Mountain biking is a great sport that offers cyclists an amazing experience. Getting out into the wilderness, ripping down epic descents, and digging into big climbs isn’t just fun but excellent for your health and can vastly improve your fitness level.
Mountain bikes come in all shapes and sizes but can easily be broken down into two categories: hardtails or full suspension bikes.
At Bike Test Reviews, we get asked many questions about cycling and bikes, and one that has come up a few times is Can I turn my hardtail mountain bike into a full suspension mountain bike? In this article, we’re going to answer this question.
What is a Hardtail Mountain Bike?
A hardtail is a mountain bike with suspension on the front forks. They are typically used for lighter off-road riding, such as cross-country racing and light trail riding.
They are incredibly lightweight and can weigh as little as 8kg for a racing machine. They are the go-to bikes for beginners who want to get off-road and start experiencing cycling.
What is a Full Suspension Bike?
A full suspension bike is a mountain bike, but it has suspension on the front fork and also in the rear of the frame too in the form of a shock.
They are ideal for all mountain bike disciplines but most suited to tougher trails such as downhill and enduro. They have a little more to them and come in around 10kg for a racing machine.
Why would you want to convert a Hardtail to a Full Suspension mountain bike?
There are many reasons why people might be interested in upgrading their bikes from hardtail to full suspension. The first thing is off-road performance.
Having two points of suspension makes riding off-road easier and gives the bike much more ability when rolling over bumps and landing.
The next thing is comfort. Having a rear shock does make the ride much more comfortable, and it is much nicer to ride. You can take the edge off the bumps, and with extra comfort, you can ride further and faster.
Can you convert a Hardtail to a Full Suspension mountain bike?
It can be done, but being realistic, it is going to take a lot of work, and you will face a lot of complications along the way. We personally wouldn’t recommend it, and here are our reasons why;
Frames cannot be converted
You need to be a design wizz or a very competent engineer or welder to be able to turn your hardtail Mtb into a full suspension.
It would require you cutting the rear triangle out and then making a pivot system which probably wouldn’t have the ability a properly made full suspension bike would.
You will not just need to be cutting the bike up, but you will need to also find a rear shock to fit into it as well, and this will need to be a compatible travel to the front forks for the bike to perform properly.
It won’t perform as well as a proper full-suspension bike
A full-suspension bike is designed completely differently from a hardtail mountain bike. If you were to convert over, the bike’s geometry wouldn’t be right, and it wouldn’t work and handle as it should.
What can you do to improve performance?
As we discussed earlier, cyclists mainly want a full-suspension bike to improve performance and comfort. So how can we make our hardtail bike perform better and more comfortably? Here are our recommendations;
Suspension Seat Post
To add an element of rear suspension, you can install a suspension seat post. They are an excellent way to give a hardtail bike a full suspension feel and are very cheap to buy.
Here’s one we recently reviewed from AARON, which was excellent.
Typically the tires that come with your bike are not the biggest you can use.
If your bike is running 2.1” tires but has a maximum capacity of 2.4” tires, then upgrading the size of your tire can improve grip and also give the bike a lot more bounce on the rebound.
Drop a wheel size
If your bike is a 29” bike but can drop to 27.5”, this could help improve off-road performance greatly.
Smaller wheels mean you can fit bigger tires and also make the bike more agile when controlling it on technical trails.
Although it is tempting to try and upgrade your much-loved hardtail into a full-suspension bike, you’re better off either investing in a new frame and swapping as many parts across as possible or selling your hardtail and getting a proper full-suspension bike.
A converted hardtail isn’t going to give you the same experience, and it won’t perform as well as you might need while out on the trails.
Robbie Ferri has spent years working in a bike shop, has worked with industry leading brands on product creation, has been a semi pro athlete, and is a fully qualified strength and conditioning coach. He has broken World Records, bikepacked all over the World and raced ultra distance at a top-level.