If you’re looking to buy a mountain bike, then you must be confused about choosing between a hardtail and a full-suspension mountain bike. The biggest decision a biker faces is whether to opt for a hardtail or go all extra with a full-suspension mountain bike.
Because of a stiff rear end, hardtails are easy to use and pedal. They have a suspension fork, which saves the bike from bumps and prevents hurting the arms and torso. Full suspension bikes have an overall smooth ride because they have a spring and damper between the rider and the rear wheel.
Mountain biking is a very diverse sport that takes the rider on a variety of terrains, which is part of the reason why different types of bikes are made for every terrain.
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Hardtails may significantly perform better on smooth terrains, but full-suspension bikes often take the lead in tackling the most uneven and bumpiest rides.
Choosing between these two is undoubtedly a hard task because both these bikes are excellent in their performance. To answer this never-ending debate on mountain bikes, this guide will compare both bikes, from their price points to their weight and speed, etc.
What’s the Difference Between Hardtail and a Full Suspension Mountain Bike?
A hardtail mountain bike is designed without a suspension on the back. This means that hardtails only have one suspension, which is equipped on the front. Whereas, a full-suspension mountain bike is designed with two suspensions.
One at the front and one equipped at the back, which is usually an air shock suspension or sometimes a combination of both air suspension and a coil spring.
Here are a few more differences between a hardtail and a full-suspension mountain bike.
|Hardtail Mountain Bike||Full-Suspension Mountain Bike|
|It is lightweight.||Heavier than a hardtail bike.|
|It is easy to maintain||It requires consistent maintenance since it is more technologically advanced.|
|It can be used for both mountain biking, daily commuting, and touring around.||Only used for mountain biking and on rocky terrains.|
|Requires less energy to pedal while providing more efficiency.||It requires more energy, but it can handle big jumps and uneven surfaces better.|
|It is quite affordable.||It is pretty expensive.|
|Offers only a few adjustment options for customization.||It can be completely customized according to the user’s requirements (i.e, bike frame, suspension sag, etc).|
|Good for beginners since they can learn new skills on it, like bunny hops.||It is a bit technical for amateur riders to use.|
|Provides a smooth and fast ride over flat terrains or smooth terrains.||Provides a fast ride over rough and challenging terrains.|
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Full-Suspension Vs Hardtail Mountain Bike
A hardtail and a full-suspension bike differ in many aspects, so to pick the best, here is a thorough comparison between both bikes.
One significant advantage that a full-suspension mountain bike has over a hardtail bike is comfort and traction. The wheels of the full-suspension bike can easily trail over the bumps on the road, causing the ride to be smooth and comfortable.
The rear wheel on the full-suspension mountain bike has more grip because the tire bites into the ground more effectively when it is not bouncing.
With a hardtail, the rider only gets a grip on a flat trail. This is because the tire is only designed to give grip on smooth terrain.
The lack of back suspension in a hardtail bike causes the rider to be more aware when riding because a rider will receive every vibration of the bumps underneath him causing him to get fatigued very easily.
Riders who ride a hardtail on rough terrain can notice the difference immediately. Riding a full-suspension bike can provide more comfort on a rocky trail, therefore, boosting a rider’s confidence and causing them to go faster.
All types of mountain bikes, including the hardtail and full suspension, are specially designed for different types of riding. Your riding experience will be different on a hardtail mountain bike as compared to a full-suspension mountain bike.
A hardtail mountain bike is more likely to perform efficiently on flat and smooth surfaces because the instant power transmission to the back wheel will allow the bike to go faster than on a full-suspension mountain bike.
Moreover, climbing uphill will also be super easy on a hardtail mountain bike because it is lightweight and the rider won’t have to use much energy for pedaling. However, it doesn’t perform with as much efficiency when riding downhill.
Hardtail does not perform well on rocky and uneven surfaces.
This is one of the reasons why hardtails are the recommended bikes for less technical cross-country races.
Whereas, a full-suspension mountain bike is designed to effortlessly tackle the bumpiest and uneven surfaces.
This is because the rear suspension in full-suspension mountain bikes will work to absorb all the bumps on the trail and will allow the back wheel of the bike to maintain contact with the surface of the ground.
This also gives the rider more stability and control when riding over these rocky trails.
Moreover, a full-suspension bike works great when riding downhill and uphill as well because of the increased traction that allows the bike to manage jumps and landings more efficiently without causing the bike to go out of control.
Hardtail mountain bikes are much easier to maintain than full-suspension mountain bikes. Hardtails only require a timely cleaning and the occasional wiping off the mud from their frames.
A full suspension, on the other hand, needs regular or at least constant maintenance with its bearings and bushing. These are the worn-out parts of a bike that need to be replaced from time to time.
The full suspension bikes have complex technology with added components such as the rear shock and the pivots that need servicing time and again.
However, any bike you have is going to need thorough maintenance of the drivetrain, wheels, and fork.
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Hardtail is a great mountain bike for beginners because it provides a great way to learn the skills of selecting the best line when riding around a single track. A rider can be more active on the hardtail mountain bike because of the continuity of dodging rocky obstacles.
They can build a rider’s reflex while he constantly tries to avoid obstacles when riding a hardtail.
In cycling, learning the skill of plowing through bumps and obstacles is an essential skill that can improve one’s riding experience. This is why a hardtail mountain bike is great for beginners.
