These are best hardtail mountain bikes out there right now, whether you're looking for a top beginner mountain bike, back-to-basics trail hardtails, budget choices or cross-country bikes.

Product Overview


Best hardtail mountain bike 2022: classic trail shredding machines

From budget hardtails to mid-range choices, these are the best hardtail mountain bike models we’ve tested – and we’ve ridden a lot! Each of these bikes has been thoroughly tested by the MBR experts, so we can guarantee that if you go for one, you’ll be on the best mountain bike for your budget.

Hardtails are a great choice for anyone that’s looking for a budget mountain bike, for beginners just looking to get into the sport, and even for back-to-basics riders who love the simplicity and fun of the ride they provide.

Also consider: 

Voodoo's Braag is a cracking entry level mountain bike

Voodoo’s Braag is a cracking entry level mountain bike

Voodoo Braag

Best budget hardtail mountain bike; quality alloy frame with modern geometry that makes a great platform for future upgrades

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.6kg | Suspension travel: 120mm front | Rating: N/A

Pros: Amazing price, great geometry and range of sizes, spot-on cockpit and component choices, and an active fork.

Cons: The fork tops out with a clunk.

Using the same frame as the multi award-winning Voodoo Bizango (featured below) the Braag saves money in a few areas to bring the price point under £600. So you get the same confident, fun handling and excellent spread of sizes, along with a wide-range yet simple 9-speed drivetrain and a plush coil-sprung suspension fork.

The only fly in the ointment is that the fork can get a bit clunky, but overall this is a killer bike for the money and one you can upgrade as your skills progress.

Read our full review of the Voodoo Braag

Vitus Nucleus VR studio shot

Vitus Nucleus VR

Vitus Nucleus VR

Simply astounding spec and performance for the price

Wheel size: 27.5in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.38kg | Suspension travel: 120mm front | Rating: 10/10

Pros: Ride quality and build kit belie its price tag

Cons: Demand always outstrips supply, so be quick!

By bestowing the same level of detail on the Nucleus VR that most other brands reserve for their flagship models, Vitus has had amazing success with its entry-level hardtail. Every year without fail, Vitus has tweaked the Nucleus VR to ensure that it stays ahead of the competition. And by a couple of steps, it’s often superior to most of the bikes in the sub-£750 class of our Hardtail of the Year test.

Sadly, as is the case with so many bikes recently, the price has gone up and availability is scarce. However, if you see the Nucleus come into stock, don’t hesitate to snap it up, even at £599, as it’s still a bargain and by far the best hardtail mountain bike at this price.

Read our full test review of the Vitus Nucleus VR

Voodoo Bizango

2022 Voodoo Bizango looks the part

Voodoo Bizango

Best beginner hardtail mountain bike, and the bike that rewrote the definition of entry-level hardtail performance

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.1kg | Suspension travel: 120mm front | Rating: 10/10

Pros: The price, updated geometry, light weight, lower range gears, wider handlebar and improved handling. And did we say the price?

Cons: You’ll probably struggle to get hold of one.

The alloy Bizango simple has no competition. It is simply unbeatable for the money. In fact, given the choice we’d probably opt for this bike over many decent £1,000 mountain bikes (saving a couple of components upgrades for the ensuing seasons). Good brakes, good gearing, plenty of standover, decent fork. Shames many bikes at twice the price.

Read our full review of the Voodoo Bizango

Vitus Sentier

Vitus Sentier

Vitus Sentier

A proper hardcore hardtail that won’t break the bank

Wheel size: 27.5in or 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 12.94kg | Suspension travel: 140mm front | Rating: 9/10

Pros: Smooth ride, rewarding handling, grippy tyres.

Cons: Fork rattles, gears lack range, uncomfortable brakes.

Vitus as a brand has quickly established itself as the smart choice for anyone looking for affordable mountain bikes that shred hard and don’t cut corners.

