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  1. #1
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    Hard Tail vs Soft Tail

    I'm sure this topic has been beat to death, but I'm new here and looking for some advice. I live in Colorado so there are a lot of diverse trails. I race on the road and some cross country races in Winter Park. I currently ride a Giant Trance XO which is fun as hell to ride, but not ideal for racing (as a trail bike). This year, and probably for years to come I want to add in and focus more on endurance mountain bike events. I've test ridden a few 29ers (Niner Jet9, Walt Works hard tail, and the Yeti Big Top Hard Tail). I liked the Yeti on the smooth trails. The Walt Works I felt was not an ideal setup for me and was challenging on technical climbs, plus the 80mm fork with not enough air wasn't helping. The Jet was pretty fun on the downhill though I was in some sections of snow so not rippin like normal. Heavy bike though.

    I'm 6 foot and just turned 40. I don't want to get totally beatup on the longer rides. Plus I have to remember that I race 15% of the time and ride for fun the rest. The soft tail is more fun in general on most trails.

    I was also thinking that if I could sell my Trance I could maybe justify having both (maybe).

    *If I have a weakness in racing it would be climbing (who doesn't want to climb faster). Having said that, would I be better going with a 4" travel XC 26" bike and go as light as possible?

    Any advice helps

  2. #2
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    Damn man, you might be my twin. I am just a little taller than you and just turned 40 myself. I own a Waltworks HT. I recently traded off my RIP-9 and placed an order for a custom ti soft tail from generic. The rip was just too much bike for the type of riding I enjoy. The waltworks is awesome for the smooth stuff but at my age I need some efficient travel for long rides with lots of technical stuff (like the SM100).

    You should consider a soft tail. There aren't as many options as for FS but enough to find something that fits you goals and budget. You should also consider the Salsa Spearfish. Almost went with that instead of the custom generic (is that an oxymoron?). It will be light, efficient, and affordable. Of course it might also be hard to get one for a while.
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  3. #3
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    I think u need both.

  4. #4
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    Your decision comes down to riding style and terrain. You even said "the softtail is more fun in general on most trails" Sounds like you already have a preference.

    I also live in Colorado, 47yrs old, and love the diverse trails. Been riding over 25yrs and have tried many of the types of HT, FS, AM, CX and MX bikes. Comes down to what is going to work best for you.

    I have been riding a ti softtail 29er for several years now. Works perfectly for me. Best bike dollars I have ever spent. Comfort wise, takes the edge off of a typical HT. (Rode various Yetis and steel HTs for years). Long rides of 4-5hrs are typical with no issues. The combo of ti, 29er wheels and ST help smooth out the trail buzz and fatigue.

    Performance wise it is balanced, tracks and holds a line beautifully and responds well to pedaling on climbs (especially traction on standing short steeps on singletrack).

    Drawbacks are it is not a full suspension bike and you will realize that quickly if you try to ride that way. If you expect to have big hits or ride downhill courses all the time, you will want the suspension. My usage is very XC and solo riding and when I get to rough sections I have no problem picking my lines carefuly and if needed getting off and walking a section. I have done the "ride till you bleed thing", now I rarely crash (knock on wood).

    I spent several years on a Maverick ML7 and FS Yetis before going "back" to hardtails. For me, I enjoyed the response and feel of the trail more with a HT (now softtail). When riding FS I feel I just blow over trails by design -floating over the obstacles, instead of carving the trail. Softtail works for me.

    Hope this helps in making your decision. Good Luck!
    "Biking lets you come alive both in body and spirit- the bike disappears and you feel as if you're suspended in midair"GKlein

  5. #5
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    FR, which Soft Tail are you riding? I know each design performs differently but how do you like it in technical flat or slight climbs? Does it respond similar to an XC-FS bike in that type of terrain? I know I will never have the downhill plushness of a true FS bike but I ride HT a lot so I am good at controlling my lines and speed in technical descents (i'm also chickenshit).
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  6. #6
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    I have a Castellano Silk Ti 29. A ridiculous dream bike, but as I mentioned, the best mtb dollars I ever spent. I am a self proclaimed bike geek of 25+yrs. and I am still amazed at the craftsmanship and ride of my Silk Ti after four plus years. Take into account my biased opinion is based on my bike being built, set up and dialed in to my riding style and preferred terrain.

