Why That Bike? Hardtail Hooligan Edition

If you've ever cruised our Bike Check section, the largest collection of badass bike builds on the internet, you know that Vital members spare no expense when it comes to radifying their rides. Always on the hunt for a backstory, we reached out to the owners of these six hardtail hooligans to find out what went into each project. From the sneakily understated to the out-and-out custom shredder setup, there's something here for every taste. Which one is YOUR favorite?

vvhale's Commencal Meta AM HT

Age: 33

Where do you live? Melbourne, Australia.

Favorite local trail to ride? I’ve only recently moved to Melbourne, Victoria from Perth, Western Australia. Locally, I’ve only ridden at the You Yangs - a 50km network of trails ranging from XC to downhills. While in Perth, my favourite local was the Camel Farm in Kalamunda, 40km’s of great trails covered in pea gravel and lined with trees. Further south in Margaret River, the Compartment 10/Pines trails are a great ride.

Why did you pick your hardtail? I sold my Giant Trance Adv 1 and Kona Unit before moving to Melbourne. I hadn’t ridden much in the last year, and figured that the move was a good time to start fresh, not only new bike fresh, but start from the beginning & get back to basics fresh. I researched lots of hardtails and short travel dual suspension bikes, but settled on the Meta due to specs, looks and cost.

Is this hardtail your only bike? No. A Trek Crockett 5 is my road/path/gravel/light trail bike.

What is the coolest thing about riding a hardtail? Getting back to basics.

What’s a not so cool thing about riding a hardtail? The added stress/strain on not only your body, but wheels/components. 27.5+ tires helps in that regard.

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? Off the shelf, but with some changes.

What’s your favorite part about the bike? It makes me feel like a kid again. The fun we used to have with the simplest of bikes - it wasn’t about parts or geometry, it was about having fun. Bomb down a hill and rip a skid on some lawn fun.

What would you change on it? For those of us with left hand rear brakes, a internal routing port on the right hand side of the top tube would be handy and clean up the cable routing a bit. Changes so far - XTR pedals, BikeYoke 160mm Revive dropper, tubeless, Ergon GA2 grips. Changes soon - 50mm stem and bars with more sweep. If required due to wear/breakages - XT/XTR drivetrain and faster engaging rear hub.

How long do you plan on riding this bike? No plans. Enjoy it until I don't.

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? A Whyte T-130C Works or a Cannondale Trigger 1.

View vvhale's Bike Check.


joyridefish's Production Privee Shan GT

Age: 36

Where do you live? Dublin, Ireland

Favorite local trail to ride? Djouce Woods, 3rock, Slade Valley, Wicklow Mountains "secret trails" ;)

Why did you pick your hardtail? This one is funny right, I had a new set of Magura MT5 brakes sitting at home, bought in the past and I just never got around to putting them on my Knolly. Then I thought, hmmm...they need a bike to be put on. LOL When I spotted the new Shan GT I was convinced right away. As a PP dealer in Ireland, there is an unwritten rule - "You sell what you wear". So it works in both directions, I am riding my dream hardtail and I am happy to be able to offer a demo ride for potential new customers, who wants to try the bike before making a decision. I had to sell my DJ and cyclocross bikes to make a space in the shed plus finding the budget towards the new Shan GT build. Another aspect was to have a winter hard tail for tough muddy trails but I don't mind riding it the whole year around.

Is this hardtail your only bike? No, I still have a full suss Knolly Warden Carbon custom build which I enjoy a lot.

What is the coolest thing about riding a hardtail? It's amazing how a steel frame can take all the rattle away, also riding a hardtail is loads of fun for popping off features on the trail. And finally, it requires less maintenance then bikes with linkages, in terms of replacing bearings and so on.

What’s a not so cool thing about riding a hardtail? There is no such thing. Hardtail riding is always fun and cool!

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? The bike was custom built with components of my choice, I was not looking for light build more so building a bike which is going to be able to last on any hard core descent or so called "enduro" trails.

What’s your favorite part about the bike? I guess its an adjustable seatpost, hard to beat having your saddle drop away just at the press of your thumb.

