6 reasons to go hardtail mountain biking [Opinion]
All opinions expressed in this article are owned by the author alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.
Having lived and ridden in a bunch of different countries, and having spent over a decade riding a bike now, I’ve noticed that something is missing on the trails, in some places more than others. It is the humble semi-rigid.
We Brits love good RIBs, especially if they’re made of steel, but that’s certainly not the prevailing attitude everywhere, and even on the sunny shores of my home country, no more bikes full suspension ride than before. I understand, full suspension makes a lot of things easier and more comfortable, but I still think there is room for a hardtail in everyone’s fleet, and I’ll try to convince you. Listen to me.
Hardtails are great for learning
Possible unpopular opinion: everyone should learn to ride a hardtail mountain bike, bar none. I learned to ride a hardtail like a lot of people, especially those who have been riding for a long time, and I would bet most of those people would agree with me. I see a lot of beginner riders these days riding full suspension bikes, and yes they make it easier to ride, but they get it wrong in learning fundamental skills and can pick up bad habits instead.
Riding a hardtail is more difficult, it’s rougher, it’s less comfortable, but it forces the rider to ride at a speed more appropriate to their skill level. With no rear suspension to smooth out bumps, it teaches riders to ride smoother and use their legs as a suspension – as everyone should with any bike, not just a hardtail. Riding a RIB teaches the choice of the line, because choosing the wrong line hurts. It teaches mechanical sympathy because you can tell when you crash your wheels. He teaches how to jump correctly without using the rear suspension to help. All of these skills are fundamental to riding, and by jumping straight onto a full suspension bike, people are depriving themselves of these skills. Drive a RIB first and put some time into it, you will learn to love it and it will be of great benefit to you in the long run. The first time you ride a full suspension bike will be amazing.
RIBs require little maintenance
Say what you love about any full suspension bike, a hardtail requires less maintenance 100% of the time. Fewer pivots means fewer moving parts, fewer bearings, less to maintain. Pivot bearings can cost hundreds of dollars to replace, especially if you’re paying a store to change them. Then you have the annual shock service, it’s $ 150 more.
Without a messy bond to collect mud, hardtails are also much easier to clean, and generally the wiring is less messy and considerably easier to replace. RIBs are rugged machines, which makes them ideally suited to the rigors of winter riding, or as we call it in the UK, ‘horseback riding’. Perhaps this is why hardtail has never really gone away in the UK and is experiencing a resurgence in other parts of the world. You can ride in any weather and spend a lot less time working on your bike. Go for a muddy ride, water your bike, lubricate the chain and you’re good to go for the next time.
When you need to do a little maintenance, it’s usually easier because less is going on, and if you crack or break your frame, you can just re-weld it if it’s steel. What’s not to like?
The right to brag
Imagine this, you and your friends are all at the waterhole after the ride enjoying an ice cold (or room temperature for us Brits) beer. Your friends are all bragging about that line they touched, the size of the drop they sent, or the rock garden they cleaned up. You sound “yeah, I rolled that on my hardtail.” Instant badass. You know, provided you can actually save your request.
Part of the fun of riding a hardtail, especially a modern aggressive hardtail, is that they’re super capable now. Some of them are longer and longer than most full suspension bikes, and more often than not the rider will hit their limits before the bike does. It’s a lot of fun to ride a hardtail in your usual spots and try to hit all the same lines, or even try newer and bigger lines. Nothing gives you more confidence than being able to cover gnarled trails on your RIB.
RIBs are versatile
Hardtails are super versatile bikes. Maybe you don’t want to ride one on the knottiest downhill trail on your local trail system, but you CAN do a lot more than you might not want to do on a full suspension trail bike. For starters, hardtails can make great commuter bikes. If you don’t have the space or the money for more than one bike, a hardtail makes pedaling on asphalt a lot easier than a full suspension bike. Just put some air in your tires and you’re good to go.
Maybe you want to try the gravel or go for a big cross country burn. Throw in lighter, smoother tires, and provided you don’t have a super aggressive hardtail, you’re probably good to go. Want to try bikepacking? No problem, hardtails are generally more efficient than full suspension bikes and have plenty of room for frame bags. Slight adjustments are usually all it takes to turn your hardtail into what it should be.
Hardtails are inexpensive to buy as well as to maintain. Often times you can buy a much better quality hardtail for the same price as a poor quality full suspension bike – you just need to figure out what your priorities are. Don’t get me wrong, you can still spend a lot of money on a hardtail – thousands even just for the frame, but think about the new Norco Torrent. It’s an awesome steel frame with a great spec for just $ 3,149. It’s almost $ 1,000 less than a Trek Remedy 8, and it has a better fork, brakes, wheels, etc. If what you want is an indestructible bike that will go anywhere and do anything for a reasonable expense, you can’t go wrong.
This is perhaps the main reason for driving a hardtail. They are funny ! It’s hard to take yourself really seriously (unless you’re an XC racer) when riding a hardtail. You’re unlikely to get a KOM on this super gnarly downhill, so why not just have fun and take life too seriously?
RIBs are great for having fun, jumping, trying out the streets or just enjoying the same trails as usual. The RIBs are a bit rougher, but that only adds to the feeling of speed, even if you’re not going as fast. They may even be more fun on some trails: the kind of trail that isn’t too rugged and requires a bit of pedaling, a gentle jumping trail, or a cool secret trail where you surf clay the whole way. . It’s hard not to have fun on a hardtail, and after all, fun is the reason most of us ride, right?
Go back to basics, swing your leg on a hardtail and remember why you mountain biking in the first place. You will be glad you did.