    Ride quality is xlnt. Traction and control are great on technical stuff. The rear tire seems glued to the ground like a short travel XC, but w/o the floating feeling of a FS design. Rolls over baby head rocks, roots and general trail obstacles really well. Momentum is maintained through those kind of sections. Feels smooth absorbing the trail buzz without loss of "feel" for the terrain.

    My ride style is (in my mind anyway) like a mogul skier, just go and react. Carving lines with lots of hops and pops for fun, but not the big hits or big air you might do with FS. For me, the softtail is an efficient, predictable handling and confidence inspiring bike. I am over 200lbs w/ camelbak and the bike is set up to be durable, reliable and fun on long backcountry rides. Overall weight is decent, ready to ride with Arch wheelset, bottle cages, pedals and full wireless odometer w/cadence and batteries-25lb 3oz.

    Good luck on your hunt.
    "Biking lets you come alive both in body and spirit- the bike disappears and you feel as if you're suspended in midair"GKlein

  7. #7
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    I figured yours might be one of those designs. they seem to be the most prevalent (i won't say common because I see so few soft tails of any type). My only reservation about the model I am having built is that I have never gotten to test one. I've exchanged emails with a couple folks that love the design but I am still nervous about it.

    The soft tail i am getting is the Generic/Funk/Black Sheep pivotless design. 100mm with a flex plate similar to the Silk Ti.
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  8. #8
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    Most likely you will love it. Since you are already open to a ST design, it will exceed your expectations. I have found HT advocates downplay the ST design because it is not rigid enough for their liking. Advocates of FS will tell you a ST does not have enough suspension to be effective.

    Never ridden the BS/Generic/Funk design, but if it uses the flex plate, you will be surprised at the lateral stiffness of the rear triangle. Creates a very solid feeling ride. As for pivotless, low maintanance is a great thing. Many do not like (or maybe understand) Castellano's elastomer design. But it really is amazing in its simplicity and ride quality. Perhaps the reason it has been coveted by many for 30yrs and he still lectures at MIT.

    I had only ridden an ill fitting Silk Ti in the 80s, but I knew I wanted one. Softtail always made sense to me through the years. Sometimes you just have to go on faith and take the plunge. Wish you luck in your choice. Could not be happier with my current choice!
    "Biking lets you come alive both in body and spirit- the bike disappears and you feel as if you're suspended in midair"GKlein

  9. #9
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    Not sure of your budget, but you could also see if a suspension seat post will do the trick for you.

  10. #10
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    A suspension seatpost gives you some relief from the frame to the seat. I have used a USE suspension seatpost for years on various hardtails and currently a monstercross. Will absorb some road/trail buzz to the body, but do not effect trail performance of the bike. They are very effective for their intended usage, but do not confuse with true suspension.

    A softtail allows the rear wheel to minimally "float over obstacles" , take the edge off hits and and most improtantly improve traction similar to a FS but while keeping a HT feel to the bike. The flex and absorbtion of trail impact into the frame/shock are the key difference between the two.
    "Biking lets you come alive both in body and spirit- the bike disappears and you feel as if you're suspended in midair"GKlein

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by FR hokeypokey
    . Sometimes you just have to go on faith and take the plunge. Wish you luck in your choice.
    Definitely taking a leap of faith - and not a cheap one. I just need to make sure I give the frame a fair evaluation and not just fall in love with it because it is unique and expensive. I'll also have to learn to live with the fact that the bike will be a conversation topic at the local trails. I just gotta make sure I am strong enough not to look like a clown at the back of the pack.
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  12. #12
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    ssssss
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Hard Tail vs Soft Tail-giantxtcfr1.jpg  

    Hard Tail vs Soft Tail-giantxtcfr2.jpg  

    Hard Tail vs Soft Tail-giantxtcfr3.jpg  


  13. #13
    craigsj
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    I think the OP is asking the wrong question. There's two issues here, the issue of HT versus FS and the merits of various FS approaches. A soft tail IS a full suspension design. Look at a current 100mm soft tails and you will see a simple FS approach with some pivots replaced by flexible frame components. Even Salsa does that even though no one calls their models "soft tails".

    So, if you are convinced that a short travel FS design is preferable to a HT, then the question becomes why you would choose a "soft tail" approach over a number of other designs on the market.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by craigsj
    I think the OP is asking the wrong question. There's two issues here, the issue of HT versus FS and the merits of various FS approaches. A soft tail IS a full suspension design. Look at a current 100mm soft tails and you will see a simple FS approach with some pivots replaced by flexible frame components. Even Salsa does that even though no one calls their models "soft tails".

