In Defense of the Hardtail MTB Oct 25, 2017

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received numerous emails from readers, politely asking the Radavist to weigh in on a pressing debate. The discussion in question began with Bike Snob’s piece for Outside Magazine on the importance or at least the value of the fully rigid mountain bike. This piece was then replied to by Vernon at Pink Bike, who called riding rigid ridiculous and likened it to being kicked in the balls numerous times. Side note: if you get hit in balls riding a bike, you’re doing it wrong. Now, both op-ed pieces should be taken with a grain of salt, since they are, after all, just that: opinion pieces. Nothing is stated as fact in either article, although Vernon’s piece does seem to fit in with Pink Bike’s readership, who are quick to chime in that even hardtails are ridiculous.

Are they, really? Well, here’s the thing, I’m going to address this “debate” with a few points, beginning with…

Context

Vernon says he began as a road cyclist before he ever got into mountain bikes, at a time when rigid bikes reigned supreme because there wasn’t an option for suspension. He remembers how being anti-suspension was a thing, mostly because he had never tried it and once he did, he didn’t want to go back. Get that motocross technology out of our bicycles! Sound familiar? Chime in with an e-bike debate here. This is an understandable and a very popular opinion, no doubt. Bike Snob’s approach comes from a more purist mindset. Why corrupt the beauty and simplicity of riding a bike on trails?

Here’s the thing: Bike Snob lives in New York and rides his local trails, which, are very mellow compared to someone like Vernon riding his trails in more technical, mountainous terrain. Now, I’m not implying Bike Snob doesn’t ride technical terrain, I’m just trying to establish context. Personally, I don’t think you need a suspension bike to ride some of Snob’s trails. Mostly because I’ve ridden a few on a ‘cross bike and found the lack of suspension technology to increase the fun factor of these otherwise, very tame trail networks. We have some similar trails when I lived in Austin, which were, again fun on a rigid, but boring to ride even a hardtail.

These two authors and their opinions are byproducts of their context. One writes for the leading mountain bike industry website, which focuses a lot of gear and technology, while the other writes creative and eloquent cycling satire. I should also note that I respect both of these authors greatly.

Environmental Context

Context also applies to trail design. In an area where our mountain bike trails are essentially hiking trails, we have to ride them with respect for the other users. That means, everytime someone skids a turn on singletrack, it ruins the surface of the trail, decreases its drainage and in general, is a bad look for all mountain bikers. Same goes for flying down a trail, especially without a bell, wearing essentially a motocross outfit, yelling at hikers to get out of the way. Since a shuttle has been running here in Los Angeles, and has grown in popularity, there are a lot more of those people using it on enduro or all-mountain bikes. For many of these riders, who also race enduro, these trails become practice courses, at the expense of the trail itself and the other users.

When you’ve got shared hiking trails and bikes that are designed to go very, very fast downhill, you end up with problems. The competition for speed and lack of foresight always tinges cycling, across the board. If you’re a roadie who’s going too fast on a cycle path or an enduro dude blasting a shared use trail, you’re not helping cycling advocacy, you’re hindering it. Granted, these examples are extreme. There are good and bad cyclists across the board, yet I will say the modern, high-tech mountain bike industry does little to educate riders on the difference between a bike park and a mixed-use trail where your grandma might be hiking one day.

Now, riding really really fast on designated mtb-only trails, in bike parks is another story. Take the shuttle up as many times as you want and let it rip. Those parks have full-time staff to work on the trails. These employees fix all the blown out corners and short-cut lines the speed-minded cyclists might make in the process of working on their runs. In backcountry, primitive, yet mixed-use trails, you’re unlikely to see such quick response. Our trail advocacy is great here in LA, with multiple work days, encouraging people to not only learn about trail maintenance, but also trail design and sustainability.

In short: go as fast as you want in a park, but observe a bit of constraint on mixed-use trails, regardless to what you see online.

Speed

One of Vernon’s arguments against rigid bikes, and I’d imagine, hardtail bikes is in response to people saying full suspension bikes get boring because they’re too easy, to which Vernon requests that you just need to go faster, for longer and take on trails that you’ve previously deemed unrideable. I’ll agree that becoming a better rider encompasses all of that, but I do not agree that you need a full suspension bike to reach trail nirvana. Also, let’s not forget the problem with speeding on shared use, primitive trails. Speed kills corners when a more-than-capable bike is wielded by a less-than-capable rider. What people should be worried about is controlling their bike and their speed.

