Would love to hear some local experiences on this. Considering the apparent popularity of full suspension bikes around NS, what made you take the leap and buy a FS bike? What made you get past the sticker-shock? Have you ever considered yourself “over-biked” for your typical riding locations?
Natural progression I guess. Started on hard tail XC then found the idea of FS trail made sense. Now I have DH bikes. Comes down to what I need for the job. No bike does it all. I still prefer hardtail for XC. If your in the market for a bike to enter the sport i would suggest a 10year old high end FS bike with a lock out. Price will be fair, quality will be high and the lockout will give you the option of a hardtail. If you find you are ready to buy the first NEW perfect bike for you, you will have a good idea. If you rode locked out the whole time, buy a hardtail and save some weight, if your bottoming out your suspension time for a bigger travel bike…
Like @Plunksalot I started on a midrange hardtail and rode that for a couple of years. Watching what guys were doing on full suspension bikes inspired me to take the plunge. I got past the sticker shock by buying used. Once my riding buddy saw what having a full suspension did for my riding (and trying it himself) he quickly sold his hardtail and bought a full suspension bike. My main full suspension (140mm front, 125mm rear) is fine for almost anything that I ride- from the Trans Canada trail to Keppoch. Having said that I do have a variery of bikes to choose from now and there’s nothing like riding a proper DH bike somewhere like Keppoch, it’s just another level of what you can do and… what you can get away with!
Currently on a 29er hardtail with no FS in sight. Economics made the decision for me.
I was one of the first ones to embrace a full suspension bike. This would have been mid 90’s. Really all it took was one ride and I was hooked. I could go into a long explanation but really it was that obvious to me. The platform really suited my riding style and I never looked back. The real question was which design to choose as back then you a ton of choices as the manufacturers were trying to figure out what worked best.
I’ve been on full suspension so long, it’s no longer a question. I just do it. Started riding in 1998 on a Raleigh Serengeti hardtail. Spent about $600 for it. Rode it for about 3 years. In that time, I accepted back pain as just part of mountain biking. It probably didn’t help that the prevalent geometry at the time was a race-oriented geometry - long and low, and that most trails were of the old-school rake-and-ride variety without a lot of rock and root removal.
After three years, I decided that I was serious enough about mountain biking to put some money into it for a full suspension. Bought a 2001 Specialized Rockhopper FSRXC full suspension for about $1500. Back pain disappeared. The suspension didn’t make as much of a difference as I thought it might, but smoothed out the ride so I no longer took as many spikes to the back. Better traction too, I think, as the rear tire stuck to the trail better.
I still ride a hardtail, but not as often as the full suspension. My jump bike and winter bike are hardtails. I often “over-bike” ride, as @Baron put it, by taking my current FS Stumpjumper on park trails like Shubie, Sackville Lakes, and even rail trails. It’s just such a better bike and a better fit than my hardtails.
It’s funny, but the price point for a good quality full suspension bike doesn’t seem to have come down since 2001. Looking at Cyclesmith, Valley Stove and Cycle, and Giant Halifax websites, full suspension seems to start above $2000.
Is it worth it? It depends. How you ride, how much you ride, where you ride. Trail building seems to be at a higher level these days. MRWA, Reservoir Park, Irishmans, newer trails at Victoria Park, Brunello, etc. There are fewer mandatory rough features, like root masses, rock gardens, ledges and drop-offs on these trails. For these, a hardtail would be great, unless you want to take on some of the gnarlier trail features. For the more “artisanal” old-school trails, like Whopper, Spider Lake, and the older Victoria Park trails, a full suspension would make the trails more comfortable. As I get older, keeping the trails easy on my body will help me ride longer.
Another factor in favor of hardtails these days is evolution of bike technology. Hardtails are mostly well equipped with progressive geometry and more compliant frames than the old days. Suspension has improved a lot, so suspension forks soak up bumps much better than they used to. 27.5 and 29 wheels roll over rough terrain better than 26’er. With 27.5+ tires (2.8-3") on a hardtail, you can get 1-2" of cushion from the tires, which will soak up a lot of trail chatter, and give great traction.
