In the world of mountain biking, many first time riders ask which type of bike to choose: a hardtail or a full suspension Mountain Bike. As simple as the question may sound, the answer is a lot more complicated. Let’s compare the hardtail vs full suspension mountain bike.
These two are completely different bikes yet they both serve the same purpose and that is to shred the trails. Both types have their positives and negatives and both have thy followers.
In this post, we’ll find out which one has the ultimate advantage over the other as we solve this debate of hardtail or full suspension mountain bikes once and for all.
There are various factors to consider and we’ll discuss them each one by one and see which comes out on top!
For a quick decision to choose between a hardtail or full suspension mountain bike, here is a brief table to consider before we dig deep!
Pros and cons of Hardtail vs Full Suspension Mountain Bikes
|Hardtail Mountain Bike||Full-Suspension Mountain Bike|
|Extremely efficient pedaling||More versatility|
|Lightweight||Quicker on tough terrains|
|Better performance on smooth trails and climbs||Improved stability while descending and on bumps|
|Easy to repair and maintain||Can be costly to repair and maintain|
|Best choice for cross country riding||Best for all kinds of riding|
|Excellent for novices||Confidence boost for novices|
Hardtail Vs Full Suspension Mountain Bike Frame
The most distinguished part between both these bikes is their frames. In a full suspension mountain bike a.k.a dual suspension Mountain bike, the rear wheel must come with a suspension shock. And of course, there needs to be a way to activate it as well. Therefore, the construction of this kind of frame is unique. It has to be durable and resilient. Many serviceable parts are present on the rear shock as well as the bushings.
Therefore, the frame that you will find on a full-suspension bike like the Ibis Ripley AF SLX is a lot more complicated because these frames are made with processes featuring fluid formations. On the other hand, a hardtail mountain bike features a tapered frame. A tapered frame is the usual norm on premium quality bikes.
The construction of a full-suspension bike has a lot more features and cutting edge technologies by the manufacturers. It’s costs can be higher and they can require more maintenance but you get what you pay for. Tapered tubes on a hardtail are very general. So due to the complex nature, full-suspension bike frames are better in quality and resilience as compared to the hardtails.
Parts & Components
A frame is not the only thing that matters when it comes to purchasing mountain bikes. The most important one of them all is the front fork. In terms of performance in this scenario, the hardtail wins. The chassis durability of a hardtail is way better than the full-suspension bike.
The full suspension rides also come with their adjustable ring as well as an adjustment feature for rebound damping. So the hardtail levels the score by taking this feature.
When you choose any one of the two options here, it doesn’t mean that you are limiting your scope to ride certain trails only. How your ride turns out to be will be very different if you use both of them on the same track. So as far as the scope of riding is concerned they both are well matched because all mountain bikes are made to ride in a certain manner.
As you comfortably make your way through the trails on a full-suspension bike, the ride is extremely comfortable. You can go with speeds that hardtails cannot match. But riding these paths on a hardtail makes handling difficult and for some this level of difficulty makes the ride more fun and rewarding.
Hardtail Vs Full Suspension Climbing and Descends
Climbing and descending are also critical aspects that we need to analyze. If you prefer to ride on trails that feature more climbs then you need to go for a hardtail mountain bike. It has a solid rear and doesn’t have much overall weight. Therefore, you won’t have to waste a lot of energy while you are pedaling uphill.
You can comfortably stand on your pedals and without losing much energy due to a rear suspension. It allows you to carry on for a longer period. Full-suspensions have their lockouts to tackle this situation but you must remove them first to use them effectively. Still, they won’t be able to deliver a rocksteady performance of a hardtail.
Now, when the climbs get all technical, then a hardtail begins to lose its ground to full-suspension. It is because the rear tire stays in contact with the ground during those obstacles. And you can keep on cranking smoothly. You will feel the extra weight but there are times when you need to focus more on traction than anything else.
Now, that you have finished your climb, it’s time to descend. And at this point, full-suspension begins to punch its way into the competition. The rear shock that it has will be very critical in this scenario. Due to this feature, riders feel very comfortable downhill on a full-suspension bike as they become more in control of their ride with higher speeds. Hardtail’s on the other hand begin to feel a lot less charming. It will bounce and skip on any of those roots and rocks.
Traction and Comfort
A primary advantage of a full-suspension ride is that they offer superior traction and they are great for a rider’s comfort too. The rear wheel will conform according to the trail and your ride will become very smooth.
Whether you are sitting on your saddle or standing on your RaceFace Chester pedals, you will feel the smoothness that the bike can provide you. With better traction, your bike gets a good grip on the ground as the tires bite it to create a stronger hold. However, hardtails can be far better on smoother trails.
