Introduction

A question that strikes almost every sports buyer is referring to Hardtail and Full Suspension bikes. In the language of "experts", a bike with front and rear suspension is called full-suspension (abbreviated FS) - logically enough - and a bike without the rear and front suspensions has a little more exotic name: hardtail (abbreviated HT). Which one is best for your needs? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.

Introduction

Here at SportsPartner.com, we crafted a comprehensive guide to help you make the best choice for your needs. We started the big debate. HT vs FS - Which one is better? The major differences between hardtail and full suspension bikes are compared below.

For some people, the answer to this question is very simple, because there are MTB branches where some bicycles are quite „standard”. Thus:

  • For Downhill races (DH), people now use only FS bikes. HTs, although used in the past, today are no longer used at all in this sports category;
  • For Trial races, people use only HTs with a special form of frame, very low and very specialized models without bike saddle;
  • For Dirt Jump, Street races and other sports that include jumps and tricks, people generally use HT bikes with a very well hardened, shorter and a lower position.

The question arises in exchange for those who want a cross-country, simple bike to ride the mountains or the city. In this category, manufacturers’ offer is varied, all models featuring both HT and FS models in different designs and equipment from the cheapest to the top equipment.

Assuming you want a versatile bike, for cross-country cycling and some city rides, how do you make the right choice? Let’s see the perks and flaws of each type of bike.

 

Starting with cycling. Man on a bike.

Benefits of Hardtail bikes

  • Are the cheapest solution, the only option under the price of $1000. That does not mean there are no expensive models, those with carbon or titanium frame and top equipment that can easily reach prices of $5000. However, one can find a good HT bike in the $300-$600 range.

 

  • Have a simple construction, without the complicated systems of joints of the FS models, making them more reliable and oferring a cheaper maintenance (practically a HT’s only consumable is the bicycle shifter).

                       

  • Provide greater rigidity in cycling and therefore have a more efficient transmission of pedaling force, although  there are FS models with the possibility of locking the suspension, turning it into a HT. Often, however, a locked suspension of a full suspension bike is not as rigid as an HT.

 

  • Weight of the HT frame is lower than that of a FS in the same price range.

 

  • The hardtail bikes provide a fixed geometry, which does not change the position of the body and certain distances, such as chainline or distance from the saddle. The pedaling and braking are more ”stable”. In general, FS frames have such changes, although various types of geometry try to eliminate them as possible.

 

  • Allow installing a luggage rack on the back of the frame.
 Hardtail bike at the countryside. Benefits of hardtail bikes.

Disadvantages of Hardtail bikes

  • The biggest drawback of HT bikes to the FS is, of course, that all the shocks produced by passing over bumps are transmitted almost entirely to the rider. Not only is this inconvenient and produces powerful shocks, but high speed in downhill can lead to destabilization of the rear part of the bicycle. Also, when over large obstacles, HT bikes risk losing the grip, which is better in FS bikes.

 

  • All this leads to a lower speed cycling on very rough terrain. However, shocks are not transmitted at a rate of 100%, some of them being absorbed by tires. Finally, depending on the material the HT is made of, it may also absorb the shock.

 

  • From this point of view, aluminum is the most rigid, opposite to steel. Carbon is a material that allows obtaining the desired stiffness in different sections of the frame, so there are carbon frames that have the back part intentionally built more flexible to take over some of the shock.
 Bike rims. Disadvantages of hardtail bike.

Hardtail bikes: Conclusion

HT bikes are the number one choice for those on a low budget. These kind of bikes are also preferred by those who ride on less harsh roads and those who want a more powerful acceleration. They are suitable both for the city and for short distance competitions.

Benefits of Full-Suspension bikes

  • The most obvious advantage is that the rear suspension fully absorbs the bumps encountered. Thus, a descent on the rocks changes from a continuous shaking to a smooth descent with a slight swing up and down

 

  • On roads full of rocks and roots, full suspension bikes allow cycling with a higher speed, whether it's climbing, downhill or flat.

 

  • Shocks received by the rider’s bones are smaller.
 Full suspension bike. Benefits of full suspension bikes

Disadvantages of Full-Suspension bikes

  • The purchase price is high, the cheapest premium FS models starting from $1000, with a modest equipment. Do not be fooled by any new FS bikes much below this price, those are of poor quality, and rather just have a spring suspension which destabilizes the bike, instead of stabilizing it and junctions of the frame are of poor quality, which will break in time.

 

  • Because of the flexible frame, there is energy loss in pedaling, which is seen best on flat surfaces and asphalt. Manufacturers tried to solve this issue with suspensions locks, allowing the possibility of making it nearly as rigid as a HT. The market also offers more adanced systems that are more intelligent, and can distinguish movement caused by the foot by the one produced by an obstacle. These top systems manage to not interfere with pedaling yet to absorb shocks from obstacles.

 

  • Frame is more complicated, there are several points of wear, including bearings and bushings in the junction and damper and it contains parts that wear out. Basically, that's caught damper bushes and bearings need to be changed after a period of use and damper, as well as suspension fork, require regular maintenance to oil change, replacing gaskets, etc ...

 

  • Rear suspension adjustment according to user needs.

 

  • The weight of a FS frame is larger than that of a HT frame of the same quality;

 

  • Full suspension bikes do not allow easy installation of luggage rack on the back of the frame. However, there are models that support being fastened to the saddle, but they are not as reliable and strong as the grip on back swing.

 

  • Depending on the type of joint, changing the bike frame geometry can affect cycling by changing the distance between saddle and pedals, and also chainline, with influence on pedaling or braking.
 Disadvantages of Full-Suspension bikes. Bike wheel.

Full-Suspension bikes: Conclusion

FS bikes are preferred by those who go more on trails with rocks, roots and other obstacles. In competitions, they are preferable in triathlons, where the rider needs to cycle distances of over 50 km. However, expensive lightweight models with hi-tech suspension systems also began to be used successfully in short distance competitions.

What Type Of Bike Do You Need?

Buying a full suspension bike for the city is an unnecessary expense. A higher quality hardtail bike (at the same price) will bring more benefits to the user. Weigh the pros and cons, thinking about where you want to use your bike so you can make the right decision.

 A cyclist in the nature.
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