Skill

Some people have beautiful bike control skills. They can shred any bike, just about anywhere and when in the right conditions, can break the sound barrier descending. These riders don’t apply here. What I want to address is the first-time mountain bike owner or rider. After talking with people about this very debate over the years, I’ve realized that a full suspension bike, for a first-time rider, is a great tool to learn how to survive your local trails and even have fun doing so. There’s a larger margin for error and full suspension bikes can be more forgiving, especially when you pick a bad line, at speed. For people who might have been riding their whole lives and have ridden all sorts of mountain bikes, developing these skills isn’t as much of a concern to them. Most riders say they like full suspension bikes because they’re less abusive on their backs, or wrists, or whatever and again, that’s totally fine, but there are some riders who can ride a full-rigid bike down a trail and not have these issues.

Connectivity

While I always love hearing people’s support for rigid, even singlespeed mtb riding, the one thing that is always repeated is the term “trail connection,” or “connectivity.” Meaning riding slower, through technical terrain is going to enhance your experience on the trail. I can identify with that and often feel when I’m demo’ing, reviewing or renting a full suspension, I can let myself let go of at least part of the mental connectivity I feel when on a hardtail or rigid bike. Now, this mental connectivity can be terrifying for some people, but for myself and probably most my riding buddies here, it’s part of the fun. Yes, we still do jumps and jib on rocks or roots and no, we probably don’t go as big as others, but we’re still having plenty fun and going as fast as the trails will allow safely.

Technology

There’s nothing worse than a creak and in a full suspension bike, you’ve got more moment connections to do just that. Bearings here, bearings there, press fit this and that. All these moving parts need to be maintained. I’m not talking about vehicle maintenance, replacing belts, or air filter, once a year or so, I’m talking one really wet ride or a few really dry rides and suddenly your bike is creaking with every pedal stroke. Now, where Bike Snob goes on to say that ALL suspension is evil – in his lighthearted, cynical way – I’d argue that a long travel hardtail with a dropper post will give you plenty of compliance and most importantly, confidence, with a lot less maintenance to worry about. Plus, a steel or aluminum frame has two places where bearings might need to be serviced, not multiple. That’s not even accounting for the rear shock. Yes, you’ve still got to service a front shock, but if you maintain it with care, you can go years without a rebuild.

Technology comes at a price. As you’d imagine and I’m sure have witnessed, the pricing on a high-end full suspension bike can be very off-putting, especially when compared to a hardtail, which many new completes are coming in under $2,000 these days. Sure, you get what you pay for with anything in this world, but that doesn’t mean you have to go into debt over a new bike.

Which Bike For You?

No one can tell you what is the right bike for your riding. You just have to try as many as you can and form your own opinion. Personally, I love demo’ing and reviewing full suspension bikes, because I get to use them for a few weeks and send them off. I have no financial obligation to them. While I respect other’s property, I don’t have to pick up the maintenance bill after six months of ownership. I also love riding rigid bikes, mostly for their practicality in a city where I can ride to smooth, urban singletrack from my front door, not to mention their ability to be turned into bikepacking rigs with ease. For me, however, a hardtail has proven to be the most reliable, fun and cost-effective mountain bike experience to own. I’ve ridden the trails in Tahoe, Santa Cruz, Utah, Arizona and all over on hardtail bikes and I’ve never regretted that decision. Sure, I get comments and snide remarks from some people, but the comments that resonate are the whoops and hollers I hear when someone sees our group clear a technical section, smoothly on a hardtail.

Rigids and hardtails are often the butts of jokes, especially from the enduro or downhill crowd, yet I’m not riding bikes to appease them, I’m riding bikes to have fun and that’s what’s the most important thing to remember. If you can have fun on a rigid or a hardtail, fuck what Vernon says and if you hate rigid or hardtails, fuck what Bike Snob and myself are saying. You do you, but there’s no sense in pissing on the Yin to your Yang and please, respect your local trails. They’ll be here on Earth much longer than you will.

Got an opinion? I’m sure you do. Drop it down in the comments.

