This is a good time for hardtails. Most of us were introduced to the sport riding on of these bikes, but many of us have moved on to more aggressive (and some would argue more fun) full suspension bikes. Hardtails have often been relegated to low-cost or XC racing duties, but that's beginning to change with the advent of the more playful trail hardtail. Riders now have the option of going the racing route or fun route on the same frame - and budget. These bikes may have the same core gene, but they quickly developed their own personalities.

Trek Roscoe and X-Caliber

The Trek X-Caliber (left) likes to fly up hills, while the Roscoe is better at boosting off trail features.​

Did we mention these bikes share the same frame? This is almost shocking since virtually every component is different except for this all-important core. The price is almost identical, too, with a selection of price points for each bike. The Roscoe 8 reviewed here is $1259, and the X-Caliber 9 Mtbr rode is $1579. However, the matching X-Caliber 8 can be had for $1069, so the price is close.

Trek Roscoe and X-Caliber

The X-Caliber corners well, while the Roscoe takes advantage of any trail feature.​

Affordability is ground-breaking as well. And we're not talking $3000 affordable as we've done in the past. We are talking around $1200! That gets you in the game, racing or hitting rad trails.

Trek X-Caliber

If you're a NICA racer paying for your own rig, you'll appreciate this bike.​

What is the X-Caliber cross country hardtail

Cross country hardtails typically feature quick-handling geometry with 100mm-travel suspension forks that take the edge off bumps. Riders get the fastest wheel based on sizing. That means 29er wheels on sizes 17.5 and larger, and more proportional 27.5 wheels on 15.5 and smaller. These bikes feature 2x10 or 2x11 drivetrains for the right gear and cadence in any situation, and weight-conscious specs like narrower handlebars and rigid seat posts. Everything about the bike is optimized for covering great distances or going fast on climbs and flats.

Trek X-Caliber

This 2x11 drivetrain is ready to race.​

Key Features

  • Lightweight Alpha Gold aluminum frame
  • Shorter chainstays and Boost hub spacing
  • Updated geometry and E2 tapered head tube for more confident handling
  • Internal routing protects cables and accommodates dropper post upgrades
  • RockShox Recon RL fork w/Solo Air and remote
  • Bontrager sealed bearing alloy axle
  • Boost hubs Bontrager XR2 Team Issue TLR tires
  • Shimano SLX/XT 2x11 drivetrain
  • Shimano M425 brakes

Trek X-Caliber

The cockpit is purpose-built with narrow, flattish bar and a longish stem.​

Pros

  • 2x11 maintains better cadence and achieves better range for XC or epic rides
  • Fast rolling tires
  • Remote lockout helps fork that doesn't have best mid support
  • Whole bike is optimized for XC and long rides
  • The $1069 X-Caliber 8 is a deal

Cons

  • Brake levers are huge
  • Front tire is not confidence-inspiring
  • Fork lacks mid-stroke support

Trek X-Caliber

The remote lever on the X-Caliber is for the fork. On the Roscoe, it's for the dropper post.​

Mtbr's Take on the X-Caliber 9

We're overly excited about this bike, as it's not as revolutionary at this price point. It's very XC-oriented and not the most fun or confidence inspiring bike on technical descents. But we understand its purpose: to eat up pavement, fire roads, and mellow singletrack climbs. If the day's plan is an XC race or 50-mile ride, this is a good weapon. The X-Caliber 8 for $1069 is a very good option, too.

Rating: 4 out of 5
4.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers

Price: $1579 for X-Caliber 9; $1069 for X-Caliber 8
More Info: www.trekbikes.com

Trek Roscoe

Roscoe comes with a capable dropper post at this price point.​

What is the Roscoe trail hardtail

Trail hardtails feature geometry that's slacker and lower than their XC counterparts. That means the bike feels more stable, especially at higher speeds or on steep terrain. These bikes provide a little more cushion, with longer 120mm forks and plus-size 3.0 tires. Their larger size helps to absorb bumps and provides amazing traction. These hardtails are also equipped with simple, easy-to-use 1x drivetrains along with wider handlebars and shorter stems for added control. The Roscoe 8 comes stock with a dropper seatpost, getting your saddle out of the way on steep or tricky descents

Key Features

  • Plus tires provide extra traction and confidence
  • Lightweight Alpha Gold aluminum frame
  • Shorter chainstays and Boost hub spacing
  • Trail geometry and E2 tapered head tube
  • RockShox Judy TK Solo Air fork
  • SRAM NX 11-speed shifters, rear derailleur, and cranks
  • Shimano M315 brakes

Trek Roscoe

The 1x11 drivetrain on the Roscoe is divine.​

Pros

  • Looks and feels like a $2500 bike, not $1200
  • 1x11 drivetrain that works well
  • Damped, infinite position dropper post with well-designed lever
  • Dialed cockpit with wide bars, short stem
  • Schwalbe tires at this price point is impressive
  • Bike comes with pedals
  • 318mm BB height is low and ready to carve
  • Bike jumps with joy and corners with glee

Cons

  • 71-degree seat tube angle too slack by modern standards
  • Front tire would be so much better with a grippy Bontrager XR4 3.0
  • Fork is upgrade ready
  • 31.3-pound weight heavy for a hardtail
  • Brake levers are huge like a motorcycle's by today's standards

Trek Roscoe

The tire and wheel combo on the Roscoe is a Schwalbe Rocket Rons on 40mm rims.​

Mtbr's Take on the Roscoe 8

We complained a little bit, but really this $1259 bike is one of the best we've ever tried at this price point. It is so fun and capable that it makes boring trails interesting and difficult trails manageable. The 1x11 drivetrain and dropper post performed admirably.

Weight was a bit heavy, but converting it tubeless and replacing the heavy plastic pedals dropped it to right at 30 pounds size medium. We also put on a new Bontrager XR4 2.8 tire, which allowed the bike to rail even in unpredictable corners. Bottom line, Mtbr is exceptionally pleased to share this bike option with new bike buyers.

Rating: 5 out of 5
4.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers

Price: $1259 for Roscoe 8
More Info: www.trekbikes.com

Trek Roscoe and X-Caliber

The Roscoe (left) is best for casual climbing, while the X-Caliber is happiest when threatening uphill KoM leaderboards.​

Final thoughts

It is a good day for the enthusiast on a tight budget. For around $1200 you can get a lot of bike. Whether you're focus is more XC/epic rides, or fun trail rider, you have two good choices here.