The tires here comply better with smoother terrains and you will feel it when the ride gets bumpy. On uneven terrain, a full suspension mountain bike is the better choice because you are more in control of your ride and feel more confident to increase your speed. So in terms of traction and comfort on smoother terrains hardtail is the better choice while on uneven patches, the full-suspension MTB takes the lead.
Skill Development on a Hardtail Vs Full Suspension
As there is no shock system on the rear end of your bike with a hardtail, you will have a stronger feel of the terrain that you are riding. As you are going to feel all the bumps, you will be a lot more active and see what’s coming ahead. You will use your legs a lot more on the bumps that are coming your way while riding the trails.
You will try to hop over the obstacles and won’t think about plowing your way right through them. Hopping over obstacles with your bike is a very essential skill and developing it will allow you to ride any kind of bike on any terrain. It is exactly the reason why the experts of mountain biking advise starting with a hardtail mountain bike.
As there are no suspension linkages on the back of a hardtail like the Diamondback Sync’R 29 Carbon it is much lighter than a full suspension MTB. A full-suspension bike has all kinds of components on its rear wheel and they add to the overall weight of the MTB. And these numbers will turn out to be very critical in your overall ride experience.
As we mentioned earlier, the hardtail frames are cheaper as well. Therefore, the manufacturers can add more high-quality components to it. And of course, when they use high-end components, not being heavy they further reduce the overall weight of the bike. Therefore, hardtails are significantly lighter than their full-suspension counterparts.
Hardtails are lighter and they don’t have any suspension system on the backend. Therefore, the components used to make them are high in terms of quality. If your MTB has quality materials particularly on the tires, forks, and wheels, it will significantly alter the way the bike can handle different trails.
So it’s not a hard and fast rule that a full suspension bike is always better than a hardtail. With quality drivetrains, you get more gears. Tires also make a huge difference when you are riding. You can change them at some later stage as well but the best practice is to buy a quality product in the first place.
Again on a full suspension MTB, there are various small components particularly those school systems. A hardtail doesn’t feature any of such components so maintenance is not going to be as much of an issue. Repairing or maintenance on those suspension bearings and bushings require some expertise and they consume precious time too.
Apart from that these bushings and bearings tend to wear out with time. So that can add to the overall cost here too. Fork, wheel, and drivetrain repairs are on to-do lists too but they are not very problematic if you are using a hardtail.
Who Should Choose A Hardtail Bike?
Choosing a hardtail would be a good choice if:
- You have a tight budget and are looking for the most value out of your investment. Hardtails are much simpler to produce and there are not many technicalities involved in the production process. Therefore, its price is low.
- You prefer to ride smooth trails. Hardtails can be a lot of fun on smooth trails as they can absorb any moderate bumps with its front suspension.
- Maintenance and repairs are a huge concern for you. Hardtails are very simple machines and you don’t have to do much to get them back on the track.
- You are looking for a very light bike then there is no better option than a hardtail. There are fewer parts and components and you can easily maneuver it around as you wish.
Who Should Choose A Full-Suspension Bike?
Choosing a full-suspension would be a good choice if:
- Budget is not your concern then you need to choose a full suspension bike. It’s all about high-quality materials with the latest technology features. And with stronger competition, things are looking bright ahead.
- You prefer to ride technical routes with tons of obstacles. Full-suspension bikes perform well in such conditions. Your ride can be smooth and you won’t have to deal with any bumps due to the rear suspension.
- You prefer a more comfortable ride and don’t want to deal with any bumps or jangling bones then you should choose a full-suspension bike. It can even absorb larger rocks and provide you with a nice and clean ride.
- You’re more interested in speed, then a full suspension bike can satisfy your need for speed. It comes equipped with front and rear suspension you can zip through the technical trails like a breeze?
After going through this hardtail vs full suspension mountain bike guide you might have come to know that both hardtails and full-suspension mountain bikes are great in this regard. In some areas, the hardtail wins while in others the full-suspension takes the lead.
So if you are still dangling which is better, hardtail or full suspension mountain bike, then there is no clear answer to it. In fact, the choice may highly be subjective. Some people prefer speed while others choose the struggle. Some don’t mind dealing with any repairs while others can’t stand them.
And of course, budget is an integral factor here as well. But in general, if you prefer a comfortable ride then a full-suspension mountain bike will work for you. And if you are looking to develop some skills then choose a hardtail. The debate between the hardtail vs full suspension mountain bike will continue.
So it all boils down to you! What are your preferences and how do you like to ride? Our advice is if you are a novice and have a tight budget then go for a hardtail. And if budget means nothing and you want speed then choose a full-suspension. They both are the best in their own territories.