Hardtail vs Full Suspension Mountain Bike: Which Should You Get?

hardtail vs full suspension mountain bike

When looking for a new bike, you would need to choose between hardtail vs full suspension mountain bikes.

Deciding which one works best for you will depend on two important factors.

That includes the cost and the terrain you wish to ride on.

Still, there are a lot of other factors that you still need to consider, which can overwhelm you and make decision-making more difficult.

A detailed comparison of full suspension vs hardtail mountain bikes can help you find the right one for your needs.

What Is a Hardtail Mountain Bike?

A hardtail mountain bike is an all-terrain and versatile type of bike.

It does not come with rear shock but features either front suspension or rigid forks.

This type of mountain bike is known for its lightweight build and how much more reasonable it is than a full suspension mountain bike.

All these features make this type of bike a great choice for entry-level cyclists.

That said, even several accomplished cyclists still prefer this bike.

What Is a Full Suspension Mountain Bike?

A full suspension mountain bike, also known as dual-suspension, comes with a shock absorber fitted in both the rear and front wheels.

This provides a smoother ride because both the wheels can travel up and down.

They will help absorb all the force of obstacles that strike the tires.

Quality-wise, full suspension mountain bikes are similar to their counterpart.

The problem is that they tend to be more expensive.

Hardtail vs Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Now you know what is a hardtail mountain bike and a full suspension bike, let’s talk about their differences in parts. 

This way, you’ll have a better idea of which one to choose between full suspension vs hardtail mountain bikes.

1. Frame

Given that the full suspension mountain bike frame requires a rear shock and a way to pivot the rear end of the frame to activate it, it is more complex and expensive to design and manufacture.

This additional complexity means that it comes at the cost of durability.

Likewise, the components being service-prone come in the way of a rear shock and pivot bearings added to the bike’s frame.

Since the frame is the biggest factor between these two types of bikes, it is clear that the full suspension mountain bike has a better one.

That is thanks to the complex design and the high-tech nature of it.

That said, the hardtail mountain bike is not a bad choice.

While it is not enough for it to overcome the addition of the rear shock, it still manages to get in a couple of punches.

The hardtail bike offers better manipulation to the frame tubes.

It is significantly lighter in weight, comes with a tapered head tube, and generally has lower maintenance.

2. Weight

Since full suspension bikes come with several moving parts and linkages, they are heavier than the hardtail mountain bike.

Hardtail bikes can handle steep climbs with absolute ease and are significantly easier to handle.

You also get full suspension mountain bikes that are as light as hardtail bikes.

However, those are extremely expensive and can easily set you back a couple of thousand dollars.

These expensive carbon-made full suspension bikes can even be lighter than hardtail bikes.

On that note, we would not recommend buying them unless you are a professional bike racer.

The additional weight of full suspension bikes won’t also make you much of a difference.

That is especially when you’re factoring in the comfort and fun of the rear suspension.

hardtail vs full suspension mountain bike

3. Performance

The tire pressure is the main suspension of a hardtail mountain bike.

As such, you must apply the right amount of air pressure in this type of bike’s tire.

It keeps the ride soft and pleasant while at the same time ensuring that the traction isn’t lost over undulations.

The rider’s legs will also aid the rear suspension effect.

On the other hand, full suspension bikes can handle even the most unsettling terrains with ease.

When you have to navigate deeper descents, this type of bike is hard to beat.

That said, climbing is a whole different story. Hardtail mountain bikes allow high power transferability to the rear wheel, but it comes at a cost.

All of that power gets channeled through the bike’s rear tire.

When on loose terrain and at a gradient, the hardtail is prone to losing traction.

On the other hand, a full suspension bike adapts and holds the soil better.

This will ensure the bike is provided with better overall traction.

It’s clear that full suspension mountain bikes tend to be more efficient.

The power transfer, though better on a hardtail bike, is not used as efficiently.

That means the hardtail bikes are a great advantage on smooth surfaces.

On the contrary, full suspension bikes are a better choice if you will constantly be on rugged or choppy terrain.

Still, the fact remains that both of these mountain bikes are highly capable machines.

4. Comfort

Thanks to the suspension on the front and rear wheels of full suspension bikes, they can dampen even extremely rough terrains.

This is particularly good in terms of comfort because your body will not need to take all the brunt of the trail you’re on.

These suspensions will allow you to become more confident in handling rougher and more technical terrains.

Hardtail mountain bikes are ideal on trails that are flowy and smooth.

Using them on rough terrain will result in the rider constantly bouncing around, possibly leaving them injured.

It does not mean, though, that hardtail bikes cannot handle rough terrain.

It is just that its counterpart can handle them better.

5. Price

Accessibility is one of the biggest downsides of the full suspension mountain bike.

These bikes are quite pricey compared to hardtail mountain bikes.

Even in terms of maintenance, a full suspension bike will demand more care.

That means you will end up spending more money on it.

On the other hand, hardtail bikes are a great budget-friendly option.

Even maintenance-wise, these bikes don’t need that much attention.

