Most mountain bikes are fitted with suspension to help you maintain control over rough terrain. However, not all riders need the same type and amount of suspension, which is where full suspension and hardtail bikes come in. Full suspension mountain bikes feature front and rear shocks, while hardtail mountain bikes do not come with a rear shock. Determining whether a Hardtail Mountain Bike is ideal for you will ultimately depend on your riding style and location. Let’s weigh the pros and cons.
A Closer Look at Hardtails
Hardtail mountain bikes are generally lighter than their full suspension counterparts. They do not have a rear shock or suspension linkage, which makes for more mechanical simplicity and reduced weight. That said, how do you know if a hardtail mountain bike is ideal for you? Full-suspension bikes are easier to ride and more forgiving on particularly rough terrains than hardtails. However, hardtails are versatile, more affordable, great for learning, and – some will argue – more fun to ride.
Benefits of Hardtail Mountain Bike
Choosing between a full suspension bike and a hardtail can seem daunting – they both have their perks. But let's review five reasons a hardtail bike should be the one you pick:
1. Hardtails Are Good for Learning
Yes, riding a hardtail mountain bike is tougher, rougher, and less comfortable, but it also forces you to ride at a speed that matches your skill level. The lack of rear suspension teaches you to use your legs as suspension and ride smoother. It also teaches you line choice because you pay for it every time you choose the wrong line. Additionally, hardtails force you to be gentler with your bike. Since you feel every bump on your trail, you know when you are smashing your tires, allowing you to adjust your riding. The skills you learn on this bike cannot be learned on a full suspension bike. The missing mechanical support makes you a stronger and better rider.
2. Hardtails Are Relatively Low Maintenance
Compared to full suspension bikes, hardtails require almost zero maintenance. The fact that they have fewer pivots – thus, fewer moving parts and bearings – means that there are fewer components to maintain. Did you know that replacing pivot bearings can set you back hundreds of dollars? This is before you take into account the annual shock service, which can range from $150. Hardtails also do not have linkages, so there is no mud accumulation, and the bikes are easier to clean. The cabling is also easier to replace.
3. Hardtails Are Versatile
Hardtails are so versatile you can convert them to meet almost any need. A hardtail mountain bike can easily be converted into a functional commuter bike. If you cannot afford to buy two bikes, a hardtail will do just fine on asphalt – even better than a full suspension bike. All you need to do is fill your tires with a bit of extra air. If you want to ride cross country or on gravel, making your tires lighter will do the trick. Bikepackers can also use hardtails for their trips since they come with a lot of room for frame bags.
4. Hardtails Are Fun to Ride
This is a somewhat controversial opinion, but hardtail bikes are generally more fun to ride. They are great for bikers who want to feel every part of the trail and hit all the jumps. Since they are rougher, the sense of speed is enhanced during riding, even if you are not riding very fast. If you find a good jump trail or a not-too-rough trail requiring some pedaling, a hardtail will make for the most fun.
5. Hardtails Are Relatively Cheap
In addition to being cheaper to maintain, hardtails generally cost less than full suspension bikes. You can usually buy a high-quality hardtail mountain bike at the same price as a low-quality full suspension bike. This is not to say that there aren't any expensive hardtail bikes on the market – you can spend thousands of dollars in this department – but you do not have to do that to get value for your money. The Norco Torrent, for instance, has an excellent steel frame and amazing specs and only goes for $3,149. The Trek Remedy 8, which has less impressive wheels, brakes, and fork, costs almost $1,000 more.
Hardtail Mountain Bikes Vs. Full Suspension Bikes
Hardtail mountain bikes are cheaper to own if you live somewhere with muddy trails or have a limited maintenance budget. Buck for buck, full suspension bikes are pricey – they require linkage bearing replacement and shock services, which can set you back hundreds of dollars. Hardtails are also easy to adapt for commuting purposes and can also be configured for touring If your hardtail has an effective suspension form and appropriate geometry, it will be very fun to ride on mildly technical trails. However, this bike can take a toll on your body if you have any knee, ankle, lower back, or spine injuries. Full suspension bikes are ideal in this case because they absorb the impact when you land incorrectly, preventing them from straining your hips and ankles. That said, even if you do not have such injuries but wish to explore rugged trails, a full suspension bike will help you progress your skills more safely. A hardtail will be ideal if you need to pedal a lot because it converts energy to forward momentum more efficiently.
With so many build options and price points, you could spend about the same amount of money on a hardtail as a full suspension mountain bike. The real factors that come into play when choosing the best suspension type for you are riding style, location, and value. Full suspension bikes are easier to ride. Hardtails are more challenging but also more versatile and require less maintenance. Overall, if you do not have any back or spine injury, ride in winter, frequently visit buffed terrains, and use your bike for commuting, a Hardtail Mountain Bike is the way to go.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson