Field Test: Affordable Hardtails - Marin San Quentin 3 vs Specialized Fuse Comp 29

Jan 14, 2020
by Daniel Sapp  

Last week, we saw two more affordable and completely capable trail bikes reviewed by RC, and this week we have two hardtails that bring the dollar figure down even more while remaining highly capable right out of the box.

Both the San Quentin and the Fuse offer a lot for what they cost, and while they don't have rear suspension, they aren't going to stop riders from honing their skills, riding a wide range of terrain, and most importantly, having a good time out on the trails.

The San Quentin 3 features an aluminum frame and sells for $2,000 USD. The Specialized Fuse Comp is also aluminum-framed but with bigger 29" wheels, and goes for $1,675 USD. What separates these bikes besides the $325 difference in price and 27.5" and 29" wheel sizes? Let's break it down.


Marin San Quentin 3: $2,000

Marin's name and location are intrinsically linked to the birthplace of mountain biking, Marin County, California. While mountain biking nowadays conjures up images of pricey full-suspension bikes laying over the tailgate of a Toyota Tacoma, driven by bros with flat-bill hats en route to slay the local trails, its roots are far more humble. The San Quentin speaks to those roots, as Marin says that the bike was developed for "downhill trails, light dirt jump, and enduro."

While some will certainly balk at that description being paired to a bike with only front suspension, there's a lot to be said for the simplicity and reliability of a solid hardtail. With the San Quentin 3, Marin has built a bike that has the geometry, componentry, and durability to tackle a variety of trails and still leave the rider with a smile on their face.

San Quentin 3 Details

Construction: 6061 Aluminum frame, internal cable routing
Wheel size: 27.5"
Geometry: (med.) Head angle: 65º, seat angle: 75º, reach: 444mm, BB height: 310mm, chainstay: 425mm
Sizes:S, M, L, XL
Suspension: 130mm RockShox Revelation RC
Key Components: Shimano 11-speed drivetrain, Shimano BR-MT400 brakes (180mm rotors), 150mm X-Fusion Manic dropper post
Contact: Marin Bikes

The San Quentin gets 27.5" wheels, 130mm of front suspension, and an aluminum frame that's designed to be durable and plenty stiff. It's a bike made for riding in technically challenging situations and to allow riders to learn, progress, and hone their skills without fear of mechanical failure.

Marin chose to give the San Quentin an aggressive 65º head tube angle, 425mm chainstays, a reach of 444mm, and a seat tube angle of 75º on the size medium we tested. While a 75º seat tube angle isn't exactly what we would call progressive on a full-suspension bike, it's important to remember that on a hardtail you're not sagging into the suspension, so it's right in line with where it should be.

A RockShox Revelation fork is a big bonus to find on a bike at this price point. The Vee Flow Snap tires are robust and have a lot of tread for gnarly conditions.
The San Quentin has internal cable routing through its aluminum frame.

What it Does Best

The San Quentin 3 feels stout from the start, and there's no question that it's up to the task of going a lot of places in the hands of a capable pilot. Its progressive geometry and 27.5" wheels, coupled with the aggressive 2.6" tires and a 130mm fork, helped provide the confidence necessary to steer the bike into rough terrain, knowing that it can make it through.

The smaller wheels help the bike feel nimble, and taking it from the trail to the dirt jumps or flow trail in the bike park is as simple as pedaling from one to the other. Even after a day's worth of laps on flowier trails in the Whistler bike park, the San Quentin felt as solid as could be. The tires do get a little bit skate-y on looser terrain, but overall the parts spec is well-suited to the bike's intentions.


Specialized Fuse Comp 29: $1,675

Specialized designed the Fuse Comp as a versatile and aggressive hardtail (seeing the theme here?). The bike, as tested, uses Specialized's aluminum M4 frame, can run either 29" or 27.5"+ wheels, and has chainstays that offer 15mm of adjustment, ranging from 420mm-435mm.

The Fuse comes in two different builds as well as a 'frame-only' option. Our more affordable Comp build sells for $1,675 USD and comes with a 130mm RockShox Recon RL fork, SRAM 12-speed drivetrain, SRAM Level brakes, and a 120mm TranzX dropper post.
Specialized Fuse Comp Details

Construction: M4 Aluminum frame, internal cable routing
Wheel size: 29"
Geometry: (medium) Head angle: 66.5º, seat angle: 74º, reach: 440mm, BB height: 315mm, chainstay: 420mm-435mm
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
Suspension: 130mm RockShox Recon RL
Key Components: SRAM SX Eagle 12-Speed, SRAM Level brakes, TranzX 120mm dropper post
Contact: Specialized

29" wheels provide a little extra help in rolling over rough terrain, which is especially welcome on a hardtail. Specialized finishes out the build of the Fuse Comp with a mix of house-branded components, including their own tires, seat, and grips.

The geometry of the bike lends to versatility. A 66.5º head tube angle, 74º seat tube angle, and reach of 440mm is again right in line with what we would expect in a capable hardtail. Like the Marin, there are no toss-away parts on this bike, and everything about it is functional, capable, and durable.

A 12-speed Eagle drivetrain gives riders a ton of gearing to get up steep pitches of trail. The adjustable dropouts allow for the handling of the bike to be tuned to some extent, as well as leaving the option for easily setting it up as a single-speed.
Clean internal cable routing is a nice added touch to the Fuse.

Specialized opted for adjustable chainstays on the Fuse. This not only gives riders the option to fine-tune the geometry of the bike via how long the rear-end is, which directly correlates to nimbleness on the trail, it also allows riders to easily swap the bike into a single-speed setup without the need for an additional chain tensioning device.

The Butcher and Purgatory tires use Specialized's Grid casing, which is a more durable option than the often seen Control casing. Additionally, Specialized's Bridge saddle is an exceptional offering that will provide most riders with a comfortable ride with a design similar to their higher end Hinge saddle.

The RockShox Recon RL fork isn't top-tier but it is adjustable, rebuildable, and tunable. It's built on the Reba chassis and features a Solo Air damper that's tried and true.

What it Does Best

Up, down, and all around. Like the San Quentin, I spent time on the trails in and around Whistler on the Fuse riding everything from flowy park trails to more technical singletrack. With a hardtail, most riders can ride most of trails they would on a full-suspension bike, but the pace is different. The 29" wheels of the Fuse, along with capable geometry and tires that performed well allowed me to ride highly technical trails without fear of mishap.

I'm happy to say that not only did the Fuse hold up well, but it also performed well and was a blast to ride on just about any trail we encountered. The 29" wheels of the Fuse along with better tires and more gearing gave it a bit of an edge over the Marin when it comes to all-around trail riding but, at the end of the day, both bikes were fully capable and dependable when it comes down to it.

Full suspension isn't a requirement to have a good time on the trails, as these two bikes prove. While it is important to invest in a quality bike if you're looking for durability and dependability, there are options out there that can tick those boxes without requiring a second mortgage or the sale of a kidney.

Along with being more affordable, hardtails can help even the best riders improve their skills and learn to ride with a lot more finesse. Plus, there's more to mountain biking than being the first rider to skid to a stop at the bottom of a trail.

