Hardtail vs. Full Suspension MTB: Which is better?
Which mountain bike is right for me, which one should I buy? At least all MTB beginners ask themselves this question. Whether the hopefully right choice ultimately falls on a hardtail MTB or fully MTB depends on both subjective and objective aspects.
Subjective aspects are, for example, the mountain biker himself and the planned area of application. Objective aspects are usually the price, the weight and the different maintenance intensity.
Hardtail or fully – there is a lot of discussion about this in the mountain biker scene, and those who want to buy a new bike are often faced with this question. But what are the two popular off-road bikes? Which model am I better advised on? And what are the respective advantages and disadvantages? Here we give you useful information and tips to help you make your purchase decision.
Hardtail vs. Full Suspension: What are the differences?
In contrast to the full suspension, the hardtail only has suspension at the front. In addition to the suspension fork on the front wheel, the full suspension bike also has rear wheel suspension, also called rear shock. There are different systems for both the suspension fork and the rear wheel suspension.
Fullys are usually heavier than hardtails, which is due to the additional cushioning in the rear area of the fully. Hardtails are said to have greater torsional rigidity. This means that the power transmission works better and therefore more power arrives on the ground – at least on flat paths. Due to the lack of suspension in the rear area, a hardtail naturally absorbs shocks worse than a fully.
Thanks to the additional suspension at the rear, the full suspensions MTB has greater grip on rough terrain. This better traction is particularly noticeable on downhills, which normally allows a higher speed.
What is a Hardtail MTB?
The hardtail (“hard rear part”) is the most original mountain bike. In contrast to the full suspension, it does not have a rear shock, but a sprung front wheel. In most cases, the frame is made of aluminum or carbon, which convinces with good rigidity. A hardtail is cheaper to produce than a fully, has a low weight and fewer moving parts that need to be serviced. The equipment of a hardtail can be very different, so that you can easily find a bike that meets your requirements in this group. The weight of a hardtail MTB is in most cases between 8 and 13 kg.
What is a Full Suspension MTB?
Full suspension bikes have suspension on the front wheel and rear suspension or damping. This largely absorbs bumps from bumps and ensures safe driving behavior. The frame is largely made of aluminum or carbon. Compared to the hardtail, the fully is a bit heavier and more expensive with the same equipment. Due to the spring elements and the moving parts for the damping function, a fully is also much more maintenance-intensive.
For what can a Hardtail or Full Suspension MTB be used?
If you are looking for a mountain bike mainly for riding on well-paved roads and field and forest roads and only occasionally travel on a dirt road or downhill single trail, then a hardtail is the right mountain bike. With it you have enough traction and due to the rigidity of the bike you can best transfer the power to the solid surface. It is best to lock the fork on the way up or adjust it as hard as possible. This makes the MTB ideal for long day trips.
Full Suspension MTB
If you want to ride exclusively on single trails, narrow dirt roads or coarse-grained ground, then you should use a fully. The suspension fork at the front and the rear damper at the back give you better grip on rough terrain. When the damper is locked, the fully is also suitable for driving on flat, smooth or slippery terrain.
|Forest roads||For the downhill / single trail with bumps / obstacles|
|Moderate downhill use||MTB racing / Alpine cross|
|Day trips||Slippery roads|
Advantages & Disadvantages of Hardtail & Full Suspenion Mountain Bikes
The biggest difference between the two MTB models is the additional rear shock on the fully. This further spring element characterizes the areas of application of the full suspension MTB and shows essential distinguishing features compared to the hardtail.
Hardtails score above all in terms of the lower price and weight, which often make them a preferred entry-level model. The lack of technology on the rear wheel means less control and comfort when driving, but it also means less maintenance on the MTB.
Full Suspension MTB
Fullys are particularly popular in the MTB industry because of the better traction and stability and the resulting higher speed. If you drive through difficult terrain with a lot of bumps, fullys provide better compensation thanks to their double wheel suspension. The pothole is practically “flown over”, which also leads to a higher speed.
|Advantages||Lower weight||More controller and stability|
|Lower entry price||Better traction|
|Less care and maintenance needed||Higher speed|
|Disadvantages||Less control||Higher weight|
|Low traction||High entry price|
|Lower speed||More care and maintenance needed|
The subjective Aspects
The mountain biker himself and his idea of using the mountain bike is certainly a subjective aspect.