A full-suspension bike won’t give the riders much to think about since it can easily carry them through a rough track.
A full suspension does provide comfort, but it misses the thrill of riding through the trails with full focus.
Overall, riding on a hardtail mountain bike can give one a hands-on direct experience of the trail as compared to a full-suspension mountain bike.
Because of the variety of components in a full-suspension mountain bike, the weight of a hardtail mountain bike is a lot less than a full-suspension mountain bike. The difference in weight often has an impact on the riding experience as well as the terrain you ride on.
This is why a mountain bike’s weight is a crucial factor when climbing uphill. For example, the heavier a bike, the more its rolling resistance.
The lighter a bike, the more efficient it is to cover a long and stiff climb.
A hardtail mountain bike weighs at least a kilo less than a suspension bike because of the lack of rear suspension. This kilo’s difference makes it easier to climb uphill. However, climbing downhill can be very rigid and sometimes gets out of control.
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Whereas, a heavy bike like a full suspension mountain bike will provide a stabler and safer experience when riding downhill because of its suspension, which maintains type contact with the ground. This makes the bike feel more planted, even on bumpy terrain.
Therefore, full suspension can handle both riding uphill and downhill at the same time.
Full-Suspension or Hardtail: Which Is Faster?
Hardtails have a light frame and a fixed riding position that makes them the fastest option for a less technically advanced mountain bike. Hardtail mountain bikes are quite fast on smooth trails.
Apart from being lightweight, hardtail bikes have a rather direct connection with the ground which means that the rider doesn’t have to use a lot of energy when pedaling, which makes them faster than other bikes.
Given their lightweight and lightning speed, hardtail bikes are a great option for cross-country racing.
However, if we talk about rough and uneven surfaces or terrains, full-suspension bikes are comparatively faster on rough terrains than hardtail bikes.
Even if they are heavier in weight, the added suspension helps the rider plow through the toughest trails with full confidence and speed.
This saves riders the time it takes them on a hardtail to decide how to dodge the bumpy parts of the trails or maintain their balance through them.
Hardtail Or Full Suspension: Which Is More Fun?
Given the nature of the sport, that mountain bike is, no matter what type of bike you choose, you are destined to have a fun and adventurous ride.
Full-suspension bikes are easier to ride on rough trails while hardtails require a bit of effort to dodge some significant obstacles.
This key difference makes the full-suspension bikes a bit on the comfortable side while the hardtails give the rider a sense of thrill and fun because of the effort one puts into riding them.
A full-suspension bike takes the fun away since it makes the ride smooth because it absorbs all the bumps leaving no room for any effort from the rider.
Plus, hardtails are faster on smooth trails which makes riding on flat terrains fun because of the immense speed.
Price Variations Between a Hardtail and Full-Suspension Mountain Bike
In terms of price, hardtail mountain bikes are quite affordable as compared to full-suspension bikes. This is because the frames used in hardtail bikes are less expensive to manufacture. Full suspension bikes are expensive because of their extra components and a more complex frame.
Since hardtail is less expensive, it allows the brands to fit good quality components to hardtail bikes as compared to full-suspension bikes.
High-end components are significantly more lightweight than those that are low-cost. This is part of the reason why a hardtail is lightweight.
A good quality entry-level hardtail mountain bike costs around $1400 while an entry-level full-suspension bike costs around $2330.
Full-Suspension or Hardtail: Which One is Right for You?
Now that I have done a thorough comparison of both bikes, the main question arises: which type of bike is the best bike for you?
The answer to that fully depends on how much you’re willing to pay or what your riding style is, and some other factors, too. To help you, I made a list of some factors which will help you decide which bike is best for you.
- Price — If you are willing to spend more, then a full-suspension bike is ideal for you since high-quality full-suspension bikes start at about $2000. However, if you want to stay within your budget and want to spend less than $2000, then go for a hardtail mountain bike.
- Terrain — If you want to spend most of your time riding a bike over smooth terrain and want a fun and fast ride, then a hardtail bike is ideal for you since it performs efficiently on flat terrains. Whereas, a full-suspension bike would suit your riding style if you want to ride over rocky and bumpy terrain to have fun because it absorbs the jumpy and uneven terrains like a pro.
- Comfort — If you are a rider who mostly looks for comfort in his commute on rough terrains, then a full-suspension bike is your holy grail. It will soak up most of the vibrations from the bumps and jumps that a normal bike sends to your body. This will help you ride faster and for longer since you won’t be tired from the jumps.
- Speed — Hardtail mountain bikes are good for those riders who wish to have a bike that requires less energy to climb uphill, cover a long ground in a race as well as offer more speed.
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After a thorough comparison, there is no one answer to which bike is a better option because there is no better or worse between these two. Whether it’s a hardtail mountain bike or a full-suspension mountain bike, the selection depends upon a rider’s specific needs.
Overall, with a hardtail, one stays within one’s budget and enjoys flat terrain rides. However, with full suspension, you can enjoy your rides with comfort.
To put it simply, choosing between a hardtail and a full suspension bike is just a matter of two things to consider: where the rider is going to ride and how much they want to spend. Think about these things and you will instantly know which type of bike is better for you!
I hope this side-by-side comparison helped you in making your decision as a rider.