If I were to choose one bike of these two for how I like to ride, it would be the Fuse Comp 29. The larger wheels carry a little more speed and make rolling over and through more technical sections of trail a little bit easier. The parts spec is also more what I would consider ideal, thanks to the increased range of gearing with the SRAM Eagle drivetrain and better performing tires. The Marin, however, would likely be a better choice for the rider looking to spend more time at the local dirt jumps while adding in a mix of trail riding.

Author Info:
danielsapp avatar

Member since Jan 18, 2007
476 articles

  • 136 2
 Let's add the Nukeproof scout, big honzo and chameleon next time
  • 55 1
  • 40 0
 The Vitus Sentier and the NS Eccentric would be good ones too.
  • 61 1
 Yes more HT reviews please. They are a pure joy to ride as change to your squishy bike.
  • 13 0
 @Arepiscopo: I ride a Honzo. Here are my thoughts: I am really surprised how well this bike can climb. Where it really shines is the down. And it fits a water bottle! (please read between the lines)
  • 4 0
 @marcocellere: I had to sell mine to fund a new FS bike (wife made me do it). I miss it. Popped around everywhere and climbed well.
  • 35 1
 Or a Commencal with a lyrik for 2k!
  • 17 0
 And the RM Growler.
  • 7 0
 the new scout expert has a Fox 36 up front. that sort of stability (on a hardtail front end) will be hard to compete with. i think they've made a wise decision having it in a kind of military green too, it looks like it means business.
  • 16 0
 @Jabber127: Oh yea can't forget the meta ht am
  • 2 0
 @tobiusmaximum: Nukeproof has stepped up the specs on the scouts like crazy over the last 2 years
  • 12 10
 I love the geo of my Honzo ST, but holy hell does that thing beat the bejeezus out of me on even slightly rough trails. With a 35mm clamp bar it was basically unrideable. Switching to a 31.8 bar helped some. I have a set of 29x2.6 tires I'm going to try to see if that improves the ride quality. If that doesn't work, it's going up for sale.
  • 1 0
 @Kimura: you're right. i've always liked the scout in essence, but previous years i felt like its been lacking something. 2020 is the year i'm really thinking the expert is a package that will take some beating.
  • 8 0
 Add the Banshee Paradox to this growing list of badass hardtails.
  • 6 0
 Orbea laufey 2020 !
  • 4 0
 Brid Zero
  • 6 0
 @Arepiscopo: gesundheit
  • 7 8
 Just plopped down a deposit on a Chameleon. Many of the other HT builds are centered around affordability. If you are looking for a fun HT, it just doesn’t make sense not to spent the bit extra for the versatility of the Chameleon. Or so I hope...
  • 5 2
 Has somebody catalogued companies producing HT frame-only options? Maybe a spreadsheet with axle and wheel size, plus suspension travel. I've got all these parts lying around, but no idea who makes a frame they'd fit. It really is a shame that a variety of cheaper HT frame only options aren't being sold to address the sea of old-components; tired of sailing the Buy&Sell for overpriced used crap!
  • 4 0
 @scferg: not sure why you think a Chameleon gets you more versatility, unless you're talking about running it single speed. All of these listed HT's are pretty comparably versatile.
  • 14 0
 Let’s add Ragley to the list as well.
  • 7 0
 @jcklondon: check out Marino frames. Can make you a frame with pretty much whatever options you want for a good price
  • 1 0
 @gumbytex: One of the big ones, yes. The swappable dropouts are a nice trick to make me *feel* that the bike can evolve with me. I doubt I’ll ever run it SS, but I’ll very likely go between 27.5+ and 29.

The lifetime warranty is also a plus there, hoping this HT lasts a while.
  • 8 0
 @jcklondon: you could check out RSD. You've probably seen a few of their fatbikes hanging around the HAFTA trails, but they've got some 27.5+/29 options. I love my steel Middlechild! They're based out of North York, and are a great group of guys to deal with.
  • 16 0
 Forget all those rubbish aluminium pieces of wood and get a real hardtail instead: a steel hardtail of course.
  • 12 0
 That new Norco Torrent has got me hot and bothered.
  • 13 3
 Chameleon is hardly affordable..
  • 4 3
 @softsteel: steel is real!!!
  • 5 0
 @ARonBurgundy: Yo man. I'm picking up a Big Honzo ST frame today!
  • 6 13
flag WAKIdesigns (Jan 14, 2020 at 10:51) (Below Threshold)
 Honzo is the ultimate hardtail. Sorry...
  • 4 5
 @Arepiscopo: i hope you still ride your wife after treating u this bad
  • 2 0
 @ARonBurgundy: I'm not sure you can pull it off with the Honzo but switching to 27.5 + 2.8's was a game changer for me on my HT. That extra cushion made a huge difference.
  • 3 0
 @jcklondon: Marino.. you can choose you're geo and i think the dropouts too by a simpe dropdown-menu. Also the tubeset and gussets and stuff like that.
  • 11 4
 @Dustfarter: The bit about Honzo is that you can switch between the two. And you still can put in a decent sized chainring in there and use it as a gravel bike for eating miles. All with very short chainstay. It may not have been the first hardtail with a particular feature but it just put them all together. Wishbone, bent Seat tube, slack enough head angle, short stays, short stem. At the time when 29ers rode like crap, woke as fuk companies like BTR or Prod privee were shagging their brains out to make the realest steel in 26”, Kona, without any fanfare just made a bike that ticked every god damn box. In the best possible manner.

Then they started fkng it up by making it stupid long widening the tire pocket but the original Honzo deserves to be in the MTB hall of fame as one of the most profound designs nobody ever noticed.
  • 2 1
 @Arepiscopo: Unit with -2 headset gets much vote.
  • 3 1
 @ARonBurgundy: You ride with your knees locked out, bro?
  • 2 0
 @Dustfarter: I have tried 27+ on some other hard tails and a couple full suspensions and in general I didn't like the bigger tires. I weigh about 220lbs fully kitted out so I had to run around 20 PSI in the tires. That negated much of the cushy benefits of the larger size, made them bouncy, and imprecise.

I've thought about trying 27+ on my Honzo, but I don't want to buy wheels just to experiment.
  • 1 0
 @scferg: I'm not following your logic. Can you elaborate?
  • 2 1
 @WAKIdesigns: if you're talking classics you gotta stick the Krampus on that list. Possibly the most versatile bike ever made and a ton of fun.
  • 2 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I always thought the Honzo had somewhat limited tire clearance. It was one of the reasons I went for a Canfield EPO...
But agreed. It seems like a killer bike with a reputation to match.
  • 2 0
 @ARonBurgundy: I hear ya. Getting the pressure right is tricky. I'm about your weight too and I do a pressure check for every ride. 18 psi on 38mm internal rims is my sweet spot, less and the tire folds when cornering hard and more it's a bounce fest.
I think plus tires really only work well for hardtails. I don't love them paired with full sus.
  • 8 0
 @WAKIdesigns: 68 degree head angles are so 2015. I had a honzo, had fun, but enjoy my Middle Child a lot more. Never thought 64.5 HA would feel so normal, but now I'm not going back.
  • 4 0
 @WAKIdesigns: honzo looks like a downcountry hardtail. change my mind.
  • 3 0
 @poleczechy: shame though that a frame-only option is not available in that gorgeous purple color.
  • 3 0
 @Kimura Shoutout to the Salsa Timberjack also

slightly more endurance geometry for flowy-er trails, longer rides, bikepacking while still very shreddable/jumpable

surprisingly nice balance of light/tough for the money, 27.5" & 29" completes, decent parts specs, more mounts for the adventurers and overpackers

also has adjustable dropouts for singlespeed and geo adjustments.
  • 1 0
 @skycripp: not fully locked out, usually just dial up the compression.