There is common mountain bike wisdom that riding a hardtail will help develop a new rider better than full suspension. I’m not fully convinced about that. There are some skills or practices that need to be unlearned when switching from hardtail to full suspension. You don’t have to stand as much on full suspension. Generally, sitting is more efficient while climbing on full suspenison. Line choice changes, since you can straight-line through a lot of rough terrain on full suspension, rather than going around.
I still have a hardtail. Mind you Its been the bastard child of the fleet even with its “quiver killer” designation from pinkbike.
For me it’s a combination of wanting to go as fast as the local trails allow and having hip issues that are dramatically worse after riding a hardtail. Unless I crash I’d never know I went for 30 km on the full sus, but on the hard tail hips and knees are demolished.
I sold my FS and went back to hardtail because I found I was relying on the rear suspension too much and getting sloppy. I also really like the predictable handling of the hardtail.
The sticker shock had me only because this isn’t the only bike I own. If I was only riding a MTB then I might have been able to go FS but I have multiple bikes.
For reference I ride a hard tail and only ride the Fight Trail as it’s in my backyard. I’ve had zero issues with it on these trails (other then my own lack of technical abilities).
@jaytulk glad to hear you don’t have issues riding a hardtail on the Fight trail. That’s one of the things I’ve seen mentioned around here that had me second guessing whether to give it a try with my current bike.
I appreciate people’s perspectives on topics like this, as I’ll hopefully be in the market for a new ride next year and I want something that I’ll want to stick with for a few years. At this stage I see my main choices being a brand new aggressive hardtail (Growler, Roscoe, Fuse, etc) or a used full-sus, whatever I can get for less than ~$1700. I’m still undecided at this point so discussions like this I find very valuable.
I bought my first full suspension in 2010, best choice i ever made. I was a runner getting into biking and used cycling in the beginning to supplement my training. Now I’m glad i have a FS, still have a hard tail as well but FS is my go to. I even picked up a second one this past spring that has more travel than my enduro/all mountain.
I’ve only ridden fight trail on a hardtail and found it definitely rideable. On technical trails like that I don’t find much different between a FS and a HT. I got beat up a bit but that was more down to fitness after 3 months of the bike than the bike itself.
I definitely prefer a FS on trails with sustained downs especially when rough. It’s more forgiving on my knees and back and definitely less tiring.
I ride short travel bikes and found a really good fit on the new Trance 29 which allows me to be comfortable on long rides. I was after a 29 trail HT recently and went with the Kona Honzo DL.
I raced DH locally for a decade or more on a Balfa Minuteman with a Z1 and later a SuperT. If you want to rapidly learn how to choose lines, try racing the old school Wentworth DH race course on a hardtail while trying to keep up with guys on Intense M1s, Kona Supremes, Spec Demos and the like. I did OK, but the bike definitely held me back a bit. When I finally bit the bullet and bought a Specialized BigHit, my speed increased dramatically. But, I had built up handling skills over many years riding the hardtail and that just makes you even better when you ride a more capable rig.
I still own a hardtail (Chromag Samurai), but it really only gets called into active duty when my dually is being serviced (although I do enjoy commuting on it). I’m 46 now and find that I can ride faster, for more time and with fewer issues on my Meta. It can also hit bigger stuff with less chance of me getting hurt, but I honestly don’t do too many drops or other stupid things any more.
Today’s modern full sus bikes are MILES beyond anything made more than five years ago. They are very capable, they’re lightweight and while I still believe it’s more about the rider than the bike, I’ll stick with my dually when I have the choice, thanks very much.
IMO and from the wise words of @adventurer
“ Save your back go FS “
He has it in my books. I’m hauling the hardtail out and I’ll be sore while my FS goes to the shop.
It kinda chose me…