Best Bikes For Xterra Races | PedalChef

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If you are geared up for the next Xterra event, then you need to make sure that you are riding the right bike, but which are best for Xterra races?

Xterra races have only become more popular over the years since they began back in 1996. Riders that want to stay ahead in the race should be aware of the latest mountain biking models, as the right bike can make all the difference in the final outcome of the event.

The best bikes for Xterra races are:

  • Trek Procaliber
  • Specialized S-Works Epic HT AXS
  • Scott Scale 920
  • Cannondale F-Si / Scalpel HT
  • Yeti ARC T3
  • Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 AXS RSV
  • Specialized Epic Evo Expert
  • Cannondale Scalpel SE 1

Xterra races are the ultimate cross triathlons around the globe and they are hosted annually in Hawaii. This is a grueling race that involves 1.5km of swimming, 30-40km of mountain bike riding, and 10km of running. Xterra is not for the faint of heart and the physical requirements to complete the course are intense, to say the least. Conditioning yourself for the event is crucial, but what is equally as important is having the right mountain bike for the longest component of the race. XC mountain bikes that are designed for cross-country racing are hands down the best options to contend in Xterra, but there are a lot of different options to consider and the MTB industry pumps out new models each year. To help you stay ahead in the next Xterra race, we are going to take a closer look at the best XC mountain bikes on the market.

After extensively researching XC mountain biking, I have been able to gather enough information to determine which bikes are best for Xterra races. My research has indicated that you need to assess the Xterra course and terrain that you will be hitting, as well as your preferred riding style to figure out whether a hardtail or a full-suspension mountain bike is better suited for the race.



Best Hardtail Moutain Bikes for Xterra Races

Hardtail mountain bikes have traditionally been the go-to pick for a lot of Xterra riders as they are usually lighter and provide a rigid feel which is advantageous for a cross-country race. XC hardtails continue to get more and more advanced, which implies that you should have the best of what’s available to increase your chances of reaching the podium in the next Xterra event.

With that said, each rider has a specific riding style and body composition, which is why you should carefully consider your options, as what works for someone else is not guaranteed to suit you. Let’s dive into the best hardtail mountain bikes for Xterra races.

Trek Procaliber

Trek Procaliber
Trek Procaliber

Trek is one of the most respected and recognized names in the cycling industry and they are praised for designing some of the world’s greatest mountain bikes ever built. There are a lot of great hardtails that we could mention from Trek, but the model that has riders the most pumped is the Trek Procaliber.

This is a top-of-the-line hardtail mountain bike that is designed for comfort, durability, and sheer speed. The Trek Procaliber is built to perfection with high-end parts and materials through and through, as the frame is made out of OCLV carbon.

Trek’s signature IsoSpeed decoupler results in the rider being able to take the square edge off of big and small hits while maintaining optimal rigidity throughout the race. The excellent frame material, carbon wheels, and sophisticated design of the Trek Procaliber make this a lightweight XC hardtail mountain bike at just 24.33lbs.

With that said, this is actually one of the lightest hardtail mountain bikes that money can buy which has been a selling point for a lot of MTB racers. The bike is loaded with advanced tech, but this has ultimately not affected the overall weight or performance of the bike, and only enhanced its capabilities.

In addition to speed, the Trek Procaliber is also one of the smoothest rides that you could ask for on an MTB. Rugged terrain and bumps do not slow this XC mountain bike down - nor do they diminish the comfort of the ride. If you are still not sold on the Trek Procaliber, this bike is also considered to be one of the best climbers on the market, which is a much-needed characteristic for any Xterra race.

Trek’s Procaliber is at the top of so many rider’s lists this year, as this is a cutting-edge mountain bike that is sure to give you an advantage in the next Xterra race. Given the insane specs and performance capabilities of the Procaliber, you can expect the price tag of this XC MTB to be high, as it is currently available for $4,330. Trek does have a more affordable version of the Procaliber available for just over $3,700 but you can expect some parts and components to be downgraded.

Specialized S-Works Epic HT AXS

Specialized S-Works Epic HT AXS
Specialized S-Works Epic HT AXS

The S-Works from Specialized is a mountain bike that is designed for shredding through the gnarliest trails in the world. This is a lightweight hardtail that packs a big punch, which is why a lot of Xterra competitors are considering this XC mountain bike for reaching the podium.

Specialized does not disappoint with the S-Works Epic HT AXS, as this beast of an MTB is stacked with high-end parts and materials. The carbon wheels and carbon frame, make the Specialized S-Works Epic HT AXS incredibly lightweight. In fact, the 775g frame is the lightest MTB frame ever constructed.

This XC mountain bike is race-ready and capable of delivering insane speeds in an Xterra race. Riders who want a hardtail that will annihilate most of the competition will certainly keep the S-Works Epic HT AXS in mind when weighing out their options.

