1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #76
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    It's a myth that you learn faster on a hardtail. A busted myth at that, at least IMO.

    It's not really just about hardtail or FS, it's really about the sum of the bike's parts. With good tires and sturdy wheels and a stiff frame and fork, you can pick and ride almost any line you want on the trail, FS or HT. FS can offer more traction and control, and assist in absorbing big impacts, allowing you to go bigger, harder, and faster. For bigger obstacles and more technical sections, FS can be really forgiving if you don't have good technique and keep you in one piece.

    Over 80% of my learning happened on a FS bike, despite riding on a hardtail for many years before getting a FS bike. I just didn't have the guts or confidence to attempt stuff on the hardtail. Once I got a good FS bike, I challenged everything and anything I challenged and turned out easy, became pretty much mastered--mastered in a way I could go back to a hardtail or rigid and ride it without difficulty and make other HT and rigid riders jealous.

    The HT was cheaper, but I spent a bit to I upgrade it in a way that made it more DH bombing capable. Now that I've experienced a quality FS bike, I don't really see any reason to go back to a HT except if I wanted to place well in XC races. FS has come a very long way since the days 5-10 years ago, to the point that a "trail bike" is synonymous with a short-medium travel FS bike and HTs are more known for entry level and as serious XC race bikes.

  2. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by CarolinaLL6 View Post
    Kind of parallel to riding style is what's your local terrain like? Smooth single track, rocky trails, etc. Love my HT and have no desire for a FS bike, but if I was out west with all of the rocks I may have gone FS.
    We tend to have mostly singletrack, but with a mixture of roots, rocks, sand, and now that fall is upon us many leaves, which when wet tend to add their own twist to the trail. The singletrack isn't always smooth perse. The one I ride is relatively smooth, with a lot of small climbs/'decents, and within those have some parts that are erroded and have many roots and rocks in them to add to the difficulty.
    My first mountain bike had both a rigid fork and hardtail. So, when I bought my FS it was both a boost in comfort and confidence. On my hardtail when the trail got really "bumpy" I could barely see where I was going it was so bad. I have to hand it to people who were riding full rigid bikes then and even now.
    I guess it all boils down to preference and what makes you comfortable.

  3. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by Varaxis View Post
    It's a myth that you learn faster on a hardtail. A busted myth at that, at least IMO.

    It's not really just about hardtail or FS, it's really about the sum of the bike's parts. With good tires and sturdy wheels and a stiff frame and fork, you can pick and ride almost any line you want on the trail, FS or HT. FS can offer more traction and control, and assist in absorbing big impacts, allowing you to go bigger, harder, and faster. For bigger obstacles and more technical sections, FS can be really forgiving if you don't have good technique and keep you in one piece.

    Over 80% of my learning happened on a FS bike, despite riding on a hardtail for many years before getting a FS bike. I just didn't have the guts or confidence to attempt stuff on the hardtail. Once I got a good FS bike, I challenged everything and anything I challenged and turned out easy, became pretty much mastered--mastered in a way I could go back to a hardtail or rigid and ride it without difficulty and make other HT and rigid riders jealous.

    The HT was cheaper, but I spent a bit to I upgrade it in a way that made it more DH bombing capable. Now that I've experienced a quality FS bike, I don't really see any reason to go back to a HT except if I wanted to place well in XC races. FS has come a very long way since the days 5-10 years ago, to the point that a "trail bike" is synonymous with a short-medium travel FS bike and HTs are more known for entry level and as serious XC race bikes.
    I totally agree with you. I said in a post earlier that riding a full rigid bike, especially with a rigid fork really took a lot of fun out of the trail because it make the difficult parts that much more difficult. Some of the HT people thing because you have an FS, that you are losing power. Not so, with many of todays suspension components you can lock out or set the preload high enough so that you aren't mashing the shock on every hit. I don't think anyone makes them now, but I have a 97' Schwinn Homegrown Factory with the "SweetSpot Suspension" and if I stand it's like riding an HT anyway because the bottom bracket is in the rear swingarm. So, if I want the feel of a HT all I need to do is stand. I can't sprint just like on a HT. My bike is relatively light for an FS too, and climbs great!

  4. #79
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhosinski View Post
    I guess it all boils down to preference and what makes you comfortable.
    Quote Originally Posted by dhosinski View Post
    ... rigid fork really took a lot of fun out of the trail because it make the difficult parts that much more difficult.
    Preferences...

    some actually prefer being challenged to being comfortable Like: where's the fun if all that is left to the rider is pedaling and operating the brakes. (I know I'm exaggerating now )

    Depending on where you ride, you might even find spots where a rigid bike is easier to ride over the obstacles.

