Reviews: Best Value Hardtail Mountain Bikes 2016 – 2017

If you have done your homework and chosen hardtail when it comes between the hardtail vs full suspension mtb style, then it’s time to start shopping for that new mountain bike. As a refresher, remember that this style gives you the more rigid traditional frame is without rear suspension so that you get all that power transferred to the back wheel of the bike. End result? Better acceleration and efficiency out on the trail.

Click Here for our #1 Pick MTB for Spring/Summer 2017

Riding one of these offers a bit more excitement than a full suspension model, so let me share some of my favorites so that you can get one of your own and start riding. Keep reading for my reviews on the top 10 best hardtail mountain bikes for the money.

Rated: Top 10 Cheap Hardtail Mountain Bikes for 2016 - 2017

editor rating based on value, performance, ride, and component quality
MTBsEDITOR RATINGWHERE TO BUY
Salsa Timberjack NX1 29er BikeSalsa Timberjack NX1 29er Bike5.0 StarsREI
BEIOU Toray T700 Carbon Fiber Mountain BikeBEIOU Toray T700 Carbon Fiber Mountain Bike4.9 StarsAmazon
GHOST Kato 5 27.5/29 Bike - 2017GHOST Kato 5 27.5/29 Bike - 20174.9 StarsREI
Cannondale Catalyst 1 27.5 Bike - 2017Cannondale Catalyst 1 27.5 Bike - 20175.0 StarsREI
Cannondale Trail 4 27.5 Bike - 2016Cannondale Trail 4 27.5 Bike4.9 StarsREI
Diamondback 2015 Laurito Hard Tail Complete Mountain Bike Diamondback Laurito Hardtail Mountain Bike4.1 StarsAmazon
Cannondale Foray X2 27.5 Women's Bike - 2017Cannondale Foray X2 27.5 Women's Bike - 20174.8 StarsREI
GHOST Lanao 3 27.5 Women's Bike - 2017GHOST Lanao 3 27.5 Women's Bike - 20175.0 StarsREI
Diamondback Overdrive Hard Tail Complete Mountain BikeDiamondback Overdrive Hardtail Complete Mountain Bike4.6 StarsAmazon | Nashbar | REI
Diamondback Lux 27.5 Women’s Mountain BikeDiamondback Lux 27.5 Women’s Mountain Bike4.6 StarsAmazon | REI

For reviews on some of these bikes, keep reading below. I highlight what I like about some of my favorite models.

Where to Buy Hardtail Mountain Bikes?

If you’re shopping for a new hardtail, then you may be wondering where you can get a good selection of models at a good price. Well, if you have a local bike shop, then I suggest seeing what they have on offer. Often their prices are a little more than what you find online, but you get to have a relationship with someone local who is very knowledgeable about the gear. Otherwise, I suggest you check out the online inventory at:

Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes Under $500

With a low budget of under 500 bucks for a good hardtail mountain bike, you’re setting yourself up for a bit of a challenge. Sure, you can find cheap hardtail mountain bikes under $500, but they are no way near as good as what you can get if you can go up just a little in cost.

View MTBs under $500 on AMAZON

Based on my experience, the main brand that you can trust in this low cost range is Diamondback. I’ve seen quite a few of their models in this range and they are actually decent options that represent a good value for the money. The sub-500 dollar range is a good choice for beginners to mountain biking though since you don’t really know if you’ll enjoy it and if a hardtail is really the best type of mtb for your riding needs. I’ve got a few models reviewed that fall in this entry-level mountain bikes price range, so check out the reviews and see if you can find something that you like.

Best Hardtail Mountain Bikes Under $1000

If you’ve got a budget between $500 and $1000 for your new mtb, then you’ll find a lot of great options to choose from out there. Some of my favorite brands in this price range include GHOST, Cannondale and some of the Diamondback models. If you can afford to buy in this price range, you typically end up with some good quality components that should last you quite a while out there.

View MTBs $500 - $999 on AMAZON

Several models we’ve reviewed fall into this range. This probably isn’t the ideal price range for someone who is a beginner to mountain biking though. But if you are new mtbing but do other types of biking, then you may want to spring for something in this range since it will be a little better quality than one of the under $500 models. Either way, if you don’t end up enjoying your ride, these things have a pretty good resale value on the used market.

Novara Ponderosa 27.5 Mountain Bike Review

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 5 Stars Quality: 5 Stars Value: 5 Stars Overall: 5 Stars

Novara Ponderosa 27.5 bike reviewWhere to buy: REI

Novara is quickly becoming one of my favorite brands for affordable bikes. And this Novara Ponderosa 27.5 bike is a perfect example of that.

