Words by Locke Hassett and photos by John Watson
Some bikes are just too good to get rid of. Or too sentimental, or broken, or otherwise a purely “eye of the be(er)holder” sort of thing. This Soma B-Side is that bike for me. It has lived its life as many different bikes. For a long time, it was built up as a new/old school Montana singletrack shredder, with a 2x drivetrain (gasp!), 660mm bars (double gasp!), a short fork and no dropper. It lived a few months as a 26+ singlespeed when I found a pair of Nokian Gazzalodi tires in some back room of Free Cycles.
Kona Big Honzo CR/DL Carbon: Good Hardtails will Never Die
Words and bike photos by Locke Hassett, action photos by Spencer Harding
Blurred lines seem to be all the rage in the bike industry these days, and with every season, a new category seems to evolve. Gravel, Adventure, Downcountry, trail…yadda yadda. While this constant categorization is overwhelming, it also means that bikes are simply getting better. Then over here in the corner, sipping scotch while the kids play beer pong and try to “find themselves”, is the humble hardtail MTB. This has been elaborated on to a great extent on this site, so I’ll spare you the poetic wax. Sure, a few folks out there are pushing the boundaries of what to expect with hardtail geometry, with huge forks and headtube angles more suited for plowing a field than climbing a fire road, but for the most part, we can look to the hardtail for consistency.
So, what happens when a company known for rowdiness and generally not caring too much about the status quo takes their tried and true hardtail model and releases a version with boxes checked for the modern consumer (read: big tires and carbon?) That’s what I wanted to find out by spending a few months with the Big Honzo CR/DL.
I think they nailed the opening text from the new Doctakawk page when they say “Longer, lower, slacker, faster, stronger, slacker, etc etc, did we say slacker?” The new Chromag Doctahawk is a 27.5+ or 29’r mountain bike with 180mm of front travel, a 62º head angle, and a 77º seat tube angle, making it a veritable shreddy hardtail! While it looks bonkers at the side profile, I hope to one day throw my leg over this monster! See more at Chromag.
What say you, Bicycle Pubes?
The Karate Monkey has seen many permutations over the years, with various wheelsizes and build kits, but the latest might be my favorite. The most obvious change is on the front. That squishy thing is a RockShox Sektor RL, 27.5+ 140mm travel. This iteration of the KM is also 27.5+, to offer some extra cushion for all the hardtail buckin’ you’ll do. Check out more info at Surly and see one in person at your local dealer.
We love seeing videos where people straight up huck their hardtails!
The Bike Hub in Spokane, Washington looks at the feasibility of hardtail mountain bikes as both XC race-ready machines and trail shredders. Are they the future? I dunno, but I can say those bottles look slick on that bike!
While Nukeproof might be better known for their enduro bikes, two models in their 2019 catalog might be of interest to readers of this site looking for new bikepacking rigs. The Scout is a 27.5 hardtail with 140mm of travel, a 65º head angle, 73º seat tube angle, and room for 2.8″ tire, perfect for singletrack touring. While the Digger is an all-road bike either 700c or 27.5 compatible, with a carbon fork and internal routing. Both bikes are available in a variety of packages. Pricing TBD. Check in at your local Nukeproof dealer for more information.
Without showing any favoritism, out of all the bikes at Grinduro, this bike made by W.H. Bradford Designs was one of the most unique and the only hardtail in the whole grouping, discounting the Southpark ‘rigid’ with the Lauf fork. When I first saw this bike, I was partially blinded by the fluoro front end on it. But then the brushed purple rear triangle and the little angry mountain – a symbol from Grinduro, angry Mount Hough – caught my eye, all carefully executed by Eric from Color Works Paint. It’s those little details that make bikes fun and that’s what Grinduro is all about right, fun?
With matching Yanco Bags, a SRAM MTB kit, Industry Nine wheels, and its mean and rowdy stance, I might not be showing favoritism, but I feel like I saved the best for last. What was your favorite bike from Grinduro this year? See them all in our search string.
Bear Claw Bicycle Co was born on the back roads and byways of the scenic outdoors, built with rugged terrain in mind, and delivers versatile bikes with no-nonsense designs. From the 700c/650b drop bar Thunderhawk, to the rowdy Beowulf hardtail, and the fat AF Balthazar, Bear Claw has just about any ride you’d need to tour, bikepack, and get rad on. Check out their full lineup at Bear Claw Bicycle Co.
Be it for singletrack slaying, bikepacking, and beyond, the new Ibis DV9 throws its hat in the ring of carbon hardtails. It’ll fit a 2.6″ 29’r wheel, is designed around a 100mm fork, comes in an variety of build specs, and has an updated geometry. See all the specs at Ibis.
Anytime there’s an Edward Abbey reference in the cycling industry, my interest is piqued! Back when Advocate Cycles was around, their Hayduke MTB frame offered up a modern hardtail geometry in steel or titanium, at a more affordable price. When Advocate closed shop, the owners began to work on Esker Cycles, which launched earlier this summer. Now, the Hayduke hardtail is back with new features, new geometry, and the same desert vigilante spirit as its namesake. Get out to the desert with your own Monkey Wrench Gang and see more at Esker Cycles.
