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  1. #1
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    Carbon Hard-tail vs AL full-suspension XC 29er

    I ride Colorado front range trails, mostly XC, nothing too technical or with big drops. Coming from my AL hard-tail, I have been trying to decide (with a price range topping out around $2500) if a good carbon hard-tail improves ride quality enough to make the need or benefit for a FS bike at the same price point unnecessary? Especially since I know the carbon bike would be lighter and possibly have better components. So those experienced with a quality carbon hard-tail frame, does it minimize the benefit of a FS bike for light to moderate XC use? Anything I need to consider for or against either direction? Thanks!!!

    I really like my 2013 Marlin, but have decided not to upgrade it, but keep it as a low cost bike to have on hand for commuting or paved/bike path miles with the wife. The next bike will be dedicated to the dirt with performance in mind.
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  2. #2
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    No hard tail frame will be compliant enough to offset the actuation of a f/s bike. In fact, there are many posts in these forums that discuss the rigid feel of a particular carbon frame to the point where they're uncomfortable to ride. I would advise that if you're leaning f/s, then go out and demo something with 4"-5" of front/rear travel. 4" leans more towards XC and 5" more AM/Trail but those distinctions are really bleeding into each other these days.

    I, too, and making the transition and recently demoed a f/s bike that was properly set up for my height/weight. The difference was night and day and I'm sure if you experience a good demo, you'll come away pretty surprised. A carbon HT will probably be much lighter than an AL f/s bike, but it doesn't sound like you're much concerned with weight at this point. At $2,500 you can find quality f/s bikes that have good component groups from a reputable manufacturer. Don't go by list price either. You may be able to purchase a $2600-$2700 bike for $2500 OTD depending on how motivated the lbs is to move their inventory.

  3. #3
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    Getting the right amount of compliance in a hardtail with carbon is an engineering exercise. Cannondale worked on it with the Flash. BikeRadar reviewed the 2009 $11k Team--
    ".Some bikes just exude ‘smooth’. The Flash exudes smooth more than any other hardtail we’ve ever ridden – more even than some full-suspension cross-country race bikes. We revelled in the emotion of riding a bike that weighs less than most top-end road bikes, yet unlike many lightweight hardtails it’s far from being a tooth rattler." and
    "Soothing in that you’re able to allow a degree of relaxation in your lower back, where normally hardtails make you tense up in preparation for sharp, unexpected bumps. The Flash can dial that out."
    .Cannondale Flash Team Review - BikeRadar
    So it can be done.
    Now three years later Canyon has just released a carbon Grand Canyon CF SLX 29 with a slacker head tube angle and "comfortable compliance" engineered in with short chainstays and wheelbase. The 8.9 is within your range but no shipping yet to the US so the purchase may be a bit challenging unless you have a friend in Germany.
    Canyon Presents 2013 CF SLX Carbon Hard Tail 29"ers
    They raced it to a win this summer in the Leadville 100.

  4. #4
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    I would personally go with a nice FS bike.

    Todd

  5. #5
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    Buy an FS bike. I rode hardtails until I moved to Denver, what's the point of riding up a hill for an hour if you don't enjoy the ride down? I got faster moving from a 29er ht to a 26" FS bike on Mt. Falcon and Lair o the Bear. And I got significantly faster going up when I upgraded to an Epic and then a Camber Carbon later in the year (in 29er iteration).

  6. #6
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    You've already got a hardtail. Add a FS bike to the mix. I think you might find yourself riding more technical trails and taking a few more drops.

  7. #7
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    Trek Superfly 100 AL
    You could be able to buy one for around $2200

  8. #8
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    If you're looking for a compliant hardtail, consider looking at steel. Or maybe a softail.

  9. #9
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    Hardtail FTW. Check out a used bike too on Craigslist or the classified here on MTBR. You might be able to get a lot more bike than you thought for the money if its even slightly used.

  10. #10
    I don't huck.
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    They are called hardtails for a reason. FS is in a league all its own. Don't let anyone kid ya. the carbon HT frame I am on now is very smooth riding, but it still is not anywhere close to the least FS out there in regards to compliance.
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  11. #11
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    deleted...I'm dumb
    Last edited by fatcamper; 12-30-2012 at 03:26 PM.

  12. #12
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    I think he means the full suspension version...

