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: classic trail shredding machines

From budget hardtails to mid-range choices and premium dream bikes, 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: 

Calibre Line T3-27

Calibre Line T3-27

1. Calibre Line T3-27

Best hardtail mountain bike under £1,000

Wheel size: 27.5in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.52kg | Suspension travel: 140mm front | Rating: 10/10

Reasons to buy: Modern geometry, dropper seatpost, large-volume tyres

Reasons to avoid: Needs a wider gear range, tall bottom bracket height

The Line T3-27 marks a welcome return for the Calibre brand to the this price category. With progressive trail geometry and large volume 27.5in tyres, there’s been clear inspiration from the Whyte 901 trail bike. Which is no bad thing, given that Whyte has been at the forefront of trail hardtail design for over a decade now.

It’s got all the big decisions right, with progressive geometry, a quality dropper post, and large volume tyres that let you ride further and faster with greater control. The Calibre Line T3-27 is a versatile package you can really shred straight from the box to the trail. And at £999 on the nose, Calibre has hit the bullseye.

Listed retail price for the T3-27 is £1200. However, if you sign up and buy a Go Outdoors membership card for just £5, the bike’s price drops to a great value £999.

Read our full review of the Calibre Line T3-27

Voodoo Bizango Pro

Voodoo Bizango Pro

2. Voodoo Bizango Pro

Best sub £1k hardtail for racing and long rides

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.25kg (29.2lb) | Suspension travel: 130mm front | Rating: 10/10

Reasons to buy: Good geometry and superlative spec choices. Low weight

Reasons to avoid: No dropper seatpost, narrow tyres give a harsh ride

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.

If ever there was a true all rounder, it’s the Bizango Pro. It’s the consummate professional, a modest 29er hardtail that’s strong in every department. The ride quality is superb and it has a blinding specification, with every component part selected for performance and durability.

Yes, fatter tyres would enhance the ride quality of the Bizango Pro further, but not having a dropper post is the real buzz kill here. It’s not enough to knock it down to a single digit rating, but it loses its sub £1000 hardtail crown to the new Calibre Line-T3 27.

Read our full review of the Voodoo Bizango Pro

Voodoo Bizango

2022 Voodoo Bizango looks the part

3. Voodoo Bizango

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 can be ridden hard and provides ample thrills

4. Vitus Sentier 29

Smooth ride and quality frame

Wheel size: 29in| Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.9kg | Suspension travel: 130mm front | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy: Smooth ride, rewarding handling, grippy tyres.

Reasons to avoid: Needs a dropper post and wider range of gears.

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 in a choice of wheel sizes. The 29in option comes in M, L and XL frame sizes, whereas the 27.5in wheel Sentier is in S, M, L and XL.

Read our full review of the Vitus Sentier 29

Polygon Xtrada 5

Polygon Xtrada 5

5. Polygon Xtrada 5

A great choice at under £700, despite the old-school drivetrain

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.31kg | Suspension travel: 120mm front | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy: A top quality frame with up-to-date geometry

Reasons to avoid: Dated 2×10 drivetrain

The Polygon Xtrada 5 may well sport a dated-looking 2×10 drivetrain but this 29er does have the slackest steering geometry for stability at speed, the lowest top tube and shortest seat tube. 

We have highlighted the shortcomings of the drivetrain, but we do not want it to be the defining characteristic of the Xtrada 5. Because from the very first pedal stroke it felt like the best riding bike in its class. With the Maxxis Ikon tyres it carries speed really well, but unlike the Jamis, the frame puts the rider in a more commanding position. Your body takes less of a beating than on the Carrera and with the saddle dropped you can really motor on the Polygon.

It’s the clear winner of the sub £700 category in our 2023 Hardtail of the Year test, even if it misses out on a perfect 10 rating.

