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. #1
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    Hardtail or Full Suspension for New Rider

    What would you recommend and why?

  2. #2
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    I bought a hard tail and added a suspension seat post for now. The frame and component set I could afford was much nicer, and a FS bike in that price range ($1000-1500) would likely be a lot heavier. I may end up going FS at some point but enjoying this for now.

  3. #3
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    You usually get more bike (components) with a hard tail, for less, less weight, and less to mess with and maintain. For someone just starting, makes more sense to start simpler until you're a better rider and you're more confident that you intend on moving up.

    This, of course, assumes general mountain bike riding and not something specific...where a FS bike makes sense - but who starts in a narrow niche? I guess some people do, but none I've met.

    I could have afforded anything up front, really, but i went with a hard tail for the reasons I stated.
    "Wait, this thing doesn't have a motor?" - Socrates

  4. #4
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    If you can afford the FS then go with FS, it would be more comfortable and offer more control. If you don't have the budget for FS then go with HT.

    There''s no rule that you have to start with HT but most riders go that route because it's much lower investment. Most who start with HT would not stick around though compare to FS.

    I started with both FS for me and HT for my wife(I know it's typical) I know if I started with HT I'd probably gave it up after a few rides it was not fun or comfortable. I couldn't tell the difference between a heavy bike and light(er) bike both bikes still kicked my A$$ on the climb but FS put bigger smile on my face on the way down.

    What's your budget?

  5. #5
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    For me, a hardtail was a certain. It allows you to become a much better rider at the beginning because it forces you to pick much better lines. A FS can cover up most of the trail and you end up actually going much slower on it.

    Plus, cost is a huge factor. You can get a very good HT bike for ~1k but for a FS you are looking around ~2k.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by bballr4567 View Post
    Hardtail . It allows you to become a much better rider at the beginning because it forces you to pick much better lines.
    Plus, cost is a huge factor. You can get a very good HT bike for ~1k but for a FS you are looking around ~2k.
    ^^^^ This.
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  7. #7
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    i started out on a specialized hardrock disk because it was a decent bike at a fair price and it was also the bike most recommended. i rode it for about 6 months to make sure i liked mountainbiking which i did,i then upgraded the front shock and wheels/tires and rode it for another six months. i would still be ridding it but i was able to save up while riding it and got a specialized camber comp when they came out. now a year later im upgrading the camber and putting the old camber parts on my hardrock to make it a nine speed. i dont think you can go wrong either way but i love my the full suspension. if your just starting out i would recommend to see if you l.b.s might have a test bike program or rental so you could try both first. what kind of trails are you going to be ridding and what is your budget?
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  8. #8
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    I had the same questions a few months ago. The price/quality issue between hardtail and FS made it a pretty easy decision for me. I didn't want a tank in a FS, and I wasn't willing to spend $2k on my first bike, which I felt was necessary to get the components and parts I wanted. I took the time to ride a few hardtails, and I can say after the first few test rides, I knew I wanted a 29er, and would not have a 26 hardtail. A few months later, I'm convinced I made the right decision for me. The 29 takes some of the bumps out of the trail, so it's honestly like being halfway between a 26 hardtail and a 26 FS bike in ride comfort. Otherwise, it just rolls so much faster on the downhills and flat sections, and seems to climb a lot better to me.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by bballr4567 View Post
    For me, a hardtail was a certain. It allows you to become a much better rider at the beginning because it forces you to pick much better lines. A FS can cover up most of the trail and you end up actually going much slower on it.

    Plus, cost is a huge factor. You can get a very good HT bike for ~1k but for a FS you are looking around ~2k.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hutch3637 View Post
    ^^^^ This.
    Which part of the post are you agreeing with, the Cost is a huge factor? good HT for 1k FS for 2k, or HT make you a better rider?

    Unfortunately, beginners only have 2 main choices; cheap but not as good product or good product but not cheap. It's true in many sports but not all. Going with higher end models mean more forgiveness, larger sweetspot, less weight, better looking, stronger, faster, longer in no particular order. Better players may prefer less forgiveness or even more weight for addition control.

