When you want to buy a mountain bike the first thing you notice is that full-suspension mountain bikes are much more expensive than hardtails and this makes you want to know what advantages they have over hardtails.
In this article, I will tell you what are the most important advantages of riding a full-suspension MTB so you can make an informed decision.
My first mountain bike was a hardtail and after a couple of years, I upgraded to a full suspension. This was many years ago, now I have many years of riding a full suspension behind me so, I will tell you all the advantages of a full suspension I experienced firsthand all this time while shredding the trails.
Faster on Rough Terrain
A full-suspension mountain bike will allow you to ride faster on very rough terrain because the rear suspension will absorb the shocks resulting from you bumping into tree roots, rocks, and other uneven surfaces.
The rear suspension allows the rear wheel to maintain contact with the ground even if you ride with speed on bumpy terrain and this will result in much better traction and stability.
On a hardtail, the impact with tree roots and rocks will throw the rear wheel in the air breaking the contact with the ground and this can lead to you falling off the bike if you do not reduce the speed. This is not the case with full-suspension mountain bikes.
More Stable on Loose Terrain
The rear suspension will make a full-suspension MTB more stable on loose terrain because it will not lose contact with the terrain as easily as its hardtail counterpart will, this will allow you to ride faster in sections where on a hardtail you need to hit the brakes.
Keep in mind that the rear suspension will not compensate for used and worn-out tires, on lone terrain having good tires will be more important than having a rear suspension on your mountain bike.
Better at Cornering
The increased traction of a full-suspension mountain bike will aid you when you are aggressively tackling corners on trails. With a hardtail, you need to pick the correct line when it comes to tight corners or you risk getting off the trail and maybe crushing.
With a full suspension, you can take more aggressive lines while cornering, lines that aren’t available for a hardtail rider, and for this reason, you will always see full suspension mountain bikes used for enduro and downhill mountain biking.
The fact that the rear suspension will keep your back wheel glued to the ground will drastically increase your mountain bike’s cornering capabilities.
A full suspension MTB will be faster when descending on rough terrain because your rear wheel will not bounce off the ground due to the rear suspension absorbing the shocks, this will make it much more stable and will help aggressive riders to maintain a higher speed than on a hardtail.
Mountain bikes that are designed for downhill riding are full suspension, more than that they are designed with the most suspension travel (front and rear) compared to all the other types of mountain bikes. This is because you need suspension travel to absorb the huge impact from your wheels hitting rocks, tree branches, and other obstacles on trails at high speed.
This doesn’t mean that a hardtail can’t be used for downhill riding, but the skill level required is much higher and you will never achieve the same performance as on a full suspension. If you want to know more about riding a hardtail downhill I have written a whole article about this, check it out!
More Forgiving on Beginners
Full suspension mountain bikes are great morale and confidence boosters due to their cornering capabilities, increased traction, and great stability when riding downhill.
The skill with which most beginners are struggling is picking the right line on corners and when riding downhill on technical terrain and this is where full suspension mountain bikes shine because they will allow you to safely ride more lines than a hardtail.
This is the perfect scenario for a beginner because he isn’t punished too severely when he doesn’t pick the best line on trails, and yes full suspension mountain bikes will require less skill to tackle more technical trails.
If you are trying to decide which mountain bike should you buy and this is your first time buying a mountain bike, don’t worry I have written a complete tutorial (including budget) on buying your first mountain bike, check it out!
Better for Flat Pedal Riders
Whenever you ride with speed over rough terrain all the shocks resulting from your back wheel hitting the bumps in that terrain will be transferred true the pedals into your feet.
If your mountain bike is equipped with clipless pedals this isn’t a very big deal because the grip between your shoes and pedals isn’t affected, but if you ride a bike equipped with flat pedals the shock can make your foot slip from the pedal.
The rear suspension will absorb much of the shock resulting from riding on bumpy terrain and so the chance of your foot slipping from the pedals is very slim even if your bike is equipped with flat pedals. So yes full suspension mountain bikes are better for riders that prefer flat pedals and want to ride technical trails.
Better for Landing Jumps and Drops
The more suspension travel your MTB has the better it can handle harsh landings, landing big drops on a hardtail is a painful experience because all the shock from the landing will be heavily feelth in your feet.
Having a rear suspension will definitely help in these situations, big drops and landings from big jumps will become enjoyable and in most cases pain-free. This is pretty much self-explanatory so I will not focus too much on it.
Help with Jumps by Giving You the Possibility to Preload
Jumping with a hardtail is all about speed, if you don’t have enough velocity on your side you won’t be able to get off the ground. On a full suspension MTB things change a little bit because you have the option to preload the jump, this means that you can perform jumps with less speed.
If you push all your weight down at the right time (usually at the beginning of the ramp) you will compress your rear suspension at maximum and when it decompresses it will give your jump a little bust. This is the meaning of preloading jumps, of course, this is not possible on a hardtail.
Because you can’t preload your jumps on a hardtail many people are wondering if hardtails are good for jumps, if you have this concern as well read this article!
As a general rule, you will be able to jump higher on a full suspension while on a hardtail your jumps will be longer.
Less Stress on Your Joints and Lower Back
Because the rear suspension will absorb most of the energy resulting from the shocks associated with riding on rough terrain your knees, ankles, and lower back will be protected.
Of course, when you bottom out your rear suspension the shock will be transferred right into your feet and this will be felt in all your joints and your lower back if you are sitting on the saddle.
This is especially important if you are a beginner and you don’t know when to ride standing up and your lower back is forced to absorb big shocks.
A full-suspension MTB is perfect for beginners who suffer from lower back pain but is detrimental for beginners who have a healthy back because it will be harder for them to learn when to get out of the saddle.
If you experience lower back pain while riding your bike, please consult a specialist, and don’t blindly throw your money on a full-suspension MTB with the expectation that this will fix the problem because it will not.
A full-suspension MTB will give your lower back some protection. A hardtail will not give you this protection and you need to have better riding skills so that you won’t experience low back pain at the end of your rides.
Better for Longer Rides on Rough Terrain (Less Fatigue)
There are fewer situations when you need to ride standing up on a full-suspension MTB than on a hardtail, for this reason, you will get tired quicker on a hardtail.
Your muscles and joints will be forced to absorb fewer socks on a full-suspension MTB and this will also contribute to how quickly you will be fatigued.
Now you can see that a full-suspension MTB is better for longer rides because it will not deplete your stamina as quickly as a hardtail.
This is one of the most obvious advantages of full-suspension mountain bikes because they are equipped with rear suspension, riding off-road is much more comfortable than on a hardtail because you will not feel every bump on the trail.
Now that you know all the important advantages of a full-suspension mountain bike over a hardtail you can make an informed decision on which of the two bikes is for you.
The most important thing is that now you know if the price difference is justified and if it is worth buying a full-suspension MTB.
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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.