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  1. #1
    xab
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    hardtail for Austin terrain?

    "Everyone" says you need full suspension for Austin's rocky and technical terrain. However, I am a beginner with a hardtail budget! 1200 is the absolute maximum

    For additional background, I have a ton of commuting and road touring riding under my belt, and am on the smaller/lighter end - 5'6"/135# Pretty decent mechanic but not experienced with mountain bike tech.

    Would plus size tires be helpful? I've heard they're slower and the feel depends on getting the air pressure exactly right

    Would a longer travel fork be helpful? Looking at the Diamondback Sync'r with 140mm travel

    Is BB drop a concern for hardtails on rocky terrain or is that only a full suspension issue?

    (thanks in advance)

  2. #2
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    Iíve ridden many Austin area trails on a hardtail, both an older 100mm travel 26er and a new 130mm travel 27.5 trail hardtail. I donít have an issue but itís really the rider, not the bike, as they say. But yeah, generally speaking you can go faster on a full suspension but itís all doable on a hardtail.


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  3. #3
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    Another thing to think about is that on a hardtail you will be fatigued faster because your legs are doing more work to act as suspension and your body is absorbing more impacts. Plus sized tires could help a bit l, but there are drawbacks, like weight and especially tire durability in rocky terrain.


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  4. #4
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    I actually prefer my hardtail for rockier terrain like government canyon, pedernales, banders etc and ride a giant fathom 27.5 so you should be fine on a hardtail. If I had to do it over again I would do a chromag and build it up but that is for later this year

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  5. #5
    xab
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    The chromags look like they all have massive travel in the front, 160mm. Do you think 120mm is pretty good? Would 140mm be noticeably better?

    Also thanks Feedthewolf for your plus size tire comments. Good to know about durability

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by xab View Post
    The chromags look like they all have massive travel in the front, 160mm. Do you think 120mm is pretty good? Would 140mm be noticeably better?

    Also thanks Feedthewolf for your plus size tire comments. Good to know about durability
    120mm is plenty for a hardtail, but may depend on your riding style. I run 130mm now and I never bottom out but I also only weigh 155-160.


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  7. #7
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    You can definitely ride Austin trails faster and harder with full suspension, but you can ride a hardtail for sure. I think a more aggressive hardtail that will take plus tires makes it more enjoyable.

    I run a Santa Cruz Chameleon with 2.8 tires and a 140 fork here and itís a pretty good setup. You canít run it as hard as my full suspension, but you can definitely make it work. A strong hardtail with a slack head angle and decent fork is actually a lot of fun.

  8. #8
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    120mm should be fine I have a bit more 140 just because I got a good deal on a fork at the time. I run 2.30 tires on my hardtail and never had any issues and love them but did actually go up to a 2.80 on my SC hightower (27.5+) and am enjoying them as well. The chromag comes with 2.60 tires so I'm sure it will be just as much fun as I am slowly converted to larger tires and seeing the benefits of running a larger tire.

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    Last edited by natas1321; 02-10-2019 at 02:08 AM. Reason: mistake

  9. #9
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    There are a bunch of singlespeeders who ride all the gnar stuff in Austin on hardtails, many of them with rigid forks. aside from the freeride huck stuff, a hardtail in Austin is only limited by the rider. Once in a while, I put a 100mm suspension fork on my bike and I have not died yet.

    not to sound like a tough guy, but I have only owned one mountain bike at a time for my decade of mountain biking and the past 5-1/2 years of riding Austin on a rigid singlespeed have been a blast. I shake my head when I read bullshit like, "you NEED to have XXX amount of travel to ride Austin trails." harden up, folks!

    A higher bottom bracket is theoretically a good idea for central Texas terrain as every little bit helps with all the jagged limestone. look at the geometry of the Austin-made Chumba Stella (though out of your budget) for an example- very high BB and "old school" geometry. A Canfield Nimble 9 is more modern and in the same vein.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    There are a bunch of singlespeeders who ride all the gnar stuff in Austin on hardtails, many of them with rigid forks. aside from the freeride huck stuff, a hardtail in Austin is only limited by the rider. Once in a while, I put a 100mm suspension fork on my bike and I have not died yet.

    not to sound like a tough guy, but I have only owned one mountain bike at a time for my decade of mountain biking and the past 5-1/2 years of riding Austin on a rigid singlespeed have been a blast. I shake my head when I read bullshit like, "you NEED to have XXX amount of travel to ride Austin trails." harden up, folks!

    A higher bottom bracket is theoretically a good idea for central Texas terrain as every little bit helps with all the jagged limestone. look at the geometry of the Austin-made Chumba Stella (though out of your budget) for an example- very high BB and "old school" geometry. A Canfield Nimble 9 is more modern and in the same vein.
    I rode a lightweight XC hardtail on pretty much every trail in Austin for 10 years until I broke the frame. It can definitely be done for sure. That said, I have a lot more fun, go a lot faster and crash a heck of a lot less with my full suspension.

