Softail or Hardtail?

If you are not into mountain biking at all, the title of this blog might confuse you a bit. So, let’s define what we are talking about. A hardtail mountain bike has a front set of shocks, whereas a softail has shocks on both the front and rear wheel. The question I want to ask is; which is better. Unfortunately the answer is not simple and will vary from rider to rider.

For the purpose of this article I am assuming that you have over R 16 000 to spend on a bike. Any less than that and you will not get a quality softail. If you have less, you need to go for the best possible hardtail that you can get for your hard earned money.

Benefits of a hardtail

Hardtails are lighter. That means that they climb better and will handle less technical XtC_Composite_29er_0_angle-929x1024paths and district roads with ease.
They are more power efficient in that energy through to the back wheel is not dissipated as the rear shock moves up and down.
There is less that can go wrong. Without a rear pivot system and shock, the bike is less likely to break, and thus cheaper to maintain.
A carbon fibre hardtail will have a level of flex through the chain and seat stay.
A 29er wheel does tend to remove a fair amount of road shock.

Benefits of a softail.

These bikes do well on the rough stuff. They will give you higher levels of comfort and better levels of control for less experienced riders. giant maestro
Cyclists might just find themselves fresher after a number of hours in the saddle on a softail.

So a comparison list looks like this –

Softail Hardtail
Maintainance Stuff can go very wrong
Reliability Stuff can go very wrong
Comfort Comfortable Chuck rides a hardtail
Efficiency Standing on pedals not pretty Pure power efficiency
Twitchy paths Wins You need strong quads
Faster paths/district roads Watch the hardtail riders go past Wins

Two important health considerations.
If you suffer from lower back issues, get a softail- also make sure from your Doctor that you can endure the rigors of off road riding.
If you have knee issues such as Chrondomalacia Patella, get a softail. Your knees will love you for it.

Cost considerations.

At R 20 000 you will get a full carbon fibre hardtail with really good shocks and components.
At R 20 000 you will get an Aluminium softail with midrange components.

Hopefully that helps with your choice.

Remember to always get a proper bike setup. You can read more about our approach here – http://sbrsport.me/2012/07/14/our-approach-to-bike-setup/

Regards

Mike

About sbrsport

SBR Sport specialises in Swimming, Biking and Running. On the medical side we are able to do intensive bike setups, leg assessments and soft tissue release.
Follow us on twitter – www.twitter.com/swimbikerunshop
and/or facebook – www.facebook.com/sbrsport.

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2 Responses to Softail or Hardtail?

  1. Dan Parker says:

    Interesting read. I upgraded my 26 hard tail in January and was torn between hard or soft tail. All i knew is i wanted to go for a 29er (being 1.90m tall, i always felt a 26er to be, small).
    Advice always varied, “you’re nearing 30, a soft tail will be easier on the body” “It’s more comfortable” etc etc.

    I managed to get a loan soft tail for a weekend and hated it. Sure, it was very comfortable on the rough trails, but i had only been cycling for around 6 months, my legs aren’t on par strength wise with my cycling mates and the power that rear suspension took away made the already hard task of keeping up with them that much harder.

    Another problem was the weight. Shopping in the price category you’ve mentioned above. The soft tails in this range are considerably heavier.

    And lastly, as i don’t have budget for a road bike as well, but do enjoy doing some road races, the hard tail was the most sensible option. (fitted with a pair of road tyros, of course)

    There are days and rides however that i do with i had a soft tail. And they just look cool.

    My two cents worth. Hope you’re well.

    Dan

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