The Benefits Of Hard-tail Mountain Bikes

It’s important to note that I’m not suggesting that hardtails are better than dual suspension bikes, or that everyone should ride hardtails. The factors that influence the suitability of a bike for a given rider are complex, and everyone’s individual requirements will be different. That said, I’m convinced that a hardtail offers performance advantages over full suspension bikes for the large majority of off-road riders and almost all cross country and marathon riders.

Full suspension cross country:

  • Pros: Nice and plush: ideal for the beginner rider.
  • Cons: Heavier than hardtail.

Hardtails:

  • Pros: Comfortable and fast, much lighter than full suspension bikes.
  • Cons: Less plush than full suspension bikes.

Because hardtails are lighter than full suspension bikes, but hardtails and full suspension bikes have identical geometry and bottom bracket heights, hardtails must be more efficient than full suspension bikes. So how much efficiency do we gain?

The efficiency of two-wheel drive, and in particular the drivetrain and the rider , compared to four-wheel drive, and in particular the tyre and the ground , is extremely important in off-road riding.

How do we quantify this efficiency?

In order to compare hardtails and full suspension bikes from a performance perspective, we need to consider the specific benefits that the suspension adds to a bike. The benefits of bike suspension can be broadly classified into 3 categories:

The suspension system does not provide any direct benefit to the bike, rather it assists the rider in riding faster and/or further by absorbing some of the bumps and vibrations from the ground. Any time the suspended bike is going faster or further than a comparable hardtail bike, a significant part of the performance enhancement is due to the impacts and vibrations being absorbed by the bike.

The suspension system absorbs some of the bumps from the ground, which then reduces the vibrations that the rider feels from his or her contact with the bike, and therefore to a lesser extent the vibrations that the rider transmits to the handlebars. The suspension system largely prevents the ground from forcing the tyres into the ground, which means that the ground cannot provide the driving force to the bike. This forces the rider to expend more energy to overcome the rolling resistance.

The relationship between a ride’s speed and the centrifugal force acting on a body moving in a circle is a fundamental physical property. It is a fundamental physical property of a bicycle that it is a two-wheel drive system, and it is a property of two-wheel drive systems that they accelerate more slowly than four-wheel drive systems. The centrifugal force acting on the bicycle is the force that causes the bicycle to accelerate more slowly than the rider. The forces on the rider are transmitted to the handlebars.

The two most significant forces on the bicycle are the centrifugal force and the weight of the cyclist. The centrifugal force can be largely eliminated by removing the rear wheel, and the weight is almost entirely eliminated by removing the front wheel. Therefore, removing both wheels reduces the forces acting on the bicycle by more than 110% with respect to two-wheel drive, with respect to four-wheel drive the bike is 97% efficient.

Any time the bike is accelerating through a turn with respect to the direction of travel, i.e. when accelerating off the bottom of the pedal stroke in turns, when accelerating out of turns, when accelerating with respect to the direction of travel in technical terrain, when accelerating in sprinting with respect to the direction of travel, when accelerating through the drive train, then it is accelerating more slowly than if it were in four-wheel drive, in other words it is less efficient than if it were in four-wheel drive.

If the rider is accelerating through the turn, then the rider is also pushing his or her weight against the centrifugal force, which is pushing against the rider. Therefore, more of the rider’s weight is pushing more of the rider’s weight against the centrifugal force. This extra force acts across a shorter lever, that is, the handlebars are closer to the rider’s centre of gravity, so the force is amplified.

The difference between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive is the ratio of the centrifugal force to the rider’s weight, i.e. g/W. This dimensionless ratio is maximized when the centrifugal force is half of the rider’s weight, or g = 0.5W, so the ratio is maximized when the rider is maximally supported by the bike, i.e. when the body is aligned with the weight.

Thus, the rider will be accelerating more slowly when he or she is maximally supported by the bike, which is when his or her centre of gravity is aligned with the bike’s centre of gravity. This is the same action that caused the centrifugal force to increase above, i.e. the centrifugal force increases when the rider’s centre of gravity is not aligned with the bike’s centre of gravity.

The centre of gravity of a rider and a bike is typically located at the intersection of the bottom bracket and the top tube. When the bottom bracket is not aligned with the top tube, then part of the rider’s weight is not supported by the bike and therefore the acceleration is slower.

Therefore, when the bottom bracket is aligned with the top tube, the centrifugal force acting on the cyclist is the same as the centrifugal force acting on a cyclist who is not supported by a bike, therefore the cyclist is maximally supported by the bike, and the cyclist will be accelerating more slowly than if the entire weight of the bike and rider were pushing against the centrifugal force, i.e. the centrifugal force will be less than half the weight of the rider. The cyclist’s weight will be affected by the equipment and by the terrain, and therefore the centrifugal force and the weight of the cyclist will not be exactly equal to each other, but the suspension forks will still be reducing the centrifugal force to a greater extent than if the bottom bracket were aligned with the top tube. The suspension forks will be aligned with the bottom bracket and the top tube, and therefore the suspension forks will be reducing the centrifugal force to a greater extent. The benefit to the performance of a bike from a suspension fork is irrelevant to a hardtail, because the hardtail will have the same geometry as a bike with a suspension fork, and therefore a suspension fork will give no performance advantage a a hardtail.