For those mountain bikers who are mostly on paved trails and forest trails, a hardtail is sufficient in most cases. However, if such a mountain biker is struggling with back problems, a full suspension is sometimes recommended, since, as mentioned above, it absorbs the blows better and protects the back.
The mountain bikers, on the other hand, who will be traveling a lot on single trails, in rough terrain or in the bike park, should rather use a fully.
The objective Aspects
In addition to the subjective aspects, most experts agree on the objective advantages and disadvantages of hardtail MTB and fully MTB. The following applies: the advantages of one are the disadvantages of the other and vice versa.
Wheel size for Hardtail and Full Suspensions MTB
For many mountain bikers, 26-inch bikes were the measure of all things. For some years now, however, the off-road bikes have also been available with 27.5 inches or even with the significantly larger 29-inch wheels – and more and more riders swear by their good riding characteristics, which pay off especially off-road. Larger wheels simply roll better over bumps.
But XXL tires also have disadvantages. On the one hand, they are heavier, and thus their rotating mass is also larger. This makes the wheels sluggish overall and you cannot accelerate them so quickly. Smaller wheels are often more agile and easier to drive around corners in winding terrain. In addition, 29 inches are often too big for drivers under 1.80 m because the rims require correspondingly large frames.
- With 29 inches you need around 8 percent less energy than with 26 inches.
- Due to the tire diameter, a 29er has better rolling properties over stones and roots.
- In addition, the intensity of the beats is reduced due to the tire diameter, which provides more comfort.
- The better rolling properties improve the tire’s contact with the ground. So you have better grip in stony passages and especially on steep climbs.
- In the case of climbs and the resulting lower speed, the smooth running is distinguished. A 29 incher stays on track much better than a 27.5 or 26 inch.
- With the same frame size, Twentyniners are approx. 1 kg heavier than 27.5 or 26. This is due to the oversized design of the frame, fork, wheels, tires and tubes.
- Due to the higher weight and the greater distance of the rotating parts from the pivot point, you accelerate more slowly and find it harder to climb.
- Twentyniners are not quite as maneuverable on technical routes as MTBs with smaller wheels.
- When using flat paddles, the tire may touch the foot when turning. This is because the distance between the down tube and the front wheel is smaller.
- 29-inchers are often too big for drivers under 1.80 meters because the large rims require correspondingly large frames.
In relation to the classic 26-inch wheels, the advantages and disadvantages shown apply vice versa.
Practically exactly in the middle, 27.5-inch wheels promise at first glance the ideal combination of the advantages of the 26 and 29er. However, depending on the type of rider you are and the use of the bike, you should exercise caution. Because, of course, the 27.5 wheels also inherit the respective disadvantages of their larger or smaller siblings, albeit in a weakened form. The advantages and disadvantages at a glance:
27.5 Inch Wheels
- On technical tracks, bikes with 27.5 wheels are more agile than Twentyniner
- 27.5ers are around 1 kg lighter than 29ers. Because of this and the shorter distance of the rotating parts from the pivot point, you accelerate faster and find it easier to climb.
- An advantage in the enduro area: Larger suspension travel can be installed here. A 29er, for example, reaches its limits with 150 mm of travel.
- Less visual difference to a 26-inch bike: if you can’t get used to the look of a 29er, then you can possibly accept the look of a 27.5-inch bike.
- Possibly an ideal compromise between 26 and 29 in terms of running properties, size, weight, agility and geometry.
- Due to the smaller tire diameter, 27.5 inchers have worse rolling properties than 29 inchers.
- Due to the somewhat poorer rolling properties, the ground contact time is reduced. This can worsen traction on stony passages and especially on steep climbs.
- Lower top speed compared to the Twentyniners.
The Price of Hardtail and Full Suspensions MTB
Compared to a full suspensions MTB, a hardtail is significantly cheaper. You get very reasonable hardtails from $1200, while you should spend around $2000 for a good fully.
There are also significantly cheaper fullys, which are then heavier than average and equipped with poorer components, such as gears and brakes.
If you generally don’t want to spend more than $1500 on a mountain bike, then you’d better buy a good hardtail than a bad fully. The most important thing about a mountain bike is not the spring properties, but good power transmission and a reliably functioning brake.
Which MTB should you get?
Finding the right mountain bike is not easy due to the large selection and many different aspects. The future mountain biker should honestly ask himself the subjective questions in the first step. Which biker am I and what do I want to do with my MTB? The second step is about the objective aspects: what allows my wallet and how much time, leisure and money do I want to spend on maintenance?