Hard-Tail vs Full Suspension Newbie Situation

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Hard-Tail vs Full Suspension Newbie Situation

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    • #222728

      This is my first year out mountain biking and I love it! I bought a Trek X-Caliber 9 because I ride on flat trails for cardio as well as mountain biking. This is my first ever bike with any type of suspension and I I spent the little extra money for an air fork in the front. So far I love it! It’s quick on the trails, and suits me well enough for the flat trails to trails I do too. However, I feel I am always taking my bike in for a tune up as I beat it up on the trails. Nothing has ever broken on me (and it’s been through a lot so far), but everything seems to need readjusting after every aggressive trail ride I do to make it feel perfect again. I also feel I am not confident yet in riding some more difficult trails and would like to move up to a full suspension bike. I would like to know if I should keep riding my 29er hard-tail and just keep practicing with it, or buy a used full suspension next year. Also to note, the tires on my bike are starting to get worn from riding all the time and I have flat pedals that I sometimes slip off of on jumps. I don’t have a huge budget and would also eventually like to go clip-less and have the full suspension bike on plus sized tires. Can anyone recommend their thoughts to a newbie and/ or have a full suspension bike they are looking to sell in the near future? Thanks!

    • #222729

      I was in a similar situation few months ago. I had a Trek hardtail that I sort of regretted getting as it couldn’t handle rough terrain and I felt that my skills might start to surpass the capabilities of the bike. I ended up getting a Niner Jet and have been pleased so far. With the Niner I can run both 29″ and 27.5 plus tires which is something you might be interested since you already ride a 29er and mentioned getting plus tires. I’m sure other full suspension bikes have this option as well so keep that in mind as you search.

      It’s easy to say just go with a full suspension because it should be able to take abuse from the trails and will be able to keep up with your improving skills, but I think the best thing to do would be to demo some full sus bikes in your potential price range and see what you think. You might find the full sus of your dreams, but you might also realize that it isn’t what you need right now. It is possible that upgrading your current ride might be the answer. If that’s the case I’d look into new, higher quality wheels and tires, new drive train components and maybe a new fork.  If you’re gonna go the full sus route I’d at least look into buying new because it’s possible that upgrading your current ride would be better than getting a used full sus. Either way should leave you with enough options to give you what you need.

      • #222730

        Any suggestion on what kind of Wheels, Tires, or Fork I should get? I spent the extra money on an air fork because I figured at least I wouldn’t have to upgrade that down the road. Also, you think upgrading my hard-tail would be nearly as good as buying a used FS? I’d never thought about that!

    • #222731

      When I mentioned a new fork I was just listing the usual suspects when people upgrade. You’re probably fine with the air fork you have. The only upgrade wheels and tires I’ve ever dealt with are Shimano MT35 wheels and Maxxis Crossmark tires. The Shimano wheels were not the greatest wheel set on the market but that’s what I could afford at the time. However in my experience with Bontrager stock wheels on Trek bikes, I’ve found them to be pretty terrible so any upgrade is probably wise. Unfortunately, I don’t have extensive product knowledge but I’m sure others in this community or your local shop can help with that.

      With an upgraded bike you know exactly what you are getting. You can put new parts on a bike that only you’ve used. Unless you know the previous owner of the used bike and how often the bike was serviced and maintained, you don’t really know what you’re getting. That’s why I’ve never really been a fan of used bikes. Let me put this on the record- not all used bikes are bad and some people run used bikes with no problems at all. That being said full FS bikes certainly have benefits over hard tails, so that’s also something to consider. Ultimately, you’ll need to make a decision based on what your needs and budget call for. I know it’s a tough call but with some research and maybe a few demos, you can determine what the answer is.

    • #222732

      I had the same problem. Got into MTB on an entry-level hardtail with a Suntour fork, and quickly found its technical limits. I fixed the problem by throwing money at it, but I could just as easily have upgraded my fork and drivetrain. My Fox fork is soooooooo much better than the Suntour.

      But there’s no way around needing new tires. I’m getting about 12-18 months out of my tires. Schwalbe Nobby Nics really love the trails around here.

    • #222753

      Rule is that a inexpensive hard tail will out perform an inexpensive full suspension bike any day of the week. You can IF you are an informed consumer find a deal on a killer used full suspension bike, but do your research thoroughly and as always, caveat emptor.

