The other day a question popped into my head: Are there regional trail differences that make one mountain bike type a better choice than the other? To answer this question I hit the spreadsheets to crunch some numbers from singletracks and the results are a little surprising.

First off, this study isn’t scientific by any means. The numbers come from registered singletracks members who have used ‘My Gear’ and/or ‘My Bikes’ to keep track of their mountain bikes which gives us a couple thousand data points to work with. This may seem like a lot of information but once we start breaking down numbers by US state some states are left with little to go on. As such we’ve aggregated the data into three US regions: West Coast, East Coast, and Mid-west.

Enough with the statistics lesson – on to the results! In total, about 43% of singletracks members own dual suspension mountain bikes leaving (you guessed it!) 57% who still ride hardtail bikes (yours truly included).
Most popular bike type by US region:

  • East Coast: Hardtail
  • West Coast: Dual Suspension
  • Mid-West: Hardtail (just slightly more popular than Dual Suspension)

I’ve done a good bit of riding on both coasts (Colorado is considered West Coast in our study) and I can tell you my own feeling is that I’d like to have a dualie for my East Coast rides and a hardtail for my Colorado and California rides (contrary to the study results). The roots and rocks on the east coast make many trails washboard rough while most of my favorite trails out west are fast hardpack and slickrock rides. Of course if you’re into downhill or more technical trails you’ll want a full suspension ride no matter what coast you call home!

Drilling down a little deeper, we notice some interesting things at the state level. In Virginia, for example, mountain bikers are much more likely than average to ride a full suspension bike. But just to the south, riders in North Carolina have made the opposite choice and are more likely than average to ride a hardtail. Same terrain (basically) – but different bike choice – so perhaps regional trail conditions don’t impact bike choice.

We could also draw another conclusion from this study: West coast riders are leading indicators of things to come in the mid-west and east. We all know mountain biking was invented in the west and it certainly took time for the sport to migrate to the east side so perhaps we’ll see the same migration of suspension technology in the years to come (though that still doesn’t explain Virginia). The 29er movement may be a good trend to track as well to see if it holds to the same west-to-east pattern…

For many mountain bikers suspension choice may come down to a financial decision so that’s something to consider as well. The point of all this is to say that if you’re looking for a new mountain bike, consider where and how you’ll be riding in addition to price and technology. If you need help making your decision, pop over to our MTB forums and get your questions answered!

# Comments

  • PghDragonMan

    Interesting study and I like the way you mined the data with what you had at hand.

    Is there sufficient data to crunch it looking for another trend? I have no qualm with your results, but what I’m wondering if riding *choice* drives the choice of bike owned as opposed to trail condition. Could it be that those closer to the West *prefer* the really rugged stuff that is better suited to full suspension than Eastern riders? Yeah, we got rugged tree roots in the East, but our mouintains were worn down a lot by glaciers, so the average mountain is not as steep as in the Rockies and West. Mind you, I said *average*. Yeah, if you look for it, you can find some really steep and rugged stuff in the East.

    I’m not looking to start a controversy. I’m just looking to see if there is an underlyiong reason to what you found.

  • trek7k

    Yeah, good question. To answer that we’d need to survey folks and ask what kind of rider they are: XC, Downhill, Freeride, etc. and compare that to what kind of bike they own. My guess is it would line up pretty well (though if you actually observed these people riding on the trail it might be a different story).

    I totally agree that there could be other things driving these results beyond just regional terrain. It could simply be marketing – the bike companies tell people they need an expensive FS rig to ride the local greenways and some people fall for it. Or it could be peer pressure – my friends all ride hardtails so I will too. As I mentioned financial considerations could play in as well – people in CA tend to have more disposable income to spend on recreation than those in GA and NC so maybe they spend more on bikes. Who knows?

    I’m also crunching numbers to see if certain bike brands are more popular in certain states / regions and will post that soon. For this question I’m thinking marketing and/or peer pressue will play a large role but we’ll see…

  • Mongoose

    Good point there ‘trek7k’! I ride mostly DH/FR but lately just XC/FR especially during the winter months. I own two DH/FR rigs (Mongoose Triple BlackDiamond & Sinister R9), one AM Specialized PRO FSR, and one XC MTB (the klunker). My little lady had a Fisher HiFi Carbon, but we sold it so we can use the funds to get a AM HT for my little lady and myself.

    I will say that MTB marketing tactics lead people to buy more expensive FS rigs just as ‘trek7k’ stated. Its a shame that they cannot fit someone in a bike that the person wants or fits their needs instead of thinking of the “Ching Ching” effect. Oh well, the all mighty dollar rules the world! Anyway, great post ‘trek7k”!

  • hproctor

    Great article but I too am surprised at the high percentage of hardtail users (I’m one). I live in Florida, just a few miles from any trailhead on the Santos system. I ride 4 or five days a week and generally see one other hardtail a week.
    This summer I traveled to Oregon and rode several of the trails there (Sandy Ridge was the only one that my body called for a FS model when I was finished riding). The past few weeks I have been riding the trails around San Diego. I see a hardtail for every 20 FS bike.

  • hproctor

    Haha! I see this article is 6 years old. Maybe the numbers are different now!

    • Greg Heil

      Yes, I’m sure it’s changed since 2008 🙂 Full suspension bikes are more efficient than ever before, and they’re even more affordable: you can get a way better full suspension bike, dollar for dollar, these days than ever before.

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