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  1. #1
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    Hard-Tail vs Full Suspension Newbie Situation

    This is my first year out mountain biking and I love it! I bought a Trek X-Caliber 9 because I ride on flat trails for cardio as well as mountain biking. This is my first ever bike with any type of suspension and I I spent the little extra money for an air fork in the front. So far I love it! It's quick on the trails, and suits me well enough for the flat trails to trails I do too. However, I feel I am always taking my bike in for a tune up as I beat it up on the trails. Nothing has ever broken on me (and it's been through a lot so far), but everything seems to need readjusting after every aggressive trail ride I do to make it feel perfect again. I also feel I am not confident yet in riding some more difficult trails and would like to move up to a full suspension bike. I would like to know if I should keep riding my 29er hard-tail and just keep practicing with it, or buy a used full suspension next year. Also to note, the tires on my bike are starting to get worn from riding all the time and I have flat pedals that I sometimes slip off of on jumps. I don't have a huge budget and would also eventually like to go clip-less and have the full suspension bike on plus sized tires. Can anyone recommend their thoughts to a newbie and/ or have a full suspension bike they are looking to sell in the near future? Thanks!

  2. #2
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    I'd ride the hardtail more and work on developing your skills. You can ride it on more advanced trails but you'll need to have good technique. A full sus bike can be more forgiving and give you a larger margin for error though.
    Everyone is entitled to my opinion.

  3. #3
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    Pretty new proper MTB myself. With all the research I did and now from personal experience, I would stick with the hardtail. Stick with the flats too. I find that my feet used bounce off on jumps and hard hits, too. My technique, line selection and skills have improved and I don't have this happen as much. Also with my skills getting better my bike doesn't take as much of a beating either. HT are great to learn some bike maintenance on too. Fewer parts to go wrong means you won't be so overwhelmed when you do repairs or maintenance yourself.
    I got my HT for the price point and to learn on. I love my bike. Can't see myself getting a FS or clipless pedals anytime soon.

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  4. #4
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    How specifically did you improve your skills? I pick pretty decent lines and I've been told by a few riders that I pick better lines than their friends who have been riding for a number of years. Its drop offs, roots, etc that my feet slip off the pedals... I even angle my heels down to dig into the pedals and help me not slip off, but I still manage to slip off. It seems like my hard-tail also needs adjustments from riding rough sections and I honestly don't know what I can do different to ride it better and not put so much wear on the bike. I also have purchased a tune up program at trek store that I can take my bike to, so I've never serviced my own bike. Should I start trying to do things myself?
    Also, should I look at upgrading my tires at some point? What hard-tails do you guys have? Thanks!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigtinius View Post
    How specifically did you improve your skills? I pick pretty decent lines and I've been told by a few riders that I pick better lines than their friends who have been riding for a number of years. Its drop offs, roots, etc that my feet slip off the pedals... I even angle my heels down to dig into the pedals and help me not slip off, but I still manage to slip off. It seems like my hard-tail also needs adjustments from riding rough sections and I honestly don't know what I can do different to ride it better and not put so much wear on the bike. I also have purchased a tune up program at trek store that I can take my bike to, so I've never serviced my own bike. Should I start trying to do things myself?
    Also, should I look at upgrading my tires at some point? What hard-tails do you guys have? Thanks!
    I think its easier to clean technical terrain like drops, roots, rocks, etc. with clipless pedals. Flats seem to be all the rage these days.

    Full sus bikes generally need more maintenance, adjustments, and tuning than a hardtail. Full squish can make chunky terrain more fun, but they dont do anything for your skills and abilities. I would recommend learning to do basic adjustments/maintenance yourself such as degreasing and relubing the chain, replacing a chain, adjusting derailleurs. Leave things like brake bleeding, suspension maintenance, and wheel truing to the pros until you have the basics down.