Read our full review of the Polygon Xtrada 5

Jamis Highpoint A2

Jamis Highpoint A2

6. Jamis Highpoint A2

Affordable cruiser for gentle trails

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.88kg | Suspension travel: 120mm front | Rating: 7/10

Reasons to buy: A smooth, fast ride. Triple-butted aluminium frame

Reasons to avoid: Limited saddle drop. Dated geometry

Jamis bills the Highpoint A2 as a true all rounder and it’s easy to see why. With big 29in wheels to roll over bumps better and a 120mm travel coil-sprung Suntour XCM 32 fork to take the edge of the harshest impacts, it’s designed for speed, but not at the expense of comfort. 

With its triple-butted aluminium frame it offers a fast engaging ride without the rider being exposed to every single bump on the trail. Which makes it great for longer rides.

If the Highpoint A2 is to truly deliver on its promise of being a true all rounder though, it’s going to need calmer steering geometry, better standover clearance, a broader range of gears and a wider range of saddle height adjustment.

Read our full review of the Jamis Highpoint A2

Voodoo's Braag is a cracking entry level mountain bike

Voodoo’s Braag is a cracking entry level mountain bike

7. Voodoo Braag

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

Reasons to buy: Amazing price, great geometry and range of sizes, spot-on cockpit and component choices, and an active fork

Reasons to avoid: 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

Kona Mahuna 2022

8. Kona Mahuna

Excellent modern hardtail from a brand with a rich heritage

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

Reasons to buy: Best in class handling

Reasons to avoid: 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  

Nukeproof Scout 290 Elite

9. Nukeproof Scout 290 Elite

Capable all-rounder that’s sure to make you smile

Wheel size: 29in | Frame sizes: M, L, XL, XXL | Weight: 14.03kg | Suspension travel: 140mm front | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy: Stellar specification. Compliant ride. Size specify geometry

Reasons to avoid: Fork lacks support

The Nukeproof Scout started life as a burly, dirt jump/4-cross bike. But over the years the Scout has broadened its horizons, maturing into a capable trail bike, without ever losing sight of its more playful past. And with the latest round of frame revisions in 2022, the Scout is more capable than ever before. It’s also bang up-to-date.

With the latest round of revisions, the Nukeproof Scout 290 Elite is a seriously accomplished trail bike. And even though it was the cheapest bike in our group test by quite some margin, it still managed to hold its own on the descents while nudging ahead on the climbs. So in that respect it makes for a seriously good allrounder, especially if you’re looking to cover some serious ground with minimum effort.

Read our full review of the Nukeproof Scout 290 Elite

Whyte 909 X Enduro hardtail mountain bike

Whyte 909 X Enduro hardtail

10. Whyte 909 X

A UK designed hardtail with a sublime ride quality and dialled handling

Wheel size: 27.5in | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.61kg | Suspension travel: 130mm front | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy: Superb ride quality, dialled geometry, neat details

Reasons to avoid: It’s expensive for a hardtail

Who said Plus size tyres were dead? Clearly Whyte doesn’t think so and after testing the 909 X we wholeheartedly agree that they still have a seat at the wheel size table. Combine the high quality frame with the high volume 2.8in Plus size Maxxis tyres, and the Whyte 909 X offers unparalleled levels of comfort, grip and control. Now, we’re not talking full suspension levels here, as it’s only the difference between a 2.4in tyre and a 2.8in, but it is a noticeable improvement and it’s really appreciable in rougher trails.

And taken with the dialled geometry and finely tuned flex in Whyte’s alloy frame, the 909 X is the closest thing here to riding a soft-tail.

Read our full review of the Whyte 909X

Ragley marley 2.0

11. 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

Reasons to buy: Playful character, decent brakes, good tyres.

Reasons to avoid: 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 Marley will happily smoke through the rough stuff, the 130mm-travel RockShox Recon suspension fork sucking up the bulkiest of rock 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

12. 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

Reasons to buy: Amazingly composed and stable handling.

