XC Mountain Bike: aluminum full susp OR carbon hardtail?

I am looking to buy a cross country mountain bike and start dabbling in some XC racing to have fun and help me with my bike handling. I do not have a budget to accommodate a top of the line bike but could swing some carbon hardtails out there or aluminum full suspension bikes that are around the same price (looking to not go over 3k USD). I have been looking at Specialized Epic Comp (full susp aluminum frame) and the Epic Hardtail Comp (carbon framed hardtail).

I originally was leaning toward carbon hardtail so I could use it for gravel as well. Also, not sure if it matters, but I am a bigger fella - 6’3" and 185lbs
I am not brand loyal but those were the two I have been comparing when thinking al full or carbon hardtail.

Would love to hear your thoughts, cheers!

I’ve been in this position before and chosen the carbon hardtail. Weight was a big factor in that decision, since an aluminum frame with more complexity, not to mention a shock and bearings, links, etc will end up weighing quite a bit more than a comparably priced carbon hardtail frame.

Component wise, at the Comp level you’ll end up with the pretty much the same parts on each bike. This choice comes down to whether your local trails are on the rougher side or you value comfort over speed. A hardtail in skilled hands can be just as fast, but it’ll be a bit of a rougher ride. Either pick will end up being a sweet bike for XC racing though!

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Some existing discussion:

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Thanks for that heads up! great insights on there

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FWIW, I bought a new Norco Revolver 9.1 full-suspension carbon for 2500 on pinkbike last year. I created a saved search on pinkbike, watched it regularly, was patient and negotiated a little. The bike was a 2 year old model that a bike shop was liquidating, so no warranty, but a heck of a bike for the price. It’s my first xc race bike and I love it. I previously raced a carbon hardtail (granted not state of the art) and was beat to death by the end typical marathon races. The modern xc full-squish is night and day more fun, less fatiguing, and faster; I even enjoy everyday trail riding on it. In the end, I couldn’t be happier with the upgrade.

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I was going to post exactly this, consider a second hand carbon full sus bike. I got a great deal on a lightly used Revolver that someone had built up with XTR. Absolutely love it. It’s amazingly fast. I won my first XC race riding it after a string of 2nds and 3rds.

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Carbon hardtail frame that can accommodate 2.8 tires for year round fun and skinnies for a race. If you are not going to race and want to have a great time (assuming you have the trails for it) Gorilla Gravity makes a well speced trail bike for surprisingly affordable prices. For a carbon hardtail, you can grab an open mold frame and slap a sly 1x11 on there for around a grand + wheels and tires. Sky is the limit on wheels these days.

My 6" bike is my anything and anywhere bike. If the bike is “too heavy” or “not efficient enough”…there is always the trainer to make up the difference. I could not race xc on it at a proper level, so racing is a factor, but a big bike is a big smile and keeps you fresh longer so you can ride more and more. If you do not race, you will wish you bought a full suspension.

My .02

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Full sus carbon bike for $3000

https://www.canyon.com/en-us/mtb/lux/lux-cf-sl-6-0-pro-race

Like others have said, the choice of full sus vs hard tail should be driven by the kind of terrain you plan on riding on.

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I owe you a beer!

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My next bike is likely to be a Canyon… well… the next bike after my next bike, which will likely be a salsa cutthroat or warbird. N+1 alive and well.

Hey did you end up getting that Canyon? I’m in a similar spot. What do you think of it?

Howdy! I ended up getting a 2016 SWorks Camber (29r full squish 120 up front) from a local fellow. If I were to buy new…no question I would have gotten the canyon.
Being a sub par mountain biker, I definitely am glad I heeded the advice to go full suspension

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Perfect. Thank you for responding.

I am in exactly the same spot. I am also a sub par mountain biker… or more accurately, a road rider who is getting an MTB to get away from cars and will likely be walking through technical sections.

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I went from full sus to one of these Canyon Exceed this year.

Despite being a hardtail it’s very capable over rough terrain, only rarely do I wish I had full sus when out for a ride (In fact since it arrived it’s been by go to bike regardless of the terrain.)

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I’m still on a 26" full sus MTB, and my ride buddies are all on 29" hardtails. One often forgotten area where the FS bike really seems to help is up hill traction. I’ll quite often clear technical, rooty steep climbs (and I’m not the greatest technical bike handler!) that will have the other guys walking up. Something to bear in mind depending what your trails are like.

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I agree. It has definitely helped me due to its more “forgiving” nature it has helped me not only descend faster but also climb smoother as well. My poor line choices aren’t as tragic anymore whether going up or down :smile:

Chiming in to second a Guerrilla Gravity! The Pedalhead starts at $2400, and is a steel hardtail. I owned one for a couple of years and am looking to get another. It won’t be the lightest, but for a bigger guy, it will be a bike you won’t have to worry about. I knocked out a ton of PRs on my Pedalhead over my full suspension bike. Extremely capable bike for rugged trails or just cruising flowy XC. The steel makes it quite comfy and knocks down some of the chatter, and it will fit 27.5x3.0" or up to 29x2.6". So plenty of options. You could upgrade the wheels or drivetrain and still be under your $3k budget, and then incrementally upgrade to some carbon bits in the future.

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