Group Test - Hardtails 2 - Dirt

Mountain Biking Magazine



Group Test – Hardtails 2

We’ve probably already harped on enough about how you shouldn’t ever forget the humble hardtail, and all their qualities, so this time we’ll keep it short.

Trails, 4X, street… which ever one you pick, your chosen steed is unlikely to be anything but a hardtail. With that in mind we thought it about time we did a quick roundup of some best ones to be had at the moment. In the tradition of ‘keeping it real’ as they say, all 6 of the frames featured are made from steel, which should mean they’ll all last you donkeys years. Oh yeah, and remember if funds are low, then almost all of these frames could be fully built for less than you’d spend on a cheapish full suss frame alone. We know there are a fair few others out there that also deserve you’re attention, but hopefully these will keep you busy in the mean time…nuff said.


Some of the other frames here might be the ‘latest thing’, but this is surely now nothing less than a classic. Since 1997 you’ll have seen Trailstars all over the shop, and for good reason too. They’re just such good value, and the geometry has always been spot on for such an amazing variety of riding. The Trailstar does of course have some equally good stable mates, including the Trailstar LT which is designed for a 125-130mm travel fork rather than the 100-110mm of this standard version, but if you want a bike that can throw its hand to anything, this is the one to go for. It’s been tweaked over the years, with an entirely new 4130 front end last year that increased strength and stiffness without putting on the pounds. Looks are still definitely functional shall we say, but you do get everything you could ever ask for, ISCG, 24” or 26” wheel, adjustable brake bosses, reinforced head tube, front mech routeing, horizontal or vertical dropouts, and either a BMX or MTB bottom bracket. What more do you want? Oh, you want a full bike? Well, £899 will get you one complete with a whole heap of decent parts!

Price: £239.95
Weight: 6lb 8oz
Top Tube: 21.75”
Seat Tube: 15.75”
Chain stay: 16.5”
Head Angle: 71°
Seat Angle: 72.5°
Colours: Satin Black, Slate Grey, Gloss Red, Reflex Blue
Contact: Upgrade 01403 711611


We had a quick look at this frame about a year ago, and we said we’d let you know how we got on with it. The answer to that is just as simple as this bikes design, it rocks. It’s just one of those bikes that feels right, can’t tell you why it is, because there simply isn’t anything to notice…oh my god I think I’m turning into certain welsh madman! Anyway, back to the simplicity, what I mean by simple bike design is just the way in which Flow have managed to go about making a frame to do a job without getting bogged down trying to do anything fancy. In return for that minimalist approach, Flow have ended up with a frame that in my opinion looks ‘fancier’ than those who seem to try almost to hard, I suppose I just depends on what floats your boat. The hard wearing paint has also helped this bike keep its good looks, and the laser-cut stainless head badge is still undoubtedly a nice finishing touch. The lack of ISCG mount hasn’t proved to be much of a problem because you can still fit one like we always used to, and being only able to run disc brakes and a single ring isn’t really a problem when you remember what this frame is designed for.

Price: £249.99
Weight: 6lb 1oz
Top Tube: 22”
Seat Tube: 13.5”
Chain stay: 16.5”
Head Angle: 71°
Seat Angle: 72°
Colours: Light Green, Chocolate, Mid Grey
Contact: Independent 01299 400008


Reynolds 853, the Rolls Royce of steel tubes (ignoring their new stainless 953), is what you’ll find at the heart of this beauty. It may only be the three main tubes (that’s the norm simply because of the tube sizes available), but it’s enough to make a difference. The material boasts an incredible strength to weight ratio, and the amazing ability to actually get stronger around the weld area. Identiti call this bike ‘lightweight’, you’re probably thinking ‘what’ if you’ve already looked at all the weights, but lets just say this bike is the very definition of the word bombproof. Despite that fact the frame still manages to pull off some clean lines, and even the sliding dropouts manage not to ruin things aesthetically. The one pictured is the ultra short 24” wheel versions which give the 666R genuine flexibility. The DMR adjustable brake bosses give you the option of running V’s, but the ISCG mount and no front mech provisions give away this frames single ring devotion. £400? Well, it’s half the price of most 853 frames, it’s well made, it rides like a dream, it looks good, it comes complete with a seat post and QR, and if it ever gives up the ghost, it’s going to be long after you do. Bargain!