The Pinion gearbox brings a virtually hassle-free, low maintenance riding experience, ideal for everything from bikepacking to shredding trails but the biggest hurdle to overcome riding one is the cost for a gearbox and a frame that accommodates one. Viral Bikes just launched two titanium hardtails, the Dérive (120mm travel) and Skeptic (140mm travel), complete with a Pinion C1.12 gearbox for $ 4,495.00. Now that’s by no means cheap, but $2,000 of that cost is the gearbox.
See more at Viral Bikes.
Do not adjust your phone, pad, laptop, or desktop computers. This is a real collaboration and you know what? I think it’s awesome. In a completely surprising move, Supreme, purveyors of random wares and streetwear, have teamed up with Santa Cruz Bicycles on a limited edition Chameleon hardtail. Check out the preview at Supreme and expect this to “drop” shortly. Thanks to Johnnie Davis for the heads up! Rumor has it retail will be $2,500.
Check out our review of the Santa Cruz Chameleon in the Related sidebar.
Each year at NAHBS, a selection of builders at the show lament on how we should actually ride bikes together more, not just talk about them once a year at the show. I get it. Sitting in a convention center, under that horrible lighting, discussing how a bike rides is worlds apart from actually riding out on the trails. This year, Adam Sklar took the initiative to plan a weekend and then some of fun times in Bozeman and sent out an open invite to numerous builders. His idea was to expose people to the culture here, the town’s local builders, eats, drinks, and shops, in an event playfully dubbed the “Builder’s Camp.” Squid, Breadwinner, Retrotec, Falconer, Horse, Alliance, and Strong, along with a few other locals, all prepared for 5 days of non-stop riding and relaxing in this beautiful mountain town.
Falconer Slacker 150mm Travel 29er Hardtail
The work of Cameron Falconer is for the shredders. The people who put function before fashion, or thrashin’ before fashion. Either way, Cam’s work is thoughtful, exact and to the point. Like a succinct text message, a Falconer gets to the point. The beauty about Cam’s personal bikes is they represent a moment in time, or a perspective on how Cam believes a hardtail steel mountain bike should ride, or rather, could ride. Granted, a lot of this experimentation might be a bit much for the average rider to consume. Take for instance a 150mm travel 29er hardtail. It’d take me some convincing to believe that platform was the right bike for me. Hell, that’s a LOT of bike to be delivered in a hardtail, yet it doesn’t hold Cam back at all.
With an effective top tube of 660mm, a 65º head angle, a bb drop of 70mm, chainstay length of 440mm, a seat tube angle of 72.5º, geometry aficionados might nod their heads in approval. These numbers just make sense. For tubing, Cam uses Vari Wall, Columbus, and a Paragon head tube. To top it off, Cam powder coated it to match his 4Runner in a Canfield blue.
This bike is stout, but secure in its shred-pedigree and watching Cam shred it in Bozeman brought me joy. I’ll be seeing this bike in Downieville this weekend, where it’ll be right at home there as it was in Montana.
Shreddable geometry? Check. Three frame materials? Check. Components that last? Check. Chunky tires? Check. Good lookin’? Check. See more at Kona! Also, damn, that trail looks amazing!
One of the challenges of writing about and riding bicycles is finding your flow. Sometimes both just seem to propel themselves, and other times you hit a dead end. Luckily, my time on the Kingdom Vendetta X2 was not the latter. Rather, upon the first shakedown ride, I knew I was going to love riding this bike because of one reason: specialization.
Now, hardtails, while simple in their form, come designed for many specific uses. Within this realm of mountain bikes there is an endless combination of design and geometric tweaks, resulting in a bike that can either be tuned for a broad spectrum of riding, or a very specific niche. All this goes without saying, but you can design a hardtail that will climb exceedingly well and descend like a three-wheeled skateboard. Or descend like a banshee and climb like a one-legged pig. While most of these experiential data is subjective, a few key features are just straight up objective.
Currently, the cycling industry is at an all-time low, as in, the bikes are longer and lower – which is a good thing, but there’s a tipping point. A bike that rides well going up as well as going down, is going to have to strike a balance to reign supreme on the mountain. Luckily, that’s where the Vendetta rules in the Kingdom of mountain bikes.
For brands like Breadwinner, nothing is ever 100% finalized in terms of bike geometry and design. Particularly when it comes to Tony Pereira’s pursuit of the perfect hardtail. With already three hardtails – the Goodwater, Bad Otis, and JB Racer – in their catalog, Tony is always looking towards the future of hardtail design, oftentimes experimenting with tubing, geometry and other details to set Breadwinner’s bikes apart from others in the market.
Last month, we took to Bend, Oregon for the Chris King Swarm event, and Tony was riding this new Breadwinner Prototype. Built with Veriwall stays, a vintage Zona downtube – hence the bend at the head tube junction; modern mtb forks don’t hit the downtube like vintage ones used to – PAUL Klampers, PAUL Boxcar stem, and SRAM Eagle GX. Tony has always been a Shimano guy, but was interesting in trying out a lot of new parts, as well as some geo tweaks on this 150mm travel hardtail mountain bike. Then, to top it off, the chassis is rolling on Sugar Wheel Works wheels!
Breadwinner, like all small brands, wants to avoid stagnant bikes and one way of keeping the waters moving is experimentation. From the looks of this prototype, they’re moving in the right direction.
Keep an eye on Breadwinner for more updates! Got any comments or critiques? Let’s hear them!
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