In the world of mountain bikes there are basically two different types: Full suspension mountain bikes and Hardtail mountain bikes, each one is designed for a different use.
To help you decide between a Hardtail and a Full suspension mountain bike you need to take a look at the type of riding you plan to do. If you plan to spend most of your time on smooth trails or going cross country, you may want to go with full suspension. If the riding you plan to do is mostly rough terrain or “highly technical” you would be much better off going with a hardtail mountain bike.
But, it is not just enough…there are much more to grasp.
Hardtail vs Full Suspension Mountain Bikes: What are they?
A hardtail mountain bike is a flexible and all-terrain bike that features front suspension, or it refers to bicycles equipped with rigid folks. It is simpler, lighter, more durable, more reliable, and less expensive than frames that have rear suspension.
On the other hand, full suspension (FS) or dual-suspension mountain bike is a bike whose frame is equipped with both front and rear suspension.
The main difference is that hardtail bikes lack the feature of a rear shock though it may have the front shock, which is not the case with full suspension has both front and rear shock absorbers. The dual suspension mountain bike’s frame is designed to consist of two frames joined together by pivot, this allows independent moving of these two sections where shock absorbers control the movement rate.
The front suspension of full suspension is a telescopic fork, while the rear suspension is mechanically linked with components that absorb shock. This suspension of FS bikes affects their traction and control, making them more enjoyable to ride.
1. Benefits of Hardtail Mountain Bikes
Hardtail mountain bikes are made with features that focus on making any rider, mostly casuals riders, and beginners enjoy their experience on all terrains. Below are some of the advantages that any person will enjoy with these bikes.
- Hardtail bikes offer smooth rides on all land topographies: These mountain bikes are designed to be highly responsive, meticulous, and eased potentials. This makes the bikes suitable for any road, and the features make them best for dirt jumps and trials.
- They build maneuvering expertise and techniques: When riding hardtail mountain bikes, it requires the cyclist to maintain exceptional focus and prompts quick thinking during line selection and timing according to the nature of the terrain. By doing so, the cyclist improves on maneuvering proficiency and skills.
- Hardtail mountain bikes are light: Since these bikes do not have rear suspension, they are light compared to full suspension bikes. Their lightweight renders them more efficient.
- Easy to ride: Most of the hardtail bikes have a higher frame design that allows the cyclist to position themselves upwards more comfortably when climbing; this creates the ease to ride. Additionally, their design features good acceleration and climbing in that all pedaling energy is transferred entirely into the wheels rather than investing the power on another suspension.
- They are cheap: Since hardtails do not have rear suspension and have simple frames, they are more inexpensive to make, making them sell at more affordable prices. Besides, they are very durable and don’t involve much maintenance like the full suspension mountain bikes. These characteristics make them cost-efficient in the long run.
- They are an excellent choice for beginners because of their adaptability feature, prompt and straightforward control as well as simpler compared to dual suspension bikes.
- Recent advancements in metallurgy and design have taken some of the advantages of full suspension bikes away. As these advances have occurred manufacturers have learned how to improve the design of hardtail frames. This has made the ride more comfortable by building in a certain amount of give or springiness to the frame.
1.1 Disadvantages of Hardtail Mountain Bikes
Despite hardtail having many advantages and being most suitable for anyone, they have their downsides which include:
- Less enjoyable on some terrains: Since hardtail do not have rear suspension, which tend to absorb the impact of logs, rocks, as well as other obstacles. It does not give much comfort when racing, riding on rugged terrain, riding downhill, and on rocky terrains as compared to the full suspension bikes.
- Less stability as compared to dual suspension: Unlike the double suspension, hardtail has a streamlined body lacking the thick and robust appearance, which makes its peer more stable.
2. Benefits of Full suspension (dual suspension) Mountain Bikes
When you start to think about getting a new full suspension mountain bike, there are a few things you need to take into consideration. Buying a full suspension mountain bikes can be a very exciting time but can soon lead to regrets if you don’t think your purchase through very carefully. Let’s have a look at their advantages & disadvantages!