    So, if you are convinced that a short travel FS design is preferable to a HT, then the question becomes why you would choose a "soft tail" approach over a number of other designs on the market.
    You ask "why" you would choose a softtail. I ask why would you NOT consider a softtail?

    If that is the design that best fits your style and terrain, then why not choose a softtail? I agree a softtail is a version of short travel FS. Many quality bikes and quality designs out there. Why not buy what works best for you? It seems like you are imlpying the softtail design is not worth considering, perhaps I am mistaken.

    Solid performance of a softtail aside, it is desirable in certain situations. There is some uniqueness about a softtail that makes it different also. Many are built custom or have design features unique to the softtail. A little difference to the bike collection is a good thing. To me, craftsmanship is something to be admired. We all have to make our choices based upon many factors not just what design is the top seller on any given day.

    There is no right or wrong bike, we all have our own goals and needs but the softtail has a niche in the cycling design choices.
    "Biking lets you come alive both in body and spirit- the bike disappears and you feel as if you're suspended in midair"GKlein

  15. #15
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    I recently went from a 26" steel dekerf soft tail to a 29" titanium vassago hardtail. Honestly, I think the vassago feels like it is a bit more compliant, thought they're pretty close.

    A few years ago I trail compared my dekerf st to a 26" aluminum castellano--and the castellano did feel a bit smoother.

    If I could have found a Ti 29'er soft tail for the price I paid for my (used) Vassago Ti, I would have gotten that instead.

    And having owned numerous full suspension bikes since 1994, including my current turner sultan, I would not call a soft tail full suspension. But that's just me
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  16. #16
    craigsj
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    Quote Originally Posted by FR hokeypokey
    It seems like you are imlpying the softtail design is not worth considering, perhaps I am mistaken.
    I have no idea what I've said to suggest that. I said that the real question was HT vs FS. Once you are committed to FS, then you decide whether it's ST or another option.

    Quote Originally Posted by FR hokeypokey
    There is some uniqueness about a softtail that makes it different also. Many are built custom or have design features unique to the softtail.
    That appears to me to be the primary feature of soft tails. To me it seems a tradeoff, you accept a simple suspension design in exchange for customization of geometry. I don't personally place value on uniqueness or exclusivity, others do.

  17. #17
    craigsj
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    Quote Originally Posted by neveride
    And having owned numerous full suspension bikes since 1994, including my current turner sultan, I would not call a soft tail full suspension. But that's just me
    Are your soft tails 100mm travel or a lot less? Imagine a conventional design limited to 40mm of travel. Do think that would ride distinctly different than a short travel ST?

    Have you seen a 100mm ST like a Funk or Black Sheep or whatever? They look exactly like a whole lot of FS bikes with a flex plate instead of a pivot. Not sure how that difference creates a unique category of bike. "Soft tail" is more a construction approach to short travel than it is a class of MTB. The difference is all perception.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by chainringX2
    I'm sure this topic has been beat to death, but I'm new here and looking for some advice. I live in Colorado so there are a lot of diverse trails. I race on the road and some cross country races in Winter Park. I currently ride a Giant Trance XO which is fun as hell to ride, but not ideal for racing (as a trail bike). This year, and probably for years to come I want to add in and focus more on endurance mountain bike events. I've test ridden a few 29ers (Niner Jet9, Walt Works hard tail, and the Yeti Big Top Hard Tail). I liked the Yeti on the smooth trails. The Walt Works I felt was not an ideal setup for me and was challenging on technical climbs, plus the 80mm fork with not enough air wasn't helping. The Jet was pretty fun on the downhill though I was in some sections of snow so not rippin like normal. Heavy bike though.

    I'm 6 foot and just turned 40. I don't want to get totally beatup on the longer rides. Plus I have to remember that I race 15% of the time and ride for fun the rest. The soft tail is more fun in general on most trails.

    I was also thinking that if I could sell my Trance I could maybe justify having both (maybe).

    *If I have a weakness in racing it would be climbing (who doesn't want to climb faster). Having said that, would I be better going with a 4" travel XC 26" bike and go as light as possible?

