One of the most important developments in mountain bike design has been suspension. Front suspension came first, and nearly every new bike today is equipped with a suspension fork. These bikes are known as “hardtails”, reflecting the fact that suspension is only at the front. Despite this, hardtails still reduce shock from rough surfaces and improve bike handling on rough sections of trail.
The next step was full suspension, developed so that the rear wheel could better absorb shocks. The first found its way on to downhill bikes, where full suspension meant that bumps could be taken at higher speeds. Now, improved rear suspension and lighter components are revolutionising the cross-country (XC) racing scene.
Recent research has proved that though full suspension bikes might feel slower, especially on hills, they are actually faster over an average cross-country race circuit, since they enable the rider to negotiate technical sections at higher speeds. The new generation of intelligent full suspension systems can distinguish between the bounce a rider puts into the bike by pedalling, and the lumps and bumps of the trial.