Ultimately we want a bike to put a smile on our face every time we ride it, and the Vitus passes this test with flying colours.

The frame is excellent quality and the ride quality is infectious, but much of the credit for the Sentier’s trail manners can be attributed to the tyres rather than the geometry or the suspension. Another great feature of the Sentier is that you can get it with either 29in or 27.5in wheels for the same price.

Read our full review of the Vitus Sentier 27 VR

Voodoo Bizango Pro

Voodoo Bizango Pro

Voodoo Bizango Pro

Amazing value 29er hardtail mountain bike

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.2kg (29.2lb) | Suspension travel: 130mm front | Rating: 10/10

Pros: Good geometry and superlative spec choices. Low weight and comfy ride feel

Cons: BB could be a finger’s width lower. Rear Rekon tyre needs beefing up

The Voodoo Bizango has smashed pretty much any test it’s ever entered, winning our Hardtail of the Year award multiple times, earning regular podium places on our list of the best hardtail mountain bikes, and impressing everyone who rode it. It must have been very tempting for Halfords to stick with the old frame, add a modern colour, fettle the spec and keep mixing up that winning mix.

We’re extremely glad they didn’t then. For Halfords’ sake, standing still in the ultra competitive hardtail market is suicide. And for our sake, the new Bizango Pro is much the superior bike to anything Voodoo has made before and ultimately more fun to ride.

Great brakes mean you can go faster in the happy knowledge you can stop when you need to, while the 12-speed shifting means you can cruise the hills faster than plenty of full sus bikes out there. And then there’s the fork, it’s hugely superior to anything I’ve tried before on a £1k hardtail: air sprung so you can set the sag to your weight, effective rebound dial for control, and a really smooth feel.

Read the full Voodoo Bizango Pro review

Kona Mahuna 2022

Kona Mahuna

Best hardtail mountain bike under £1000

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.6kg (32.19lb) | Suspension travel: 100mm front | Rating: 10/10

Pros: Best in class handling

Cons: Square-taper chainset

Combining great modern geometry and riding position, the Kona might have a laid back Hawaiian name but when it comes to riding, this bike means business.The long reach and wheelbase plus slack head angle make this a capable choice, and the short seat tube means you could fit a dropper seatpost in the future. 

The spec is dialled, particularly for a bike at this price point; the adjustable RockShox Judy fork, wide handlebars and great performing Tektro hydraulic disc brakes all make for a fun ride. 

Yes, the square-taper chainset is a chink in its otherwise faultless armour, but given that it’s also £50 cheaper than the Whyte 429 that we also tested, we’re happy to let that go as we were so impressed by the overall handling of the Mahuna.

Read our full review of the Kona Mahuna  

Ragley marley 2.0

Ragley Marley 2.0

If smashing turns and popping onto the back wheel are your bag then look no further

Wheel size: 27.5in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.47kg (31.9lb) | Suspension travel: 130mm front | Rating: 9/10

Pros: Playful character, decent brakes, good tyres.

Cons: Arguably would be better with 29in wheels.

When the Ragley Marley won Hardtail of the Year in 2016 it was a great bike; but it also had a clear price advantage over its rivals. Since then it’s got longer and slacker, ditched the double ring, gained larger volume 2.6in tyres and grown its handlebars from an awkward 740mm to a more manageable 780mm.

And these new numbers really count on the trail. The sticky WTB front tyre helps you choose a line while the tough casing on the rear will forgive you when it’s the wrong one. The rasta-themed Marley will happily smoke through the rough stuff, the 130mm-travel RockShox Recon suspension fork sucking up the bulkiest of herb gardens even if lacking a little sensitivity on the flatter trails.

Read the full Ragley Marley 2.0 review

Whyte 629 V4

Whyte 629 V4

Whyte 629 V4

The hardtail that flatters experts and beginners alike

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: M, L, XL | Weight: 14.41kg | Suspension travel: 120mm f | Rating: 10/10

Pros: Amazingly composed and stable handling.

