Choosing between a Hard-tail and a Full-suspension mountain bike can be a tough decision, and we are going to try to take some of the mystery out of it.
Over the years, we have owned a variety of bikes ranging from 26r hardtails to today’s 27.5 full suspension, all around mountain bikes. Typically the decision that drives what bike I will be riding on any particular day is the type of terrain I will be riding. In Southern California, we have tons of places to ride, and many of them consist of well-maintained fire road (wide, dirt roads that can accommodate emergency vehicles). This type of terrain is generally free of big ruts, boulders, holes, roots or anything else that would complicate the trail. Some examples of places that fit this mold would be Chino Hills State Park, the Santa Ana Mountains, and Crystal Cove State Park, to name a few.
Now, if the trail is going to be more technical, perhaps lots of jumps, drops, and things of that sort, then the full suspension will offer more comfort. Full suspension bikes are designed to be ridden more aggressively, so a trail full of challenges is perfect for full suspension. So far, we have only focused on the comfort that these bikes offer depending on where you ride. But there is more.
A hard-tail is generally more advantageous when it comes to tough climbing and speed on the trail. They are typically lighter because there are fewer components on the bike, and the geometry lends itself to that type of riding. There isn’t any sag underneath you, so hardtails can easily clear rocky and technical terrain without you bottoming out. That is not to say you cant climb or do the same on a dual suspension, but the hardtail does have an edge for prolonged climbing.
When I first started mountain biking, I rode a 26r hard-tail and have now graduated to a 29r hard-tail mountain bike. I have also owned and ridden a 26r full suspension mountain bike for the past 7 years until selling it recently. Several of my friends/ riding buddies have purchased 27.5 full suspension mountain bikes and they can’t seem to wipe the smiles off their faces. I once rented a full suspension 29r and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as well! As an avid rider and ambassador of the sport, I talk and surround myself with different levels of mountain bike riders and they all have something to say about the bike they ride and why they chose it.
My experience and research have shown that the 27.5 full-suspension mountain bike is this bike of choice for your everyday rider who wants an overall experience. This bike has been proven to allow the rider to have a great time descending while having a bigger tire for those climbs.
While the 29r hard-tail is the mountain bike of preference for endure-racing, fire-road climbs, and an affordable option for purchase. Full-suspension bikes typically cost more based on more components and often weighs more as a result. So, before you buy your next bike, decide what type of riding you do. Or, just buy both a full-suspension and hard-tail and have the option for whatever type riding you decide on that day.