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Hardtail vs. Full-Suspension: for Commuting

After you decided to commute to work on a mountain bike you may be wondering which is the best choice, a hardtail or a full-suspension because the price gap between them is bigger than the Grand Canyon.

While full-suspension MTBs offer a more comfortable commuting experience, hardtails will still be the best choice because they are lighter, better for climbing, faster on the road, and will require less maintenance. Road riding is less demanding than trail riding so the price difference isn’t justified for commuting.

In this article, I share with you all the insights about commuting on a hardtail and a full suspension that I have learned from years of commuting on both types of bikes and I will tell you all the pros and cons of each type of bike when it comes to commuting.

HT vs FS commuting
Hardtail vs. Full-Suspension (Commuting)

Are Hardtails Good for Commuting?

As a general rule, hardtails are a great option for commuting because they offer better pedaling efficiency, are easier to maintain, are lighter and cheaper than full-suspension MTBs.

If you want a bike that is tough, can handle almost any type of terrain, and will not break your bank, a hardtail is for you.

You will be able to maintain a good riding speed without too much exertion on a hardtail because you will have instant power transmission between pedals and the back wheel, so a better chance to not arrive too sweaty at work.

Can You Ride a Hardtail Mountain Bike on the Road?

If your hardtail is equipped with light cross country tires it will offer you more than decent performance when riding on the road, a road bike will be much faster but it will not be as reliable and comfortable as a mountain bike.

Many riders who prefer riding on mixt terrains (smooth trails, unpaved and paved roads) chose hardtails for their main bike because they are very good all-around bikes, they are affordable (initial cost and maintenance) and they are very capable machines that will offer good performance on many types of terrains.

Are Hardtail Mountain Bikes Good for Long Distance?

Hardtails are a good option for touring because they offer more than decent storing capabilities and are very reliable bikes that rarely break unless you push your bike to the limit on very technical trails, but this isn’t the case with touring.

So if you need a bike that is very reliable, offers you a decent comfort level, and offers you the options to mount the necessary bags so that you can take all your stuff with you then a hardtail will be a good fit for you.

Hardtails are better than full-suspension MTBs for long-distance riding on the road or on smooth trails because they are lighter and faster, so it will require less energy to travel a long distance. If you need to commute more than 15 miles a hardtail will be a far better choice than a full suspension.

Are Full Suspension MTBs Good for Commuting?

Full suspension mountain bikes aren’t the ideal choice for commuting because some of your pedaling power is absorbed by the rear suspension, so you need to exert yourself more to maintain a decent speed and so the chances that you arrive sweaty at work are higher.

But still, they are the best choice if you favor comfort over everything else, you will not find a more comfortable bike than a full-suspension mountain bike. You won’t feel all the bumps in the road and if you are commuting you will never be forced to get off the saddle.

If you want a full-suspension MTB that will offer you decent performance on the road you should focus on cross-county MTBs, don’t even consider buying an enduro or downhill mountain bike for commuting, they are heavy and the tires have big knobs designed to offer the maximum traction on dirt and mud but will work against you on the pavement.

Can You Ride a Full Suspension Mountain Bike on the Road?

Full suspension mountain bikes are made to offer maximum traction and performance on technical mountain trails, yes you can ride them on the road but they won’t perform as well as a hardtail will.

Keep in mind that if you use a mountain bike on the road your tires will wear out much quicker because they are designed to offer the best traction on dirt (they are softer than road tires).

A full-suspension mountain bike will offer you the best comfort but you will lose on performance. If you ride on wear-off roads a full suspension MTB will make your ride much more enjoyable but on newer roads, you won’t have much to gain from having a rear suspension.

Are Full Suspension Mountain Bikes Good for Long Distance?

Full-suspension mountain bikes aren’t the best choice for touring because they offer limited storage options but despite this, they will allow you to ride bumpier roads without getting off the saddle and will put less stress on your joints, practically you won’t drain your energy as fast on bumpy roads.

If you ride on newer roads then the presence of rear suspension will just absorb some of your pedaling power and you will get fatigued much quicker than on a hardtail.

A full-suspension mountain bike will be a better choice only if you are touring on bumpy roads, but on smoother roads, a full suspension MTB will be harder and less efficient than a hardtail, practically you will have a more comfortable ride but you will get tired more quickly and you won’t be able to carry all the bags you need.

Due to the full suspension MTB geometry, you aren’t able to mount a bike truck and this will greatly limit your storage capabilities. So, as you can see now why I can’t recommend full suspension mountain bikes for touring.

Hardtail vs. Full-Suspension: Pros and Cons for Commuting

Now let us put side by side all the pros and cons of hardtails and full suspension when it comes to commuting:

Hardtail: ProsFull Suspension: Pros
LightweightIncreased comfort
Better power transmission from
pedals to the back wheel
Better joints protection
Less maintenance
More affordable
You can mount a bike trunk
More storing options
(all bags on the market can
be fitted on a hardtail)
Great uphill performance
Hardtail: ConsFull Suspension: Cons
Less comfortableHeavier
Bad for people with
lower back problems
Slower than hardtails
Less storing options
Harder to maintain
Too expensive
The suspension will absorb a good chunk of your pedaling power
Hardtail vs. Full-Suspension: Pros and Cons for commuting

This is an unfair battle because full suspension mountain bikes are designed to offer the best stability and traction on very rough terrain and not on smooth surfaces, the rear suspension will add an extra level of comfort but it will absorb some of your peddling power and this becomes noticeable on smooth surfaces and uphill.

The road battle is clearly won by hardtails but if you want to know all the general pros and cons of hardtails and full-suspension MTBs I have written an in-depth comparison, check it out!

Conclusion

Hardtails will perform better on the road and are better for commuting because they are faster and better climbers on smooth surfaces than full-suspension MTBs. A hardtail will require you to put in less effort to get to work than a full suspension, this is important for commuting because you don’t want to arrive at work too sweaty.

But if you favor comfort above everything else then a full suspension is the way to go. For people with lower back pain, a full suspension is the best option because it will absorb the bumps in the road and offer your back some much-needed protection.

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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.