  13. #13
    I like turtles
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    I think the compliance of a carbon hardtail is WAY overstated...its a hardtail and you will feel the bumps. The carbon fiber can be engineered to help deaden vibrations, but believe me...its not a FS.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

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  14. #14
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    If you buy a hardtail, make sure it's a fat bike, its about the only reason to purchase a HT.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by danaco View Post
    If you buy a hardtail, make sure it's a fat bike, its about the only reason to purchase a HT.
    hahahahaha....man, HTs are really the way to go if you ride 1) normal XC trails and 2) want an efficient, light, fast bike, and 3) your body can handle it.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

    2012 Specialized Stumpy EVO 29 HT

  16. #16
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    Probably difficult at this time of year, but demoing a Niner carbon HT on your trails would tell you a lot of good info. A Marlin isn't light enough or equipped with the fork or wheels to give you a good view of what HTs can be like. Niner dealers have a free day demo program listed on the site.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by TiGeo View Post
    I think the compliance of a carbon hardtail is WAY overstated...its a hardtail and you will feel the bumps. The carbon fiber can be engineered to help deaden vibrations, but believe me...its not a FS.
    Compliance in a hardtail IS overstated. Marketing BS. You can get more "compliance" by lowering the pressures in your tires by 0.2bar. And lower the fork pressures by 10 psi. Use the full travel of the fork. Why ride a 100mm fork if you only use 40mm?
    Hardtails are hardtails.

  18. #18
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    How important is speed to you? Most people are faster on moderate xc on a $2500 hardtail than a $2500 full suspension.

    How important is comfort? Most people would be more comfortable on the FS. (unless there is a lot of climbing, then the lighter bike will be easier on your body)

    How important is fun and what is fun to you? To me, a super light fully rigid bike is what makes me happy in the mountains. You might be able to get under 20 pounds with a rigid at $2500! To others, that is hell on earth. I also know I'd have more fun on a FS bike than a half suspension bike. (I don't like suspension on only one wheel).

    Sound like some Demos are needed so you can decide what you like the best.

  19. #19
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    I rode a 120mm travel FS for a couple years. Bought a super compliant carbon HT (Scott Scale RC) and loved it for being fast and light. It did deaden vibration and made it so I could ride longer than a normal HT but, it was still a HT. I sold both of those and went to a 100mm FS. Pure bliss. I love the happy medium.
    I'm a mountain bike guide in South West Utah

  20. #20
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    just have set the sag and rebound on my fox ctd floats yesterday.. it floats like a mercedes in the descent setting now - yeah pure bliss.

    to be honest i'm not sure what application hard-tails have in MTB at all. I can lock out my full suss if I feel like it, and the extra kilo it adds to the weight is just funny amount of weight.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by supersleeper View Post
    Compliance in a hardtail IS overstated. Marketing BS. You can get more "compliance" by lowering the pressures in your tires by 0.2bar. And lower the fork pressures by 10 psi. Use the full travel of the fork. Why ride a 100mm fork if you only use 40mm?
    Hardtails are hardtails.
    Precisely. Tire pressure makes so much difference to the feel of a HT.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

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  22. #22
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    Putting larger tires (2.2s and up) on a hardtail does much more than a spending money on a high end frame, IMO.

    Personally, except on a couple flatish training loops I do, I won't go back to a hardtail. My body likes the smoothness. I really think a nice light low travel FS (I like the Sugar and Epic) makes me faster, but I also realize it's a personal preference on the feel.

    If you like a HT, rock that ****.

  23. #23
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    On the climbs my buddy who has a HT beats me up (sometimes). My Stumpjumper excels on the way down. You ride all day long epic rides,then go FS. Your body will thank you.

  24. #24
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    hardtail

    for the rough stuff:

    go tubeless + thicker tyres
    wide bars (720ish)
    get a good/proper saddle fit (maybe even throw on a thudbuster?)
    yes, carbon is good stuff. i certainly notice less jarring through the wrists. but you will still get kicked up the backside.


    advantages

    lower maintenance...
    better spec for $
    shorterstays for super sharp handling (coupled with a narrower bar)

    I currently have an xtc 29 carbon. Sometimes it really surprises how well it handles the rough stuff. Other times it has me going 'urrrghhh, felt that'. But i enjoy it. Put narrower bars on it at the moment (680 flat) and it darts left and right like mad, so much fun on twisty trails. I bought it to save money. And I didnt want the maintenance of a FS. I also didnt like the slowish handling of the Anthem X 29er with its long stays. Im hoping they redesign the anthem and shorten the stays like what they did on the trance 29. When you power down on carbon the thing just flys. i enjoy the challenge of taking it places i probably shouldnt.

    My next bike will probably be a dual suspension however, but will have to be carbon. For me there is a significant improvement in smoothness with carbon that i like, so much so that i dont want to go back to alloy
    Last edited by 911Holy$; 12-31-2012 at 01:23 PM.

  25. #25
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    Thanks for all of the great info, have given me much more to consider!
    2015 Trek Stache 7
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    2010 Giant TCX 2 Cross stock

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by eb1888 View Post
    Probably difficult at this time of year, but demoing a Niner carbon HT on your trails would tell you a lot of good info. A Marlin isn't light enough or equipped with the fork or wheels to give you a good view of what HTs can be like. Niner dealers have a free day demo program listed on the site.
    Yeah, actually seeing a team recently shredding away on a trail on some Niner carbon hard-tails is one of the things that got me thinking about that direction. I guess I really need to demo both directions as people have recommended to see what catches my fancy.
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  27. #27
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    I completely agree with this. I went with a hardtail because of price and ease of maintenance. I believe that at a certain price point, a higher spec'ed hardtail is a more efficient use of money than a lower spec'ed FS bike. Of course, that specific point is up for debate.

