The results are in: here are the best hardtail mountain bikes for under £1,000, under £600 and in the women specific sector
Our Hardtail of the Year test is one of the most important events in the MBR calendar, because this is the ultimate search for the best hardtail mountain bikes across three crucial categories.
For this year’s review we split 20 bikes into three sectors, with eight bikes at £600, eight bikes at £1,000 and four women’s specific bikes at about £750. Testing took place at Bike Park Wales, where back-to-back runs on the red and blue trails gave the hardtails the perfect workout for evaluating geometry, handling and suspension performance.
Watch this video to hear our testers explain why they chose the three winners, and scroll down to learn more.
£600 CATEGORY: VOODOO BIZANGO 29
Few bikes have ever received quite so many MBR accolades as the humble VooDoo Bizango. This budget 29er was our inaugural Hardtail of the Year winner last year, and followed up that victory with the overall title of Bike of the Year in December 2013. Now here it is again, back on top of the its hardtail category for 2014.
What’s its secret? Put simply, this is a bike that does everything well, with a parts package so well chosen it puts all of its rivals to shame. Shimano’s M395 brakes are the best stoppers around at this price, the bars, stem and even the tyres are spot on and, at the heart of it all, the air-sprung Suntour Raidon fork is absolutely outstanding.
There’s only one downside, and that’s the sizing. The Bizango is only available in two frame sizes, so if you’re particularly big or particularly small, you’ll need to look elsewhere — and we’d recommend the Saracen Mantra Pro, which is heaps of fun to ride but can’t quite match that Raidon suspension.
£1,000 CATEGORY: VITUS SENTIER 275 VR
Like the Bizango, the Escarpe 275 VR from Chain Reaction Cycles’ in-house mtb brand excels because of a fantastically well-chosen parts package. The Suntour Raidon fork is present and correct again, along with a Shimano drivetrain that includes an XT clutch derailleur, XT shifters and SLX brakes. Wide bars? Stubby stem? It’s all present and correct.
Having said that, the Escarpe wasn’t the only well-dressed bike in this category, but it offers something extra in terms of ride quality, handling and construction that makes all the difference out on the trail. This is a bike that encourages you to push it to the limit and to wring the most fun out of every moment. You just can’t fail to have a great time on this outstanding bike — and since we went to press the price has dropped to £799.99, so it’s better value than ever.
WOMEN’S SPECIFIC: CANYON GRAND CANYON AL 5.9W
Looking for the best women’s hardtail? Well, we’ve found it. Oozing quality, light on the scales and with great parts for the price, the Canyon impressed us with its versatility out on the trails. You’ve got everything you need to push hard on the descents, but that light weight (12.01kg) set the bike apart on the ascents.
The RockShox 30 Gold TK 29 is a good choice of fork that offers rebound adjustment, easy set-up and noteworthy performance, and the Shimano drivetrain excels too. A clutch mech and shorter stem would be nice, but you rarely get perfection for under £700, and this is a fun, adaptable, high-quality ride that’s worth every penny.
Hardtail of the Year 2014: bikes on test
Pinnacle Ramen 3W
Canyon Grand Canyon AL 5.9 W
Marin Bear Valley WFG
Giant Talon 2
Have you read the reviews from our Hardtail of the Year 2013?