“Both. Always both.” – Joey Tribbiani, Friends
If you’ve been keeping tabs on our test sleds, you’ll notice that one bike has gone from fully rigid to a hardtail over the last few months. As I’ve been able to ride this bike over that time period I’ve noticed how I always initially adopt the “grass is always greener on the other side” mentality before reverting to the “this is the best-est”.
When I first got on the rigid, I couldn’t stand it. We’d ride an easy trail and it’d be alright but once we got to a long downhill, my arms, hands and wrists were feeling the pain. All I wished for at that point in time was to get back on my hardtail and be comforted by Ms. Reba… Rock Shox Reba that is. I had the “grass is always greener on the other side” mentality.
Rigid is where it’s at!
But after a few months of riding the rigid I really developed an affinity for it or the “this is the best-est” mentality. I went on some pretty technical singletrack and LOVED how the rigid gave such precise feedback. The fact that the fork never compresses is also reassuring when riding gnarly terrain. Also, there is no flex so you never feel as though you’re pointing the wheel in one direction but the trail pushes the wheel in another. Long downhills are still not much fun as I can’t open it up as much as I’d like to and chatter sucks, but for the most part the rigid felt like it was the way to go for me.
Then the bike transformation occurred and we took off the steel fork and put on a White Brothers 80mm Magic. For the first few rides, all I could talk about is how I missed the rigid fork. How precise it was and how it didn’t compress. Now don’t get me wrong I’m really enjoying the WB Magic but for some reason, I’d gone back to the the “grass is always greener on the other side” and during all the first rides I wished for my rigid again.
So soft, so smooth… suspension is the best-est!
Now, over time, I’m starting to come back around on the suspension fork again. The WB magic is definitely stiffer than my previous Reba so that takes some of the advantages of the rigid away but it is also much more comfortable than a rigid. No, it is not as precise (I don’t think any suspension fork will ever be as precise as a rigid) but it excels in other aspects namely: comfort & allowance for poor line pickin’. For example, if I choose the wrong line on a technical section with the rigid I know I’m eating it. With the WB, the give in the suspension occasionally gives me some allowance and will help me turn something that should be bad into a “maybe I’ll fall, maybe I won’t.”
Have I come full circle back to the hardtail camp? Not quite and I don’t know if I ever will be. But when I get the question: Rigid or hardtail? I’ll know my answer. “Both. Always both.” Indeed Mr. Tribbiani, both indeed.