Are Full Suspension Mountain Bikes Better than Hardtails?

It Depends...

Full suspension mountain bikes or hardtail mountain bikes ... which are better? This may be a question many of us have when we are trying to decide on what type of mountain bike to buy. Basically, it depends on what type of riding you plan to do...

Full suspension mountain bikes, also called dual suspension mountain bikes, come in several different categories, including the following:

  • Cross country mountain bikes
  • All mountain mountain bikes, also called Enduro mountain bikes
  • Freeride mountain bikes
  • Downhill mountain bikes

As you move further down the list, the bikes become burlier, heavier, and are able to tackle more extreme terrain.

If you are trying to decide between a full suspension mountain bike and a hardtail mountain bike, you are most likely interested in a cross country mountain bike. Cross country mountain bikes, also called xc mountain bikes, can be either full suspension or hardtail. They are the lightest types of mountain bikes and are built for the purpose of mountain bike racing, marathons, or long trail rides.

Please visit our page on cross country bikes for more detailed information about these types of bikes, including the differences between race xc and trail xc bikes and some reputable companies that offer them.


Like hardtail mountain bikes, full suspension mountain bikes have a front suspension fork. They differ from hardtails in that they have rear suspension built into the frame.

Having the extra suspension in the rear of the bicycle has both advantages and disadvantages.

If you are planning on riding a lot of technical terrain that involves going over rocks, roots, and other obstacles, a full suspension is a better choice than a hardtail. The suspension in the rear of the bike helps absorb the impact of trail obstacles so that the bicycle is more easily controlled. This also helps the rear tire maintain traction rather than getting bounced around. Full-suspensions are also better for riding drop-offs.

Since full suspension mountain bikes are more easily able to absorb the impact of bumps, they are more comfortable to ride and you don't get jarred around as much, so riding this type of bike is easier on your body.

Full suspension bikes are also better for downhill riding because they absorb the bumps. Hardtails are rigid in the back and do not absorb the impact of bumps and obstacles so you do not have as much control and are more limited as far as how fast you can ride.

If you are planning to do a lot of downhill at fast speeds, you may want to consider a full suspension, perhaps even one that is an all mountain mountain bike rather than cross country. If the only type of riding you want to do is extreme downhill riding, then consider a downhill mountain bike.

For more information in this type of bike, please visit our page on Downhill Mountain Bikes

If you want more speed and ease climbing hills, a full suspension may not be your best choice and you may want to consider a hardtail. With some full suspension mountain bikes, you are able to easily lock out the rear shock, making climbing more efficient, but as a rule full suspensions are heavier than hardtails.

Great advancements have been made in full suspensions since they first came out and they are much lighter than their predecessors, but the lighter ones are more expensive. Riders who are into racing often prefer hardtails over full suspensions because they are quicker, stronger, and easier to control.

A full suspension is a better choice for more extreme riding, but consider a hardtail if you want a good all around mountain bike and don't plan on riding technical terrain or flying down the downhill sections. Full suspensions are more expensive than hardtails, so that is another factor to consider if you have a limited budget.

Return to Types of Mountain Bikes

Return to Mountain Bike Buzz home page

Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Get Your Free
"How to Mountain Bike"


Receive this eBook, "How to Mountain Bike" absolutely free when you subscribe to my free monthly newsletter, "Attack the Singletrack!". It's loaded with mountain biking tips.

Check out examples of previously sent newsletters.

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Attack the Singletrack!.

Contact Us

Questions, comments, feedback?
We would love to hear from you!

joomla statistics