Video: Lessons Learned From 30 Days On A Hardtail With Tom Bradshaw

May 12, 2021 at 20:32
by Pinkbike Originals  

For the past 30 days Tom Bradshaw has brought it back to the basics aboard his Commencal Meta HT. He wanted to see what lessons he could learn and if he could get faster on his hardtail after riding it for 30 days straight. Did he succeed? Watch and find out.







150 Comments

  • 116 2
 The 20 year old in me is like fuck ya shred that hard tail !!! The 40 year old me is like fuck me my back hurts I need a beer
  • 23 0
 I'm 39. I built a hardtail up over the winter partially to combat bordom and new bike lust, and partially to have something more tolerable to ride when the trails are too wet (I'm in clay country so it's really bad for the trails to ride in the wet and no fun at all either). I have to admit that I've really enjoyed the bike even on some of the choppier trails around here. And it's definitely helped me refine my riding skills, which has really helped when I do get back on my full-sus bike.
  • 2 3
 What about a full suspension disguised as a hardtail? Maybe that's what Trek's new XC frame is all about?
  • 2 1
 Yup. Rode a hardtail exclusively until 2009 then went full sus. Built another one up a few years ago and my 40 year old back protested a lot...It was a lot of fun until the pain started though!
  • 8 0
 The 60 year old in me wants to go ride in Finale again with the hardtail. My knees still hurt, though Smile
  • 4 0
 A plus low presure rear wheel could be a solution. Is how I 'mullet'ed my Ragley Big Wig. No more pain on my 42 years skeleton. At 43, will see, until there having fun, but keeping my Stanton FS for hard stuff.
  • 36 0
 49 here and still riding a HT (steel mind you) as my main ride!

Thank you yoga lol!
  • 33 0
 @mxmtb can confirm, beer needed.
  • 8 0
 @mxmtb: The 40yr old me with multi level cervical disk degeneration causing nerve impingement, with 2 plates, 12 screws, bone cement, peroneal nerve damage, and wires holding together my left ankle says: f*ck my fully makes things too boring. I'd still like that beer though! Big Grin