  • Ryan Nowicki

    For me its MOST about context. I ride a rigid singlespeed 29er because I live in Northern Illinois and my home trails lack much elevation change and technicality. Being required to pick my lines more carefully and put more thought into where I’m placing the bike keeps me engaged. When I step outside of my backyard into more technical trails I am totally outgunned, but I would rather build a bike that suits my riding conditions 90% of the time.

  • #DirtyRoadie

    well said.
    you do you and most of all have fun
    i tailor my trail selection to the bikes at hand – if i wanna be IN the woods, i take the rigid SS and just don’t ride the steeps, don’t go down the mountain, and stay on the tops – if i wanna climb, i’ll take the hardtail and ride down to come back up – and if i want a handling challenge / skills lesson, i’ll take the CX and hit the wrong lines to become the right lines
    anyone who gives snide remarks is guilty of the most important rule – don’t be a dick

  • Christopher San Agustin

    We’re so spoiled…..they’re both so much fun!!!

  • ‘When you’ve got shared hiking trails and bikes that are designed to go very, very fast [in any direction], you end up with problems.” +++

    • JScriv

      The downhill rider who shows no concern for other trail users is right up there with the angry entitled hiker laying booby traps.

      • Carson

        Goodwill is obtained when all parties act in good faith. You don’t point at the others and say ‘they’re just as bad,’ you point at yourself and say ‘I share trails responsibly and expect the same from others.’

  • JScriv

    I appreciate the points and agree with all of them. Riding my new rigid 29+ bike this summer has been a game changer and I can guarantee it’s seen more miles than my full suspension. All that being said … I’ve never ridden a bike I did not like – all that BS about nut kicks and blah blah blah goes away as soon as those wheels start rolling in whatever direction your going. Sure you’re back might feel 2 inches shorter after a long day and you might be barely able to hold a beer but that’s all part of the game!

  • Smithhammer

    I currently have both a steel hardtail and a carbon full-sus trail bike. I’ve been riding mtn bikes since before the first Rockshox fork came out. I like both bikes a lot. They both have their merits, and they each offer a different experience. I recommend people spend time on full-sus bikes AND on hardtails from time to time. Both will push your skills in different ways.

    The complexity of my full-sus bike, and what it can do, is a marvelous thing (and also it’s biggest liability). The simplicity of my hardtail is also beautiful, and it’s a super fun ride, even if it means I’m dialing back on some of the terrain I might ride with.

    There will always be trails that are beyond your chosen bike’s ability to handle, no matter how amazing of a bike it is. There will always a limit. If you are pushing yourself in constructive ways, and having fun, whether it be on a full-sus carbon bike, a rigid hardtail, or a cyclocross bike or a unicycle, what does it matter?

    As far as this “debate” goes, all I can say is I’m pretty tired of all the narrow-minded dogma these days (on both sides of the argument), and people feeling the need to insist that whatever [i]they[/i] prefer is therefore objectively superior. And that feeling most definitely extends to certain magazine editors at certain “leading mountain bike publications” who never seem to miss an opportunity to demonstrate how full of themselves they are. Variety is good and healthy. Ride bikes, have fun, stick the contrived first-world debates up your privileged ass.

  • Medium Rick

    When In started riding mountain bikes rigid was all that existed. I loved it. Since then I’ve owned hard tails, full suspension bikes, fat bikes, gravel bikes, etc. They’re all good. Ride Your Own Ride, (RYOR) and don’t worry about what others say you should or shouldn’t do.

  • It’s not about the bike! But also it is, but mostly it’s not.

    • Dan Gullbongs

      Run what ya bong

  • tylernol

    For Moab, the Niner RIP 9 I rented was very appropriate for the trails; for down here in Austin, the rigids and hardtails I ride are fine. I have been tempted to add a full suspension bike back to my quiver, especially now with the improved climbing prowess and light weight of the “trail” bikes out there now, but the maintenance complexity still puts me off.

  • pinkbike’s favorite band is five finger death punch.

  • PabloP

    This “debate” about which type of bike is better as a general matter is fundamentally flawed in its oversimplification and assumption that there is a correct answer. Which type of bike is best is dependent upon what your goal is. If your goal is to go as fast as possible or to get big air, that leads to a certain type of bike, depending on the terrain, which can be logically analyzed leading to somewhat rational conclusions. However, if your goal is to enjoy yourself and to have fun, that could lead to any number of bikes, depending on personal and ultimately non-rational preferences.

