Hardtail mountain bikes don’t have any rear suspension, and mountain biking is all about riding off road and over mountains, hence the name. So why even have a hardtail bike made in the first place.
What are hardtail mountain bike used for? Riders use hardtail mtb on smooth trails and to climb hills. They are also used on gravel and smooth singletrack. Many riders use them to improve their skills, go faster, and to commute to work. Others use hardtail bikes on road terrain, to do wheelies, and to get more air when jumping.
Hardtail bikes are used in many different ways, it is important to know the reasons and benefits for why they are used in that way. This will help you get the most out of your hardtail.
Why Do Mountain Bikers Use Hardtail Bikes
- Emily Batty is a professional cross country racer. She has explained that when she is competing in a race which has smooth trails with lots of climbing, she will use her hardtail bike. She does this because hardtails are lighter and she can climb hills faster.
- When riders are biking on smooth trails there is no need to have suspension for the back wheel. The trail is smooth, you will not come across any bumps or obstacles in which you would need suspension.
- Hardtail bicycles help you go faster for 2 reasons. One is you won’t lose speed by having full suspension. All of your energy and speed will be focused on going forward with a hardtail. If your rear wheel has suspension some of that momentum will be lost when the rear suspension bounces up and down.
- The second reason is hardtails are lighter than full suspension bikes. A hardtail doesn’t have the moving parts that a full suspension bike has such as bushings, bearings, and pivots. This enables hardtail mountain bikes to have higher quality frames at a lighter weight.
- Being able to climb hills efficiently and quickly is important for any mountain rider. When going forward you want your weight forward and traction on the front wheel. You don’t need your back tire bouncing around when you are standing up on your pedals powering uphill.
- Riders who bike to work will be riding on road terrain. They will need a bike that is light and fast. Plus if you are biking to work the bike needs to be reliable and low maintenance. A hardtail is all of these things. Less moving parts equals less risk of breaking down, increase in reliability.
- Want to pop a wheelie or do a manual? It is easier on a hardtail to get your weight back. Plus once you do pop a wheelie it is more stable without the rear suspension bouncing around. It is also easier to get good air on a jump because a hardtail can be up to 1kg lighter than full suspension bikes.
- Lastly, using a hardtail will help you to improve your skills as a mountain biker. Since you don’t have any rear suspension you have less room for making mistakes. You’ll need to make sure your body position is right in order to get the smoothest ride.
- When you come across more rough terrain you’ll have to pay attention more when choosing the best line to ride on. If you get that wrong you will be in for a harsher ride on your butt and lower back. Getting these things right will put you further ahead of those riders that never use a hardtail.
Hardtail Mountain Bike Mistakes To Avoid
Too stiff and rigid
Many hardtail riders ride their bike too stiff and rigid. The body position is too tight, they are gripping the handlebars too tightly. They do this because they are afraid of what might come next on the trail, because on a hardtail you will feel everything.
You don’t want to prepare for rough terrain by making your body stiffer, its exactly the opposite. You want to let your bike and body move around. You want to go with the flow of the trail because you can feel the trail more.
The way to do this is to lower your saddle so you can shift your body and bike around more easily and quickly. Use your body as suspension, let your arms and upper body absorb any impact you get from the front of the bike. Let your arms and body bounce around and keep your head up.
Braking too hard
When you are riding a hardtail too many riders brake too hard. This will cause you to lose braking power, lose gripping power, traction, and you’ll bounce around and slide. Its better to brake before a difficult turn and before you get to rougher terrain.
When you see a difficult turn coming and rougher terrain brake before you get there to slow down some. Then when you are in the turn start to feather your brakes. Look for little pockets of dirt where you can brake if there are a lot of rocks in the turn. You will basically hard brake, then feather brake, hard brake, then feather brake.
Not taking full advantage of hardtail
Some hardtail bikers don’t take maximum advantage of what a hardtail can do. They don’t take advantage of pumping. Hardtail bikes are great at pumping. Instead of jumping over small hills, pump over them. This will help you to maintain your speed and conserve your energy that you would lose by jumping.
Wrong weight distribution
When climbing with a hardtail riders make 2 mistakes. Either they are too far forward or they are too far back. When they are too far forward and standing on the pedals the rear wheel spins and skids out and you can’t go uphill.
When they are too far back there is not enough weight on the front tire and the front tire lifts up. Then they have to wheelie up the hill. Not good. Riders must keep their weight low, forward, and seated.
You want to drop your body by bending your elbows and lowering your torso, keep your weight forward but also back so both tires grip the trail evenly. Once you find the right balance going uphill will be much faster than with rear suspension.
Wrong line choice
The last mistake is not making the right line choice. This is very important because on a hardtail you will feel every bump. You want to ride over rock gardens are smoothly as possible. You want to avoid puncturing a tire.
Choose the line with the least amount of rocks. Stay away from uneven rocks, and pointy rocks, going over even smooth rocks is fine. You can create your own line by finding rough terrain which you can bunny hop over.
Can You Use a Hardtail For Downhill
- You certainly can ride a hardtail downhill. You just have to be ready for it. I would not recommend a beginner ride downhill that could be suicide. But if you have some experience riding and depending on how difficult the hill riding a hardtail down it will be okay.
- If the downhill trail is rough then you are going to have a difficult ride. Your wrists, elbows, and shoulders will really shake. Make sure your lower back in shape because you will feel it. If you hit a rock your back wheel may buck you around like a rodeo ride.
- Make sure your seat is down and your weight is back. Keep your legs and arms bent, and let the fork take the bumps. You can always first ride slow down the hill and then build up your speed as you become more familiar with the trail.
- As you are going downhill don’t use the brakes too much because you won’t have as much travel as a downhill bike. Instead feather the brake by using the back brake only. You can buy a larger back tire and then use it at a lower psi. This will give you some cushion.
- You’ll need to get good at choosing the best lines and your body position and weight distribution should be flawless. Try to bunny hop over rough terrain where you can. Float over difficult sections or compress into it with the fork. Keep your body relaxed, don’t be stiff or rigid. Have fun.