Really though it's more in my hands/arms. I get a ton of feedback through the bike. It's not arm pump, just general soreness/aches. Switching to a 31.8 bar from 35 helped. Spank Vibrocore helped a little more. Maybe the fork is too burly for the bike's intention? I'm running a Suntour Auron which has 35mm stanchions.
  • 4 0
 @jcklondon: Cotic BFE. The new version just went to boost spacing. The previous model had 142. Great geo, great value, built to take a beating.
  • 2 0
 @jollyXroger: Couldn't agree more.
  • 1 0
 @ARonBurgundy: Try bigger tires with cushcore and run 15-20 psi.
  • 1 0
 Is this a test, or advertising for Specialized ?
There are other 29 inch hardtails out there.
  • 2 1
 And a Chromag... maybe Stylus??

Yes, the completes are above this price range, but they're worth it!
  • 2 0
 Octane One Prone too
  • 1 0
 Heahhhhh Hardtail Ain't Dead!!!
  • 1 0
 @poleczechy: same here, I'm surprised nobody else is mentioning it...
  • 1 0
 @poleczechy: ITS SO SICK
I ride a pipedream moxie from the UK and the spec's are so close.
  • 4 2
 I'm no dentist, but my $400 Nukeproof Scout is hands down the best HT. Oh, let me not forget $4k in other parts.
  • 2 0
 @ARonBurgundy: my Honzo ST with a 140 36, a 2.5 DHF/Aggressor combo and a 35 SixC bar goes every single place my Druid goes. With ease. And a fk load of fun. Zero harshness. The thing absolutely slays. Sometimes I go for weeks without riding my Druid, because the Honzo is killing it.
  • 2 0
 Cotic Soul, DMR Trailstar.
  • 2 0
 O and let’s add the new Sick nar... O never mind
  • 3 0
 @PtDiddy: my MMMBOP freaking rips
  • 2 0
 @jcklondon: Try Stanton bikes, they have a threaded bb and modular dropouts that can accommodate various axle standards. Even a custom geo option, which I'll probably order this year.
  • 6 0
 Pinkbike needs to have a Hardtail shootout. There are so many good HTs out there and a lot of people who really love them.
  • 1 0
 @Dustfarter: You can. I ran DHF and DHR2 27.5x2.8 on my Honzo (and now on my Jet 9). Grip for daysssssss
  • 1 1
 @scferg: did the same...sold carbon honzo and bought new Chameleon C - getting a SS rear wheel and dropouts this summer for another option...absolutely a ripper! You won’t be disappointed!
  • 1 0
 @Lurch-ECD: love mine
  • 1 1
 @teenwolf: Nice! Now I just need SC to hand me my frame...even living down the road it isn’t always easy.
  • 1 1
 The all new Canfield Nimble 9!
  • 3 0
 @medardlefevre: my mmmbop rips too I have mine at 160mm travel
  • 1 1
 Bird Zero in all its guises too, one of the best hardtails available and ridiculous value
  • 4 1
 And nor is the chameleon good value or cutting edge in the hardtail world. @makkelijk:
  • 1 2
 Over priced hype hardtail, the chameleon. For the overweight middle aged farts who already have a bronson that they can’t ride properly @teenwolf:
  • 2 3
 @CrispyNuggs: well, opinions are like buttholes, right! And I don’t own a Bronson, am fitter than most and have been riding 20+ years on more bikes than enjoy your hardtail, and I will enjoy mine!
  • 1 0
 Sorry no offence intended, I should never drink alcohol and go on the internet lol
  • 1 1
 @WAKIdesigns: @WAKIdesigns: was there ever a 26“ Honzo?
I’m looking for a nice used Trail/enduro hardtail frame to exchange my old 2008 Kona Stuff.

I know it’s intended use was as a Dirtjump Bike, but I got a size large frame instead of the size small I usually rode in Kona’s back in the day and set it up with a nice 95-140mm Rock Shox Pike, amazing looking red DT Swiss E2200 wheels, Shimano XT Drivetrain and 203mm Avid Code brakes etc.
These parts make the bike a pretty decent handling Singletrail Hardtail, but you can feel the geometry is dated nowadays..
The front gets super light when climbing with the 140mm fork and almost 70 degrees headtube angle and cornering can be very scary if you’re not used to a bike that starts to slide in the front instead the back.

So if you could point me to a 26“ frame which is really intended for enduro stuff, I would be super grateful!

P.s.: I even created a Pinkbike account to ask this specific question, so please acknowledge the ridiculously funny username I came up with!
Nothing against Nukeproof, I ride a 2016 Mega 290 with amazing suspension upgrades (Formula Selva and EXT Storia LOK) and I love it!
I just got it recently and it’s my first bike with bigger than 26“ wheels and modern geometry.
It took some time to get used to the totally different feeling, but now it blows my mind everyday because of how capable it is.
It’s much better handling on the downhills than the dedicated 200mm DH bikes from the mid to late 2000 I’m used to, but the mindblowing thing is how effortlessly it climbs with that much travel.

Also it beats my former freeride/park/jump bike (Rocky Mountain Slayer SS in the amazing yellow Wade Simmons Signature Edition with the super funny and detailed blue decals) in every aspect while still having this amazing touring qualities.
  • 3 0
 @Pukeproof: Waki checked out of PB a few months back.
  • 1 1
 @fartymarty: ah thanks for the heads up man.
  • 52 5
 You've positioned these bikes repeatedly as a budget/beginner route, then a bit at the end about how seasoned riders might ride them too. Classic.

Years ago Seb Kemp wrote this brilliant piece:

Here's an excerpt:

Elimination of geek science
If you turn up to a group ride or bump into another rider at a lonely trailhead the likelihood of you being bored to death with inane banter about some element of “science” is vastly reduced.

This is because other riders believe anyone who rides a hardtail is:
A) A newbie
B) A little bit “special”
C) Poor
D) Terribly naive

They won’t try and coax you into a conversation about digital telemetry, coefficient drag rates, leverage snakes and other such nonsense they read on the back of a catalog or in some ridiculous forum. They’ll think you don’t have the capacity to comprehend that level of cerebral stimulation or that you probably just just don’t care.

This is good, now you can ride in peace.
  • 7 32
flag sanchofula (Jan 14, 2020 at 12:03) (Below Threshold)
 Perhaps you're stereotyping, but then again, most folks who ride a hardtail do fall into those four categories because anyone who wants to ride faster and harder will bump up against the limitations on a hardtail far faster than they will ona comparable full suspension bike.

There's a very good reason cars, truck, and motos have rear suspension.

We're fortunate to have the technology that allows mountain bikes to have those same benefits.

Seb Kemp was more right "years ago" when FS bikes were in their early days, but these days his insight is dated and off target.
  • 14 1
 @nurseben: I disagree. I own both a Ripmo and a Chameleon up-forked to a 150mm Fox 36, and they're fun in different ways. Sure, the Ripmo is undoubtedly faster on the descent and overall more capable of getting me comfortably through nasty terrain. It's the bike I choose more often. But the Chameleon challenges me to ride more gracefully and be more precise in my line choices. I've started to enjoy trails that the big bike would simply mute, and the responsiveness of the hardtail through tight turns, wheelies, etc. really makes it a different beast altogether. I think there's very much a place for both. And in regards to "limitations", I think I can get down almost anything on the Chameleon I can clear on the Ripmo, albeit a bit slower and more carefully.