A few things that I want to point out about this one – first, you can only buy this bike at REI. They have it in stores and online. Second, this is not a 29er – it’s got 27.5-inch wheels. Third, right now it only comes in the color green for the frame. I know that probably doesn’t matter to most people, but I wanted to mention it.

I like the ride on this one. It’s light and smooth, but seems strong enough to handle the rough spots on the trail. Acceleration is quick and the traction seems pretty good overall.

The brakes work well and are responsive, shifting is precise and crisp, the fork doesn’t leak, and even after putting lots of miles on this bike it still rides like a dream. Despite not being a well-known brand or having high end components, this bike is actually a really good mountain bike for the money.

The weight on this MTB is better than some of the other Novara’s that I’ve checked out. It comes in at approximately 28.6 pounds. So, it could be lighter, but it also could be heavier, so it’s not so bad.

Bottom line: with it’s affordable price and quality build, this bike is a good value for the money. I suggest buying it for teens as well as any adults who are new to mountain biking and in the market for a good mountain bike for beginners to intermediate level riders.

Cannondale Trail 4 27.5 Bike

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 5 Stars Quality: 5 Stars Value: 5 Stars Overall: 5 Stars

Cannondale Trail 4 27.5 Bike reviewWhere to buy: REI

Any time I check out a Cannondale bike, I’m reminded why they have such a great reputation. And this Cannondale Trail 4 27.5 Bike model here is a perfect example of that.

I like that you get such as awesome ride from this one. It is very smooth, actually I think it is surprising how comfortable the ride is at this price. Granted, this one has a cost on the higher end of most people’s entry-level mtb budgets, but still surprisingly awesome ride on this mtb for the money. I also like that it comes with high quality Shimano components. That alone definitely makes this one worth the cost. It’s responsive on the trails, handles well and shifting is easy. What more do you need?

As for what I don’t like about this model, well, there isn’t much negative to say about it. Sure, it would be nice if it was cheaper, but honestly for what you get that price is pretty decent. And since Cannondale’s have a great resale value, there’s nothing to lose by giving this one a shot out on the trails.

Novara Tupelo 29er Bike Review

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 5 Stars Quality: 5 Stars Value: 4.6 Stars Overall: 4.8 Stars

best unisex hardtail mtb under 1000Where to buy: REI

Sure, it might not be as well known as Cannondale or Diamondback bikes, but I cannot deny that I really enjoy the bikes coming from Novara – especially the Novara Tupelo 29er Bike. I saw it when visiting my local REI store, and it is actually only available for purchase from them. But even if you don’t have an REI near you, this bike can be ordered online and should not be missed because it’s a great hardtail mtb under $1000. And remember, this one is technically a unisex bike, so women can enjoy riding it as well.

I think that this mtb performs well out on the trails and the handling is even better. It seems able to handle any type of weather, even if you get caught out in a rain storm. It is also a very lightweight mtb, which is perfect for those long days on the trails.

Like most hardtails, you can get to choose the frame size that best fits your body. The frame itself seems very sturdy and durable, even for the hardest of riders out there. It has a 80mm-travel fork and the brakes on this one are hydraulic disc brakes.

I have to admit, it’s difficult for me to find something to complain about when it comes to this bike. Sure, I’d like something cheaper, but it’s impossible to find this type of performance at a lower price tag. Other than that, I’d suggest changing out the seat as it is quite uncomfortable.

Acceleration is quick and smooth, which means you can cover a lot of ground out there. Just don’t forget your helmet in case you take a header into a nearby tree.

And remember, since you have to buy this bike from REI, you can get free shipping to your local store as well as free tune-ups from the local store. Can’t beat that when you consider that a tune-up runs around $70 or so, depending on where you live.

GHOST Lanao 3 27.5 Women’s Bike Review

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 5 Stars Quality: 5 Stars Value: 4.8 Stars Overall: 4.9 Stars

best womens hardtail mtb under 1000Where to buy: REI

Unless you’re European, then you likely have not yet heard of the GHOST brand of bikes. This is a very popular German bike brand that has never been available in the USA until 2015 – and, you can ONLY buy these bikes from REI as they are the exclusive US retailer for them. And I must say, I love the GHOST Lanao 3 27.5 Women’s Bike. It’s actually one of my top picks for women’s mountain bikes.

I really love the frame of this bike cause it is a bright orange instead of a stereotypical “girl’s color.” Order the size that best fits your body – x-small to large – and prepare to hit the trails in style. Just don’t forget that mountain bike helmet!

