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Old 04-04-12, 04:24 PM   #1
pablosnazzy
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i wonder if we have it backwards?

today i took a beginner out for a ride, she had a great time, she had a full suspension bike, which allowed her to ride comfortably and in control. she had, in the past, an old rigid hardtail and she would be afraid, but her full suspension gave her confidence and she rode more and rode better. she told me she went back and rode the trail she first tried on her hardtail, and with her full suspension, she had fun and rode it.

so many times i hear "i'm just a beginner, i don't need full suspension." so many times we joke that "riding this (6+ inch travel bike) is like cheating."

it struck me....i think we have it backwards....

i think (and i could be wrong, probably am) the current thought is a full suspension bike is for extreme advanced biking, and a hardtail is for the common casual rider. however, full suspension corrects and forgives so many mistakes, it gives confidence and makes riding difficult stuff waaaay easier, and seems to be a perfect bike for a beginner. it's like training wheels.

if i were really really good, i'd be able to ride the stuff i ride with a hardtail, i would have the skills and strength and ability to deal with the drops and rocks and crap. right now i depend on my suspension to get me through, over, and down stuff.

i've also noticed, when i take my hardtail out on the same trails, i ride the hardtail better, because i've ridden the line, i know it, and i know how to ride it, and i am able to ride it with my hardtail, where as, before i did it on full suspension, i couldn't. my full suspension bike taught me to ride better.

i think beginners should all start on full suspension, and as they get better, they simplify, stop depending on mechanical advantage, and end up on a hardtail (if they want to), because they are good enough to ride a hardtail on techy stuff.

this is just the random crap in my head from today's ride. i don't even know if it makes sense.
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Old 04-04-12, 04:47 PM   #2
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I think the start-with-a-hardtail advice usually stems more from budget considerations (you know, better components for the entry-level pricepoint) than from any kind of puritanical thinking about FS being "too much bike" for a beginner.
Budget aside, I think it's whatever works best for the individual, with the usual considerations of what kind of riding they want to do, etc.
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Old 04-04-12, 05:36 PM   #3
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I think that's a good point. I had only been riding about a year when I bought my full-suspension, and I think it turned me into a better rider. Not just because the bike was more forgiving (which isn't me being a better rider, but the bike letting me ride more stuff), but it gave me confidence to ride things I otherwise wouldn't.

If I could go back in time and never introduce something to my riding, it would be clipless pedals. I don't think it did anything positive for my riding, and my friends pushed me to go clipless early. I'm still trying to get rid of bad habits.
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Old 04-04-12, 05:55 PM   #4
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I with you on this one. But I agree with scyclops that it's usually more of a budget thing than a "too much bike for you" thing. I figure if you really love mountain biking, you'll most likely love it on any capable bike. If it turns out it's not for you, you aren't out $1500+ on a super nice bike you'll never ride again, but rather maybe $100-200 that you can get back if you bought it used. Also, starting out fully rigid & then upgrading to a solid FS bike made me appreciate it soooo much more. But now that I'm learning the ropes & getting really comfortable on my FS, I'm finding myself wanting to try out a rigid SS or something to see how that feels after building up some skill & confidence. A lot of the stuff around here I know for sure can be maneuvered better on a rigid than FS, it's just easier & more comfortable with suspension.
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Old 04-04-12, 07:27 PM   #5
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After thinking about it, i also realize i live in an area where riding a hardtail severly limits you. Most of the stuff we ride is rocky and chunky. I rode a hard tail for 20 years all up and down the east coast, and in california, and never seemed to have a problem, so right now, i'm sort of jaded, forgetting that the majority of folks don't have to deal with rocky crap all the time.
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Old 04-04-12, 08:16 PM   #6
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I hear that a lot at the BBS: "I'm not a MOUNTAIN biker, I just want to ride around the neighborhood. I don't want to spend $500 on a bike."

I'm not allowed to say, "Well then, put that dual-suspension craptank back and get a hybrid." First, I'll get the $$ argument, because our cheapest hybrid is $30 higher that the DS CT I just mentioned. Second, I'll get the "If they're so BAD, why do you sell them?" like I made the decision to carry that garbage on the bike rack. Third, I'll get the "You have to give the customer what they want; if they ASK, you can tell them, but if they point to that and say, 'I want it', GIVE it to them." from management.

I'd RATHER see people start out (or pick up on) a better bike, no matter how much it costs; a BETTER RIDE will induce them to RIDE MORE, and they'll GET their money's worth!
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Old 04-04-12, 10:25 PM   #7
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Agreed, that's been my thoughts for years now.
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Old 04-05-12, 02:30 PM   #8
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I have to say I am glad I started with a rigid frame (I started MTB riding in the 80's) and then a hardtail and now full suspension (cause I am old and everything hurts). The rigid and hardtail taught me some real skills I don't think people on long travel bikes ever develop (just my personal opinion). It was my experiecne once I finally went to a fully, that alot of my fear of steep gnarly descents went away. Trails I always walked down before, I now easily ride down but that would not be possible without the suspension.

