Video: Killer Hardtails

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In Issue #114 of Singletrack Magazine, we brought you a three-way bike review as part of the Killer Hardtail group test. In it, we tested the Kona Honzo Carbon Trail DL, the Nukeproof Scout 290 Race, and the Trillion Prime.

Despite not having the luxury of a rear shock, hardtails have always been a popular choice for many UK mountain bikers, and particularly amongst Singletrack readers. In the last poll we ran on hardtails, over 60% of you said you either owned a hardtail already, or your next purchase would for sure be a new hardtail. Full suspension is no doubt getting better all the time, but hardtails still present some key benefits. For a start, they’re lighter – by around a kilo or so compared to an equivalent full suspension frame. They’re also simpler with fewer moving parts, which is a big reason why hardtails are so popular in the UK. Less pivots and bearings to worry about when ploughing through mud and filth eh?

innsbruck killer hardtails kona nukeproof trillion
We travelled to Innsbruck in Austria to shoot the Killer Hardtail feature for Issue #114 of Singletrack Magazine.

Hardtails are also typically the first bike that a beginner jumps onto when they first enter the sport of mountain biking. And the theory goes that once you’re ‘hooked’ into the sport, then you can make the next step and upgrade to a full suspension bike. We’re not so sure about that theory though, as in our experience, hardtails can be a tonne of fun without need for rear suspension.

The latest hardtails have been making good use of updated technologies, components and geometry to significantly increase their capabilities, and all while retaining a rigid back end. To see just what some of these new bikes have to offer, we selected three very different styles of hardtail to put to the test both on trails both at home, and further abroad. As part of the test, we travelled over to Innsbruck in Austria to ride each bike, where we also shot photos for the magazine feature, which you can now read in full here. And when we returned, we wrapped up the group test by shooting some video to give you a closer look at each bike;

Kona is a company that has always danced to its own tune, and the Honzo Carbon is no different. Unlike most other 29er carbon hardtails, the Honzo carbon takes a decidedly more ‘trail’ approach, with contemporary geometry that employs a slack head angle, a long front centre, and super-short chainstays. Combined with a 120mm travel RockShox Pike fork, aggressive Maxxis tubeless tyres and wide WTB rims, the Honzo Carbon Trail DL is a brute of a hardtail that also happens to be very lively, and very light too. Check out the full review of the Kona Honzo Carbon here.

Despite being the cheapest bike in our Killer Hardtail group test, the Nukeproof Scout 290 certainly doesn’t look it. With its bright orange paint job and matching Manitou Minute fork, the Scout 290 is equipped with thru-axles, tubeless wheels and a 1×11 SRAM drivetrain to tick most of the requisite boxes for a modern mountain bike these days. The burly parts spec is designed to make the most of the mega-tough alloy frame, which uses thick tubing throughout to deliver a bomber ride that’s suited to go going downhill very quickly. See what we loved and didn’t love about the Nukeproof Scout 290 Race in our review here.

Compared to the other two test bikes, the Trillion Prime employs a much longer 160mm travel fork, as well as a sender steel frame that’s manufactured right here in the UK. Trillion is a much newer brand than either Kona or Nukeproof, having originally launched in February of this year at the London Bike Show. Things have been accelerating for Trillion though, which was recently been acquired by Shand Cycles (read the full news story here). The Prime is currently the only Trillion model, and it’s designed as a proper hardcore hardtail with slack angles and horizontal sliding dropouts for adjusting the wheelbase. We tested and reviewed one of the original prototypes, which meant not everything was perfect. Read on for the full review here.

So what about you? Are you a hardtail rider, or is it full suspension all the way? And which out of these three would be your choice? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Comments (3)

    just wondered if you’ve rode the Trek Stache carbon 29+,if so, how it compares to the Honzo? I’ve always had short travel full sus bikes so i’m worried a hardtail would be uncomfortable for longer days in the saddle. With the stache having + tyres it might be more forgiving but is there a trade off with the bigger tyres in fun and rolling?

    @goffy63 – I’m afraid I haven’t ridden a Trek Stache Carbon in anger myself, though Mr Barney Marsh tested and reviewed one not long ago and loved it;

    The Stache is equally as progressive in geometry as the Honzo, though obviously it’s the overall tyre size that separates the two. You may lose some of the agility and acceleration going with 29+, but I think if comfort is a key consideration, then the plus tyres certainly have their advantages there.

    Hope that helps!

    ST Wil.

    If you’ve not ridden a hardtail in a few years then definitely worth giving one a go. I replaced my (very) old hardtail 18 months ago and the difference between an old hardtail and a modern trail hardtail is incredible in terms of comfort.
    Not naming names, but some of the UK direct sales brands as well as bike shops (for the bigger brands) will let you do a day long test ride. Just don’t expect to get the exact spec you would buy (probably doesn’t matter for a test ride anyway).

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