4 Hardcore Hardtails - Core Bike 2019

Jan 29, 2019
by James Smurthwaite  

A British trade show means one thing, a glut of hardcore hardtails. The Brits have a love of rigid rear ends, and there was no shortage of options on offer at Core this year.

The original hardcore hardtails were designed to keep the fun characteristics of a dirt jump bike in a package capable of smashing harder trails than traditional XC hardtails. Hardcore hardtails of the past offered 160mm or more of travel (some even fitted dual crown forks) but 150mm seems to be about the maximum travel nowadays - any bigger and the geometry fluctuations make them too difficult to ride. Here are four of the most interesting we found at Core.

Lynskey Bootleg


US based Ti frame builders Lysnkey teamed up with UK distro Hotlines for this hardcore hardtail with a sprinkling of British attitude. Based around a 140-150mm fork with a 64° head angle, it's the most aggressive bike here, but also the most expensive at £1,600 for the frame alone. The bike is for 27.5inch wheels and can apparently be built up as a light weight trail bike but this red themed, aggro build is also a cracker.

A Tennessee made Ti frame with a British outlook.

Lynskey offer a lifetime warranty on the frame, a sign of confidence if ever there was one.
SRAM and Hope makes up the majority of this red and silver build.

Wheel Size 27.5"
Recommended fork 140-150mm
Head angle 64°
Price £1,600 (frame)
Website hotlines-uk.com

Identiti AKA


The Identiti AKA enters its second generation in 2019 with the option to run it as a 140mm 27.5 bike or a 120mm 29er. The geometry was based on Identiti's Mettle enduro bike and the Adjustable Drop Out System means that the angles stay pretty consistent between wheel sizes. The same system also allows the bike to be easily run as a singlespeed.

This drop out adjustment allows easy switching between a 27.5" and 29" set up.


This top of the range RCX 275 costs £2,499 and is headed by a 140mm travel MRP Ribbon fork.


Wheel Size 29" or 27.5"
Recommended fork 120mm or 140mm
Head angle 64.7˚ or 64.5°
Price £499.99 (frame), full builds also available
Website identitibikes.com

Ragley Big Al


Ragley relaunched after a year's hiatus at Core and brought along this new platform. The Big Al was designed to bring the hardcore geometry to a more affordable price point, nudging in at under a grand for a complete bike. Based around a 130mm fork, it shares the geometry of Ragley's Big Wig but with a more price conscious spec and a lighter alloy frame.

£1,000 gets you a Recon fork, a 1x drivetrain and pretty much everything you need to hit some serious trails. A dropper would be a good first upgrade though.


It's great to see Ragley back in action after a year away

Wheel Size 29"
Recommended fork 130mm
Head angle 65˚Static
Price £999.99 (complete), £299.99 (frame)
Website ragleybikes.com

NS Eccentric Alu 29


NS offers the Eccentric in both steel and alloy, we got our hands on the alloy version here at Core. It's another great value bike, coming in at under £1,500.




Wheel Size 29"
Recommended fork 140mm
Head angle 65°
Price £1,450
Website ns-bikes.com



