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What Makes Full Suspension MTB’s So Expensive

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Before you even start reading this article, check our amazing post about the Best Full Suspension Mountain Bikes Under $2000.

Shopping for a mountain bike with a full suspension system?

Be prepared to open your wallet wide. One Reddit contributor posted: “I am shopping for a new full suspension, and I am in absolute sticker shock over some of the prices.”

He wasn’t prepared, but you can be once you understand why these systems are so costly. Here is what I found:

Full suspension is more expensive than hardtail because it’s a much more complicated machine. The bike’s frame is basically made of two small and rigid frames connected via complicated hardware and a high-cost air shock or coil spring.

But there is another school of thought among cyclists as well.

Ask savvy cyclists who know their way around bike expenditures, and they say it’s not engineering but greed that drives up suspension system costs.

“While there are massive tech differences from 10 years ago, the real brutal hikes have inexplicably come recently, and many started during the recession. It makes zero sense outside of that they’ll be happy to part you with your money if you let them.”

Related: Best Cheap Mountain Bikes


Beyond corporate profits

Corporate profits can’t be the only reason the cost of full suspension systems come with jaw-dropping price tags, thus we turn to experts for a more comprehensive explanation. According to Hix magazine editors, there are several reasons for this trend.

Improved materials, carbon fiber frames, evolving design innovations, and an overall better riding experience are all factored into the equation, so industry profits aren’t the only contributors to price increases.


Full-Suspension vs. Hardtail Mountain Bikes Pros/cons


It has been a few years since Graham Averill drafted his OutsideOnline.com comparison between full-suspension and hardtail mountain bikes, but his expert comparisons remain valid today. According to Averill, deciding between the two is almost always the first question mountain bikers must answer before they shop.


Hardtail Mountain Bike Pros/Cons

PROS:

  • They’re lighter than full-suspension models because they’re not fitted with beefy rear suspensions
  • The front suspension fork complements the rigid rear
  • Efficiency is heightened because the rigid frame makes conquering elevations easier
  • Energy expended while pedaling won’t get lost in the play of the suspension

CONS:

  • Shock absorption is practically nonexistent, thus rocky terrain can be punishing to the body of the rider
  • Hardtails don’t handle easily because there is no rear suspension system.

Read more: How To Bunny Hop On A Mountain Bike


Full-Suspension Mountain Bike Pros/Cons

PROS:

  • They’re more comfortable due to back and front suspension systems
  • Your bum won’t be in a perpetual state of aches and soreness
  • Full suspension bikes give riders the capacity to go faster and longer
  • Versatility is the hallmark of this bike type: tackle tough terrain effortlessly
  • Below-seat suspension allows you to ride longer and over more complicated terrain.

CONS:

  • Prices are outrageous. “Expect to drop $3,000 at a minimum for anything worth riding more than a year,” say experts.

Which MTB types come with full-suspension?

According to multiple websites that include Wikipedia and the UK’s Rutland Cycling, MTB products were first developed during the 1970s. Since then, myriad sub-types have come along, including XC, enduro/all-mountain, freeride, downhill pus track, and slalom types.

The most often-cited full-suspension models tend to be XC, trail, enduro, and downhill, each intended for specific uses and disciplines. Yet, all of them are available with full suspension systems.


Are full suspension bikes good on paved roads?

This question depends upon your definition of “good,” say MTB experts at BikeStation.org. The bottom line is that you can hit the road riding a full suspension bicycle but don’t expect the same amount of efficiency as you would enjoy on usual rugged terrain.

You’ll need to make a couple of modifications to hit the road that can include locking shocks and determining whether your suspension fork locks out.

A tire change may be recommended, too.

Related: When to Change Mountain Bike Tires

Off-road conditions call for less pressure. Pump them up to capacity and enjoy a smoother ride. If you take this action and hear a humming sound, that means your knobs are interacting with the road, thus you may wish to switch out those tires for a different tread pattern to eliminate the annoying sound.


Is it cheaper to build or buy a full-suspension mountain bike?

Learn the short answer to this question by visiting this page, scrolling down to the bottom of the page, and checking out the comparative costs the author incurred when he compared the two.

He’s an engineer, so both options were available to him. The full suspension bike he chose for his experiment cost $3,885.00. The one he built wound up costing $3,639.00.

“I estimated I would have 4.5 hours, including shopping time the actual build was a little over 3 hours. If I said each hour is worth $50,” he explained.

Related: Should I Buy New or Used Bike?

That would have added $225 in labor costs had he not engineered the build himself. Factor in the time he may have spent comparing bike products before deciding which one to buy, and the tab might have been bigger.


How long do full suspension bikes last?

If you’re interested in the real-life stories expressed by contributors to MTBR.com, you’ll discover that there is no definitive answer to this question simply because there are too many variables.

Original, high-quality components, TLC, immediate attendance to the need for servicing, part replacement, and general care all contribute to any bike’s life. However, on average, both experts and consumers agree that full suspension bikes should remain viable for 5 years.


Why is Fox suspension so expensive?

Lusting after a Fox suspension system, but you would have to liquidate your stock portfolio and sell your digs to afford one? The best explanation we have read so far was written by another MTBR contributor who knows what he’s talking about.

“Fox doesn’t make “cheap” forks with internals that don’t work,” he notes. In his learned opinion, Fox’s attention to quality, detail, and excellent raw materials result in fabrication that “uses a relatively high-end damper in ALL of their forks, even the “lowest-end” ones.”


How to shop for your first (or next) full-suspension bike

Comparison shopping is the name of the game, so if you’ve talked yourself out of building one and want to get the best deal, borrow this resource’s suggestions, and you could save money and frustration.

1. Ask yourself these questions determine the type of bike that’s right for your needs and riding conditions:

  • Who do I want to ride with?
  • What kind of bikes do they ride?
  • What bikes in the past did I like or dislike?
  • Where do I want my new bike to be able to take me?

2. Choose the right wheel size: 26, 27.5, or 29. “Every gram saved helps you ride faster.” If acceleration is important to you, the 27.5 should be at the top of your choice list. The larger the tire, the more control you will enjoy due to improved traction, braking, and handling.

3. Make sure frame stiffness and wheel size are compatible. Factor in frame geometry. “As the frame size decreases, headtube heights become higher…geometry limitations can affect smaller 29-inch-wheel frames.”

4. Audition cross country (XC), trail, all-mountain/Enduro, downhill, freeride, and electric models. Importantly, weigh the differences between a hardtail and full suspension, so you don’t have regrets after choosing the wrong one.

5. Should branding impact your decision?

That depends upon your usual shopping style, the amount of research you have undertaken. The secret to getting a good fit isn’t reading other people’s reviews – it’s by taking into account the opinions of riders seeking the same experience you crave and basing your decision on a shared riding proclivity.

Read more:

About Alek Asaduryan

Alek Asaduryan is the founder of YesCycling and has been riding bikes and in the cycling industry since 1991. Since then, his mission is to make cycling more accessible to everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people to achieve that. When he's not out riding his beloved fitness bike, Alek reports on news, gear, guides, and all things cycling related.

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