Whether it’s your first mountain bike or you’re ready for a new mountain bike, it’s always difficult to choose because there is so much choice. I’m not even talking about all the different brands.
The first choice you have to make is which type of mountain bike you want, a hardtail or a full suspension.
A hardtail mountain bike is literally translated a MTB with a “hard tail”. This means that the rear has no suspension. A hardtail therefore only has a suspension fork with usually a suspension travel of around 100 mm. This means that the front fork can collapse 10 centimeters when driving over rough terrain.
The front fork can also be locked with most brands so that it no longer collapses. You mainly use this when climbing or on the road. On Scott’s mountain bikes, the front fork lockout is equipped with 3 positions: fully locked, semi-locked and fully open.
Full suspension mountain bike
A full suspension, also called fully, has in addition to a suspension fork, with slightly more travel than a hardtail, also a rear suspension.
Depending on the type of fully (Enduro, trail, downhill) you buy, the rear shock has a travel of 100 to even 200 mm. With most fully-equipped bikes, the rear suspension can be locked, this is especially useful when driving uphill or on the road.
Hardtail or full?
The choice you make depends on several factors. First of all, you have to decide for yourself what your budget is that you want to spend on your mountain bike and on which surface you will mainly be cycling. To gain a better understanding and make the choice easier, it is best to compare the advantages and disadvantages of both types.
- Faster uphill and on flat trails
- More bike for less money compared to a fully
- Always a good choice for beginners in easy terrain
- Stiff frame which ensures enormous acceleration is efficient pedaling
- Maintenance is easy
- Can handle any terrain
- Faster on difficult terrain with many obstacles
- More stable and more comfortable over obstacles and downhill
- More room for mistakes, the bike takes care of this. This gives you as a beginner immediately more confidence.
- Fully’s are also becoming more efficient, partly due to the option to lock the rear suspension.
- Less comfort, the shocks on more difficult terrain with obstacles are absorbed by the rider
- Slower in challenging terrain
- More expensive to purchase. For the same specifications as a hardtail you will soon pay 1000€ more.
- Less stiff due to the rear suspension making them slower on flat terrain and uphill
- Frame is heavier
- Maintenance is more complex
As mentioned before, the choice mainly depends on your budget and the terrain on which you will be driving most often. What you should also take into account, before making the final decision, is how often you will cycle on the move.
Are you planning to go on a cycling holiday often and take your mountain bike with you? Do you regularly visit the Ardennes or do you sometimes visit a bike park? All things that you should keep in mind.
You can of course also rent a bike in a bike park and in the Ardennes you can also get away with a hardtail. You have to fill in the picture yourself a bit.
I’ll explain it a little more with myself as an example.
I mainly drive in and around my own municipality, with the occasional longer ride (read 100+ km) towards hillier terrain. A few times a year I go to the Ardennes or Luxembourg and if the corona crisis hadn’t thrown a spanner in the works, I would also have ridden the Stoneman Miriquidi. I’m not the most technical rider, so I mostly ride the slightly easier trails.
For this I bought the top bike from the Scott Scale range of 2020. The cost of this bike also happened to be my projected budget that I wanted to spend. I couldn’t buy an equivalent full suspension from Scott for this. So I’m satisfied and I’ll be fine wherever I go.
Soft tail mountain bike
If you thought that technology in the mountain bike world stood still, then your choice was made with a hardtail or fully. However, nowadays there is also an option that is somewhat in between the two. How to call it exactly is still a mystery to me, but I already came across names like “mini hardtail” and softtail.
Isostrut is Trek Factory Racing’s new secret weapon. It is an integrated shock absorber that gives you more grip, control and speed in rough terrain compared to a hardtail mountain bike. The bike is less complex and weighs less than a true full suspension.
This suspension, with a suspension travel of 60mm, can be fully adjusted to your wishes and is also equipped with a lockout that allows you to turn your softtail into a super fast hardtail. This system can only be found on the Supercaliber 9.7, 9.8 and 9.9 from Trek. The Trek Supercaliber has been voted mountain bike of the year 2020, partly due to this ingenious system.
Micro Travel Technology
They have not been idle at BMC either. With the new Teamelite 01 they introduced the Micro Travel Technology. This is a type of rubber damper with 15mm of travel, which is integrated between the rear fork and the seat tube. With “softtail” you also have a little more comfort on rougher terrain than with a hardtail.
Hardtail or full suspension?
Although the new systems are currently only available in the most expensive price ranges, they may also become affordable for everyone in the future. That makes the choice a bit more difficult. In most regions of Belgium and the Netherlands you can get around with a hardtail.
If you want a little more comfort on the rougher paths, a fully equipped can also be a good option. If you want the golden mean, you choose the softtail, but unfortunately you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket.
In the end, of course, you choose how expensive you make your hobby. Don’t forget to choose the bike that you like and that you would like to ride. I personally find that very important. Whatever your choice, make sure you have fun and keep it safe at all times!
What kind of mountain bike do you ride and why? I’d love to hear from you in a comment at the bottom of the page. I’m already very curious