Cons: Low-profile rear tyre may not suit all conditions. No size small – for that you need the 27.5in wheel 901 or 905.

The Whyte 629 V4 really impressed us, and in many ways it mirrors its stablemate, the 905, in setting new hardtail standards, this time for 29ers. Ultimately it is balanced, composed, stable and precise, and whether you’re a relative beginner, or an experienced trail rider, you’ll instantly become addicted to its ways…

Read out full review of the Whyte 629 V4

Nukeproof Scout Comp

Nukeproof Scout Comp

Nukeproof Scout 290 Comp

Light weight with sharp handling

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: M, L, XL | Weight: 13.95kg | Suspension travel: 130mm f | Rating: 9/10

Pros: Stellar specification. Compliant ride.

Cons: Care needed with sizing. Tall seat tube. Only three frame sizes.

Although it doesn’t boast the most up-to-date sizing and fit, we can’t fault the ride quality of Nukeproof’s Scout.

When we last reviewed the Scout it was the smaller wheeled 270 and we praised the compliance of its frame. It’s no different with this 290 Comp either – smooth, comfortable and quiet, allowing your mind to stay focused on the trail ahead. Yes, the XL Scout would certainly benefit from a shorter seat tube and a longer head tube, or at the very least and adjustable stroke dropper to get the best from the frame and as it’s very much at home on the descents.

Read our full review of the Nukeproof Scout 290 Comp

Photo of Whyte 429 hardtail mountain bike

Whyte 429

Capable modern hardtail designed by mountain bikers for mountain bikers

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: M, L, XL | Weight: 14.05kg (30.97lb) | Suspension travel: 120mm travel | Rating: 9/10

Pros: Solid two-piece chainset

Cons: Limited tyre clearance, no size S

A hardtail mountain bike designed by mountain bikers for mountain bikers, the entry-level Whyte 429 has all the technology pioneers on Whyte’s full-suss bikes like a single chainring design and routing to fit a dropper post for future upgrades. 

We also liked the offset forks with short stems and long reach which gives more confidence when descending. That said, there was limited tyre clearance between the chainstays which could be improved. 

On the trail it feels direct, purposeful and fun, great for both long miles and steep descents, and has good all-round capability.

Read our full review of the Whyte 429

Specialized Fuse Comp 29

Specialized Fuse Comp 29

Specialized Fuse 29

High tech hardtail masterwork

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.12kg | Suspension travel: 130mm f | Rating: 8/10

Pros: High-tech frame design

Cons: Front end is too low

The Fuse 29 is a fast, fun and efficient alloy hardtail, but best of all it doesn’t shake the life out of you on rougher trails. But rather than simply making up the numbers in the trail hardtail category, Specialized could tweak them and lead the way.

With a slacker head angle, lower BB height and extra length in the front end, the Fuse would have the attitude to match the ride quality of its superbly engineered frame. Maybe Specialized needs to roll out a Fuse Evo, just like it did with the Stumpy.

Read our full test review of the Specialized Fuse 29 Expert

Canyon Stoic 4 studio pic

Canyon Stoic

Canyon Stoic

Impressively balanced handling

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.98kg | Suspension travel: 140mm travel f | Rating: 9/10

Pros: Superb balanced handling.

Cons: BB could be lower

We’ve been asking for a trail hardtail from Canyon for years, and had almost given up hope of ever seeing one when the Stoic arrived. Yes, the geometry on the Stoic isn’t as progressive or as hardcore as some, but the bike is all the more versatile for it.

The alloy frame makes it light, agile and ultra-fast to accelerate, while the competitive build kit leaves nothing wanting. Would it be even better in a mullet configuration with a 2.6in rear tyre? Probably, but it’s still a great trail hardtail that can also hang with the hardcore crew.

