Hardtail Vs Full Suspension: How to Choose the Type of Mountain Bike

Choosing between a hardtail vs full-suspension mountain bike can be an uphill task if you don’t know what makes each bike stand out. If you intend to buy a mountain bike, it’s best to know the terrain you’re going to use it on vs. its features and riding style.

Hardtail Vs Full Suspension

Hardtails are simple bikes with front suspension that make their frames lighter. On the other hand, full-suspension bikes have suspension fork and rear shock and are comfortable and easy to control. So, which bike is the best choice between the two?

If you’re planning to buy any of the mountain bikes, this guide will help you decide between hardtail vs full suspension one as we’ll look at the features of each. This will make it easier for you to decide on the best one according to your demands.

Hardtail Mountain Bikes

A hardtail mountain bike is good for anyone living in muddy areas or who intends to cycle on such trails. These bikes are all-purpose and adaptable but have no suspension or shock at the back.

Hardtail Mountain Bikes
Hardtail Mountain Bikes

Some hardtail bikes have front suspension, while others have rigid coil spring suspension with poor performance and comfort. However, the more expensive hardtail bikes come with air suspension, making it softer on the upper part of the journey but becomes tougher when more pressure is applied.

Note that a hardtail mountain bike will do better on smooth flat terrain where the back wheel has full power transmission allowing you to ride faster. It will also give you an easy time on less challenging hilly trails as it’s lightweight, and you don’t have to struggle to pedal.

Related: What Is a Cyclocross Bike

Features Of Hardtail Mountain Bike

The features of this bike include;

  • Frame: This bike’s lightweight frame makes it a perfect pick for riders who like climbing. Most frames consist of carbon fiber, making them stronger and more durable.
  • Fork; the hardtail bike has a suspension fork of between 80 mm and 130 mm. this allows riders to comfortably.
  • Wheel size; hardtail bikes have varying wheel sizes and gear options. Some are size 29, while others are 27.5 inches and have width sizes of up to 2.6 inches. However, some hardtails allow you to have more than one wheel and tire size.
  • High-quality materials; These bikes are made of high-quality materials which last longer. The hardtail MTB also has few movable parts, so there is nothing much to look after. You will not have to replace or repair the rear suspension as it’s not there, plus the fewer available parts don’t require regular maintenance.

Features Of Hardtail Mountain Bike

Pros And Cons of Hardtail Mountain Bike

This bike has its advantages and disadvantages, which you need to look at to help you make a wise decision.

Pros

  • It’s a versatile bike since you can use it for tours, trail, and road rides.
  • It’s cheaper and requires easy maintenance
  • It’s good for climbing uphill
  • It’s lightweight and moves very fast on smooth terrains.
  • It’s a good pick for beginners
  • It allows you to feel the terrain as you cycle
  • It offers instant power as you pedal

Cons

  • It is not comfortable to ride as it makes you feel every bump because it has no back suspension. This will make you tired faster before covering a relevant distance.
  • It also doesn’t work well for landing jumps and technical trails.
  • It’s not ideal for downhill cycling
  • It’s less stable when used on hilly roads.

Related: What Is a Hybrid Bike?

Full Suspension Mountain Bike

This mountain bike has suspension at the back and front, preventing shock as you ride. Its front suspension works the same way as that of a hardtail mountain bike. However, the back suspension consists of coil springs and air suspension, ideal for making big jumps.

Full Suspension Mountain Bike

This bike works best on technical terrains as the back suspension will absorb the shock from the bumps. The suspension will also enable your bike’s back wheel to maintain contact with the ground as you ride, providing more traction and easy movement on rocky routes.

You will also enjoy cycling downhill using a full-suspension mountain bike as it offers good cornering and traction capabilities.

Features Of Full Suspension MTB

  • Frame: Full-suspension bikes have two frame pieces, the mainframe, and the swingarm. Both frame pieces have shock through the linkages.
  • Double suspension; This bike’s rear and front suspensions enable it to go through bumpy and rough trails without struggle. They absorb shock as you pedal, allowing you to stay comfortable through the journey
  • Wheel size; The size of the wheels is similar to that of a hardtail, with the only difference being on the rims, which are a bit bigger.  

Features Of Full Suspension MTB

Pros And Cons of Full Suspension Mountain Bike

It’s best to look at the pros and cons of the full-suspension mountain bikes to help you make faster decisions.

Pros

  • It’s good for bumpy roads and trails
  • It works best on technical terrains
  • It’s comfortable to use as it has both rear and front suspension. This will prevent you from joint and back pains
  • It offers better stability when descending the hill
  • It has a good traction and moves faster on technical trails
  • It enables you to make corners with ease.

Cons

  • It’s expensive
  • It’s not ideal for smooth and flat terrains
  • It doesn’t allow you to feel the ground as you ride.

Related: What Is Cycling Cadence?

How To Choose Between Hardtail vs Full Suspension Mountain Bikes

If you want to choose the right mountain bike, it’s best to know the features that set each apart. We’ll do an in-depth comparison of hardtail vs full suspension to help you make an informed decision.