I don't ride DH with my HT. Most of my riding these days would be considered XC and a HT is more than plenty. Maybe I'm an outlier, or glutton for punishment? LoL
  • 7 0
 @ridestuff: me to at 54
  • 5 0
 51 year old me loves my Meta HT! Such a fun bike..
  • 6 0
 I am 50 and have a bad back but only own a hard tail...I sold my full suspension as it made my back hurt more
  • 9 0
 @ridestuff: turning 48 and rockin a rootdown hard. can't let it go as it's just too good.
  • 5 0
 I´m 46 years old and hardly prefer my rootdown and stylus than my full suspension bike Smile
  • 6 0
 At 46 y-o and still wild at heart, my (hardcore) hardtail never disappoints me and always provides me more fun than my FS, except in very VERY rough terrains.
Hardtail forever, definitely!!!
  • 1 0
 Fuck yeah
  • 5 0
 47 and still ride my HT
  • 3 0
 @MorettyBtt: how is the Stanton FS ? I've been lusting over it for so long... But very few review on the net, and some geo numbers are unusual.
  • 2 0
 41 years old and I have a hardtail and a full suspension ... I ride with both ...
  • 3 0
 I'm 48 and ride on Vancouver Island BC, been loving my Rootdown for the past few years... So much fun. With that said...I have been jonesin for a squishy bike lately...
  • 3 0
 56 and riding a Mondraker Vantage also,occasionally a Meta AM..... Out to know better but having too much fun hardtailling it
  • 1 0
 @AAAAAHHH: it's so good! One of the most underrated bikes out in my opinion.
  • 7 0
 @MorettyBtt: Yeah, everyone craps on "plus" bikes, but lower pressure 2.6-2.8" tires on a modern hardtail are tonnes of fun.
  • 1 0
 @AAAAAHHH: I’ve been riding a Medium Stanton switchback fs for a year now. Compared to my previous bike it’s a bit shorter in reach and bb is higher. It’s brilliant quick handling, stable and Chuck able. It’s is heavy though but climbs ok with sensible tyres.
  • 1 0
 I am 45 and went back to a hardtail last year, and have enjoyed every last minute of it. I have a bad knee and two arthritic ankles and there is not an ounce of pain ever felt. Back feels great as well. Hardtails rule, FS is fantastic.
  • 1 0
 @silverstanktions: I ride with 2.8' on my hardtail and it is heavenly.
  • 1 0
 I hear ya. After 11 years or so riding a 160mm full-squish, riding a BMX bike on a race track is torture.
  • 4 0
 @atekt: @AAAAAHHH: @Muddslinger:
Always been curious about that Switchback FS.
I ride the Switchback hardtail for 5 years now, best bike in the world!
I'd really like a Pinkbike field test with 100% steel hardtails AND full-suspended bikes, something like: Stanton Vs Cotic Vs Starling Vs Swarf Vs Production Privée Vs BTR Vs Vulcain Vs Vs Vs Vs etc......
  • 1 2
 Think of how much more he world have advanced his riding abilities and experience with 30 days on a long travel e bike in turbo mode.
  • 1 0
 @AAAAAHHH: It's a beast! Good climber considering its weight, efficient, and a playful rocket rolling down. Very good finished, quality, and Stanton crew is very attentive. Ask him any doubt about sizing... if you are thinking to keep your non-boost wheelset, take in account that a 0 offset chainring is mandatory.
  • 44 0
 Nice! Curious to know how fast you are on your full sus trail bike after riding a hardtail for a month. I believe that riding a hardtail will make you faster rider .. but I might be wrong. Time for science to proof me right or wrong
  • 46 0
 @tommynator I think this calls for some further science....
  • 6 0
 I came to post this exact same question. Definitely calls for another video!
  • 1 0
 I think it was Frank Zappa that said: "You are what you are, unless science does something about it."
  • 2 0
 Can confirm that it does. I typically alternate a few weeks on and a few weeks off between the FS and HT. Going from the HT to the FS, I feel like a rocket and my lines are super sharp. That said, going from FS back to the HT is ROUGH (though fun b/c you really notice the responsiveness of the bike).
  • 5 0
 I routinely switch back and forth and can confirm the HT sharpens your skills. I can also confirm that it takes very little time on the FS to fall back into the old habits.
  • 3 0
 There's so much confirmation bias involved here. On a hardtail it is physically impossible to ride as fast through really rough sections. So yeah, when you get on your full suss you're going to feel way faster.
  • 2 0
 @friendlyfoe: correct, the FS is faster in general on technical sections, but I think what we are getting at is the HT will make you faster on the FS when you switch back (for me its because my line choices are better and I'm more efficient). [Like putting a weighted doughnut on a baseball bat while warming up]. That said, as @gtill9000 pointed out , the performance boost only lasts for a ride or two b/c it's very easy to slip back into the FS mindset and simply barrel through tough sections w/o regard to line choices and/or technique.
  • 2 0
 @SATN-XC: my point is I don't think anyone who is claiming that has actually done timed tests.

How do you know that you're actually faster on your fs after a month on a hardtail and that it doesn't just seem like you're going faster than before your month of soft supple abstinence
  • 1 0
 @SATN-XC: those bat donuts actually SLOW down bat speed when players take the donut off.
www.scientificamerican.com/article/baseball-bat-speed-all-star

Barreling through on the FS might actually be faster, and training on a hardtail might just be reinforcing inefficient line choices.
  • 1 0
 @friendlyfoe: That's why we want a new full sus test, so we can actually see if it helps.
  • 2 0
 @friendlyfoe: what about that Strava thing??

The original question was whether you would have a month on a hardtail, then hop back on your fully and smash all the previous PRs you had on it.