You can actually get a high-end hardtail bike at the cost of an average full suspension bike.

6. Fun Factor

The fun aspect of hardtail and full suspension bikes can be subjective. That is because it varies from one rider to another.

Riders love the crispness and acceleration a hardtail bike offers.

Still, they also love the intense shock absorption on those nasty rugged terrains.

A full suspension bike can take you at extreme speed levels, even in those technical terrains, without getting too tired.

On the contrary, hardtail bikes offer a nimble, swift, and agile ride even at extreme speed levels but on a smooth trail.

Should I Get a Hardtail or Full Suspension Mountain Bike?

It is clear from everything you have read above that full suspension and hardtail bikes have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

We understand that it can be a bit confusing to select between them.

Hence, we decided to provide you with ample reasons to buy each of the bikes.

Choose a Full Suspension Bike Only if You: 

1. Are Comfortable Spending More Money

As stated earlier, full suspension bikes have a lot of bells and whistles attached to them.

Even a good quality entry-level bike will set you back by roughly $1,500.

If that’s an amount you’re comfortable spending, or even more, then the full suspension bike is an ideal choice.

Still, that is depending on the terrain you wish to ride on regularly.

2. Will Mostly Be Riding It on Rugged Terrains

If your idea of a fun ride is riding your bike through rock gardens and up and down on technical trails, then the full suspension bike is what you need.

These are the kinds of terrains that the full suspension bike is built for after all.

The combination of suspension in the front and rear wheels of the bike make the ride smoother.

It also offers better handling and traction. All these features translates to more fun on rougher terrains.

3. Are Looking for a Comfortable Ride

Riding on uneven terrains can be rough.

A full suspension bike soaks up almost all of the bumps that would otherwise affect your body.

It helps reduce fatigue, which in turn can allow you to ride for longer, faster, and with more comfort.

4. Want To Hit High Speeds

The suspensions on this type of bike do a great job of absorbing a majority of the bumps.

That translates to you going faster on uneven terrains with ease compared to what you would be able to do with a hardtail bike.

Choose a Hardtail Mountain Bike Only If You:

1. Are Looking for a Budget-Friendly Bike

The best thing about hardtail bikes is that they are extremely budget-friendly.

Even if you set your budget to a maximum of $1,500, you will find some high-end hardtail bikes.

These bikes are mainly affordable because they have significantly lesser bells and whistles attached to them than full suspension bikes.

For instance, these bikes have a simpler design, and that makes them cheaper to manufacture.

That also means that it allows the company to spend more money on expensive components such as shifters, brakes, and derailleurs.

2. Are Mostly Going To Ride on Smoother Trails

A hardtail bike is ideal if you spend most of your time riding it on smooth trails.

This type of bike can offer you a fairly quick and fun ride.

It will also soak any minor bumps with the suspension fork in the front.

3. Don’t Want To Spend Time and Money on Maintenance

Since a hardtail bike has fewer moving parts. That means it is far simpler and cheaper to maintain than full suspension bikes.

Of course, they still need some amount of basic maintenance.

4. Want a Bike That Is Light in Weight

A significant advantage of the hardtail bike is that it is lighter than full suspension bikes.

That is all thanks to its lesser parts and simpler design.

Lesser weight is a good thing if you’re riding your bike for long distances or doing lots of climbing.

However, as mentioned earlier, you can also get lightweight full suspension bikes.

Those with almost the same weight as a hardtail bike, but costly.

hardtail vs full suspension mountain bike

FAQs About Hardtail and Full Suspension Bikes

1. Are Hardtail Mountain Bikes Good for Downhill?

Yes, hardtail mountain bikes are suitable for downhill.

In fact, it is capable of handling several drops and jumps on downhill trails.

That said, we advise not to go all daredevil on your bike.

Go downhill carefully and choose a path that has fewer bumps.

2. Are Full Suspension Bikes Safer?

The hardtail bike is only an advantage if you are riding it on smooth surfaces.

On uneven terrains, a hardtail bike is definitely not the safest.

Even the smallest of bumps on uneven terrain can make the rear wheel rebound.

That translates to you losing control over the bike’s speed and handling simultaneously.

With the front and rear wheels suspensions in place, they do a great job of improving safety and traction.

Likewise, it keeps both the wheels in contact with the ground even when you brake.

All of this keeps your bike under your control at all times, which makes this bike safe.

3. Which Is Faster Hardtail or Full Suspension?

Multiple factors come into play when we talk about the speeds between both of these bikes.

In any kind of terrain, though, the full suspension bike is faster than its counterpart.

That is thanks to all of its additional features.

Selecting the Perfect Type of Mountain Bike for Yourself

It’s clear that in every different aspect of both mountain bikes, there are elements of subjectivity.

That means, when you are deciding between hardtail vs full suspension mountain bike, it all comes down to your needs and preference.

Each of these bikes is good in their own way.

The hardtail is great for beginners and those on a tight budget.

In contrast, full suspension bikes are better for experienced riders or those looking to ride on rugged and uneven terrains constantly.



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