In addition to speed, this XC mountain bike is very comfortable to ride. The handling is superb and the 29” wheels roll over hard terrain like butter. However, one of the most remarkable aspects of this Specialized hardtail is how minimalistic the design is.

Despite having high-end parts and materials throughout the build, the only bolt-on piece on the entire frame is the derailleur hanger. This factor alone makes the S-Works Epic HT AXS a very easy bike to maintain and repair.

To top it off, the aesthetic and design of this bike are simply phenomenal. This is one of the coolest-looking bikes on our list and you can hit the podium in style at the next Xterra race with this Specialized mountain bike. The only real downside to this top-notch XC MTB is that its price tag is astronomical.

Riders who are shopping on a budget are going to have to forget about the Specialized S-Works Epic HT AXS, as it is well out of the price range of most competitors. Cutting-edge mountain biking technology does not come cheap, which is why Specialized currently has this bike selling for $9,520. If you can afford it, this S-Works hardtail from Specialized is sure to turn some heads at the next Xterra race and increase your chances of getting the podium.

Scott Scale 920

Scott Scale 920
Scott Scale 920

The Scott Scale 920 is a world-class cross-country XC hardtail mountain bike that has won the podium for a lot of riders in the past, which is why it is considered to be one of the best options for the next Xterra race.

Scott designed the Scale 920 with nothing but high-end parts and components. This MTB has a scale carbon HMF frame and FOX 32 SC performance 100mm fork, which are very lightweight and make the bike versatile for various types of riding conditions on the Xterra track.

With these lightweight materials and components in mind, the Scott Scale 920 weighs in at just 24lbs, which is not far off from some of the lightest XC MTBs ever designed. Advanced SRAM components can be found in various parts of the Scott Scale 920 such as the shifters, crankset, chain, and cassette. In addition, this hardtail is equipped with excellent hydraulic disc brakes from Shimano to ensure that stopping power is precise to the T.

The dynamic design and specs of this MTB make it one of the most versatile hardtails that money can buy. This is a bike that is going to be fast for every trail condition and terrain that you encounter on the Xterra track which is why it is perfect for XC racing.

Scott designed the Scale 920 with a 100mm travel Fox 32 suspension fork that will not only ensure that harsh terrain does not phase the rider on even the most intense parts of the race but also that the rider stays comfortable from start to finish. I also like that Scott built this bike to fit a variety of different riders with 4 sizes available on their official site.

An issue that a lot of people have when wanting to compete in an Xterra race is not only qualifying but having the bankroll to afford a world-class MTB. Although the Scott Scale 920 is by no means a cheap bike, it certainly has a more attainable price tag for a lot of riders, as you can pick up this world-class MTB for $2,400.

Cannondale F-Si / Scalpel HT

Cannondale F-Si / Scalpel HT
Cannondale F-Si / Scalpel HT

Cannondale’s F-Si Scalpel HT hardtail mountain bike is all about speed and explosive power. This is a hard-hitting MTB that is designed to shred through the world’s most aggressive and intense trails, which makes it a perfect contender for the best bikes for an Xterra race.

Much like the ‘F-Si’ name jokingly implies (‘for those with serious issues’), this mountain bike from Cannondale is meant for competitive and determined riders that are willing to hop on the most challenging and technical MTB trails.

This is an ultra-light hardtail at just 23.69lbs - making it one of the lightest MTBs on the market and perfect for a grueling cross-country bike race with adverse trail conditions. Cannondale was able to achieve these impressive specs due to the Hi-MOD carbon frame and Lefty Ocho carbon 110mm fork. The fork that Cannondale utilized in the design of this XC hardtail mountain bike delivers percise handling and a super smooth ride, and it is considered to be one of the lightest MTB forks ever made.

The Cannondale F-Si / Scalpel HT is loaded with top-notch parts. This hardtail is equipped with high-end SRAM components in the rear derailleur, shifters, crankset, cassette, and chain. In addition, this XC MTB has SRAM Level Ultimate hydraulic disc brakes and levers to deliver exceptional stopping power.

Cannondale designed several different model variations of the F-Si / Scalpel HT, which all vary in price and specs. The Scalpel HT Hi-MOD 1 is Cannondale’s award-winning model and it is the topic pick for a lot of riders, as it is the surest bet for reaching the podium on an XC MTB from Cannondale.

Yeti ARC T3

Yeti has been dropping world-class mountain bikes for decades and they continue to prove themselves as one of the leading brands in XC races by releasing top-notch bikes like the ARC T3.

The ARC T3 is a force to be reckoned with and although it is not technically classified as an XC racing bike, its specs and performance capabilities make it a worthy candidate for an Xterra race. A characteristic that distinguishes the ARC T3 from the rest of the hardtail XC MTBs on our list is that this bike has a 130mm fork, which is larger than what most riders would want in an Xterra race.

