How We Tested Best Hardtail Bikes


It’s not easy to navigate the wide, wide world of bike buying. How do you find the right ride for you? We’re here to help. First, we scour the web for the most intriguing models from the most well-respected companies. Then, we narrow the field down to the some of the very best bikes and buy them. Finally, we test the tread off them, using a benchmarking time trial process, to help you find your ride.
Getting ready to ride.

Addressing Component and Adjustment Issues

We buy and test complete bikes, operating under the assumption that manufacturers are building out their frame to showcase its capabilities. At the sub-$2000 price point for our hardtail test, component quality varied widely. The biggest issues were the presence or absence of dropper seatposts and the stock tires. While the former is an expensive upgrade, the latter is not.

Another aspect of the bikes to consider is the adjustable chainstay length on the Santa Cruz Chameleon, Trek Stache, and the Salsa Woodsmoke. The Chameleonarrived in the shortest chainstay setting, the Stache and Woodsmoke in their longest, so that is how we tested them.

We conduct time trials and ride quality laps to get a feel for the bikes exactly as bike companies build them. However, we do make adjustments afterward and ride the bikes more to see if we need to investigate any issues in more depth. In this test, we switched out the 2.3-inch tires on the Kona Honzo for some 2.5-inch rubber and tried the Chameleon in its extended chainstay mode.

Bike logistics at its best.
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