Maybe this puts me in the "a little bit 'special'" category.
  • 4 0
 @airdonut41: I too run an upforked 150mm Cham as a second bike. Cheers!
  • 2 0
 @airdonut41: Curious about the 150, am building a Chameleon this week and the fork that’s going on is current at 150 and was planning to drop down to 140 (have the shaft) after a few rides.

How’s it ride, any cons to running it at 150?
  • 1 0
 @scferg: It's still fairly new to me, but so far I haven't been able to use up all the travel. I haven't gotten it dialed, but I suspect a 140 Fox 34 might actually be a better fit for me (~5'10", 165 lbs). I do tend to ride a little bit rear-heavy, I think; I use the factory recommended pressure on my Ripmo in the rear, and run the fork a bit softer. That said, I really like the head angle that the longer fork gives the Chameleon. Supposedly it's right around 66 degrees with a 150mm. That won't change a huge amount with a 140mm fork instead, but definitely something to think about.
  • 2 0
 Or....E) Extremely talented and about to make you look slow on your carbon wonder machine.
  • 1 0
 @airdonut41: I was playing around with a geo calculator, here are the specs for 140 vs 150 for 27.5+.

HA: 66.72
STA: 72.24
BB: 317.5

HA: 66.28
STA: 71.78
BB: 320.9
  • 45 5
 Affordable ? For the price of the spezialised I can get a Vitus Sentier with a better Rockshox Revelation, Sram Guide brakes and most importantly Shimano Slx/XT drivetrain.
I also get to choose between 27,5 and 29, and the geo is pretty similar. That's what I'd call good value.
  • 26 1
 This. 12 speed SLX, XT brakes, dropper, same price as Fuze which has SX junk.
  • 20 5
 If they're the same price then they are both just as affordable, aren't they?
  • 3 9
flag lkubica (Jan 14, 2020 at 9:16) (Below Threshold)
 For 2k or near you can get a full sus ... Bikes are pricey in general but hardtails have the worst price/value ratio from all of them.
  • 6 0
 @lkubica: Admittedly these part specs are much much much better than what you get on a full sus bike at 2k.
  • 3 1
 @jordanaustino: Well better, yeah, much much much better ? Dont think so. Hate to use Vitus as a Reference again, but you can get a 160 (f/r) 29er Enduro for around 2000. It has Rockshox 35 Gold up front and a Rockshox Deluxe R in the rear. Shimano Deore shifting and brakes. Obviously these arent especially capable parts, but especially the components on the Marin are not really any better.
  • 7 2
 These discussions make me long for the day that whenever someone calls a lbs-sold bike "affordable", that there isn't someone comparing the component spec to that of a direct sales brand (which Vitus is, through CRC). We're not quite there yet.

Yes Vitus does make "capable" hardtails that are cheaper than their "capable" full suspension bikes.

And Specialized makes "capable" full suspension bikes that are more expensive than their "capable" hardtails.
  • 6 0
 The value of a vitus depends on your country. For example, the Sentier VRS is $2800 delivered all in to Canada while the Fuse as tested is $2100 with tax. The Nukeproof mega is fairly affordable in the USA but on par with more boutique brand pricing here. So, I can see why they avoided using Vitus/Nukeproof as the value is so dependant on where you live.
  • 3 0
 @vinay: But I didn't directly compare it to the Spec. In fact, I compared it to the marin. And unlike Spec, I can not get a Marin from any of my local dealers, and in fact, to my knowledge, there only is one Marin distributor in Austria. But they are available from online bike shops, like CRC. While CRC doensn't sell 2020 Marins, in the past they did sell them, and there are other online shops that do sell them, so I think it is a fair comparisson.
  • 4 3
 @lkubica: What a stupid comment.

For 2k you can also by a car or a motorbike or a blah blah blah.

All useless if you want to buy a hardtail.
  • 5 0
 @jordanaustino: used to be very true, not so much anymore depending where you look - including LBS

Giant Trance 3 has a better fork, equivalent brakes, slightly worse drivetrain, quality full suspension with slightly more dated geo... comparable spec full sus for $100 more than the Spesh here

RS 35 gold fork / RS deluxe R
Giant dropper
SX drivetrain (at that price i dont care SX vs NX)
ships tubeless with maxxis HR2 2.5WT exo 3c
  • 1 0
 Grabbed a Sonder Transmitter with relevation, gx, dropper, guides, for 1600 us
  • 4 1
 @vinay: nowadays the biggest difference between direct-to-consumer brands and lbs brands is that lbs bikes pass through at least one more set of hands than direct-to-consumer bikes, and every hand increases the price and takes the profit.

I got a Vitus Sommet from CRC last year for $1600 with a Yari and full SLX (drivetrain and brakes) and dropper, and it's awesome. $1600! Same price as the Fuze but full squish and better components. The biggest difference between the two is middle men who increase the price.
  • 3 1
 @gumbytex: What is also amazing, is the amount of people I see end up at my LBS with a BRAND NEW YT or other consumer direct bike, its BRAND new, and they screwed up assembling the bike. Cross-threaded pedals, terribly tuned derailleurs, cross threaded hangers, loose headsets, brakes rubbing... etc.

Sure, you paid more for an LBS brand, but you probably got to try it out, size up, and if you are at the right shop, they helped you pick it out and educated you on the components and models. Some folks may be tempted by the value on a CDC, but there is value to be had in an LBS. If you mechanically inclined, knowledgeable, and good with a geo-chart maybe CDC isn't a bad idea, but otherwise, sometimes worth it to visit an LBS and pay a little extra.
  • 2 0
 @teethandnails: I've bought three direct-to-consumer bikes now. All three came dialed. All of them just needed handlebars put on and were ready to rock. I'm sure there have been bad experiences with direct bikes too though.

I've also gotten terrible advice from mechanics at LBS's, and I've gotten great advice from mechanics at LBS's. I've had bike shop employees clearly just trying to upsell me on everything no matter what, or try to push me into buying their closeout junk they're just trying to get rid of. I've walked into bike shops waaaaaay too many times knowing more about the bikes they sell than they do.

Neither route is perfect and neither ever will be. But saving $1000-$2000 on comparable builds by buying direct is a HUGE difference, plenty to have your local bike shop fix *every single mistake* you listed and still have $500-$1500 left over, easily. For expensive bikes it's not "just a little extra".
  • 1 0
 @gumbytex: I can see the value perhaps if you are mostly concerned with the price of the bike, you are able to work on your own bikes, attend demo events to ride those CDC bikes OR roll the dice and trust reviews, and are not concerned with businesses in your local community, or have a terrible bike shop in your area.
I get that. Or maybe you just WANT a YT or another CDC, and if so, rad, get it. I am not here to judge.

