Group Test - Hardtails - Dirt

Mountain Biking Magazine



Group Test – Hardtails

I think I’ve died and gone to heaven, I’ve got hardtails coming out of my ears! It’s like I said before, there’s a whole heap of hardtails out there that deserve a mention, but here’s a quick look at the six tastiest offerings to land at Dirt HQ this month. Oh yeah, I’m sure by now it doesn’t need saying, hardtails rock, everyone should own at least one, and as this mixed bunch shows, there’s justification for buying several more (if you need any justification that is). If you don’t own one, buy one of these, I promise it’ll make you grin.


The Cotic Soul was born a couple of years ago out of a similar desire to mine, to be able to have a frame that’s capable of taking a 5” travel fork, but yet isn’t massively overbuilt for 99% of your general hacking about. If you’re fairly hefty and you’ve got a habit of breaking things, then maybe something like the Chromag will be more your cup of tea, but for the vast majority of riders the Soul will easily see you through anything you care to chuck it at. The weight may seem low when compared to some others, but the use of Reynolds 853 tubing at the front end means that it’s far stronger than you’d first assume. The back end is made from bog standard cromoly, but it’s more than up to the job, and the profiles allow as much mud clearance as you’re ever likely to need. Cotic do go on a bit about the amount of time and money they’ve spent getting the dropouts custom made, but from the eyes point of view at least, I’m not so sure it was that well spent. To be fair though, that’s my only slight grumble with what I think is otherwise a near perfect hardtail. The only thing to watch out for is the ’ultra compact geometry’ which effectively just means that top tubes are relatively long. Throw in a free Salsa seat QR (the best there is my opinion), and you’re laughing!

Price: £420.00

Weight: 4lb 6oz

Top Tube: 22.75”, 23.25”, 24”

Seat Tube: 16”, 17.5”, 19”

Chain Stay: 16.5”

Head Angle: 71°

Seat Angle: 74°

B/B Height: 12”

Colours: Blood Red or Matt Black

Contact: {encode=”[email protected]” title=”[email protected]”}


The Prince Albert is a true testament to the philosophy of keeping it simple, thanks no doubt to the heavily rider led ethos of Dialled Bikes. Their simple mission is to just make bikes that ride great, and leave the rest up to you. 853 tubing is as good a place as any to start, and although you can get the standard 520 version for £130 less, this is just too much of a bargain to pass up. To look at the Prince Albert it doesn’t look that different to any steel hardtail from the early nineties, but as ever it’s all in the geometry. Like so many others have done over the past few years, the guys at Dialled Bikes have realised how much fun you can have on a 5” travel equipped hardtail. Once you get to used to what you can do on a bike like this, you’ll be endlessly pissing off your mates by hanging onto their full-sussed tail with a grin bigger than a Cheshire cats. Like all the other frames here, this one has all the necessary stops for a front mech, but this time there’s continuous gear outer throughout. I particularly like the open ended gussets on both the top and down tubes, they manage to look reassuring without ending up looking like a dogs dinner. I just like this frame, it’s like Ronseal, it just does what it says on the tin.

Price: £360.00

Weight: 5lb 5oz

Top Tube: 22.9” (Med)

Seat Tube: 15.5”, 17.5” and 19.5”

Chain Stay: 16.5”

Head Angle: 70°

Seat Angle: 73.5°

B/B Height: 12.5”

Colours: Red, Sky Blue and Grey


Now I reckon you’re either going to love or hate the look of this frame, personally I find those gert big head tube plates a bit over the top, but each to their own as they say. If you forget about looks for a minute, what you’re left with is another one of the new breed of 5” hardtails. To increase the versatility of this bike even further, Voodoo have included sliding dropouts, and unlike the rest of the frames here, there’s even a pair of removable V–brake bosses. I must say though that both of these parts don’t seem to be quite as sturdy as you’d find on some other offerings, but they seem to do the job. The head tube is also the only one here not to be reinforced at either end, but considering it’s steel and not too thin, I don’t think flaring will be an issue anyway. Unusually for a frame of this nature there is even mounts for a pannier rack! Oh well if you really can only have one bike, and you fancy the odd camping trip, maybe the Bakka’s the only way to go! Joking aside, this is yet another well thought out frame that’ll suit almost anything you dare to try its hand at, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Price: £339.99

Weight: 5lb 11oz

Top Tube: 20.75”, 22.75”, 23.25”, 25.25”

Seat Tube: 15”, 16”, 17”, 19”

Chain Stay: 16.75”+ or –

Head Angle: 70°

Seat Angle: 71°

B/B Height: 13”

