Our guide to 2014's hardtail mountain bikes
There may still be a couple of months of 2013 yet remaining, but the mountain bike industry has been pumping out new 2014 model year bikes for the past couple of months, and they’re already starting to appear in local bike shops.
Over the next few weeks we’re going to look at some of the hottest and most interesting of those new bikes, and we’re starting today with hardtail mountain bikes. Hardtail mountain bikes still represent a huge percentage of new bike sales, and these days there are a lot of very well kitted-out bikes to choose from.
The big change sweeping through the industry revolves around the wheel size. As these five bikes show, 26in wheels are being faded out in preference to 650b, with three in this guide. 29ers are still being well supported and we’ve included a couple of options. Let’s dive in and take a look.
Giant XTC Advanced 27.5 0 Team (£4,999)
As has been reported on BM previously (read about it here), Giant has made the decision to commit to 650b wheels, believing it’s where the future lies for mountain bikes. And that includes its hardtails too.
The flagship model, the XTC Advanced, is now available in four models with the new wheel size. Prices start from £1,599, but we’ve picked the £4,999 Team here, far and away the most expensive hardtail in this roundup. You get a full carbon frame and it’s dripping in top-draw components, from the RockShox Sid XX fork to the SRAM XX1 groupset and Giant’s own brand carbon wheelset. One undoubtedly for serious racers, or very keen trail riders that want the lightest hardtail they can lay their hands on, but either way you have to admit it’s a hell of a bike.
More information: Giant XTC Advanced 0 Team
[part title="Canyon Grand Canyon CF SL 6.9"]
Canyon Grand Canyon CF SL 6.9 (£1,599)
Another racy option is Canyon’s brand new Grand Canyon CF SL 6.9. It’s essentially a more affordable version of their top-flight SLX carbon hardtail.
It saves the pounds through a lower grade of carbon. It comes out of the same mould though, so you get a frame with oversized tubes, tapered head tube and internal cable routing.
There are three models in the range, with this model at £1,599 being the cheapest. As we’ve come to expect from Canyon, it’s well stocked with decent kit for the money. A Fox 32 Float 29 Evolution fork with a CTD dial, Shimano SLX 2×10 cranks and Deore XT shifters, Formula C1 brakes, Mavic Crossride 29 Disc wheels and Continental X-King 2.2in tyres is all impressive for the money. All that gives a claimed weight of just 10.9kg (24.03lb). Race it. Thrash it in the local woods. Enter a 24-hour race. This is a well sorted and very capable bike whatever your goal next year.
More information: Canyon Grand Canyon CF SL 6.9
[part title="Whyte 905"]
Whyte 905 (£1,599)
British company Whyte really do know their trail bikes, and the latest 900-series hardtail range gets upgraded to 650b wheels for 2014.
On paper it’s a bike that looks to deliver the thrills trail riders really look for in a bike. The smaller wheels has allowed them to bump fork travel up to 130mm, a good thing. It has a slack head angle, short chainstays and it gets a longer top tube designed with the stubby 60mm stem in mind. Whopping 750mm bars too, which means you don’t need to swap the bar and stem on this bike before hitting the trails. That shows Whyte know their target audience well.
The 905 is the mid-range model with a 6061 hydroformed butted aluminium frame, tapered head tube and RockShox Revelation RL, 27.5in fork. Shimano Deore and SLX components with a Shadow Plus rear mech and Race Face Ride 2x10 crankset and Shimano BR-615 hydro brakes complete the package.
More information: Whyte Bikes 905
[part title="Scott Scale 750"]
Scott Scale 750 (£1,399)
Nino Schurter was the first athlete to win a cross-country world cup race (and also the world championships this year) on a 650b mountain bike, and for 2014 Scott offers the choice of 650b and 29er. They’ve decided there’s no place for 26in wheels in their range.
The Scale 750 here is identically kitted to the 29er version and the same price, it’s even the same colour, with a 6061 aluminium frame and 100mm Fox 32 Float Evolution CTD Air fork. The groupset is a Shimano XT/SLX mix, brakes are Shimano M447 with 180/160mm rotors and there’s smart Syncros components at all the contact points.
More information: Scott Scale 750
[part title="Specialized Rockhopper 29er"]
Specialized Rockhopper 29er (£650)
Specialized is a company still firmly flying the 29er flag, after adopting it almost completely wholesale just a couple of years ago.
Unlike their main rivals Trek and Giant, they haven’t made the drastic decision to launch any 650b mountain bikes yet, so for the meantime it’s 29ers all the way. That’s not a bad thing, as Specialized has spent the last couple of years really nailing the geometry. Its 29ers are some of the best riding wagon wheelers available.
This £650 Rockhopper features a butted A1 Premium Aluminum 29er frame with an ORE downtube that saves a bit of weight. A 100mm SR Suntour XCM-LO fork is basic but offers hydraulic damping and lockout. Tektro hydro brakes and a Shimano Alivio groupset finishes the bike off.
More information: Specialized Rockhopper 29er