By far the most significant contributor to the centrifugal force acting on a bike is the rider’s weight, so by far the most significant portion of the centrifugal force that a suspension fork can eliminate is the centrifugal force due to the rider’s weight. When a suspension fork is aligned with the bottom bracket and the top tube, i.e. the bike forks are aligned, then virtually all of the centrifugal force due to the weight of a rider will be eliminated. Therefore, a suspension fork aligned with the bottom bracket and the top tube will be minimally effective, and therefore a suspension fork significantly increases a bike’s efficiency for a given rider, who is maximally supported by the bike, to 74% from 97% for a comparable hardtail.

In summary, a suspension fork is aligned with the bottom bracket and the top tube, which increases the centrifugal force acting on the cyclist’s weight by 24%, but a suspension fork can eliminate as much as 74% of this increased centrifugal force, so the suspension fork is increasing the bike’s efficiency for this given rider by 12.5 percentage points.

It follows that for this given rider, if the suspension fork is aligned with the bottom bracket and the top tube, then the suspension fork is increasing the bike’s efficiency for this given rider by 12.5 percentage points. It is possible that the suspension fork is aligned with the bottom bracket and the top tube for most of the rider’s weight, i.e. for most of the time that the rider is maximally supported by the bike, but this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, it is likely that the suspension fork is increasing the bike’s efficiency for this given rider by less than 12.5 percentage points, because the bike will often be decelerating during turns, and the acceleration of the bike will be accelerating more slowly than if it were maximally supported by the bike.

It follows that for this given rider, if the suspension fork is aligned with the bottom bracket and the top tube, then the suspension fork is reducing the bike’s efficiency for this given rider by less than 24% during acceleration. Certainly, it is reducing the bike’s efficiency by significantly less than 24% during acceleration, because the bike is decelerating through turns, so the suspension fork is reducing the bike’s efficiency below the value obtained by multiplying 97% by 0.74 above.

It follows that for this given rider, if the suspension fork is aligned with the bottom bracket and the top tube, then the hardtail is more efficient than the full suspension bike. However, since the suspension fork is only aligned with the bottom bracket and the top tube for part of the time that the rider is maximally supported by the bike, then the efficiency of the suspension fork is being exaggerated.

This consideration also applies to the efficiency of the rear suspension. Certainly, the rear suspension of a full suspension bike is aligned with the bottom bracket and the top tube more of the time than the front suspension.

Choosing The Best Hardtail Mountain Bike

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect machine for most mountain bikers than the hardtail. Hardtails, also known as ‘rigid’ or ‘singlespeed’, are bikes that don’t have suspension, and generally don’t have gears either.

What they do have is a frame and forks with enough clearance for wide ‘fat’ tyres and a rigid back end – ideal for tackling rough and technical terrain. Hardtails aren’t as capable as multi-geared bikes when it comes to lugging heavy cargo loads or climbing steep, long hills. They’re also heavier and less sophisticated than their full-suspension brethren.

But they’re also less expensive than multi-geared models and can offer as much as – or more than – all but the most dedicated of riders. The growing following for cross-country mountain biking has spurred a fierce debate among riders on all aspects of their sport. One of the most controversial topics of recent years is whether a hardtail is a good choice for a dedicated XC competitor. The case for a fat-tyred rig is based on several beliefs, not all of which are universally accepted. The frame of a hardtail is lighter, stiffer and stronger than that of a full-suspension bike of similar price.

The lack of rear suspension also makes it simpler and less expensive to service, maintain and customise. Rigid frames of a certain age – designed for 27.5in or 29in tyres on a 5in or more rim – have similar or greater tyre clearance than most multi-geared hardtails. A rigid mountain bike also handles more quickly and responsively, and on technical climbs is less likely to get kicked out of line on rough trails. But the biggest factor in favour of a hardtail is its cost. You can have a new carbon-framed, full-suspension rig from a top brand for around $5,000 these days. You can get a really nice hardtail mountain bike for under $2000

Used rigid mountain bikes on offer online

Have a look online or in your local second-hand shop for used mountain bikes. These are the bikes that will suit most people well for wide, mud-shedding tyres. Older sizes of big-brand bikes are very abundant, but ‘proprietary’ frames built in the 1990s and early 2000s work well for this purpose. Here are some to look out for: Giant Maestro or Talon, Cannondale R2000 or¬†¬†Aeroad, Trek 8000, K2 Lynx, Orbea Alma, Raleigh Militis, Bianchi X2, Saracen X, Orange C16, Specialized Hardrock or P.2.

The 2006 Specialized Hardrock is a good place to start looking. Make sure to try any bike you’re thinking of buying, and check the tyres for cuts, bulges and thorns. Check suspension will move freely in all directions, and that the fork steerer is straight – if it’s bent, sell the hardtail straight away. Saddle, wheels and other components are likely to be in okay condition given the age, but be sure to check for broken spokes, cracks in the fork blades, in the frame and in any carbon parts in particular. If in doubt, take it to a mechanic for a thorough inspection. The right wheels are very important if you’re buying a rigid bike for cyclocross or trail riding.

