MOUNTAIN BIKES: HARDTAIL VS FULL SUSPENSION

Shaun George BOTS Guides, E-commerce, Racing, Tips & Tricks

If you’re in the market for a new Mountain bike, you probably have a bunch of questions about them and which one to go for. There’s a wide variety of bikes available, each catering to a different riding style and type of rider. One decision you’ll inevitably have to make is, whether to go for a hardtail or a full-suspension bike.

A full-suspension mountain bike features both a suspension fork up front and a rear shock, whereas a hardtail bike has only a suspension fork.

The type of suspension a mountain bike has will affect the bike’s control, traction, and comfort—not to mention how enjoyable it is to ride. We hope to help you find out which one is right for you.

The kind of bike you should get largely depends on what kind of terrain you intend to ride and what your budget is. To put it simply: Choose a hardtail if you ride smooth flowy trails and your budget is slightly restricted. Look at full suspension bikes if you like riding through some really gnarly and technical trails – your pockets also need to be fairly deep for a good full suspension bike.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER

1. WEIGHT

The presence of multiple moving parts and linkages on a full suspension bike makes it significantly heavier than a hardtail. This is to means a hardtail is easier to maneuver, and can easily handle steep climbs. The very rigidity of a hardtail helps keep it agile and flickable.

If you have a big enough budget then you can find carbon full-suspension bikes that are as light as, if not lighter than some hardtails. If we’re being honest, unless you’re an elite racer, the additional weight won’t make much difference anyway, especially when you factor the fun and comfort of the rear suspension.

2. PERFORMANCE

When it comes to the hardtail, tire pressure is the suspension. Applying the right amount of air pressure in a hardtail’s tire will keep the ride nice and soft and also ensure that traction is not lost over undulations. In a hardtail, the rear suspension effect is aided by your legs.

A full-suspension bike on the other hand, will handle the most unsettling terrain without a problem. When navigating the deep descents, the full-suspension bikes are hard to beat.

Climbing on the other hand, is a different story. Hardtails allow high power transferibilty to the rear wheel but at a cost. All that power is channeled through the rear tire – when on loose terrain and at a gradient, a hardtail is more prone to loosing traction. A full suspension bike will adapt and hold the soil better providing better overall traction.

Basically, full-suspension bikes are more efficient overall. Power transfer is better on a hardtail but not all of that power is efficiently used. Both hardtails and full-suspension bikes are very capable machines. But hardtails only see an advantage on very smooth courses. On anything choppy or rugged, full-suspension bikes come out on top.

3. COMFORT

The dual suspension combination on FS bikes helps to dampen the rough terrain. This means that your body won’t have to take the brunt of the trail. With a full-suspension bike, you’ll get more confident handling the rough and technical terrain.

“Comfortable isn’t often efficient, but efficient is always the most comfortable.” – Benedict, Specialized’s Product Manager

Hardtails are better ridden on more smooth, flowy and fast sections of a trail. Technical sections will have the rider bouncing around and uncomfortable. Not to say that hardtails can’t do technical sections. It’s just that full suspensions do it better.

4. PRICE

The biggest issue with full suspension bikes is accessibility. They are fairly pricey in comparison to hardtails that are in a similar segment. Even maintenace wise, full suspension bikes demand a lot more care and are expensive to maintain.

Hardtail mountain bikes, on the other hand, are a budget-option and do not require much maintenance. Full suspension bikes are more complex and are therefore more expensive to design and manufacture. This means that you can get a really really good hardtail at the price of an average-ish full suspension bike. Where would you rather spend your money?

5. FUN FACTOR

This is a highly subjective topic and will vary from rider to rider. We love the acceleration and the crispness associated with a hardtail, but also love the sheer numbness of a full suspension bike over the really nasty technical stuff.

Full suspension bikes can take you at blistering paces through some of the roughest patches without breaking a sweat. Hardtails can provide a super swift, nimble and agile ride feel through some fast flowy and even jumpy terrain.

It’s something you can’t really choose between. We’d like to have both. Then again, the kind of off-road riding you enjoy will dictate what kind of bike you will want or enjoy.


As anyone will tell you, regardless of whether you opt for a hardtail or full-suspension, professional suspension tuning will allow you to realize the bike’s full potential and maximize enjoyment.

A hardtail gives you the most bang for your buck but for more experienced riders who like to speed through the rough stuff, a full suspension may be your weapon of choice.

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