Read our full test review of the Canyon Stoic 4

Trek Marlin 8

Trek Marlin 8

Trek Marlin 8

Fast yet frugal option for racers on a budget

Wheel size: 26in (XXS), 27.5in (XS, S), 29in (M, L, XL, XXL) | Frame sizes: XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL | Weight: 13.2kg | Suspension travel: 100mm front | Rating: N/A

Pros: Bargain entry-level race bike. Massive size range. Quality alloy frame.

Cons: Old school XC geometry with steep head angle and short reach means it’s a handful on technical terrain.

Trek has been building XC race bikes for over 30 years, and it currently boasts the Olympic XCO women’s champion and world champion on its books, so it knows a thing or two about building a great race bike.

The Marlin 8 is very traditional in its ethos, with a light, efficient alloy frame at its heart and a 100mm suspension fork up front to take the sting out of the trail. There’s a fantastic range of frame sizes, with appropriate diameter wheels throughout, so you won’t have a problem getting the perfect fit.

With conservative geometry, it’s not a bike for tackling the steepest, most technical trails or hitting big jumps, but it will be in its element covering long distances and ripping along fast, flowing singletrack.

Read our full review of the Trek Marlin 6

Trek Procaliber 9.6

Trek Procaliber 9.6

Trek Procaliber

21st century soft-tail with amazing acceleration

Frame: OCLV Mountain Carbon | Weight: 11.01kg (24.23lb) | Rating: 10/10

Pros: Comfortable as well as speedy

Cons: Lacks a dropper post for modern XC courses

We tested the Trek Procaliber 9.7 a couple of years ago and it blew the competition away to take the top step of the podium in our grouptest, and the current model uses the same OCLV carbon frame with effective, trail-smoothing IsoSpeed decoupler.

It seriously impressed us, writing: ‘from the first pedal stroke the Procaliber took the lead in this test and never faltered. We were instantly won over by its effortless turn of speed, in part thanks to the carbon wheels, but it’s also about the more forgiving ride quality of the frame. Bumps just didn’t chip away at our speed as much as they did on the other bikes on test. And even when we were out of the saddle, the Procaliber was still the smoothest bike here.’

Read our full test review of the Trek Procaliber 9.7

Scott Scale 940

Scott Scale 940

Scott Scale

Best cross-country hardtail mountain bike

Frame: Scale 3 Carbon | Weight: 11.47kg (25,29lb) | Rating: 9/10

Pros: A rapid all-rounder without any weak links

Cons: Redundant front mech apparatus spoils the aesthetic

Some brands use race teams for marketing, others focus on product development; Scott clearly does both. As such, the Scale is a finely tuned XC race machine with a huge trophy cabinet to prove it.

When efficiency matters, the Scale transforms every watt of available energy directly into speed. Whether that’s grinding up a climb with your nose glued to the stem, exiting a corner, or simply changing gear. And direct power delivery isn’t the Scale’s only trump card, it’s equally adept at turning its hand to even the most technical trails.

Read our full test review of the Scott Scale 920

Specialized S-Works Epic HT

Specialized S-Works Epic HT

Specialized S-Works Epic HT AXS

For the uncompromising XC racer with deep (Lycra) pockets

Frame: S-Works FACT 12m Carbon | Weight: N/A | Rating: N/A

Pros: Power delivery that doesn’t beat you death

Cons: Cutting edge costs money

Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the new Epic HT wasn’t some nervy, neurotic race bike that you need all you wits about you just to navigate a straightforward trail.

Sure it’s crazy light; the frame alone weighing 790g. And let’s pause to think about that for a minute. That makes the S-Works Epic frame lighter than the average thin-walled trail tyre. More impressive still, the frame used for the Expert, Pro and regular Epic is only 140g heavier. The fact it is also incredibly light, supremely capable and surprisingly comfortable make it a truly amazing XC hardtail.