Full Suspension/Dual suspension bikes are fitted with front and rear suspensions to offers a safe ride. Below are some of their advantages…
- They can accelerate at higher speeds: Full suspension mountain bikes are faster downhills and rugged terrain than the hardtail bikes. They have amplified traction, which guarantees more cushioning over bumps and keeps tires closer to ground.
- Dual suspension mountain bikes are more flexible than hardtails. This allows the rider to continue riding with ease on any terrain since it is designed to persevere rock gardens, water-bar drops, roots, and jumps.
- The two suspensions absorb every shock over the bumps and on any rugged terrain like rocky places. This gives the beginners more confidence when riding, thus making them perfect and friendly for novice mountain bikers.
- Full suspension mountain bikes are more comfortable to ride on and are easier to handle as well. This comfort, combined with higher speed, leaves you with surprising dividends when taking longer rides as it leaves you still fresh.
2.2 Disadvantages of Full suspension Mountain Bikes
Are you prepared to spend a fair amount of time working on your bike to keep up with the maintenance? If the answer to this is No or even maybe, then a full suspension mountain bike is probably not for you.
- They are expensive: Manufacturing of dual-suspension bikes is costly, which in turn makes them have an expensive price tag compared to hardtail or rigid models of a similar bike. Cheap dual suspension bikes are burdened with a more massive frame and heavy parts; therefore, you will have to realize all potential of full suspension more. The bikes have almost double suspension that of hardtail mountain bicycles.
- Full suspension mountain bikes are too heavy: The extra rear suspension means more components and parts, translating to excess weight compared to their peer. Complete suspension bikes are also thicker, which adds to their weight. If you have issues with weight, looking for high-end bikes would do better for that case. Having more components and parts translates to extra repairs and keen maintenance as compared to hardtails.
- They are not suitable for riding uphill: With rear suspension, the back tail is not in a rigid state, which gives poor traction as compared to the rigid frame like that of hardtail mountain bikes. This poses a challenge to the rider as he struggles to get traction on the back wheel when pedalling uphill with full-pensioned mountain bikes. In cases of inclined terrain, you have to balance your weight closer to the front to compensate on gravity that shifts to the rear-wheel; otherwise, you would topple backward if you maintain an upright position.
- Less pedal efficiency: Since full-suspension bikes have flex, riding uphill makes the suspension work against you. In a bid to enjoy the ride, you will attempt to get traction to the rear wheel, which will then recoil under stress.
Are Hardtail faster than Full suspension bikes?
Hardtail mountain bikes have lightweight frame and are simpler to suit long races whereas, full-suspension mountain bikes come with a weight penalty and less pedaling efficiency. For a faster ride, would you use the slightly more substantial and comfortable dual suspension bike or super light hardtail? Full-suspension mountain bikes cannot beat hardtail bikes when it comes to ridding on an inclined terrain since the latter is more efficient.
On the other hand, full-suspension bikes excel well in a more rugged topography like rocky gardens, roots, and drops, making it overcome where technical features are necessary.
In a bid to justify the speed, an experiment to test was carried out using identical 700RC hardtail and full-suspension bikes. The sets were perfect and competitive enough for the test. The first test was carried out on topography with different terrains while the second contained longer climbs, technical rocky gardens, and few drops and jumps. These various tests were designed such that at least every bike would have a chance to shine.
From the results obtained, the hardtail bike was a clear winner on the root laps as it consumed less effort for faster speeds. On the contrary, the full-suspension bike was quicker, especially on an uphill. However, it required more significant power to keep the momentum consistent due to the extra weight exerted by the suspension features.
For the best performance of hardtail in terms of speed, it is always associated with fatigue as you ought to be at the peak of fitness, especially on the technicalities. This is contrary to the dual suspension bikes as they tend to be forgiving in terms of causing fatigue, though with some weight penalty, to attain higher speed.
