How to Make Your Hardtail Better

How to Make Your Hardtail Better


Despite what anyone will tell you, you can ride anything on a hardtail.

Here are our top tips on how to upgrade your hardtail more comfortable, more capable, more faster, and just more betterer.


Regardless of what type of hardtail you're on, be it a base level start-up bike, XC race rig, or a high-end hardtail superbike, tuning your cockpit setup is an easy way to get the most out of your bike.

Hardtails are rough by nature, so you need to think about your choice of grips. Sure, a hard, thin grip will give you heaps of hand control, or a fat, chunky set will be comfy as, but you need both control and comfort, particularly on long and gnarly descents. Somewhere smack bang in the middle is a great choice for gravity minded hardtails. Soft, but not too soft, and thin, but not too thin.

From my own experience chopping and changing between grips to find the ideal setup, the Deity Knuckleduster seems to have a near perfect mix.

You need to be in a strong position to absorb the big hits that a hardtail will dish out to you. To get this, a wide handlebar is almost necessary, paired with a short stem. You almost can't go wrong with a 50mm stem on any bike, paired with a bar at a starting width of 780mm-800mm, you'll be pretty sorted in the handling department, and in big impact absorption.

My pick from the wide variety of short stem/wide bars out there would be the Joystick Binary stem and 8-Bit bar. They combine simple style, solid performance, and wallet-friendly price as well as any other brand out there.

Spending long hours in the saddle on a hardtail can be taxing on your rear end, so saddle choice is paramount. You need something that fits your sit bones well, but also one with adequate padding. You don't have 100+mm of squishy rear suspension to absorb trail chatter for you, so you need to look after yourself.

Quite well renowned for their universal comfort for the vast majority of people, the Fabric range will most surely have you sorted.

Robs Joystick setup
Customer service dude Rob showing off his wide bars from Joystick. You can't see it, but there's a Joystick saddle there too!

Dropper Post

Not the cheapest upgrade, but it is easily one of the best. It's the same for full suspension bikes; but even on the most humble of hardtails a dropper post will increase your control of the bike exponentially. Being able to flick your seat down and out of the way whenever you please, but still have it up for pedalling when you need it, is game changing.

Check out our range of droppers here, and if you have any questions about fitting it to your bike, just ask!

Stock guy Joel with a dropper post on his super sweet steel single speed steed.


A lot of people see clip in pedals as an upgrade. The allure of more control, more efficiency, and more speed just can't be argued with. Or can it?

Heard of Sam Hill?

A high-quality set of flat pedals and flat pedal specific mountain bike shoes will change most peoples minds about the benefits of cleats. If you've ridden cleats on your hardtail your whole riding life, or have been running them for quite some time, give flats another chance. They allow you to be able to practice proper riding technique, without 'cheating' by pulling with your pedals. Bunny hops, rear wheel lifts, drifting, all these too many people rely on being attached to their pedals. With a good quality set of flats, you can practice and learn all these properly, with reliable technique.

They're especially useful on hardtails, as it teaches you proper foot placement too. The only way to keep your feet on through the rough stuff, is to drop your heels and weight your body correctly.

Throw on a set of good flats, and you might not ever look back.

Check out our range of flat pedals and flat shoes.

Pedaling Innovations Catalyst pedals
Staff favourite Catalyst's from Pedaling Innovations.


Arguably the product that makes the biggest difference to how a bike rides, besides suspension and obviously frame. And definitely the cheapest.

Hardtails are blessed with typically large tyre clearance in the frame. With no pesky suspension linkages to work around, big tyres are very easy to accommodate for. So why not make the most of it?

If your rims can take it, the easiest way to make your hardtail ride with more confidence is to chuck big, fat DH tread tyres on it, and go as wide as you can. You'll find an increase in both grip and support, allowing you to nail those nastier sections of trail, brake later, and hold more speed when things get really fast.

Rolling speed? Pedalling efficiency? That's the beauty of a hardtail! Without suspension absorbing all the power from your pedal stroke, you can afford the sacrifice grippy, 'slow' tyres because you're already on the most efficient type of mountain bike out there.

There are many options out there, so if you're after a specific recommendation, just ask us on the live chat or via email.

The Minion DHF and Minion DHR 2 are a great go to.

Oh, and make sure they're tubeless as well. Tubeless = lower pressures = more comfort + traction = WIN!

Fat tyres on hardtail
Big, fat, 2.6" rubber.

Tyre Inserts

Another top way to drastically improve both comfort and capability is to utilise some form or tyre insert or rim protection system. Without suspension in the rear, you need every bit of comfort and security you can get!

Huck Norris and Flat Tyre Defender are both great products, reduce the risk of getting flat, and protect your rims a bit too. But Cushcore is the real champion here. It allows you to run a starting point of about 5psi lower than normal. I personally was running as low as 14psi on some days of the Trans NZ enduro race. This gives you extra cushioning and traction, all without fear of hurting your precious wheels. You can also run a lighter weight casing than you normally would, reducing rolling mass and increasing acceleration.

So there we have it, upgrading your hardtail and making it more betterer is that easy, and once you've got it dialled you can take on anything.

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