Do you want to try out mountain biking? Riding on off-road trails on a bike can be a rewarding experience, but you need the right bike for the job. One of the most important things you should know when choosing a mountain bike is the frame. Should you go for a hardtail or a full-suspension bike?
A hardtail mountain bike is a type of bike that features a solid frame (the “body” of the bike). It gets its name from having a rigid rear part – the part where the rear wheel is attached directly to the frame. Hardtail mountain bikes feature a suspension front fork to help manage road bumps.
A full suspension bike feature the same front fork suspension, but also has a rear suspension for an even smoother ride. This is made possible by breaking up the frame into two parts: the front triangle and the rear triangle. These parts are joined together by pivots and are limited by a shock absorber.
At first glance, the full suspension bike’s more complex design may give you an idea that it’s a straight upgrade to the hardtail bike in terms of performance, but there are actually times when the hardtail bike is the better option.
2. Uphill Climbs
A huge part of mountain biking is travelling up inclined paths. Beginners may have to deal with just a few bumps along a road trail, but more experienced bikers frequently take on more challenging uphill climbs with a more irregular terrain full of jutting rocks or tree roots.
Because of its rigid frame, a hardtail bike can efficiently transfer the rider’s pedalling power straight to the rear wheel. All that energy is properly used to accelerate and maintain high speeds. This gives the hardtail bike an edge over a full suspension bike on more manageable terrain.
A full suspension bike’s ability to keep the rear wheel firmly planted on the ground makes it easier to navigate obstacles. Also, by absorbing the shock from riding on rough terrain, a full suspension bike makes it easier for a rider to stay in place – no need to worry about getting bumped off your seat!
Uphill climbs may seem like the most difficult part of mountain biking, but downhill rides are anything but easy. You’d think it’s just a matter of pulling your brakes to control the speed, but managing descents with a hardtail bike and a full-suspension bike may feel like night and day.
The full suspension bike wins out over the hardtail in this aspect of mountain biking. Riding downhill is faster, and hitting a bump on the way down can knock you off-balance. A full suspension bike absorbs most of the shock and provides better handling, which allows safer, faster descents.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should completely avoid hardtail bikes. Riding a hardtail requires a rider to condition his legs in order to compensate for the lack of suspension. Because of this, some riders claim that using a hardtail can make you a better rider in the long run.
Of all the kinds of cycling popular today, mountain biking is easily one that puts the most wear and tear on the bike. A bike has to withstand shock and impacts on a regular basis, plus mud and debris can cause problems such as rusting or unnecessary friction caused by blockage, so maintenance is mandatory.
A hardtail bike is very easy to maintain. Because of it doesn’t have a lot of complicated parts like the pivots and rear shock spring, there are fewer parts that are likely to suffer from a breakdown. This makes the hardtail bike a better option if you spend a lot of time riding on wet or muddy trails.
Full-suspension bikes may be better at handling technical terrain, but the superior handling comes at the cost of requiring slightly more maintenance. You also have to be aware of how tight your rear suspension and pivots are to ensure the right amount of suspension.
Weight has always been a crucial factor in cycling. The lighter your bike is, the less energy you need to stay on the move. It’s possible to have a bike with a lightweight frame and still be tough enough to manage harsh off-road conditions.
Hardtail bikes are generally lighter than their full suspension counterparts because they have a simple design and require fewer parts. However, it’s possible for a full-frame bike to be light enough with the right materials, such as carbon fiber or lightweight alloy frames.
Although being lighter helps, it’s not the ultimate factor in deciding which is better. In fact, you’re much better off losing weight instead of trying to cut down your bikes weight. The weight difference between a hardtail and a full suspension bike should be the least of your priorities.
Mountain biking puts a lot of stress on your bike, but it also takes a lot out of you. This is why you need to do everything you can to make yourself as comfortable as possible, starting with choosing the correct frame size. Even the slightest discomfort at the start of your ride can turn into something big enough to stop you from completing the journey.
Thanks to its rear suspension, riding a full suspension bike is a lot more comfortable than a hardtail. This means you can ride on rougher terrain without having to lift yourself off the seat. This may not seem much, but during extended rides, the extra comfort provided by a full suspension bike can be a godsend.
However, this doesn’t mean that you’re bound to struggle with a hardtail bike. One of the best ways to improve the comfort while riding a hardtail is to upgrade the bikes seat. Paying extra attention to the front fork also helps in reducing the amount of impact transferred from the bike to your body.
7. Riding Style
Mountain biking lets you choose between different riding styles. If you’re new to the sport, you’re expected to focus more on developing your skills. A hardtail bike requires you to learn how to shift your body to absorb the shock even in lighter terrain, making it a highly recommended starter option.
While full suspension bikes are beginner-friendly, their true potential lies on enhancing a rider’s abilities. A more experienced rider that has no trouble using a hardtail bike can take advantage of a full suspension bike’s features when tackling more challenging terrain.
You have to keep in mind that the bike does not make the rider; full suspension bikes aren’t exclusively for more experienced riders. If you think you’ll be able to start off with a full suspension bike then, by all means, get one.
Just like in most hobbies, price plays a big role in determining which bike you should go for. However, you should also consider how much you are willing to commit to mountain biking. If you’re new or just curious about trying the sport, you won’t go wrong with an entry-level bike.
Because a hardtail bike doesn’t require a lot of components and features a simple design, most affordable mountain bikes are hardtails. A full-suspension bike costs a little because of the rear shock and pivot, but it’s also worth it if you really need a smooth ride.
You should also know that there are high-end options for both hardtail and full suspension bikes. A high-end hardtail will usually perform better than an entry-level full suspension bike. If you have the money to spare, why not both bikes for different kinds of trails.
Another thing most people fail to consider when choosing a bike is the amount of fun or satisfaction they can get out of their rides. Some prefer hardtail bikes because they present a greater challenge, and therefore give you a sense of achievement. Others prefer full suspension bikes because of the comfort.
This one greatly depends on your riding goals. Do you want something that will keep you on your toes even on moderately technical terrain? Go for a hardtail. Do you prefer to just take it easy and have a more pleasant ride? A full suspension bike is the better choice.
Wrapping things up
Hardtail’s lightweight and simple design appeals more to riders that enjoy uphill trails or cross country rides. Easy to maintain and easy on the pockets, a hardtail mountain bike is a no-nonsense ride for beginners and those looking for a challenge.
If you need that extra edge when keeping up with more experienced riders, then the full suspension bike is for you. It’s also a good option if you’re looking for something that you plan on using on regular road trips since the rear suspension allows for smoother rides, especially on flat terrain.
That concludes our roundup on hardtail vs full suspension bikes. Which do you think is the better option? What kind of bike do you own? Feel free to share your opinions by leaving a comment below.