    I ride a rigid mountain bike on really chunky, technical trails here on Colorado’s Front Range. It makes no sense from a speed or air perspective, but that’s not my goal. I don’t do it because I think it makes me better than others. I don’t do it because I hate my crotch. I just like it because I do.

    I don’t really care what type of bike anyone else is riding. I’d suspect most people are in the same boat.

    • bicycle640

      Yep.

  • Kyle Marmesh

    Yep, 100% agree with you. Context is everything. I ride my steel hardtail all over the place here in Tahoe. Sure, I might have to slow down on certain sections here and there and I might go through tires a bit quicker. But I have more fun on that bike than I have on any of the full sus rigs I’ve been demoing lately. And yes, I get a handful of snide remarks—”Is THAT your only bike?!” (yes it is you rich fuck) or on group rides: “I’m not dropping in behind the hardtail!”—and it is a little annoying, but whatever, I’m riding the same shit they are and having just as much (if not more) fun popping off features and picking better lines ;-) I just think it’s funny that they care what I’m riding. I hope the mtb scene can get itself away from the keeping-up-with-jones’s attitude it’s developed. Honestly though, I’ll probably try to get a short travel trail bike next season, and keep the hardtail if I can afford to. Great piece.

  • Personally, I don’t think you need a suspension bike to ride Snob’s trails. Mostly because I’ve ridden some of them on a ‘cross bike and found the lack of suspension technology to increase the fun factor of these otherwise, very tame trail networks.

    You’re ridden Sprain and Blue Mountain on a cross bike? Do tell!

    –BSNYC

    (PS: But yes, context is everything and this “debate” is way overblown.)

    • Haven’t ridden those two, but Cunningham and the trails in Long Island. Sprain is MTB territory for sure. Didn’t mean that as a dig, and there are downhill trails all over NY state, was just saying the East vs West’s trails are very different.

      • Not taking it as a dig, just important to note LI riding is not typical of the riding in this region–it’s like saying riding laps in Prospect Park is representative of NYC-area road riding. Being a big flat island and all, LI is really its own thing. Otherwise what you’re going to find on the mainland here is typical northeast riding: rocky, rooty, with plenty of ups and downs. Very different from out west of course, but absolutely the kind of stuff that warrants suspension if that’s your thing.

        I should also mention it’s inaccurate to refer to Cunningham and LI as “Snob’s trails,” since I’ve been in the Bronx since 2012 and sadly don’t get to ride those spots much at all anymore. But being able to ride to Sprain and other great spots in Westchester is more than worth it.)

        I’m a laid-back rider these days to say the least, but rest assured the “Outside” piece is not written in the context of doing laps at Cunningham.

        –BSNYC

  • Beau Street

    Ride what you love and run what you brung. I’m so tired of what’s better arguments. Now if you’ll excuse me, as soon as my vape pen charges up, I plan on rollerblading to the beach to boogey board…

  • Jared Jerome

    The feeling of blowing past a full suspension bike with a rider dressed for a supercross race while on a hardtail is a joy that cannot be experienced in any other way. I do like squishy bikes too, except for when you need to pedal them. I don’t understand the ball smashing thing though.

    As for me, I’ll ride any bike, I don’t care. Even beach cruisers, if need be.

    • Even better is when doing a test ride on pretty rough terrain on a CX bike that I tried on a whim for last ride out of the weekend’s testing and leaving almost all those on fancy FS bikes for dead.
      I’d spent all weekend testing various FS bikes as I was looking for something that was better than what I already had [none were] and ending up buying the CX because as I had so much fun on it. My FS + HT bikes barely get used anymore. I simply go out riding on the CX and it’s great fun both on and off road.

  • Steve Robrahn

    Thanks for being the voice of reason/radavism yet again, John. Too much stress over debates like this. Let’s all ride so everyone has fun. Ride what you brought when you ride with me, but I’ll be on a hardtail.

  • Locke Hassett

    Nail. Hit.

  • Carson

    Regarding rider skills, I respectfully disagree that beginners should ride FS bikes because they’re easier. Riding rigid MTB as a beginner forces you to see the trail, to establish that connection that so many people enjoy, which can then be used to expand one’s perspective of what’s possible. I probably think this because my own experience followed that path: El Prieto on my ancient steel rigid bike when I was first starting was one or two lines the whole way down, carefully picking my way through rock gardens and exposure. Now with a little bounce in my ride as well as the experience of a bunch of knee-killing rigid descents I can see more and more lines and feel like the trail has opened up.

