Hardtail Vs Full Suspension | Cross Country Mountain Bike Shootout

Hardtail Vs Full Suspension | Cross Country Mountain Bike Shootout


– When it comes to World Cup
cross country racing we do see a split between full
suspension bikes and hardtails. Though many of the top
riders actually travel with both bikes, they’ll decide which one they want to use depending on how rough and how technical that course is. So today I’m gonna compare the two. (upbeat music) So I’ve got a full suspension
bike and a hardtail. So I’ve got a Canyon Exceed CF SLX. So fully carbon fibre,
super lightweight hardtail. Both bikes are running 29 inch wheels. Hardtail has got a hundred
mil travel up front, two by drivetrain, it
weighs in at 21 pound. The full suspension bike’s a Canyon Lux, it only weights two pounds more, so still very light, 23 pounds. Again, I’ve got a two by on
this bike, but now I’ve got a hundred mil front and rear suspension. So the Lux is a cross country
and marathon race machine. We’ve seen such riders
as Alban Lakata use it at great success at the
Cape Epic, so big long days, back to back, that’s when
a full suspension bike is really gonna come into its own. That comfort and compliance,
but also don’t forget you’ve got better traction
on full suspension bikes. The tyres are just gonna track the floor that little bit better. You’ve also got a RockShox remote lockout up on the bars that
will fully lockout your front and rear shocks simultaneously should you feel the need. The Exceed is what I would
call a proper carbon 29er cross country race machine. Now, Canyon say this
bike has been designed with the highest levels of stiffness, compliance and durability. This is all about being super lightweight and a rocketship up the climbs. So I’m gonna put the two
bikes head to head on my local hills on a cross country
loop I ride all the time. It consists of one decent sized climb, so it’s about 25 minutes
of lung-bursting stuff, and then one really nice swoopy, single-track, rocky descent. It’ll be interesting to see
if the full suspension bike makes enough time in the rough stuff to make up for its extra
weight and slightly less efficient pedalling. Right, okay, so first lap
on the hardtail, let’s go. (upbeat music) (wind rushing) Top cross country racers
aren’t worrying about comfort. Maybe slightly when it comes
to marathon and stage races, where riding time goes over a few hours, but we’re talking short track XEO here. Compliance is an interesting one. Of course we know that
a full suspension bike is more comfortable to
ride, but the movement of the suspension to
soak up the rough ground also means that forward
motion is more efficient. But is that all down to feel or will it make a difference on the clock? Credit here goes to Max
Glaskin, who’s an award winning freelance science, engineering
and technology journalist with a special interest in cycling. In his really interesting
book, The Science of Cycling, it shows that some tests say
that a full suspension bike can reduce vertical forces
by 50% but crucially the horizontal forces by a quarter, which means that less energy is used to propel the bike forward. But how rough does the trail need to be for this to make a difference? Okay, so there’s the
science, now let’s take the full suspension bike to the trail to see if it makes any
difference against the clock. (upbeat music) (gravel crunching) (wind rushing) So to the results of my
test, but let’s start off with actually the feel. Of course the full suspension
bike is more comfortable, but they both felt super
light, really fast up the hill. Downhill I definitely had more confidence on the full suspension
bike for its handling, but also a big one is for,
sort of, puncture resistance. On the hardtail, with
skinny cross country tyres, I feel like you do have to be
that little bit more careful in the rocky sections,
whereas a full suspension bike you just have that little bit
more compliance on the floor. Grip as well, of course,
for going up the hill. Traction on the rear
tyre was really important because it was slippy in parts. So the full suspension bike
does grip a little bit better, but also for riding back down the hill, obviously for cornering and for breaking the full suspension bike does
feel that little bit better. Going back to Max Glaskin’s
book, The Science of Cycling, which I must say is super interesting, definitely look it up, some
lab tests have shown that full suspension riders use
less oxygen on rough terrain but more on smooth, so is
that really a surprise? I guess not, we see fully
rigid bikes, of course, in road races, so no real surprises there, but again it’s gonna be
interesting, I think, to test that out again and
try and really work out when the trail becomes rough
enough that a full suspension bike rider uses less oxygen. So, to the times, now
the interesting part. (upbeat music) So on my hardtail from the
start point to the trig point, so the summit of the hill, took me 27 minutes and 21 seconds. I’ve gotta say, I went as fast as I could, that was a very tough climb. On the full suspension bike
I did it in 25 minutes 21, so a full two minutes quicker. But I will hold my hands up here, I did the two tests on consecutive days, so on the second day I
actually rode the hardtail and it was much windier, so to be honest that time doesn’t really stack up. I bet, on both tests I went
as hard as I possibly could, so I know my sort of threshold
power and my heart rate and I was hitting that
exactly for those two rides. And the times, I guess,
to be honest was all down to the wind, so I’m
gonna have to hold my hands up and say I need to redo the test. So if you keep your eyes
on The Dirt Shed next week hopefully I’m gonna go out this
week and do it back to back, so I’m gonna find a much
shorter cross country loop so I’m gonna have to
split it into a full loop rather than one big climb
and one full descent and I’m gonna do the two tests again. For reference I’ll give you
the downhill times as well. So the hardtail was 8 minutes 54 downhill, but the full suspension
bike was a full one minute and a half slower at 10 minutes 29. That does go to show
you that on the hardtail I had a headwind on the way up and then a tailwind on the way down, so this test is completely ruined. I apologise for that. But for me, I think the
really interesting point is the science, is when is a full suspension bike faster or slower? And again, I actually
wanna reach out to some pro cross country racers,
do they use science, do they test their bounceback,
or is it down to feel? So keep your eyes peeled on
The Dirt Shed show coming up and hopefully I’ll have a
proper conclusion for you. But whilst you’re here
watch some more videos, click over here for another
full suspension versus hardtail, over there for a cross country racer versus a downhill racer, see who’s faster on a cross country track. Hit the subscribe button
and give us a thumbs up if you like my really ruined
conclusions this video, but hopefully I’ll follow it up soon.