The Old FS vs. HT Question, Asked Another Way

What are some benefits and drawbacks of opting for a slightly more trail-oriented (slacker, bigger fork) hardtail versus a shorter-travel, racier xc full-suspension (aside from cost and maintenance)? I have over 4000 miles on my 100mm hardtail frame and am finally ready to treat myself to a modern mtb in the coming months. I still love riding the old 28-pound hunk of aluminum, but everything I read and hear says the new bikes will blow my mind. Even some FS trail bikes are lighter than what I’m riding now. Not sure if I’ll go used or new, gotta keep it under $4k USD.

I’ve gone back and forth between full-suspension and another hardtail over and over. Most of the riding I do here in Western PA is relatively tame in terms of gnar, albeit extremely steep. However, there are some rowdier routes within a reasonable drive that I would like to feel confident on as well. I do the occasional XC race, but most of my racing is on the road/gravel/tri side, where I’m more competitive, so when it comes to dirt I am primarily interested in extracting maximum enjoyment over marginal gains. I do love climbing, however, and a bike that climbs well is important to me. I am a cautious descender, so something that instills confidence is equally important. What will make me happier, downcountry hardtail or XC full squish?

Are there any particular bikes you are looking at? Have you considered something like a fuel ex or stump jumper? Based on the description of your riding style/preference I would look at something along those lines. Maybe in the 120-130m travel full squish category.

Why don’t you go for a down country fully instead of an XC bike? Down country bikes are sturdier XC bikes in a sense, they have more suspension travel (e. g. 120-130 mm in the front instead of 100 mm), are a bit burlier and the geometry tends to go more in the progressive XC bike direction.

Unless you just love riding trails on hard tails, modern full suspension bikes are faster in most circumstances.
My vote would be for a down country fully.

That makes things tougher. Since I bought my last mountain bike, prices have increased quite a bit. You could get a very good mid-range hard tail or a more entry-ish level fully for that kind of money. Put simply, you need to buy more stuff (damper in the rear, etc.) for the same total budget. Still, you could think about upgrading your bike later.


Agreed with the others, downcountry FS is the way to go for what you’re describing.

Down the road, maybe get a second wheelset. That way you can quickly swap between XC and trail/enduro tires.


Seconded. Usually wheels are where manufacturers save money, especially on “lower specced” bikes. It is much easier for unassuming customers to understand what groupset they have than whether they have good wheels or not. Plus, you don’t need to be a mechanics genius to do the upgrade :grin:

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