This German-made women’s hardtail mtb offers a lot of value for the money. The aluminum frame is lightweight at around 30 pounds. The SR Suntour XCR RL-R fork can handle all the bumps, tree roots, rocks and other obstacles in your path. The Shimano 355 hydraulic disc brakes are VERY responsive. And the Shimano M370 shifters and Shimano Altus and Shimano Deore derailleurs are reliable and offer smooth shifting while riding.

Overall, you’re looking a very powerful women’s hardtail mountain bike at a great price. Right now, it’s probably the best value women’s mountain bike for the money. Expect this bike to last you for several years thanks to its quality German design.

And like the bike listed above, when you order this from REI, you can get it shipped to your home or get free shipping to your local REI store. Also, remember that REI offers a free warranty tune-up within 6 months of your purchase, which is pretty cool.

Diamondback Laurito Hardtail Mountain Bike Review

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 3.8 Stars Quality: 3.8 Stars Value: 5 Stars Overall: 4.2 Stars

Diamondback Laurito Hardtail Mountain Bike reviewWhere to buy: Amazon

If you find yourself on a really tight budget but in need of a good cheap mountain bike, then the Diamondback Laurito Hardtail Mountain Bike might be just what you’ve been shopping for out there. It’s not the best mtb on the market, but still a decent choice for the budget conscious.

I like that this bike has a comfortable saddle and a very affordable price. The suspension gives you a reasonably smooth ride, which makes this one a pretty decent value for the money.

I don’t like that the components on this one aren’t that great of quality. Don’t get me wrong, they are good enough – just not great. And while the ride you get is smooth, it’s definitely not as smooth as the other bikes reviewed here.

At the end of the day, I would really only recommend this one for kids/teens and adults who are on a tight budget. It’s not that there is anything wrong with this bike, but there are so many more better options out there that I think you should definitely go with one of the other models if you can afford it.

Diamondback 2015 Axis Hardtail Mountain Bike Review

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 4.5 Stars Quality: 4.6 Stars Value: 4.9 Stars Overall: 4.6 Stars

Diamondback 2015 Axis Hardtail Mountain Bike reviewWhere to buy: Amazon

If you want to stick with the Diamondback brand and want a better mtb for your money, then check out the Diamondback 2015 Axis Hardtail Mountain Bike.

I like the feel of this one quite a bit. On the trails, it seems very responsive and powerful. Shifting is easy and it’s a fun little bike to ride out there. I also like the hydro brakes on this model, They’re very responsive.

I don’t like how uncomfortable the saddle is though. It’s really, really uncomfortable and I suggest upgrading it for more comfort out there. Seems like a shame that they would put such a cheap, terrible seat on a bike at this price point. It also feels a bit heavier than similarly priced models, so that is something you may want to consider.

Overall though, this is a pretty nice choice. I just hate that you have to spend extra to upgrade the saddle to something that doesn’t cause you any pain.

Novara Madrona 27.5 Women’s Mountain Bike Review

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 4.5 Stars Quality: 5.0 Stars Value: 5.0 Stars Overall: 5.0 Stars

Novara Madrona 27.5 Women's Mountain Bike ReviewWhere to buy: REI

I haven’t had a chance to check out too many Novara bikes, but every single one that I have is a truly great bike. And the Novara Madrona 27.5 Women’s Mountain Bike is another one of those great ones. It has an affordable price and quality components that lead to a great ride.

I really like how comfortable this one is. It handles well out on the trails, brakes and shifting are responsive and smooth. And that seat isn’t even that bad for longer rides. Quality seems to be good and it feels like a sturdy piece of gear that will last a while.

As for what I don’t like, well, I haven’t really found anything yet. Sure, the price is around $800, which is a little high for some people’s budgets. But, you get a lot for your money with this one. So, I won’t really complain about the price.

At the end of the day, this thing is fun to ride and is a great choice for an entry-level mountain bike for women. With the quality components and build, it should last for several years of trail riding.

Cannondale Trail 5 29er Bike Review

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 4.7 Stars Quality: 4.5 Stars Value: 4.7 Stars Overall: 4.6 Stars

best hardtail mountain bike under 1000 cannondaleWhere to buy: REI

I love when we start seeing the new year models come out early, like this new Cannondale Trail 5 29er Bike – 2015 model. I was a fan of the 2014 edition and my opinion hasn’t changed for the 2015 edition.

This Cannondale makes a great entry level hardtail mountain bike as it offers a great value for the money and gives you a really great ride. You get a a relaxed frame design and quality Shimano components.

When it comes to frame size, you can order it in: small, medium, large, or x-large. The small frame gives you 27.5-inch wheels and you get 29-inch wheels with the other frames.

