Hardtail Bike Full-Suspention Bike

The choice between a full-suspension or hardtail (front suspension only) cross-country bike can seem very complicated since there are so many choices among both full-suspension and hardtail bikes - many choices among suspension styles, frame styles, component groups, etc.  Each type of bike has its advantages and disadvantages, but there are a few very important factors to consider:

  • price,
  • what the bike will be used for, and
  • personal preference.

Price:  Hardtail bikes are cheaper than full-suspension bikes.  Hardtails are cheaper because they don't have complicated frame and suspension designs; so, they offer a better value for the price - often half the price of a comparable full-suspension bike with the same components.  On similarly-priced hardtails vs. full-suspension bikes, the components will be much higher quality on the hardtail.  As an example, $1,000 is currently considered a mid-level price for a hardtail but very entry-level for full-suspension.  A good price to look for in full-suspension bikes is around $2,000 - this will buy a good, reliable, lightweight bike with high quality components, a bike that most riders will not need to upgrade for many years.  Currently, just over $2,000 is the "magic" price for full-suspension bikes - the perfect mix of quality components and relative affordability; by comparison, $2,000 buys a very, very nice, lightweight hardtail with race-level components.

The second factor to consider is use:  if the rider is considering riding very rough, technical, steep terrain, then a full-suspension bike is the better choice because it gives a much smoother and confident ride.  On rough, rocky trails, a full-suspension bike will help keep the wheels in contact with the ground.  This gives the rider much better control of the bike (it's difficult to steer a bike that's partially airborne).  Full-suspension bikes are heavier than hardtails, though, and less efficient.  Riders who are more interested in climbing than descending, want a very lightweight, efficient bike, or those who ride relatively smooth trails, a hardtail is the better choice.

The third factor is personal preference:  the best way to decide which type of bike to buy is to test ride several.  A rider may prefer the soft ride of a full-suspension, and may be willing to spend more money and sacrifice a bit of light weight and efficiency for that comfort.  Or, a rider may decide that a hardtail is more fun to ride.  Test riding two different bikes over the same terrain is the best way to compare them.