With so many manufacturers offering 29er hardtail mountain bikes, it can be difficult to pick one that is right for you. Just as demo days that many companies host around the country for the public, the Interbike OutDoor Demo, that occurs each year before the Interbike tradeshow, allows individuals involved in the bike industry to test the newest and latest rides on the market. Not all manufactures are present, but most of the major players are there alongside the little guys offering a fleet of bikes to ride on the trails of Bootleg Canyon outside of Boulder City, Nevada. Having had a chance to test numerous bikes, 29er hardtails were this writer’s choice to put trough the loops of loose, dry and rocky trails of Bootleg Canyon. Before you lay down your hard earned cash on a hardtail 29er, give any of these bikes a spin.
Favorite Aluminum 29er HT: BMC Team Elite 29 XO (TE29)
Why: This bike rolled smooth and fast through the trails, yet the aluminum frame did not provide a harsh ride that is commonly found on other bikes made of the same material. The geometry, along with the relatively light weight of the bike, produced a ride that seem to glide over the small jumps through the rocks with ease. This quick geometry did not produce a bike that was unstable on the descents – not once on any of the short, steep drops did the TE29 feel unstable.
Product highlights: Triple butted frame with tapered head tube, some Sram XO parts and Fox F29 fork
MSRP: approx. $3600
Favorite Carbon Fiber 29er HT: Felt Nine Series (carbon)
Why: Just as the BMC had their geometry dialed, so does Felt with their carbon fiber 29er frames. Most modern carbon fiber frames look similar with the smooth lines and light weight, but just as the old saying goes with regards to a book and its cover, the same can be said with regards to carbon fiber. Having ridden a few other carbon fiber bikes earlier in the day and not being impressed, the same was to be expected from the Felt Nine, but that was not the case. After the first few turns in the trail, it was obvious that this bike was different. The bike felt lively and very accurate in the turns, but was not too flexible, just soft enough to absorb some of the bumps on the trail. Just as was true with the BMC, the geometry of the Felt was not so steep and quick to make it feel unstable on the short, steep descents.
Product highlights: Carbon fiber, lightness teamed with quick geometry
MSRP: $2399 (frame); $2799-$5999 (complete)
Favorite Titanium 29er HT: Litespeed Cohutta
Why: Litespeed has designed the 2012 Cohutta around a 29er specific tube set which features a BB30 bottom bracket, 49mm head tube, oversized tubes and a curved down tube to clear the adjusting knobs on suspension forks. The frame has been designed to be more compact to help minimize the flex that can often occur with titanium. With some materials might translate to a harsher ride – this is not the case with the Cohutta. This bike is nimble through the turns, yet does not feel like a noodle when the pedals are hammered. The quick descents were not an issue with the geometry and the steep climbs were no match for the Cohutta as no noticeable power was lost from the pedals to the wheels. If the Cohutta did feel to quick or sluggish, the 49mm headtube allows the fork angle to be adjusted to customize to ride to your liking.
Product highlights: BB30 and angle adjustable 49mm headtube
MSRP: tbd, but is being sold as ‘frame only’
Best of the Bunch: The 2012 Litespeed Cohutta
Why: Of all of the hardtail 29ers that I have thrown a leg over, which includes a list much longer that this, the Litespeed got it right with the 2012 Cohutta. The tube set being 29er specific is truly dialed and make a frame that is a treat to ride – I was a bit sad to have to turn the bike back over to Litespeed.