Personally, I think the type of trails you ride and your current skill level would be a big factor in this.
  • 1 0
 @friendlyfoe: The proof is in logic, riding a hardtail factually makes you a better rider. Throw some flats on the hardtail and you’ll gain even more skill. Throw some jumps in there and you’ll learn a lot about calculation and body english. But only if you’re really trying to learn to control the bike, if you aren’t getting rowdy then probably not much to gain from it.
  • 1 0
 @friendlyfoe: Also, much more to gain learning to ride a hardtail if you get something maneuverable (at least dj inspired), not some xc 29’er torture machine. Even if it’s never gonna see a set of jumps you can take it to the pump track, find some tables, learn how to bunnyhop, whatever, it all helps
  • 1 0
 @dvining: Did not know that bat thing....that said, my comments are based on my Strava times and actual timed evidence of improvements (not just a feeling).
  • 1 0
 @Tombrad: cool more science, I can help be the fat control monkey for hardtail tests.
  • 1 0
 I did 3 months of hard-tail-only between November and February. I didn't do any timed runs, but it was obvious where my skills were at once I got back on the trail bike in Feb. My trail processing speed was the best it's ever been, as if I were hyper aware of every aspect on the trail. However, my comfort at speed had diminished, since my overall speed over the winter being consistently a bit slower, and it took a few weeks to get that back. It's almost as if I had new super powers but not the confidence to use them.
  • 44 1
 I'm going to ride my full rigid bike to get better on my hardtail.
  • 21 0
 Gravel bike has entered the chat
  • 26 0
 30 days!!!! That's crazy, my hardtail rides usually only last 3 hours!
  • 23 0
 Pinkbike nailed it with Tom and Christina as presenters... Amazing riders, and great personalities that make watching bike videos even better! Good job guys!
  • 24 1
 Wait, I need a final timed run on the fs bike so we can know if what you learned on the ht translated there as well!
  • 6 1
 This. That’s what I was interested to see. Not surprised he improved on a bike after riding it solely for a month.
  • 16 0
 @zeedre, hahah I get ya, but we're talking C+ science experiments here
  • 4 0
 don't know of any pros that train on HT's so I think it's more important to get super comfortable on the FS bike you have.
  • 1 0
 @Tombrad: If you ride your fs bike, then get a hold of the donut bike and do a timed run and post the times, Yoann and I will be satisfied.
  • 20 0
 Tom's random challenges combined with his infectious personality are a great combo. Great stuff!
  • 5 0
 @genny1 thaaaaanks mate!
  • 12 0
 Hardtails are simply awesome. I put my money where my mouth was after telling everyone how good they are nowadays and sold my Trek Remedy. I bought a nukeproof scout and honestly surprised me how good it feels! Way more capable than I'll ever be and so much fun
  • 5 0
 I sold my full-sus for a Scout too! I've only had it for a few weeks but I love it.
  • 9 0
 "if he could get faster on his hardtail after riding it for 30 days straight"

Odd question. Pretty sure you'd get faster on _anything_ after riding it for 30 days straight.
  • 2 0
 Right. It'd be more work, but a better comparison would be. Times with FS at Day 1. Times with HT at Day 1. Times with FS at Day 30. Times with HT at Day 30.
  • 2 0
 @PHeller: This is definitely a sound experimental strategy as you are compensating for evolving skills as well as varying weather and trail conditions. You'd also want do it with at least three riders. We should write a grant application to NIH or DARPA for funding for a team to rent a houses for 30 days in Squamish/Whistler and another 30 on Vancouver Island.
  • 2 0
 Wait, you trying to tell me athletic performance is improved with practice?
  • 9 1
 We’re you pushing as hard on the 150mm rear bike as you were on the hardtail? That time difference is seriously impressive.
  • 2 0
 I remember a video with Wyn Masters doing comparison laps with his current bike VS a bike from the 90s or early 00s. The difference wasn’t so big either, way smaller than I expected. Interesting!
  • 3 0
 @t1000: on a flowy trail with not a single root:-)
  • 12 0
 One thing I’ve learnt from riding a hardtail is that you should believe what you read on pages like this. They’ll make you think that your bike sucks if you don’t buy the latest and greatest and then I ride my hardtail and I’m as fast if not faster in most situations as I would be on my full suss. Keeps things in perspective.
  • 3 0
 @animportant I was pushing on every lap for sure. The top and bottom thirds of the trail are chuuuuuunky and the conditions were pretty similar.
  • 1 0
 @embi: hehe I forgot about this detail! But still, many experiments of that kind showed that the time gap between the latest tech vs simpler (or older) is not so big. Certainly not as big as the price tag gap Smile
  • 3 0
 I had a hardtail for a season or two and kept setting PRs on a regularly ridden loop.