Generally, from the results obtained, it was concluded that dual-suspension mountain bikes are faster as compared to hardtail mountain bikes. However, hardtail bikes consume less effort, thus superseding the full suspension on benefits as the latter requires much effort to complete a lap.
Which one is best and Comfortable for Beginners – Hardtail vs Full suspension?
Most people tend to choose a bike depending on the appearance; that is, some will go for the more straightforward appearance of hardtail while others would prefer the aggressive look of the full suspension mountain bike. For a beginner to make the right choice, they will have to be considerate on several factors that will determine which type of bike will suit their ride. These factors are as discussed below.
The beginner’s initial budget: Making hardtail mountain bikes is less costly, which in turn sells at lower and affordable price. Beginners who want to survive on a limited budget will find hardtail right for them as it won’t cause hitches to their budget. However, full-suspension mountain bikes are expensive and would be preferred by a beginner who is after comfort regardless of its costs. The overall cost will depend on design, the spec of parts, and the suspension system. There are cheaper dual-suspension bikes though they tend to be too heavy.
Beginners preferred weight: Generally, hardtail bikes have lighter weight as compared to full suspension mountain bike, which has additional rear shock absorbers and pivots adding to its overall weight. However, there are dual-suspension bikes that are lighter than or as light as hardtail bikes that will cost you more. Depending on the beginner’s preference, they will choose bikes based on the weight and the topography they intend to ride on.
Mechanical complexity: Beginner’s choice and preferences will depend on their desire for either complicated or simple bikes. Sophisticated bikes mean more components and increased chances of breakdown, which increases maintenance costs. If the beginner is looking for comfort, they will have to go for more complicated bikes, dual-suspension mountain bikes.
Land topography: Mountain bikes are designed to suit different terrains depending on their features. However, some bikes comfortably suit all terrains. Depending on topography that the beginner will be riding, he will make the right choice; for instance, the full-suspension will be suitable for rocky and downhill while the hardtail will be excellent for uphill and dirt jumps. There is better traction and stability when riding on the dual-suspension bike, making it more comfortable and increased confidence. Besides, a beginner would prefer dual-suspension over hardtail since the former absorbs the shocks in bumpy areas.
Desired comfort and ease of handling: The rear suspension in dual-suspension bikes absorbs shocks, thus giving any rider the comfort they want and increased confidence cycling. Also, they ease cycling over long distances across technical terrains. However, the beginner should weigh the effort required to complete the lap versus comfort during the ride. On comfort, hardtail bikes would do better on rough places than FS bikes that need one to struggle in balancing gravity.
Full suspension bikes are easier to handle since they have knobby wheels that ease negotiating corners, steep descents, and easy control in muddy areas.
Speed and the fun of riding: With the full suspension, you can ride at a very high speed because the shocks absorb the effects of bumps and corners. This means a beginner who wishes to attain high speeds will prefer dual-suspension bikes over hardtails.
However, if the beginner is to cycle on the tarmac and steep lanes, then hardtail bikes are likely to be faster. Full suspension cyclists tend to enjoy the fun of riding across technical areas due to comfort, and traction comes with full suspension. A beginner will find it more fun to ride on a hardtail for smooth off-road trails.
Generally, hardtail mountain bikes are advisable for any beginner since it rarely happens to train in rough, steep, and challenging trails. It has an advantage in that it keeps the rider focused and timely when changing lines to cope with different terrains. This builds and improves the manoeuvring skills and techniques, preparing them for more complicated trails that will now need a full suspension bike.
The Bottom Line
So what kind of trailblazing bicycle is best for you?
The appropriate response to a great extent relies upon the amount you are ready to spend and the landscape you like to travel, yet there are different factors too.
The short answer is this: Choose a full suspension bike if you’re prepared to spend somewhat more and need to climb a technical path. Then again, pick a hardtail bike on the off chance that you are on a more tightly financial plan and plan to invest a large portion of your energy in smoother trails.