There is a wide range of options to choose from when looking for a mountain bike to purchase. Some features are more important than others, but one of the most vital aspects to focus on is the suspension. Mountain bikes come in either hardtail or full suspension types, and each has their own advantages and disadvantages depending on your riding style, preferences and the location in which you typically ride.
What is a Hardtail Mountain Bike?
A hardtail mountain bike is defined by its lack of a rear shock system. The only suspension system is in the front forks. While this may appear to be inconvenient at first, there are many advantages to using a hardtail mountain bike.
The Main Benefits of Riding a Hardtail Mountain Bike
Hardtail mountain bikes offer smooth rides on any terrain. They’re very responsive, precise and have great handling capabilities. In addition, the riding experience on a hardtail requires a lot of focus and quick thinking that will increase your maneuvering skills and technique.
A lack of a rear suspension also makes hardtail bikes very light and efficient. They’re great for acceleration and climbing since all of the energy from pedaling will be fully transferred into both wheels instead of wasting it on another suspension. Additionally, the higher frame design of most hardtails makes it easier to position yourself upwards more comfortably during climbs, making the ride easier on the bike and the body of the rider.
Price is another great benefit of hardtail bikes. Since they lack a rear suspension system and have a simpler frame, hardtail bikes are cheaper to make and very affordable. They also don’t require as much maintenance as full suspension bikes and are very durable, making them very cost-effective in the long run.
The Main Differences Between a Hardtail and Full Suspension Mountain Bike
As the name suggests, unlike hardtail mountain bikes, full suspension bikes have shocks in both the front and rear. This makes for a bouncier ride, but it’s beneficial on rough and rocky trails. It also makes your ride softer and easier on the arms and back, which makes it a good choice for older riders.
While hardtails are certainly a favorite for uphill climbing, full suspension bikes are favored for downhill descents. The overall design of full suspension is more rear-focused, making it more comfortable to position yourself at downward angles. Full suspension bikes also have a wider wheelbase, which makes it easier to balance and control at higher speeds.
Full suspension bikes are typically more expensive and require more maintenance than hardtails due to them having more mechanical components. They also have more pivot points in their frames, which also makes them less durable. Most bike maintenance and minor repairs can be performed by the owner, but some of the more technical maintenance work may require the assistance of a professional bike mechanic.
Should a Beginner Consider Buying a Hardtail Mountain Bike?
Hardtail mountain bikes are great choices for beginners. In fact, in many ways, hardtails are better options than full suspension bikes for those starting out. Many newcomers like the sleek and complex designs of full suspension bikes, and, at first glance, it’s easy to assume that more suspension is simply better. However, hardtail bikes are more versatile, precisely controlled and simple to use than full suspension bikes.
Riding a hardtail also allows you to more quickly gain valuable riding skills that you’ll need as you explore complicated trails, tougher terrain and attempt tricks. Full suspension bikes allow you to better utilize these skills later, once you’ve gained some more experience, but hardtails allow you to learn more effectively.
What are the Ideal Riding Conditions for Using a Hardtail Mountain Bike?
Since hardtails are so versatile, they can maneuver just fine in nearly all riding conditions. However, if you want to get the most out of your experience, you’ll want to stick to trails that work best with the capabilities of a hardtail mountain bike.
The best riding conditions for hardtail mountain bikes are smooth, dry and open trails that are usually preferred by beginners and casual riders. Roots, rocks, dips, hills and some hazards can be peppered throughout, especially if they add to the thrill of your ride, but they shouldn’t be constant.
You’ll also have a great time riding around town on the road. Hardtail bikes work with tar and road conditions better than a full suspension bike. The higher design of hardtail mountain bikes also make them very comfortable to ride for long periods of time, making them a great option for commuting.