A hardtail mountain bike is a bike with no rear suspension. Since mountain bikes with full suspension are smoother and more comfortable, why do so many people prefer hardtail bikes? Why are they so popular?
Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of these bikes.
- What Does the Rear Suspension do on a Mountain Bike?
- Why Choose a Hardtail Mountain Bike?
- Downsides of a Hardtail
What Does the Rear Suspension do on a Mountain Bike?
Mountain bikes all have front suspension: a shock-absorbing system for the front wheel of the bike. This is important because mountain bikers often spend a lot of time with their body weight forward, over the bike’s front wheel, and shock absorption is needed.
Hardtail mountain bikes have only this front suspension system.
Full-suspension bikes have rear suspension as well as front suspension.
Having rear suspension provides shock absorption for the rear wheel, improving the wheel’s contact with the ground, giving the rider more control, and making rough rides more comfortable.
Why Choose a Hardtail Mountain Bike?
Since full suspension mountain bikes are more comfortable and easier to control, why do people choose hardtail bikes? Here are a few of the most popular reasons.
Hardtails Teach Better Body Mechanics
The lack of a rear suspension allows your body to be more intuitively connected to the bike and the terrain. It forces you to use your body to absorb shock and compensate for rough riding.
Riding a hardtail helps new mountain bike riders learn better body mechanics and have a more intuitive understanding of how the terrain impacts their bike. These physical skills become muscle memory that improves your bike riding form forever.
Hardtails are Lower Maintenance
Without a rear suspension, a hardtail mountain bike simply has fewer moving parts to fail, with fewer parts to clean and maintain.
A hardtail has fewer pivot bearings, no rear linkage, and simpler cabling. This makes them a popular choice for endurance riders because they are lighter in weight and easier to fix.
It also makes hardtails easier to clean and maintain when riding in wet or muddy conditions, which many mountain bikers often do.
Faster on Climbs
Because hardtails are lighter in weight, they are faster on climbs and on smooth trails.
Hardtails are More Versatile
For people who want a mountain bike that can also be used for commuting, cross-country racing, or bike packing, a hardtail is a better choice.
For people who want only one bike that can do everything, a hardtail mountain bike is easy to use on city streets and easier for adding frame bags for storage.
They are more efficient than full-suspension bikes, and therefore more versatile and the best bike for cross country racing.
Hardtails are More Affordable
The lack of a rear suspension makes hardtails less expensive than full-suspension bikes. Most hardtail riders don’t choose to save money and buy a cheaper bike: they decide to spend the same amount but get a better frame, better for, better wheels, better brakes, and more.
Downsides of a Hardtail
Naturally, there are also some reasons that people choose a full-suspension mountain bike over a hardtail. Here are some of the downsides of a hardtail.
Riding a hardtail forces your body to experience and react to more of the impacts of rough terrain, making riding less comfortable. Having less shock absorption also increases fatigue and makes riders tired more quickly.
Hardtail mountain bikes have rear wheels with less constant, consistent, stable contact with the ground, improving control.
Harder for Beginners
Many people feel that it’s essential to learn on a hardtail to master mountain biking body mechanics. However, hardtails are more difficult for beginners.
The discomfort and lack of control can also impair someone’s confidence when they are beginning, making them more reluctant to continue mountain biking.
Slower on Rough Terrain
While hardtails may be faster in climbs and on smooth trails, they are slower on rough and challenging terrain.
Harder on Tires
Without a rear suspension, the rear tire itself absorbs and compensates for more impacts, making rear tires more prone to punctures.
Advanced mountain bikers love their hardtails and often brag about their ability to ride the roughest trails and show off their skills on a hardtail.
Many people say that it’s best to learn rougher riding on a hardtail to perfect your body’s connection to the bike and the terrain. They are often the best choice for competitive cycling.
However, for beginners or people who simply want to enjoy mountain biking and don’t care about bragging rights, a full-suspension mountain bike may be easier and more comfortable.