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?