    Carbon HT + 2.4" tires + 20psi + 760 bars... equals a quite capable decender.


    Quote Originally Posted by 911Holy$ View Post
    hardtail

    for the rough stuff:

    go tubeless + thicker tyres
    wide bars (720ish)
    get a good/proper saddle fit (maybe even throw on a thudbuster?)
    yes, carbon is good stuff. i certainly notice less jarring through the wrists. but you will still get kicked up the backside.


    advantages

    lower maintenance...
    better spec for $
    shorterstays for super sharp handling (coupled with a narrower bar)

    I currently have an xtc 29 carbon. Sometimes it really surprises how well it handles the rough stuff. Other times it has me going 'urrrghhh, felt that'. But i enjoy it. Put narrower bars on it at the moment (680 flat) and it darts left and right like mad, so much fun on twisty trails. I bought it to save money. And I didnt want the maintenance of a FS. I also didnt like the slowish handling of the Anthem X 29er with its long stays. Im hoping they redesign the anthem and shorten the stays like what they did on the trance 29. When you power down on carbon the thing just flys. i enjoy the challenge of taking it places i probably shouldnt. (SO TRUE!)

    My next bike will probably be a dual suspension however, but will have to be carbon. For me there is a significant improvement in smoothness with carbon that i like, so much so that i dont want to go back to alloy

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by pearl-drum-man View Post
    Thanks for all of the great info, have given me much more to consider!
    Very much depends on how much you ride.
    Consider the maintenance on a FS bike. I had to replace the suspension bearings of my Anthem every 3000km's. On the Blur XC it was 5000km's. Now if you do 350km's/week, you will be in for major services every 2-3 months. You can try cheap Chinese bearings, but don't expect them to last.
    I like the simplicity of a good honest hardtail. You peddle harder, the bike goes faster. No fiddling with the shock. One less thing to check before you hop on and ride. No bob. No expensive "Brain" to service. Less downtime.
    Fits on all bike racks.
    And if you overcook the downhill, it will spit you into the weeds.
    All depends what you expect from the bike. But do not believe the story that a 29er hardtail compares to a 26" FS in comfort,

  29. #29
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    I tried both options and went with the carbon hardtail. Be careful with what carbon hardtail frame you get though...some can be too stiff and beat the crap out of you.

  30. #30
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    FSR all the way! If you aren't racing every week, save your the punishment and ride full suspension. Despite all the stories of supermen riding hardtail bikes, having more suspension can only help you on rougher trails.

  31. #31
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    Riding a carbon hardtail is like a 1/4" rear travel. You can get 2-3 times that with a good tire choice and proper pressures. Or you can go with a Fatbike like a pugsley and end up with about 2" of suspension =]

    In all seriousness, what do you think you can get away with/ are willing to sacrifice. speed/comfort/weight? in the Olympics this year Gold was a Full Suspension, Silver was a Hardtail, and Bronze was a Hardtail without a seatpost. which tells me:

    It's not the arrow it's the Indian!

  32. #32
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    When I think of carbon hardtails..compliance doesn't come to mind. Lightweight and stiffness do. If you want compliance in a hardtail....good steel or titanium is the only way that will happen.

    As far as compliance, like others mentioned...there is no replacing a full suspension.
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  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by dubdryver View Post
    When I think of carbon hardtails..compliance doesn't come to mind. Lightweight and stiffness do. If you want compliance in a hardtail....good steel or titanium is the only way that will happen.

    As far as compliance, like others mentioned...there is no replacing a full suspension.
    +1.

    OP - I went from a geared Astrix Rook HT for a year to an original Turner Sultan for 2 years to a rigid Karate Monkey SS for three years to a 1x10 Stumpy Carbon HT. Carbon is stiff and efficient. My Karate Monkey with a Ti seatpost had more 'compliance' than my Stumpy with Ritchey WCS gear.

    For me, the whole concept of futzing around with suspension settings, etc was taking fun out of the ride. If I still lived in Florida, I'd still be on a rigid SS, but moving to CO, adding hills and 6k+ elevation, I opted to become a quitter (not really, just a joke) and picked up a two year hold carbon HT for under $2k. Though I have a 2012 El Mariachi frame and fork in storage for a rigid SS again one day, the 1x10 Stumpy meets my needs now and allows me to fret about less and still hit the great trails out here in CO.

    After 3+ years on a rigid SS, I can't think of riding as just a bump on the saddle - I'm active on the bike.
    Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances. Benjamin Franklin

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