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  5. #80
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    Quote Originally Posted by perttime View Post
    Preferences...

    some actually prefer being challenged to being comfortable Like: where's the fun if all that is left to the rider is pedaling and operating the brakes. (I know I'm exaggerating now )

    Depending on where you ride, you might even find spots where a rigid bike is easier to ride over the obstacles.
    I like a challenge believe me. I'm not asking for a Cadillac on the trail, but the trails I had ridden with the full rigid bike weren't good for me then. Even the smallest suspension was better than none.
    I don't see how a full rigid can go over anything easier necessarily? I mean only two tires contact the surface at any one time right? The only surface a rigid can be better is on a hard flat surface that is given the FS isn't locked out.

  6. #81
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhosinski View Post
    I don't see how a full rigid can go over anything easier necessarily?
    I do

    - things where you need very sudden acceleration to get up and over something. Like when the trail forces you to go slowly, whatever bike, and you need to go over a larger rock. A HT or rigid bike has a slight edge there.

    - when you are going down something pretty steep and it levels out suddenly at the bottom. Some seem to have problems with going OTB there because the suspension wants to tilt the bike forward. No such problems with a rigid bike. In some places like that I pick up the front wheel before the bottom, or make a small hop to land on both wheels, but in a couple of other spots I feel more secure with both tires on the ground.

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  7. #82
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    Quote Originally Posted by perttime View Post
    I do

    - things where you need very sudden acceleration to get up and over something. Like when the trail forces you to go slowly, whatever bike, and you need to go over a larger rock. A HT or rigid bike has a slight edge there.

    - when you are going down something pretty steep and it levels out suddenly at the bottom. Some seem to have problems with going OTB there because the suspension wants to tilt the bike forward. No such problems with a rigid bike. In some places like that I pick up the front wheel before the bottom, or make a small hop to land on both wheels, but in a couple of other spots I feel more secure with both tires on the ground.
    I see what you're saying now. Keep in mind that not all suspensions work the same. My suspension essentially locks out when I stand offering me the same advantage as a HT. The Gary Fisher Sugar series suspension operated so that it wouldn't be completely "full active" minimizing the opportunity for this. I think a downhill style suspension is very prone to this. So, I will agree there is an advantage there given that the HT is unforgiving in those situations.

  8. #83
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    Quote Originally Posted by perttime View Post
    Preferences...

    some actually prefer being challenged to being comfortable Like: where's the fun if all that is left to the rider is pedaling and operating the brakes. (I know I'm exaggerating now )

    Depending on where you ride, you might even find spots where a rigid bike is easier to ride over the obstacles.
    Yea. I know what you mean. I demo'd a big long travel bike on a trail and was all excited about it going, OMG this bike makes everything so much easier. Another guy commented, where's the fun in that? I was more or less excited about how much more potential I could get, challenging gnarlier things. It was still fun. It felt like my riding skill increased by so much. If there weren't more challenging things nearby, I wouldn't bother looking into getting a longer travel FS bike. If I rode a smooth XC trail all the time, maybe I would get a rigid bike just to make it feel like a challenge. That all said, I still find my short travel FS bike to be the best compromise for my kind of riding.

    The only things I can think of that I can imagine rigid bikes riding better on are pump tracks, paved bike paths, and BMX bike parks.

    The examples you gave where a rigid would have an advantage can be more related to what I said in my earlier post, about a bike being more about the sum of its parts than rigid/hardtail vs FS. You might have big beefy tires, stiff frame and fork, stiff wheels and are you comparing that to a XC FS bike more inclined to make climbing easier? Actually, in those example, I think it's more about technique. I bet the FS bike rider that couldn't ride that feature without going OTB wouldn't be able to do it any better on the rigid and the rigid rider wouldn't be any worse doing it on the FS bike.
    Last edited by Varaxis; 11-15-2011 at 12:51 PM.

  9. #84
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    Quote Originally Posted by Varaxis View Post
    The only things I can think of that I can imagine rigid bikes riding better on are pump tracks, paved bike paths, and BMX bike parks.

    I bet the FS bike rider that couldn't ride that feature without going OTB wouldn't be able to do it any better on the rigid and the rigid rider wouldn't be any worse doing it on the FS bike.
    Very well put...

  10. #85
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    Well put Varaxis, +rep for you my man

    This all go back to the OP, FS is better for new riders, as you get more experience and skill you'd enjoy the challenge when riding Rigid bikes of tougher trail.