But having had alot of friends who wanted to "save a ton of money buying a YT!" (I have had 4 buddies over the last few years purchase YT's) and then seen the customer service nightmare with that particular company when it comes to the bikes NOT being dialed out of the box and YT not being willing to help once they ship out a bike. IE bikes do not shift properly, brake rub, one of my friends cross-threaded a derailleur hanger (which was his own fault), and then witness folks bring in bikes over and over at my LBS that are CDC with either user-error problems or trying to get the LBS to warranty parts on their bikes as they don't know how, is kind of a mess. If you read reviews on many CDC bikes, they do NOT come out the box ready to go in most cases. I think YT and Canyon may do a better job at this, but there is still technical know how involved, even if it is basic. I have purchased several bikes CDC, and one of the bikes came out the box ready to go, and the other needed a lot of tuning. That's fine, I know how to work on bikes.

My point is, if you are a new consumer, and do NOT know how to work on bikes, and do NOT know how component warranties work, it can sour an experience of bike ownership. I have seen it happen more than a few times. Not everyone is price conscious, some are more value conscious, and they will find the value in someone assisting them in picking out a new bike, getting it setup the way they like it, and the support an LBS offers post purchase.

Also... as has been noted in more CDC reviews in the past year, some bike companies are bringing out more price competitive models, and some CDC companies prices are creeping. Also, the hybrid model, such as what Norco, Specialized, and Trek are implementing means you can order one from the comfort of your home and then have the LBS assemble and tune it for you.
  • 35 4
 Some of us ride hardtails by choice. They're not "inferior" to full-suspensions, just different.
  • 11 30
flag phops (Jan 14, 2020 at 10:40) (Below Threshold)
 Anything that you can do on a hardtail you can do on a full suspension The vice versa isn't true. Seems to me that its this is a pretty hard evidence that they are inferior.
  • 20 2
 @phops: Depends on your criteria of success. If your goal is fun, and you have more of it on a hard tail, there's nothing inferior about it.
  • 14 2
 @phops: by that logic, trail bikes are inferior to dh bikes. More capable does not always mean better. I can manual, pump, jump, and bunnyhop way better on a hardtail than an enduro full suspension. I have both. They're both great tools, but "more capable" is not always better.
  • 5 0

You can’t turn a subjective quality into ‘hard evidence’. Different people have different priorities.

I don’t have a horse in this race, but ‘ability to do things’ is only one qualifier of ‘bicycle superiority’. (Lmao)

For example:

-Ultimate climbing and pedalling efficiency is probably going to be won by an XC hard tail.

-Hard tails have less wear components, pivot bushings, etc, and therefor easier to maintain in brutally muddy conditions.

Those specific qualities may not be of paramount importance to you- but they are to other people. Therefor those are the best bikes for those people.

You’re basically saying that a suit is better than a T shirt because you wouldn’t wear a T shirt to your office job or a funeral. Doesn’t mean the suit is the best choice in all conditions.
  • 4 17
flag phops (Jan 14, 2020 at 14:55) (Below Threshold)

"Ultimate climbing and pedalling efficiency is probably going to be won by an XC hard tail."

Try going up a set of stairs on a hardtail versus a FS and see which one does better. Also, keep in mind that FS bike can become as efficient as a hardtail through suspension lockout, especially with modern anti squat geometries.

"Hard tails have less wear components, pivot bushings, etc, and therefor easier to maintain in brutally muddy conditions."

But they take more rear wheel abuse, which requires more tire changes, wheel truing, and so on.

There is no way to spin this, sorry. FS bikes are just better. Bang/buck? Sure Ill give you that, hardcore hardtails probably win in this category, although the new sub 2k Vitus bikes are very close. Overall, FS is still better.
  • 2 16
flag phops (Jan 14, 2020 at 14:56) (Below Threshold)

last time i checked, you can't ride a dh bike up hill as well as a trail bike, so your comparison is invalid.

"I can manual, pump, jump, and bunnyhop way better on a hardtail than an enduro full suspension"

You can get a bike like Evil Calling, pump up the shock to 300 psi, and it would be just as efficient to pump, jump, and bhop as a hardtail.
  • 10 1
 @phops: Yes, I'm going to pump my suspension up to 300PSI everytime I want have a watered down hard tail experience...
  • 6 1

What a tool
  • 5 1

This isn’t spin. Different people want different things, and that’s all there is too it?

But next time I have to ride up a whole bunch of stair sets, I’ll remember to bring my full suspension bike.
  • 5 1

Flogging a dead horse mate. He obviously knows best.

I guess all bmxers are doing it wrong too
  • 4 0
 @jlawie: He's actually got his BMX in his profile photos... But he probably wishes it was a dually BMX.
  • 2 0
 @mammal: rofl
  • 2 5

Watch Fabio Wimmer Specialized Stumjumper bike check, or any of the Sam Pilgrim ones, because thats exactly what they do to be able to get pop on their bikes. Are you saying they should just be on a hardtail?
  • 4 1
 @jlawie: 100% But this is funny.

@phops: You need to relax.
  • 5 1

You do realise they both ride hardtails too?
  • 4 0
 I sense you’ve been shown up by riders on hardtails many times @phops:
  • 1 5
flag phops (Jan 19, 2020 at 17:18) (Below Threshold)

Sure, specific dirt jumpers or trials bikes, which is outside of this discussion. There is no getting out of the fact that that DangerDavez said that pumping up suspension to high PSI for a more responsive bike is dumb, when thats exactly what they do. Not sure why even people are trying to defend that point.
  • 1 5
flag phops (Jan 19, 2020 at 17:21) (Below Threshold)

I sure have.

However, me being right in the fact that you literally can't ride a hardtail up a set of stairs like you can with an equivalent FS bike has zero dependence on how fast I am.

On the other hand, I am willing to bet that all the people that are shilling hardcore for hardtail get shown up by FS riders all the time, so they have to go get their validation on line.
  • 5 0

What a moron.

You're whole argument is based around cycling up a set of stairs? Yeah, cause that's what people go out and by bikes for.

Give it a rest.
  • 3 0

‘Shilling hardcore for hardtails’

Hahaha. Yes, me- a mainly commuter cyclist, who goes MTB riding on occasion is getting paid to push hard tail bikes on the internet.

Oh no, what will I do now that I’ve been exposed??

The Great Hardtail Conspiracy of 2020. We’d have gotten away with it to, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!
  • 1 2

Hmm so you are telling me you never ride trails that require climbing up rocky/rooty terrain that resembles irregularly spaced stairs?

  • 4 0

I do. Almost every ride.

.....quite comfortably on my hardtail I might add.
  • 2 0
 I rarely get “shown up by riders on fs” you made the assumption, I’m just putting you right have a lovely day @phops:
  • 1 2

If you have the skill to do it on a hardtail, then you would be even faster climbing on an FS bike.

Therefore FS bikes are better.
  • 3 0

Wrong again.

Give up dude.
  • 31 1
 Sram renaming their line was genius. No one would have paid 1700 for a hardtail with X3 6 years ago. But EAGLE SX! Gimme gimme!
  • 2 1
 It's heavy AF and feels kinda clunky, but you can't compare it to X3/X5 from 6 years ago.

Same gear range and completely compatible with the any fancier "eagle" bits when the OEM parts wear out, unlike the X3/X5/X7 crap. (except casette requ replacing freehub)

Call SX/NX cheap and clunky all you want (it is), but it's a big improvement over what was coming on lower-end bikes a few years ago.