The best price that I have seen for this new mountain bike is actually over at REI. Unfortunately though, they do not offer shipping to your home or business on this bike. Instead, you can either have it shipped to your local REI or your local authorized Cannondale dealer. The good news is that the bike comes completely assembled and the shipping is free! So, even if you don’t have an REI in your area, as long as there is an authorized Cannondale dealer nearby, you can score this great price on the bike and have it shipped your way.  Though I’d prefer to have the bike shipped to my home, I do like that it comes fully assembled, which saves me a bit of time. Now, you just pick it up and you’re ready to ride.

Some of my disappointments with the 2014 version were the cheap chainset and the substandard brakes. Unfortunately, Cannondale didn’t make any changes to those things in the 2015 version. But even considering those two components, this is still a top notch hard tail mountain bike. It’s hard to do much better at this price point right now.

At just over 31 pounds, this is great lightweight hardtail MTB for the money. If you’ve ever ridden one of these Cannondale mtbs, then you already know that it is a seriously good mountain bike for the money. It’s a strong bike that has a lot of speed and leaves you feeling really confident when you’re riding it on the trails.

The suggested retail price of this bike is $820, but it is discounted at REI. You can view the official manufacture’s specs on their website here.

Diamondback Overdrive Hardtail Complete Mountain Bike Review

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 4.5 Stars Quality: 4.6 Stars Value: 4.9 Stars Overall: 4.6 Stars

best mens hardtail mtb under $500Where to buy: Nashbar, Amazon, or REI

When you look at all the men’s hardtail MTB brands on the market, there is really only one brand that consistently makes high quality mountain bikes that are affordable. That brand is Diamondback and they have several cheap MTBs that are worth your money, but right now my favorite good men’s hardtail bike under 500 – 700 bucks is definitely the Diamondback Bicycles 2015 Overdrive Hard Tail Complete Mountain Bike. It’s hard to be this one for the money – and it’s actually one of my top picks for men’s mountain bikes.

The frame comes in sizes to fit men of all heights, with a range of small to x-large. That makes this a great hardtail mtb for teen boys, too, since you can get a smaller frame. Sometimes, the prices vary by frame size, so when you do a price check, remember to look at the frame that you’re interested in buying since prices change regularly.

Like all the bikes on this list, putting together this Diamondback is easy enough to do on your own. Of course, you can take this, or any of these bikes, to your local bike shop or REI and pay them to assemble it and give it an initial tune-up.

Riding this bike is a treat. Sure, it’s not as smooth as the higher priced models above, but it’s still the best ride at this price point. Honestly, I think this is one is a greater choice for mountain biking beginners.

One thing I want to mention about this bike is that the tires have a presta valve. So, if you don’t have gear that works with this type of valve, you’ll probably want to buy an adapter for the bike.

Other than that, I don’t really have any other complaints of substance. Sure, the bike seat causes some butt pain, but really, what bike doesn’t? You can live with it or upgrade your seat. Or, get yourself some padded bike shorts if it really bothers you.

So, while this bike isn’t as awesome as the Cannondale model listed above, it is still a solid mountain bike choice that I think you will be happy with. And since Diamondback makes quality gear, this one will also last you for a good many years to come.

Diamondback Lux 27.5 Women’s Mountain Bike Review

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 4.6 Stars Quality: 4.6 Stars Value: 4.5 Stars Overall: 4.5 Stars

best women's hardtail mountain bike under 500Where to buy: Amazon, REI

For women though, I’d have to pick the Diamondback Lux 27.5 Women’s Mountain Bike. It’s the strongest offering when it comes to this price range, but honestly I think that there are better options out there if you can afford them.

You get that same quality that you’ve come to expect from Diamondback, except it comes in a product designed to fit the body of a woman.

If you’re considering buying this model, then be sure to pay attention to if you’re looking at the 2015 edition or the 2016 edition because the new 2016 are already available from some stores.

Frame size for this one ranges from small to large, you get 27.5-inch wheels on this bike so that your ride a bit faster than you get on 26-inch wheels.

At just under 32-lbs, you get a reliable and lightweight mtb that features Shimano components, good traction and even better speed on your rides. It is a great option for beginners or someone who just wants a good, cheap women’s hardtail mountain bike that fits into any budget.

Novara Larch 27.5 Mountain Bike Review

ACTIVE WEEKENDER RATING:

Ride: 5 Stars Quality: 5 Stars Value: 5 Stars Overall: 5 Stars

novara larch 27.5 bike reviewWhere to buy: REI

Novara is quickly becoming one of my favorite brands for affordable bikes. And this Novara Larch 27.5 bike is a perfect example of that.

