30th August 2018

Hardtail or Full Suspension: What do I need?

hardtail or full suspension | mountain bikes | MTB

If you’re looking for a mountain bike, chances are you’ll be faced with the decision of getting a hardtail or full suspension. Hardtails are bikes with only front suspension while full suspension bikes have both front and rear suspension. Here’s a quick guide to the merits of the two.

Browse our range of hardtail or full suspension mountain bikes >>

1. Weight

Hardtail

A hardtail will be at least a kilo lighter weight than a similarly-spec’d full-sus MTB. This translates as a bike that can climb quicker and be easier to manoeuvre. Its very rigidity makes a hardtail feel more natural when you climb out of the saddle.

Whyte 806 Mountain Bike | Hardtail suspension | MTB | Hardtail suspension | MTB

Whyte 806 Compact 2019 hardtail mountain bike

Full sus

A heavier bike with suspension can actually be an advantage on downhills because it will feel more stable and ‘planted’. This is thanks to the suspension maintaining tyre contact with the ground on lumpy descents. Full suspension can even be welcome on uphills, such as when traversing steps and waterbars.

Whyte S-150C RS 2018 | full suspension mountain bike

Whyte S-150C RS 2018 full suspension mountain bike


2. Speed

Whether it’s to keep your tyres on the ground or to cushion landings when you jump, there’s little doubt that a full suspension bike will help you enjoy the number one thrill most people enjoy about mountain biking – faster downhills.


3. Price

With its simpler frame, without shocks or pivoting bearings, a hardtail will be less expensive than a similarly-equipped full sus MTB.

With its simpler frame, without shocks or pivoting bearings, a hardtail will be less expensive than a similarly-equipped full sus MTB. For instance, if you’re looking at Whyte mountain bikes with Sram Eagle 1×12 drivetrains and Rockshox Revelation forks, the Whyte 905 hardtail is £1,650 while the Whyte T-130 S 2019 full sus will set you back £2,650.


4. Skill Builder vs Immediate Gratification

There’s a good case for starting off on a hardtail because it gives you a fantastic incentive to learn the skill of picking the best line when swooping round singletrack. You might not develop such finesse if you rely on a full susser that allows you to plough through near anything.

Having said that, the very fact that full suspension can be more forgiving means that beginners often find mountain biking more enjoyable on a full susser.

Take, for instance riding long, rutted downhills. One run might be enough for an MTB novice on a hardtail. Take the same run with full suspension to soak up the bumps, and you’ll be more likely to want to repeat the experience.


5. More Technical Terrain

Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29 2019

Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29 2019 – 150mm of travel

When the terrain gets proper gnarly, even the most gifted mountain biker reaches for the most appropriate full suspension rig, depending on intended usage.

DownHill

If you’re doing the World Cup DH course at Fort William, you want a mountain bike with 200mm travel, front and rear, to absorb the most punishing hits.

Enduro Racing

150-160mm travel has settled down as the optimal level for serious enduro riding.

Trail/All Mountain

Beginners often find mountain biking more enjoyable on a full susser.

A full sus trail bike with 130-140mm suspension achieves the trick of being fit for black grade riding with big drop-offs, yet light enough to ride back uphill.

XC (Cross Country)

A 100mm-travel full suspension MTB is closer in feel and weight to a similar spec hardtail than it is to a 200mm-travel full susser. 100mm travel XC (cross country) full sussers are recommended for enjoying natural trails and trail centres up to red grade level. (Apologies to readers who can clean double-black routes on their unicycles. We inevitably have to generalise when creating a guide like this.)

Shop hardtail and full suspension mountain bikes

Best Mountain Bikes Under £500 | hardtail v full suspension

Best Mountain Bikes Under £1,000 | Hardtail v Full suspension

One comment on “Hardtail or Full Suspension: What do I need?

  1. Neslon on

    You forgot comfort. After a series of spinal ops, culminating in a fusion, I got a full sus (Giant Anthem), so I could carry on riding off road without too much discomfort.

    Reply

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