The hardtail community might be small but it is mighty. People who embrace front suspension only seem to have a story behind their bike. “There were these mad men on hardtails, all from Chromag, and they were smiling the whole time [during the Four Queens race in Whistler], and when I asked them about it, they just said that the hardtail made the race that much more ridiculous and it was so much fun. It got me thinking about it, and the more I thought, the more I liked the idea, even though I had not ridden a hardtail in ages,” says Steve Sheldon from TORCA. Together with the words of a few other fanatics, here’s why the hardtail is so fun to ride.
So why consider a hardtail? If you are interested in mountain biking but are new to it, a hardtail is an excellent first bike. It’s not as expensive as a full suspension bike so it lets you figure out if you like the sport in the first place at a lower cost. If you fall in love like the rest of us, I think you will then be in a better position to buy a full-suspension bike that works for you.
Hardtails are also good tools for beginners because they make you think. A hardtail is not as forgiving as a full-suspension bike, thus you have to consider your line selection and timing. “I know that when I’m on my hardtail, I have to pick the nicest line, the smoothest option, and I need to be on my game. There is no suspension back there compensating for my mistakes,” says Jaclyn Delacroix, owner of Ozmosis Training. It forces you to ride smoother. You have to be in control of the bike. And you have to remember your bike-body separation. These are great skills to learn as a beginner.
No rear suspension causes more bouncing so unless your feet are correctly placed, you may bounce off the pedals. To avoid this precarious situation, keep the heels slightly down when descending. This allows your foot to apply forward pressure against the pedal. Instead of bouncing off the pedals, you will be braced against them. That same lack of rear suspension aids in climbing compared to a full-suspension bike. I find myself faster and more efficient on climbs using my hardtail. I’ve also learned to apply a rear-wheel lift in practice to get over roots and technical bits.
Finally, steel beats aluminum. Steel gives a little flex to the frame, allowing for a softer feel than the harsh aluminum frame. If interested in a hardtail, make it steel. Or titanium, if you have deep pockets.
See you on the trails!