163 Comments

  • + 121
 The lynskey just kind of looks like an old xc bike with a long fork in it. Could be the seat tube angle. Just looks funny to me. But that identiti on the other hand..... Speechless
  • + 4
 was just gonna comment, that Lynskey but, with a lower TT
  • + 21
 It's the top tube. looks hideous.
  • + 12
 Yeh, it's as though they completely forgot about standover height.
  • + 4
 maybe it's cos we're used to bikes being soo looong nower days. It looks like it was built for somebody easily 6ft plus but, with a more conservative reach than super forward geos
  • + 3
 I think it might look different under sag but it does look a bit odd sitting there like that for sure.
  • + 7
 It just looks kinda clumsy.
  • + 15
 Yeah 1600 for a hardtail frame that look like it’s from the 90s yeahhhh no
  • + 5
 Not saying every Lynsky breaks, but all three people I know that owned one broke it, two of them more than once. That was some fairly techinical rocky riding, but still cross country riding. Will be interesting to see if they hold up to the more aggressive gravity oriented riding they are marketing to with this bike.
  • + 4
 Someone repainted the Yokota that was stolen from me in 1994, slapped a longer fork on it and called it a "Lynskey"
  • + 1
 Lynskey still makes bikes?
  • + 4
 @smithcreek: broke mine Lynsky frame... back in my single speeding days.
  • + 3
 Hey, random coincidence.. out getting coffee in Santa Cruz this morning and ran into a guy who had his hardtail out front-- it caught a few people's attention-- he designed a GORGEOUS one'off titanium hardtail, twin top tube, gussets, etc..-- so sexy and loaded with details. Check him out on Instagram. WHEATFALLCYCLES
  • + 13
 @diggerandrider: that's the mountain biking equivalent of a dude parking his bmw in front of Starbucks to pick up chicks. You got picked up hahaha
  • + 4
 @diggerandrider: Checked out that IG. Interesting bike for sure, but those top tubes look like double the hurt. Love to see some independent reviews once this guy gets going.
  • + 5
 I don't think they will ever get it right at Lynskey. It looks like my non-FS 94 Fat Chance when I popped a suspension fork on it, only worse and with less resale value.
  • + 2
 It's super affordable too...
  • + 2
 Exactly what i thought
  • + 3
 If pinkbike covered more hardcore hardtail choices maybe these 4 wouldn’t face so much scrutiny
  • + 1
 @mkotowski1:
Let's be honest, it's a pretty niche market
  • + 5
 @sam264: I feel many would benefit from the lack of maintenance that come with the hardcore hardtail I feel the amount of maintenance on a full susser is understated to first time buyers
  • + 5
 @mkotowski1:
Oh I definitely agree, I'm a big fan of the hardcore hardtail, having had a few myself (still miss my Shan), the bike industry just does a good job of steering people towards full suspension. Even the entry level ones are pretty good these days.

I do tend to try to steer people towards hardtail though as beginner riders. Everyone should start on a hardtail IMO.
  • + 2
 @sam264: It’s not in the uk and surprised people think it would be else where. If it’s not all rocks I ride my hardtail rather than my Snabb T or Swoop. Too many people over bike themselves.
  • + 1
 @StevieJB: agreed. I think with the advent of bigger wheels, fatter tyres and good geometry it has become easier to be over-biked. You can ride trails on a short travel suss that would have required a DH bike 9 or 10 years ago. Trails which used to suit a short travel rig are now easily do-able on a modern HT.
  • + 1
 @tremeer023:
I vaguely agree, except plus-sized bikes are for people that don't know how to do line choice. I don't think they're quite the revelation the bike industry makes them out to be
  • + 1
 and 499 for the frame...yeeeesssss!!!
  • + 1
 @sam264: yeah, maybe not plus tyres so much. I've got a 2.6 up front which is a huge improvement over older 2.3's but not sure I'd want any fatter. Also, 2.5 max rear if you ride aggressively and want to pump through berms.
  • + 58
 Honestly, I think those cheap hardtails that you can purchase at sports stores should all have this kind of geometry. The cheaper stuff for people who are new to mountain biking almost always discourages aggressive riding.

Change the welding jigs and add another 20mm to those Suntour forks and you have great handling bikes for $500 or less... Is it really that difficult?

PS.... That Identiti = n+1
  • + 18
 All Vitus hardtails have that...for years now.
  • + 8
 100% agree. It doesn't cost a penny to put relaxed geo on entry level bikes. It would help newer riders have more fun and control on their first years. Why are almost all entry level bikes coming with 70*+ head angles?
  • + 6
 @themountain: Yes! Been looking for a 24" hardtail for my 8 year old. All the 24" kids bikes from all the big names have f*cking 70 degree HA's. Vitus is the only maker that slacks it out a bit to 67. I'd like them to go further but at least Vitus seems to be on the right side of things.
  • + 6
 @dustysteve: @Spark24 this is definitely one of the better ideas I've read in the comments! There's absolutely no reason for entry level hardtails to have XC race geometry. People buying sub $1,000 mountain bikes just want something to ride and are usually lower skill level. Having a more relaxed geo will definitely help them to ride with more confidence sooner! For those of us that race XC, well, we know what to look for.
  • + 9
 I wonder if the entry level forks the department store bikes have can handle a slack head angle. After seeing the slow mo huck to flat videos, I'd be worried about a 28mm and 30mm stanchion with my fat ass on it.
  • + 3
 @Thisisbenji90: Bingo. Get them hooked on something easy to ride, then their next bike can be specialized for whatever discipline they want.

