Hardtail Vs Full Suspension | Cross Country Mountain Bike Shootout
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Hardtail Vs Full Suspension | Cross Country Mountain Bike Shootout

October 25, 2019


– When it comes to World Cup
cross country racing we do see a split between full
suspension bikes and hardtails. Though many of the top
riders actually travel with both bikes, they’ll decide which one they want to use depending on how rough and how technical that course is. So today I’m gonna compare the two. (upbeat music) So I’ve got a full suspension
bike and a hardtail. So I’ve got a Canyon Exceed CF SLX. So fully carbon fibre,
super lightweight hardtail. Both bikes are running 29 inch wheels. Hardtail has got a hundred
mil travel up front, two by drivetrain, it
weighs in at 21 pound. The full suspension bike’s a Canyon Lux, it only weights two pounds more, so still very light, 23 pounds. Again, I’ve got a two by on
this bike, but now I’ve got a hundred mil front and rear suspension. So the Lux is a cross country
and marathon race machine. We’ve seen such riders
as Alban Lakata use it at great success at the
Cape Epic, so big long days, back to back, that’s when
a full suspension bike is really gonna come into its own. That comfort and compliance,
but also don’t forget you’ve got better traction
on full suspension bikes. The tyres are just gonna track the floor that little bit better. You’ve also got a RockShox remote lockout up on the bars that
will fully lockout your front and rear shocks simultaneously should you feel the need. The Exceed is what I would
call a proper carbon 29er cross country race machine. Now, Canyon say this
bike has been designed with the highest levels of stiffness, compliance and durability. This is all about being super lightweight and a rocketship up the climbs. So I’m gonna put the two
bikes head to head on my local hills on a cross country
loop I ride all the time. It consists of one decent sized climb, so it’s about 25 minutes
of lung-bursting stuff, and then one really nice swoopy, single-track, rocky descent. It’ll be interesting to see
if the full suspension bike makes enough time in the rough stuff to make up for its extra
weight and slightly less efficient pedalling. Right, okay, so first lap
on the hardtail, let’s go. (upbeat music) (wind rushing) Top cross country racers
aren’t worrying about comfort. Maybe slightly when it comes
to marathon and stage races, where riding time goes over a few hours, but we’re talking short track XEO here. Compliance is an interesting one. Of course we know that
a full suspension bike is more comfortable to
ride, but the movement of the suspension to
soak up the rough ground also means that forward
motion is more efficient. But is that all down to feel or will it make a difference on the clock? Credit here goes to Max
Glaskin, who’s an award winning freelance science, engineering
and technology journalist with a special interest in cycling. In his really interesting
book, The Science of Cycling, it shows that some tests say
that a full suspension bike can reduce vertical forces
by 50% but crucially the horizontal forces by a quarter, which means that less energy is used to propel the bike forward. But how rough does the trail need to be for this to make a difference? Okay, so there’s the
science, now let’s take the full suspension bike to the trail to see if it makes any
difference against the clock. (upbeat music) (gravel crunching) (wind rushing) So to the results of my
test, but let’s start off with actually the feel. Of course the full suspension
bike is more comfortable, but they both felt super
light, really fast up the hill. Downhill I definitely had more confidence on the full suspension
bike for its handling, but also a big one is for,
sort of, puncture resistance. On the hardtail, with
skinny cross country tyres, I feel like you do have to be
that little bit more careful in the rocky sections,
whereas a full suspension bike you just have that little bit
more compliance on the floor. Grip as well, of course,
for going up the hill. Traction on the rear
tyre was really important because it was slippy in parts. So the full suspension bike
does grip a little bit better, but also for riding back down the hill, obviously for cornering and for breaking the full suspension bike does
feel that little bit better. Going back to Max Glaskin’s
book, The Science of Cycling, which I must say is super interesting, definitely look it up, some
lab tests have shown that full suspension riders use
less oxygen on rough terrain but more on smooth, so is
that really a surprise? I guess not, we see fully
rigid bikes, of course, in road races, so no real surprises there, but again it’s gonna be
interesting, I think, to test that out again and
try and really work out when the trail becomes rough
enough that a full suspension bike rider uses less oxygen. So, to the times, now
the interesting part. (upbeat music) So on my hardtail from the
start point to the trig point, so the summit of the hill, took me 27 minutes and 21 seconds. I’ve gotta say, I went as fast as I could, that was a very tough climb. On the full suspension bike
I did it in 25 minutes 21, so a full two minutes quicker. But I will hold my hands up here, I did the two tests on consecutive days, so on the second day I
actually rode the hardtail and it was much windier, so to be honest that time doesn’t really stack up. I bet, on both tests I went
as hard as I possibly could, so I know my sort of threshold
power and my heart rate and I was hitting that
exactly for those two rides. And the times, I guess,
to be honest was all down to the wind, so I’m
gonna have to hold my hands up and say I need to redo the test. So if you keep your eyes
on The Dirt Shed next week hopefully I’m gonna go out this
week and do it back to back, so I’m gonna find a much
shorter cross country loop so I’m gonna have to
split it into a full loop rather than one big climb
and one full descent and I’m gonna do the two tests again. For reference I’ll give you
the downhill times as well. So the hardtail was 8 minutes 54 downhill, but the full suspension
bike was a full one minute and a half slower at 10 minutes 29. That does go to show
you that on the hardtail I had a headwind on the way up and then a tailwind on the way down, so this test is completely ruined. I apologise for that. But for me, I think the
really interesting point is the science, is when is a full suspension bike faster or slower? And again, I actually
wanna reach out to some pro cross country racers,
do they use science, do they test their bounceback,
or is it down to feel? So keep your eyes peeled on
The Dirt Shed show coming up and hopefully I’ll have a
proper conclusion for you. But whilst you’re here
watch some more videos, click over here for another
full suspension versus hardtail, over there for a cross country racer versus a downhill racer, see who’s faster on a cross country track. Hit the subscribe button
and give us a thumbs up if you like my really ruined
conclusions this video, but hopefully I’ll follow it up soon.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. In my Opinion. Full sus would be a better choice if you are into race and performance.