It always amazes me to see the hard core riders (usually older guys who have been riding for years) all now going back to rigids and riding down the steep scary stuff with ease. That takes real skill! One a beginner doesn't really appreciate.
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Old 04-05-12, 02:35 PM   #9
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I'd RATHER see people start out (or pick up on) a better bike, no matter how much it costs; a BETTER RIDE will induce them to RIDE MORE, and they'll GET their money's worth!
I just helped two friends buy new bikes. One a road bike the other a mountain bike. The roadie only wanted to spend $500. I was able to convince her to spend more ($1500 and boy was that a process!) and she got a great bike for the price. Where before she was a casual road rider she is now going hard core.

My MTB friend didn't want to spend more than $600 and was looking at CL's bikes. I finally convinced him to checkout SC Superlights on Speedgoat.com and although it was priced around $1600 he got a bike for $1300. He went from Wally World's finest to the actually cheap Superlight but his riding is night and day and he obsolutely loves the sport now.

Until people actually try out nicer bikes, they have no clue. They need good friends like me to nudge them in the right direction!
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Old 04-05-12, 06:49 PM   #10
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The rigid and hardtail taught me some real skills I don't think people on long travel bikes ever develop (just my personal opinion).
But really, does anyone really develop every skill? Someone who sticks to XC trails never figures out how to jump or drop the way a freeride or park rider does, for example. Plus, you can still pump and jump a long travel bike the way you would a hardtail. Watch videos of good riders on full-suspension bikes...they throw that bike around way more nimbly than I can throw around a BMX bike.
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Old 04-05-12, 07:07 PM   #11
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But really, does anyone really develop every skill? Someone who sticks to XC trails never figures out how to jump or drop the way a freeride or park rider does, for example. Plus, you can still pump and jump a long travel bike the way you would a hardtail. Watch videos of good riders on full-suspension bikes...they throw that bike around way more nimbly than I can throw around a BMX bike.
True, but there are certain basic skills in every type of mountain biking (how to pick a line, get over large objects, ride more smoothly over roots & rocks, etc) that can be more easily avoided on a FS than a rigid. You don't necessarily have to learn them on a rigid, but I was more encouraged to because overall it allowed me to ride more while exerting less energy.
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Old 04-05-12, 09:34 PM   #12
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I've gone backwards. I used to be into long travel, and what am I on now, a rigid fork and am thinking about getting a different rear wheel and a bmx brake now. Heck, I'm even using a freewheel now.
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Old 04-05-12, 11:05 PM   #13
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I've gone backwards. I used to be into long travel, and what am I on now, a rigid fork and am thinking about getting a different rear wheel and a bmx brake now. Heck, I'm even using a freewheel now.
did you go backwards? i think you pared down what was unnecessary and evolved....
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Old 04-05-12, 11:14 PM   #14
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did you go backwards? i think you pared down what was unnecessary and evolved....
When I say going backwards, I'm just joking. I did just ditch what was unnecessary and evolved.
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Old 04-09-12, 02:21 PM   #15
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In all honesty, not everyone has even $1k+ to spend on a bike. I came to this hobby from commuting. My commuter bike was new, but sat at the bike shop for 3 years without moving, so I bought it at half price. My mountain bike (rockhopper hardtail was over a year old and the new models were out, so the price difference was $350. Two bikes for under $1k total. I'm a vet student...so any money I spend on a bike is from a 6-figure, 30 year loan. I am taking the attitude that my hard tail is a good learning period in my life; where I learn to move the bike, pick my lines, and handle issues. I'm really delighted with our local groups; so many folks have taken the time to teach me skills for handling obstacles. I like hearing folks debating on their favorite ways of handling the first rock garden or the next log pile. Someday I might have a soft tail, but for me it isn't impacting how often I ride, and I only started riding single tracks last year. Maybe if my only goal was to go faster, keep up with the leaders of our groups....maybe it would be more important, instead I am focused on riding more frequently, picking up skills, visiting different places, meeting more people, and dragging more friends along. I think labeling any method of starting out as 'right' or 'wrong' just keeps people from figuring out if this is an activity they can enjoy.
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Old 04-09-12, 02:41 PM   #16
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Sure, if everything else in the same... Unfortunately that isn't the case so don't try take it much further otherwise you'll end up like a certain person who thinks freewheels are the hallmark of great riders.
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Old 04-09-12, 08:14 PM   #17
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Money is the reason I postponed buying a dually. I knew I wanted one, but I convinced myself that a new hardtail was all I needed.
It wasn't and a few months after buying the new hardtail, I was out buying the dual suspension bike. It was easier to ride and probably responsible for why I still ride today.
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Old 04-10-12, 09:33 AM   #18
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No doubt the D/S makes the ride quicker, safer and enjoyable. I was fully locked out Sunday PM to climb a section. I forgot to unlock when I started down. I was pissed at myself when I started downhill. I was bouncing off stuff I used to float over. Then it hit me. I'm close to being rigid. A couple of clicks and I was floating again.

