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15 Quick Answers About Hardtails (for Beginners)

Many beginners are intimidated by the incredible prices of full-suspension mountain bikes and they think that a hardtail will not be enough to be able to ride on trails and have fun, but most surely this is not the case.

For this reason, I decided to write this article so I can give a little bit of clearance to those who are considering starting their mountain biking journey or are thinking of becoming more serious about it.

So you will find in this article short answers to the most common questions I hear about hardtails, keep reading!

Can You Ride Trails On A Hardtail?

You can definitely ride hardtails on trails, they will be more challenging to ride and will force you to improve on the basic mountain biking skills like choosing the right line. Hardtails will not offer you the stability and the speed as a full suspension on technical trails and downhill.

Hardtail MTB

Many mountain bikers will start with a hardtail just to build a solid skill foundation, a full suspension will be more forgiving on your mistakes than a hardtail.

Modern hardtails can handle almost any trail, the ride will become more technical than with a full suspension but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it will give you the opportunity to improve and will be a more intense cardio training.

Hardtails are a lot of fun, many riders will have two bikes just to be able to ride a hardtail on their favorite trails, so definitely ride your hardtails on the trails near you!

Are Hardtails Better For Climbing?

Hardtail mountain bikes are better for climbing than full-suspension ones because they are lighter (a rear suspension will have a big impact on the weight of the bike) and you will have a better power transmission from the pedal to the back wall because none of your pedaling power will be absorbed by a rear shock.

When it comes to climbing the instant power transmission to the back wheel of a hardtail is a very big advantage and will make your uphill riding portion of the ride much more enjoyable.

Practically riding uphill and sprinting are the only two situations in which the weight of your bike will make a difference, not having the rear suspension will drastically make your bike lighter.

If you are interested in which bikes are lighter and the weight difference between hardtails and full-suspension mountain bikes, I have written an article where I compare the weight of the most popular bikes of the top five mountain bike brands, check it out!

Are Hardtails Good For The Road?

A hardtail wouldn’t be as efficient as a road bike but still, there are numerous reasons why you should ride it on the road, like comfort (front suspension and a more upright position), the safety provided by wider/thicker tires that don’t force you to ride close to cars to avoid the damage on the road and versatility.

Yes, the tires will slow you down but this just means that you will have a more intense cardio workout, and yes they will wear off more easily but you have the versatility of riding mixt terrain and this is more fun.

Hardtails are very good bikes if you are on a budget because they allow you to enjoy almost any aspect of the bicycling world and they are excellent bikes if you want to enjoin nature.

The biggest drawbacks of using a hardtail on the road are that they are slower than road bikes and are less comfortable if you ride many hours because you don’t have the same grip options as on a road bike.

Are Hardtails Good For Long Distance?

Hardtails are good for long-distance riding because they are comfortable (a more upright position), tough and reliable, and have many storage options for bags (you can mount a bike trunk) and they offer you the possibility to ride efficiently on any terrain (not limited to the road).

But for riding long distances on the road they aren’t as efficient as road bikes because they are slower and it will take you longer to put in the mileage. One more drawback is that you don’t have the possibility to change the handgrip like on a road bike and this can lead to sorrowful hands if the ride is very long.

One advantage is that you don’t need to avoid the rougher outer part of the road (hardtails are designed to be ridden off-road) and this will allow you to better avoid cars, so they bring an extra layer of safety.

Are Hardtails Good For Cross Country?

As a general rule the lighter the mountain bike is the better it is for cross-country riding, for this reason, hardtails are very good for cross-country riding because they are lighter than full-suspension MTBs and offer better performance on long climbs and smooth off-road terrain.

In the past hardtails were the only choice when it comes to cross-country racing, now there are full-suspension mountain bikes that aren’t much heavier than a hardtail and are designed for cross-country racing.

But still, on many cross-country roads, a hardtail will be the best choice.

Is It Worth Upgrading The Fork On A Hardtail?

Upgrading the fork on a hardtail will make it more capable on downhill or on technical portions filled with big rocks and tree roots but will reduce its climbing capability because the bike’s geometry will be changed, for this reason, you need to make sure you don’t over fork your bike.

If you find yourself always bottoming out your fork’s suspension that means that you are riding your bike harder than it is designed to be ridden and so upgrading your fork will be a great option but don’t make a jump in travel bigger than 20 mm because it will heavily impact the geometry of the bike.

Many budget hardtails come with spring suspension and in this case, upgrading to an air fork suspension will have a massive impact on performance.

Be aware that you will be able to ride your bike faster downhill and you need to check if the current brakes can handle it, so if you upgrade your fork make sure you will have the budget to upgrade your brakes if needed.

If you want to ride faster and harder on more demanding terrain then upgrading your fork will be worth it but be careful not to lose your warranty, check the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Can You Put A Downhill Fork On A Hardtail?

You can put a downhill fork on a hardtail but it will drastically change its geometry and yes it will make it more capable downhill but it will not be as safe as a full-suspension so make sure that you have the skill level to handle this change, otherwise this can become very unsafe.