    I bought a DJ bike to practice front wheel loft move like Manual, and wheelie as it's design to be easier to pull off the moves and it works as advertise, I looped out the first few times I tried

  11. #86
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    Quote Originally Posted by perttime View Post
    I do

    - things where you need very sudden acceleration to get up and over something. Like when the trail forces you to go slowly, whatever bike, and you need to go over a larger rock. A HT or rigid bike has a slight edge there.

    - when you are going down something pretty steep and it levels out suddenly at the bottom. Some seem to have problems with going OTB there because the suspension wants to tilt the bike forward. No such problems with a rigid bike. In some places like that I pick up the front wheel before the bottom, or make a small hop to land on both wheels, but in a couple of other spots I feel more secure with both tires on the ground.
    The first time I rode my bike after putting a Judy XC (from previously being full rigid) on my GT hardtail (back in the mid-90's) I went OTB twice on a ride I had done several dozen times before. I wasn't used to the suspension compressing as you describe above.

  12. #87
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    I like my HT and have no real desire to buy a FS. When the time comes in a few years to build a bike, I'll probably just pick up a HT frame and build that. Of course my trails have no real crazy downhill sections or big air jumps. Just small climbs and moderate yet fun and mostly smooth downhill. Some roots and rocks thrown in for good measure, but nothing to hairy. So a HT is just fine! Helps with my climbing too and eventually I plan to slowly work into racing.
    SS ==> Nut up or Shut up!

  13. #88
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    Just my experience:

    I started mountain biking 1 yr ago on a new cannondale hardtail. I instantly fell in love. We ride mostly singletrack with rockgardens, roots, good dirt, rarely muddy. Lots of climbing and descending. I also ride platforms. Even tho I was always gettting bounced off the pedals in gnarly situations, I still thought the bike was great and it definately taught me better line selection and thought processes.

    Last month I bought a trek fuel ex8 full suspension. I was worried about the climbing, efficienc, etc. but really looking forward to the trails. Well all of the things I was woried about was for not. The bike climbs as well as my hardtail, maybe even better as a bunch of our climbs have bumps, rocks and roots, which the rear suspension soaks up. The trails are a no brainer. I am way faster and more efficient than I ever was on my hardtail. And I never get bounced off the pedals now.

    I let my bro ride my new bike this weekend, while I rode my hardtail, and I must say I really don't miss it (and I love that bike).

    My suggestion, get a good deal on a hardtail that will have some resale value, hone your skills for a few months or a year, and then sell it and get a good fs bike. Just my opinon and experience. No knock on hardtails or anything like that.
    2011 Trek Fuel EX 8
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  14. #89
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    Quote Originally Posted by stangbang View Post
    Just my experience:

    I started mountain biking 1 yr ago on a new cannondale hardtail. I instantly fell in love. We ride mostly singletrack with rockgardens, roots, good dirt, rarely muddy. Lots of climbing and descending. I also ride platforms. Even tho I was always gettting bounced off the pedals in gnarly situations, I still thought the bike was great and it definately taught me better line selection and thought processes.

    Last month I bought a trek fuel ex8 full suspension. I was worried about the climbing, efficienc, etc. but really looking forward to the trails. Well all of the things I was woried about was for not. The bike climbs as well as my hardtail, maybe even better as a bunch of our climbs have bumps, rocks and roots, which the rear suspension soaks up. The trails are a no brainer. I am way faster and more efficient than I ever was on my hardtail. And I never get bounced off the pedals now.

    I let my bro ride my new bike this weekend, while I rode my hardtail, and I must say I really don't miss it (and I love that bike).

    My suggestion, get a good deal on a hardtail that will have some resale value, hone your skills for a few months or a year, and then sell it and get a good fs bike. Just my opinon and experience. No knock on hardtails or anything like that.
    Great story! I like to hear things like this because my thoughts about FS are the same. I can't say that it really makes a difference what you start out on with the exception that cheap parts can take the thrill out of anything. I can't tell you the heartburn we had with cheap shifters and the inability to shift on climbs etc. Other issues one might endur on and FS is if the suspension isn't set up for their weight. Too much sag, or if the bike dips too much on a climb you might find yourself working very hard on the trail.

    Great post!

  15. #90
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    Quote Originally Posted by stangbang View Post
    Just my experience:

    I started mountain biking 1 yr ago on a new cannondale hardtail. I instantly fell in love. We ride mostly singletrack with rockgardens, roots, good dirt, rarely muddy. Lots of climbing and descending. I also ride platforms. Even tho I was always gettting bounced off the pedals in gnarly situations, I still thought the bike was great and it definately taught me better line selection and thought processes.

