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I'm getting ready to buy a new bike and I'm trying to decide if I should go hardtail or FS. I ride mostly cross country, but some of it is pretty technical.

From what I've heard/read I understand that hardtails are better at climbing and accelorating due to the fixed frame, but dual suspension is better for technical trails and jumps.

One thing I am curious about though is cornering. The dual suspension bikes look like they have a higher center of gravity to accomodate the rear wheel travel, and I am concerned that this could affect thier cornering ability on tight single track and switchbacks. Is this the case, or do they corner just like a hardtail?
 

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Fs

I'd suggest a full suspension. I have both and the only places the hardtail has an advantage is on smooth climbs, on a scale and in you're wallet. When you corner or climb rockey technical stuff the FS bikes follow the ground if it's set up right while no matter what you do the HT will tend to bounce and skip around some, especially at speed. You can get some of the same traits from some suspension designs that use chain tention to filter out suspension bob but any suspension bike is going to have a traction advantage over a hardtail.
 

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Geometry...geometry...geometry. That's what makes a bike handle great. Head angle, BB height, chainstay length, and wheel base are what's really important.

If you are looking for a good cornering FS bike (I assume 5" travel, most common). Look for a 69* HA, a 13" - 13.5" BB height and a 17" or shorter chainstay. Wheel base will depend on how tall you are. The longer the WB the more stable, the short the quicker it will turn.
 

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Geometry...geometry...geometry. That's what makes a bike handle great. Head angle, BB height, chainstay length, and wheel base are what's really important.

If you are looking for a good cornering FS bike (I assume 5" travel, most common). Look for a 69* HA, a 13" - 13.5" BB height and a 17" or shorter chainstay. Wheel base will depend on how tall you are. The longer the WB the more stable, the short the quicker it will turn.
Also worth adding that frame torsional stiffness, front fork and rear triangle lateral stiffness also contribute a lot to cornering grip and stability. Even with the ideal geometry, a flexy fork, frame or rear triangle will make the bike feel nervous in heavily loaded corners. That's why bikes with identical geometry on paper can feel totally different in practice.

Unfortunately, it's very hard to get information like this from bike manufacturers. But you can usually feel any unwanted flexing when you test ride most bikes though.
 

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Let your budget decide

Calvin920 said:
I'm getting ready to buy a new bike and I'm trying to decide if I should go hardtail or FS. I ride mostly cross country, but some of it is pretty technical.

From what I've heard/read I understand that hardtails are better at climbing and accelorating due to the fixed frame, but dual suspension is better for technical trails and jumps.

One thing I am curious about though is cornering. The dual suspension bikes look like they have a higher center of gravity to accomodate the rear wheel travel, and I am concerned that this could affect thier cornering ability on tight single track and switchbacks. Is this the case, or do they corner just like a hardtail?
a good, light XC HT is going to cost roughly $500 to $1000 less than a comparable equipped XC FS bike.
 

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Calvin920 said:
I'm getting ready to buy a new bike and I'm trying to decide if I should go hardtail or FS. I ride mostly cross country, but some of it is pretty technical.

From what I've heard/read I understand that hardtails are better at climbing and accelorating due to the fixed frame, but dual suspension is better for technical trails and jumps.

One thing I am curious about though is cornering. The dual suspension bikes look like they have a higher center of gravity to accomodate the rear wheel travel, and I am concerned that this could affect thier cornering ability on tight single track and switchbacks. Is this the case, or do they corner just like a hardtail?
Don't take me as putting down hard tails 'cause I have a few of them and enjoy them, but it depends upon where the riding is. The hard ways as I call them can't compare to my 5 inch trail bike type on rocky fast stuff. The tires stay planted with the 5 inch dualie vs. bounce and skid. My dualie bike weighs about 6 pounds more, but I finish tough trails faster on it and my middle aged body feels better the next day.

I do not like riding the dual suspension bike on pavement or easy trails though.

Just don't waste your money on an 80mm fork. I swear my rigid fork with fat tire has about the same suspension as my SID, but it does the steering vs. rocks flexing the SID.

As far as your concern about tight switch backs... My particular 5 inch dualie is great in tight quarters, and a fork with ETA helps even more.

Just test ride what seems right and do it a few times before you commit.
 

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Agreed. Try to demo a few to figure out what you want and like.

