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Trek Hardtail MTB Buyer's Guide

Trek hardtail mountain bikes boast off-road performance without the extra weight and cost of a full-suspension setup. With so many models available, we’ve put together this helpful guide that walks you through Trek models designed for XC, bikepacking, trail, and eMTB riding.

What are Trek Hardtail Mountain Bikes?

Hardtails are mountain bikes that feature a rigid rear end— hence “hard tail”— and a front suspension fork. The lack of a rear shock means hardtails are lighter, less expensive, and more efficient since there’s no rear suspension that soaks up your pedal-power.

Hardtail MTBs are the bike of choice for cross-country racers who prioritize speed as well as riders who tackle lighter singletrack where a full-suspension setup isn’t necessary. As one of the biggest names in the game, Trek offers a wide variety of hardtail mountain bikes so any rider, no matter their riding style, can find their perfect match.

Still deciding between hardtail and full-sus? Check out Trek’s entire range of hardtail and full-suspension models.

Which Trek Mountain Bikes are Hardtails?

Trek 820


Style: Entry-level

Fork travel: 75mm

Wheels: 26”

Brakes: Rim

Frame: Steel

Drivetrain: 3x7

The 820 is Trek’s most affordable mountain bike and is a great option for riders looking to start exploring off-road trails. This entry-level MTB is appropriate for light terrain and urban environments filled with curbs and potholes. 

The 820 has been a go-to, multipurpose bike for budget-conscious riders for decades and continues to impress on light singletrack, gravel paths, and city streets.

Top Specs

Durable steel frame
The 820 is built around a rugged steel frame with classic MTB geometry for a smooth ride and long-lasting performance.

Useful rack mounts
There are integrated bolts so you can easily install a rear rack. Secure accessories or panniers to the bike to make commuting a breeze.

Great-value Shimano drivetrain 
Shimano Tourney 3x7-speed groupset proves a wide range of gears so you can pedal comfortably no matter the gradient. Climb hills with ease and show your inner speed demon on the flats.

Trek Marlin


Style: Entry-level/XC

Fork travel: 100mm (80mm on XS frame)

Wheels: 27.5” (XS/S) 29” (M-XXL)

Brakes: Mechanical disc

Frame: Aluminum

Drivetrain: 1x12

The versatile, trail-ready Trek Marlin is one of the most popular MTBs on the market— and for good reason. 

There are several spec versions available so you can customize this bike to your needs and budget, whether its fast singletrack or daily commuting. 

The race-inspired frame feels at home in the forest as well as weaving through traffic— the ultra-capable Marlin is what you make it.

Explore Trek Marlin mountain bikes

Top Specs

Feature-laden aluminum frame
Trek’s Alpha Silver Aluminum frame is lightweight and comes with integrated rack and kickstand mounts to easily add accessories. Brake and shift cables are neatly routed inside the frame.

Mechanical disc brakes
Upgrade from rim brakes with these dependable Tektro mechanical disc brakes with 160mm rotors that provide plenty of stopping power, even in wet conditions.

Seven frame sizes for the perfect fit 
Frame sizes range from XS to XXL so every rider, regardless of height, can pedal comfortably and efficiently. Runs as a Trek hardtail 27.5 on XS and S frames to preserve a balanced geometry.

Trek Roscoe


Style: Trail

Fork travel: 120-140mm

Wheels: 27.5” (XS/S) 29” (M-XXL)

Brakes: Mechanical disc

Frame: Aluminum

Drivetrain: 1x12

For hardtail riders with a soft spot for rowdy terrain, the Trek Roscoe comes equipped with a longer-travel fork and dropper post. 

It has a snappier ride feel than a full-suspension set up, but still dominates tough terrain thanks to hydraulic disc brakes and a grippy wheelset. 

This Trek hardtail trail bike is available in a few versions and it’s clear that the Roscoe is designed for fun thrills out there on harder-hitting routes.

Top Specs

Progressive geometry 
The Aluminum Alpha Gold frame features a long reach, slack 65° head tube, and steep 73° seat tube for better mountain maneuverability. There are compact 430mm chainstays and wide 780mm handlebars for increased control.

