<p style=”text-align: left;”>I own a Trek Fuel Ex 5, and I recently joined my high school’s mountain bike team. As the pre-season practices progressed I began to notice that most of the students had hard-tails rather than full-suspension mountain bikes. When I asked why, I got the same resonse from everyone that I asked. They all said that hard-tails were more efficient. This got me wondering. I began to ask if I should save up for a hard-tail to replace my full-suspension Fuel Ex. Is it worth getting a hard-tail to replace my Fuel Ex? And if so, which one should I get?</p>
All my bikes are H/T and I am 59. I love the quickness, liveliness and the climbing ability of the H/T. I recently rode a Salsa bucksaw fs fatty and did not like the fs at all.(I do love fatties though) Could I get used to it, more than likely but until that is the only way I can ride I will stick to the H/T. As for which one you should get? That is up to you. You need to ride some and get a feel for them. It depends on budget, uses, ect…
Not only are hardtails more efficient, they are lighter. The main reason to ride full suspension is to better handle technical terrain. The choice of hardtail vs fully in racing is based on how technical the course is. The fact is that most xc race courses don’t have a lot of tech and the top riders ride hardtails. This is especially true of high school race courses, which have very little in the way of obstacles that may actually be faster on a fully. My son has always raced a fully, but that’s because he’s far more into hammering big rocks for fun than he is into being competitive at xc. Since we would only spring for one bike. he stuck with a fully. You can see him (and me) in the pics in today’s article:
I prefer full suspension for almost any type of riding. I don’t care about racing or going fast, and FS is much easier on the back and knees. That and what most people ignore is that for less technical trails (at least with air suspension) you can add air and adjust damping to stiffen the suspension. The biggest maintenance is still on the drive train, so to me the addition of rear shock is not that much more maintenance. The only real downside to me, and again I don’t race or ride for speed, is the cost.
Maybe its just my experience, but Id disagree. Had a Felt Q720, with a Rock Shox Revelation fork and lockout I added, and climbing was great until you hit anything. The rear tire, because it has no play, tends to jump up for a split second as it goes over roots, rocks, etc. My old Giant Trance , because the rear suspension has a rebound pushing back into the ground, hugs the ground a whole lot more when Im climbing. My Strava times are proof of it. Way, way faster on the Trance. From day one even, and I was very schooled on the hardtail. That split second where you are really cranking and it seems like a gear slips or something, when your rear tire hops over something before it comes back to the ground is what Im talking about. I can just straight up crank on the Trance and it always has traction. Its older also. Also, not sure, but I think my Trance is much lighter than the Felt I had. So that rule would only apply sometimes. I certainly woudnt get rid of the Trek if it were me. Just smoke em on the dowhill sections.
Yes, it’s true that full suspension can be faster even going uphill — on technical terrain. The suspension keeps the rear tire in contact with the ground, improving efficiency and speed. But again, this is only on technical terrain. Take it from someone who has raced a variety of courses, and who’s son has just completed his third year of high school racing–due to the nature of high school race courses, all the full suspension benefits are meaningless there and the hardtail benefits shine there. In Colorado, the majority of the varsity racers, and all the ones at the top are on hardtails.
Fullys can go faster downhill — but again that difference is maximized in the technical areas and less useful on most high school race courses. More importantly, being able to smoke’ em on the downhills doesn’t mean much when you get dropped on the uphills. Check out how much time you spend climbing and how much time you spend descending. There is the same amount of DISTANCE up and down, but there is MUCH MORE time spent climbing, so that’s the best place to make time when racing.
As I said, my son stuck with the fully for the fun factor, but he never was a threat to the podium anyway. Whether or not it’s worth the cost of getting the fastest bike for that specific application (high school racing) is up to you and your family based on your specific goals and other (non-racing) cycling desires.
I added tubeless and decent tires to my 29er hard tail, that gave me plenty of cush to tear up trails that don’t have super technical downhills. I’ve found that I’m riding that almost exclusively now and saving my full suspension bike for the bike parks and long downhill rides like Downieville. If I was racing I’d personally go hardtail for the lightness and power transfer of the bike.