Most surely the jump in travel from the stock fork will be massive and this will change the bike’s geometry by a lot, the wheelbase will be longer, the head angle will be much more slacker and this will make it more capable downhill but difficult to ride uphill.

Because you will ride your bike much faster than it is meant to it will be wise to upgrade the brakes so you will have the stopping power needed when riding with speed downhill.

If you are still interested in the end result of such an experiment I encourage you to watch the video below.

What Is An Aggressive Hardtail?

Aggressive hardtails are hardtails that have a slacker head angle for improved downhill performance, a low button bracket for improved handling and stability, and a longer frame (longer wheelbase) for more stability when riding straighter trails with speed.

All modern mountain bikes are designed with the aim of improving stability at great speeds and downhill capability and this is the main advantage of buying a new mountain bike, it comes with improved geometry.

Practically with an aggressive hardtail, you can have more fun because you can ride it faster and harder and you will get some downhill capabilities as well.

Can You Ride Enduro On A Hardtail?

Hardtails excel in the cross country category but if you have the necessary skill level then you can surely ride enduro with a hardtail, but be aware that hardtails excel at climbing, and those portions of the ride aren’t timed in enduro, downhill it will not have the same level of stability as an FS.

Riding a hartal downhill demands a higher skill level than riding a full suspension because you really need to pick the right line and always correctly shift your weight on the bike, mistakes will be heavily taxed in this situation.

Hardtail As Your Only Bike, Is This The Best Choice?

Hardtails are great options for people that want to have only one bike and be able to use it for every type of ride without breaking the bank. Hardtails are great commuter bikes, have lots of storage options for longer rides, and are capable to tackle very harsh terrain but it is recommended to take them easier downhill.

If you need a bike to commute to work or for grocery shopping and you still want to hit the trails on weekends then a hardtail will suit you well.

A full suspension is a more stable downhill on rough terrain but that doesn’t mean a hardtail can’t be used in these situations, but you need to ride it slower (for safety reasons).

Can You Ride A Hardtail At A Bike Park?

You can definitely ride a hardtail on bike parks, you just need to be sure that you have the skill level to ride those trails, and if you want to ride downhill make sure you have brakes that offer you the stopping power needed on stiff descends.

There are many capable hardtails that are being ridden on bike parks all that time, they aren’t as comfortable as full-suspension ones and need to be ridden slower on stiff downhill portions of the ride but they are a great way to sharpen your skills.

How Bad Is Riding A Hardtail?

Riding a hardtail will be less comfortable than riding a full suspension but it is more fun, it will force you to improve because riding errors will be highly taxed by the fact that you don’t have a rear suspension. On smoother trails, hardtails will be faster and more playful than full-suspension mountain bikes.

You need to have a better trail awareness on a hardtail because if you don’t pick the right line you may stumble into trouble.

On rough and stiff downhill portions of the ride, you need to be more conservator and ride slower because they don’t have the same stability as the full suspension does.

When riding with speed on rough terrain your back wheel will lose contact with the ground (bounce of the ground) due to the lack of a rear suspension and this will make them less stable than a full-suspension mountain bike.

Can You Change A Hardtail To Full Suspension?

A hardtail can not be converted into a full-suspension mountain bike because to do this you need to modify the back of your bike’s frame. A full-suspension MTB’s frame is more complex than a hardtail’s frame because it has more moving parts and extra components like bearings.

Now if you feel that your hardtail is uncomfortable there are two upgrades that can make it feel almost like a full suspension one:

  • get a seat post with incorporated suspension
  • get a saddle with springs

If you get a seat post with incorporated suspension this will make the ride more comfortable for you but it will not give your bike the same stability downhill as full-suspension mountain bikes have.

If you are interested in seat post suspension, I encourage you to watch the video below:

Are Hardtails Faster Than Full Suspension?

Hardtails are faster than full-suspension mountain bikes on smooth surfaces and on climbs but are slower when it comes to the more technical terrain and on the downhill, on rougher terrain, your back wheel will lose contact with the ground more often than on a full suspension.

So as you can see hardtail and full-suspension bikes are two different types of bikes that excel in two different scenarios, hardtails will be faster on smoother trails while full-suspension ones are designed to be fast in the roughest of conditions (this includes stiff downhill portions).

Is 100 mm Travel Enough On A 29er Hardtail?

100 mm of travel will be more than enough to ride cross country and on smooth trails but if you want to ride fast on rougher trails (over tree branches, bigger rocks, etc.) you may be better of with 130-150 mm of travel.

The faster you want to ride over rough terrain the more travel you need because you will hit roots, and rocks at a higher speed and you need more compression on the fork so you won’t be thrown over the handlebars.

As you can see the type of riding you prefer will dictate the amount of travel you need, 100 mm is a good amount of travel for cross-country riding.

You can ride almost any terrain with 100 mm of travel but you need to significantly reduce the speed when the terrain gets rough if you don’t mind riding at lower speeds then you won’t need more travel.

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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.