Hardtail or Dual Suspension Mountain bike?

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​How To choose an Entry Level Mountain Bike: Hardtail vs. Dual Suspension

Mountain bikes are probably the most versatile bicycles and are often labeled as a “can do all” kind off bike. In this "How To" guide we will not discuss what a mountain bike is good for, but will focus on what kind of mountain bike fits you best, Hardtail or Dual Suspension.

All mountain bikes have a front suspension fork. Front suspensions fork usually start at 100mm of travel, approximately 4inches, and depending on the bike’s purpose, can go up to 200mm, approximately 8inches. On the rear wheel, some mountain bikes have rear suspension and some don’t. When a mountain bike does not have rear suspension, the industry calls them “ Hardtails”. When there is rear suspension on the bike, they get the designation of “DualSuspensions”. Like in the Front Fork Suspension, Rear Suspension travel ranges from 100mm to 200mm and this is normally on par with the fork, i.e. if you have a mountain bike with 140mm fork suspension, you normally have 140mm of rear suspension.

But what is the purpose of having a Dual Suspension mountain bike? What do you get extra from Dual Suspension?

In this "How To" guide we shall only focus on Entry Level Mountain bikes and this encompasses the following models:

Polygon Xtrada 4 - From  $549
Polygon Xtrada 5 - From $649

The Xtrada range took a big step up for 2015 and now features 27.5” wheels, hydraulic disc brakes and plenty of gears. This is an excellent bike for a beginner that doesn’t want to break the bank but needs a bike that inspires some confidence while riding through off road terrain.

The frame is one of the highlights on this bike. Super strong hydroformed alloy paired to a comfortable geometry making this a predictable bike on the trails and extremely fun for everyday use.

Polygon Siskiu 6.0 - 29er - From $899
Polygon Siskiu 7.0 - 29er - From $1,199

The Siskiu29 range is a more competitive style bike, as the geometry, components and purpose of the bike are more performance oriented. Polygon built this bike with 29” wheels but changed the geometry on the bike to make it as nimble as possible, similar feel to what a 26” wheel deliver on the trail.

The bigger wheels on this bike means that the straight line speed is far greater than the other 2 models mentioned in this article. Also, the big wheel is notorious to give a more comfortable ride as opposed to smaller wheels and rolling over obstacles is much more forgiving.

Polygon Siskiu D6 - From $949
Polygon Siskiu D7  - From $1,299

The Siskiu D range is our entry level Dual suspension model retailing close to Hardtail prices. Having a Dual Suspension bike means that you can take a bit more risks out on the trail and get away with it. Polygon used 27.5” wheels on this bike to give the bike the agility it needs to tackle most challenges on the trail but also to enable higher straight line speeds.

The frame geometry is based on an ever so popular 4-bar suspension system that delivers great power transfer to the back wheel whilst being very forgiving on bumpy terrain. Another advantage of the 4-bar suspension system is the simplicity of it and the fact that enables for a dual suspension bike to keep its weight down.

Now that we’ve established what models are classified as entry level, we need to dig deeper and try to compare where each bike would be better suited.

Type of Terrain:

Dirt Roads - an unpaved road made from the native material of the land surface through which it passes. It’s at least a car’s width and it shouldn’t have any obstacles in the way.

Cross Country (XC) - Usually single-tracks or even double tracks, too narrow for cars to go through and there are normally some nature made obstacles on the way to keep things interesting. Steeper uphills and downhills. Some roots and rocks present.

Trails - Mostly man made, some are walking tracks, these are usually a tyre’s width and are filled with obstacles and challenges to overcome. Roots, rocks, pinch climbs and steep downhills with roll offs and drops are norm.

Knowing what type of riding you will be doing goes a long way into choosing the right mountain bike for you.

We will now take a closer look at the components on the bike and how it affects your ride.

Shimano Altus

Entry level Polygon bikes will start with this groupset. With every new year, Shimano technology trickles down their groupsets and the Shimano Altus now features specs that you could see 2 years ago on Shimano Deore and SLX. These bikes will now have 27 speeds, 9 in the back and 3 in the front. The main objective of entry level components is reliability.

Shimano Alivio

Shimano Alivio is still considered to be an entry level groupset for Shimano but over the last couple of years has seen this change quite a bit with added features from the higher spec’d groupsets. Shimano Alivio is now seen as a reliable and trusted groupset with a price tag consistent of entry level componentry but works like mid level componentry.

Shimano Deore

Shimano Deore has seen massive upgrades to the groupset and features some features that you can see on Shimano SLX and Shimano XT groupsets. The addition of the 10th speed, Hollowtech bottom bracket and external bottom brackets to the Deore groupset make this an extremely solid choice for the years to come and will make upgrades on your bike very easy to do, as the top tier groupsets have the same number of gears.


Coil Suspension

Coil suspensions work with a steel spring inside and oil to lubricate all components. The main benefit of these forks is their reliability and longevity, as you hardly have to service them or worry at all. They do have some negatives, like the extra weight (800 grams more on air forks) and the lack of adjustability on them.

Air Suspension

Air suspension forks are much lighter and can be adjusted to the rider’s weight, but they require more maintenance and periodical checks to make sure everything is sealed and running smoothly. For an entry level mountain bike, air forks represent a massive upgrade as the weight benefit really changes how a bike behaves on the trail, less weight on the front of the bike makes it quicker to change direction and easier to lift the wheel over obstacles. Also, it's less weight you need to carry up the mountain.


Hydraulic Disc Brakes are the norm for modern day mountain bikes. The advantages of having hydraulic disc brakes on your bike are on the braking power and modulation. Hydraulic disc brakes don’t need to be pulled super hard to deliver more power when braking as the hydraulic system inside will be the one responsible for powering the brake, leaving you to just control the lever position with one finger and come to a controlled halt.

Another important factor on mountain bikes is the overall weight of the bike. A heavier bike will be harder to ride up a steeper hill. Dual Suspension mountain bikes are known to add weight, due to the frame’s rear triangle and the rear shock. This will also increase the retail price on the bike.

Why should I go for a Hardtail Mountain Bike?

Hardtail Mountain Bikes have been around for a long time now and are a very efficient bike to go off-roading with. Recent developments and materials used on the frames made these bikes more comfortable and affordable than ever before.

Hardtails are great if you ride on dirt roads and light cross country, where rocks and roots might be a part of your ride but are in no way a constant. Plus, having a lighter bike with a friendlier price tag makes all the sense if you don’t want to go all out on downhill sections.

Finally, another big benefit for hardtails is the cost of servicing the bike. With less moving parts (rear suspension system) it means that you will have fewer things to replace or repair when you take the bike in for a service.

Why should I go for a Dual Suspension Mountain Bike?

If you want to hit the local trails with your mate and have fun on the downhills, dual suspension mountain bikes will have you covered. It allows for bigger hits, steeper descents and won’t punish you every time you make the wrong call at speed.

Dual suspension mountain bikes are also great if you plan on spending more time on the saddle. Doing a 3hour XC ride on a hardtail will get your back and legs tired as you need to get out of the saddle every time the trails gets rough, your body will take all the impacts on the rear wheel and fatigue will set in faster. Having a Dual Suspension for longer rides means that the impacts to the rear wheel will be absorb by the rear shock and you can stay in your saddle for most of the time, saving you a lot of energy for those last km’s.

Happy riding!

For a full list of all the mountain bikes we sell check out our eBay store: Bicycles Online
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