Full Suspension or Hardtail for XCM

Alright all you hear junkies, I need your help.

It’s new mtb time and I’m trying to decide between a hardtail and a full sus. I know the HT will be less expensive, or have better parts. But I’m wondering where my money is better spent.

For 2022 my two target events are a 67km and an 80km mountain bike events (both a blend of single track w/ rocks and roots + some fire road time.

My big goal is a 120km even in 2023.

So what do you think…not necessarily specific bikes (though that’s ok—looking at about 5000usd) …but more advice on what will serve me better. I’m a heavier rider, so climbing is a challenge, but I’m also still a bit nervous and techy descents.

Let’s go!

Full Suspension.

In my opinion a full suspension bike is going to be a lot faster over an XCM course. Particularly one with a level of tech/chunk.

If you’re inclined towards the HardTail end of things you could go the Trek SuperCal (don’t know pricing sorry).

My preference is something like the new Spark RC or Canyon Lux Trail.

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No contest, go with the full suspension. 2ish pounds is just not very noticeable for us heavier ppl.

I’m riding a 100K MTB event next month on my Epic.

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In almost all circumstances a full sus bike will be faster and more comfortable. The newest breed is extremely capable when your bike points downhill and you often don’t even need to lock out your suspension on the uphills either.

I’d even suggest you have a look at downcountry bikes, which have slightly more suspension travel than XC machines and tend to have slightly burlier components (e. g. a Fox 34 instead of a Fox 32 fork, the former has wider stanchions and is therefore stiffer).

I’d only suggest a hardtail if you were on a very tight budget so that your choices would be between a decent hardtail and an entry-levle fully.

By the way, no matter what bike you go for, I’d also order tire inserts and make sure you have a dropper post.


Full suspension, even if you were a lighter, highly fit, highly skilled rider.



There are still a few hard tails in xco races aren’t there? Does that mean anything?


You mean World Cup level? Or XC racing in general?


I’m not sure if you’re being facetious or not, but generally speaking the World Cup racers are picking their full suss bikes more and more lately. They do have hardtails and pick them for less technical courses/ones where the climbs are far more decisive than the downhill sections.

Bearing in mind that to these 45-65kg riders the 1-2kg difference between their weight optimised HardTail and full suss is a larger proportion of the overall system weight. They also still race 2.1-2.2 tyres with some regularity, and I don’t think a heavy rider (or many people at all really) should be picking narrow rubber anymore.

Regards casual/weekend warrior racers, there’s still lots of preferences that may or may not be based on anything other than what they’ve done in the past. I’ve been smoked by some very skillful riders on hardtails, and railed passed some on the very raggedy edge when I’ve been on cruise control :man_shrugging:.

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I’d definitely go for full sus. Over a long ride all the small bumps eventually add up and will leave you tired and more prone to making mistakes, which a hardtail will punish just that bit more than a full sus will.

I have a Supercaliber, which was mentioned above as a hardtail but really (really) isn’t - it has only 60mm of rear travel, but that’s fully damped and adjustable (compression and rebound), which makes it a real shock IMO :slightly_smiling_face:
If I lock mine out it becomes fully rigid, and I’ve used this in a 65km on and off road sportive for the smoother sections - it was perfect.

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Another one for the supercaliber. I just bought one a few weeks ago with the lutsen 99er in mind and I couldn’t be happier so far. It climbs like a rocket ship and I have not felt that it is holding me back on descents (I am in the midwest).

In my defense, I’d like to clarify I don’t think the SuperCal is a HardTail, but is more closely related to the classic HardTail in terms of geo and inclination than a more active full suspension bike.

Definitely agree with your points regarding getting beat up.

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I rode a UK trail centre yesterday on my (currently) fully rigid MTB (On-One Whippet)… I’ve ridden it before several times, most recently on a rented Santa Cruz Hightower, and by comparison I am absolutely beat up today - I’ve strained muscles I didn’t know I had!

I was destroyed last time too but only because I was a lot less fit… The amount of impact on the rigid bike made it feel like a completely different course, it’s a lot more physical.

Funnily enough I actually set PRs on all the descents, it must just be because I have been riding off road much at least once a week since I got the Whippet (rather than once every 3-6 months on a rented bike).

I also recently rode another UK trail centre on back to back days on different hire bikes - the first day a rented Whyte alu hardtail and the second on a carbon Trek Fuel. Needless to say I was faster on the Fuel (although the previous day practice probably helped).

So: I would buy a full sus :slight_smile:

Edit: I am going to put front suspension on the Whippet


The older I get, the more my full squish body demands a full squish bike.

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Pros pick HT vs full-sus based on terrain, not distance. Lots of HT at Albstadt XCO, then I don’t think I saw anyone competitive at Tokyo on a HT.

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I only ever recommend hardtails to people that are more on a budget <3-4K as quality-wise you can get a great HT especially for a beginner at ~3K. But FS at ~3K is lacking in suspension and durability of components, in my opinion.

Since you are in the 5K range, you can’t go wrong with any of the major FS XC or “down-country” bikes.


I tried racing a FS, didn’t like it. I went back to a hard tail.

Which FS and what did you dislike?


Mostly just the fact that I was slower. I don’t know if it was the weight (couple extra pounds), or the vagueness when pedaling, but I was almost always slower over the race course.

I’m 53 and hardtail all the way. Get a Specialized Epic hardtail and don’t look back.

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