4 Toughest Race-Ready Hardtails

Four hardtails that can take on anything, anywhere, and at any time!

Aaron Borrill |

Titan Drone Comp

After surrendering its 2016 crown to the Giant Fathom in last year’s Bike Buyer’s Guide, Titan has come out all guns blazing with the 2018 Drone Comp 29er. It’s a beautiful thing to look at, let alone ride, with aggressive, race-ready geometry (70-degree head angle and 460mm chainstays); vivid polished-chrome paintwork rounds off the visuals.

The lightweight hydroformed alloy frame comes augmented with a pretty impressive kit list – such as a RockShox XC30 air fork, Shimano hydraulic brakes, and tubeless-ready tyres.

But it’s the drivetrain that turned heads at our office: the Drone comes standard with a 1×11 SRAM NX groupset, putting it head and shoulders above its rivals in terms of spec, performance and value for money. It really is a no-brainer.

PRICE: R14 999

Giant Fathom 2

Giant’s Fathom is one of the sportiest-looking hardtails on the market – its neon colourway and matching decals take responsibility for the trailside drama.

For 2018, the component list has been left largely unchanged, resulting in a pretty decently-specced bike. The SR Suntour Raidon fork (100mm of travel), Shimano Alivio/Deore 2×9-speed drivetrain, Shimano hydraulic brakes and in-house Giant XC-2 wheelset with Maxxis IKON tubeless tyres are the most notable highlights.

Like its rivals, the Fathom also possesses well-balanced geometry that’s geared for all-round riding conditions.

PRICE: R14 550

Specialized Rockhopper Expert

South Africans love the Specialized brand and all it stands for – status, prestige, quality. The Rockhopper Sport might straddle the lower rungs of the Spez hierarchy, but it’s still pretty impressive, especially when it comes to clout factor. Just look at the pink and purple colour scheme – no riding incognito here.

The lightweight alloy frame ensures the ride quality remains compliant, without surrendering any performance; and it climbs just as well as it descends. The spec list is nothing to squawk at either, with Shimano, Stout, KMC, and Specialized parts rounding off the build.

PRICE: R13 000

GT Zaskar Comp

The GT Zaskar and its triple-triangle design might be 27 years old now, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost any of their refinement. In fact, the Zaskar’s timeless design and classic proportions continue to woo the purists, especially those of us who have a soft spot for the hardtail concept.

It’s the bike’s geometry, though, that will find favour with riders – beautifully balanced yet aggressive, it’s the perfect rig for both younger and first-time adult riders looking for an added edge. Its reputation and well-specced components – Rockshox 30 Gold fork, Shimano SLX All Terra finishing kit – are sure to attract you as much as the R14k sticker price.

R14 031

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