Then I got a 170mm full suspension bike and struggled to beat those PRs.

There were a few things I think at play: tire choice (on the hardtail I ran faster tires) and I rode the hardtail "lighter" that is, pumping, bunny hopping, sprinting out of corners, etc. On a hardtail, it tells you really quick if you're getting lazy.
  • 1 0
 @t1000: I watched a video where Danny hart kind of spoke about this, it's that the new bikes are much safer and more consistent. Where as you could hang it all out and go crazy fast, on older bikes but it was much scarier feeling and looking.
  • 6 0
 42 y.o., over 25 years of riding. Hardtail is my n=1 for now and the foreseeable future. Can't justify the cost of a full squish for zero to minimal upgrades in fun. Plus, I have zero worries about pivots and shock maintenance/repair.
  • 2 0
 Im with you there
  • 1 0
 Preach. My thoughts exactly.
  • 2 0
 Zero to minimal upgrades in fun? Depends on where you ride. Trying to ride a hardtail up the chunky climbs around here is definitely way less fun.

And sure, I can go down pretty close to just as fast and fun, but _when_ there is a mistake, the lack of forgiveness means the fun factor rapidly goes negative, especially if bike or rider breaks. Being injured or waiting for parts is a serious downgrade in fun, but suspension can offer some forgiveness between missing a line choice and not being able to ride because of broken things.

I'll gladly trade a little suspension work from time to time to be able to hang it out a bit extra, get closer the limits, try new things, and not worry as much about me or the bike. Having room for error (because no one is perfect) is a big upgrade in fun.
  • 9 1
 You little BEAUTY!
  • 3 0
 Thanks to Tom, I now over use that statement...
  • 6 0
 HOW GOOD?!
  • 3 0
 I need to ride my hardtail more. If you are faster than your friends, it can be a super fun leveling of the playing field and give you some seriously hilarious sketchy moments. Throw some flats and a dropper on a hardtail and it feels like I am riding my old BMX or Dual Slalom bike from 20 years ago.

I browsed the Pinkbike buy sell a couple years back and bought a $350 frame (transition trans am 27) and threw all my parts from my full suspension on it and sold the FS frame for $500. Its given be plenty of smiles since.
  • 3 0
 Pro tip from a long time hardtail rider:
run your fork as stiff as you can and ride with your weight all on the front wheel. This tip is an absolute game changer and allows you to ride the bike like a dual suspension
  • 3 1
 That was a really entertaining video. From riding my hardtail and moving back to full-suspension I find I also ride over the front tire of the hardtail moreso than my full-suspension with weight ever so slightly front-biased as compared to the full suspension where I ride more centred.

Definitely agree on the hardtail lessons of (1) looking far ahead for places to brake; and (2) line choice/precision
  • 1 0
 I was going to say the same -- when you first hit the rough stuff on a hardtail, your instinct is to shift your weight back, which only makes things rougher. As you get used to it and start to trust the bike, you can cheat forward more to take advantage of the fork... especially on a bike like the Meta with a super stiff rear end and with 160mm travel up front.
  • 1 0
 @headspacej: you have it backwards. On the hardtail you _have to_ cheat forward and ride the fork. But nothing is stopping you from doing the same on a full-sus.

