If you want guaranteed gung-ho strength and close combat agility, Cove’s evergreen Stiffee FR is still a firm, if pricey, favourite. It overturned established hardtail convention from the first corner we rode it through over a decade ago.
A square-headed Easton RAD mainframe gives maximum overlap on the head tube, and subtly curved but stout rear stays meet at massive CNC-machined dropouts. There’s reasonable mud room even with 2.4in tyres.
It’s the uncompromising frame stiffness and the super-slack 66° head angle that make the Stiffee FR such an outstanding technical ride though. It can handle up to a 160mm or even dual crown fork (140mm works best, though) without feeling doubtful about its directional accuracy.
The short top tube reach lets you chuck your weight all over the place too, making it feel like a trail BMX for the first few rides. Incredible feedback clarity does come at the expense of comfort though.