    Last month I bought a trek fuel ex8 full suspension. I was worried about the climbing, efficienc, etc. but really looking forward to the trails. Well all of the things I was woried about was for not. The bike climbs as well as my hardtail, maybe even better as a bunch of our climbs have bumps, rocks and roots, which the rear suspension soaks up. The trails are a no brainer. I am way faster and more efficient than I ever was on my hardtail. And I never get bounced off the pedals now.

    I let my bro ride my new bike this weekend, while I rode my hardtail, and I must say I really don't miss it (and I love that bike).

    My suggestion, get a good deal on a hardtail that will have some resale value, hone your skills for a few months or a year, and then sell it and get a good fs bike. Just my opinon and experience. No knock on hardtails or anything like that.
    Good stuff. Get a sturdy bike just to get you on the trail to see if this is something you'd like to pursue. Get some semblence of skill and fitness started. Then get an FS.

    Whatever the bike, you want something that is fun and that will encourage you to ride again. I started on a HT, then I picked up a Cannondale Rush (FS) and had a blast. I rode more. The more I rode, the stronger I got. The stronger I got, the more I rode. The more I rode, the sharper my skills.

    Then it got too easy. I was leaving my buddies behind. So I picked up a rigid single speed. Now that was a blast. Talk about learning new lines, pace, obstactle and hill clearance!! Wahooo!!. Then life caught up with me and riding an anti-social bike wasn't as much fun. I built my own long travel hardtail and sold my FS and rigid/SS bikes.

    I started with a BMX background so I had some juvenile skills to draw from. I always recommend to those that want to get into the sport to borrow a bike or buy something with decent resale value and save up for a FS bike. That will allow them the technology to make up for some of their lack of skill and fitness. But they can be out there riding with their friends.

    I think how, where and with whom you will be riding with will also impact your choice. You don't want to be on a HT if everyone else is riding a 4" marathon FS bikes. You will eventually wear out and fall behind. Conversely if everyone has HT, what's the point of showing up in a 6x6 susser...

    But it all boils down to whatever will allow you to ride and have fun. Even though I am perfectly content with my steel HT with 5.5" of travel, I still have an eye out for a Blur LT someday for those epics...
    Just get out and ride!

  16. #91
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    well, depends on the price range

  17. #92
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    skip all the nonsense and just get a FS if you dont like it you can always sell it and get a good amount for it, buy a hard tail and have some money left over, if your trying to sell it used a FS always sells faster and easier

  18. #93
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    ^^^ i tried that ^^^
    ended up wasting 500$ on a hard tail that i was miserable on and getting a full suspension less than a month later... never looked back.

  19. #94
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    Hehe yesterday I went out to a different trail system I had been to once before as I was getting tired of my local system.

    Wow I had forgotten that although it is single track, it is a lot bumpier than my local trail system. For whatever reason I really wasn't in the mood for all the bumps and having to get off my ass all the time. I think it was because I really didn't have any energy that day and felt lazy. I sure wish I had my FS with me though...even though it needs different tires and some other minor work.

    Either way I do believe in this statement:
    My suggestion, get a good deal on a hardtail that will have some resale value, hone your skills for a few months or a year, and then sell it and get a good fs bike. Just my opinon and experience. No knock on hardtails or anything like that.
    A hardtail will teach you better a better approach and develop skills regardless of what you end up riding down the line.

  20. #95
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    I just love to see all th different opinions ....

    Sent from my DROID BIONIC using Tapatalk

  21. #96
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    Hardtail if your racing xc

    in my opinion, lighter and faster

  22. #97
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    Let me know how you like that Superfly AL i'm thinking about getting one in the next few months

  23. #98
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    Quote Originally Posted by joelzilla View Post
    What would you recommend and why?
    If funds are tight (under $1,000) I would definitely go for a HT. If you can swing over $1,000 (especially over $1,500), both are fine options.

    I think you learn to ride whatever bike you are on. Riding an FS is different than riding a HT, not just easier. Yes, it is easier over the same rough terrain at the same speed and the same line, but as a result, you learn how to handle the bike at speed sooner.

    I would say try both if you can, and get whichever exited you to ride.

    I don't go with the notion that you should start on a HT any more than you should start with a rigid fork, or single speed, or circa 1995 1.95" tires.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  24. #99
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    Go with a hardtail, you will have to do the work and not the bike and you will learn much, much, more.

  25. #100
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    No good

    Quote Originally Posted by fredb View Post
    Go with a hardtail, you will have to do the work and not the bike and you will learn much, much, more.
    Okay, so I can just sit on an FS and it will do all of the riding for me???

    Really?

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