikes' latest hardtail mountain bike
Commencal Meta HT AM Race
When it comes to hard-hitting versatility from a marque with serious race pedigree then you can't look much further than the Commencal Meta HT AM. With the frame allowing both 27.5" and 29" wheels, and up to 160mm travel forks when paired with a 27.5" setup (150mm with 29er wheels), the Meta HT is available as a frame only, or can be bought as a full build.
If you're into racing then Mryiam Nicole and Amaury Pierron's successes on the Commencal Vallnord factory team over the last couple of season should be all the evidence you need that this is a brand which builds fast bikes.
Price: From €1,499/ £1,310/ $1,700 complete build

7. Genesis Tarn 20

Side view of the Genesis Tarn 20 mountain bike.
Genesis Tarn 20
Road and adventure biking brand Genesis have redefined one of their original hardtail models. Turning the Tarn into a do-it-all adventure hardtail that will be equally happy to head to a bothy for a overnighter or two, or hit some natural techy descents. This steel framed hardtail comes with 27.5” plus tyres, boost spacing, and a Rockshox Pike RC Solo Air fork fitted as stock, along with an SLX 1x11 drivetrain that will get you up and down. It's everything you could need.
Price: £2,199.99/ €2,510/ $2,850 complete build

8. Production Privee Shan

2018's Best Aggressive Trail Hardtail Mountain Bikes
Production Privee Shan frame in blue
Entering hardcore hardtail territory is the Production Privee Shan. Taking from 140mm to 160mm travel forks, mixed with a slack 65.5 degree head angle, it's a great enduro-ready hardtail that's ready and waiting to take you out of your comfort zone and provide you with endless fun.
The Shan comes with the option to take either 27.5" wheels, or turn to something a little more old school, with 26” wheels. It also boasts Production Privee's signature rear triangle; KTP Flex System, where parts of the rear tubing are flattened in the centre to allow slight flex whilst maintaining strength. There's an ever-changing range of limited edition colour schemes to tempt you even further. This is a hardtail which has established itself a bit of a cult following over the years and deservedly so.
Price: €559/ £490/ $630 frame only

9. Stanton Switchback

2018's Best Aggressive Trail Hardtail Mountain Bikes
The Stanton Switchback in teal
One of the original hardcore hardtail brands that can't be left out is Stanton bikes, with their renowned Switchback model. Stanton pride themselves on a short 415mm chainstay, which makes the Switchback such a responsive ride. Like the Kingdom Vendetta, it also has the ability to take up to 2.8” width tyres on wide 650b plus rims. However, the Switchback will take 120mm to 160mm forks, giving you ultimate control over how the bike can feel and ride, whether it be for a quick trail centre blast, or a big enduro day out.
Price: £559.20/ €637.75/ $720 frame only

10. Nukeproof Scout 290 Race

Nukeproof Bikes new for 2020 Scout 275 Race
Nukeproof Scout 275 Race
After the success of their hardtail range of recent years, Nukeproof have followed it up with a slightly more focussed Scout 275 Race. It features 27.5" wheels and a smattering of the resolutely reliable Nukeproof own-branded finishing kit. The 275 Race offers not only stability and playfulness on trails, but also more speed thanks to the faster rolling wheels.
Price: £1,000/ €1,140/ $1,290 complete build