The Tanglefoot Hardtack all terrain bike shreds conventional thinking

Grab a cup o’ joe and hunker down…this review will be a good one.

I should share this disclaimer first: In this review, you will not read the following words: grams, ounces, weight, aero, threshold, V02, shaved, or KOM. OK? Read on…

Let me start by saying that this bicycle was an absolute pleasure to have in my stable for a few months. Every time I looked at it sitting in my garage, it telepathically reached out to me to ride it… to ride it everywhere. Somewhere. Anywhere. So I rode it, a lot.

Tanglefoot Cycles like to refer to themselves as “Retro-Futurists”. I can dig that, as their Tanglefoot Hardtack is one of the most unique bikes I have ridden in a long time and fits the ‘Retro-Futurist’ moniker.

Tanglefoot Hardtack in the wild

Hardtack in the wild.

How About a lil’ Context

The bike was sent to me by James, the purveyor of a small, bike shop run out of a 100-year-old printing press and pharmacy in ‘downtown’ Poultney, Vermont called Analog Cycles.

Tanglefoot Cycles is a small bike company that was born in 2019. As of this review, it consists of only a few talented employees. 

They make bikes that are fun, quirky, and super capable like the Bull Thistle, Moonshiner and the Hardtack. Their line of bikes are built with a philosophy that will challenge the bike industry’s status quo. Tanglefoot Cycles is showing us that it’s “OK” not to ride what or how “everyone else rides”.

And I am 100% on board with this line of thinking. 

Tanglefoot headbadge

The Tanglefoot Headbadge…”freedom and unity”, Vermont’s motto. And the bird is the Hermit Thrush, the Vermont State bird. I love that kind of detail.

I tend to agree with the Grant Petersen way of thinking, and I sensed a touch of Grant’s “velosophy” in what Tanglefoot was about. After talking to James about the Grant Petersen influence, he told me that he feels he “owes some debt to Grant”, saying that he would describe Tanglefoot Cycles like this:

“If Grant was born on the East Coast 20 years later, he would’ve made these bikes.” 

As a matter of fact, at the Analog shop, they keep all of the Rivendell Readers (Rivendell is Grant’s bike company) close at hand for inspiration, as well as keeping a few of the later Bridgestone catalogs (Grant used to be the Marketing Director/Product Manager for the bicycle division of Bridgestone) in the bookcase…stating that “WWGD (What Would Grant Do) isn’t far from our minds.”  

Tanglefoot Hardtack Down tube

I really like the low-key branding.

All of that aside, James said that “Tanglefoot is its own distinctive beast”. And at this point, I think it’s important to help get some insight into what James calls, “Tanglefootism”…

To James, whose thoughts on the subject led him to write something of a Manifesto on the subject of Tanglefootism…“Tanglefoot exists because of where we live and how we ride. Tanglefoot’s goal is to offer a new tool to a community of riders that share our love for the roads less traveled. We’ve ridden dirt roads, pushed and carried our bikes for miles, landed in briars, browned out on climbs. 

We’ve been lost after dark with no water/food/map/service/lights/clue. We’ve done group rides with the wrong groups, wandered downstream hoping to find a crossing, cleaned that one rock garden, will clear that other one, one day. 

All of these experiences are the foundation of Tanglefoot. Not racing, not hi-tech gadgetry, or the hype of each new model year. We are creating a channel for the years of hard lessons learned and hand carving our values; as riders, bike shop nerds, and humans in a sublime but troubled ecosystem. 

The Hardtack feels like all of this and more. 

On to the Review!

Tanglefoot Hardtack

Hartack Packed up tight.

Our European Tech Editor, Cory introduced James to me because he knew I would be onboard with Tanglefoot Cycles and the philosophy behind its conception.

He wasn’t wrong. 

After my initial introduction to James, he asked me how I would be using the bike. I told him that I think it would be kick-ass to run it as a 27.5 x 2.6 bikepacking shred machine. He then sent and had me fill out their Remote Enlightened Fitting + Build Worksheet. It was a very detailed and thorough questionnaire. Asking questions that you’d expect like, “how tall are you” and “what kind of riding do you do” to more exciting but less common questions like “what is your PBH” (pubic bone height) and “if you are a gear inch nerd (like James), list your desired gear inch range.”

Tanglefoot Hardtack ready

Pretty perfect right outta the box… the photo was taken right after the initial build was complete.

The result was a bike that was spec’d the way I would’ve built it myself… seriously, like to a “T”.  It was refreshing, and felt like they understood ME as a cyclist… the bike was what I actually wanted and not what they thought I wanted/needed.

The climbing gear inches were right, the reach was perfect, and the saddle was comfortable and exactly what I would’ve picked. Plus, it looked amazing! 

What’d the Hardtack come spec’d with, you ask?

