So you are looking for a new mountain bike that can cope with long hard rides with some scary downhills and quite a few rocks. There are two sorts of bikes that fit the mold for all out cross-country riding: a lightweight full suspension and a high end hardtail.
Of the two we’ve come to prefer the full suspension bike, but bear in mind the following disadvantages:
- Weight the full suspension bike will weigh at least 2 pounds more than a hard tail unless you’ve spent way more money.
- Money expect to pay a lot more to keep the weight down than a hardtail.
- Maintenance rear shock servicing, pivot lubing and replacing.
However, there are a few advantages:
- Higher downhill speed and control.
- Full suspension bike tend to be more fun (because of the speed).
- Less fatigue on long hard rides.
I hope we haven’t nixed you idea of a full suspension. Personally, I would have to think long and hard before going back to a hardtail. On the other hand, with the new crop of free ride hard tails, with longer travel forks and lower back ends, a hardtail may be in my future. And nearly every hardtail owner I meet at tells me that nobody really needs a full suspension bike. This is true, but then you don’t need a mountain bike at all.
If you can’t decide between a hardtail and a full suspension bike, keeping in mind the magic $800 line. Buy a hardtail below $800 and a full suspension above it. If in doubt over which full suspension bike to buy, get the lightest as most people need to ‘adapt’ to full suspension before they accept the compromises of a heavy steed.
If you are on a low budget it really makes sense to buy a hardtail, these bikes can do almost all of what mountain biking is really about, usually for a lot less money. Full suspension bikes below $800 and over 30 pounds in weight are seriously out-performed by their lighter, stronger, hardtailed, brethren. The main reason for this is that the extra expense of the rear end seriously depletes the money left over for a quality front fork. A really good front fork is going to win the day for the hard tail, until the price where a really decent fork (and frame) is supplied on a full suspension bike.
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