Mountain bikes ridden off road are tons of fun and there are more options than ever. We do not have big mountains here in Minnesota, but we do have world-class trails, thanks to M.O.R.C. and I.M.B.A.
There are numerous subcategories of mountain bikes, but for this article I will limit my comments to comparing full suspension to hard tail mountain bikes. Full suspensions, sometimes called dual suspension have suspension on both wheels. The rear wheel suspension is built into the frame, so the designs are typically unique to each brand. However, some suspension designs are licensed to other manufacturers. Hard tails will usually have a front suspension fork.
As with most things in life, there are advantages to both types.
First the advantages of hard tail bikes. They are simpler and therefore cost and weigh less. Some riders adhere to the “simple is better” philosophy. Some even take it to the extreme of riding a rigid fork with a fixed gear single speed, like a track bike. Some car racks will not accept some full suspension bikes.
It is often suggested that hard tails are faster due to the energy robbed by suspension bobbing. Better bikes have a lock out for the suspension, and current designs have reduced this bobbing to a minimum, though. If you have not ridden a full suspension rig in a few years, you will be impressed with the advancements. They have dramatically reduced the interaction between braking, pedaling and the suspension.
A well-tuned high quality full suspension bike can be more fun, have better control, and greater speed. The rear wheel suspension gives better traction on the rear wheel and absorbs shock. This gives the rider more control, which allows more speed safely through technical situations. Some call this mistake forgiveness. A rider with low skill and experience can go faster letting the suspension compensate for the terrain. An experienced rider with high skills can go even faster for the same reasons. There is a definite comfort advantage to full suspension.
In general, the more technical the terrain, the more suspension helps.
Finally, since this article is “Marty’s Gadgets”, full suspension is cool gadgetry with stuff to tune, adjust, and impress friends. Happy riding and keep the rubber side down!