HARD & FAST XC HARDTAILS
Which of these seriously rapid, stripped-down 29er race bikes is fastest?
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.