The recent news of Santa Cruz's new Chameleon
was a reminder that modern hardtails have a lot going for them. There are others, of course, from the Kona Honzo, Chromag's entire lineup, and bikes from Stanton, DMR, and a bunch of other brands who offer forward-thinking frames with a so-called backward-thinking lack of rear suspension. But, for a lot of us, no rear shock means nearly no interest in these days of full-suspension rigs that are somehow lighter than their simpler counterparts that are arguably more difficult to ride.
Brad Walton photo
I don't think it's our fault that hardtails sit in the shadows for a lot of riders. I mean, just look at how freaking awesome most of today's full-suspension bikes are and what they let us do. Hell, some of them even pedal nearly as well as a bike with a welded rear-end rather than one that's designed to move up and down with the terrain, which is pretty crazy when you consider how bad some full-suspension bikes were fifteen or more years ago. I also have zero issue admitting that the technology involved in a modern, high-performance dual-suspension bike is a big reason why I'm so into this sport; chakras and flow and other deep, meaningful things aside, of course. I'm pretty sure that my chakra got beat to shit during the last time I spent a few months on a hardtail, as fun as it was most of the time.
Despite that beat down, I know that I'd have just as much fun on a reasonably priced hardtail as I do on a carbon fiber super-bike that rides like it's from the future. I'm sure of this because I've spent many years getting my ass handed to me on a hardtail, just like a lot of us have, and those were some of the best times that I've ever had on a bike. However, if you told me that I had to choose between a nice full-suspension bike and a nice hardtail, I know damn well that I'm going to grab the one with all the pivots and complication and a shock bolted to the back of it.
Brad Walton photo
Sure, I like the completely false fantasy of me being the tough guy aboard a hardtail who creams everyone on every descent, no matter how rowdy it is, or has no problem with my worn out body after riding a hardtail on some sort of silly all-day epic that was only fun for the first six hours and not the last six hours. But that's not me. Technology has spoiled me for good and, sadly, I seriously doubt that I'd own a hardtail if my stable consisted of a single bike.
But what about you? Do you plan on forsaking pivots and shocks and leverage curves for a leaner, more punishing yet possibly more rewarding steed? Or does the idea of riding a hardtail appeal to you about as much as trading your fancy full-suspension bike in for a unicycle?