Hardtail Bikes vs Full Suspension Bikes
Just like standard mountain bikes, electric mountain bikes are available in both hardtail and full suspension models. And if you’re new to the world of MTBs (electric or none electric), this decision is bound to be a head-scratcher.
At first glance, it’s easy to assume that the pricier, more complex full suspension models are the better of the two bikes – but in actual fact, both types have their place in modern mountain biking. It all depends on what kind of rider you are, what terrain you’re looking to tackle and of course; how much you have to spend. Which is exactly what this guide covers.
From weight and maintenance to speed and comfort, here’s everything you need to know about choosing your new electric mountain bike. First off, let’s take a look at what the terms hardtail and full suspension actually mean.
What is a hardtail bike?
A hardtail is a mountain bike that usually features a front suspension fork, but no rear suspension – giving them a rigid, unsuspended frame. Known for their lighter weight and lower price point, hardtail bikes are a popular choice for new off-roaders.
What is a full suspension bike?
You may sometimes see this written as “FullSus” this is a compound of ‘full’ & ‘suspension’. Like the name suggests, full suspension mountain bikes have both front and rear suspension, they can also be known as dual suspension mountain bikes. The addition of a rear shock makes these bikes more efficient and comfier to ride on difficult off-road terrain. The rear shock also improves the bike's traction and control resulting in more rider comfort.
One of the obvious differences between hardtail and full suspension bikes is the weight. Without the added weight of pivots, a rear shock and suspension linkages, a hardtail mountain bike is usually at least a kilo lighter than its full suspension counterpart. In terms of climbing efficiency, this can mean a lot…however, when it comes to electric mountain bikes, a heavier weight doesn’t need to be a deal-breaker. With a powerful motor giving you a boost, you can still tackle those steep inclines on a full suspension Haibike e-bike without that penalty!
Another thing to consider when choosing your mountain bike is where exactly you’re going to be riding it. Although both hardtail and full suspension bikes can tackle a wide variety of difficult terrain, your ride will feel different depending on which bike you choose.
Because of its rear shock, full suspension e-bikes feel a lot smoother to ride on technical terrain. If you’re looking for a bike that’ll take you as far off the beaten track as you can go, a full suspension electric bike might be your best bet. They can also be a good choice for beginners, with the rear suspension helping to absorb a lot of the expected off-road vibration, lessening rider fatigue meaning you can keep up with more experienced riders.
Without that added suspension in the rear, hardtail e-bikes can give you a bumpier ride – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can hit the same trails as you can with a full-suspension bike, but you’ll need to be more considerate of line choice, avoiding those rockier and rootier sections of trail where possible!
Climbing vs descending
Both hardtail and full suspension bikes have their strengths when it comes to hills – it just depends whether you’re going up or down them. With their rigid rear end, lighter frame and stable riding position, hardtails are great for those longer climbs especially in terms of battery conservation.
But when it’s time to fly back down those slopes, that’s where full suspension electric bikes have the edge. The riding position and added rear suspension make these bikes great for racing down hills, giving you more control, especially on steeper declines. Depending on how rough and technical the terrain is, full suspension bikes can also be the better choice for going uphill, with the suspension working to help keep your rear tyre on the ground while you battle your way through the climb. Again, it all depends on the terrain.
Comfort and traction
The main advantages of a full suspension e-bike are comfort and traction. While hardtails can give you the freedom to flex your traditional mountain bike skills dual suspension gives you the comfort and grip you need to tackle technical terrain with confidence – especially if you’re new to the sport.
This added comfort is down to the rear suspension, which helps keep the wheel on the trail by tracking over any obstacles. With the rear wheel firmly on the ground, full suspension bikes also give you better traction than a hardtail. That’s not to say hardtails don’t give you good grip – on smoother terrain, you’ll hardly notice the difference between the two. But when the terrain gets tough, that’s when full suspension comes into its own.
With a lighter frame and fixed riding position, it’s easy to assume that hardtails are the fastest option for less technical mountain biking. And in the case of none electric bikes that’s arguably true. On smoother trails, hardtail bikes are by far the more battery efficient bike. Aside from their light weight, hardtails also have a more direct connection to the ground, meaning you won’t lose any power as you pedal. Because of this, hardtails are the most popular mountain bike for cross-country racing – helping you fly across a whole host of different terrain at maximum speed.
But when you hit that really technical terrain, full suspension bikes are, of course, the faster choice. Despite their heavier weight, the added suspension helps you plough through the toughest trails with complete confidence, meaning you don’t need to spend as much time navigating obstacles, picking your line of choice and keeping your balance.
One advantage of hardtails is how easy they are to maintain. Just like none electric bikes, the most important thing is regular cleaning and lubricating. The added complexity of a full suspension frame means those extra components such as the rear shock and pivots will need servicing on top of your normal bike maintenance.
Whilst in previous times it could have been argued that a rigid hardtail frame was the more versatile option thanks to very little loss of energy on the road, and a more direct feel in terms of power delivery through the drivetrain and wheels into the ground. Due to modern suspension design, the loss of energy you get on a full suspension bike is barely noticeable. And of course, with a Yamaha or Bosch motor thrown in, that previous loss is negated by electrical assistance.
Along with terrain, one of the big deciders between hardtail and full suspension bikes is the price. Because of the extra components and more complex frame, a full suspension electric mountain bike naturally costs more than a similarly equipped hardtail.
If you’re on a tight budget and want to get the most out of your money, a hardtail bike is your best option starting at £1999. Our hardtail eMTB’s are above all very capable machines, irrespective of price.
However, if you’re looking for something that’ll plough through gnarly trails with minimal effort, then a full suspension bike is still your best option. On technical terrain, that extra suspension makes a world of difference – especially if you prefer a smoother ride whilst you get to grips with your new bike.
Hardtail MTB vs full suspension MTB: The verdict
When you’re deciding between a hardtail and a full suspension mountain bike, there is no ‘better’ or ‘worse’ option. But what you can find is the bike that’s best for your specific needs as a rider – whether you’re a seasoned rider or a complete beginner.
With a full suspension mountain bike, you get the added comfort, the faster downhills, and the unbelievably easy ride on even the most technical terrain. With a hard tail you get lower-priced options, lighter frames and better battery efficiency.
So, it all comes down to – what kind of rider are you and where do you want to ride?
Whatever you decide, we’ve got you covered. Our award-winning electric mountain bikes are engineered with unrivalled precision to keep you going further and faster than you ever thought possible – regardless of your skill level or riding style.
To get you started, here are some of our top picks. Alternatively, you can shop our full range of electric mountain bikes here.