What would you change on it? There is not much to change here, only one thing I'd do is upgrade the fork's cartridge with an Andreani High Flow piston kit to change the performance of damping. At moment I notice it lacks a bit when it comes to riding harsh terrain.

How long do you plan on riding this bike? I think there is no better bike than this for my needs, it's nice that it is versatile in terms of interchangeable wheel size, 29" vs 27.5" + so I guess I still have something to change, so I can get a new experience with Plus size tire riding.

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? New Pole Evolink 140, Rocky Mountain Instinct BC 29 , Rocky Mountain Slayer, Knolly Delirium, sorry if you meant only one but there so many of them I could go on ....:)

See joyridefish's Bike Check.


Hillside Cycling's Cotic BFe275

Age: 45

Where do you live? Gothenburg, Sweden's Maze of Singletrack.

Favorite local trail to ride? Black Beast trail, one of the most challenging trails in the Gothenburg area. It never lets you relax, it rips your lungs out and haunts you on the way down. Hence the name.

Why did you pick your hardtail? I have always loved steel frames and the way they handle when ridden hard. This Cotic BFe 275 has no limits, you are the only limit. ;-) It's also a bike that pushes you to hone your skills. You have to be smooth on a hardtail to ride fast.

Is this hardtail your only bike? No, I have also a Santa Cruz Nomad, which I ride in the summertime. The hardtail is my wintertime ride. I switch between these two bikes, six months each, and get the best of both worlds. Every spring when I get back on the Nomad, I have the hardtail riding technique in fresh memory and can use it to push the full suspension bike to the next level. The smoothness you get with a hardtail is amazing. 

What is the coolest thing about riding a hardtail? The look, it's very classic and slender. The thin steel tubes also look cool.

What’s a not so cool thing about riding a hardtail? Entering a rock garden with too much speed, that might be the only thing. Otherwise, hardtails are hardcore!

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? A full customized build, with carefully selected parts by me. Selecting the parts is half of the fun. I have built all my mountain bikes since 2002 and also offer that as one of the services through Hillside Cycling.

What’s your favorite part about the bike? I have to say the tires, since these are the BEST All Mountain tires I have ever used. Too bad that Schwalbe discontinued these Wicked Will 2.35" Freeride tires. They were only available in 26" size, never as 27.5" or 29". Wicked Will rolls fast, has amazing grip and corners very well. I run them tubeless together with WTB TCS fluid. 

What would you change on it? I did change one thing already - the Thomson dropper post. It did not cope with the Swedish winter and is now replaced with a Fox Transfer Kashima 150 mm dropper. The wheels are still 26". I love the quick acceleration and agile handling that the smaller wheels give you. But in the future, the bike might get a pair of new 27.5" rims, maybe Light Bicycle carbon rims.

How long do you plan on riding this bike? Usually my bikes last for ten years, so that's the plan. This one feels like it's indestructible. :-)

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? I would get a new commuter bike, a Cotic Roadrat. I commute to work by bike every day, no matter the weather, 6 miles one way, mostly on gravel roads through a nature reserve.

See Hillside Cycling's Bike Check.


Lieutenant Dan's Stanton Switchback

Age: 37

Where do you live? Auckland, NZ.

Favorite local trail to ride? 'Kataore' in the Whakarewarewa forest, Rotorua... that's the weekend local, otherwise 'Fault Line' at Woodhill Mtb Park for mid week laps.

Why did you pick your hardtail? The terrain around Auckland itself doesn't demand a big full suspension bike. I wanted something I could ride on the local trails to make things a little more spicy. It needed to be aggressive and bomb proof, which is why I chose the Switchback...I wouldn't describe my riding style as precise. The Stanton is my do it all bike, from cutties in the street to big gear training days. I also just like to stare at it.

Is this hardtail your only bike? No. I have a Zerode Taniwha with a 12 speed pinion gearbox, a Trek Session and a retro Azonic dual slalom pump track bike. 

What is the coolest thing about riding a hardtail? I love my Stanton, it's the most fun bike I own. You feel every feature in the trail and have to really earn a smooth ride. It keeps up with full suss bikes on most trails and smashes them on the climbs. It's also super versatile. It's just as happy warp speed in the forest as it is pedaling to the shop for a 6 pack, which I did earlier today!