With that said, riders that choose the Yeti ARC T3 over the competition will not be let down, as this is a hardtail that absolutely rips. This mountain bike has a unique geometry that makes it super comfortable to ride on aggressive trails and it handles like a dream. Yeti took a modern approach with a geometric design that improves performance without sacrificing any rear traction.

The frame material of the Yeti ARC T3 is TURQ series carbon which is incredibly lightweight and makes this XC MTB very agile. The lightweight frame is complemented by the superb quality Fox Factory 34 Fit 4 fork.

With these specs and materials in mind, Yeti was able to pull off an impressive weight of just 23.5lbs for this hardtail MTB. This makes the Yeti ARC T3 one of the lights hardtail XC mountain bikes that you can ride in the Xterra race, as there are only a few models on the market that can match these specs.

The only real downside to this impressive mountain bike is that Yeti has loaded it with so many top-of-the-line parts that the price tag is extremely high - with a starting cost of $7,500. If you have the cash for this bike, you are going to have a serious advantage over a lot of the riders in the next Xterra.

If you want to take the performance of the ARC T3 even further, Yeti gives you the option to upgrade to a DT Swiss EXC 1501 Carbon Wheelset and SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS for an additional $1,500 - raising the final price tag of this machine to $9,000. The good news is that Yeti offers a lifetime warranty on all of their frames that are made after 2019, so you know you are in good hands with the ARC T3.

Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes for Xterra Races

Traditionally, full-suspension mountain bikes were not a good pick for an Xterra Race. The reason for this is that having additional components and dual suspension on an MTB implies that the weight of the bike is going to be heavier than a hardtail.

With that said, a lot has changed in mountain biking over the years and many riders are starting to realize that they have just as good of a chance of competing in an Xterra race on a full-suspension bike as they would when riding a hardtail.

Many MTB manufacturers have found clever tactics for keeping the weight of full-suspension mountain bikes down while loading them up with high-end parts and materials. The added suspension will enable you to have better control on the trails of an Xterra race, while at the same time increasing the comfort of the rider.

If you are weighing out your options for the perfect bike for an Xterra race, make sure that you do not overlook the potential of being behind a full-suspension MTB. Let’s dive into the best full-suspensions mountain bikes for Xterra races.

Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 AXS RSV

Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 AXS RSV
Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 AXS RSV

Santa Cruz has been designing world-class mountain bikes since the early 90s and they are widely considered to be one of the best manufacturers in the industry. The Blur CC X01 AXS RSV is a premium XC MTB is a great candidate for an Xterra race.

Santa Cruz designed the Blur with a full-carbon frame and suspension fork - making it an ultra-light XC MTB. The total weight of the Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 AXS RSV is just 23lbs, which is astonishingly light for a full-suspension mountain bike - weighing even less than a lot of XC hardtails on the market. Santa Cruz completely revamped their approach with the latest Blur and they were able to achieve a weight that is 300g less than their previous model.

This is a speedy mountain bike with explosive power. The increased comfort and stability that you get with the rear suspension will give you an advantage on the most intense parts of the Xterra trail. The Blur is equipped with top-notch RockShox suspension in both the front and the rear of the bike so that impact is absorbed without slowing you down.

To improve your efficiency when changing gears, Santa Cruz designed this XC mountain bike with wireless shifting by installing an SRAM X01 Eagle AXS wireless drivetrain. This bike is stacked with high-end parts and components from SRAM, which can be found in the crankset, cassette, shifters, and derailleur.

Santa Cruz designed this XC MTB with several different model variations at different price points. The lower-end model of the Santa Cruz Blur is $5,550, whereas the most expensive options range between $9,800 and $12,100. This is one of the most pricey XC MTBs on the market and if you want a full-suspension bike that can compete in Xterra, then you are better off going for the expensive models of the Blur, as they utilize CC carbon, which amounts to a nearly 5lb difference in weight.

Specialized Epic Evo Expert

Specialized Epic Evo Expert
Specialized Epic Evo Expert

As full-suspension XC mountain bikes started showing greater potential, Specialized decided to design an MTB that could compete with any hardtail in an Xterra race. The Specialized Epic Evo Expert is top-notch full-suspension XC MTB that is stacked with high-end parts and materials.

This bike has an excellent suspension combo that is tuned perfectly. The increased comfort and stability that you get when shredding an intense XC trail will be unmatched by virtually any hardtail on the market. With that said, despite this bike having dual suspension, it is surprisingly rigid in all of the right ways, which is exactly what you want in an Xterra race.

The Specialized Epic Evo Expert does weigh a bit more than Santa Cruz’s full-suspension MTB - coming in at 24.5lbs. While this may be 0.5 to 1lbs more than some of the hardtails on our list, the increased performance that you get with the Epic Evo Expert will be well worth the extra weight for a lot of Xterra racers.