This is the thing I don't get from the hardtail\short-travel\gravel "makes-it-less-boring" folks. Those bikes force you to ride in ways you could still ride on any trail bike. If you always choose the shit line on a full-sus because you can get away with it, that's not the bike's fault, that's a lack of imagination in your riding, IMO. On the other hand, if you try to pick and choose the precise line as if on a hardtail, there is nothing to stop you from doing that on a fully, but you do have the bonus of a smaller chance of exploding rear wheels when you inevitably f*ck up and miss the line.
  • 1 0
 What stops you from looking far ahead for braking zones and choosing precise lines when on a full-sus? Besides lack of imagination, I guess...
  • 2 0
 I love my 120mm hardtail, it's just wants to go! I love the feedback you get from the ground too, although I'm probably gonna upgrade the fork to 140-150mm soon as I keep bottoming out more the better I get at riding
  • 5 0
 Thanks for shearing, Tom.
  • 4 0
 Hardtail singlespeed. That bike will make you better on every other bike (and vice versa).
  • 1 0
 I’ve been wanting to build a hardtail for a while now. Partially because I have a fork sitting here not getting used, and because I haven’t built a bike in a while. In my mind I want a single speed just to really punish myself. Then probably add a small cassette when I come to my senses. So far the biggest hurdle has been my wife’s desire for me to sell a bike before I build a new one. I’ve ridden every bike I own this past week, and none of them seem to want a new home.
  • 1 0
 Loved the video, especially the laughter when things get sketchy. I switched to the Meta HT this winter after five years on Norco Ranges, and I've found myself laughing and hooting in similar ways. It's definitely more challenging, mostly in pleasing ways. My times on mellower trails are the same, and a bit slower as they get gnarlier...but not less fun.
  • 2 0
 Errybody needs a hardtail. It's just nice to have two completely different bikes to ride on your locals. And unlike your relationship (most of them anyway), your trail bike isn't going to leave you.
  • 1 0
 Nice video, really enjoy riding my hardtail and makes going back to the FS even better. The progressive geo hardtails are lots of fun, love my GG Pedalhead w/ 150mm fork and CushCore in the rear, it can ride just about anything my FS can. I'm not so sure I'd want to go back to riding an XC or old style hardtail anytime though.
  • 1 0
 Recently sold my 2014 120mm Trek Fuel and bought a Fluid HT. Having lots of fun. The HT has more modern Geometry than the old Fuel. Its just as fast on the smoother stuff. Slower on the really chunky stuff and more confident on descents. Its great.
  • 1 0
 Personally I love my ht's, never owned a fs. I have demoed and borrowed of course to get a feel for what I'm missing. I want to own one main mtb and for me a rowdy ht makes more sense. Initial cost is lower, maintenance cost too (although rear wheels have a tough time) and I just love the feel. Yes, riding super rocky trails for hours on end will hurt the next day, but I see it as a way to keep myself young ; ). I enjoy it the most on ungroomed trails, so the "smooth terrain only" thing is not true. Not dishing fs bikes, they're certainly faster, safer and more efficient over time, but I just love riding ht. Riding down (or up) a gnarly section and finding flow is the one of the best feelings in the world.
  • 2 0
 Tom is a national treasure! Reaaaally not sure what nation he belongs too, Brittain, Aussy, Kiwi, Canadian??? We'll never know.
  • 1 0
 Some of the noises he produces makes me suspect he's a Canadian (goose).
  • 1 0
 I love my Cannondale Flash HT! Go Pros are a scam! Whenever you see the footage being played on their displays in the store, they appear crystal clear, hi-def. Once you get out and actually use them, they suck!
  • 1 0
 Jump straight back on the trail bike and see if you're also a better rider thru line choice, braking zones and pumping timing?
  • 2 0
 Love the comments, shouts, and laughs as he rides. Makes you feel what's going on.
  • 1 0
 Dang, I was starting to think you were one of the #hardtailsforlife shredders but ig not. It was all just a big test. Great riding though freaking killed it!
  • 1 0
 My first bike back after a 20 year break was a Transition Vanquish and I can't believe how fast it is going up or down. Its a locomotive, I love that thing.
  • 1 0
 Nice "maiden" report.... but you'd better check what the british GMBN channel on Youtube has to say about hardtails so as to really get into that.
  • 2 0
 Why not spend time at the skate park or on dirt jumps or a pumptrack? Where a hardtail truly shines!
  • 1 0
 47 YO, spend most of my time riding/racing bmx.
Hardtail is the big plush bike for days off.