    If you have the cash to spend, go for the full suspension. They are super fun. Just keep in mind that it will be even higher maintenance and probably wont accelerate your riding skills.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigtinius View Post
    How specifically did you improve your skills? I pick pretty decent lines and I've been told by a few riders that I pick better lines than their friends who have been riding for a number of years. Its drop offs, roots, etc that my feet slip off the pedals... I even angle my heels down to dig into the pedals and help me not slip off, but I still manage to slip off. It seems like my hard-tail also needs adjustments from riding rough sections and I honestly don't know what I can do different to ride it better and not put so much wear on the bike. I also have purchased a tune up program at trek store that I can take my bike to, so I've never serviced my own bike. Should I start trying to do things myself?
    Also, should I look at upgrading my tires at some point? What hard-tails do you guys have? Thanks!
    Yeah for me it was my speed. Specifically braking points to carry speed through corners, right amount for jumps and drops to not slam landings. Sounds like you have the basic skills just about refining them.
    What are you taking your bike in for when it needs adjusting? I mean what are they adjusting?

    I ride a Nukeproof Scout 290. Probably more trail oriented than the trek. I have only ridden the tires mine came with so far so can't comment.

    Feet staying on pedals could be to do with the pedals and shoes themselves.

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  7. #7
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    I think I'll keep my hard-tail for at least another year to improve my skills before I consider a full suspension. As for when I get a FS, should I buy a used FS bike off eBay or Craigslist if my budget isn't that big or hold off until I can spend a lot on a nice bike? I always have trouble off of continuous drops or riding over something that is short and steep like a log in the middle of the trail. Sometimes I even have to get off my bike and walk over some features and I feel I shouldn't have to. I've fallen off a fair amount of times already but I've almost seriously wiped out a few times at the bottom of a hill where there is a drop off or jump as my feet don't stay on the pedals when I land.

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    My last few tune up receipts: Trued wheels (common), adjusted shifting and brakes (common), damaged derailleur hanger, rear brake rub, front wheel spoke tension (I was in an accident and my front tire became wedged under a wooden fence on a bridge), lubed chain and pivot points. It always comes down to fine tuning the brakes and shifting as they seem to get out of wack when I ride some trails that are rougher.

    I do tend to ride slower on the trails, but I feel the need to ride slower so I don't get bucked off my seat if I happen to be sitting down or bucked off the pedals if standing up on rough parts. I also ride slower in case I need to maneuver my bike around a turn. I've been more cautious lately around corners as my tire tread is starting to wear and because I've skidded and wiped out going around sandy corners (which is why I was considering a plus size tire on a FS bike).

  9. #9
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    Learn to adjust the simple stuff on the bike. This is a critical skill if you are out on the trail and something happens. The more expensive stuff generally holds up better and performs better, but that means that not only do you have to pay for a decent full suspension design and shocks, but better components at the same time. That may not be in the playbook and you can often get a lot more value at a given pricepoint with a hardtail, unless you are prepared to spend the kind of money for a solid FS bike, which these days is around 3K or so. It's not that the cheaper stuff is always junk, but you have to realize the limitations and what it means you'll have to do in the long run as far as tuning and/or replacement.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigtinius View Post
    My last few tune up receipts: Trued wheels (common), adjusted shifting and brakes (common), damaged derailleur hanger, rear brake rub, front wheel spoke tension (I was in an accident and my front tire became wedged under a wooden fence on a bridge), lubed chain and pivot points. It always comes down to fine tuning the brakes and shifting as they seem to get out of wack when I ride some trails that are rougher.

    I do tend to ride slower on the trails, but I feel the need to ride slower so I don't get bucked off my seat if I happen to be sitting down or bucked off the pedals if standing up on rough parts. I also ride slower in case I need to maneuver my bike around a turn. I've been more cautious lately around corners as my tire tread is starting to wear and because I've skidded and wiped out going around sandy corners (which is why I was considering a plus size tire on a FS bike).
    Your maintenance issues are all fairly run of the mill but I'm surprised your brakes need touching very often - by and large decent hydro disc brakes are pretty maintenance free.

