Hardtail or full suspension – which bike is right for you?

Are you thinking about buying a mountain bike but can’t decide whether to buy hardtail or a full suspension? Here are 10 useful tips.

(header image: Norco Bicycles)

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At the most basic level the difference between hardtail and full suspension bikes is that the latter has rear suspension shock absorbers fitted over the back wheel. A ‘hardtail’, as the name suggests, only features a suspension fork at the front. But they may also differ greatly in geometry and feel as they are often designed for different purposes.

[If you are looking at understanding the main basic differences between the many mountain bike models available on the market today, check our piece From Hardtails to fat-bikes: Mountain Bikes explained.]

Here we are looking at 10 aspects to consider when deciding between a hardtail and a full suspension mountain bike.

Norco Range full suspension mountain bike and BMC Teamelite hardtail mountain bike

Norco Range full suspension mountain bike and BMC Teamelite hardtail mountain bike

 

1) Weight: In general, a full suspension bike will be heavier because of the addition of the rear shock and the extra tubes and pivots that all unavoidably add weight.

But if you spend more you can buy a bike that is as light or lighter than hardtail bikes. Remember that you tend to pay more for lighter bikes.

If a lighter bike, for easier riding uphill, is important to you then choose hardtail but if you prefer an all-round easier and more comfortable ride then choose the heavier full suspension.

 

2) The fun of riding: Full suspension fans will tell you that if you are tackling tricky trails it’s far more fun to have the traction and comfort of rear suspension but this really depends on the type of riding you do. Smooth off-road (and, of course, road) terrain are likely to be more fun to tackle on a stiffer, lighter weight hardtail.

 

3) Budget: In general, hardtails are cheaper than full suspension bikes simply because it costs more to add a pivoting rear end and a rear shock. However, there is a huge variance in the price of both hardtail and full suspension bikes and it will depend on the entire package including frame design and materials, the spec of components, as well the suspension systems.

 

4) Mechanicals: Less components means less to break down and therefore lower maintenance costs. That’s what the hardtail fans will advise. And there is no denying that cleaning a full suspension bike is more hassle.

 

5) The terrain: There are mountain bikes, both hardtail and full-suspension, to suit all terrains including cross-country, trails centres, single track and enduro (usually referred to as a trail or enduro bikes).

But there are those that argue that if you can ride any terrain on a hardtail then you will be technically superior. Then again, full suspension bikes tend to offer better traction and handling so if you want an easier and more comfortable ride, they are the best choice.

 

6) But when it comes to downhill..: If you are a full-on downhill junkie then full-suspension is likely to be your only choice. These bikes do handle better and feel more comfortable when your riding is mostly on very steep and tricky descents.

 

7) Easy to handle: Suspension, like fatter tyres, helps to give the bike and the wheels better traction on trails. This makes it easier to ride corners, steep climbs, and descents and to control the bike in muddy, rocky and rooty sections. So a full suspension bike tends to be easier to handle than a hardtail.

 

8) For comfort: Rear suspension absorbs more of the back end bumps. Which means you will have a more comfortable ride especially over longer, technical distances. Of course, if your bike is heavier, this will take a toll on leg muscles so you need to consider comfort versus leg power.

 

9) Speed: On a full suss bike you can push the limits of speed more, certainly going downhill, because the extra suspension will absorb more of the corners and bumps. But speed isn’t everyone’s idea of fun and if your type of riding involves many flatter sections or even tarmac, as well as steeper climbs, then you are likely to be faster on a hardtail bike.

 

10) Looks: Some people prefer the simpler look of a hardtail, others love the more aggressive looking full suspension. The choice is entirely yours…

 

Take a look at Evans Cycles to see a wide choice in both hardtail and full suspension mountain bikes.

>>Shop full-suspension mountain bikes<<

        >> Shop hardtail mountain bikes<<  

Comments

Mike 16/07/2016

Hello, i have a hardtail Giant 27.5″ wheel, i have used a few courses in england but to go further a field would i need full suspension??

Reply
Zarif 6/05/2017

I dont go down hill and i just ride in a smooth surface but some time o go off roading like a construcktion area with little bums so which is better for me a hardtail or a full suspension please help me decide

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    Tom 7/12/2017

    Hardtail.

    Reply
Magdalena Schoerner 9/05/2017

Hi there Zarif, I would recommend a hardtail for your needs, all the best, Mags

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Jose Lopez 9/05/2017

I am really debating on getting a hard tail or full suspension, I currently have an old Rhino full suspension mountain bike and it rides good. But I saw this hardtail bike that I really like. I just don’t know because I commute to work about 3 days a week. But I really love trail riding on steep hills and bumps.

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    Jennifer 19/11/2017

    Think you should get a hardtail

    Reply
    Tom 7/12/2017

    Hardtail.

    Reply
Ahmed 14/05/2017

I want to wheelie what one?