    Bike is similar to example. Choosing better models mean better performance, more forgiving, less weight, ya da blah etc. Going with HT would not make you a better rider than FS it simply limit your line choices for your current set of skills. Going with the logic that riding HT would make you a better rider than FS is just lazy thinking. My wife has much longer saddle time than me on a HT so that would make her a better rider than me who's started with FS?

    In fact the opporsiite happen when she got her first FS, it was 2 lbs+ heavier than her HT and yet she's faster on the climb and on the descend, especially on the descend. Not only faster, and more control but it was the first time I've seen a smile on her face while descending

    Faster riders is always be faster not because they are on HT or FS. If you don't want to spend too much then your only choice would be a Hardtail or may be a used FS. Cheap and good are mutually exclusive regardless of the marketing they try to spin

  10. #10
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    I was riding a friends FS bike for awhile, and was nice over bumps but didn't climb for s*** granted it was a downhill bike, so that may have had something to do with that. But I ended up buying a 29er HT. I just stand for the downhill parts, which coincidentally aids in maneuverability of the bike. Learned a skill on accident that way! ! I ride only singletrack anyway so while a FS would be nice, the lower price and easier maintenance of a HT is almost perfect for me. I LOVE this bike, and have no intentions of buying any more bikes for at least a few years yet. Except I might pick up a roadie at some point.
    SS ==> Nut up or Shut up!

  11. #11
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    Although I'm newly back into riding ... there's one thing I learned a long time ago ... Ride what you are most comfortable on.

    So, test both. Figure out where you are going to ride. Ask the folks at your LBS ... chances are, they ride the same spots ... so they can really help guide you to what is best for the type of riding you are going to do.


    Personally I ride a HT ... the biggest reason I chose one was familiarity. Every bike I've owned has been a HT. My last MTB (which also was my first) was a HT. Plus with my years riding BMX and road bikes ... I wanted some thing familiar when I got back into MTB'ing.
    Another reason is ... I really like feeling what my back tire is doing. The ability to feel what my bike is doing beneath me has saved my sorry-skin a time or two.
    Lastly is maintenance and price of entry. They're more like a side benefit.


    Eventhough many of places I ride are very, very rooty ... and it would be advantageous to have a FS in my arsenal ... still prefer to be on a HT. So much so ... I just picked up another HT into a rigid; for those places that have a manageable, to light, amount of rooty areas. Perhaps one day I'll own a FS ... just not today.

  12. #12
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    mimi1885

    The quote was referring to what the op asked, the other member stated his thoughts. I agreed with two parts of his response. Those being that a HT would save him money and, with a HT he would learn more basic skills that would turn over down the path when and if he chose to ride FS. To me when starting out I would keep it simple, sure the OP or anyone could jump onto a FS to not "limit" them. To each is their own.
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  13. #13
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    Maybe I am old, but at 47 I still ride a hardtail. It all depends on if you want to plow or flow.
    I will always chose to flow. If bombing downhills is your thing then full suspension is great.
    If technical singletrack is on your mind and you are new to riding, cut your teeth on a HT.

  14. #14
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    Fair enough

    Quote Originally Posted by Hutch3637 View Post
    The quote was referring to what the op asked, the other member stated his thoughts. I agreed with two parts of his response. Those being that a HT would save him money and, with a HT he would learn more basic skills that would turn over down the path when and if he chose to ride FS. To me when starting out I would keep it simple, sure the OP or anyone could jump onto a FS to not "limit" them. To each is their own.
    Well, that's what most people believe unfortunately it's just not true. NuB at the same skill level and fitness, one on HT and another on FS the FS would have more line choices even when he/she is on a HT.

    Most skill you learn on FS can be transfer to HT but not exactly the other way around. My SS is a softtail I ride them on the same trail and the same line as my FS and about the same speed. My friends who's been riding HT for a decade when switch to FS still prefer to ride the same line as his HT he claimed that it's faster to go around the obstacle than over them

    I enjoy them all, I'd ride different bikes on the same trail and would get a refreshing expereince. My next bike project would be a fattire full rigid 29er

  15. #15
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    To a newbie i dont think speed is a huge factor. I know for me if i was getting my first bike I wouldn't be considering weight savings or the type of talk of a ht or a fs making you a faster rider over all. All that matters when starting out is getting a bike that makes you want to get out there and ride it.