Reasons to avoid: 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

Giant XTC

Giant’s XTC SLR 29 1 is dressed to impress

13. Giant XTC SLR 29 1

Perfect for XC racing or long-haul marathon munching

Frame: ALUXX SLR aluminium | Weight: 12.29kg (27.09lb) | Rating: 10/10

Reasons to buy: Giant Crest forks adds accuracy

Reasons to avoid: Needs lock-on grips. Tall top tube height

First impressions are important, and after the very first ride we knew the Giant XTC SLR would be earning a place on our list of the best hardtails. Just like the Scott Scale, there’s a feeling of racing pedigree that’s trickled down from the pro-level models.

Add Giant’s excellent Crest fork for laser sharp steering accuracy, a purposeful wheelset and some fast rolling tubeless rubber and you have a recipe for a startlingly fast yet forgiving aluminium XC hardtail. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than rivals, but it’s also the most focused. So as an XC race bike or long-haul marathon mile muncher, Giant’s latest XTC is a winner.

Read our full test review of the Giant XTC SLR 29 1

Photo of Whyte 429 hardtail mountain bike

14. 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

Reasons to buy: Solid two-piece chainset

Reasons to avoid: 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

15. 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

Reasons to buy: High-tech frame design

Reasons to avoid: 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

Canyon Stoic

16. 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

Reasons to buy: Superb balanced handling.

Reasons to avoid: 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

17. 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

Reasons to buy: Bargain entry-level race bike. Massive size range. Quality alloy frame.

Reasons to avoid: 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

18. Trek Procaliber

21st century soft-tail with amazing acceleration

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

Reasons to buy: Comfortable as well as speedy

Reasons to avoid: 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 965

Scott Scale 965

19. Scott Scale 965

A frame design steeped in racing pedigree

Frame: 6061 Custom butted aluminium | Weight: 12.97kg (28.59lb) | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy: Fast, quiet, composed ride

Reasons to avoid: No tubeless-ready tyres

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. It’s a light bike for the money, and with a stance and fit that will appeal to performance-minded riders, it will come as no surprise that the Scott feels quick straight off the mark. Assisted no doubt by the wide 92mm bottom bracket shell and boxy, flattened chainstays. As such, putting the power down out of the saddle feels both natural and rewarding.

The entry-level RockShox Judy fork is the weak link on the Scale as it’s just not sophisticated enough to match the natural pace of the bike, or its smooth ride quality. A fork is an expensive component to upgrade, and while there’s no question that the Scale frame deserves it, we’d recommend stepping up to the Scale 960 at £1,699 which runs a stouter Fox 32 Rhythm.

Read our full test review of the Scott Scale 965

20. Trek X-Caliber

Sure-footed 29er

Frame: Alpha Gold aluminium | Weight: 13.53kg (29.82lb) | Rating: 8/10

Reasons to buy: Tubeless-ready wheels and tyres

Reasons to avoid: Heavy. No dropper post

With a sure-footed ride, reliable Shimano components and a sorted tubeless wheelset, it feels like there’s a trail bike hiding under the X-Caliber’s glossy frame finish just waiting to get out, but being held back by the fork and lack of a dropper post. Stepping up a model to the X-Caliber 9 would be our recommendation then, as it gets a dropper post and a more capable and refined fork. Ultimately, the Trek X-Caliber 8’s weight is noticeable and even with the same control tyres fitted to all of the test bikes, the Trek lacks the race-bike urgency of the Scott Scale and Giant XTC.

Read our full test review of the Trek X-Caliber 8

Specialized S-Works Epic HT

Specialized S-Works Epic HT

21. 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

Reasons to buy: Power delivery that doesn’t beat you death

Reasons to avoid: Cutting edge costs money. Arguably you’ll be faster on full-sus if you’re racing XC.

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

22. 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

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

Reasons to avoid: 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

23. Santa Cruz Chameleon

The ever evolving, ever versatile trail ripper

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

Reasons to buy: Go anywhere, do anything attitude. Mix and match wheel sizes along with adjustable chainstay length makes it very adaptable. Maxxis MaxxGrip front tyre. Short seat tube lengths (460mm on size XL)

Reasons to avoid: 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.