Colours: Marsh Green

Contact: Gingerfool 01270 877 730


I must first mention the paint on this beauty from Chromag, let’s just say I’m sure it’d survive a nail bomb. Unfortunately it’s only the black that’s quite so tough, but nevertheless the frame itself seems like it’s going to be just as bomb–proof. As you’d probably expect from something made in Canada, this frame was created with extremes in mind, and I don’t reckon you can call the ability to run 7” travel forks anything less than that. That said, the TRL will happily take a fork around the 5 to 6” mark, something like a Fox 36, or maybe the new RS Lyrics, whatever the choice though, it needs to be strong. What’s the point in having a beautifully made 4130 Cromoly frame that’s as tough as nuts, if you’re going to fit a wet lettuce to the front end? Anyway, like I just said, this frame is extremely well made, and despite a few gussets here and there it still manages to look clean. The machined chain stay yoke and rectangular chain stays give acres of tyre clearance, and the cabling’s spot on too. The range of sizes should please most of you, and if you’ve really got to save £160, then the far–eastern made Stylus is almost the same. Personally I’d save the pennies, does that make me sad?

Price: £700.00

Weight: 7lb 1oz

Top Tube: 22”, 23”, 24”

Seat Tube: 16.5”, 17.5”, 19.5”

Chain Stay: 16.5”

Head Angle: 68°

Seat Angle: 71°

B/B Height: 12.25”

Colours: Black, Red, Blue, White, and Curry Green

Contact: {encode=”[email protected]” title=”[email protected]”} or 01753 646 739


This is the Drug Of Choice (get it?) for Canadian Chris Donahue, and it was designed around his input. All of the finer workings were worked out by that man Dave Weagle, who’s name seems to crop up everywhere, and he definitely seems to be on the ball. You might not think there’s much going on, on a hardtail, but it’s the small things that make a difference. Right from the off you’ve got a custom Reynolds 631 tubeset along with a whole load of machined parts that are made from some super steel that knocks the socks off the 4130 that you’d find on most bikes. You’ve then got some of the best designed sliding dropouts I’ve seen, the bolts are in the right place to best cope with braking forces, the chain tugs are simple and neat, and most importantly they don’t weigh a ton. To finish it off you’ve got an asymmetric chain stay yoke that allows you to run incredibly short chain stays even with a 3” tyre. Fitted with the recommended 4” travel fork up front, this frame will rule the trails, and should come back begging day after day for even more punishment. If you want something that looks that little bit different, but yet not quite as different as some of their other frames, then I reckon this’ll be your kind of drug.

Price: £450.00

Weight: 6lb 9oz

Top Tube: 23.15”, 24.15” (Long)

Seat Tube: 15.25”

Chain Stay: 16” + or –

Head Angle: 68°

Seat Angle: 70°

B/B Height: 13”

Colours: Blood Red or Black

Contact: Silverfish 01752 313 253


Last, but by no means least, we have the only frame here not to be made from steel. Titanium is often heralded as the material of the gods, and even with my particular fondness for steel, I’d have to somewhat agree. Despite this frames ridiculously low weight it’s designed to survive more of a battering than your regular Ti XC frame. For starters the head tube is custom machined to provide ample support at either end, and there’s also a neat down tube gusset to ensure it doesn’t ever come off. The rear end is just as simple, oversized and non-tapered, with bullet ends going into those skinny dropouts. The tubing itself is high quality butted stuff from Tange, so rest assured you’re going to get that elusive titanium ‘feel’. It’s not just about the ride and the weight though, you can’t forget that it’s probably going to last you a lifetime, and the natural finish will last just as long. The frame’s been designed around a 100mm fork, but we reckon it still handles well with anything up to about the 120mm mark. Finally, the finish, whilst the welds might not be quite as perfect as some I’ve seen coming out of the US, this frame is still nothing less than beautiful, and when you consider it’s less than half the price of some of those, it has got to be a bargain.

Price: £999.99

Weight: 3lb 5oz

Top Tube: 21”, 22”, 23”

Seat Tube: 16.5”, 18”, 20”

Chain Stay: 16.5”

Head Angle: 71°

Seat Angle: 73.5°

B/B Height: 12”

Colours: Why would you want to paint it?

Contact: Hotwheels 01202 732 288

I think I’ve died and gone to heaven, I’ve got hardtails coming out of my ears! It’s like I said before, there’s a whole heap of hardtails out there that deserve a mention, but here’s a quick look at the six tastiest offerings to land at Dirt HQ this month.


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