  16. #16
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    I think riders will eventually be better if they learn on a hardtail. They learn to use their 'human suspension' to it's fullest potential, and that will translate over to FS and they will ultimately be a better, smoother rider. They also learn to pick better lines which isn't always important . . . . until it is very important.

    I have seen first hand how riders that start and stick with a hardtail until their skills develop a fair amount will then shred, while many that start or go FS early on never really get that good as the FS made them lazy. It won't always be that way, but I have seen it enough to recommend that new riders learn for a while on a hardtail before going FS.

    It's somewhat natural to want to get what all the cool kids are riding and it would make things easier to navigate at first, but may stunt long-term skill development. I prefer to see new riders learn gradually so they don't get in over their heads and hurt themselves because they don't have the well-rounded skills to handle it when things get dicey and the sense to know when they are in over their head.

    Kind of like taking a newbie down to the motorcycle shop and recommending a sportbike because they are such a capable bike (in the hands of a skilled rider) or giving a Corvette to a new driver on their 16th birthday.

    Another reason for newer riders to go with a hardtail is the economical side of things. If money is an object, it's a good idea to start out with an entry level bike to see if you like the sport and are willing to continue. f it's not for you, then you can sell the bike and not lose much. If you like it, you can learn for a year or two before moving on. The common sense side of this is that a new rider will not really have that much of an idea of what type of bike suits the type of riding they enjoy most and has the components they prefer (not to mention sizing). Their chances of getting the right bike for them as a beginner are far slimmer and they have blown a significant amount when they could have been saving money toward their second bike that would be chosen after they know much more about who they are as a rider.

    If money is abundant, then the above paragraph isn't as important, but that is the exception rather than the norm.

    I have coached soccer for many years and when we are teaching young kids to perform skills, we start them out slowly with no pressure. Some coaches even like to make them learn to kick with bare feet so they get the correct technique for striking a ball down to where it is something they do automatically before increasing the speed, space and opposition. As the speed, space and opposition increase, technique will break down so they are increased gradually so the player doesn't develop poor technique or not be able to perform at all once the S,S&O ratchet up. I take the same tact with developing riders.

    Not necessarily 'right' or 'wrong', just my opinion based on my own anecdotal experience.

  17. #17
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    ^
    Start with a hardtail.

    Makes you learn how to ride better (read lines, use your legs, etc)

    Cheaper

  18. #18
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    Had a HT for 4 months before investing in a FS. If budget permits go for a FS, as it would minimized a double investment. Rode my HT and cover a distance of around 1200 miles over those period, must admit it is cheaper to invest in a HT, but the lessons I gotten from riding it, serves me well now on a FS, line selection and body position over rocky terrains and jumps to absorb impact.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by bballr4567 View Post
    For me, a hardtail was a certain. It allows you to become a much better rider at the beginning because it forces you to pick much better lines. A FS can cover up most of the trail and you end up actually going much slower on it.

    Plus, cost is a huge factor. You can get a very good HT bike for ~1k but for a FS you are looking around ~2k.
    Depends on your point of view. I started on a Hardtail, when I went with FS it allowed me to pick what I considered the better lines, because they were more fun.

    It depends on what mountain biking is for you. Some people I know go to the trail and they find it fun to 'pick the best line' that gets them through most efficiently.

    However, my friends and I go and look for the lines that get me the most air or are more difficult and fun to us. We're the type that will stop at a fun jump and spend 30 minutes doing it over and over.

    For me, FS gave me a lot more options and I don't think riding a HT made me any better. It made me choose easier lines. Maybe that's what some people consider a better riding, picking the easiest way through.
    Last edited by TwoTone; 11-06-2011 at 08:59 AM.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoTone View Post
    Depends on your point of view. I started on a Hardtail, when I went with FS it allowed me to pick what I considered the better lines, because they were more fun.

    It depends on what mountain biking is for you. Some people I know go to the trail and they find it fun to 'pike the best line' that gets them through most efficiently.

