In order to scale mountain ranges quickly, or simply looking for exciting rides on rugged dirt paths, a hardtail mountain bike will provide you with fun and excitement. In this review, we will show you what makes a quality mountain bike as well as which ones on the market that you should consider buying.
Not all mountain bikes are the same, though. Some have more features than others, and some even have minor differences from one another that makes the bike a whole new bike entirely. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a hardtail mountain bike.
Hardtail Mountain Bike Key Factors
Every other aspect of a hardtail mountain bike comes second to the size of the frame. One thing to consider is that there is no universal size of reference; each manufacturer defines their own size of frame, and this can be problematic in the process of comparing one bike from a manufacturer to a different bike entirely. What one company classifies as a medium might be rather small for another.
Instead, look for what kind of bike fits you the best. Examine and compare how you feel on each bike. Does the seat feel comfortable? Do you feel safe when you hold onto the handlebars? Do your feet and legs move fluidly as you pedal? These are all things to take into consideration when you mount the bike for the first time.
Standard mountain bike wheels are 27.5 inches, and are made for rocky trails and downhill paths. Wheels that are 29 inches in diameter are for cross country (or XC), racing and trails of almost any kind. 29 inches are likely to be the norm within the next several years.
One unwritten rule to remember is that smaller wheels can withstand harsher trails, while bigger wheels are better for longer ones. All of the bikes in this review have wheel that are of 29 inches, so you know they are all for long, enjoyable runs in the wilderness.
Weight is vital, but strength is even more so when it comes to riding off-road. When riding over treacherous rocks, ruts and roots, flimsy is the last thing you want to describe the bike that you are riding on. On a lightweight bike, steering, cornering and your nerves all take a hit. With a beefier bike, you will be more confident while steering and controlling at optimal levels.
Not only do you want a bike with sturdy materials, but also one that feels professional. It is one thing to buy what you may think is the safest and sturdiest bike in the world, but when you get on it, you might feel like everything about the bike is held together by glue.
Does the bike you want feel great when you mount it? Do all the parts work like a well-oiled machine? This is another thing to consider when looking for a hardtail mountain bike.
Suspension is very vital when riding on bumpy and rocky terrains. Good suspension allow shock to be absorbed so that you nor your bike do not suffer pain when you land a jump or ride over bumpy trails.
On the bikes that you are reviewing, see how the shocks and forks on full suspension fare from separate reviews, and be sure that you identify their exact models. Suspension units can usually be lower in specifications than ones that you buy separately.
When it comes to suspension, quality trumps quantity. A few good shocks will typically give you a better riding experience over a handful of mediocre ones. Some bikes come with their own suspension systems, some bikes have forks that absorb impact, and other bikes have no means of absorbing shock at all, outside air in the tires. A bike with no shock absorption means that the impact of landings and bumps will go to your rump and legs, and they will hurt.
Mountain bikes can cost as little as two hundred dollars and can max out at over eight thousand dollars, with extra add-ons and perks. Spending more money on a bike is expected to result in better handling, suspension, steering, durability and comfort. The more expensive the bike that you are looking at, the better the material of the frame will be as well. The three most common materials are steel, aluminum and carbon fiber, with carbon fiber being the most expensive.
For bikes in between 500 to 1000 dollars, hardtail bikes are common within this price range. Not only that, buy they make for good entry-level mountain bikes. Most hardtail mountain bikes have hydraulic disc brakes, which require smaller maintenance and give you better modulation and more pedaling force.
These hardtail mountain bikes are also meant to serve the rider a number of years until the rider either outgrows the bike or becomes more skilled. Whether you move onto a bigger bike or a more professional bike, you are expected to pay more money, beyond the thousand-dollar limit that the hardtail bikes in this review have.
Hardtail bikes are mostly made of aluminum and are slightly lighter than steel. The ideal hardtail bike comes with an 8-speed cassette with a double or triple crankset. Its tires will also come with better treading for improved performance and ride quality.
As mentioned previously, take the bike that you are looking at for a test ride. You would not want to buy a car without riding it first, and the same can be said for a bike that you want to ride on mountain trails.
When going for a test ride, do not just make a decision after riding across the store’s floor. If applicable, see if you can try it out somewhere that will give you a simulation of what riding on it feels like. Some brands will offer demo areas in your town, for customers to try out their bikes before they buy one. Some shops also might have a private area or simulation where you can try out bikes that are for sale.
5 Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes Under $1000
The five hardtail mountain bikes we will be looking at are as follows:
- GT Karakoram Comp
- KONA HUMUHUMU
- Jamis Dragon Sport
- Orbea MX 10
- GT Pantera Comp
We will examine each bike and accentuate all of their ups and downs. At the end of our review, we will declare our top pick for the best hardtail bike under a thousand dollars.