A few things that I want to point out about this one – first, you can only buy this bike at REI. They have it in stores and online. Second, this is not a 29er – it’s got 27.5-inch wheels. Third, right now it only comes in the color blue for the frame. I know that probably doesn’t matter to most people, but I wanted to mention it.

I like the ride on this one. It’s light and smooth, but seems strong enough to handle the rough spots on the trail. Acceleration is quick and the traction seems pretty good overall.

I don’t like that it weighs more than your average hardtail at 33 pounds total weight for it. Sure, it’s really only a couple of pounds heavier than your average mtb, but still, I prefer lighter than heavier.

Bottom line: with it’s affordable price and quality build, this bike is a good value for the money. I suggest buying it for teens as well as any adults who are new to mountain biking and in the market for a good mountain bike for beginners.

Why Choose A Hardtail Mountain Bike Instead of Full Suspension?

As a rider, there are numerous things you want your bicycle to have, especially the mountain variants. Mountain bikes are either full suspensions or hardtails. Choosing between the full suspension and the hardtail can be challenging if you don’t know their basic features. The major difference between these two types of mountain bikes is that a full suspension can absorb more shock than a hardtail. Each bike has its drawbacks and advantages. However, many people prefer hardtails for some reasons. Here are a comprehensive list of the benefits of hardtails over full suspensions.

They are often cheaper – Hardtails are cheap because they don’t require intense designing like full suspension bikes. Full suspensions come with a lot of innovations, making them difficult to produce. The innovations necessitate several patent agreements between the manufacturer and other parties, including the licensing authorities. In the end, the producer translates all the costs associated with all the procedures to the buyers. Hence, a hardtail bike is a better option for those who are on a tight budget.

They are often lighter – As a rider, you don’t want a mtb that will drain all of your energy after just a mile of riding. You don’t want something that will leave you with sores and muscle cramps after a ride. This is where hardtail mountain bikes come in. They come with a few features, making them lighter than the full suspension variants. If you ride in a hilly place, go with a hardtail to increase your comfort level and reduce the rate of fatigue. Marathon MTB mentions that you can expect between 800 to 1000 grams of added weight on a full suspension mtb compared to a hardtail. This is a result of the heavy rear shock, cartridge bearings and some kind of suspension linkage that adds to the overall weight on FS mountain bikes.

They are simply designed – Hardtail mountain bikes come with few features. This makes them not only lighter but also simpler. A simple bike does not require regular maintenance because it does not have many components that break often. A bike with fewer parts is good for long distance riders because it allows them to complete their journey without breakdowns on the road. A simple bike is also easier to clean, maintain and customize. Full suspension bikes have a lot of features that move and can break more often. This not only disrupts seamless rides but also causes additional expenses.

They Are Faster – Hardtails are lighter than full suspension bikes. A lighter bike maximizes the speed in steep slopes and flat terrains by enhancing the ratio between the acceleration power and weight. Rather than fighting the bike, the rider will conserve more energy, which allows him to put more effort on the pedals. The full suspension has an additional rear part that adds more weight on the bike. A heavy bike is the last thing a rider wants. Many top riders ignore full suspensions because of the extra weight, which makes it much slower than hardtails.

They Are Beautiful – People love things that look presentable, including bicycles. Many of them opt for hardtails because of their simpler and elegant look. Full suspensions have a more aggressive appearance.

They Are Easy to Control – Hardtails are easier to handle than full suspensions because of their lighter weight. The rider can easily negotiate a corner and break in case of an emergency with a hardtail. Hardtails allow smooth run-offs on the road. They are likely more fun to control in stiffer and slippery roads than full suspension bicycles. Hardtails also provide improved traction on any road and terrain.

The benefits of hardtails outweigh those of full suspension mountain bikes by a wide margin. They are affordable, cheaper to maintain, easier to clean and simpler to control. People who love long distance and speedy rides consider hardtails as their top choice. You could be among the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are enjoying their rides using hardtail mountain bikes.


 

There are lots of other great hardtail mtbs out there that you can choose from if you’re not a fan of the models that I’ve reviewed up above. Keep in mind that you can end up spending several thousands of dollars on a bike, if you want to do, but you don’t have to go broke for your hobby. That’s why I’ve stuck only with bikes that are more reasonably priced. But, if you want to see what else is out there, then I suggest clicking on the link above where you can see what the current best sellers are and how they compare to the models that I’ve listed up above. By leveraging those reviews that you find with mine, you should be able to come to a great decision for buying your own hardtail mtb that gives you a good value for the money without compromising on a great ride.

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