More importantly, drivetrain is totally the right place for product managers to skimp at these price points so they can spec better suspension/tires/brakes. Drivetrains don't matter as much for mtb relative to the other bits and can more easily and cheaply be upgraded and customized bit by bit.
  • 24 0
 So for a few hundred bucks extra I go from a Recon to a Revelation and Sram SX to Shimano SLX, Level brakes to Shimano ... Each one of these items would be worth paying more for. Marin for the win.
  • 22 0
 Hmmmm. $400 more than the Marin gets you a Kona Process 153 SE.
Be interesting to see a $1000 and under comparo. That's about how much most beginners would be willing to drop on a new sport, I'd think.
  • 6 0
 Check out review(s) of the Rocky Mountain Growler line up.
  • 1 0
 True, but there are lower specced models of the Marin which have the same geo. Which would be in reach of a beginner.
  • 2 0
 @Fullsend2-13: The lowest end Nukeproof Scout is under a grand too
  • 1 0
 @nouseforaname: That was a refreshing read! Cool bike. Finally a bike company gets it that geometry is "free".
I wish they offered that as a frame only option!
It's sort of the same situation as the automotive world; it doesn't cost a lot to make something look good, but few companies have well designed lower end models.
  • 3 0
 Truth. My non-bike friends who want to try MTB lose their minds when I start talking about bikes around $1k. Even if they can technically afford it, they don't want to for an unknown. More than $1k seems outrageous and $2k?!? $2k gets you a ski pass and a really nice equipment setup -- and that sport is seen as "very expensive" to the average person, so...
  • 1 0
 @KFuller: really depends on where you live, but if you can ride to trails it can't be compared to skiing, whole order of magnitude less $$$ than ski.

rent 2-3 times, see if you like it - $200buy a bike from same shop $600-3000 that's right for your goals, get your rental fee credited, go ride for 3+ years with the same gear plus a few wear items.

Or have your buddy who know bikes help you find a decent hardtail or old full sus for under $1k and ride for years.

skiing you just factor in transportation and accommodations and you're spending $1k-$3k a season doing it on the cheap, never mind if you're doing it as a family.

Also proliferation of superbikes is fun but definitely makes the sport *seem* less accessible than it is.

but yes let's face it, even done cheap, MTB is pretty expensive compared to a lot of other sports.
  • 13 1
 Saw the new Norco steel HT in the shop. It looks fantastic, then I see it has SX parts and a low spec fork for $2200. THIS SHOULD BE A $1300 bike.
  • 5 0
 It will be, 6 months from now.
  • 1 0
 @kanasasa: I hope you are right.
  • 13 0
 Can't wait for the huck to flat slo-mos!
  • 11 2
 The "affordable" HT is broken down into price points like every other bike category out there. My opinion is that the entry level is about $650. Mid-level is $1000. High-end is $1300. I know you can spend a lot more on a HT, but from my perspective it makes no sense to do so as you start entering the entry level FS when you cross the $1300 price point. That being said, and please feel free to add to the list below, but by price and spec, these are the ones I would choose:

Vitus Nucleus

Vitus Sentier
Nukeproof Scout
Norco Fluid HT 3
Rocky Mountain Growler 20

Vitus Sentier VR
Nukeproof Scout Race
Norco Fluid HT 2
Commencal Meta HT

Partial list of HT with 'modern geo' (always changing, so define it how you like it)
Commencal Meta HT
Kona Hanzo
Salsa Timberjack
Marin San Quentin
Norco Fluid HT
Rocky Mountain Growler
Trek Roscoe
Specialized Fuse
Banshee Paradox
NS Bikes Eccentric
On One
Santa Cruz
On-One Scandal
Onzo Jackpot
Surly Instigator 2
Canfield EPO
Orbea Laufey
Brid Zero
Cotic BFE
Marin Nail Trail
Whyte 905
Chromag Rootdown
Esker Hayduk
Octane One Prone
  • 1 0
 Dartmoor Primal! Building one now
  • 1 0
 you forgot the Canfiled Nimble 9, the epo isn't available currently if I'm not mistaken.
  • 2 0
 @Sirflyingv: Yeah budy, me too!
Send me your experience when you ride it!
  • 2 0
 The Honzo hasn't had 'modern' geo for years. It was cutting edge when it was released. Now a 68deg HA is like saying you're an XC race bike.
  • 1 0
 Add more to the list:
Diamondback Sync’r
Raleigh Tokul
  • 10 0
 How about some steel too?
Onzo Jackpot, fantastic frame and good spec (all you need to change is the tyres) - about £1,200
Epic trail slaying tool!
  • 5 0
 Yep, wanna see steel hardtails too.
  • 2 0
 I agree. I have my Surly Instigator 2. Love the feel of steel.
  • 5 0
 I bought a Ragley Marley from CRC for a hair over 1k. It’s extremely fun with progressive geometry, an awesome Mattoc Comp, WTB Vigilante/Trail Boss, Shimano brakes, and NX drivetrain. It’s an incredible bike for the money and I’m be surprised at what it can do.
  • 5 0
 Good to see hardtails on Pinkbike. Last time I saw one reviewed was when the PP Shan was released - a long time ago. However, after watching the video and reading the text, I didn't get any information that the manufacturer's sites don't already share. I would call this a first impression at best, it is nowhere close to a proper review. Also, riding a bike with Sram Levels on proper trails and not having anything to complain about is suspicious. Anyway, I hope ht's keep finding their way on these pages, but I wish for some more meaningful results. Read some of the British mags tests for ideas if you have to.
  • 5 0
 Mounting the On-one Tiktik at the moment:

Will try to provide a TCO once it is finished.
  • 10 2
 I still have no clue what the hell "capable" means.
  • 69 0 can ride it in a cape.
  • 7 1
 It's a catch-all buzz word for people who blame their gear, not their skills.
  • 8 2


adjective: capable

1.having the ability, fitness, or quality necessary to do or achieve a specified thing.

"I'm quite capable of taking care of myself"

Similar: have the ability to, have the potential to, be equal to (the task of), be up to, be disposed to, be inclined to, be prone to, be liable to, be likely to, be apt to have what it takes to open to or admitting of something.

"the strange events are capable of rational explanation"

Similar: be open to, be susceptible of, admit of, allow of

2. able to achieve efficiently whatever one has to do; competent.

"she looked enthusiastic and capable"
  • 6 1
 Run a HT down a double black in my neck of the woods and you'll find out pretty quickly. My Kona Blast 26" from years ago would put me in the hospital if I tried to ride it the same way as my Chromag Root down. After a year on it now there's only a few trails in my area where I miss the squish.
  • 2 1
 Capable is bike jargon. Outside the bike-bubble it is indeed as @gnarnaimo described. Inside the bubble, it implies that it is forgiving (through suspension, geometry, wheels etc) enough to allow the rider to make it through situations (trail, speed, errors etc) where that same rider would not make on the "reference bike" (as "capable" is a relative term). Effectively we call a bike capable if it makes the rider appear more capable.
  • 4 2
 Capeable. Able to wear a cape. While riding.
  • 2 1
 @Sshredder: So, the Cotic Rocket must be the true capable bike.
  • 4 0
 Marin’s Nail Trail may have been a closer comparison; I get it’s not a perfect comparison either and we are working with what we’ve got.

Marin also has a lifetime limited warranty on hardtail frames. The 5 year limited warranty is for full suspension and carbon frames only.
  • 2 0
 Or the more interesting Pine Mountain in steel.
  • 4 0
 Comparing anything to the state it was 10 years ago makes it great spec for the price. Compare it to the competition: Radon Cragger, Nukeproof Scout, Vitus Sentier... Compared to them spec on these two is crap for the money.
  • 3 0
 On-One Scandal would be a nice comparison as well.....
Built mine up from a frame with GX drivetrain, shimano brakes, and a 130mm Pike.
Coming form my 69 degree head angle, 100mm 29er to a 65 degree 130mm 29er was.... eye opening.
  • 5 0
 Should have also included the 2020 Whyte 905, it is $1899 right now direct from Whyte USA and comes with a 64.5 head angle, 130mm Pike, Guide T's, NX Eagle. Super fun bike.
  • 1 0
 I’m thinking they just reviewed the 2 bikes they could get to their building the quickest. So many great spec’d hard tails out there like what you mentioned that would’ve been way more bike for the money but didn’t make this vid.
  • 3 0
 I would love to see more hardtail reviews, and not just budget models (although it is much appreciated). You can have fun riding hardtails anywhere!

I've enjoyed reading and viewing this year's Field Test, great job! Here's to hoping for a hardtail category to go along with all the others next year!
  • 3 0
 PB: "Field Test: Affordable Hardtails"

Me: Oh good, this should be an interesting read

PB: $2,000 (£1700 GBP by the time import costs are paid)

Me: :-O

WTF bike industry?! seriously, go home and think about what you've done.
It was only 2005 that i went and had a really long hard think about whether £500 was too much to spend on an off the shelf Giant XtC.
  • 7 0
 More of this please!
  • 5 0
 I am sure my better specced Cotic Bfe was cheaper than that to put together
  • 4 2
 Riding bikes is a lifestyle. Call me selfish, but I chose bikes over kids. My first "real" bike set me back $1500, and lasted 3 years(before warranty replacement of frame) That's $ 2 dollars a ride. Pretty affordable for a freeride SX trail!
Hardtails have gotten much better along with full suss, and any rider worth their salt should give one or two a try.
  • 13 0
 I got kids and we always rode together, as adults we sill ride together, never thought about doing one and not the other. Kids are expensive and time consuming ... but I'm glad I have em.
  • 3 0
 @nurseben: I ride a full-sus bike and my two kids both have hardtails. Nice, UK-brand hardtails with gears, but full rigid. The downside of having full-suspension is that your kids will want full suspension too. Then there's really no money.
  • 2 0
 @twozerosix: my oldest son and I have HT for locals and enduros for weekends.
The little guy is still a strider.
  • 3 0
 Has anyone got feedback on Eagle SX ? When beginners suggest potential first MTB acquisition, they are often specced with that groupset. As it is quite recent, I don't have any meaningful advice to give about it.
  • 1 0
 I have no direct knowledge, but it seems that there's an awful lot of take-off SX components for sale on various marketplaces because people immediately upgrade to NX or GX.
  • 1 0
 I think the main this is that it weighs a metric S$#^ ton.
  • 2 2
 And it's made from plastic, and it will destroy itself within the first week of riding.
  • 6 0
 Cassette is the same as NX, cranks weigh slightly more. Derailleur has a bit more plastic than the NX. Shifter doesn’t have clamping options. Anything with SX has the old style shimano freehub, which is a plus to many.

Shifts pretty well for the price, and anyone selling off the group on the whole is a bit daft - slap a GX shifter on it and you’re good to go for a good long while. Most of the shift performance comes from the shifter, but SX and NX rear derailleurs are admittedly a bit flimsy.

I have it on the bike I keep around for friends/newbies to ride, and it’s held up to some beatings just fine. I’d take it over the deore 10spd in terms of shift quality.
  • 5 4
 One of the nice things about the SX rear mech is that when it's broken after say a month or so, it can be replaced by the cheaper tougher Shimano SLX 12spd derailleur and that will work fine with the rest of the overpriced sram driveline.
  • 1 1
 @mudcycles: really ? No need to replace the shifter as well ?
  • 1 1
 @parkourfan: more plastic than NX? They also replaced the metal screws with plastic ones?
  • 2 1
 @AAAAAHHH: Works with the Sram shifter no worries!
An oversight I expect Sram will work to correct in the next generation to keep you stuck on their overpriced spare parts. ;-)
  • 2 0
 Mike Levy probably would have had an easier job getting his bike geometry realized if he went for a hardtail. He didn't get his preferred suspension design anyway. He could have got custom geometry on a full susser too (Starling, BTR) though getting a custom length rear and may have been more of an issue as even those brands don't offer that option.
  • 1 0
 Except hardtails with ridiculous HAs already exist. He'd have to go for the something truly batshit or Peter Verdone would sue.
  • 1 0
 @BenPea: The same approach applies, doesn't it? Look at what there was ten years ago, compare it to what we have now and extrapolate for another ten years. Whether it makes sense to extrapolate angles instead of fork trail (as the sine of an angle isn't linearly proportional to that angle) but well, maybe the experiment wasn't supposed to make that much sense.

Then of course, I'm not sure what angles are considered normal and what is odd. My BTR Ranger with a 120mm fork has 460mm reach (size large) and a 63deg head angle (26" wheel model). I only had the seattube shortened and the top tube lower, but other than that it is standard geometry. I think the reach number is indeed quite standard these days if I compare it to bikes reviewed here on PB. The head angle steepens as a hardtail sags in the travel whereas a full susser (typically set up with more sag in the rear than in the front) would actually get a slacker head angle when sagged. So maybe head angle numbers on hardtails appear slack for those who typically only look at full suspension bike geometries. But they may actually be quite comparable. Unfortunately it is common practice for bike manufacturers to give the unsprung geometry of the bike. Which in the case of a hardtail may give you the wrong impression about the angles whereas on a full suspension bike it will give you the wrong impression about front and rear center. I'm still surprised to see people agonize over front and rear center of full suspension bikes right down to the millimeter whereas when sagged, the actual amount will really depend on the amount of travel, axle path (which in the case of a suspension fork is related to fork angle).
  • 1 0
 @vinay: Exactly my point. 63° is pretty normal for a modern hardtail, because when sagged and pointed downhill the figure comes down a lot. Being extremists, the hardtail nutters have gone way beyond that, so for PB to do something along the same lines as this FS bike, they'd need to go even further to keep ahead of the curve. The project is no more than a bit of fun obviously, the sweet spot for HA has already been found I reckon.
  • 3 0
 @BenPea: Yeah, I think there is just more experimentation with hardtail geometry simply because these frames are easier and quicker to produce, especially by the companies that are willing to experiment. Which seems to me like it are the smaller companies who are typically into that. Also because it seems smaller companies are created just because of that. The founder had a vision and wanted to realize it. Not sure whether companies have gone too far. Last year I went on a clinic and had to fill in what bike I'd bring. This appeared to be enough inspiration for the instructors to bring their steel hardtails too. One brought a Stanton Slackline (which is almost conventional by modern standards), the other brought a Pipedream Moxie. It was maybe a bit of a bulldozer but nothing awkward, still agile enough for riding. When this Doctahawk bike was reported on here, I looked at those numbers and calculated the sagged geometry. It is pretty much similar to the sagged geometry of my bike (though of course that bike has bigger wheels). So yeah, maybe they are all kind of working around this same sweet spot now. My bike never felt odd to me. I definitely think they could still rake out these geometries a good bit more before these bikes become too stable. And for this program (the Grim Donut) I think it would have been nicer to team up with a welder (or just RC himself) and go through the iterations of a hardtail. Push it way too far, then reel it back in until you've found the sweet spot. Heck, make one with a huge diameter headset and work with a machine shop to make you a series of reducers to experiment with both reach and head angle. And same with flip-chips for the rear axle to experiment with chainstay length and bb drop. Would have been so much more fun. It could also function as a test jig for a custom frame builder to allow customers to experiment with different geometries before they sign for a specific bike to be built to order. Levy really wanted a certain suspension system that he wasn't going to have anyway, but eventually it still limited his options which is a shame.
  • 2 0
 This is cool . Some people are happy with an affordable hard tail. Gets you into the sport. Would like to see a few other hard tails in the future tested. The Rocky mountain Growler looks sweet. Is easy on the wallet and has modern Geo.
  • 4 2
 Buddy, "I was just taking your lines thinking that it wouldn't be that crazy because you were on your hardtail."
Me, "Kick ass decent wasn't it?"
Buddy, "That was f*cking nuts. I'm still shaking."