If someone could make a $500 entry-level aluminum bike that could be upgraded with REAl parts (12mm rear axle, boost, etc.), it'd be amazing. The Diamondback hook and Marin San Quentin 2 are both fantastic budget bikes with great potential to be upgraded.
  • + 1
 What about 1x set ups? Seems to me those would be dirt cheap to slap on a new bike. Correct me if I'm wrong...
  • + 5
 @mtbros1264: I would think so. In fact, I would think it would be cheaper than a 3x7 setup. Diamondback is doing the 1x on the cheap. xd drivers wouldn't be cheap, but a 10x46 would be fantastic for a beginner bike.

It's amazing how many new riders are overwhelmed when there are two shifters. If you think about it from a newcomers point of view, shifting isn't super intuitive. In fact, it's downright confusing for some people. They focus on the numbers to know what gear they're in. Also, the thumb on the lefft hand shifts into a harder gear while the thumb on the right hand shiftgs into an easier gear. This is confusing for a new rider. I understand the mechanics why it's this way, but from a learning/enjoyment standpoint, it's just another barrier for new riders. It sounds stupid to people like us who have been riding for a while, but for a new rider, 1x setups really help them. They just need to think about one side of the shifting. And the simpler it is, the better.
  • + 1
 @dustysteve: Well put. Thanks dude.
  • + 1
 @islandforlife: Islabikes is doing this kinda stuff. It's cool to see a company making an effort on creating a bike that's easily handled by a kid.
www.islabikes.co.uk/bikes
  • + 15
 If your going to make a "Hardcore Hard tail" than at least have the common sense to have a short seat tube, with having no rear suspension you want to be able to slam that seat to get it out of the way with your leg movements and it makes them look like a old xc bike, but that seems to have been changing because not as many bikes nowadays have high seat tubes.
  • + 7
 Its only really a issue with the lynskey out of these bikes, the other ones are dialed
  • + 0
 And add a dual crown for Christ sake! #hardtailpride
  • + 12
 Identiti AKA... There is a word in latvian "aka", that means "well" (it's the one with water in it), but there can be some much puns, because if I ride one then I can say I ride my bike well... (okay this one is bad, but I hope you get it) Big Grin
  • + 17
 Well well well, what do we have here? A bad pun.
  • + 5
 @IntoTheEverflow: It holds water
  • + 2
 Going to have to dig really deep to come up with one
  • + 2
 @mrgonzo: Well, I'm digging these puns...
  • + 10
 Who forgot to copy Lynskey in on the long, low & slack memo?