Also looking for chiropractor recommends.
  • 1 0
 @Tombrad why do you have a Canadian flag, I thought you were Aussie? regardless, its great to watch you just enjoying riding your bike, that's what it SHOULD be about!
  • 1 0
 30 days straight on the trail bike would have probably shaved 10-15 seconds off his time as he could have found all the places he could push the limits of the suspension.
  • 2 0
 Cool topic! Good work mate!
  • 1 0
 30 days straight? Every day? Or 30 bike rides in a row..just letting my inner pink bike commentator out to be picky here.
  • 2 0
 30 days straight for Tom is more like 45 bike rides—no doubts that 30 days is 30 days with that guy
  • 1 0
 @PeterWojnar: he better get better than! I was lucky enough to go to Moab last year and ride 5 days straight, when i got how it was like I had another lung or something. 30 rides in 30 days sounds ideal to me!
  • 1 2
 And 0 days at the skate park, jump trails or pumptrack....?
  • 1 0
 Sam didnt win the Pinkbike academy, but he for sure is having a great time.
  • 1 0
 Try 20 years first and see how good you get riding a squishy bike Smile from an old guy.
  • 1 0
 the thing to love about HT - ho f*cking service needed, no limitation on dropper post length, they are light;
  • 2 0
 I rode my hard tail this morning. It was fun.
  • 2 0
 me to
  • 2 0
 18psi and cushcore. Problem solved.
  • 1 0
 15psi and 1400g DH tires. Even more so.
  • 2 0
 Ride a Chromag you ll forget your riding a HT
  • 1 0
 race your squishy against Kevin Phelps on his hardtail #UncageTheCagedAnimal
  • 1 0
 I enjoyed this. I'm kind of surprised that you can feel a 1mm difference in tyre width though.
  • 1 0
 I just want to applaud the correct use of the word hypothesis instead of theory.
  • 1 0
 The break down of each component of riding a hardtail is probably the best I’ve heard to date, well done.
  • 2 0
 How good!
  • 1 0
 Great video, Tom.
C+ science is good enough for me.
  • 12 1
 @bignoah Cs get degrees
  • 4 4
 Your trail bike has more suspension than many enduro bikes. Afraid to say "all mountain"?
  • 7 0
 It seems to be the Squamish way of defining bikes. Almost anything without a dual crown is a trail bike.
  • 4 0
 @JayUpNorth: What's in a name? That which we call an all mountain bike by any other name would shred as hard. - Juliet
  • 1 0
 @vapidoscar: I have no issues with the categories and names including the contentious downcountry.
  • 1 0
 What trail bike were you riding Tom?!
  • 1 0
 That was quality, thanks.
  • 1 0
 If it was steel you woulda found those elusive seconds Tom!
  • 1 0
 Riding my hardtail everyday for the last few months , love it!!
  • 1 0
 FS for DH thrills and spills. HT for the rest. Chubby 68.
  • 1 0
 Go ride your bike and stop whinning
  • 1 0
 What flat pedals are they at the 1:20 mark?
  • 1 0
 what about those fancy zipp wheels you got on there? no comment on these?
  • 1 0
 My guess is he learned how to fix a lot of flat tires.
  • 1 0
 Very interesting
  • 1 2
 Translation please.
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