Price: £399.99
Weight: 6lb 11oz
Top Tube: 21.75”
Seat Tube: 13.75”
Chain stay: 16.5” or 14.75”, both + ½”adjustment
Head Angle: 71°
Seat Angle: 72°
Colours: Black or White
Contact: Ison Distribution 01223 213800


GI stands for General Issue, meaning for the masses. This frame will cost you half of what Atomlab’s ‘pro’ level Trailpimp will cost you, and it’s got a number of things going for it too. OK, so it may not be quite as ridiculously light as its more expensive brother, but it’s still the lightest here, and if you’re never going to be running it as a single speed, and you want to run discs, then I would choose the simple fixed set-up of the GI over the sliding gubbings of the Trailpimp any day. It’s just absolutely foolproof, and there’s far less chance of any disc related issues. The frame is simple throughout, similar to the Moe, but with a much less subtle head tube gusset and a small seat tube one thrown in for good measure. The head tube is only reinforced at the bottom where it’s needed most, and the adjustable brake bosses mean that you can run either 24” or 26” wheels. The lack of replaceable mech hanger is not too much of an issue, remember it’s steel we’re dealing with here. I love this frame’s almost ‘old school’ qualities, and at a penny shy of £200 I don’t reckon you can too far wrong.

Price: £199.99
Weight: 5lb 10oz
Top Tube: 22.5”
Seat Tube: 13.6”
Chain stay: 16.25”
Head Angle:70°
Seat Angle: 72°
Colours: Black or Green
Contact: Mountain Road Imports 08707 568511


If you were to pick a frame to demonstrate the influence that BMX has had on these kinds of frames then this would be the one. It just screams BMX at you, and I reckon it looks the best of the bunch for it too. This particular model is 24” wheel only, but there is also a 26” version, you see Revell believe there’s plenty of justification for making size specific frames, and realistically how often are you likely to swap wheel sizes? The horizontal dropouts can be fitted with a rear mech hanger, and unlike the others here Revell have opted for a fixed disc brake mount. This does mean that your rotor is not always perfectly positioned in the calliper, but you can easily argue that this is less of a compromise than having to have some gert big sliding system in order to get it spot on. The straight seat stays don’t provide quite as much mud clearance as the other frames here, but if it’s muddy enough to cause a problem, you’ll just be trashing your trails anyway. An absolutely beautiful frame for what is a ridiculously small amount of money, I just wish it had a plain old 1 1/8” headtube rather than the integrated one.

Price: £299
Weight: 5lb 14.5oz
Top Tube: 21.5”
Seat Tube: 12”
Chain stay: 15.5”+ 1.5” adjustment
Head Angle: 72°
Seat Angle: 71.5°
Colours: Orange, white, black, kawasaki green
Contact: Revell Bikes 01202 827284


This new steel offering from 24 Bicycles may have a more sedate name than their Porn King model, but it’s just as mental. With the fluro yellow paint job it sure as hell stands out from the crowd, but it still manages to turn heads even in a more stealthy black. The area that first grabs your attention is those dropouts, there’s no way that these are ever going to let you down. The dropouts alone weigh ¾ lb, so it comes as no surprise that this frame is far from light. The name comes from Julian ‘Moon’ Meunier, a 24 Bicycles rider who has had some input when it comes down to the geometry, he obviously likes it fairly slack! The rear end, which can be run with either a 24” or 26” wheel, is very short, but thanks to the use of some not particularly pretty steel plate as a chain stay yolk, the tyre clearance is still as good as you’ll ever need. A slightly strange feature is some new ‘Spanish’ bottom bracket system that’s been receiving praise from those BMX dudes, but it looks like there’s no way of fitting any kind of chain device! If you’re into things that are just that bit different, then surely this is more than in the right direction.

Price: £299.99
Weight: 8lb 5.25oz
Top Tube: 21.5”
Seat Tube: 13.5”
Chain stay: 14.5”
Head Angle: 69.5°
Seat Angle: 71.5°
Colours: Black, Fluorescent yellow, Raw
Contact: Wades Cycles 02085 045033

Trails, 4X, street… which ever one you pick, your chosen steed is unlikely to be anything but a hardtail. With that in mind we thought it about time we did a quick roundup of some best ones to be had at the moment. In the tradition of ‘keeping it real’ as they say, all 6 of the frames featured are made from steel, which should mean they’ll all last you donkeys years.


Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.