Musings of a Mountain Biker

Hardtail VS Dual Suspension

Hi, Gilly here. This week one of my cycling buddies rocked up on a lovely new hardtail bike; she had a great ride and was really pleased with her purchase. Whilst she was shopping around, she had considered a dual-suspension bike but dismissed it for being too heavy. I ride a user-adjustable dual suspension bike and love it, which got me thinking, what are the differences, pros and cons between these two types of mountain bikes.

For the uninitiated, all mountain bikes have a front suspension fork (shock absorber). Some also have rear suspension and are referred to as dual or full suspension. Those that don’t are referred to as hardtail. There are several differences between the types:

Price – hardtails are usually cheaper to buy (considering like-for-like frame, wheels and components) and are cheaper to service and maintain as there are fewer moving parts to replace or repair. 

Weight – on average, a full suspension bike will be at least 1.5kgs heavier than a like-for-like hardtail. The lighter bikes will have the advantage on the climbs but may be more challenging to control on rough terrain. 

Comfort – full suspension bikes absorb the impacts to the rear wheel and significantly dampen the force through the pedals and handlebars, which can make rough rides smoother and more comfortable. 

Handling – (here’s the techie bit!) hardtails are generally more efficient. Energy transfers from your body to the bike through the pedals, propelling the bike forward. With a rigid frame, you don’t lose energy through the compression of the rear suspension, which means they are usually faster on climbs, sprints and smooth trails. On less technical terrain, hardtails often provide a more responsive ride. However, full suspension generally offers more traction. On bumpier rides, the rear shock helps keep the wheels in contact with the ground, improving the grip, control (rider balance) and steering, which can reduce the risk of mistakes and wipeouts.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and what type of riding you’ll be doing most often. Hardtails are a popular choice, easy to maintain and great if you ride on dirt roads and light cross country with some roots and rocks. Their efficiency and weight make them good for faster rides and for covering long distances. If you want to have fun on more rugged terrain and feel more secure on steeper descents, then full suspension bikes are more forgiving and will give you control and comfort. If you are in the market for a new bike, it might be worth trialling the different types!

As you know, exploring is my passion; I like to be out for three to four hours on each ride and there are often surprises on new routes, so I opt for the comfort and stability of the full suspension. 

I’m not racing, so I don’t fuss over the weight difference, as is evident by the size and weight of my backpack! And, as I mentioned, my suspension is user adjustable, meaning if I choose, I can lock-out my suspension whilst riding, giving me some of the benefits of a hardtail.

A really important point to note is whichever type of bike you prefer, be sure to consider the quality of the forks and shocks; quality damping and air spring are important, as is the strength of the components, as rocks and rocks ruts can take you by surprise. As the pros will tell you, suspension type isn’t everything. Wheel size, tyre choice, gearing and frame geometry are also considerations – all ideas for future musings, me thinks!

Whatever your choice, I hope to see you out enjoying the trails. Have fun, stay safe and be sure to get in touch if you have stories to share.


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