      I will recommend that you beat the livin’ tar out of the bike you have. Upgrade ONLY to replace what is worn out (tires, tubes if you run them, drive train: cassettes, chain etc.). No new major stuff (fork, wheels, brakes).  The longer you wait to move on to a new rig the more informed you’ll be. You will avoid upgrade-itis and the waste of money this syndrome causes. You will also know yourself better in so much that you will possess a better understanding of the demands of the terrain you frequent, how you ride, what areas on your bike you want better performance from specifically and the needs for yourself for future riding challenges.

      Or you can just buy some bright costly sparkly thing to satiate you cycling magpie urges. Whatever turns you on.

    • #222796

      I’d say, while full-suspension and clipless pedals will help you to some degree, no technology will substitute your skills. That’s where you should invest most – improve your skills.

      Learn proper weight distribution, body position, cornering techniques, how to pump on the trail etc, and you’ll be surprised of how rough you can go on your hardtail.

      Personally I am a fan of full-suspension bikes for anything rougher then beginner-friendly trails. But in order to use all the potential of that suspension I ride rigid bike a lot to improve those basic skills and use them when riding full squish

    • #222824

      For opponents of buying used (especially full-suspension) bikes. How many of you bought used car, a far more complicated machine, and saved a lot over buying new? Sure it will break at some point. And it doesn’t have those fancy futures. But if that’s what you can afford at the moment, it will get you from A to B.

      Bikes are fairly simple and not much can go wrong with it. It’s much easier to diagnose worn out suspension components or drivetrain then if you buying a car. The only real question is if it’s worth buying given bike for that amount of money…


      • #223030

        Full suspension bikes have more potential for creaks and stuff going out of whack – more moving parts.  So if the concern is that the bike is beat up and needs frequent tunes, that will continue to be the case with a full suspension bike.  About every fifth ride, I basically strip half my bike, including cleaning the axles, cleaning and tightening the spokes, removing and cleaning the seatpost, etc to reduce creaking.

      • #223052

        Wanted to reply because I am in the EXACT same position – meaning, the first ever mountain bike I bought was a Trek X-Caliber 9.  That was nearly three years ago.  I am still riding that bike today.  It got me into the sport, and I am totally addicted now.  Like others suggested, I have ridden the living snot out of that bike.  It’s got so much character (scratches, scrapes and dings)!  I have worn through tires, cassettes, chains, brake pads, even trigger shifters.  I’ve replaced each of those components as they have worn out.  I haven’t really upgraded, except the cassette I’m running now is a bit better than the stock cassette – but I only upgraded to this one after bending the third gear on two different stock cassettes!  Figured it was time to try something stronger.  Anyway, I ride that hardtail on any and every local trail I can find (northern Colorado).  I don’t hesitate to ride it on the gnarliest rockiest techiest trails that we have.  All my friends ride nicer and newer full suspension bikes.  They’re all slower than me, too, and can’t clean the stuff that I can.  That’s not because of the bike, that’s because I ride a lot more than they do.  Their bikes are totally more capable than mine.  I dream of someday upgrading to something like theirs, and I fully intend to do so.  Until I feel like I can afford it, I just go shred the gnar with what I’ve got.  And I’m loving it!

    • #223053

      Oh, and like you, I used to take my bike in for adjustments a lot.  I got tired of that and just learned how to be my own wrench.  I’ve gotten pretty bike savvy – still plenty to learn, but I haven’t felt the need to visit the shop in a long time.

    • #223057

      I also ride a hard tail. I have ridden Wal-Mart bikes and bmx as a kid. I have never been scared of going down big stuff, and I am not near a pro by any means, and really call myself a newb that has balls.  I just got a REI Co Op drt 1.3, salesman sold me on it, but I talked him down 200$. A lot of guys I ride with have new $3k full sus bikes and they cannot keep up with me. esp down hill, on climbs one guy will catch up and sometimes pass me (he is a cross country runner, I’m a freshly quit smoker).


      I wouldn’t ride a full sus right now even if someone gave it to me. I love my bike, when flying down beach mountain in NC I don’t hit the brakes and love the hard core feeling of all the bouncing and hardness of the ride. I don’t know a lot of other bikes as I never road them, but hard tails are just fine. If you are  a new rider I’m sure the bike has a lot more then what we got to push them


      its not the bike its the rider as I have been told many times. same goes on dirt bikes (that’s what I am used to). I plan on riding this bike for couple years. I have had this bike for 3 months now, and I’m at 150 miles of non beginner trail riding. I have a lot to learn about proper riding technique before I need to upgrade.

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