Full suspension vs. Hardtail Mountain Bikes: Regional Differences


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!

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