    Anyway, thank Zod everybody rides different bikes.

  • Locke Hassett

    Missing the ShreadEaglllle on the Prescott, AZ trails lately. Was I envious of my friends Instigator when we went to Nelson? Nope. Loved having my Knolly. Mostly, I just like to ride bykes because its always better than not riding bykes. For fuccsake, the whole MTB world needs to chill and just go ride together.

  • Dan O

    Thanks again for a reasonable perspective. This shouldn’t be a debate or a war, we should all go ride bikes and have fun, whatever that means for you. It also fits in with one of my mottos: “don’t be a douche”. What’s right for one person may not be right for another, and things may be unaffordable to some.

    As a frequent trail worker, thanks for pointing out that trails do not make or maintain themselves. Where I live, the minority of riders are members of our local club or volunteer time on trails, yet they expect trails to be catered to them. It’s the same mentality of the shared trail user that doesn’t respect anyone else (hikers, slower riders, etc). They think it’s all about them.

    This reminds me of the old surly blog too: http://surlybikes.com/blog/post/some_answers_to_just_about_any_bike_forum_post_ive_ever_read/

  • GNARdina

    Now, to address the 26, 27.5, 29 debate. Just kidding, leave that can of worms shut.

  • Alex Boyd

    My rigid plus bike is definitely the best bike for bike riding, except when my 5in trail bike is better or at times when the cross bike is more fun or if I feel like the hardtail but mostly the DJ bike is best except for the bike riding scenarios I mentioned earlier where other bikes are best.

  • Jon Severson

    Went from riding a Kona Process 134 to spending most of my time on a sample hardtail frame I was given for testing a few years back this summer. Comparing times I wasn’t *that* much faster on the Kona overall. And I loved the Kona. When I sold it, I originally was planning on a new full suspension rig. But after 3 months using the hardtail with 120 fork and plus tires on it along with a dropper, my opinion of hardtail changed so much I decided to look for a hardtail with a longer Top tube and that could take a longer travel fork (140mm-150mm).

    I did spend my first 20 years mountain biking on rigid hardtails with 26″ wheels and maybe a 2.2 tire so I think for me, it’s easier to adapt vs if I grew up riding a full suspension bike. Now not that I don’t want a squish bike still, but day to day I don’t have time to hit the big trails where a squish bike would shine and I kinda like grabbing my bike and heading out to ride vs adjusting the rear shock every other ride.

  • Alvin Wai

    I rode a FS enduro bike for the last 5 years and recently got fascinated by hardtails so built up a singlespeed rigid. So I built one up and its like a whole new world. It can literally do anything my FS can do, just a little slower and a little better line choice. Even took it on some cross races and shuttle runs.

  • I always think it’s funny that these sort of arguments exist. As if you can only ride one bike or one type of bike. Most people I know have several bikes and use them depending on conditions and how they feel. I love riding my rigid bike for the precise control and connection to the trail. But, I also love my FS bike for rough trails and big mountains. You can never have enough bikes and changing which one you ride improves your riding skills.

    • Smithhammer

      Yup. It’s kind of like saying, “you should only like one flavor if ice cream!” Elitism has no place in mtn biking – leave that to the roadies. ;-)

      • Vanilla is real ice cream, all the rest are pretenders!
        ;)

  • nothingfuture

    I’ve ridden tons of full suspension bikes over the years- but I’ve never owned one.
    I have three hardtails right now, and I’m pretty ok with that.
    If riding bikes is about fun for you, then you should be able to have fun on whatever type of bike you’ve got- you do you, right?
    If riding bikes is about something else- faster, more technical, longer, whatever… then there are better or worse choices to be made regarding bike type. I’m not worried about faster/longer/whatever, so I have tons of fun on a steel hardtail and call it even. If I was riding with a faster group, that might not work anymore.
    As I get older, I’ll likely get to the point of wanting/needing the comfort of a full suspension bike, but for now I’m all good.

  • dc

    I simply appreciate Jon’s ability to broaden the conversation to the impact we have, as a user group, on other trail user’s (equally valuable and important) experiences on a trail.