    I do like to ride my hardtail with a more aggressive geo though as a change up. Keeps you sharp on your skills.

  11. #11
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    With your budget a HT is my guidance-----a FS would be nice but to get a decent one will cost too much. Remember us older guys only had HT's for many years and managed to survive--at least most of us

  12. #12
    xab
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    hardtail in Austin is only limited by the rider
    Yeah, I'm a beginner with zero actual MTB skills! I don't want to set myself up for a ridiculously steep learning curve that is no fun. I don't have any friends to ride off-road with who can give me pointers and encourage me to stick with it. I agree with you in spirit (ride only singlespeed for commuting and fun on the road for past decade) but the cold hard reality is that my job beats me up enough, and the sore hands, wrists, etc from unskilled full rigid riding sounds like a big ol hell no.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by xab View Post
    Yeah, I'm a beginner with zero actual MTB skills!
    fair enough. you don't want to handicap yourself with a bike that is under-equipped for the terrain at your skill level. I was not suggesting that you should start out on a rigid singlespeed (that's what I did, but I had 15 years of bike-handling experience from BMX hen I started MTB), just saying that there is no minimum requirement ride Austin trails and that "everyone" is full of crap. don't let that mentality take root in your mind or it will infect your riding experience with a case of chronic upgraditis and lead you to believe that your bike, not the rider, is holding you back.

    just don't let anyone tell you that you need a $11K carbon fibre, electric shifting, long-travel uberbike to ride anything in Austin. you certainly don't "need" FS.you'll walk some features and get your ass kicked once in a while no matter what bike you ride.

    even if you had said uberbike, it too would be limited by the rider. bikes don't ride themselves. so there's a steep learning curve for anyone on any bike. I think that, at a certain point, over-biking an unskilled rider can be a liability too. having "too much bike" might give you a false sense of security that can lead to disaster.

    I'd say shoot up the middle- a 120-140mm 29er/B+ hardtail with big tubeless tires and a 1X drivetrain should be just fine. all that "slack" modern geometry can be useful, but at risk of starting a big debate, it's not useful after a certain point for some riders on some trails. the idea behind some of the current bike designs is to make them stable at speed over rough terrain. if you're not taking long downhills with ledges and jumps at speed because you're a beginner and not seeking out the few trails in the area that have that kind of stuff, it might be a liability.

    definitely check the used market in Austin! there are a ton of dedicated riders with deep pockets who frequently spend a lot of money on new bikes to try new things and get bored with them within a year and sell them off. You can probably find an excellent FS bike in your price range. (I just saw a 2011 Salsa Spearfish that sold for $700.) Bicycle Sport Shop on N. Lamar has a great used bike selection as well. test ride a few bikes if you can. lately I have heard a lot of people who love their Trek Stache hardtails for Austin terrain.

    Did you ask around at some bike shops? What side of Austin are you on? Go visit a few and ask what they recommend for an entry-level bike that is actually going to be ridden on Austin trails. 99% of the mountain bikes sold in the area are used to do laps around Ladybird Lake Trail and never see "real" trails. Visiting a few shops will give you a varied opinion and expose you to the offerings from a few brands at different dealers. Buck's Bikes, Bicycle Sport Shop, ATX Bikes, Texas Cyclewerks, Mellow Jonny's, Cycle East, Monkey Wrench, The Peddler, and Bikealot are all good places to start. I am a fan of ATX Bikes at the moment, they do a lot to support the nearby high school teams, so they probably equip a ton of new riders with smaller budgets.

    That Sync'r you mentioned would fit the bill, but there are dozens of similar bikes in the same price range and level. DB sells direct, but you can probably get a bike on the same level for the same price paying retail at a local shop and having the support of that shop when you need it will be worth it.

    with your budget, keep in mind that you might need to purchase some gear- hydration pack (I chug down over 3 liters of water in two hours when it's really hot), helmet, gloves, glasses to keep rocks and thorns out of your eyeballs, etc. you might already have this stuff and you can get it cheap, but it adds up.

    Where did you plan to ride? Trails in Austin range from easy, flat paths to gnarly freeride stuff. for your first few rides, I would explore Walnut Creek. If you're on the south side (my area), check out Slaughter Creek Nature Preserve or ask for a tour of the other south Austin trails.

    Keep in mind that most of the Austin trails have been off-limits and unrideable for the past few months due to all the rain. when you get your bike, check in with locals about trails conditions before you go trashing muddy trails. that might be obvious to you, but based on the ruts I see when I ride dry trails, many people have not figured that out.

  14. #14
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    There are things you can do to make a hardtail more capable. Tubeless, 2.4-2.6" tires with some tall-ish center knobs, cush core. The longer fork travel is mainly useful at speed. I use 100mm no problems.

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    I have ridden plenty while I got some money for a better bike. Started in a diamondback overdrive, then to a line, then to a mason 2 and now a catch 2. You can get that brand cheap if you know where to look. I love hard tails and the new syncr look great but you can get a mason 2 within you budget. Plus tires did help with the fatigue to be able to keep up for longer rides with my friends and overall confidence. I did all but one of the drops at brushy with my mason 2 without problems but I would be lying if I said it wasnít a way rougher landing vs the catch 2.

