The Best Hardcore Hardtails Today Make the Older Ones Look Like Toys

These modern steel hardtails feature up to 180mm of front suspension travel and slack, DH-level head angles for riding the roughest MTB trails.

The last time Singletracks surveyed the hardcore hardtail landscape was in 2018, and looking back, the bikes were. So. Cute. Earlier this year, we asked readers for their 2024 hardcore hardtail mountain bike recommendations, and after sifting through the responses, these are some of the best hardtails you can buy for riding the rowdiest trails.

Bird Forge hardtail bike
Photo: bird.bike

Bird Forge

Bird Forge hardtail frames are constructed using a mix of 4130 steel and Reynolds 853 DZB tubing. The 64° head tube angle is slacker than any of the hardcore hardtails we looked at back in 2018, though we’ll see that’s a little conservative among today’s crop. The Bird Forge blends retro-tech like external cable routing with more modern touches like UDH-compatible dropouts. Rolling on 29er wheels, the Bird Forge can be set up with suspension forks ranging from 140-160mm of travel.

Chromag Doctahawk hardtail mountain bike
Photo: chromagbikes.com

Chromag Doctahawk

Chromag is one of only two brands to land a bike on this list and also our 2018 and original 2016 hardcore hardtail lists. The Chromag Doctahawk ups the ante over those bikes with a slack 62.5° head tube angle and the ability to run a fork with up to 180mm of suspension travel. The 4130 chromoly steel frame features stout construction, with a size medium/large tipping the scales at just over seven pounds. Buyers can purchase the bike as a frame only or add on extras like a fork, brakes, and drivetrain.

Ferrum V2 NVHT
Photo: ferrumbikes.com

Ferrum V2 NVHT

The Ferrum V2 NVHT enduro hardtail can be configured as a 29er or mixed wheel bike with up to 180mm of fork travel. A 75° seat tube angle balances out the slack 62.5° head tube angle on this chromoly steel frame featuring UDH dropouts. Three frame sizes are available, ranging in weight from about seven pounds to ten (!) and fit disc brake rotors up to 203mm in diameter.

HTA*Max travelReach**
Bird Forge64°160mm518mm
Chromag Doctahawk62.5°180mm522mm
Ferrum NVHT62.5°180mm530mm
Marin El Roy63°140mm510mm
On-One Hello Dave62°150mm520mm
Pole Taival64.5°180mm530mm
RSD MiddleChild64.5°150mm489mm
Scharen DG63.5°170mm491mm
Stanton Switch9er65.5°160mm483mm
Transition TransAM64°160mm510mm
* Head Tube Angle (HTA). ** Reach for the largest available frame size
Marin El Roy
Photo: Jeff Barber

Marin El Roy

The Marin El Roy has the least fork travel (140mm) among the hardcore hardtails here, but it’s also one of the most affordable and accessible. Like the others on this list, the Marin El Roy features a steel frame and a slack head tube angle. Only two frame sizes are available, with the larger Grande size sporting a longish 510mm reach. Read our in-depth review of the Marin El Roy.

On-One Hello Dave

The On-One Hello Dave boasts a very slack 62° head tube angle paired with a not-so-long-for-this-list 150mm fork. With DN6 stainless steel tubing, UDH compatability, and external cable routing, the Hello Dave promises to be home-mechanic friendly. One-One says the Hello Dave is their most aggressive mountain bike, and it’s sold exclusively by UK-based online retailer Planet X.

Pole Taival steel bike
Photo: polebicycles.com

Pole Taival

Finnish brand Pole is well known for their machined aluminum full suspension mountain bike frames, but they also have a 4130 chromoly steel hardtail that’s designed for forks with up to 180mm of travel. The Pole Taival can run either 29er or 27.5+ wheels, and the largest frame size has a massive 530mm reach. The Taival is also notable for fitting a wide range of suspension forks, from 130-180mm.

RSD MiddleChild hardtail

RSD MiddleChild

The RSD MiddleChild features a 4130 chromoly steel frame with clearance for tires up to 27.5×2.8 and adjustable chainstays that can be set as short as 415mm for maximum playfulness. The MiddleChild’s 65.5° head tube angle and 150mm of maximum fork travel is sort of middle of the road among this group, though it’s still clearly hardcore. Buyers can choose from multiple complete builds online.

Scharen DG hardtail mountain bike
Photo: scharencycles.com

Scharen DG

The Scharen DG hardtail frame, delivering up to 170mm of front suspension travel, is constructed using a “Dedacciai Zero Uno double-butted chromoly tube set” with external cable routing and Super Boost rear axle spacing. The 425mm chainstays are on the short and playful side, while the 491mm reach on the extra large frame shouldn’t be uncomfortably long.

Stanton Switch9er hardtail
Photo: stantonbikes.com

Stanton Switch9er

I never thought I’d call a 65.5° head tube angle on a hardtail steep, but it’s 2024, and here we are. While not as slack as the others on this list, the Stanton Switch9er, which the brand calls the “ultimate enduro hardtail,” is one of the better-looking bikes in the group, and the 29er can fit forks with up to 160mm of travel. Buyers can choose a Taiwan-made frame that uses 4130 chromoly steel or a UK-made frame with Reynolds 631 steel tubing. There are two frame sizes, and Stanton claims a sub-six-pound frame weight.

Provided photo.

Transition TransAm

Transition is the only other brand that landed bikes on both of our previous hardcore hardtail showcases starting back in 2016. The chromoly steel TransAm was re-released just last fall and boasts up to 160mm of front suspension travel paired with a 64° head tube angle. The 510mm reach on the size extra large is properly long, while the adjustable-length chainstays can go as short as 425mm.

  • Price: From $799 for a frame and $2,599 for a complete bike
  • Official info

Do you own one of these bikes? Tell us how it rides in the comments below!