The main difference between the two bikes lies in their price, weight, and the trail where you can use them.

Where To Ride the Bikes

If you want to choose the best mountain bike between the two, it’s good to consider where you’ll be riding them. Hardtail MTB or full suspension MTB won’t limit where you can ride them. However, there are trails where each performs best. For example, hardtail MTB works best on smoother flat trails, while full suspension MTB will give you an easy time on rough, bumpy terrains.

Hardtail Vs Full Suspension: The Suspension

The main difference between the two mountain bikes lies in their kind of suspension. The hardtail mountain bikes have a single fork suspension at the front. On the other hand, the full suspension mountain bikes have suspension forks at the back and front providing more shock absorbance.

The suspension on these bikes limits the trails you can use them on. For example, the hardtail mountain bikes are good for smooth flat trails. The full suspension MTB will work best on rough, bumpy terrains as they have better shock cushioning.

Related: What Is FTP and Why Does It Matter for Cyclists?

Weight

A Hardtail mountain bike is lightweight because it has fewer parts. A lighter bike is ideal for climbing as you’ll not feel the weight as you go up. The full-suspension mountain bike has more components which make it heavier. The heavyweight of the bike will save you when cycling on certain trails that require good rolling resistance.

Hardtail Vs Full Suspension: Cost

You will spend different amounts buying these bikes. The full-suspension mountain bike is much more expensive than hardtail bikes. You can buy a hardtail bike for as low as $1000 or less. However, to get a good suspension bike, you’ll have to spend around $1500.

Apart from that you also need to consider the maintenance cost. Remember, for your bike to serve you longer, you have to repair and replace the damaged parts. You’ll have to spend more cash on its maintenance for a full suspension bike as there are more components to take care of. However, a hardtail bike you can repair by yourself, and it also has fewer parts to be cared for.

The Speed and Fun

Both bikes are fun to ride; however, they perform differently on different trails. For example, full-suspension MTB is easier to ride on tough trails, while hardtail will give you a hard time on the same trail. So, a full suspension MTB will move faster on tough terrains and keep you comfortable.

The hardtail will be faster on smoother roads and trails as they make direct contact with the ground reducing power loss as you pedal.

Component Features

Hardtail bikes are much simpler and less expensive to produce, making them have quality components than full-suspension mountain bikes. The wheels, tires, and fork for the hardtail mountain bikes are higher quality than that of full-suspension bikes.

Maintenance

You will not have much maintenance to do to your hardtail MTB. You only need to wipe off mud, and your bike will be good to go. However, a full suspension MTB requires you to replace and repair the bearings and bushings to have them in good shape.

User Skills

You don’t need to have better skills to use hardtail MTB, making it a good choice for beginners. It will help you select the riding lines, stay active pedaling, and use your legs to absorb shock from the bumps. The hardtail bike will also offer you the best opportunity to learn how to jump over obstacles improving your skills.

However, you will have a difficult time learning how to ride a full-suspension bike on a flat smooth surface as it doesn’t perform well here.

Hardtail Vs Full Suspension: Traction and Comfort

A full suspension MTB has better traction and is more comfortable to ride than a hardtail bike. The rear wheel has suspension, enabling it to go over the bumps smoothly, making you ride comfortably. The rear suspension also ensures good traction on the ground as the tires dig deeper when it’s not bouncing back and forth. You will be confident riding on such rough roads because of this allowing you to cycle faster.

Hardtail MTB will only be comfortable on smoother roads but doesn’t offer a better grip as you move to rough trails. This will affect your speed and make you pedal slowly for fear of tripping.

Related: How to Choose a Mountain Bike: A Buying Guide

Which One Is Best Between Hardtail vs Full Suspension Mountain Bike?

 If you’re looking for a cheaper mountain bike for smooth trails, go for a hardtail bike. This bike goes for $1500 and below because of its simple design. It’s also lightweight as it has fewer parts making it a good choice for climbing uphill or for long-distance rides.

However, full-suspension bikes are a good choice if you don’t mind spending more cash getting the right bicycle. It costs about $2000 but will allow you to ride on technical trails comfortably without getting tired. This is because it has front and rear suspensions increasing the fun when cycling on rough roads as it makes the rides smoother and increases traction. You will also be able to cycle on bumpy roads faster as the full suspension acts as a shock absorber.

Bottom Line about Hardtail Vs Full Suspension

Even though hardtail and full-suspension mountain bikes have similar features, some set them apart. If you want to choose between hardtail vs full suspension, you should look at what sets them apart to make an informed decision. First, the hardtail bikes are much cheaper than full-suspension bikes. Also, these bikes perform differently on various trails making each a perfect choice for certain terrain. 

For example, if you want to ride faster on a rough, bumpy track, go for full suspension MTB. The hardtail bike is also lightweight and good for climbing, while full suspension MTB will enable you to descend easily. Furthermore, you’ll not have to do regular maintenance on a hardtail as on a full suspension. But the best bike depends on one’s preference and the amount you’re willing to part with the bike, just as this guide has elaborated above.

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