My first post in the MTB forum. I haven't ridden or owned a "proper" mountain bike for over 5 years now. I own bikes built around hardtail MTB frames but they're "road" bikes. Mainly because there are not that many trails close to NYC. However, recently I started getting the itch again. I discovered some new trails. I also have a car now, so I can drive places I couldn't before.
So I want to build a "proper" MTB: minimalistic, light, fat tires, etc. I'm a DIY guy, I build all my bikes so this won't be any different. I already have most of the drivetrain parts, I just need the frame, fork and the wheels. And I'm not into fancy stuff and high end components. I'm more down to earth, I like functional stuff that works with minimum bling and shine. I like aluminum and steel. Carbon and titanium do not interest me. Deore level components suit me well. If it's all black then even better The only relatively high end parts will be the tires. I'm looking at the new Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires.
So that's kind of an introduction.
My first question is whether I should get a full suspension frame or just a hardtail. I will be riding on moderate forest trails only, nothing extreme, no downhill riding, no jumping. Can someone please reiterate the main differences, advantages and disadvantages of a full suspension frame and a hardail frame? What can go faster on rough trails? What climbs better? What's more nimble on singletrack? What's more stable on downhills? Which one is more flexible, universal? I'm kind of looking for a Jack of all trades.
I had a full suspension Jamis Dakar Sport and I'm kind of inclined towards a full suspension frame, but that adds some weight. But will it be much beneficial over a hardtail? I have an opportunity to buy a few years old Jamis XC Pro frame for cheap. Otherwise I'll probably pick up a Surly Troll or something similar.
My second question is whether I should bother with hydraulic brakes? One of my bikes is a "trekking" bike built around a hardtail MTB frame with a rigid fork. I use it mainly for loaded road touring but on occasion I take it off road (it has Shwalbe Maratahon tires that have some moderate off-road capability). I run BB7s on it with 203mm rotors and it has tons of stopping power even when loaded. The only thing I wonder about hydraulic brakes is if the hand fatigue is lowered compared to cable actuated brakes. I also have a pair of nice XT Dual Action levers that I like, but they're for mechanical brakes.