Why do full suspension bikes rail?

Hey Lee,

This may be a dumb question, but what’s the physics behind why a full suspension rails better than a hardtail? It intuitively makes sense but I was wondering why it works better. Thanks.



Sweet! I love this kind of question. Let me fling out two generalizations:

1. Traction

Suspension keeps your tires on rough/loose ground, and it insulates you from the earthen violence. Where hardtails chatter, suspension bikes gobble.

2. Loading

Here’s where things get double-extra nerdy. One of the keys to railing a turn is loading your tires. This increases the down force, which improves traction and — in the case of a berm — gives you an extra bit of pump.

When you load a hardtail, the energy expresses very quickly — POP!

When you load a suspension bike, the energy spreads out — BRAAAAP!

This timing helps you stick to a long berm. While a hardtail tends to hit it hard then rebound, the suspension bike prefers to settle in and rail.

Have I said BRAAAAP!!!?

— Lee

6 replies
  1. Trevor says:

    its so true that sus bikes sit down and rail, only really noticed it riding a-line full wack following some crazy canadian!! but mid lenght berms, to short to bounce into and out not long enough to sit into.

    How do u ride one of them quick on a DH bike?

  2. Joshua says:

    He wants to know how to ride short and mid length berms on a DH bike? It is harder because of the slower energy release, but lee has a nice little graphic in the pump track section about pumping on a fullie… basically pump alot harder and start sooner.

  3. Natt says:

    Another reason that I think suspension bikes rail flat turns more than hardtails is that with suspension bikes, especially those with a lot of sag (v10, etc), as the forces of the turn act on the suspension, and your bottom bracket and therefor center of gravity is consequently lowered, allowing you to rail faster.

  4. Fish says:

    I just built (is it ever REALLY done?) my very own pump track and am so thrilled…. 150 feet of bi-directional LOVE. 3 days worth of diggin, 6 truck loads of earth (about 200 cubic feet of dirt, 30 braughtworsts, 18 burgers, 2 steaks, 145 beers, 25 gallons of DRINKING water, lots of blisters, and it’s time to rip….

    I can’t even wait to get my first 100 lapper…..
    I get 10 laps in now and I’m dead…..
    I can see this making one very strong indeed….

    Thank you for introducing me to this woderfull thing, the P.T.

    I’d like to know who’s got their 12 year old is drivin shuttles…..
    That’s awsome.

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