    As others have said, learn how to adjust your shifters and derailleurs yourself - there are many videos on Youtube.

    FS bikes tend to need more maintenance than a HT, generally.

    Your bike is more set up from the factory as a "cross country" style bike for more moderate trails.

    There are some things you can change to make it more capable in rougher terrain.

    As your tyres are worn and as they aren't all that aggressive to start with, I'd consider replacing them with something wider and more aggressive. For example a knobbier 2.35 or similar on the front and rear. For example a Maxxis High Roller II 2.3 or Forekaster 2.35 on the front with a 2.25 Ardent on the back, or similar. You'll instantly get more grip and confidence especially in loose terrain.

    Clipless pedals do help you feel more secure IMO, or at the very least get rid of the stock plastic pedals and get some grippy metal ones.

    If you feel too stretched out going down a shorter stem can help.

    FS bikes are good and you can go faster and bigger all else being equal but you still need to learn the basics and you can continue to do that on your HT until you've saved up for a good FS bike.
    Less isn't MOAR

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigtinius View Post
    I do tend to ride slower on the trails, but I feel the need to ride slower so I don't get bucked off my seat if I happen to be sitting down or bucked off the pedals if standing up on rough parts. I also ride slower in case I need to maneuver my bike around a turn. I've been more cautious lately around corners as my tire tread is starting to wear and because I've skidded and wiped out going around sandy corners (which is why I was considering a plus size tire on a FS bike).
    I see part of your problem in this post. You need to keep the hard tail for a while. It will help keep you from writing checks with speed that your skills can't cash yet. It's much easier to go faster on a FS bike, but control is the name of the game. You haven't figured out how to let the bike move yet. If you're getting bucked off the seat at any speed, you need to be standing up. If you're getting bucked off the pedals, you need to keep your heals down and your knees bent, weight off your hands. Light hands, heavy feet. Let the bike move under you and take the hits, you just float along over the bike. If you have an itch to spend a couple clams to do something for your bike, get a dropper. I high post all the time, and people look at me like I'm crazy for riding around on huge frames with all this seat post sticking out of them - but I learned to ride without droppers, and the seat isn't in my way. It might be easier for you - you might be more comfortable - letting the bike move like it should if you get the seat out of the way. It seems to be a common complaint among new riders that they're afraid of the seat hitting them if they don't keep their legs a little straighter.

    As far as feet coming off pedals - what pedals, and what shoes do you have? I haven't seen that info in the thread, though I may have missed it.

    Anecdotally, I have a FS bike and a hardtail. The hardtail has 32 spoke wheels that I had custom build on it (it's a single speed, and I abuse the crap out of it) and I've only had to true them once in 4 years. The FS bike has a set of 24 spoke wheels on it. I'm a big guy, and I've been told that at my size and weight, that's crazy, and they won't hold up. Yet, I've broken the frame on that bike and not had to true those wheels in 2 years. I ride rooty, rocky trails all the time, with small drops and some good sized jumps (not that I spend a lot of time in the air) and although it's not a point of focus for me, I'm usually in the top 30% of riders on a trail, speed wise, on Strava, which matters only to say, I may be old and fat, but I'm not slow. What I have on my side is 30 years of experience. I put my bike in a stand and tune it a little when it needs it, otherwise I keep air in stuff that should have air in it, and keep stuff that should be clean and oiled clean and lightly oiled. As you progress in your riding skills, you'll learn more fineness and stop beating on the bike so hard.

