When was your last ride on a hardtail? I'm talking about a real ride, not laps around the pumptrack or through a dirt jump line, a proper off-road excursion done without the bump-erasing comfort of any rear suspension at all. For many riders, that last hardtail rip may be hard to remember. After all, there are more affordable full-suspension bikes than ever, including options for the smallest groms. That means we're entering an era where there are riders who have never pedaled a hardtail at all
, moving straight from a scoot bike to a tiny fully-suspended machine.
My first six years of mountain biking were spent on a hardtail, first with cantilever brakes, and then with V-brakes, but I'm not one to wander around shaking my fist at the sky and mumbling about how “Kids these days have it easy.” If anything, I think it's great that the learning curve isn't as steep, and that advances in technology have made mountain biking that much easier for beginners to enjoy.
There have been several articles about hardcore hardtails published over the last few months, and the comments tend to be split between riders who are interested and riders who are dismissive. Being a diehard hardtail aficionado is the equivalent of being a telemark skier – actively choosing to make an activity harder isn't something that everyone will understand. After all, who in their right mind would purchase skis where your heel isn't locked down, or a steel hardtail that costs the same as a carbon fiber full suspension bike?
Hardtails aren't for everyone, and that's part of their appeal. It's easy to question their usefulness other than as a lower cost entry into the sport, but I'm glad that the hardtail scene continues to exist. I can appreciate the simplicity and the extra challenge of a hardtail, although more often than not I'll go with a full suspension bike if given the choice. I've also recently traded my tele skis for an alpine touring setup, so it's possible I'm getting soft...