Here is the spec on the review bike:

  • Sram Force 22 mechanical brake/shift lever
  • Sram Force 1 rear derailer
  • Sram 11-51 cassette.
  • Custom wheels, using Velocity USA Blunt SS 30 rims in 27.5 polished aluminum
  • Schwalbe Rock Razor 27.5 x 2.6 tires set up tubeless
  • The front hub was a Son 28 12 dynamo hub
  • Ingrid CRS-X cranks with 32t chain ring
  • OneUp Pedals
  • Spank Flare 25 Vibrocore Drop Bars (I didn’t measure them, but, they felt like 480cm in width)
  • Tanglefoot Corduroy Road bar Wrap (super unique and comfortable)
  • Discord stem with a 30mm offset.
  • Sinewave Beacon front dynamo light
  • Busch+Muller rear dynamo light
  • Rever MX-2 mechanical disc brakes, front and rear
  • Front and rear 160mm Rollci Floating Rotors
  • Ritchey WCS seatpost
  • King Cage water bottle cages
  • Brooks B-17 Special saddle

The frame is also routed for a dropper post if need be.

Hardtack front SON dynamo hub

The front SON 28 12 dynamo hub is considered by some to be the best there is.

Ingrid Cranks and 32 tooth chainring

Ingrid CRS-X Cranks with a 32t chain ring and OneUp pedals

Hardtack Bar Tape and shifter

Sram Force 22 mechanical brake and shift lever paired with Tanglefoot’s corduroy bar wrap.

Discord stem

Discord Stem with 30mm offset and Spank Flair 25 Vibrocore bars.

Hartack Rear derr and cassette

Sram 11-51 cassette with Sram Force 1 rear derailer.

Hardtack and Rever Mechanical disc brake

Rever MX-2 mechanical disc brakes, front and rear

How the Hardtack Rides

As mentioned above, the bike was really fun to ride.

It checked all of the boxes on my personal list of requirements that I like in a bicycle. It was really comfortable, rolled fast, versatile, and unique. If being aero while riding a feather-weight bicycle in a super aggressive riding position is your jam, then this bike is not for you.

The geometry was forgiving, and when combined with the stem and handlebar combo, the tall head tube allowed for a pretty upright riding position, inducing a nice #partypace while out riding. Again, this bike forces you to change the way you think a bike should/could look, ride and feel.

When I first mounted the Hardtack, my body settled right into a natural riding position. It was non-intrusive and instantly comfortable. It felt perfect.

When climbing some steep, technical trails I found the bike nimble, but not squirrely, allowing for quick adjustments to my line without feeling frantic. On the shorter descents, the bike was again, super easy to point and go, while still able to quickly make corrections to my line. On the longer descents, the bike felt very stable and planted. This leads me to my one small complaint…

Hardtack Fullerton loop shake down ride

The Hardtack on the post-build shakedown ride

Tanglefoot Hardtack from the rear

Tanglefoot Hardtack

Hardtack Chino Hills State Park singletrack

Hardtack and singletrack paired very well.

Hardtack on Gilman Chino Hills State Park

The Hardtack climbed like a billygoat.

The only item I would change on this Hardtack’s spec list would maybe be the bar. Like I just mentioned, the bike did very well on short technical decent. But on really long descents with some technical sections thrown in where you stay on the brakes at times during the descent, I found that I got a little beat up by the time I reached the bottom. Being a cyclist that has chosen to ride rigid on all of the bikes I’ve owned over the last seven years, I am no stranger to getting knocked around a bit.

This just seemed a bit more than normal.

I did lower my tire pressure a bit and that helped some. I think some gel inserts or different bar tape would help as well. This is also, the first dirt drop bar mountain type bike I have ridden, it could just be some simple adjustments to my riding technique while on this machine… that could fix it. I really think swapping in a steel or titanium handlebar, in the same width would’ve been the ticket.

Again, maybe a little more time with it would’ve helped.

Hardtack In the Wild singletrack

Hardtack and wildflowers

Hradtack and front basket 2

Old Man Mountain Elkhorn rack and a Fifth Season Sqall bag… set up for running errands and some bikepacking.

The one thing I really wanted to do was get the Hardtack out on a bikepacking trip while I had it. I installed the Old Man Mountain Elkhorn rack and moved the dynamo light to the front of the rack. James sent me a Fifth Season Squall Sack waxed canvas bag to use, which was perfect.

Hardtack and BOB Trailer ready for a trip

Set up for a bikepacking trip…basket and bag added later…

I used a BOB trailer equipped thru-axle from Robert Axle Project so I could pull my trailer. I was pretty excited, but unfortunately, life got in the way and I didn’t get around to getting the trip done. Booo!!

Hardtack in Aliso Woods

Hardtack out and about…

How to Order Your own Tanglefoot

When someone reaches out to order a Tanglefoot they get a huge questionnaire (I mentioned this earlier). It’s called the Enlightened Fitting and Build worksheet. After filling that out and sending it back, the customer then receives in return, a pre-filled out, but modifiable spreadsheet of the complete build.