    TL/DR: Keep the hardtail until it forces you to develop some proper technique. Now go back and read my post.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigtinius View Post
    I think I'll keep my hard-tail for at least another year to improve my skills before I consider a full suspension. As for when I get a FS, should I buy a used FS bike off eBay or Craigslist if my budget isn't that big or hold off until I can spend a lot on a nice bike? I always have trouble off of continuous drops or riding over something that is short and steep like a log in the middle of the trail. Sometimes I even have to get off my bike and walk over some features and I feel I shouldn't have to. I've fallen off a fair amount of times already but I've almost seriously wiped out a few times at the bottom of a hill where there is a drop off or jump as my feet don't stay on the pedals when I land.
    Do you have pedals with pins? If not get a good set of pedals and some gum soled shoes. Stealth rubber soles if you can afford them. And get some tires that aren't worn. When tires get worn to 50% they seem to be shot and offer far less grip.

    Learn to tune your ht. There's plenty of how to vids on youtube. After you get used to servicing your bike you'll know what to look for in a used bike. Getting a mildly used 1-2 year old bike for half price is common especially for bigger name brands like Trek, Giant and Specialized.
    Everyone is entitled to my opinion.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigtinius View Post
    ..
    I do tend to ride slower on the trails, but I feel the need to ride slower so I don't get bucked off my seat if I happen to be sitting down or bucked off the pedals if standing up on rough parts. I also ride slower in case I need to maneuver my bike around a turn. I've been more cautious lately around corners as my tire tread is starting to wear and because I've skidded and wiped out going around sandy corners (which is why I was considering a plus size tire on a FS bike).

    You can try to buy a new bike to deal with these issues or learn proper technique to minimize them. On a HT legs are your suspension. If you do it right the lets and arms will take a significant movement of the bike under you. This will allow the bike to float over terrain rather than transferring it to your core.

    BTW.. sandy corners are sandy. Sometimes you just have to slow down. Others technique makes all the difference in the world. The thing to remember most is that as a rider you need to be active on the bike. You can't just sit there and coast or sit there and pedal. You have to constantly be moving your body weight around to match the trail conditions. This does not always come easy, but once you start to feel it you realize how critical it is. suspension and plus tires all help to take the edge off things and can be used to compensate for poor technique or to go even faster.

    As for durability. Mtn biking is not like riding on the pavement. My road bike has 5,500 miles on it since I got it and every once in while I put new tires on it and lube the chain. Still have the same brakes on it. Maybe once adjusted the shifting and I probably need to check chainwear. Never trued a wheel.

    My mtn bikes... I would be happy to get 500 miles before needed to do some sort of tune up on them. It just that much harder on equipment.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigtinius View Post
    How specifically did you improve your skills? I pick pretty decent lines and I've been told by a few riders that I pick better lines than their friends who have been riding for a number of years. Its drop offs, roots, etc that my feet slip off the pedals... I even angle my heels down to dig into the pedals and help me not slip off, but I still manage to slip off. It seems like my hard-tail also needs adjustments from riding rough sections and I honestly don't know what I can do different to ride it better and not put so much wear on the bike. I also have purchased a tune up program at trek store that I can take my bike to, so I've never serviced my own bike. Should I start trying to do things myself?
    Also, should I look at upgrading my tires at some point? What hard-tails do you guys have? Thanks!
    Just like trail riding, there's technique to learn for staying stuck to your pedals. It's called the 'low heels' method.
    Here's a video-


    If your bike has XR2 2.2 Teams I'd stay with those on the 28mm inner width rims you have or go with the 2.35 versions if you can find them. They last a reasonable amount and longer than most.

  15. #15
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    If you still have the stock black plastic pedals you should definitely replace them. If you don't want to spend much money you can get some Race Face Chesters for less than $50 and wear some skate shoes like Vans or DC (the Chesters are also plastic, but much higher quality). Then you'll have the grip you need and will be less like to injure yourself slipping off the pedals.

    Also get yourself some basic tools and a work stand so you can learn to tune/maintain your bike yourself... this should save you a lot of money over having the shop do it. You can easily tune your drivetrain yourself, just watch a couple of YouTube videos or get a book on bike maintenance (I like Leonard Zinn's maintenance books). You'll need some metric allen keys, some chain lube and an old rag, and that's about it for the drive train. For other more complicated repairs you'll need different tools, but start with the drive train and go from there.

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