Oct 30, 2020 Canyon.com
Canyon // News & Stories

The great debate: Hardtail vs. Full Suspension

Oct 30, 2020 Canyon.com

Everyone shopping for a new mountain bike will inevitably face the choice between selecting a full-suspension bike or a hardtail ride. But the configuration that's right for you depends on different factors, such as weight, terrain, maintenance and cost. There are many things that come into play when deciding on your ideal setup.

The great debate: Hardtail vs. Full Suspension Hardtail Canyon Exceed

Exceed and Lux: Canyon's hardtail vs full suspension options

Canyon Exceed and Lux mountain bike ranges lead the way in the cross-country scene with their hardtail and full-suspension platforms. But what are the fundamental differences between the two?

A hardtail bike is one equipped with only front suspension, while a full-suspension model has both front and rear suspension

  • Canyon Exceed
    Canyon Exceed Hardtail MTB
  • Canyon Lux
    Canyon Lux Full Suspension MTB

Why suspension?

Suspension gives you greater comfort and control when riding over rough ground. Mountain biking is a diverse sport, one that takes in a wide variety of terrain. While relatively smooth trails may suit hardtails , full-suspension setups undoubtedly come into their own on bumpier, longer rides.

In gravity fed mountain biking disciplines, a full-suspension bike is the obvious choice for ultimate performance. The extra traction and capability negate any weight penalty caused by the shock and swingarm. But the real debate between hardtail and full-suspension bikes exists primarily in the Trail and XC worlds.

Hardtail mountain bikes

With the lack of a rear shock, a hardtail gets its name from a rigid rear end. Like their full-suspension counterparts, hardtails are for off-road use and are typically cheaper and lighter than dual suspension bikes. But while a full-suspension bike may offer increased comfort and control while riding, a hardtail bike should not be overlooked.

Where does a hardtail mountain bike excel?

Hardtail bikes tend to excel on slower, tighter trails and where the dirt offers more traction. On less technical terrain, hardtails often provide a more direct, involving ride. The rigid back end offers superb power transfer to the rear wheel when climbing and sprinting.

Hardtail bikes enable riders to feel more connection with the trail. The extra responsiveness and feedback from the bike allow riders to pump through undulating terrain and generate speed with maximum efficiency. Many also argue that they make a better rider too. Without the forgiving handling associated with full-suspension bikes, riders must anticipate the reaction to sudden shifts in direction and take better lines into corners.

One other key consideration, taken very seriously by those competing at the highest level in XC, is the weight savings which a hardtail offers. On average full suspension models are 1.5kg heavier, and this can make all the difference when trying to save seconds on the ascents.

Budget is also usually a factor when considering your next bike. If equipped with similar component ranges, hardtails are usually cheaper than a full suspension option by about £800-£1,500. Additionally, hardtails require less maintenance as riders only have to set up the front suspension and less moving components on the frameset itself.

What is a full-suspension mountain bike?

Full-suspension mountain bikes have both a front suspension fork and a rear shock. The rear shock improves the bike's traction, control and rider comfort.

Where does a full-suspension mountain bike excel?

Full-suspension mountain bikes perform much better over rough terrain and will thrive on many courses where a hardtail will struggle. This is primarily due to the traction provided by the rear suspension.

On bumpier trails, the rear shock helps ensure the tyres remains in contact with the ground to enable improved traction, rather than rebounding off the bumps and loosing grip. As you hit the roots and rocks at speed, full-suspension bikes also significantly dampen the force through the pedals and handlebars. A smoother ride no doubt helps improve comfort at keep fatigue at bay during longer rides and races.

The enhanced compliance from the rear end also ensures that full-suspension bikes provide for a wider margin of error. They enable better traction, control, and steering, reducing the risk of mistakes on rougher terrain.

Confidence is a massive part of mountain biking, especially for newcomers to the sport. As full-suspension mountain bikes are more forgiving, those minor accidents and scares that slow a rider's progress are often less common. But while the advantages are clear, the added convenience comes with a price- extra weight, higher costs and increased maintenance.

Canyon Exceed The Canyon Exceed hardtail MTB

Hardtail vs. full suspension — Canyon Exceed vs. Canyon Lux

With an understanding of the differences between hardtails and full-suspension bikes, it's time to see what's on offer at Canyon. We produce a complete range of mountain bike options engineered with precision for varied terrain with our hardtail Exceed range and our full-suspension Lux range. Here's how to find the right Canyon XC ride for you.

