6 Reasons to Ride a Hardtail Mountain Bike [Opinion]
All opinions expressed in this article belong to the author alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.
Having lived and ridden in many different countries, and having spent over a decade riding a bike, I noticed that there was something missing on the trails, in some places more than others. It’s the humble hardtail.
We Brits love a good hardtail, especially if it’s steel, but that’s certainly not the prevailing attitude everywhere, and even on the sunny coasts of my home country, no more bikes with full suspension are used than before. I get it, full suspension makes a lot of things easier and more comfortable, but I still think there’s 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 mountain bike on a hardtail, without exception. I learned to ride a hardtail like a lot of people, especially those who have been on the bike for a long time, and I’d bet most of those people would agree with me. I see a lot of new riders these days riding full suspension bikes, and yes, they make the ride easier, but they mess up learning fundamental skills and can learn bad habits instead.
Riding a hardtail is harder, 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 the bumps, it teaches riders to ride smoother and use their legs for suspension—like everyone should ride a bike, not just a hardtail. Riding a hardtail teaches line choice, because picking the wrong line hurts. It teaches mechanical sympathy, because you can tell when you’re breaking your wheels. It teaches how to bunnyhop 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. Get on a hardtail first and put in the time, you’ll learn to love it and it will benefit you greatly in the long run. The first time you ride a full suspension bike will be amazing.
Hardtails 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, fewer things to maintain. Pivot bearings can cost hundreds of dollars to replace, especially if you pay a store to change them. Then you have the annual shock service, that’s another $150+.
Without messy binding to collect mud, hardtails are also much easier to clean, and wiring is generally less messy and considerably easier to replace. Hardtails are tough machines, making them well suited to the rigors of winter riding, or as we call it in the UK, “driving”. Perhaps that’s why the hardtail never really died out in the UK and is seeing something of a resurgence in other parts of the world. You can ride in any weather and spend a lot less time working on your bike. Just go for a muddy ride, hose down your bike, lube the chain and you’re ready for next time.
When you need to do a bit of maintenance, it’s usually easier because there’s less work, and if you crack or break your frame, you can simply re-weld it if it’s steel. What’s not to like?
Imagine this, you and your friends are all at the watering hole after the ride enjoying an ice cold (or room temperature for us Brits) beer. Your friends are all bragging about that line they hit, the size of the drop they sent, or the rock garden they cleaned. You say “yeah, I rode that on my hardtail”. Instant badass. You know, provided you can actually back up your claim.
Part of the fun of riding a hardtail, especially a modern aggressive hardtail, is that they are now super capable. Some of them are slacker and longer than many full-suspension bikes, and more often than not the rider will hit their limit before the bike does. It’s great fun to ride a hardtail in your usual spots and try to hit all the same lines, or even try some newer, bigger lines. Nothing gives you more confidence than being able to navigate gnarly trails on your hardtail.
RIBs are versatile
Hardtails are super versatile bikes. Maybe you don’t want to ride the gnarliest downhill track on your local trail system, but there’s a lot more you CAN do that you might not want to do on a suspension trail bike. integral. 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 much easier than a full suspension bike. Just put some extra air in your tires and you’re good to go.
Maybe you want to try some gravel riding or some heavy cross-country riding. Throw in some lighter, slicker 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. A few slight modifications are usually enough to turn your hardtail into anything it needs.
RIBs are cheap to buy and maintain. Often 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 big bucks on a hardtail – thousands even just on the frame, but consider the new Norco Torrent. It’s an awesome steel frame with a great spec for just $3,149 USD. That’s almost $1,000 less than a Trek Remedy 8, and it has better forks, brakes, wheels, etc. If what you want is an indestructible bike that will go anywhere and do anything for a reasonable outlay, you can’t go wrong.
This is perhaps the main reason to ride a hardtail. They are funny ! It’s hard to really take yourself seriously (unless you’re an XC racer) when riding a hardtail. You’re unlikely to get a KOM on this super gnarly descent, so why not just have fun and not take life too seriously?
Hardtails are great for having fun, doing jumps, street trials, or just enjoying the same trails as usual. Hardtails are a little rougher, but that just adds to the feeling of speed, even if you’re not riding as fast. They can even be more fun on certain trails: the kind of trail that isn’t too rough and requires a bit of pedaling, a soft jump trail, or a cool secret trail where you’re surfing dirt the whole way. It’s hard not to have fun on a hardtail, and after all, fun is what most of us ride, right?
Go back to basics, swing your leg on a hardtail and remember why you’re mountain biking in the first place. You’ll be glad you did.