Read our full test review of the Specialized Epic HT

yeti arc t1 studio pic

Yeti ARC T1

Yeti ARC T1

Channels the spirit of ’90s XC legends like Furtado and Tomac

Frame: Yeti TURQ Series Carbon | Weight: 11.38kg (25,11lb) | Rating: N/A

Pros: It’s hard not to feel special when you sling a leg over the iconic ARC

Cons: Not really a pure cross-country race rig with its 130mm fork

Bear with us here. We know this isn’t really a XC race hardtail, but for some riders (of a certain age maybe) the Yeti ARC will be the bike that gets them around the XC race course the quickest. This is purely an emotional attribute.

You can feel John Tomac and Julie Furtado watching you as you pilot this blue baby along the trails. What exactly is this bike for? Truth be told, it has no logical place. Which is why we love it. If push came to shove we’d call it a dreamy Down Country hardtail.

Read our full test review of the Yeti ARC T1

Photo of Santa Cruz hardtail mountain bike in yellow

The all-new, super-versatile Santa Cruz Chameleon

Santa Cruz Chameleon

The ever evolving, ever versatile trail ripper

Frame: Aluminium | Weight: 14.19kg (31.28Ib) | Rating: N/A

Pros: Go anywhere, do anything attitude. Mix and match wheel sizes along with adjustable chainstay length makes it very adaptable. Maxxis MaxxGrip front tyre. Shorter 460mm seat tube length on size XL

Cons: Expensive, given the SRAM NX drivetrain. BB height could be lower. No XXL size for really tall riders

The much-revered Santa Cruz Chameleon turns 25 in 2022, and it’s still totally young at heart.

Wherever we pointed this bike, it was a blast to ride; forgiving yet massively capable, with a dose of versatility and future-proofing thrown into the mix. Expensive it may be, but if you can make the numbers work then the Chameleon could be a sound long-term investment for the hardtail enthusiast.

Read our full test review of the Santa Cruz Chameleon

How we tested

All of the bikes recommended above have been thoroughly tested by the expert bike testers and reviewers at MBR. Many of them have been selected after head-to-head testing as part of our annual comprehensive Hardtail of the Year test. We ride each bike extensively in the terrain it was designed for, on mountain bike trails with a combination of climbing, descending and technical features to get the best possible understanding of the performance, strengths and weaknesses of each bike.

Bike in a bike shop

Looks nice… but is it the correct size?

What to look for in the best hardtail mountain bike

What is a hardtail mountain bike?

A hardtail is a mountain bike that has suspension at the front (a suspension fork) but has a rigid un-suspended main frame and rear wheel. The term hardtail differentiates it from full suspension bikes – with suspension at both wheels – as well as fully rigid bikes – which have rigid forks as well as rigid main frames.

What size frame should I buy?

Bike manufacturers use seat tube length to denote frame sizes. These can be in inches, or use descriptive terms like Small, Medium and Large. The problem is, there’s no standardised sizing tool, so one brand’s medium can be the same as another’s large.

Mountain biking is a dynamic sport, and you’ll be moving around the bike a lot when you’re riding. It follows, then, that you want plenty of clearance over the top tube when you’re standing astride the bike (called ‘standover’ height, and around three inches is a good starting point) but enough length between the seat and the handlebars that you don’t feel too cramped when sitting down and climbing.

Most brands will provide an online size guide, that will give you a recommended size based on your height. But be careful with these online size calculators as they’re not always that accurate. If in doubt, we’d recommend you go for the largest size you can get away with that still provides adequate standover clearance.

Read our guide: What mountain bike frame size should I ride?

What’s the best wheel size for a hardtail?

There are two main sizes of wheel on the market. They are 29in and 27.5in. So what are the pros and cons of each?

27.5in – Doesn’t roll as fast as 29in, but easier to turn and accelerate. Generally stronger and lighter than big wheels too. Paired with big volume tyres (2.5in and upwards) you get a more comfortable ride and improved grip.