    I believe we, as mountain bikers, should be dwelling on that impact more often than we dwell on some quest for outright speed. There are times for eyeball blistering speed, to be sure. And there are times to make sure you can slow down to smile and say hi. Ride whatever suits you, but be aware of your impact. That’s really what it comes down to.

    • AC

      Yep. I’d wager we’d have better luck with trail access if there were more smiling fat bike riders and fewer shuttle runs of enduro racers. (I do neither).

      • Foster Kerrison

        +1 to your point about sharing the trails. Thanks for bringing this up. I was nearly killed a few years ago by someone flying downhill in Santa Anita Canyon – a super busy trail here in LA.

  • Steve Bretson

    Enduro bikepacking on bmx bikes is NOT a crime!

  • breed007

    I agree with John on almost all of this. I’ve owned and liked all types of bikes, but I only ride hardtails now. But, for me, the most important factors aren’t how technical a trail is, it’s the elevation change. I mostly ride in super chunky, hilly terrain so it’s climb a rocky 150 ft, descend a rocky 150 ft., repeat. Those repeated, technical climbs (and flat rock gardens) are so much better on a hardtail because it’s easier to shift your weight up and over stuff without rocking back and forth through the travel of a rear suspension system. It’s only when I’m flying down an actual mountain (often on smoother terrain) that I miss rear travel.

  • catnipjunkie

    When you embark on a discussion about others telling you what bike to ride you have ultimately reached the level of too fucking privileged to complain about anything else for the rest of your life. Why even put that much effort into this? Aren’t there things out there that really matter? It makes me kinda sad, honestly.

    • Jared Jerome

      Are you referencing the articles, or this blog post? This blog post doesn’t seem to tell others what to ride.

    • GNARdina

      So talking about bikes on a bike blog makes you sad?

      • catnipjunkie

        No, but grown-ups that get offended because someone tells them they’re wearing the wrong shoes, riding the wrong bikes or whatever. Seems like stuff you deal with in an elementary school yard, not among adults. So much shit is going down in this world right now and this is what some people choose to waste their energy on? Wow.

    • I keep the site politically neutral, unless it has to do with advocacy, pack it in / out, etc .

  • AC

    Great article. Especially on point regarding the broduro crowd using public trails for practice. Between that and ebikes, we’ll be lucky to have access to any multi use singletrack.

    • breed007

      I help run an organization that’s built and maintains roughly 130 miles of trail and the pressure to build more ‘enduro/downhill’ features is something that’s been building over the past few years. I don’t have anything against that type of riding, but it doesn’t always mix well with other trail users and it’s less environmentally friendly. Making the matter worse is that the divide in the local mountain bike community tends to break down along age and social class lines which doesn’t lead the discussion in positive directions.

  • Jon B.

    I have enjoyed your full-sus reviews in the past and your hardtail reviews. I would just ask that you keep doing it all. I’ve always ridden a hardtail and recently bought an Intense Spider 275c and I absolutely love it. No creaks, rad company, killer “quiver killer.” All that is to say, there are so many good bikes, fuck dogma, and also fuck anti dogma dogma.

    • I want to keep doing full sus reviews because they’re a lot of fun.

  • Grant B Taggart

    I live in Santa Rosa where we recently had crazy wildfires. I have three MTB’s: a rigid SS, an XC hardtail with a dropper, and a long travel FS. The hardtail and my All Road bike were the two bikes that I took with me when I was preparing for the possibility that the fire would hit my home. Thankfully, it’s still standing and I have all of my bikes. But I agree that a hardtail with a dropper is the most fun and versatile bike if I had to chose one MTB.

  • Peperbek

    After having spent over at least $200,000 (I’m the stupid sod that pays consumer prices) in the past 25 years on numerous bikes (xc, freeride, downhill, enduro, cx, monstercross, road, road plus, fatbike, long travel xc, trailbike, fat tire roadbike, gravel bike, 26″, 29″, 27.5″, sixtyniner, plus size and what not, I could not agree with you more. For the record, my best mtb ride this years was on my Sycip made 26″ fully rigid Mountain Goat. (Thank you Jeff Archer,rip)

  • TheTingGoesSkrahh

    Loved this article and love this kind of content. Really appreciate the contextualization of both sides and the thoughtful attempt to mediate the two viewpoints. When I was just getting into mountain biking, I had the opportunity to buy an FS Santa Cruz for cheap and passed because some experienced mtb’ers told me I had to learn on a rigid. The rigid bike I ended up getting saved me lots of money and has taken me through a lot of intense singletrack, but on jolty descents and technical climbs I *really* regret not buying the Santa Cruz. That said, the limiting factor on any ride is still me and not the bike, and getting bounced around a little hasn’t kept me from getting better or having fun. I don’t know what the answer is here, but I appreciate getting to hear what more experienced riders on all sides of the debate think.