    However, my friends and I go and look for the lines that get me the most air or are more difficult and fun to us. We're the type that will stop at a fun jump and spend 30 minutes doing it over and over.

    For me, FS gave me a lot more options and I don't think riding a HT made me any better. It made me choose easier lines. Maybe that's what some people consider a better riding, picking the easiest way through.
    For me the "better lines" isn't the heart of a hardtail. It will teach you real bike skills. There are times there is only one line and learning it on a hardtail will teach you how to ride. A full suspension bike can cover that up and give you a false sense of security that could bite you in the azz when you are taking your riding to the next level. To me you need to learn to walk before you run

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmac999 View Post
    For me the "better lines" isn't the heart of a hardtail. It will teach you real bike skills. There are times there is only one line and learning it on a hardtail will teach you how to ride. A full suspension bike can cover that up and give you a false sense of security that could bite you in the azz when you are taking your riding to the next level. To me you need to learn to walk before you run
    One of my friends bought a FS about a week before I got my HT. Im consistently faster than he is despite him having the better bike and being in better shape. He plows through the stuff while Ive learned to pick through and not smash into everything with my tiny 80mm fork.

    It does make a difference.

    Its different for different people though. For me, a HT was the only logical choice. It was what I could afford and I knew it would teach ME to be a better rider.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmac999 View Post
    For me the "better lines" isn't the heart of a hardtail. It will teach you real bike skills. There are times there is only one line and learning it on a hardtail will teach you how to ride. A full suspension bike can cover that up and give you a false sense of security that could bite you in the azz when you are taking your riding to the next level. To me you need to learn to walk before you run
    Quote Originally Posted by bballr4567 View Post
    One of my friends bought a FS about a week before I got my HT. Im consistently faster than he is despite him having the better bike and being in better shape. He plows through the stuff while Ive learned to pick through and not smash into everything with my tiny 80mm fork.

    It does make a difference.

    Its different for different people though. For me, a HT was the only logical choice. It was what I could afford and I knew it would teach ME to be a better rider.

    Point taken, I forget that I had years on a BMX bike, so my move to mountain bikes was different
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by bballr4567 View Post
    One of my friends bought a FS about a week before I got my HT. Im consistently faster than he is despite him having the better bike and being in better shape. He plows through the stuff while Ive learned to pick through and not smash into everything with my tiny 80mm fork.

    It does make a difference.

    Its different for different people though. For me, a HT was the only logical choice. It was what I could afford and I knew it would teach ME to be a better rider.
    I'm in a similar situation. Bought myself a HT 29er. I wanted a 29er and a FS 29er was WAY out of my budget. My future brother in law who got me into this sport used to kick my ass when I was on his second bike. A FS also. He rides FS exclusively He's been doing this for several years. Though I'm not sure to the degree which he rides. I know he's in better shape and has a better bike than me. Yet on my HT I just walked away from him. On climbs, downhill and in the turns. I just kept putting more ground between us and I was holding back. Not sure why, but I think the HT may have had something to do with it? Or maybe it was the bigger tires, or maybe I've just vastly improved my skills since the previous times riding with him. But obviously the HT didn't hurt me any!
    SS ==> Nut up or Shut up!

  24. #24
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    I personally have always ridden hardtails as I have never ridden anything that made me say to myself.... "I NEED full suspension". You'd be surprised what a hardtail can do through fast bumpy downhills.

    I have ridden full suspension bikes with 5-6" travels and it does feel nice to be able to plow through rocks, steps, and ruts like it's nothing, but as many people said it teaches you nothing because it's compensating for lack of skill.

    I think the biggest issue with getting a FS as a first newbie bike is that you don't know for a fact you're going to keep riding. A lot of people get all gung ho and buy an expensive FS rig and after a ride on the trails they go, "F this, this is not for me". The bike either collects dust or they end up having to sell it for half the price they bought it for.

  25. #25
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    29er hard tail with tubeless, low pressure tires. Also, check out the books by Ned Overend and Brian Lopes. Your arms and legs provide far more suspension (travel) than any FS bike can. Good luck.

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