But it brought me back to what Pam brought up. The skills I learned in the 1990s have faded. Those are good skills and I should keep current with them. I don't agree with the term "cheating," its not appropriate. A good F/S bike enables a rider to avoid consequences with Mother Nature. There is a place for both. Plus its fun. I remember hanging with riding friends practicing wheelies, bunny hopping, climbing stairs, track stands, etc. Those are good warm up times.

But hey, you can have my F/S bike in about 20 years. I riding that thing while the HT waits for company to stop by.
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Old 04-17-12, 01:30 PM   #19
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After thinking about it, i also realize i live in an area where riding a hardtail severly limits you. Most of the stuff we ride is rocky and chunky. I rode a hard tail for 20 years all up and down the east coast, and in california, and never seemed to have a problem, so right now, i'm sort of jaded, forgetting that the majority of folks don't have to deal with rocky crap all the time.
I live in the GJ area so I know how rocky the trails are here. I'm mostly a commuter/road rider but I do have a decent mtn bike. I don't get out much on the mtn bike since I don't drive my car much. So the few times I go mtn biking I feel like a beginner again. My mtn bike is a tiny steel ht Jamis. I've never tried a fs mtn bike and I wonder how much differnence it would make. I did look a few fs bikes when I was shopping and even the smallest ones seemed like they'd be too big for me.
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Old 04-17-12, 02:14 PM   #20
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.... I've never tried a fs mtn bike and I wonder how much differnence it would make. .....
it makes a HUGE difference, it changed everything for me. 18 rd, you don't need it as much, but out at Loma, or Lunch Loops, it is a significant difference. You climb better, because your bike isn't bouncing all over, you feel more confident, you can ride more. You won't feel like such a beginner.

There are a bunch of small FS bikes. if you are at least 5'2" there is a FS that would fit you perfectly. You can rent them and try them out for yourself.
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Old 04-17-12, 03:05 PM   #21
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Mountain bikes didn't even interest me much until they sprouted decent (dual) suspension. I was there for the revolution of long-travel, monoschock dirt bikes; had no interest in regressing that far technologically to take up bicycles.
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Old 04-17-12, 04:03 PM   #22
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I did look a few fs bikes when I was shopping and even the smallest ones seemed like they'd be too big for me.
I highly doubt you're much shorter than I am. I really wanted an FS with a little more travel, but couldn't stand over any of them, and while standover isn't the most important measure, I didn't want a bike where I couldn't straddle the top tube. Ended up with an XS XC bike with 4" front and rear, and it's an absolute game changer (and let's face it...I don't ride anything where I truly need all that travel anyway). Plus I have my hardtail if I want something slacker.
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Old 04-17-12, 05:26 PM   #23
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I did look a few fs bikes when I was shopping and even the smallest ones seemed like they'd be too big for me.
At 5' 3" it took me awhile to find both the small framed FS mountain bikes I've owned; it took a lot of scouting around but I did it. Bought my Gary Fisher just before the 29er boom hit so I don't know what the frame size selection is like for small riders now. Takes a bit of time to tune the suspension for a lightweight rider, but your LBS can help.

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Old 04-17-12, 07:45 PM   #24
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I started out on rigid and even rode my Trek 400T road bike with fat tires on trails a while.
I reckon if I started out on decent FS or HT I'd never want to go back to rigid, but I started out on rigid and have tried some cheepo sproing forks but just didn't like 'em much. Maybe someday I'll score a nice used SID or somesuch or hit the lottery and go FS then finally embrace the suspension.
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Old 04-18-12, 08:41 AM   #25
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I highly doubt you're much shorter than I am. I really wanted an FS with a little more travel, but couldn't stand over any of them, and while standover isn't the most important measure, I didn't want a bike where I couldn't straddle the top tube. Ended up with an XS XC bike with 4" front and rear, and it's an absolute game changer (and let's face it...I don't ride anything where I truly need all that travel anyway). Plus I have my hardtail if I want something slacker.
Yes, standover was the issue. Many FS bikes that I looked at were well over the 70cm limit I have. I'm not riding a mtn bike enough right now to look into a FS bike again, but maybe sometime in the future I'll look into it again.
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