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Hardtail vs. Full-Suspension Which Is Better for Trail Riding

Trying to decide if a full suspension or a hardtail is the better choice for shredding the trails is very hard if you don’t have the hands-on experience of riding both of the two types of bikes.

Mountain trails are more technical than cross country trails and for this reason, a full-suspension mountain bike will allow you to ride with more speed over the more technical parts of the trail but in the hands of an experienced rider, an aggressive hardtail can become a wordy contender to the FS supremacy.

In this article, I will help you decide if a trail full-suspension or a hardtail is the best choice for you, I will tell you everything I’ve learned by riding both types of bikes.

Mountain biker riding on trails
Mountain biker riding a hardtail on mountain trails

Hardtail Vs. Full-Suspension Which Is The Better Trail MTB

On more technical mountain trails a hardtail will push you to the limits and will require a higher level of skills to ride safely than a full-suspension mountain bike but it can be a lot of fun.

Due to the lack of rear suspension, a hardtail will struggle to overcome bumpy terrain filled with tree roots and rocks, a full-suspension mountain bike will be faster and will not lose traction on these technical portions regardless if they are uphill or downhill.

Hardtails will have the upper hand on smooth uphill portions of the ride because they are lighter and have a better power transmission to the back wheel (there isn’t a rear suspension that absorbs some of your pedaling power).

A full suspension MTB will give you more confidence, will be more stable and will allow you to safely ride on even the most technical trails. Keep in mind that the two types of bikes will offer you different riding experiences.

If you want a more capable and stable bike, then a full suspension will be the way to go but if you want a more playful bike that will challenge you on every ride you may be better off with a hardtail.

Overall on mountain trails, full-suspension mountain bikes will perform better but a capable rider with an aggressive hardtail will be able to outpass a less experienced rider riding a full suspension.

Hardtail Vs. Full-Suspension Which Is Easier to Bunny Hop?

A full-suspension mountain bike will feel very different than a hardtail when it comes to bunny hopping, it will require more push down so that you fully compress the rear suspension, this will give you a small lift when the suspension decompresses.

Performing a bunny hop on a full suspension is different from performing it on a hardtail, neither of them is easier, you need to put in the time to learn how to bunny hop with both bikes. It really comes down to the bike with which you are used to, both bikes are good for bunny hops but it really comes down to your skills.

I have asked 11 of my mountain biker friends (guys with a lot of years under their belt and some of them are pro riders) which is easier to bunny hop and I got mixed answers, the conclusion is that they are both good and the deciding factor here is the rider’s skills.

If you have many hours practicing the bunny hop with your hardtail then switching to a full suspension will seem like the bunny hop is harder to perform, this also is true the other way around.

Are Hardtails Good for Trails Riding?

Hardtails are good for riding trails but will put your skills to the test on the more technical parts of your ride, you will be forced to hit the brakes more often than on a full suspension.

Many riders still prefer to ride on a hardtail because it is more playful and lighter than full suspension and if you have the necessary skills a hardtail will give you the adrenaline rush you crave.

Keep in mind that on longer rides over very bumpy terrain a hardtail will put a lot of stress on your joints and you may experience pain, when it comes to comfort a full suspension is unrivaled.

Do You Need Full Suspension to Ride on Trails?

No, you don’t need a full suspension to ride on trails but when the trails become more technical, you need to be really good to be able to safely ride on a hardtail. Full suspension mountain bikes will give you more traction and stability over roots and rocky sections and will help you with big drops and jumps.

If you master all the basic and advanced mountain biking skills it really comes to your preferences on which of the two types of MTBs you want to ride, but if you don’t have a lot of time to train a full-suspension mountain bike will compensate for your lack of skils and will be more forgiving on your mistakes.

If you aren’t convinced yet which of the two bikes is for you, check out this article in which I talk in detail about all the pros and cons of hardtails and full suspension MTBs.

Conclusion

You can definitely ride a hardtail on trails and have a tone of fun with it but if you really want performance on technical trails full suspension is the way to go.

Hardtails are harder to ride on technical trails and will require a higher skill level. A full-suspension mountain bike will be more forgiving of your mistakes and the extra traction and stability will allow you to corner more aggressively.

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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.