The Canyon Exceed Range

Canyon's premium hardtail models allow beginners and experts alike to enjoy the blood, sweat and thrills of cross-country racing..

With a hardtail design engineered for lightweight strength and supreme performance, it is a true illustration of when less is more. Purposeful straight lines, slender chainstays and absolutely no excess. It's this high strength to weight ratio design that makes the Exceed range stand apart.

For added comfort and performance, and to maintain all the inherent benefits of a hardtail design, we've honed the bike geometry for maximum performance. Where the lack of a rear shock may concern some, the rear end is especially designed to offer some flexibility to take the sting out of bumps on the trail. But, thanks to its carbon layup, retains excellent stiffness when pedalling. While the flat spring seatpost on selected models further enhances vertical compliance and helps reduce rider fatigue when climbing in the saddle from those incessant high-frequency vibrations on the trails.

A range designed to exceed

From the entry-level CF 5 to the world beating CFR, the Canyon Exceed range leads the way in hardtail designs. Engineered for precise handling, the front fork across the entire range has 100 mm of travel. But where the hardtail design offers many benefits alone, bike design is a holistic game. When coupled with our stiff carbon framesets, it helps ensure a ride that stays true to its name and exceeds all expectations.

Our Exceed range starts at £1,599 for the entry-level Exceed CF 5 and extends to £6,149 for the pro-level Exceed CFR LTD. There are 9 different models available, including two female-specific WMN versions.

Canyon Lux The Canyon Lux full-suspension MTB

The Canyon Lux Range

The Canyon Lux range is adapted to rapidly evolving world of cross-country mountain bike racing. As XC tracks become more technical, the extra traction and capability afforded by a full suspension chassis can make the difference between winning and losing. Our Canyon Lux models provide the modern progressive XC bike that an increasing number of racers demand. Trusted by the likes of Mathieu van der Poel and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, the Lux range is the ultra-light full carbon, full-suspension XC bike with a race-winning pedigree.

A deluxe line

As one of Canyon's longest-serving full-suspension builds, the Lux range comes in a design honed for XC and marathon racing. The entire range features 100 mm of rear suspension travel and an ultra-lightweight carbon fibre frame rolling on 29-inch wheels.

The entry point for this award winning platform is the Lux CF 6, starting at £2,849. While our top of the range Lux CF SLX 9 LTD meets the requirements of XC and marathon riders at the highest level. With a total of 8 models to choose from, including a frame-only option, the Lux range delivers some of the finest full-suspension options for XC riding and racing.

What's the ideal wheel size for hardtail and full-suspension bikes?

Wheels size is a crucial factor in mountain bike configuration. Where 26-inch wheels were once the norm, in more recent times, larger 27.5-inch wheels and the larger 29-inch wheels have come to prominence.

29ers have several advantages. Firstly, the larger diameter helps the wheels roll over the rough terrain since less forward momentum is lost when encountering roots, rocks and bumps on the trail. This in turn means 29-inch wheels require less power to pedal off-road and make it easier to maintain your speed. Tests reveal a 4-8% difference in the power required to pedal a bike on 29-inch wheels uphill when compared to a 26-inch model.

The improved rolling capability also increases comfort on long rides. 29er tyres also feature a larger contact patch with the ground- offering more traction and control when accelerating, braking and cornering.

But while 27.5 and 29-inch wheels lend themselves to better overall performance, they don't outperform 26-inch wheels in every scenario. Larger wheels are heavier, something that's compounded due to the fact that it's a rotating mass.

As a result, acceleration is more sluggish and they are less manoeuvrable on technical tracks. Another factor is the correlation between wheel size and rider height. For riders under 170 cm, 29-inch wheels can pose clearance issues when moving the bike beneath them.

Price variations between hardtail and full-suspension bikes

A hardtail mountain bike is always cheaper than an equivalently specced full-suspension model. Quality hardtails start out at around £1,200 and extend upward based on the spec and quality of components and frame.

With quality full-suspension bikes starting at the £2,000 mark, budget becomes an important factor in determining which option you choose. It's always preferable to buy a quality hardtail bike over a cheap full-suspension bike.

As with every build, there's a lot more to a bike than suspension alone. The components, groupset, frame geometry and materials all influence performance, comfort and reliability - and shouldn't be ignored.

You decide

Whether you choose a hardtail or a full-suspension model will depend very much upon the terrain and your budget. But know that quality builds exist for both, and within each camp, there are options available at various price points. For those entering the world of XC racing or trail riding, hardtail vs full suspension remains a key consideration, but we hope this has made the decision making that bit easier. We'll see you on the trails!



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