    Any advice helps
    If you go HT, you most definitely want a 29er. I got mine nearly two years ago and have done many long rides on it with little to no issues, including a 7 day hut to hut ride last summer and felt pretty good.

    That said, I just got a Pivot Mach 429 for Christmas. It's a bit heavy, though it pedals lighter. They say you can race on it, but since I don't race, I can't say whether or not it would make a good racer. It's a 4" bike and solid as a rock. I would say buy a bike for the 85% of your riding and either race that or keep the racer you have now for the other 15% of the time.

    If you're near a Pivot dealer, it'd be worth throwing a leg over one as part of your search.

  19. #19
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    Salsa doesn't manufacture the Dos Niner now, and Castellano is focusing on ti. Does anyone know of a lower-priced (not Generic, Moots or Castellano/Potts) softtail 29er?

  20. #20
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    Curtlo - Custom steel at great prices but hamstrung by a looong wait.

    Quote Originally Posted by fos'l
    Salsa doesn't manufacture the Dos Niner now, and Castellano is focusing on ti. Does anyone know of a lower-priced (not Generic, Moots or Castellano/Potts) softtail 29er?

  21. #21
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    I've raced the last few years on a ti soft tail (Mooto-x Ybb) and also a ti hart tail (Mooto-x). Generally, I'm doing endurance races - long time in the saddle sort of thing - big ups, big downs. One way or the other both of bikes give me the ultimate platform to finish - I can't say one way or the other if one is definitively faster. My tolerance for pain and my fitness level at the time are the biggest issues, like anyone else.

    However I do like the Ybb on those big 3k descents up here in the mountains (I also live in CO) where I just want to sit down and absorb a few hits, rather than stand up like you have to on a hard tail at times. If you just got done with a big climb, it's nice to rest those legs on the big descent. Sitting down on a hardtail for a descent only means you will get bucked out of the saddle a time or two. So, I tend to refer the Ybb of late for that reason.

    I ride singlespeed and found no issue on the YBB as they climb the same. I love Moots - but have been impressed with that Castellano design for years, BTW.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigdrunk
    Curtlo - Custom steel at great prices but hamstrung by a looong wait.
    Thanks, great suggestion, but I would like to ride it this year.

  23. #23
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    As good as a suggestion as the Curtlo may be, I too own a Silk Ti and have to suggest stealing money from tip jars at your local taco shop (or whatever it takes) to raise the funds for the Castellano.

    On the flip side, I have owned a Curtlo HT in the past and it was a wonderful frame.

    Also, keep an eye on eBay and MTBR. Sometimes YBB's show up in the $1,700 range. Funny thing about the used YBB's is that they show up in bunches of 3 -4 at a time.

    Quote Originally Posted by fos'l
    Thanks, great suggestion, but I would like to ride it this year.

  24. #24
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    I had a high end Ti softail (Merlin Fat Beat) for a while and I never felt the love for it. I thought it was the worst of both worlds. It was not enough suspension to make a difference, was undamped and it felt less snappy than a hardtail.
    "Son, The world needs ditchdiggers, too"-Ted Knight, Caddyshack

  25. #25
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    Salsa's not making the Dos Niner anymore? It's still on their website...

    http://salsacycles.com/bikes/dos_nin...iner_complete/

    did I miss something?

  26. #26
    Truly Doneski
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    I think that you should get a softtail. It sounds like you're preference already leans that way, and as long as you have a decent budget to build up a fairly good one, I don't think there's any reason not to consider one. Softtails are pretty blingy and impressive these days, and I dont think you'd hardly notice the slight weight penalty or the slight maintanence requirements of the ST. ST's are cool. I think a lot of people could be riding ST's comfortably rather than fullies, and I think you'd probably be really pleased with the buy.
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by intotheblue
    Salsa's not making the Dos Niner anymore? It's still on their website...

    http://salsacycles.com/bikes/dos_nin...iner_complete/

    did I miss something?
    It was off their website for a while, but was added back at the end of last year. Why? I don't know and never heard, but I also commented in a thread or two when they put it back up on the site.

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  28. #28
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    Ht/st

    Quote Originally Posted by intotheblue
    Salsa's not making the Dos Niner anymore? It's still on their website...

    http://salsacycles.com/bikes/dos_nin...iner_complete/

    did I miss something?
    I called Salsa yesterday and was informed that they have none in inventory, and aren't producing them. They did say that they may start manufacturing them at some future time.

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