At this point, the customer can pick whatever parts that they want, within the drop-down menus. I like this ordering process, it seems to give the consumer a lot of versatility, being able to pick the parts you want as opposed to settling for a “standardized” build kit. I’m not sure, but would be willing to bet, that there are not many boutique bike companies out there that would offer a dynamo front hub and Brooks B-17 in their “build-kits”. I find it super refreshing.

My review bike is for sale now on the Analog Cycles website and looks to be nicely discounted. Go check it out, you won’t regret it.

The Hardtack I rode was a size large. Below is the geometry and sizing info for the Hardtack frame.

Hardtack Geo and Sizing Chart - Sheet1 Large

Hardtack geo and sizing

In Conclusion…

All and all, the Tanglefoot Hardtack was a bike that begged to be ridden everywhere and anywhere. It was super versatile and comfortable. It was completely at home running to the store for a few items or shredding your local singletrack. I would have zero issues riding this bike all day…it really fits like a glove. Kudos to James for nailing the build!

The bike I rode for this review was a premium build… with such attention to detail from the gold water bottle screws and matching gold cable end crimps, to the gold trim rings on the Sinewave Beacon dynamo light. Just beautiful.

The Tanglefoot Cycles Hardtack is an understated and amazing bike that literally draws you to it, to get on it and ride it. I will never forget it, it felt right at home in my stable and in my cycling lifestyle.

I’ll miss it.

Do you think it thinks about me?

Nah!

Tanglefoot Hardtack in the wild

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince…and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” Or at least sing thee back to James… 🙂

Expand your cycling horizons and check out something different by clicking the link below.

TanglefootCycles.com

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

13 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ernest Fitzgerald
Ernest Fitzgerald
3 months ago

Grant Petersen won the fat tire wars and lost the clipless pedal wars. Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about, and that’s okay. Suffice it to say that it’s worth listening to what Grant has to say, provided that what he says is taken with a healthy grain of salt. And don’t go too far down the Grant Petersen rabbit hole, Ron, or your next reviews will be of pine tar soap and hatchets.

james
james
3 months ago

There are more platform pedals available today than ever before. And oddly, the amount of clipless pedals available has only changed marginally. I can’t remember the last time a legit new model of clipless pedals was released. For the record, I’d love to see a pine tar soap shoot out.

paul
paul
3 months ago
Reply to  james

this year, hope made new clipless with their own cleat. literally because most of their employees ride clips and they only made flats.

Loz
Loz
3 months ago

I’m drinking Retsina to memory of Mike Burrows, a true gentleman and legend. Lovely orbituary here, Andy Pegg another legend fast in a TT quicker on a trail! https://cyclingtips.com/2022/08/mike-burrows-was-much-more-than-just-a-legendary-bicycle-designer/

Grant Fanning
Grant Fanning
3 months ago

I’ve visited the folks behind Tanglefoot/Analog and ridden within that community several times. They are all about having fun outside. It’s a very refreshing scene, to say the least. Glad to see them getting some press lately!

gee
gee
3 months ago

This bike is a testament to what can be achieved when any consideration of aesthetics is totally abandoned.

WhateverBikes
3 months ago
Reply to  gee

Funny, that’s how I feel about every modern day mountainbike with its messy hydroshaped alloy or carbon tubes and the way they have to get that tiny head tube up high enough to make room for the long travel forks. Yuk.

Loz
Loz
3 months ago
Reply to  WhateverBikes

And there’s me on a 20 year old bad boy frame, pace carbon rigid folks with a 1 X 10 , cinelli finishing bits coming in at 9 kilos…..

WhateverBikes
3 months ago
Reply to  Loz

’94 Dyna-Tech Torus titanium mountain bike, bought myself 28 years ago, and has always been in active use since then, in all kind of configurations.Timeless beauty, and so much fun to ride.

Oscar
Oscar
3 months ago
Reply to  WhateverBikes

Same here, but with a much modest Kona Fire Mountain

WhateverBikes
3 months ago
Reply to  Oscar

Nice! Mine was – for titanium – a budget model. It used Russian industrial grade titanium instead of the American aerospace grade titanium most others used. Or something along those lines. Either way, it’s still going strong and I love it!

Dylan
Dylan
3 months ago
Reply to  WhateverBikes

’94? You whippersnappers with your modern bikes 🙂 My daily commuter is a 1990 Raleigh Technium Chill which I bought early in 1991. I sadly gave away the original steel rigid forks it came with when I ‘upgraded’ to front suspension in the late ’90s, but put some rigid disc brake forks back on about 10 years ago. Next step is to get a rear disc brake caliper mount brazed on, then I’ll finally do the drop bar conversion I’ve been thinking of since Tomac rode them that way (planning on 2×11 hydro).