Buddy rides a Yeti 5.5. I was on a modern hardtail. Think 64 degree HTA and 160mm fork modern...
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 @fruitsd79: RSD MIddleChild
  • 2 0
 You can get an On-One Big Dog with Rockshox 35 for £1300... about the same as the Spezzy Fuse. 65°HA, 75°STA, 29er, 130mm travel, steel frame, GX Eagle. Or a frame-only DeeDar for £250.

Let's call it what it is... 2k for an ally hardtail is not a bargain!
  • 4 0
 Built up my Chromag Rootdown for roughly the same using some lightly used parts. Love it!
  • 1 0
 Even though Marion doesn't list it, the San Quentin can fit a 27.5x3.0 with room to spare. I found the stack to feel absurdly low on the San Quentin. I'd want to run 30mm riser bars at least. It looked great on paper but rode a little awkward for me. And I dozed up to a size L. I'm 5'6".
  • 1 0
 Just watched your El Roy videos when I went looking for your review on the 2021 San Quentin 3. The El Roy looks like a hard bike to love and makes me lose confidence in Marin a little. I'm trying to find the perfect bike for my 5'7" GF who feels like her med 5010 v3 AL R+ is at times too heavy. What do you think about the Marin SQ3 for her? Thanks
  • 1 0
 @soorr: I'm not sure if Marin fixed the stack for 2021 on the sq. Supposedly that frame rides pretty stiff compared to others. I'd need to know more info before making a recommendation.
  • 4 0
 Marin San Quentin almost survived casing a 40 foot double by Matt Jones, so that is good enough for me!
  • 1 0
 I really feel like hubs and engagement should be mentioned in these things. I know it ain't like it used to be where everything budget came with hubs that had 359° engagement, but back in the day when I actually started to pedal on and off trails and finally upgraded to the DT 36T kit, I realized what all the fuss was about.
I feel like especially in a category like this a 10° engagement hub would be especially nice for someone who's new to the sport/never ridden a decent bike.

That all being said are there still bikes for $1000+ (CDN/USD/whatever) with hubs that engage at more than 10 degrees? Been out of the game for a long time.
  • 1 0
 I started on a steel HT waaay back in the day. Progressed and learned to ride everything on it. Like many others, I really like bikes so I bought (many) a FS bike. After a decade of being able to go faster than I want/need, I'm back on a steel HT.

and it's waaay more fun than any FS I've ridden!
  • 4 0
 Finally, stuff actually affordable to us non-dentists
  • 2 0
 It'd be really nice if PB did an actual hardtail rundown with lots of different hardtails. The problem is, there are just too many of them to do a full comparison.
  • 1 0
 Before Performance Bike went under (rip) they sold the Marin for well under that price near the end of the stores opening. Still wished I got one before they went down, such a great frame
  • 3 0
 "today we will be comparing a Specialized next to a-"
Just stop right there we already know which one you're going to pick.
  • 3 1
 SHIT can someone, anyone at Pinkbike, Beuller?
define what affordable means cause these bikes are expensive to me!
  • 3 0
 Affordable is clearly defined as whatever your spouse won't notice. It's in the prenup.
  • 4 0
 Make mine steel.
  • 1 0
 "Last week, we saw two more affordable and completely capable trail bikes reviewed by RC"
A week ago? Can't remember. By the way who is RC?
  • 3 1
 Can we get some weights of the actual bikes being tested in the text portion please?
  • 2 0
 I had a Recon fork on my hardtail and it was the worst 15 minutes of my life
  • 4 3
 it's a sad day when we are talking about "affordable" hardtails... even sadder knowing there are non-affordable ones...
  • 1 2
 It's sad that there are good affordable handrails being produced and that you could buy a really nice one if you wanted??
  • 1 0
 Is it me, or is DS starting to sound like RC? Similar terminology, speech rhythm and intonation. Regardless nice review!
  • 3 3
 Why bother making a size small 29er when most 5-5’2 can’t even get on them! It’s like putting mt. Tires on a road bike!
  • 1 0
 That's called a gravel bike. N+1
  • 2 1
 The Esker Hayduke is the bee's knees! Steel hardtail goodness. $2200
  • 1 0
 Wow just looked on the link, the frame LOOKS good but a look at the geometry and sizing shows otherwise
  • 1 0
 My new Hayduke should arrive this week. Not every trail needs a 63 super slack HTA with a reach of 20 billion mm. The Esker is an adventure hardtail that also rips up trails. They say it rides like titanium because the rear is so springy. Thats why I decided to try one out.
  • 3 0
  • 7 5
 sorry but 2k for a hardtail is not affordable
  • 2 0
 Commencal meta HT, cheaper and better
  • 1 0
 Finally, hardtail review. Thanks PB. More hardtails would be awesome. You guys forget DARTMOOOR and CHROMAG. and some more..
  • 2 0
 2k it is territory of fully
  • 2 0
 How does the SX Eagle perform in the real world?
  • 1 0
 By affordable PinkBike means "companies can afford to pay us to review their bike"
  • 2 0
 Folks who bought a Honzo years back are chortling now.
  • 1 0
 WTF!!!! I've been pronouncing Marin wrong for the past 30 years. Every day's a school day.
  • 2 0
 HUCK 'EM!!!!
  • 1 0
 Now this is my kind of review!
  • 1 2
 I bought my hardtail Bianchi Doss new in 2008 for $700 and its still kicking. For 2K you can buy a nice used full suspension.
  • 1 0
 Since we're adding all these HT's don't forget the Octane One Prone
  • 2 0
 Forgot the Trek Roscoe!
  • 1 0
 Better forgotten tbh
  • 1 0
 "Solo Air damper"

Is the Recon ok at 130mm?
  • 1 0
 The spring is Solo Air. The damper is Motion Control.
  • 1 0
 What happened to control tires?...
  • 1 0
 Reviewed 2 great bikes but missed the Meta AM HT
  • 1 0
 Getting sendy at the bike park! Can't believe those bikes held up.
  • 1 0
 have you seen my baseball?
  • 1 0
 Orbea Laufey, new for 2020 wouldve been perfect
  • 1 0
 You should make a review about the 2020 ORBEA LAUFEY 29er .
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