Full Suspension vs. Hardtail

When you are shopping for a new mountain bike, there are a few things to consider. One of the inevitable things is the debate of full suspension vs. hardtail. Both types of mountain bikes have their benefits and drawbacks. But, which one you choose will depend on the factors that matter the most to you.

Full Suspension vs. Hardtail? Which MTB is right for me?

 When you are shopping for a new mountain bike, there are a few things to consider. One of the inevitable things is the debate of full suspension vs. hardtail. Both types of mountain bikes have their benefits and draw backs. But, which one you choose will depend on the factors that matter the most to you. This post will highlight all the differences to help you decide which type of mountain bike to choose.

 WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?

A full-suspension mountain bike has a suspension fork at the front and a rear shock. Whereas a hardtail only features a suspension fork. The amount of suspension a mountain bike has dictates how much control, traction, comfort, and amount of fun you have. This all depends on what terrain you like to ride on.

RIDING CHARACTERISTICS

Mountain bike design and technology has come a long way in recent years, making them very capable. But to make sure you buy the right mountain bike for you, you need to think about the terrain you ride. Here are the main points to consider:

Climbing

The design of a hardtail mountain bike makes climbing more efficient than a full suspension bike. Full suspension mountain bikes bob up and down as you pedal. The result of this bobbing wastes the energy you put into the pedals. However, some full-suspension mountain bikes allow you to stiffen or lock out the suspension, to reduce or eliminate the movement.

Another factor that affects climbing ability is the bike’s weight. Full suspension mountain bikes weigh more than Hardtails in most cases. The reason for the extra weight is the additional components and frame design. This extra weight means you have to put in extra effort on steep climbs. Many bike manufacturers use lightweight aluminum or carbon fiber frames to reduce the weight as much as possible.

Descending

When it comes to riding downhill, a full-suspension bike excels. The extra squish on the rear wheel gives you lots of control when riding fast. This is because the rear shock keeps the rear wheel in contact with the ground more when riding bumpy terrain.

A hardtail mountain bike skips around when the terrain gets challenging. The result of this is a less forgiving feeling, and a lot of shocks is transferred into your body.

Comfort and Capability

As great as modern hardtails are, sometimes only a full-suspension mountain bike will do. Full suspension bikes give you confidence, as they are incredibly competent. This capability makes riding a lot more fun, as you can tackle terrain that you previously wouldn’t have even considered on a hardtail. The extra capability on rough ground from a full-suspension mountain bike is astonishing. There will be occasions when you wonder how you managed to ride certain trails unscathed.

When you ride a full-suspension bike, you will also notice how much more comfortable it is over a hardtail. Vibrations and bumps are absorbed, making the ride more pleasant.

The other benefit of a full-suspension mountain bike is that you can ride for longer. The reduction in vibrations and shock transferred into your body is massive. Therefore, you fatigue at a slower rate, allowing you to keep powering along the trails all day.

Developing Your Skills

If you are new to mountain biking, you will benefit from starting with a hardtail over a full suspension bike. This is because the margin for error is much smaller, which is excellent for developing fundamental skills.

Hardtails are more difficult to ride, and they are less comfortable. But, they force you to ride at a speed that is more suited to your ability. Without the assistance of rear suspension, you need to absorb the bumps with your legs. This is a transferable skill for when you graduate to a full suspension bike. Another transferable skill hardtails teach you is line choice. You will soon learn that choosing the wrong line makes life more difficult. Also, riding the wrong line can really hurt.

The rougher ride of a hardtail teaches you how to be sympathetic to your bike. When you ride rough terrain, you are smashing your wheels into rocks and roots. You can feel these impacts more on a hardtail, allowing you to gauge when you should be holding back.

It is often said that when someone starts on a full-suspension mountain bike, they are robbing themselves of these skills. Riding a hardtail as a beginner will benefit your riding in the long term. You will appreciate your full-suspension bike more when the time comes.

This does not mean that a hardtail is inferior to a full-suspension bike. Modern hardtails are extremely capable, especially if you choose one with aggressive geometry. A rider on a hardtail bike with low and slack geometry will often reach their limits before the bike does.

MAINTENANCE

Mountain bikes go through lots of punishment, so they will inevitably go wrong at some point. However, a hardtail mountain bike requires a lot less maintenance. This is because Hardtails have fewer moving parts than a full-suspension mountain bike. They have fewer pivots and bearings. These cost hundreds to replace, especially if you get a shop to do it for you.

If you have a full-suspension mountain bike, you will need to get both the forks and shock serviced. There are different levels of servicing, but you should at least get a basic service on them every year.

Full suspension mountain bikes have a rear suspension linkage. This will get plastered in mud that needs to be cleaned off to protect the bearings. This can be awkward to clean off, which is not a problem you get on a hardtail.

During the winter months, it is becoming common for full suspension riders to put their bike away. When the weather is bad, they breakout their hardtails to spend more time riding than cleaning. A hardtail just requires a quick hose down and some chain lube at the end of a ride. In contrast, a full-suspension bike requires a little more work.

WHO SHOULD CHOOSEA HARDTAIL?

If you mostly ride smooth trails, you should buy a hardtail mountain bike. You will be able to ride fast and have lots of fun. The suspension fork will soak up the majority of bumps and vibrations on smooth trails. You will also benefit from a hardtail if your local terrain includes lots of climbing. Additionally, if you plan to ride long distances, the lightness and simplicity of a hardtail will suit you best.

Hardtails are great for people that don’t see themselves as practical. Their low maintenance requirement will mean you can keep your hands clean more often.

WHO SHOULD CHOOSE A FULL SUSPENSION?

If your local terrain is pretty technical, you will benefit from buying a full-suspension mountain bike. Their ability to take you over rocks and roots while being more forgiving on jumps surpasses their extra weight.

Full suspension bikes are also built for riders that like comfort, speed, and to ride all day. The suspension prevents the jarring effect you get with a hardtail. You don’t get as tired as quickly on a full-suspension bike, thanks to the reduction of vibrations and shock. You can also carry much more speed on trails and over features.

Full Suspension vs. Hardtail

With all this information, you should have a good idea of which type of bike you should buy. A good starting point is to look out for the different variations of mountain bike models. Some manufactures blur the lines by offering full-suspension and hardtail versions of their bikes.

A great example is the Specialized Epic. The bikes in this range have similar features and characteristics, but they are biased in different ways to suit different riders. You can choose a hardtail bike designed to be as efficient as possible for long rides. But, you can also choose a version that incorporates a rear shock that may suit the rougher terrain local to you.

Check out our online shop to see our high-end full-suspension and hardtail mountain bikes.