    I wouldnít do regular size 27.5 hard tail in the austin terrain again, maybe as a jump bike or for those ocasional street or walnut rides.

    You can pm me if you plan on going with that brand to help you with buying tips. I do like other brands but price point/parts has kept me around them

  16. #16
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    It depends how fast you want to go and how resilient your body is.

    Here are the types of people on hardtails here:
    People without enough money for FS,
    Reallyskilled riders
    People who have experience on both bikes and just love hardtails (see above)
    Stubborn people
    Those who own a FS that is broken or they want to sharpen skills and line choice.

    I learned to ride in the Greenbelt on 26" Hardtails. In fact I rode the Greenbelt for about a year before I ever made it anywhere else like Walnut. When I bought a 29er FS, it was lights out. There arent many places where a Hardtail is faster in Austin proper. I do ride my Hardtail a lot and love it and like others in this thread like to ride it on Technical terrain, but I like to go fast and carry speed and there are trails where I really would skip if it were my only option. I rode my Hardtail on a 30 miler in the GB this weekend. doesnt mean it was the wisest choice.

    If you have your choice, Get a FS 29er.

    Getting a hardtail with a 140 fork does not fix the problem that you have a hardtail. I would look elsehwere for bikes for Austin than those DB bikes. There is not a lot in Austin that warrants a 140mm fork, and if it does, you certainly do not want it to have a hardtail! Any 120/120 bikes would be far better.

    If you want an affordable HT that that will do everything well in Austin, just buy a Trek Stache. It will probably be the most fun you will have on a hardtail in the austin area.

  17. #17
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    [QUOTE=FJSnoozer;14001336]Here are the types of people on hardtails here:
    1. People without enough money for FS,
    2. Really skilled riders
    3. People who have experience on both bikes and just love hardtails (see above)
    4. Stubborn people
    5. Those who own a FS that is broken or they want to sharpen skills and line choice.

    Call me mostly 4, definitely some 1, and maybe some of 2.

    I have fun, even if the HT beats me up a bit more and it's not as fast some. The importance of "going fast" and what constitutes "fast" is relative and subjective. I am happy to go fast enough to keep up with a group (which is mostly about skill and not the bike I am on) and fast enough that it feels fun and challenging.

    "Hardtail with a 140mm fork..."

    Agreed. A hardtail is still a hardtail, no matter the frame geo, fork travel, tire size, etc. To use an old phrase, it's possible that an apparently "aggro" HT can have "a front wheel that writes checks that the rear can't cash".

    you need to be strong enough to stand up a lot more and wrangle the bike over the terrain on a HT. Do not look to my example, I am getting soft and slow.

  18. #18
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    A FS bike is much nicer on the terrain here, but a hardtail with the right geo can be a bunch of fun. The FS will allow you to stay seated more where with the HT you need to use your legs more as they become your rear suspension. I have an aggressive geo HT with 140 fork that is a lot of fun but when I'm done riding my legs definitely feel it. People say a FS is faster but I find the opposite for my regular trail I can shave about two minutes off my usual ride on my HT. That being said I don't think I'd want to ride my HT all the time unless that was my only choice. Are you looking for a complete bike or do you possess the tools/skills to build your own? If you can build your own you could build a pretty nice HT within your budget. Buying complete almost always leaves you with some trade off as far as build spec goes. I built a Dartmoor Primal+ for just under $1300 it has a Yari 140 fork, SLX 1x11, DT Swiss XM481 29 wheels w/Hope Pro 4 hubs, Brand X dropper, Easton Haven bars, Raceface Aeffect cranks. The Sync'r would be a good bike for around Austin basically same geo as my Dartmoor, the only thing I would change on it would be the seat post by adding a dropper.
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  19. #19
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    Just to give some perspective to what seems to be the dominant opinion here, my experience has been the opposite of most. I started on FS and used to say things like, ďMy main bike will never be a hard tail because blah blah blah.Ē A few years in I switched over to hardtails and havenít looked back. My skills improved faster than on a FS because I didnít have a bike to compensate for my bad habits. Faster than ever too, and not just compared to myself. Main reason for sharing this is to show that itís all relative, ymmv, etc.

    I second whoever recommended the Stache, most fun bike Iíve ever ridden hands down.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by xab View Post
    Also thanks Feedthewolf for your plus size tire comments. Good to know about durability
    Actually, he's mistaken: durability isn't about size, it's about make and model.

    THere's nothing that leads to the conclusion that skinnier tires are automatically more durable. If anything, I've found the opposite.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Actually, he's mistaken: durability isn't about size, it's about make and model.

    THere's nothing that leads to the conclusion that skinnier tires are automatically more durable. If anything, I've found the opposite.
    It was kind of a broad statement. Like how a lot of manufacturers try to make plus tires lighter by compromising casing thickness. They have got better but you get some heavy tires for that durability.


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