    But its too expensive. It all comes down to your preference, if you just want to enjoy the trail without spending & maintaining much, hard tail will do the trick

  2. I ride rigid fat bike,so its like the mopst perfectly tuned 2" full sus but with a weight penalty BUT it flies,truely quick everywhere

  3. Could you do a test about how much faster makes you a downhill race suspension set-up against a normal or a freeridde set-up?

    Sorry if there some grammer or vocabulary mistakes, please correct me if there are ones

  4. Bought a hard tail to commute to work on – second hand nice bike and it's frickin' purgatory off road! I'll take a double banger any day of the week thanks! I'm not racing and I'm fit not super fit – but it feels to me like I'm using a bucket load more energy on the HT…

  5. Hardtail is proving quicker on my local loop than my FS but when I bring out the 29er Hardtail the extra weight in the wheels holds it back on the flat, so Carbon rims if I had deep pockets. On the rockier descents, the full sus is quicker as I feel more confident and let go of the brakes as I'm less conscious about line choice than on the hardtails. Great test GMBN, shame about the wind. Looking forward to the back to back test.

  6. Great job, I'm adicted o your Videos!
    For a better comparison you probably want to do more than one run each.
    I know this takes a lot of Time, but the results would be more comparably.

  7. Is the price tag similair to both of them? Usally a customer have a budget and ask him self should I go for a hardtail or a heavier full suspension. What is the differens? I would also do a test between a hardtail and a full suspension in the same price range for a more fair contest.

  8. Great video from Neil.. lots of questions raised and all of them valid. I appreciate you saying the results were skewed based on conditions.. that's refreshing to see rather than just opting for the easy choice of full sus is quicker 🙂

  9. i try to go as hard as i can on my rigid plus bike, both up and down hill… its crazy but i bloody love every minute of it !

  10. Ideas for controlling a hardtail vs. full suspension (vs. rigid?!) test: find 3 climbs of about 5 minutes each. One smooth, one mild, one super technical. Time on each bike 3 to 5 tries. Spread over multiple days is okay, as long as the order you ride the bikes in is mixed up each day. Also record power so you can integrate over time to calculate the total amount of work done. (I will forego the suggestion to normalize for bike weight.)

    Sorry for the crazy DOE (design of experiment), but I am an engineer.

    Side note, I have no interest in XC; however, the geek in me is still interested in these type of videos. Keep up the good work, fellas! (Or should I say, "chaps"?)

  11. So, does the hard tail have any advantage other than weight on the full suspension with rear lock out? Seems like that turns the full sus into a hard tail for the climbs and flats. (I ride a hard tail; Giant Fathom 29er-1)

  12. This is a fantastic piece of popular science journalism that shows the difficulty in getting great results and still showing value in less than perfect test conditions! Thanks for the effort and refreshing video explaining the difficulties we scientists face!

  13. Finally some good XC-content on the channel despite the results not being valid. Please Neil deliver us this kind of content even once in a while since you are the only presenter who can do it (miss Scotty a bit..). I've seen enough jumping and trail techniques. Personally, I'm all about hardtail any day!

  14. As it goes, my Cube Aim 29 hardtail which I use for commuting is off the road until the end of the week so today I did my 4 miles urban commute on my YT Jeffsy 29. With the fatter, more nobbly tyres, no full-rigid lockout and general trail geomoetry I was not expecting Jeffsy to trounce the Cube. Shaved 2 minutes off my average time too.