Trail-munching rims and rubber 
Depending on the model, there are fast-rolling 27.5”+ or 29” wheels matched with knobby tires. The 27.5”+ rims run wide 2.8” tires so the effective diameter is close to a true 29er.

Dropper post for more control 
The only Trek hardtail with dropper post, there’s a remote lever to move the saddle out of the way on technical descents and quick corners.

Trek X-Caliber


Style: XC

Fork travel: 100mm

Wheels: 27.5” (S) 29” (M-XXL)

Brakes: Hydraulic disc

Frame: Aluminum

Drivetrain: 1x12

The X-Caliber is a purebred XC bike that punches far above its weight class. 

This 100mm travel model is a great value for cross-country racers who like to spice up the route with some additional singletrack or city streets. 

The durable aluminum construction and 1x drivetrain are long-lasting features that’ll stand up to daily use and extended XC rides. 

The X-Caliber looks like a million bucks on the trail while still being wallet-friendly.

Top Specs

1x drivetrain 
Each X-Caliber features a simple 1x drivetrain with a wide range cassette for straightforward shifting no matter the gradient. Pedal efficiently up the climbs and get ready to smash the flats.

Plenty of accessories if you want them 
There are integrated rack and kickstand mounting points on the frame so you can easy install extra bits and transform the bike into a daily commuter. The frame can fit an internally-routed dropper post, too.

XC-specs at a great price 
Fast-rolling 29” hoops, 100mm of front suspension, and grippy tires give this XC model race-winning potential— and the competitive price is worth celebrating, too.

Trek Procaliber


Style: XC race

Fork travel: 100mm

Wheels: 29”

Brakes: Hydraulic disc

Frame: Carbon

Drivetrain: 1x12

The fastest XC model of the bunch, the Procaliber is a carbon hardtail that has racing in its DNA. 

Trek’s innovative IsoSpeed decoupler located at the seat tube junction provides extra frame compliance compared to the X-Caliber and takes the sting out of extended XC sessions. 

There’s a ton more tech packed into the lightweight setup to assist you in claiming your rightful spot atop the podium.

Top Specs

Trek hardtail 29” tubeless out of the box
All frame sizes run XC-specific 29” rims that are already setup tubeless in order to save precious grams, get better traction, and avoid pesky punctures.

IsoSpeed decoupler
This low-profile piece of tech increases vertical compliance and smoothes out terrain while preserving the hardtail efficiency XC racers know and love.

OCLV Mountain Carbon 
All Procaliber models are constructed from OCLV Mountain Carbon to keep the weight to a minimum. The Straight Shot downtube injects stiffness while Knock Block technology prevents frame damage in the case of a tumble.

Trek 1120


Style: Adventure

Fork: Rigid

Wheels: 29”

Brakes: Hydraulic disc

Frame: Aluminum

Drivetrain: 1x12

The 1120 stands out as a dedicated bikepacking model with plenty of frame mounts and mountain-ready specs. 

This isn’t the traditional touring setup— Trek has gathered up all the latest tech and design ideas to bake in unlimited off-road capability, including the 1x drivetrain and 29”+ tires. 

The rigid frame easily carries all your adventure gear so you can reach even the most remote destinations in the backcountry.

Top Specs

Built for bikepacking
Take all the gear you need thanks to the integrated front and rear rack mounts as well as spots for extra water bottles or packs on the fork.

Go big with Trek hardtail 29”+ tires
29+ wheels can fit oversized tires up to 3.0” with tons of air volume that grips the ground and provides much needed cushion on long expeditions.

Customized rear triangle 
Special attention to the back end of the frame introduces horizontal sliding dropouts to accommodate single speed setups and the elevated chainstay fits a 29” rim without elongating the wheelbase.

Trek Marlin


Style: XC eMTB

Fork travel: 120mm (80mm on XS frame)

Wheels: 27.5” (XS/S) 29” (M-XXL)

Brakes: Hydraulic disc

Frame: Aluminum

Drivetrain: 1x12

The Powerfly is Trek’s most affordable electric mountain bike, available in hardtail or full-suspension versions. 

