First disclaimer, if this has been posted already and I just couldn’t find it, my bad mods.
I am a few years into road riding, and I love it! But my coworkers are all mountain bikers and I’m thinking about getting an entry level mtb to just ride with them some weekends. My local shop has a Scott Spark 940 in my size on sale for 1700, which ends up being just about what I would want to spend.
But this made think that I know nothing about mtb other than what I’ve heard on the AACC podcast and read here. I keep hearing that full suspension will be better, but those seem mostly out of my $ range. Still, is it a big enough difference to make sense to save and wait? 1700 seems like a pretty good deal for carbon too.
FWIW I live in an area with a good mix of Xc type loose stuff and pretty intense single track, central Spain, but I could avoid the high mountains if I wanted.
If you’re not racing I wouldn’t stress about the efficiency of hardtail vs full suspension.
Just on that Scott Spark, its the first generation with that new design and there’s definitely been some teething issues to watch out for. I had the last generation of Scott Spark(920) though and it was a fantastic bike.
Scott Spark or Scale? It seems your question is hardtail vs full-suspension. You can do a lot on a hardtail, and a Scott Scale will be a quick first bike. If you decide you like MTB and want more bike, you can go full-suspension in the future. For climbing and moderate trails, it won’t make a huge difference.
Get a FS XC bike, Epic, Scalpel, Spark, etc. They’re all dangerously light and a far cry from the boat anchors they used to be. You can get those frame with the budget friendly SRAM NX/GX or Shimano SLX and have an exceptional XC bike.
Picked up a new FS XC bike (Cannondale Scapel Carbon 2 with XT) this May with the intention of doing XC and XCM.
My Scalpel is about 1 pound (450g) heavier than my Ti Gravel bike and both have droppers. It also is a crazily good handling bike. It makes me a better rider that I should be and that makes things a lot of fun.
This is a finger-in-the-wind opinion, but I think roadies always gravitate towards hardtails vs. full suspension because … well, because they’re roadies🤘
But as a person who came into this sport on the road with a Cx bike, then gravitated towards road but found himself racing gravel and then got “MTB curious” like you … PLEASE listen to my advice:
If you buy a full-suspension bike (preferably with a dropper post) - you will NEVER regret it.
If you buy a hardtail, there is a minimum 30%-40% chance you will regret it.
As a roadie, if your friends are all mountain bikers and you want to have a shot of even staying within sight of them … go full suspension with a dropper. I’m channeling my inner @Nate_Pearson here.
You don’t know what you don’t know … you will not believe how unbalanced you are as a rider. All roadies (myself included) are doing it wrong. Every time I ride single track I learn something new about riding a bike.
While I agree with those saying a FS is worth getting (I started MTB on a hardtail, went to FS and never looked back), I will say that, since your budget sounds like it’s in the ballpark of $2k, you’re better off going with a hardtail unless you’re willing to buy used. That budget used could probably get you a decent FS for what you want to do, but I wouldn’t personally want to buy a new FS at that price point.
I am a roadie that went XC this past year and it’s been a brilliant move. I vastly prefer riding the gravelly trails and forest tracks rather than being at the mercy of texting, cyclist-hating drivers. I can recommend the Trek Procaliber hardtail XC bikes. The isospeed damper magically takes a lot of the roughness out of the ride.
Regarding the hardtail vs full suspension question, I’d have a look / ask what your friends are riding. If they are all on full sus bikes, you’ll likely want one too. If it’s a mix, you’ll probably be fine on a hardtail.
Thanks for all the insight everyone. So my friends ride hardtail, confirmed with them this morning. They are mostly using the bikes as gravel plus, so I think I would be totally fine with the hardtail. That said, canyon outlet has a neuron 7 for 2300, and I am really tempted to just spend the extra 600 and go basic full suspension trail after reading these comments.
My vote is either the Scott spark as at least your local shop will give you some warranty on it (hopefully) - or get a lightweight hardtail with decent components (XT) - especially if you’re gonne be doing loads of gravel and road rides. Sure full sus will be faster but its a great way to learn and if you’re good > you will still be very competitive on the hard tail. Some of the fastest XC guys in my area (some world-class level riders) all ride hardtails on trails that we would classify as enduro.
Most important thing is to look out for geometry - get something with modern geometry and good suspension + dropper post.
My vote would be a specialised chisel as a great starter bike.
When money allows and once you fall in love with the sport (which you will) get the bike you want. For me I will stick to hardtails