I'd keep cornering ability outta the equation, unless you're dual slaloming or something. The big differences are going to be cost/price, weight, ride characteristics in different terrain, comfort and maintenance. And it all depends. You can take a freeride hardtail vs. an XC FS and blow all the usual HT vs. FS rules away! Components - especially fork and wheels/tires - will also factor in heavily.

Some general rules for comparable XCish hardtail vs. full suspensions are...
- HT better at smooth climbing, more efficient
- FS better at rough technical climbing because the rear wheel better tracks the terrain
- Technical descending - with a good fork, I think that an HT can keep up with an XC FS if you've got good skills and can take some punishment. Heck, I've stuck on the tire of an SC Bullit riding buddy while on my rigid SS!
- I'd give the FS the nod where you're pedaling through rough techy flat sections. There's a point where you've got to get your butt off the HT but you can stay pedaling on the FS. Marginal difference in most cases though
- Comfort - I've ridden both extensively and FS are more comfortable... unless you're riding 2.7 tubeless DH tires on your HT!
- Cost - HT cheaper unless you're thinking high bling factor - custom, ti, etc.
- Maintenance - HT has fewer moving parts, 'nuf said

Uhhh, sorry this became another rambling HT vs FS post. It's snowing outside... bored... S
 

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DSR said:
- Technical descending - with a good fork, I think that an HT can keep up with an XC FS if you've got good skills and can take some punishment. Heck, I've stuck on the tire of an SC Bullit riding buddy while on my rigid SS!
He couldn't have been trying very hard then, or are you just that damn good?
 

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uktrailmonster said:
He couldn't have been trying very hard then, or are you just that damn good?
it's quite possible.

I have a friend who can descend DH courses on his fully rigid SS faster than many of our local racers or freeriders on their DH/FR rigs.

I've had difficulty staying with him while riding 7" travel FS rigs.

it's true, some people really ARE that good! ;)
 

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gonzostrike said:
it's quite possible.

I have a friend who can descend DH courses on his fully rigid SS faster than many of our local racers or freeriders on their DH/FR rigs.

I've had difficulty staying with him while riding 7" travel FS rigs.

it's true, some people really ARE that good! ;)
Yeah I know what you mean, but the SAME rider on a DH/FR bike is going to be quicker than on a HT or fully rigid no?
 

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it's all about the rider...like the guy said. it matters little what's underneath you compared to how you can make use of the bike and the trail. in the previously-given example, although the ss rider's bike doesn't suck up any bumps for him, he's obviously getting over them smoothly due to superior technique. FS isn't a magic bullet. it demands a particular riding style, as does riding a hardtail, as does riding rigid. all three are different, but there are arguments and advantages and disadvantages that can be ascribed to each. it's not what you ride, but that you ride. and ride lots.
 

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ahb said:
FS isn't a magic bullet.
Well it was for me anyway. I can do a lot more on my FS than I ever could on my hardtail.

I know some people like the challenge of not having suspension, I know some riders have more skill than others and I know that a badly sprung or damped FS can be a liability. But with all else being equal, a well setup FS bike certainly has the capacity to outperform a HT or fully rigid descending rough terrain. When someone next wins a World Cup downhill race on a HT or fully rigid I might be convinced otherwise.
 

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If you are racing or on a budget then a strong argument can be made for a hardtail. However, I see a FS ride having a strong advantage when it comes to the 4-5 hour epic rides I like to do on a weekend day. If the ground is really technical then you really feel like you went through a boxing match after that long on a hardtail. You really have to look at what style of riding you intend to do if you want to make the decision. Don't think cornering should be among your highest criteria.
 

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The only thing a dual suspension has going for it it the corners is the added amount it stays planted.

IMO, most dual suspension rigs are going to have a longer wheelbase than a hardtail with the same fork. They will also have longer chain stays. That tends to take away from how much your bike will want to turn.

Short wheelbase = wants to turn on a dime

Long wheelbase = wants to hold a straight line

IMO, a shorter wheelbase will also allow the rider to alter the weight bias from front to rear (and rear to front) much easier and quicker. It is ideal to be able to quickly get your weight on the front wheel while going into the corner and then quickly moving to the back while exiting the corner.

A short travel dual suspension with a decent wheelbase shortness will be the ideal cornering bike. It doesn;t take much rear suspension to have a large effect in how well the rear stays planted.
 
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