HARD & FAST XC HARD­TAILS

Which of these se­ri­ously rapid, stripped-down 29er race bikes is fastest?

Mountain Biking UK - - LONG-TERM RIDES -

Cross-coun­try (XC) race rigs aren’t the sort of bikes you nor­mally see on our pages, but there are loads of rid­ers who still just want to smash the climbs and rack up the laps as fast as pos­si­ble. Whether you’re racing for real or just racing your mates, there’s noth­ing that feels as quick as a su­per-light hardtail. UK XC and marathon races still see hun­dreds of rid­ers turn­ing up to turn them­selves in­side out on ex­actly these sorts of ma­chines, and on the Con­ti­nent you can add a zero to those num­bers. Crowds at World Cup XC races are huge too. That means de­vel­op­ing blis­ter­ingly-quick hard­tails is still a se­ri­ous busi­ness that’s worth a lot of in­vest­ment.

Rid­ers who are still hooked on these types of bikes tend to like them to handle tra­di­tion­ally. That means se­ri­ously steep head an­gles, long stems and short top tubes. Kit will seem sim­i­larly old-school to trail/en­duro rid­ers too, with dou­ble cranksets and forks with re­mote lock­outs and 100mm (or less) of travel still com­mon on XC start lines. Bars are only just creep­ing over 700mm wide, and there’s only one bike here with drop­per post rout­ing.

Where there’s no short­age of in­no­va­tion is in the frames of these ma­chines. Whether we’re talk­ing care­fully laid-up car­bon, cut­tingedge alloy con­struc­tion or rad­i­cal scis­sor-hinged de­signs, we’ve got them all here. Often these tricks and tweaks have been adopted from road bikes, and in many cases the bikes end up with weights that aren’t much dif­fer­ent ei­ther, de­spite the fact that skilled rac­ers can rip these ma­chines through se­ri­ous rock­ery at crazy speeds with the bar slammed and saddle up their arse.

If that’s how you like to get your thrills, read on to find out which of these fear­somely fast but rel­a­tively af­ford­able four­some is best for you.

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