    • Oh man, it’s hard to pass on a SC for cheap. Those are such good bikes.

  • brandon kline

    I could give a fuck what anyone rides. I do group rides with dudes on 150mm + full suspensions and full rigid single speeders. We all ride together and nobody gives a shit what the other is riding. I say just pic the bikes that appeals to you ride bikes and have fun!

  • Will

    I’ve also been riding since the days when rigid was the only option. All I’ve ever ridden are rigid bikes and hardtails. While I do tend to be a bit of a retrogrouch, I would love to try a modern FS bike, I just can’t afford one! Fortunately, I love my hardtail and I enjoy it immensely (and I can smoke plenty of FS riders on it). I’ll always have a hardtail in the stable, and if it’s my only bike, I’ll be just fine with it. After all, any bike is a good one!

  • “No one can tell you what is the right bike for your riding. You just have to try as many as you can and form your own opinion. “
    That’s the key thing.
    Plus why have just one bike?

  • Why is no one discussing the importance of colour?

  • Sean Quill

    I got barked at for wearing a kit and riding a cross bike when exiting a local public flow trail a few weeks ago. I asked if “you boys wanna to race to the top?”… no takers but they at least got a laugh and we briefly discussed trail conditions. Hubris is one a hell of a drug (especially in large groups) but most adults can look beyond the petty parts and see the similarity in each other regardless. Thanks John.

    • Kevin

      One thumbs up for flipping criticism on its head and making people laugh when they were trying to put you down

  • Richard

    The answer to “Either/or?” is “Yes.”

  • Roy

    The way I chose to ride hard tail was limiting myself. If I can’t do the trail on a hard tail I probably shouldn’t be doing it at all. The rule keeps my limbs whole and that means I can continue working and paying my bills.

  • Db

    Hi guys, what makes the mountain bike in the first photo please?

  • misc

    John, thanks for the take on the story but something that I miss here and that is very dear to me – and that bikesnob quite well includes in his – is sustainability. Not all bikes need a suspension. Period. Pushing for suspensions (front or back) on all bikes just creates a market for unusable bikes – ever tried to ride a 50EUR front shock? Well, me neither. To me this was the biggest plus on bikesnob’s take. Btw, tried a FS this weekend for the first and let me say – I’ll probably not trying a second time.

  • breed007

    What’s Pinkbike’s take on upside down CK headsets?

  • stateofnonreturn

    For me, it was either having a nice hard tail or a shitty FS. I went with a nice hard tail, meaning, better fork, drivetrain and a dropper post. The only time I wished I had a FS is when I go to Downieville area and Tahoe.

  • Willy Don Gouda

    Honestly, plus bikes (rigid or hard tail) is really where its at and it sends the fun factor through the roof

  • Erik Ferguson

    Greetings! While I like the conclusion of your article, I have a
    problem with this part – “Personally, I don’t think you need a
    suspension bike to ride Snob’s trails. Mostly because I’ve ridden some
    of them on a ‘cross bike and found the lack of suspension technology to
    increase the fun factor of these otherwise, very tame trail networks.”

    You do you, but there’s no sense in pissing on the Yin to your Yang and please, respect your local trails.”

    I’m someone who literally had a hand in building both the Yin and Yang
    trails (~1994), many other trails at Blue Mountain Reservation
    (Peekskill, NY), as well as a good chunk of the trails at Sprain
    (Greenburg/Yonkers, NY). The implication that these are trivial trail
    networks where a rider needs to handicap themselves to avoid boredom is
    not true. It is kind of telling someone their trails suck.

    The design of these trails draws influence from a few different sources.
    Hudson Highlands hiking trails as well as landscape design form a broad
    base, (after natural terrain and sustainability of course). They were
    also influenced by Mt Snow, Plattekill Mountain, and Jim Thorpe. The
    trails in the northern half of Sprain were heavily influenced by the
    trails of Fruita. They were intended to be tight technical singletrack
    showcasing natural freeride and even trials obstacles as the terrain
    allowed.

