Need a full-suspension mountain bike but confused by all the options? Let us help you find the perfect MTB for your riding adventures.
What is a full-suspension mountain bike?
A full-suspension mountain bike has front suspension in the fork (like hardtails) as well as rear suspension aka the shock. Full suspension MTBs are better suited to rough, technical and often steep downhill terrain.
Suspension improves comfort, increases traction and control over bumpy terrain and in turn creates a much more fun riding experience.
What types of full-suspension mountain bikes are there?
You’ll find a wide range of full-suspension bikes across four disciplines of mountain biking: cross-country, trail, enduro and downhill. Available with 27.5" or 29" wheels depending on the frame size and/or rider preference.
Old school mountain bikes started with 26 inch wheels so you will occasionally see those in the wild, but a limited amount of boutique MTB companies are still building them.
What do I need to know about full-suspension mountain bikes?
99% of full-suspension mountain bikes are made from carbon or aluminum. Some manufacturers also make mountain bikes out of steel and titanium.
Modern mountain bikes have disc brakes, wide handlebars and fat tires. These features enable you to ride comfortably and efficiently at the same time as allowing you to push your limits.
The geometry of a full-suspension mountain bike will depend on your desired riding style. A mountain bike designed for climbing uphill will have less focus on downhill capability and vice versa. Specific angles and lengths of the frame differ from model to model and evolve over time as tastes change and new technologies roll out.
If you end up riding a bike that’s too small for you you’ll be cramped and struggle to centre yourself on the bike. That leads to less comfort and stability. Getting a bike that’s too big and you’ll be over-stretching and risking injury, not to mention losing a degree of control every time you go out.
Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes
Does full-suspension make a difference?
Yes, absolutely! You’ll benefit from a full-suspension mountain bike if you:
1. A full-suspension mountain bike will help you ride more technical terrain more easily, as they are more forgiving of rider errors. A lot of full-suspension mountain bikes also come with dropper seat posts, which will help you on technical downhill sections of trail by keeping the saddle low.
2. If you want a more comfortable bike, a full-suspension mountain bike is a good choice thanks to the rear shock. If you're not doing too much technical riding but still want to be comfortable, a full-suspension MTB is a good option.
3. Full-suspension bikes are better at absorbing bumps and rough terrain than hardtail bikes, so you can carry more speed through technical sections of trail.
Should I buy a hardtail or full-suspension MTB?
It’s hard to compare hardtails against full-suspension mountain bikes since they are built for quite different purposes. You need to decide what kind of riding you want to do and how much you’re willing to spend on your new bike.
Why are full-suspension bikes more expensive?
Full-suspension bikes are more expensive because they have more moving parts. The extra suspension component adds to the cost. Kinematics (the geometry of motion) has also transformed the design of modern mountain bikes, making them more efficient. You no longer need to worry that a full-suspension mountain bike will slow you down.
If you get a carbon full-suspension bike, the carbon layup process is more complex compared to a simple hardtail. The demanding style of riding requires areas of the bike to be stiffer and more sturdy to withstand the stresses of some mountain bike disciplines.
How long do full-suspension bikes last?
With proper maintenance a mountain bike can last over 20 years. The lifespan of your bike is highly dependent on where you ride and how much you ride. Some items will wear out, tires, chains, brake pads and drivetrains will not last forever. When it comes to longevity careful maintenance is everything.
Be sure to start good habits when you purchase your bike and visit us for your first tune-up within 90 days of regular riding.
How much travel do I need?
The amount of travel on a full-suspension mountain bike will affect how the bike performs on different types of terrain. More travel makes the bike more forgiving over rough terrain, while less travel makes the bike more responsive.
Cross-country: 100-120 mm
- For quick riding and racing. Cross-country bikes are great for climbing because you channel all that leg power into going fast.
Trail/All-mountain: 120-150 mm
- Trail bikes balance speed and technical ability, and end up in the mid-range front suspension levels. Riding trails all day can take a lot of energy, so you'll want to soften the blow of the roots and rocks you'll hit along the way.
Enduro: 150-170 mm
- Enduro demands you earn your descents and climb all the way to top before taking on the steep, technical trails back to the bottom. These bikes come with more front suspension.
Freeride: 170-200 mm
- To fully enjoy rockier, rootier, and more technical trails, you need a bike with a solid front end. This way, you can glide over obstacles and clear jumps and gaps.
Downhill: 190-200 mm
- Downhill bikes are designed for riding down, not up. Take the lift to the top of the trail, and enjoy the ride knowing your bike can handle all the bumps and jumps all the way down.
Which full-suspension bike is best?
The best full-suspension bike for you will depend on the type of riding you want to do.
- Cross-Country: a full-suspension cross-country mountain bike is a fast speed machine to get you up, down and around the trails. These bikes are great for smoother trails with the odd rooty section thrown in to test your skills. Generally equipped with lighter, thinner mountain bike tires as you'll be riding faster than other styles of MTBing.
- Trail/All-Mountain: lightweight and efficient trial bikes (aka all-mountain) have adventure at their core but with a comfortable geometry for all-day riding. Trail bikes are known for its ability to handle anything in their path.
- Enduro: If you’re looking a bike for suited for technical downhill riding and the ability skip the shuttle and really earn your downhill an enduro bike is the one for you. Many newer models come with adjustable geometry depending on whether you need uphill mode or downhill mode.
- Bike parks and downhill: Are you a pure downhill rider?
- Electric mountain bikes: eMTBs tend to be built for one of the above styles with the addition of a motor so you can save your energy and spend more time on the trail.
How much is a full-suspension mountain bike?
The price of a mountain bike will vary depending on your desired frame materials, specifications and so on. You can get a very capable full-suspension mountain bike from around $1,000. If you're looking for a value packed entry level full-suspension bike the Diamondback Atroz line is a great place to start.
A used mountain bike may be cheaper, but you can never be sure of its history. When you're going all out, you want to be confident that your bike can handle it!