Why Electric Bikes? Full Suspension vs. Hardtail
Have you been recently contemplating the purchase of an electric bike? It turns out you’re not the only one.
According to market research firm NPD Group, electric bike sales have jumped by an impressive 240 percent over a 12 month period as of September 2021, compared to just two years prior.
In a recent post by Consumer Reports, the Department of Transportation nationwide survey data offers even more insight into the popular electric bike trend, stating that “It’s young people who don’t want a car; it’s older people who want a little help so they can still ride a bike; it’s commuters who don’t want to get all sweaty on the way to work.” According to the Department of Transportation, nationwide survey data shows that more than half of the trips people take are 3 miles or less.
From commuting and recreational purposes to hauling light cargo, an electric bike’s uses are many and there really is no one demographic that purchases an e-bike. If you are asking yourself why an e-bike would be a smart purchase, these are just a few reasons why an electric bike makes sense.
Key Benefits of Owning an E-Bike
- Health - Like cycling any bike, riding an electric bike will up your aerobic fitness level. The effort required to keep yourself moving may be less than on a normal bike, but you’ll still be turning the pedals and putting in a significant amount of the energy required to move yourself along – all while putting less stress on the heart.
- Environmental - In an article in Men’s Journal, in 2011 the European Cyclists’ Federation found that when comparing electric bikes to cars, the bikes emitted just 8.1% per passenger, per kilometer, of CO2 that a car spits out.
- Wallet Friendly - For short-to-medium length journeys, an eBike is more efficient and less expensive than using a car.
The Case for a Full-Suspension E-Bike
Maybe you’re fresh to the world of eBikes or maybe you’ve been fully entrenched in research for weeks. Either way, a foundational question to answer before you get too deep is the highly polarizing: is it worth getting a full suspension bike? Or should I stick to a hardtail?
If we get too in the weeds with this conversation, we’re going to find ourselves comparing throttle-only, full-suspension e-bikes (which are just a half step away from electric dirt bikes) with electric beach cruisers and everything in between. So, for the sake of focus, this article will assume the riding you’re going to want to do the most is on dirt trails or roads, with the option to climb quickly and smoothly up traditional mountain bike trails and descend safely and efficiently the same way your analog mountain bike might.
Even if your ideal riding is a bit more mellow than this (like sticking to Forest Service roads or the backyard fields), in our minds, there’s really only one right answer: full suspension wins over hardtail.
For the sake of framing our thinking here, essentially we’re comparing a hardtail bike like the Apex E-Bike with a full suspension bike like the Jeep E-Bike.
E-Bike Full Suspension vs. Hardtail: The Basic Differences
The easiest way to differentiate between a full suspension e bike and a hardtail is simply looking to see if it has rear suspension. In the example of the Jeep vs. the Apex, the Jeep has a rear shock, and the Apex does not. Easy!
Take a look at the rest of the bike, and you’ll hardly spot a notable difference: they both have a range of up to 50 miles, 9-speed shifters, the exact same Tektro 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes, comparable frame sizes, and the list goes on.
Is it Worth Getting a Full Suspension E-Bike?
Our (sometimes contentious) answer: yes! The most basic reason we can provide is that they are simply more versatile. Consider the difference between a luxury SUV and a Jeep. A Jeep is purpose-built to take on rocky, off-camber, uneven, rugged roads. But that doesn’t take away from its ability to drive around town with ease. On the other hand, the luxury SUV thrives in the city but simply can’t keep up with the Jeep when the going gets tough.
The same comparison can be made between a hardtail and an e bike with suspension. While the hardtail will certainly be able to take you wherever you’d like to go, it simply won’t be able to keep up with full suspension electric mountain bikes.
One common experience many have that keeps them coming back to hardtails time and again is that hardtails have a good reputation for being more efficient, energy-saving climbers. And against that point, we can’t argue. But, most shocks on the market today will have an integrated lever that quickly and easily locks out your rear shocks when you’re climbing that can be easily switched back for smoother, easier descending. The trick is remembering to switch the lever back and forth!
We’d nudge you towards making your decision primarily based on what type of riding you’re going to be doing most often and what kind of access you’d like to ensure you have, but if you’ve got a serious need for speed, that certainly becomes a factor as well.
Are Full Suspension Bikes Slower?
There’s no definitive response to this one. If you’re aggressively climbing up smooth, steep trail or ripping down buffed, smooth flow trail, then a hightail might inch ahead. But where it simply can’t keep up is when you sprinkle in a rock garden, rooted tech, or any significantly uneven surface.
Picture this: you’re rolling down a trail and your front wheel hits a rock the size of a softball. No biggie, right? Your fork—along with some help from your upper body in its athletic position—absorbs the impact. But when your rear wheel makes contact with that rock, a hardtail and a full suspension bike will react quite differently.
If you’re on a full suspension bike, the rear shock, just like the fork, will do its job and absorb the lion’s share of the impact, leaving your general body position intact and smoothing out your ride. The hardtail, on the other hand, without that shock on the back, the impact of that rock will impact the whole frame of the bike. Some less experienced riders on hardtails have a hard time intuiting this impact and can be thrown off balance.
The bottom line: two wheels are better than zero! You’ll find seasoned riders of all persuasions with compelling arguments for both hardtails and full suspension electric mountain bikes. And the good news is that we have both.