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    Andrew Walter 11/08/2017

    Hardtails will be easier to pop up and more responsive but full sus is easier to keep up if you pedal @the same speed most of the time

    Reply
Andrew Walter 11/08/2017

I have the same problem though cause I am a trick bike wheelie king but I don’t know if I like hardtail or full sus better

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    Tom 7/12/2017

    We don’t know either.

    Reply
Lewis Evans 11/09/2017

I have a kinda basic hard tail at the moment, thinking of getting a new bike soon what do I get? Hard tail again or full sus?? I do mainly trails in woods and intermediate downhill

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    Tom 7/12/2017

    If the hardtail was working for what you did, get another one.

    Reply
John Smith 19/09/2017

If I want to do jumps which one should I choose?

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    Edowg Adams 24/10/2017

    Hard Tails are usually better for getting air, bike make sure you make a smooth landing.

    Reply
Ross 22/10/2017

Iv put a deposit down on the trek roscoe 8 which is a hardtail, but im thinking of getting a ful sus instead, is it better to get an expensive hardtail or a cheap full sus?

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    matt 26/11/2017

    I recently just got the Roscoe 8 and for what I can say, its a great bike. By getting a high tier hardtail, you get much better parts, such as the 1×11, the dropper post, the 120mm air fork, and the very aggresive geometry, if you wer to get a full sus around this price you wouldnt get bale to get nearly as good parts

    Reply
    Tom 7/12/2017

    It depends on the kind of riding you want to do. If you’re not sure, a hardtail ought to suffice.

    Reply
Vin 24/01/2018

I think it is getting to much for people to understand that mtbing is fun no matter what bike you have I think it’s shocking to think mtbing is being pigeon holed by company’s before hardtail or full sus people was doing all types of mtbing on a ridged bike so in my opinion go for what bike you want don’t be pushed to get a full sus because someone says it’s made for a trail or enduro and vice versa a bike is only as good as the rider

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Matt in Atlanta 16/04/2018

I’ve been riding a 26 hardtail – I’ve replaced the shock already, and just about everything else due to wear. I enjoy trails in N. Georgia and N. Carolina, and recently rode an epic ride in Pisgah, and I felt like both me (57 yrs) and my bike (16 yrs) were going to fall apart! Should I just stick to shorter and tamer rides, like at FATS or Dupont State forest, etc…, or spring for a full suspension bike for when I want to ride all day on more rugged terrain? Would I do just as well to get a 29er with fatter tires, run my pressure a bit lower? I’m 6″ tall, and had a rigid-fork 29er until it got stolen, which I liked (although the arthristis in my shoulders did not like the ridig fork)… Not sure if full susp is overkill/unnecessary expense, and if the additiional weight is a drag.

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Darren 14/05/2018

I currently own a road bike but i’m really keen to get into Mountain biking, mostly trails i would think. I love the look of the full suspension bikes but i will ride on the road/pavement on occasions. I don’t want to have 2 bikes so i’m wondering whether a hardtail is going to be a better option given this?
Thanks in advance…

Reply
    Mark Gregory 16/05/2018

    Both types have their advantages and disadvantages, it really depends on what kind of off road trails you plan to ride as to whether you would benefit from the full suspension bike. You will find that many full suspension bikes have a lock out so you can lock the suspension travel and have them behave more like a hard tail when needed, for example, when riding on the road/pavement.

    I would suggest you head into a store to discuss you’re requirements and maybe try a few different bikes to see which you prefer.

    Reply
john kulcsar 3/06/2018

I picked up a walmart type full suspension out of the garbage,needed seat chain rear wheel,seatpost and crank bearings.I only had to buy the seapost and bearings.Anyway,this thing is great,between the old seat that has springs,the fat tires and rear shock,I feel nothing.Now I am looking into a used Marin for 150. With my sore bones,full suspension all the way.I may change the tires for a smooth ride.

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Catherine 30/06/2018

I haven’t ridden a bike for a long time. The last time I ride a bike was 10 years ago. I want to get a mountain bike, but I am not sure which one is better for a person that starting to ride a bicycle again. What do you suggest?

Reply
Catherine 30/06/2018

Hi,
I haven’t ridden a bike for 10 years. I am going to purchase a mountain bike. What type of bike would you suggest for a person that is starting to ride a bicycle again?

Reply
Manjunath 2/09/2018

I am planning to go a tour. Which is the best bike hardtail or full suspension.For Indian roads

Reply
    Pearce Sampson 3/09/2018

    Hi Manjunath,

    It would depend on the sort of terrain you’ll be riding on. For touring over rough terrain I would generally say a hardtail would be better. However if you will be riding shorter distances over really rocky terrain you would be more comfortable on a full-sus.

    Reply
Brandon Tyler 8/09/2018

This article has helped me understand my bike so much more. I seriously appreciate you taking the time to explain everything so simple. Thank you and keep sharing!

Reply
Vivek 23/11/2018

I like to do stunts which one should I choose??

Reply
Vivek 23/11/2018

I like to do stunts and jumps so which one should I choose??

Reply

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