    I’m not saying that these trails are better then any
    other trails. I also would not really be interested in riding a trail
    whose sole description was “really rough”. It all boils down to
    personal preference. I don’t think that your comment had any malice in
    it, but it has implications you might not have intended. These trails
    are above all varied, and suitable for many styles of riding enjoyment.
    You can find some really challenging stuff for your CX bike AND some
    really challenging stuff for your DH bike. Hell, I’ve even hosted a
    trials unicycle event at the Sprain.

    I have ridden all kinds of bicycles over these trails for 25 years, and I would have a tough time
    choosing between any combination of suspension or gearing or whatever.
    Next time you are near NYC, I will take you and Snob out for a grand
    tour. Regardless of what kind of bike you ride, I guarantee you will
    have fun and feel challenged.

    Fergie, aka NYCHighwheeler

  • Alex Steadman

    I started riding single track on a single speed cross bike, then moved to a geared cx, then ss hardtail, geared hardtail, and finally, recently, a full suspension. I rode each of those iterations for probably a year and ultimately on all the same stuff I ride on my full suspension. Obviously the full squish is easier but like you said, now I push it farther and faster and higher and and and. I’m glad that I took my sweet time moving up from the absolute worst trail bike to a where I am now on account of skills, but even riding the big bike has bettered my skills on the under-gunned bikes. Either way I like riding Sedona on a trail bike much more than with drop bars.

  • Ben Azoulay

    From the pinkbike article:

    “A combination of poverty and willful ignorance kept me off the suspension train until 1997, when I became an editor at a mountain bike magazine. Now I had to ride the stuff and…aw, crap…it turned out suspension was actually kind of awesome. ”

    Sounds more like:

    “A combination of poverty and willful ignorance kept me off the suspension train until 1997, when I became an editor at a mountain bike magazine. Now I had to sell tons of advertising space and write sponsored articles so I started to call suspension awesome and I’m writing this article to keep the people who pay for advertising space happy.”

  • Vernon Felton

    For the record, I have no problem with hardtails. I prefer full suspension these days, because I prefer the ride quality, however, I was responding to the argument that fully rigid bikes are superior for most riders on most trail riding conditions–hence my emphasis on the “rigid” word. At the end of the day, people can ride whatever they want–as long as you’re riding a bike, you’re doing something right. But to argue that rigid is inherently superior to suspension is crazy. With a capital K. And, no, I don’t like full suspension bikes because I feel some kind of advertising pressure to like them (now I’m responding to the inevitable argument that all editors are on the take and can’t be trusted to voice sincere opinions). I like full suspension because a well designed full-suspension bike can provide better traction both climbing and descending. But, again, it’s worth noting that my article was in response to the claim that suspension, itself, was evil. Anyhoo, I enjoyed your article, just as I enjoyed The Bike Snob’s piece. Cheers.

    • Thanks for the insight, Vernon!

    • colavitos_ghost

      What about all the “iron crotch kung fu” talk? That would seem to be about the benefits of rear suspension, since having a suspension fork doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to the crotch region.

      Also, do people really hurt their genitals from riding hardtails or rigids? I have literally never heard of this phenomenon.

  • breed007

    Let’s fight about single speeds.

    • Tom Urquhart

      No. Lets all just unite about fucking e-bikes.

      • Riley Smith

        That’s hot.

    • Rick

      How can we fight about something that’s clearly superior? ;)

  • Jim Seely
  • R.P. Treb

    A good all mountain hardtail is the delicious craft beer of bikes. Basically that’s all you folks need to know. Thank You and have a good day.

  • Andrew

    I guess there’s lots of ways to drink whiskey, too, but a neat bourbon from a small maker is the whiskey equivalent of a fine steel hardtail with a matching steel fork – kinda the purest and best. A fully suspended carbon is a highball with blended whiskey and ginger ale, and a cheapo-hardtail is just another jack and coke.

    • Smithhammer

      Reminds me of the old adage:
      Q: What’s the proper way to drink whiskey?
      A: Mixed with Kool-Aid and slurped out of the navel of a Thai hooker, if that’s the way I happen to like it.