It's a real shame, Lynskey frames are beautiful, but they need to move forward with modern geometry, short and tall with a slack head angle just isn't desireable any longer.
  • - 7
flag pigman65 (Jan 29, 2019 at 8:40) (Below Threshold)
 Yep, all those bikes look cheap and nasty, stick to the Exotic ones please PB
  • + 14
 What about the Commencal meta? It's my new favorite hard tail ever.
  • + 4
 Can't beat the price of the Meta as well.
  • + 1
 YES! I was looking this kinda comment. A true bro bike. Commencal's got they're bikes dialed.
  • + 1
 @mtbros1264: on a meta cr, so sweet. Built last summer. Have more mes than my V4, gets lots of looks at the trailhead. 65° H A and longer wheel bait then v4 too...
  • + 12
 Hardcore hardtails - the Swiss knife of mountain biking.
  • + 11
 Ragley looks ace welcome back! On the other hand, that rear brake mount cannot be unseen.
  • + 2
 On the previous frames they were neatly tucked away on the chainstay, and the rear triangles (seatstays) were slightly rounded to accomodate it. Looks like the new versions have straighter seatstays, possibly for more rear end compliance? The trade off appears to be an unsightly brake mount position.
  • + 2
 Stoked to see Ragley back as well! Love mine
  • + 1
 Agreed. The rear brake mount used to affect the rigidity of the rear end also. I had two different Blue Pig frames where the non-drive chainstay bent right at the base of the forward part of the brake mount.
  • + 7
 Funny while full squish bikes head back to the 29 realm the 27.5 really does seem to fit the aggressive hardtail bike better. 27.5+ kind of a bust on FS bikes over all but IMO 27.5+ is ideal on a slacked HT. My 27.5+ HT I am riding now is my favorite bike I've ever owned in terms of all around fun.
  • + 10
 Hardtails.. say no more than Chromag
  • + 17
 Super overpriced for a hardtail
  • - 1
 @mkotowski1: mid price..
  • + 2
 @mkotowski1: Nah definitely not overpriced, it's a very fair price
  • + 6
 Yeeeeew, Chromag is rad as!
  • + 3
 Nah... no way. Before a Chromag I'll stick to a Whyte 905 one.
  • + 2
 @wildsidewilly: right on bro..
  • + 1
 @Topabajo: everyone to there own
  • + 6
 @Kimura: I dunno I guess I haven’t ridden one but all their top end kits are 4000 plus which seems a little steep considering they are steel hardtails made for hucking. I’d call them a boutique brand for sure
  • + 3
 @mkotowski1: yes, and wank worthy
  • + 2
 @mkotowski1: and look like a gate in larger sizes
  • + 1
 @funkzander: Show me a large steel framed bike that doesn't have a hint of gate about it
  • + 3
 @kingtut87: something like a pp shan where top tube and seatstays are one line. i´d love to have a chromag as i rock the stems and bars since ages but as i am tall i dont like the look of the large frames
  • + 1
 The whole world will be riding hardtails if Brexit goes through.
  • + 1
 If they had singlespeed options I'd definitely consider one. That would make them a real player.
  • + 2
 If we're talking about value, I bought the '18 NS alu frame on CRC for under $300 (less than the dropper post that's on it). 26.5 lb build with some extra parts I had laying around and it'll handle -40 degree pitch trails. Modern HT's are impressively capable.
  • + 9
 every time I see UK hardtails in the trade show article I wonder...where is On-One?
  • + 2
 On-One seems to be dead. No new frames for almost a year now.
  • + 1
 @nozes: I know, sadly. But still the 456 (650b) is really good bike and DeeDar is a total eye-catcher. I had carbon 456 on 26" and it was a great AM bike
  • + 4
 @nozes: Brant has just rejoined, so maybe that will lead to a new range.
  • + 1
 @thingswelike: If they are working on a new range of bikes,they are really keeping it secret.
  • + 4
 www.instagram.com/p/BtHT2pvF7mf

