Deciding if your first mountain bike should be a hardtail or a full suspension is a very important decision when you are just starting out, any mistake can be very costly!
As a general rule, it is better to start with a hardtail MTB due to the lower initial cost, lower maintenance cost, and easier maintainability. Starting with a hardtail will push a beginner to develop basic trail riding skills like cornering, picking the correct line, and breaking.
Don’t worry, the entire subject of this article is hardtail vs. full suspension for beginners, practically I will give you all the knowledge I have learned from years of riding on the trails on both full suspension and hardtail mountain bikes so that you will be able to make the correct choice and not end up losing a lot of money correcting a costly mistake.
Is a Hardtail Mountain Bike the Better Choice for a Beginner?
When you are just starting out in the mountain biking world the price of the bike may be the most important factor you need to consider.
Many beginners don’t have a large budget because they don’t even know if mountain biking is their cup of tea. Spending a large sum of money starting out is not the best idea because you don’t know which riding style you enjoy and what kind of mountain bike is suited for that riding style.
When I started mountain biking I was very confused about how big of a budget I needed to have to buy a good mountain bike, I wanted to spend as little as possible on a bike because I wasn’t sure if I would like to ride on trails enough to remain consistent on the long-run.
My first mountain bike was a 530$ hardtail with an entry-level spring suspension fork and hydraulic disk breaks.
After riding my entry-level hardtail mountain bike for about one and a half years I started to understand what I enjoy the most and the types of terrain I was riding on. In this period I become much more informed and I developed my basic mountain biking skills.
Now that my skills have increased so does my desire for a more stable mountain bike that can descend faster. I had more knowledge about mountain bike components and the service needs of more expensive bikes.
So I decided to buy my first full-suspension mountain bike. I think that spending less money at the beginning was the right choice because you need to have more time to acquire the knowledge you need to be able to get the right full-suspension mountain bike for you.
Is a Full-Suspension Mountain Bike the Better Choice for a Beginner?
A full-suspension mountain bike will give a boost of confidence to beginners due to the increase of stability and cornering capabilities. The downside is that a beginner will not take full advantage of the performance of a full suspension because he lacks the proper mountain biking skills.
If budget is not a concern for you then a full-suspension mountain bike will be a good choice but keep in mind that you don’t possess the knowledge to find the perfect bike for you and when starting the main concern you should have is developing your riding skills.
After talking with more than ten people that have started with a full suspension the conclusion was that is better to be more informed when making such a big financial commitment. Most of them confirmed that their biggest regret is not having more experience choosing to invest so much money in a full-suspension mountain bike.
The lack of knowledge and experience made them unaware of what features are relay important for a mountain bike and some of them even made the wrong choice when it comes to MTB size and ended up with a bike that is unfit for them.
Be aware that full-suspension mountain bikes have more moving parts than hardtails and this makes them harder to maintain.
The best choice for a beginner is a hardtail MTB because it is easier to maintain, it’s cheaper, and will help you to develop the basic skills needed to ride on trails.
It’s better to spend less money in the beginning when the chance to make a wrong choice is big than to try to correct a costly mistake.
Hardtail Vs. Full-Suspension For Beginners- Head to Head Comparison
Now let us see what are the main advantages of bout types of mountain bikes for beginners:
|Hardtail Mountain Bikes||Advantages||Full-suspension Mountain Bikes|
|✅||On paved roads|
|✅||Feel the trail|
In the table above I mentioned only the advantages that will heavily benefit a beginner mountain biker and we can see that a hardtail will be more beneficial to a beginner with 5 main advantages compared to 2 for a full-suspension mountain bike.
The main advantages of starting with a hardtail are the cost and the fact that it’s easier to maintain. A lot of my friends that just started out are struggling with bike maintenance and don’t have the right budget to do proper maintenance for their mountain bikes.
I did not mention mountain bike weight to be an advantage because this is not that important for a beginner. I made an experiment with three of my friends that are just starting to ride and I gave them a lighter mountain bike for a ride and they all asked the question:
“Why is mountain bike weight important?”
Practically none of them so any improvement in ride quality and performance riding a lighter mountain bike, for professional mountain bikers who compete in races this may be important but you shouldn’t concern yourself with it too much.
If you are just starting out you will not see the difference between a lighter bike and a heavier one, this is true if the difference is not too great, but 1 to 3 Kg is not possible by a beginner.
If you what to know all the pros and cons of hardtails and full-suspension mountain bikes, you can read this article!
Hardtail Vs. Full-Suspension: Which Better for Beginners?
Hardtail mountain bikes are more affordable and have simpler frames with fewer moving parts than full-suspension mountain bikes, they are easier to maintain and more cost-efficient in the long term, this makes them a good choice for beginners.
The main focus for a beginner mountain biker should be learning the basic skills needed to ride on more technical trails. Hardtail mountain bikes are perfect for basic skill development because they force the rider to be aware of every detail on the trail, they aren’t so forgiving as a full suspension is.
Practically you will be forced to learn the hard way what are the best lines to ride on trails and what is the proper speed on which you should ride.
Having an easier-to-maintain mountain bike is a big plus for a beginner because he doesn’t have the proper skills to do proper bike maintenance and this could lead to greater costs in the long run. If you want to know what are the maintenance costs of a mountain bike, check out this article!
After you have the basic trail riding skills and you have a good idea of what kind of riding style you enjoy, you can consider upgrading to a full-suspension mountain bike which will be more able to handle the challenges that come with more technical trails.
Do Hardtail Mountain Bikes Make You a Better Rider?
Riding a hardtail mountain bike is harder, rougher, less comfortable, but forces you to ride at the appropriate speed accordingly to the terrain and your skill level. It forces you to choose the correct line to ride on the trail and you are forced to adapt in time to all the challenges that come wilt trail riding.
Practically scanning the trail and picking the correct lines are the most important skills that a beginner must learn to be able to ride more technical trails. Riding without the confidence resulting from the increased stability of a full-suspension mountain bike, you are forced to be more aware of the trail and adjust to the terrain.
After I upgraded my hardtail mountain bike to a full suspension I immediately felt the increased stability and was able to ride almost all trails from my area and with time the speed with which I was smushing the trails increased dramatically.
After a hardtail forces you to learn the basic skills, these skills will become second nature to you and they will be carried on when you upgrade to a full-suspension mountain bike, practically you will be a better rider, and even if the bike allows you to ride more lines than the perfect ones you will be able to pick the correct ones and so ride with more speed.
If you are interested to learn all the benefits of a hardtail mountain bike, you can read this article: Benefits of a hardtail mountain bike.
Can You Ride Downhill on a Hardtail?
Riding a hardtail mountain bike downhill will be much harder than riding a full-suspension, you will feel every bump on the trail and you are forced to adjust the speed accordingly. Many pro riders ride hardtails downhill for training purposes.
Because you will have a better feel of the trail you can train yourself to pick better lines and work on the core skills needed to improve. When riding a hardtail downhill you will be slower than on a full-suspension because hardtails do not have the same degree of stability.
If you take it slower, you will have no problems riding your hardtail downhill. If you want to know more about riding a hardtail downhill, check out this article1
After all, we discussed, we can easily say that a beginner will have much to gain from starting on a hardtail, many pro riders suggest that all beginners should start on a hardtail so that they can develop proper mountain biking skills.
If you have a big budget and cost is not a factor then you can get a full suspension for extra stability and comfort.
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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.