What’s a not so cool thing about riding a hardtail? This bike rides so well it's easy to forget you're on a rigid bike. I've had some wild moments sending it full speed into sections better suited to a DH bike! 

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? It's all custom. Started off with spare parts I had laying around the house and went from there. I experimented with different setups before finally arriving at the current configuration. I tried 140/160mm travel forks, 2.8" and 2.5" tires, different stem lengths, single speed and 10 speed and high/low bar combos. Stoked with the final result, it hauls ass!

What’s your favorite part about the bike? The 4 speed setup has been a great solution. I tried it single speed but found I was searching for more speed on the descents. With this setup I can clear all the pinch climbs at my local and still find good speed on the way back down. I do love that neon Onyx Wheelworks carbon masterpiece out back though... silence is golden!

What would you change on it? I might try it with an 800mm bar, the same as my other bikes.

How long do you plan on riding this bike? I don't see any reason to get rid of it, ever. 

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? The new Transition SBG Patrol has my attention. I might start saving for the carbon version...

See Lieutenant Dan's Bike Check.


yan64's Production Privee Shan GT

Age: 38

Where do you live? Cork,Ireland.

Favorite local trail to ride? Curragh Woods, just outside Cork City.

Why did you pick your hardtail? It was love at first sight in that sexy Rothmans design, just look at it ;-) Was looking for a do it all bike with 29er wheels, fun to ride and that’s exactly what the Shan GT is!!

Is this hardtail your only bike? No, I also have 2016 Yeti SB6C.

What is the coolest thing about riding a hardtail? Maintenance and the simplicity of it! No moving parts, no linkages, no bearings to replace every 6 months...

What’s a not so cool thing about riding a hardtail? The fact that it’s so much fun that I want to build another one (BTR) for DH racing!!

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? Bought the frame only and custom built it myself. My first ever build, loved every minute of it, even putting on the invisiframe kit lol.

What’s your favorite part about the bike? Just love that Rothmans colour scheme and the Hope brakes!!

What would you change on it? Would love Hope cranks and cassette set up.

How long do you plan on riding this bike? Not planning on selling it anytime soon.

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? It would have to be a Yeti SB5.5C or BTR Belter. Although the BTR is gonna be reality in 2018 ;-)

See yan64's Bike Check.


caste's Stanton Slackline

Age: 30

Where do you live? Verona, Italy.

Favorite local trail to ride? If I have to pick one I'd say Albys in Mizzole, Verona. The definition of flow, even the rocky sections are flowy if you pick them fast enough!

Why did you pick your hardtail? I had two other hardtails before, and sold them to get the Stanton. I was in love with the frame, it's so classy!

Is this hardtail your only bike? No, but it's the one I pick every time.

What is the coolest thing about riding a hardtail? The raw feeling you get from the frame. There's no rear suspension saving your ass if you make a mistake or to compensate for your laziness. You have to be smooth and active all the time. And then yes, I can blame the bike when I suck against full sussers.

What’s a not so cool thing about riding a hardtail? If you are not in a good day you will suffer, badly.

Did you go for an off-the-shelf build or did you customize the build? I always customize my bikes. The bike is an extension of the rider's personality, an off-the-shelf bike has no soul. A mid-level customized bike will always be nicer than a standard boutique bike, to me. 

What’s your favorite part about the bike? The Manitou Mattoc fork. Yes, it's that good. And the get-me-a-beer top cap, obviously.

What would you change on it? The rider, probably!

How long do you plan on riding this bike? Well, breaking news! The frame has just been sold. After 3 and half years I wanted to try something different.

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? I just got another hardtail (of course). It's a 650b frame but I will keep making 26 great again!

See caste's Bike Check.


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2 comments
  • gazelle11

    11/22/2017 4:13 AM

    yea..hardtail rules!
    the white shaan is awesome!

  • fabdemaere

    11/19/2017 2:50 AM

    Love it. There's something rad about the simplicity of a hardtail.
    My trusty Production Privée has about 300 laps in Queenstown Bike Park and never let me down. Wouldn't swap it for any bike in the world.

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