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Digital Subscriptions > Singletrack > 104 > HARDCORE HARDTAILS

HARDCORE HARDTAILS

WE BRITS SEEM TO LOVE A RUGGED, SLEEK, STEEL HARDTAIL, EVEN AFTER DECADES OF OTHER MATERIALS BEING AROUND. HERE ARE THREE HARDCORE CONTENDERS FROM CHROMAG, ONZA AND RITCHEY.
PICTURES BY SIM MAINEY

Here in the UK we’ve got a bit of a tradition when it comes to long-forked, ‘hardcore’ hardtails*. We’ve been riding them for years. Some may claim that [insert name of your favourite UK bike designer here] actually invented them.

We love ’em and rightly so – everyone should have one for messing about in the woods on. Or for messing about in the Alps.

In a lot of respects they’re brilliantly daft – a rigid back end mated with a long-travel fork that wouldn’t be out of place on a reasonably long-travel full suspension bike.

On paper, an ‘aggressive trail’ bike like that sounds a bit stupid – a front wheel attached to a fork designed for big hits, drops and rocks with a rear wheel banging around, smacking into all the stuff the front end’s smooth damping and control has just taken in its stride, but show a bike like that some of your rad skills and it all makes sense. And if you’ve not got much in the way of rad skills, you soon will have (after you’ve repaired your back wheel, probably).

As well as being a bit daft, they can also make perfect sense. If you’re not after something that’ll cause some damage and worry the podium in a cross-country race (other hardtails are available for that sort of thing), but want a bike that’s tough and capable enough for pretty much everything else without breaking the bank (too much), doesn’t weigh a ton or needs a fastidious maintenance regime, then the hardcore hardtail delivers on all fronts.

Don’t want to trash the bearings in your multi-thousand-pound suspension frame in winter, but don’t want to ride much slower downhill? Hardcore hardtail mate.

Only want to own one bike? (and there’s nothing wrong with that, no siree…) – you probably need a hardcore hardtail.

Want to ride fast downhill AND uphill? Hardcore hardtail again.

Just want a really cool bike for riding and looking cool on? Yep, you’ve guessed it. Hardcore hardtail, innit?

Subject to the same amount of development and evolution as other categories of mountain bikes, your modern long-forked hardtail is available in aluminium, titanium and carbon, and in the case of the three bikes in this test, steel. Which I think is somehow the ‘correct’ material for this type of bike. Long, low and slack-ish geometry, 27.5in wheels, frame features such as modular dropouts, tapered headtubes and clearance for big-ish tyres and stealth routing for dropper posts are all present and correct while the pleasing-to-the-eye, instantly recognisable and timeless aesthetics remain largely unchanged.

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About Singletrack

Hans Rey – No Way? Yes Way! 30 years as a sponsored bike rider. Hans must be doing something right. We chat over burgers and beer. Bike Test: Hardcore Hardtails – We test three examples of that very British of bike categories: the long forked hardtail, with bikes from Ritchey, Onza and Chromag. Classic Calderdale – Sim ponders our need to name trails and places on a guided tour of Singletrack’s own home trails. Trail helmets – 12 (count them!) trail helmets ridden and rated. Early Rider – a profile of a company that’s making kids’ bikes cool again Nepal – Spectacular views and bikepacking courtesy of Miranda Murphy, Todd Weselake and Steve Shannon. Joe Barnes – A profile of enduro racer, former downhill racer and Dude of Hazzard Joe Barnes. Shimano: behind the blue veil – Chipps goes to Japan (and Singapore) to see what makes this very private company tick. Retro Bikes – Were the good old days better, or just different? Warning: may contain pictures of alarming outfits.
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