29in – Rolls fast, more stable at speed and less interrupted by bumps, which makes them great on a hardtail, so long as the geometry is right. Wheels can be weaker and heavier though.

What are the best components – like forks, brakes and tyres – for a hardtail?

At the cheaper end of the market, try and choose a bike with an air-sprung fork. This will let you set adjust it to suit your body weight. Also try and get a fork with adjustable rebound damping at the minimum.

Disc brakes should be hydraulic, with replaceable brake pads. Some disc rotors only work with organic pad compounds, which wear quickly in the wet. A better option is to get a system that accepts sintered metal pads, as these are more durable.

While most new bikes come with inner tubes inside the tyres, a simple upgrade is to go tubeless, using liquid sealant inside the tyre to seal the air and even fix minor punctures without getting your hands dirty. So look for tubeless-ready tyres and wheels, to make the switch easier.

Don’t worry too much about things like grips and saddles, as these can be changed relatively cheaply at a later date to suit your personal preference.

Look for modern geometry

Good geometry (which goes hand-in-hand with frame-sizing) doesn’t increase the bottom line. Therefore quick-thinking smaller bike brands that aren’t asleep at the wheel can get ahead of their big-name rivals, or at the very least get a running start, by designing a frame with capable modern geometry.

Want to know what we mean by bike geometry and why it’s important to how your bike feels to ride? Read our deep dive on why geometry is so important.

Power wheelie action

Hardtails can be thrashed as hard as any bike

How do I get my new hardtail mountain bike set-up?

1. Inflate your tyres

Ignore the recommended tyre pressures printed on the sidewalls and aim for around 28psi front and 30psi rear – adjusting either way by a few psi if you weigh more or less than 75kg. Wide tyres can be run slightly softer than narrower ones, too – as low as 15psi for a 2.8in model.

Either way, too hard and they’ll be harsh and offer little grip; too soft and you’ll be more prone to pinch flats and you may even roll the tyre clean off the rim.

2. Adjust your handlebar controls

Disc brakes are so powerful you should only need to use one finger to slow down. Loosen the clamps and slide the levers away from the grips until your index finger rests right at the end of the lever blade. This gives you the most leverage and the most secure grip on the bars. Now slide your shifters against the brake clamps to make them accessible.

Your brake levers should be angled in line with your arms as they’re positions when you ride; don’t rotate them to point straight down.

3. Set your saddle position

Firstly, it’s critical you get the saddle height sorted for seated pedalling. As a rule of thumb, your leg should be straight, with your heel on the pedal and the crankarm in line with your extended leg. This allows for a slight bend in the knee when you place the ball of your foot on the pedal at your maximum saddle height.

For technical singletrack climbs, drop your saddle by 1-2cm to make balancing on the bike much easier. Slam the saddle all the way down for descending, and for the next step; setting your suspension…

4. Set-up your suspension fork

Don’t get distracted by handlebar lockouts as they aren’t much use off-road. Instead, focus on setting your sag correctly.

With an air-sprung fork start by using the recommendations printed on the leg. RockShox and Manitou have them, but not Suntour. You’ll need a shock pump to do this. If it has a lock out, check it’s in the open position first.

Now hop on the bike, lean against a wall and adopt the neutral riding position — out of the saddle with arms and legs bent. Bounce up and down on the fork and let it settle to the sagged position. The sag is how much the suspension compresses under your weight. Start with 20 to 25 per cent of the fork’s travel, so if you fork has 100mm of travel, it should compress by 20-25mm. Use the rubber O-ring or a zip tie on the leg to measure this.

Be sure to set the sag in your full riding kit, with backpack and water included.

5. Set your handlebar height

Finally, adjust your stem height. Raising your stem will give you more confidence on the descents, by making it much easier to shift your weight rearward. Too high, however, and you won’t have enough weight on the front tyre for grip on flat corners. It’s worth noting that stem height is closely related to fork set-up, as a combination of both will determine the height of the handlebar.