This full-suspension MTB features a FACT 11m full carbon frame, RockShox SID Select+ fork, and SRAM components throughout the build of the bike such as in the crankset, cassette, rear derailleur, and bottom bracket.

All in all, this is a premium XC mountain bike that is designed specifically for cross-country races like Xterra. Much like with the majority of Specialized’s high-end mountain bikes, you can expect the Epic Evo Expert to be pricey, as it is currently available for $7,000. Alternatively, you can always opt for one of the more affordable model variations of this bike, which has downgraded parts and components.

Cannondale Scalpel SE 1

Cannondale Scalpel SE 1
Cannondale Scalpel SE 1

The Cannondale Scalpel SE 1 is a full-suspension MTB that was designed for delivering ridiculously fast speeds on XC circuits. The comfort and stability that you get when riding intense cross-country trails will enable you to get up to speed consistently on adverse terrain without sacrificing the feeling of rigidity.

This full-suspension MTB from Cannondale is equipped with a lightweight carbon FlexPivot frame and RockShox Sid Select+ RL 120mm fork. In addition, the Scalpel also features top-quality HollowGram 25 S carbon tubeless-ready wheels. With these materials and components in mind, Cannondale was able to build a lightweight full-suspension mountain bike, which comes in at 26.3lbs.

The Cannondale Scalpel SE 1 is particularly praised for its impressive climbing abilities and suspension design. Pedaling on this full-suspension XC MTB is effortless and you will feel light as air when you begin your ascents.

I also really like that this mountain bike is designed with Shimano hydraulic disc breaks which are incredibly precise and reliable. You will also find Shimano parts in the shifters, rear derailleur, chain, and cogs.

If you are looking for a full-suspension XC mountain bike for the next Xterra race, the Cannondale Scalpel SE 1 is going to be hard to beat. This is a lightweight full-suspension bike that can compete with some of the best hardtails on the market, which is why so many riders have their eye on the Scalpen SE 1 for their next XC circuit.

You can pick up a Cannondale Scalpel SE 1 for $6,100 and it is available in 4 different sizes depending on your height and body composition.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Bike for an Xterra Race

If you want to compete in an Xterra race, you are going to need a top-notch mountain bike to increase your chances of making it to the podium. XC mountain biking technology advances every year and manufacturers are constantly pumping out new models, which is why you need to be aware of all of your options when choosing a bike for a cross-country race.

With so many XC MTBs out there, choosing just one bike can be incredibly challenging, as there are a lot of specs and characteristics that need to be carefully weighed out. However, what is equally important is that you choose a bike based on your preferred riding style so that you are behind an MTB that is going to deliver you the best performance possible.

To help you with your decision-making, we are going to break down some critical factors that you need to be aware of when buying a bike for an Xterra race.


If it is an XC mountain bike, then it has to be light! This is one factor that no rider can ignore as even the slightest difference in weight can amount to gains on the track. If you are a serious contender, you will prioritize this characteristic for every bike you evaluate.

The weight of a bike is determined by a number of different factors - primarily the frame and fork. However, the wheelset or your bike can massively influence the weight of your XC MTB - with carbon fiber being the industry standard for cross-country mountain bike racing.

The bottom line is that a lightweight bike is going to be faster and more agile. In an event that is based on endurance like the Xterra race, this is something that you cannot afford to overlook.

Wheel Size

In general, you will find that most XC mountain bike racers are riding on 29ers. This gives you an advantage over a smaller wheel size, as you can get up to speed faster and with greater efficiency.

Larger wheels are also going to improve your ability to roll over objects along the trail. Given that Xterra is going to challenge you with adverse conditions, you can expect there to be debris and plenty of bumps between the start and the finish line. With 29” wheels equipped to your XC MTB, you are not going to be as phased by obstacles on the trail, you will have smoother descents, and your climbing will be superior to smaller riders with smaller wheels.

With that said, you should never force a 29” wheel if it is not compatible with your riding style. Shorter riders struggle with this and it can be challenging to find the right fit if you are new to XC racing and looking for anything that can give an edge in the event. If opting for a 29er simply does not work for your height, stick to a 27.5” or a 26” wheel, as it will be better suited for your body composition.


The million-dollar question for so many Xterra racers is whether to opt for a hardtail or full-suspension bike. In the past, full-suspension MTBs was never a realistic option for riders due to the extra components adding weight to the bike.

However, these days there are a lot of full-suspension bikes that are just as light as a lot of the best hardtails on the market. If you are able to find a lightweight full-suspension bike that catches your eye, do not disregard it - as it can be a solid option for an Xterra circuit.

What you really need to do is choose an MTB with suspension that suits your riding style and the terrain that you will be shredding. Hardtails tend to weigh a bit less, and they offer riders more rigidity on the trail. Whereas full-suspension XC MTBs are going to have increased stability and comfort.