  15. Get 2 guys, do a lap as fast as they can, switch bikes and repeat. Winner will get the girl, that way we know both tried their best. That will give you a fair and scientific result. You are welcome 🙂

  16. Good video. It's too bad the results didn't turn out well. It'd be cool to see a video or discussion that goes into detail about riding/racing with a fixed seat post vs a dropper.

  17. Absolutely love the top end XC reports! If there is any way you guys could test the top of the line 2018 KTM Scarp and Myroon Sonic race models. Scarp-fully, Myroon-Hardtail. Sonic= top of the line. PLEASE!

  18. So the take home from this video is the theory that there's a crossover at some point of trail roughness where the hardtail becomes slower than the full sus. Going nack to the various XC vs CX or Gravel Bike comparisons, like the Dolomiti Superbike epic, there's also going to be a crossover point between a ruggedised, rigid drop-bar bike and an XC hardtail. So the hardtail's sweet spot is being squeezed from either end. Has it already been eliminated by the 650b gravel bike? It'd be interesting to know as the owner of a 26" hardtail and a 700c gravel bike.

  19. Great XC video Neil. Where are the trails you were riding? I've recently moved to the Bath area and it'd be great if you were able to share the locations of your videos in the descriptions

  20. First I thought you've wasted 7:30 min of my life, but it's good that you mentioned that book. Any other recommendations?

  21. Awesome vid as always! Also, loving the XC content! keep it up please

    Just an FYI, the book is actually called Cycling Science, rather than the science of cycling –> https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13593322-cycling-science

  22. I have a hard tail made of steel, the suspensions are moderately stuff and it has a moderately agressive, I bought it for rs 14000
    It is a foxtor drag 26 bike, give me few tips

  23. Wena Neil se me había olvidado que estabai en este canal porque había visto los del dirtero pero no saben na que vos eris ma dirtero que la chucha hacete un vídeo dirt jump Neil doughnut no Helmet oldschool flowing trails

  24. Can you guys make a video of tips for riding down hill on a fixed seat post? I just got a new xc bike and I’m so used to having a dropper post so it’s awkward having the seat so high. I don’t plan on using a dropper for the bike because the xc races I do are not technical. However I plan on riding the bike on rocky trails so I would love some tips!

  25. Would've been nice to mention that the whole test was rubbish right in the beginning. Now it feels like I've wasted 7 min. watching a "test" with no value at all.

  26. I found a raidus targa 30 mountain bike for 399.9$ NZD full hard tail. Should i buy it? If you could help me out that’d be appreciated

  27. I had a 19'' hard tail and swapped to a 17.5'' full suspension bike that was 1.5 kilo lighter and has a 5mm shorter crank, I feel much less tired and enjoy riding a lot more.
    I'm not sure I want to go back to a hard tail ever!

  28. Good Video, for a pro rider/elite rider I could see why a hardtail would be chosen. But mere mortals like me, a full suspension is just soo much easier to ride. But will echo others comments, XC riding is underappreciated.

  29. On second test(day)Must ride first Fullsusp. and than hardtail. Becose you warmup on ht on first ride and fs results better…

  30. Both bikes riding 29 inch wheels, because i cant satisfy my wife
    😂😂😂😂😂😂
    Id dust him on my 26 inch alloy giant no problems.

  31. Always WEAR GLASSES.
    I took a rock in the eye that came off my front wheel. My eye is fucked now. It will be forever. WEAR GLASSES.

  32. How about using a power meter? – at least on the uphill portion, it may be illuminating.
    You could set an ~FTp-ish avg power and do them consecutively, rather than a day later with a nebulous "hard as I could" metric. Wouldn't be perfect, but….
    (Ok, just watched the 'Re-Test' video – Never mind)

  33. Interesting vid – lots of useful info. And thanks for the name check at 3 mins. You guys always do the right thing. Glad my book, Cycling Science, is helpful. It’s now out in paperback, published by Quarto. See https://www.quartoknows.com/books/9781782406433/Cycling-Science.html By the way, after 34 years of riding MTBs, my choice is still hardtail.

  34. All good….. but WTF?! IS THAT GEERING on 3:05. Biggest sprocket on front and back? I thought, that you know something about chain line.

  35. 6 minutes into a 7.5 minute test video until "of course this test is totally worthless because the conditions were so different"

  36. Interesting video, great to see some XC coverage as mentioned below. For me, the longer the XC ride, the more likely I will use full suspension for reasons of comfort and less fatigue. For the shorter, more intensive rides, there is really nothing like a hardtail, you are living the ride and at the end of the day, speed alone is not everything.

  37. Anyone ever heard about frog cycles?
    I ride a frog corvette hardtail 29er alloy frame
    A beginner though
    Like to learn more about hardtails and their handling experience from experienced riders out there
    I m from india !!!
    Thanks for this video GMBN

  38. This topic is super interesting, but the video was a fail due to conditions. I wish you only posted video with correct results ( not the fail version )

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