For CX use, get 32h wheels with robust tyres. DT Swiss makes nice wheels that are stiff, durable, affordable and available in fat-bike hubs. If you’re into hardtail racing get Mavic Crossmax XL wheels.

If you’re buying a bike to try to follow fast CX riders, I strongly recommend getting 32h wheels so you can run specialised cyclocross or ‘cyclocross-style‘ tubeless tyres. I have both 26h and 32h wheels on my fleet. The 26h DT wheels are lighter, cheaper, work well with tubes, are fine for trail riding and are lighter, quieter, mine are lighter and cheaper, but are subject to pinch flats. The 32h wheels are slower on flatter trail rides, are heavier, are less nimble and sure-footed, but better suited to CX-style riding – especially when running tubeless tyres. The swap without any modification to tyres, wheels, seatpost or anything else is 15 minutes. Click this link for more details on how to convert your wheels. The right seatpost You need a seatpost at least 400mm long to run smaller, 27.2mm diameter tyres. The seatpost itself needs to be stiff, durable and ideally reinforced where it passes through the frame.

There are short seatposts made for 26in mountain bikes, such as the Planet X Dropper 22 and On-One post. I don’t recommend this approach, because these posts also flex. If you’re worried about your seatpost flexing, or just want to run a long post, you’re in luck: order a seatpost with a 31.6mm outer diameter and replace the seatpost collar and seatclamp with a 25.4mm or 31.8mm alternative to make it fit your frame.  The longer seatpost will allow you to dolly forward over the front wheel when your bike is loaded up with gear and you’ll be able to fit wider tyres in the rear. It’s all about the fit! Many people fit wider tyres to their hardtail mountain bikes in an attempt to cure slow handling and hard work on rough ground – and for many riders this trick helps a lot. I prefer to fit wide tyres in combination with a longer, sturdier seatpost. When you’re sitting in the saddle and grab the handlebars in the drops and lean back, you should be able to place the rims on the floor.

The Right Tyres for Your Hardtail

For riding on boggy, wet bog tracks, groomed singletrack, muddy logging trails and so on, get a set of tyres with a smooth tread. If you get a set of gumwalls, stick with the more rounded, wide profile. If you’re going to ride a lot on hard pack trails, get a set of tyres with a stiffer sidewall. Tubeless, please! Tubeless tyre sets cost a bit of money, but they’re a great upgrade for a hardtail. Tubeless tyres are easy on rims and on your wallet, and lighter than tubes.

Don’t bother with ‘seamless’ tyre sets where the inner tube and outer casing are glued together. You can’t get a new tube or a patched tubeless tyre.

Fitting a set of 35-45mm clinchers to a 26in wheel is easy. There are some expensive kits on the market, but you can get a good tubeless conversion for around $30. Loctite 1186 is a good product, or you can get a bag of tyre plugs and a tubeless valve for a few dollars more.

When fitting a new tubeless tyre, use no more than a few small dollops of tyre goo. Don’t blow it up to 80psi!  Instead, ride the bike around for a while and check for burping. If the tyre burps, you’ve overfilled it.

Hardtail Mountain Bike Comparison

There’s really no comparison to be had between a hardtail and a full-suspension bike of similar price. Fully suspended bikes, with their ability to absorb and negate trail chatter and to deliver a smoother ride, will always deliver more of a pleasurable experience. The more expensive the suspension, the more the pleasure. And the less expensive the hardtail, the less pleasurable the ride. But there’s no reason you can’t get a hardtail with suspension forks and add a short travel (100-130mm) seatpost suspension. You can add a little plushness and lateral movement control to your hardtail with a rear shock, while keeping the price and weight down and the frame stiff and responsive. I’ll go into this in more detail in a later article.

The popular and widely used Singlespeed Worlds and Singlespeed Race Series allow you to ride a rigid frame and enjoy the fun and challenge of a singlespeed race. If you have a hardtail creek bike, concentrate on ups, downs and basic trail navigation, and you don’t plan to do any real hill climbing. A rigid beam hardtail with a no-nonsense attitude can be a good choice for this sort of riding, especially if you’re on a budget, know what you’re doing, or have a limited timeframe to have a lot of fun.

First Americans 2021

Welcome visitor! A new year has just begun, and new opportunities are opening as we speak. I hope you are as excited as us for all the amazing things in development.

Here at the centerfirstamericans.org we have spent most of last year building out our network and creating some amazing collaborations for the next 5 years.

One of our main goals has always been to create more and better content that will educate and entertain. I think we were able to get the education part right on a regular basis.

We weren’t able to entertain as much as we had hoped. And it’s pretty much impossible to teach anyone if they aren’t entertained or interested. You could just lock them up in a classroom under penalty of imprisonment of their parents, but that is another topic.

So, what can you expect from us?

The same great message and depth of content, but with a much better packaging. Fun, easy reading that teaches without the feeling of being taught.

Looking forward to our journey together!

Rita