GT Karakoram Comp
There are many types of bikes that fall in the Karakoram family, like the “Karakoram Elite” and “Karakoram Sport”. This one is the “Karakoram Comp”, and be sure to not get these names confused when browsing for these bikes.
The Karakoram Comp is a cross country bike that is said to be built on history. This is a very popular bike that new owners can ride with on trails. But it is not just a bike for beginners, it also is a bike for veterans. This bike has 29-inch wheels for more casual, less extreme riding.
|Frame metal type||Aluminum|
|Fork make and model||SR Suntour XCM-HLO w/ 100mm Travel, Steel Stanchions, Aluminum Leg, Post Mount Disc Brake, Hydraulic Lockout, QR, For 29″|
|Rear shock make and model||SR Suntour Fork|
|Drivetrain configuration||Shimano 3×9|
|Style/Intended Use||Cross Country, Mountain|
|Bike Size(s)||Small, Medium, Large|
|Overall Weight||33.2 pounds (medium)|
This is nice looking bike, judging on its appearance. The frame comes in one of many colors such as blue, navy blue, black and neon yellow. They bare sleek, branded stripes, but they do not make the bike look too extreme of over the top.
This bike excels in hill and mountain climbing skills and contains exceptional acceleration and endurance necessary to carry you to the top. Most of your rides are guaranteed to be fast, pain-free, and stress-free.
The Shimano 3×9 drivetrain is made to make your ride safe and smooth regardless of what terrain you are driving on: Dirt, asphalt, grass, stone, or any place else you may go.
Shimano’s BR-315 is a hydraulic brake system that is also included with the Karakoram Comp, giving you safe, effective brakes that you can rely on for many years.
The SR Suntour fork included acts as the bike’s suspension system. When you hit hard bumps, you are guaranteed to not feel any force or impact.
The one takeaway from the Karakoram Comp is that the bike can be too heavy for some. At 33 pounds, it is supposed to be a bike that lasts, but at the same time, it can be rather difficult to maneuver if you do not have the right kind of leg power. 33 pounds is somewhat outside the sweet spot for dependability and control.
The Kona Humuhumu bike looks like a work of art. Its frame is one solid color, and it is rather a throwback to classic and vintage bikes. The bike as available in red, orange, lime green and aqua. This bike features wheels that are 29 inches.
The bike’s frame is made of “Kona Chromoly”, but that is just their fancy terminology to make the frame feel more special. It is actually made of steel, which is one of the cheapest materials for bike frames out there. Steel is still adequate, but some customers won’t appreciate the deceit the Kona is attempting in order to sell them on this bike.
|Frame metal type||Steel|
|Fork make and model||Kona Cruiser Disc|
|Rear shock make and model||None|
|Drivetrain configuration||Single speed|
|Style/Intended Use||Urban, Commuting|
|Bike Size(s)||16 inch, 18 inch|
|Overall Weight||29.5 pounds (18 inches)|
You can use this bike to not only ride on a trail, but to get around town from point A to point B. If you do not drive a car, this bike can be used as a suitable alternative to driving. Take it to the beach, the park, or anywhere you want to go, and it will certainly not look or feel out of place.
The disc brakes on the Humuhumu bike are very effective. You can control how tight or how loose you want to break.
The rear suspension system is nonexistent. All it has to absorb impact is the air in the tires. If you use this bike for rugged riding in the mountains, it will feel very rickety and your legs will suffer. This bike is better suited for casual and calmer terrain types. I would not even go off a ramp on this bike that is even three inches high.
Jamis Dragon Sport
The Jamis Dragon Sport has a nice selection of colors to choose from, to green, to black, to navy blue. The tires on this bike are 29-inch, so they are more ideal for leisure and endurance travel on the trail.
This bike is made of patented Reynolds steel, which is supposed to be built to last as long as aluminum. This bike overall weighs 31.5 pounds, which is just about in the sweet spot between durability and maneuverability.
|Frame metal type||Reynolds 520 steel|
|Fork make and model||Rock Shox Recon Silver TK, Solo Air spring, external rebound|
|Rear shock make and model||None|
|Drivetrain configuration||Shimano 2×10 setup|
|Style/Intended Use||Cross Country, Trail|
|Bike Size(s)||15 inch, 17 inch, 19 inch, 21 inch|
|Overall Weight||31.5 pounds|
The Dragon Sport can give you excellent control over rough and bumpy terrain thanks to its tapered steering fork. You should expect little to no vibrating across rickety ground.
The Rock Shox fork that comes with this bike has 32mm stanchions and a tapered steering tube made of aluminum. This makes the bike a great one to ride for trails short and long, easy and treacherous.