The Trek hardtail ebike features a stiffer frame made of Trek’s Alpha Platinum Aluminum and 120mm of front travel to tackle light terrain or float over city potholes. 

There’s a powerful Bosch motor that flattens out hills so you can enjoy the journey more than ever.

Top Specs

Bosch Performance Line CX motor
At the heart of this ebike lies a 250W motor with 85 Nm of torque, pedal-assist up to 20 mph, and intelligent eMTB mode that adapts to the terrain.

Shimano Deore drivetrain
Trek hardtail electric mountain bike runs the trail-ready Shimano groupset with a long cage derailleur and 11-46 10-speed cassette.

User-friendly removable battery 
Trek’s Removable Integrated Battery (RIB) system tucks the high-capacity battery into the downtube and can be quickly removed— no tools required— for easy transport or charging.

Trek Hardtail Mountain Bike Size Chart

Trek Hardtail Mountain Bike Size Chart

Trek hardtail vs full suspension

It’s the age-old dilemma when shopping for a new mountain bike: hardtail or full-suspension? A full-suspension MTB has a suspension fork and a rear shock, but a hardtail only comes with front suspension. Hardtails are typically rated for XC riding and navigating smoother trails whereas full-suspension bikes feel at home in steep downhills with bigger obstacles.

If you ride lighter terrain or are on a budget, a hardtail MTB is the perfect choice. For riders that frequently find themselves in the more technical spots on the mountains, a full-suspension model is the way to stay in control on the rougher stuff.

Explore Trek Full Suspension Mountain Bikes

Trek Full-Suspension Mountain Bike FAQs

Are hardtail bikes good for mountain biking?

Yes, hardtails are perfect for cross-country or singletrack riding and are plenty capable on rougher stuff, too. They are lighter and zippier than full-suspension bikes, but are less suited to big downhills.

Are hardtail mountain bikes better?

It depends on where you’re riding. Hardtails perform better than full-suspension bikes on XC circuits and lighter terrain where speed and agility is more important than long-travel shock absorption.

Are hardtail mountain bikes good for road use?

A hardtail mountain bike can be used on smooth surfaces like roads, but it’s up to the rider to decide if the front fork suspension is useful or if it has more travel than is necessary.

What is a hardtail best for?

Hardtail mountain bikes are best on cross-country terrain and fast-paced singletrack. These bikes can be great commuters, too— they can absorb road buzz and float over pesky potholes.

Can you ride downhill on a hardtail?

It’s a good idea to descend downhill routes on a full-suspension setup that can handle large obstacles and provide traction in the steepest sections.

Can you jump hardtail mountain bikes?

Yes, but to a limit. Hardtail mountain bikes are resilient and dirt jump frames like the Trek DJ are designed to whip around and get some air.

What is the best hardtail mountain bike brand?

US-brand Trek is one of the best mountain bike manufacturers out there. For additional proof, their bikes consistently win World Championships and Olympic Games mountain biking events.

Are hardtails better for climbing?

Hardtails climb especially well because their rigid rear end efficiently converts pedal-power into movement up the mountain.

How do you ride a hardtail?

Since there’s no rear shock, keep your weight to the back of the bike so the front fork can take the hit and keep your arms and legs loose to absorb other obstacles.

What should I look for when buying a hardtail?

Important specs include wheel size, frame material, and front fork travel where there is typically a variety of options to choose from. Then decide on your ideal groupset, accessories, and the frame size to decide on the best Trek hardtail.

Do you really need a full-suspension mountain bike?

Full-suspension bikes aren’t necessary, but are suited to riders who want a more comfortable ride or frequent rougher terrain.

Is a hardtail mountain bike good for beginners?

Yes, hardtail mountain bikes are a great place to start as riders develop their skills. There is much less to maintain and adjust compared to full-suspension MTBs.

Can you use a hardtail for downhill?

In general, hardballs can be used for downhill riding when the terrain is smoother, but a downhill bike is best for technical, big-obstacle descents.