New stuff/ updated stuff coming soon by the looks of it.
  • + 1
 Bought a Dee Dar at the end of 2017. My favourite bike at the moment.
  • + 1
 @hypno-newt: ohlalaa, thanks for that
  • + 6
 as a second generation certified armchair weld inspector (CAWI) i'm impressed by all of these bikes. for whatever reason i think i'm partial to the NS.
  • + 3
 If anyone is gonna get one of these, get the NS, but the steel version. Rode it for two years, best bike I ever had. I felt the need to sell because I could only afford one bike in the new town I moved to. That town (at least I thought) needed a one bike full suspension do it all weapon.
Sometimes I wish I still had the NS
  • + 1
 Just built a Steel NS Eccentric.. It's absolutely replacing my big enduro bike for the next year. We all got so stoked on these Uber capable 160mm bruiser bikes, and then realized that most of my rides are on easy trails out my back door.. The Hardtail is 10x more fun than my Enduro was.
  • + 1
 @swan3609: bang on, too many people who’d have a way better time on a hardcore hard tail are riding round on Enduro bikes they simply don’t need.
  • + 6
 LOL - the saddle on the Lynskey looks like it's in line with the rear axle. Go home, you're drunk.
  • + 4
 They look nice, Lynksey notwithstanding, but there's not a rack mount among them Frown Give me a frame I can race a local DH or Enduro on and can carry a week's groceries if I want it to please, that'd be hardcore Smile
  • + 3
 I had a specialized Fuse Carbon for a year and while i really liked it I tried to use it as a one bike for everything and it was not suitable for every use. Fantastic for shorter intense rides but absolutely beat the crap out of me on bumpy and longer rides. My opinions have changed now, if getting a hard tail I'm going XC geometry and light weight otherwise I'm sticking to my full suspension bike.
  • + 3
 Surprised not to see Dartmoor in the mix, maybe they didn't make the show... They make some sick bikes. Speaking of Sick bikes, they make some sick hardtails as well. Both are Euro companies.
  • + 3
 last Primal is pretty dialed
  • + 7
 That NS... Clean!
  • + 5
 Hardtails are like LP records; there'll allways be a place for them.
  • + 1
 How do cassette tapes fit into that analogy? I still buy them at merch tables with no way to play them.
  • + 2
 @endlessblockades: Yeah, I was thinking about that. I'm not sure if cassettes fall under the "Hot" category like hardtails, or the "Not"category like 150mm quill Zoom stems.
Lately I've been kinda nostalgic for them. I think it depends on how old you are. If you're over 40, you are probably happy to never see one again.
  • + 1
 @woofer2609: def not ‘hot’ but at most of the shows I go to the bands are selling tapes and labels are putting stuff out in amazing packaging (for cassettes). A local label -Sentient Ruin- puts out a lot of their vinyl releases in cassette form as well any there are limited release cassette-only stuff too. There are def collectors out there. And I’m very old
  • + 1
 I have re-found my love for the Hardtail as of lately. Have a sub 22 lbs. FSi that just plain rips. Although, it does change my line choices compared to my Pivot 429. Hardtails still pluck at my heart strings. Beautiful, Simple and Efficient!
  • + 2
 Finally bikes that are not wrap with the old “Enduro” badge. “ Hardcore Hardtail” love it! Other then the lynsky they all look bad ass. Good and bad memories growing up with hardtais.
  • + 5
 I bought a red AKA the week they came out. It's the best bike I own
  • + 6
 You're damn right!
  • + 1
 Love hardtails, but I really can't see where i would ride one now. Would have to be short ride on a specif kind of trails. Even then my FS goes everywhere. might as well just carry the extra weight and be able to change my mind in the middle of a run to go on gnarly stuff.
  • + 2
 Riding a hardtail is like riding a different trail than with my FS. I think it makes me up my game and pick better lines. It makes me a better rider. I hear what you say, but to me, hardtails are like manual transmissions; totally unnecessary, but allow you to feel more "connected".
I have room for both, and my hardtail is worth about $300, so not worth it to sell. There is something beautiful about the shape as well.
  • + 2
 What does it mean when a bike brand goes on a 12 month hiatus? Do they break up with their girlfriend and go backpacking and drink ayahuasca for creative inspiration?