The Dragon Sport comes with a seat-stay disc brace that makes the brake system more reliable and recoil free. All breaking is comfortable without the friction, noise or suspense that comes with each instance.
Like the Kona bike, there is no suspension system. I do not know why they considered to design a mountain bike without it being able to absorb shock in any form. If you take the Dragon Sport on a rocky bike trail, expect to feel sore in the morning from all the impact going to your legs and rump.
Orbea MX 10
Orbea may not be a familiar name like Kona, Trek, and GT, but they’ve been building metal things out of a factory for over 140 years out of Spain. The MX 10 is a wonderful example of their long tradition of attention to detail in a modern design with fantastic pricing.
|Frame metal type||Orbea MX 6061 aluminum|
|Fork make and model||RockShox 30 Silver TK 100 Air Remote QR|
|Rear shock make and model||None|
|Drivetrain configuration||Shimano 2 x 10|
|Style/Intended Use||Cross Country|
|Bike Size(s)||Medium, Large, X-Large|
|Overall Weight||Not Listed|
To get more familiar with Orbea and the MX 10, here’s an interview to understand their philosophy on bike design, who it’s intended for, and what makes them unique.
The Orbea MX is a terrific bike for a first time mountain biker. In this price range, Orbea has tried to bring as much functionality and performance as possible for those looking for an entry-level performance mountain bike.
One of the key things they’ve done is changed the frame geometry to be less “aggressive” than what you might see on a more expensive bike for experienced riders. This setup is great for those that want a more “casual” type of ride. This type of geometry would be great for those just getting into mountain biking or ones starting to take MTB more seriously.
They’ve also done some nice custom things with the frame, such as routing of the cabling. Rather than having all the cables routed on the outside of the frame, they’ve setup holes at specific points in the frame so the cables can mostly be inside the frame rather than outside. This helps with tangling, catching on tree’s, branches, shrubs, and also with keeping the bike cleaner.
One of our favorite features of this bike, considering the price range, is that the frame is made out of full aluminum. It provides for a lighter bike with all the strength. Attention to detail, when working with aluminum, is demonstrated here with their use of a four-vertex rear triangle. Which helps it be more manueverable and easier to pedal up hills for the average mountain biker.
GT Pantera Comp
The GT Pantera Comp is a tried and true design from the 1990’s that has been updated to be the perfect first serious mountain bike for an entry-level rider. The geometry is setup more for trails but it’ll also let you push hard on descents and inspire confidence in tight corners. Others have also had reported it even does decent jumps. It’s an all around great first time bike that will last a long time before needing to upgrade to match your more advanced skills.
|Frame metal type||6061 T6 Aluminum Frame|
|Fork make and model||Suntour XCR32-Air|
|Rear shock make and model||None|
|Drivetrain configuration||Shimano 2×9|
|Style/Intended Use||Cross Country, Trail|
|Bike Size(s)||XS, S, M, L, XL|
|Overall Weight||33 pounds (medium)|
The Suntour XCR32-Air front fork is lightweight but strong. It’s got a full 120mm amount of travel which is great to have in this price range.
Most pro-style mountain bikes typically don’t come with pedals as it’s a very personal thing for a rider. Wisely thinking about the typical buyer for this bike, GT threw in a set of flat pedals. It’ll do for most beginners and allow you time to figure out what kind of pedal you’ll want to upgrade to in the future.
Stem And Handlebar
The handlebar is reasonably wide, but we’d prefer it to be a bit wider. Not a big downer as it’s an easy upgrade to do and not that big an issue.
The stem is 60mm and it’s a perfect match to the handlebar.
The GT Pantera Comp doesn’t come with a dropper post, but it is compatible. So that too is an easy upgrade when your skills have improved.
After careful deliberation, the best hardtail mountain bike that you should buy is the GT Pantera Comp. While the GT Karakoram is priced much better, the upgrade ability of the GT Pantera Comp makes it a bike that would grow with you as your skills get better.
You can get an incredible value on this bike, despite all that it has to offer for beginners and experts of mountain biking.Whether you want the safest experience or the most exciting, this bike is capable of giving you both, regardless of which trail you take.
It is designed to be suitable for any type of terrain, and you can feel at ease going uphill or downhill. It has adequate maneuverability, great control, and it absorbs shock extremely well.
The fact that it is a great bike for entry level bikers means that they can learn how to buy more effectively as a faster rate than with other bikes.
As mountain bikers gain skill and knowledge, they typically move onto a more expensive bike, but many opt to stick with the GT Pantera Comp, solely because how much they enjoy riding it as well as how great it can serve more experienced riders. Keep this bike, and you can simply save thousands of dollars by not switching to an expert’s bike.