So the bike you own, or maybe the bike you want to purchase, happens to be a hardtail. You are ready to hit those difficult trails and possibly even take it off a few jumps.
As with anything that involves your safety, you want to be prepared and well informed. You are in the right place, as this article will focus specifically on hardtail mountain bikes and what you need to know before you head out.
The most obvious question is…
- Can you Mountain Bike with a Hardtail?
- What are the differences between a Hardtail MTB and one with Full Suspension?
- Is a Hardtail Mountain Bike Good for Beginners?
- How do you Ride a Hardtail Mountain Bike?
- Can you Jump with a Hardtail?
Can you Mountain Bike with a Hardtail?
The answer to this question is in its name; both hardtail and full-suspension styles are mountain bikes and are designed to be taken down treacherous terrain.
While they are both made to withstand the harsh conditions of mountain trails, they both serve very different purposes in relation to the same objective.
What are the differences between a Hardtail MTB and one with Full Suspension?
The first and most obvious difference between these two bikes is what gives them two different names.
A full suspension MTB has shock-absorbing suspension on both the front and back wheels, while a hardtail only has suspension on the front wheel, hence the name. Many riders prefer the full suspension for more strenuous trails as the dual suspension equates to a smoother ride.
While full suspension is more popular among veterans, they are usually more expensive, which may deter someone new and looking to get into the sport.
Hardtails also tend to weigh less than a full-suspension bike, and this is sure to come in handy when climbing unforgiving mountain paths or when taking it off jumps.
Full suspension bikes have a lot more moving parts, which means they are a lot harder to maintain, and in turn, will have more things that will need to be replaced eventually.
Is a Hardtail Mountain Bike Good for Beginners?
With full suspension bikes being more expensive, new riders often opt for the hardtail merely from a financial standpoint. Luckily, this does have its benefits.
A rider can buy a cheaper bike with better components.
An inexpensive full-suspension bike tends to be of a lower quality than a hardtail, as they have many more components. This is why a beginner can buy a higher-end hardtail for a more reasonable price.
A massive advantage that hardtails have for beginners is its lack of mercy. What we mean by this is, as the hardtail has less suspension, it will make for a more jarring and uncomfortable ride.
The hardtail will force its rider to improve their skills, whereas a full suspension bike tends to correct most of the rider’s mistakes.
A bike that is cheap, light, easy to maneuver, and demands that it’s rider sharpen their skill; what more could a newcomer want?
How do you Ride a Hardtail Mountain Bike?
There are a few techniques that will help you ride a hardtail, as it is the less forgiving of the two bikes. Let’s take a look at a quick breakdown for riding your hardtail as efficiently as possible.
Choosing your Line
The most overwhelming tip from the MTB community when it comes to riding a hardtail mountain bike is to pick your line wisely.
With the hardtail, you have to be hyper-aware of the paths that you are riding on and make sure that when given a choice between two “lines,” you choose the one that the hardtail will respond to the best.
You will always want to be on the look-out for the smoother of the two options. With the absence of the extra suspension, the bike will respond to any of the imperfections in your line.
For beginners, this can cause anxiety, so ensure that you are hyper-vigilant when riding a hardtail.
The term “riding light” refers to the amount of pressure you put on your pedals while riding a hardtail, along with your riding position.
Without the rear suspension absorbing the trail you are riding on, you feel a lot more of your terrain and this causes the bike to stutter and jump.
The best practice for those especially rough trails is to “ride light.”
The way to do this is to lean your weight further back on the bike and assume a less aggressive riding position.
Drop your heels closer to the ground and crotch just slightly; this will lower your center of gravity.
This modified riding position will allow you to absorb the ruggedness of trails with greater ease and make for a smoother ride.
While riding light, you will also want to be wary of your brakes, as this will also affect your experience ripping down the trails.
Feathering your Brakes
To ensure a pleasant ride while barreling down a trail, your braking plays a massive role.
It is important to practice and master “feathering” your brakes. What this means is, while riding a steep downhill portion, instead of stabbing at your brakes, lightly apply them at calculated times to improve your control and maintain a comfortable speed.
This can only be learned through practice. Try riding a downhill portion that you know well and try to figure out what pressure is most effective for your step up, and when to apply it.
Always keep in mind when traveling downhill, the front brake will control your speed and the back brake will allow you to control your bike better.
A great technique to use when riding a hardtail is “pumping.”
This technique will keep your tires on the ground while allowing you to gain speed without the need to pedal.
Pumping is the most effective on small hills or bulges in the trail. What you do is, absorb the impact of the incline and push into the decline.
Be sure to use your body weight when utilizing this technique; if you try to do it all with arm strength, you may find yourself in a precarious position if there are any obstacles on the decline side of the path.
To use pumping correctly, it will take not only technique but timing. Like feathering your brakes, this has to be practiced a great deal to master.
Lowering your Seat
Many veteran riders opt for a dropper seat post to provide them with the ability to adjust their saddle position on the fly.
While this is the ideal setup for any mountain bike, some riders prefer to go without it as it adds a few extra grams of weight to the bike, along with being more costly than a fixed seat.
If you have a fixed saddle, the consensus among riders is that a lower seat position is better for numerous reasons.
A lower saddle position gives you more room to move and maneuver when in an aggressive riding position. It simply makes it easier to go faster.
With the seat post raised high, it can also make it difficult to pump the bike effectively.
When it comes to clip-in pedals, it really comes down to personal preference.
The advantage that they do provide is keeping you locked into the bike on those bumpy sections.
This is important because, as previously mentioned, you will experience a rougher ride when using a hardtail bike.
It is more likely that your feet will be tossed off while riding, and some riders prefer to have the added security of being clipped in.
Can you Jump with a Hardtail?
You can take your hardtail bike off of jumps.
The main difference you will find between the full suspension and hardtail when taking them airborne is the response from the bike.
A full-suspension bike is made to absorb and correct any mistakes the rider makes; in contrast, a hardtail will let you know anywhere you have made a mistake.
When taking a hardtail off a jump, the best practice is to focus immensely on your timing and speed.
The act of jumping will be exactly the same; the only thing you need to focus on is making sure you are sure footed in your landing, especially if you have a landing with a blunt apex.
When you bounce the back tire of a hardtail off of the apex of a landing ramp, the lack of suspension will cause a violent reaction from the bike.
Many beginners will find themselves using a hardtail MTB when they first hit the trails.
There are many advantages of riding a hardtail, the most predominant being the fact that it forces you to become a better rider.
Listed above are numerous ways to ensure the safest and most comfortable experience when riding a hardtail.
Put these into practice and you are sure to be shredding those backwoods trails with ease in no time.