Good to see Ragley back in the game, anyway.
  • + 2
 I run 160mm forks on my dartmoor hornet and i have to say it ride unbelievably well. So i still think there's a market for longer travel hts despite what these guys are saying
  • + 1
 I have a Hornet and running 140mm Fox 34 and its great for jumping and shredding, but a 160mm would be nice for some steep and rowdy stuff. A lyric or pike with dual travel would be a perfect and have two distinct bikes
  • + 1
 @theflyingz: I run my ragley with a talas 130/160 and it is awesome for switching between travel for different trails. Also have a kona process 153 with a fox 36 that sits most of the time now except for long epic downhill rides.
  • + 2
 NS wins. Just have to take the XC bars off the green one. Plus Wish you showed a higher end specced Ragley. It deserves the respect.
  • + 1
 Man, first an article on RSD bikes with their new handrails, and now this.....it might actually be time to replace my 2005 Iron Horse Warrior Comp that I got for $20 in the Buy and Sell
  • + 2
 Love the AKA so much we now stock the Identiti range, great brand, great hardtail that will let you hang loose on the trails. both 29 and 27.5. Sorted www.slam69.co.uk
  • + 2
 I know the PB staff personally prefers 29ers, but more of the comments on the Ragley article yesterday were about the 27.5" models. Please show us more of the Blue Pig!
  • + 3
 Nice hardcore hard tails but il keep to my 24pornking DH lol see my profile youll see why il keep her lol
  • + 1
 @karl-htdhbikes: damn, how much does that tank weigh? Lol
  • + 2
 Weight=speed lol but yer to be fair id say as much as a real tank thats why i like that color i can hide when i crash in the woods lol @pikebait2013:
  • + 2
 Airdrop bitmap should be in this list. Lynskey looks terrible. Im not the target for a hardtail anyway as I dont want to get rattled to death these days.
  • + 1
 Sweet tubing on the Lynskey, but it needs the geometry of the NS. I wouldn't run any of those drivetrains, but they could be fun at a trail centre for a few hours.
  • + 4
 Like the NS, very nice.
  • + 2
 Or you can buy a whyte 905 which is more cost effective than these bikes and probably rides better too
  • + 2
 The Brits have a love of rigid rear ends...
  • + 1
 Could a steel 29'er hardtail be a not insanely harsh transition from an alu 150mm 26'er?
  • + 2
 If I had to choose...ns please
  • + 1
 That NS Eccentric Alu in grey is beautiful Drool slap a better fork on it and it’s ready to rip any of my local trails
  • + 2
 My back hurts just looking at these photo's...
  • + 3
 why doe
  • + 2
 Best saddle there by Ragley
  • + 1
 The market needs to feed, next year this will be lost in favor of another frame trend.
  • + 1
 Back in the days (201Cool hard tail was the poor man mtb, now it seems a fs bike will be the cheaper option
  • + 1
 What kind of 'hardcore hardtail bike' is the one where there's no Orange P7/Crush and/or Whyte 90x model? Maybe a wuss one?
  • + 0
 The world of hardtails, both creators and users, can say a big THANK YOU to Stanton, ..., for the radical geometries he introduced.
  • + 3
 Stanton were certainly a part of the evolution of the modern AM hardtail, but not the first either. Back in 2009 I remember Brant Richards blowing my mind with the new Ragley Blue Pig. He was on forums having to coach people through buying the right size because most of us didn't understand what he was doing with steeper seat angles, longer reach, designed around really short stems, etc
  • + 2
 Good to see you posting the head angles. Very important.
  • + 1
 How did the Norco Torrent HT not make the list? Barely anyone mentions this bike and it's f*cking insanely fun!
  • + 2
 That NS is a beaut!
  • + 1
 Where are Canfield Brothers?!?!?!?!? Please make more!
  • + 1
 Where is the Chromag? PB C'MON MAN!
  • + 1
 Can't beat a good Hardtail
www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHhqFh2Wfrw
  • + 1
 The Esker Hayduke is the hardtail to get.
  • + 2
 Ow British.... duh
  • + 0
 The Lynsky carries two water bottles inside the frame; therefore it wins over all the rest.
  • + 1
 Oh.... I'm dumb... "British" derp.
  • + 1
 This makes me miss my Ragley... fucking bike thieves. New bike looks sweet
  • + 2
 NS is sweet, for a 29er.
  • + 1
 I love hardtails thats all i have to say
  • + 0
 I was surprised I didn’t see a Transition amoungst these beauts
  • + 4
 They haven't released a new model,so why would there be ?
  • + 3
 Transition had the stupid idea to abandon their fabulous Trans Am hardtail few years ago. Worse: their passed from steel to carbon, which is an abomination. I owned a TransAm 29er during 2 years, and except a needed geometry upgrade, this bike was a pure fun provider. Transition, go back to steel please!
  • + 1
 so hardcore
  • + 0
 No Chromag? Not a real "Hardcore Hardtail" list.
  • + 1
 Chromag4life
  • + 1
 Hardcore how?
  • + 2
 Can handle jumps and drops unlike a Santa highball or trek super light whatever you call it
  • + 0
 The trek wrek
  • - 3
 Underwhelming. All 4.
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