A hardtail bike is a type of mountain bike whose frame has no rear suspension. Hardtails have shock-absorbing forks for riding comfort on rough roads and rigid forks for speed. Hardtails are lightweight, affordable, easy to maintain and very popular.
1. CUBE AMS C:68X Zero99
Let’s start, perhaps, with the country bikes. And here we can’t ignore the updated range of suspensions from the German brand Cube – AMS C:68X Zero99. These are ultimatum racing bolides that have retained their pure countryside focus. With 100mm of suspension travel (both front and rear) and an ultra-light, 350g slimmer new generation frameset, these bikes are the true epitome of lightness and speed.
The new Frameset doesn’t weigh more than 1,700g, while the complete top-of-the-range SLT starts at 9.3kg. How did the Germans manage to achieve such characteristics? The bike uses the latest generation of carbon with the patented C:68X layering technology and the top-of-the-line equipment: Factory-level FOX suspension with Kashima coating, FOX 32 fork with FIT 4 damper, FOX Float DPS shock absorber (both with remote handlebar lock), wireless transmission – Sram XX1 Eagle AXS and super lightweight carbon wheels – Newmen Advanced SL X.A.25 Carbon.
In addition, the weight of the Zero99 range models is affected by the lack of droppers. In terms of ride characteristics and geometry – these bikes have the most performance-oriented fit and sharp handling in our entire selection today: steering angle 68⁰ with the option to reduce it by 0.6⁰ using a flip-chip integrated into the handlebar; seat tube angle 74.5⁰; wheelbase length 1 174mm; stack to ritch ratio 1.31 in size L.
2. Giant Anthem
In the same category is the Giant Anthem, updated this year, which now joins the flex-stay suspension club. With a new ride height of 100mm in the rear and 110mm in the front, the Anthem still resists the onslaught of modern industry and doesn’t fall into the increasingly popular Down-country section. As well as redesigning the suspension, engineers also worked on frame stiffness and weight, reducing the latter by 250g compared to the previous version.
Carriage stiffness was increased by 20%, while overall torsional flexibility was reduced by 8%. The suspension is now rated at 90mm in the rear and 100mm in the front. To keep the bike true to modern XC-piste requirements, it was equipped with a new steering angle that was reduced by 1.5 ⁰ compared with the previous version – it is now 67.5 ⁰. Secondly, the reech has been increased by almost 1.5cm and the stack by almost 1cm. Changes in fork travel and steering angle resulted in an increase in front-center value, giving the bike a more aggressive angle of attack.
The wheelbase has, of course, also increased and now stands at 1,183mm. The bike’s special features include an electronic suspension system that Giant has already installed on its past trail bikes – the Fox LiveValve system. The system is available on the top two models in the range, the Advanced Pro 29 0 and the Advanced Pro 29 1.
LiveValve is a system of sensors and micromotors attached to the fork and shock, as well as an on-board minicomputer. Compression data is read by the sensors, computed by the minicomputer, which either locks or unlocks the suspension as the case may be, all in a split second.
Thus, the rider does not need to think about when it’s better to lock and when to open the damper – it all will do for him minicomputer from Fox. Also rather interesting are the carbon wheels from Giant with a very progressive inner width of 30mm, which are installed on the pre-flagship Advanced Pro 29 1 model. By the way, unlike last year and unlike the aforementioned AMS, all Anthem 2022s come complete with dropper-saddles.
3. Santa Cruz Chameleon
Finally, let’s dilute our suspension company with something simpler. After all, not all of us can afford a carbon suspension, and not even the best in its class. Especially since most of us don’t intend to compete in the world-class races for which these bikes were designed. An ordinary rider needs something affordable, reliable, and, even more desirable, universal, so that it would be possible to drive on trails in the nearby woods, maybe to jump some small sorties, or just to take a tent with the rest of equipment and go to Pvdsko for a couple of days with friends or alone. If that’s the kind of rider you are, take a look at the world’s most versatile hardtail (at least that’s what Santa Cruz says). This is the redesigned 2022 Santa Cruz Chameleon.
The history of this bike dates back to 1996. Yes, that’s when the first Chameleon frame was designed. Since then, the bike has undergone many transformations, but is still a favourite amongst those who appreciate quality hardtails. Today it’s a bike with a frame made from aluminium and a fork with a stroke between 130 and 140mm. A highlight of the frame are the dropouts, which allow you to modify the bike to suit your needs. Want more speed and responsiveness? gadget-mounted dropouts with 29 wheels and go for it. Tired of it? Want more fun, agility and confidence on the descents? Put your dropouts on a 27.5 and you’ve got a Mallet with a 27.5 at the back and a 29 at the front. Want a single-spoke for park riding or Dirt-Jumping? You’re welcome – all the replacement dropouts are fitted with a sliding axle, allowing you to shift the rear wheel axle by 12mm at the back.
By the way, with sliding dropouts you can also adjust the geometry a bit to suit your needs. But overall, you get a pretty sharp handlebar angle of 65⁰, a moderately steep seat tube angle of 74.4⁰ and relatively short 425mm long quills, which you can lengthen with the same slide dropouts if you want. You can even make this bike into a semi-fat and ride it in the snow in winter, or vice versa in the sand in the desert, because its frame accommodates tyres up to 2.8 inches wide with 27.5 wheels and 2.6 tyres with 29 wheels. In short, the Chameleon adapts to any environment, no matter where you put it.