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A full suspension bike is not just a bike. It is an innovation in the mountain bike scene! The full suspension bike has collected numerous fans in recent years. Bikers who love challenging trails and wild downhill rides swear by the additional suspension in the rear triangle. This is what makes the full suspension special compared to the hardtail or fat bike.
The unbeatable traction, stability and acceleration in extreme terrain justify the maintenance effort and price. It’s worth investing, because then you get a very high-quality and durable bike. With a Fully, it is even more important than with any other bike to find a bike that is individually adapted to your needs. This is not exactly easy, especially for beginners.
The options are very comprehensive. The big full suspension bike test 2022 offers you orientation. With the detailed tips and advice for buying, you will find the mountain bike that meets your needs. You will learn how to choose important sizes and settings for your model.
- 1 Summary
- 2 The Best Full Suspension Bike: Our Picks
- 3 Buying criteria
- 4 Shopping Guide
- 4.1 What is special about a full suspension bike and what advantages does it offer?
- 4.2 Who are full suspension bikes suitable for?
- 4.3 What are the alternatives to a full suspension bike?
- 4.4 What types of full suspension bikes are there?
- 4.5 How do I care for my full suspension bike?
- 4.6 How do I clean my Fully?
- 5 Conclusion
- A Fully is a full suspension bike that stands out from conventional mountain bikes because of its rear shocks. These optimise stability, control, traction and acceleration on uneven trails that are predominantly downhill. Shocks and bumps hardly affect a Fully rider.
- The suspension travel is not only a relevant value for the suspension, but also for the classification of Fully types. Each type is ideal for a different area of use. To find the optimal bike, you also have to consciously choose wheel size, frame height, tyre pressure and gears.
- The most common alternative to the fully is the traditional hardtail. This has suspension only at the front. The most demanding trails should be avoided with this type of bike. For easy terrain, it is often the cheaper and faster choice. It also requires less maintenance than the fully. The latter is very maintenance-intensive due to a lot of built-in technology.
The Best Full Suspension Bike: Our Picks
When you start researching mountain bikes, you will quickly realise: This purchase will not be easy. Nevertheless, you should not try to take the easy way out and leave it at a rough decision. For example, choosing just any fully.
These bikes differ considerably in some relevant criteria.
These criteria are unlikely to evoke any associations in beginners. Less experienced mountain bikers lack an exact overview. Don’t let this put you off, but gain an insight.
This criterion is essential for mountain bikes. The suspension compensates for unevenness and keeps the bike on the ground. It makes the bike ideal for off-road use compared to conventional bikes. The Fully even has front and rear suspension, which is why you should take a closer look at them.
The suspension here is housed in a suspension fork. These are actually springs that have been compressed by a shock and expand again. These can be made of two materials.
- Air suspension: This suspension is not only light, but also easy to adjust.
- Steel suspension: A heavy suspension, but extremely robust.
The suspension is usually damped with oil to make it easier to control. This damping is necessary so that the wheel does not bounce up and down uncontrollably after coming to rest.
The special rear suspension of the Fully can be realised in very different ways. Depending on the manufacturer and technology, there are different designs. The rear triangle is connected to the main frame with a different number of joints.
With more joints, the stiffness but also the maintenance effort and the price are higher. What they all have in common is that the rear suspension should not be affected by the forces exerted by the brakes and bottom bracket.
In connection with the suspension, there is no getting around the issue of suspension travel. Later it will become clear that it is the decisive factor in differentiating between Fully types.
Basically, the suspension travel describes the distance covered by the damping to compensate for bumps and shocks.
The greater the suspension travel, the better the compensation. This also goes hand in hand with better control and higher traction. On a traditional mountain bike, the maximum suspension travel is 100 millimetres. With a Fully you can choose between 100 and 200 millimetres.
Simply put, this is the diameter of the wheel. In the early days of Fullys, 26 inches were the standard size and there was not much to decide. For a few years now, however, there have been two more options here that can have a decisive influence on your riding experience. You can choose between:
- 26 inch
- 27.5 inch
- 29 inch
Many mountain bikers have quickly fallen in love with the new big wheels and rave about the comfortable rolling over bumps. So are big tyres the better choice? Again, you have to look at the two sides of tall inches and decide what suits your touring plans better.
If the wheel size is higher, so are the frame, wheels, tubes and fork, of course. Small riders under 1.80 metres have difficulties with 27.5 inches and 29 inchers are impossible to ride. The choice often falls on 27.5 inchers, because these represent the disadvantages of the XXl wheel in a significantly weakened form.
However, this also means that they can only guarantee the advantages in a weakened form. Perhaps they represent the optimal compromise between the two extremes for you?
For good off-road grip, not only the suspension is relevant, but also the tyre’s characteristics. The tread should be as chunky as possible. In addition, it is best not to choose a tyre with a width of less than 2.25 inches.
You can only determine how much pressure you want on your tyres yourself. A different value is ideal for each area of use and each riding style. Rolling resistance, damping, grip and stability all depend on tyre pressure. For efficient and safe riding on your trails, it is best to experiment and test until you find your setting. As a beginner, you can orientate yourself on the following pressure recommendations depending on the width of the tyre.
- 2.0 to 2.5 inch: 2.2-2.4 bar
- 2.35 to 2.4 inches: 1.8 to 2 bar
- 2.8 to 3.0 inches: 1.2 to 1.4 bar
For a more specific setting, the question now is whether a lower or higher tyre pressure suits your trail intentions. Let’s take a look at what role the pressure plays in the decisive categories of rolling resistance and grip.
|Category||Low tyre pressure||High tyre pressure|
|Rolling resistance||Low on rough terrain||Low on asphalt|
|Grip||Larger contact area and increased grip, due to the soft tyre’s adaptation to bumps||Smaller contact area and less grip on bumps|
|Suspension characteristics||The tyre yields to bumps, which also favours propulsion||Unevenness is hardly cushioned and propulsion suffers as a result|
|Tyre stability on the rims||Stability on the rim can suffer because the casing can buckle over the flanks or jump off the rim||Better stability of the tyres on the rims, but poorer stability when driving|
|Puncture protection||Low, so that an obstacle can be pressed onto the rim||High, so that the stability of the rims is more likely to be guaranteed|
A low pressure is therefore recommended for a Fully. However, it should not be too low to prevent damage to the rims and low stability of the tyre on the rims.
Suspension Wheels and tyres are of little use individually. A frame is essential to connect the individual parts. However, the Fully frame is not just any connection, it also has an influence on the riding experience. It is extremely important that your frame is the right size for you. There is also the question of the frame material.
The choice of material is primarily a question of cost. Currently, Fully frames are made of aluminium and carbon. Steel and titanium are also used in some cases.
- Aluminium: It is a light material that is easy to work with. Therefore, the costs are comparatively low and the frame is super suitable for beginners. Aluminium also scores in terms of power transmission, as it is stiffer, although riding comfort is reduced.
- Carbon: This is a very light material. The carbon fibres can be processed into frames with different tube diameters. Carbon frames are popular with cross-country professionals because they combine stiffness and low weight. However, this is reflected in the price and the frame cracks more quickly in crashes.
- Steel: Sometimes a steel frame is recommended for beginners. Steel is particularly cheap and robust, so it can withstand many beginner crashes. However, due to the high weight, professionals tend to decide against steel.
- Titanium: The big disadvantage here is the high purchase price. This is due to the fact that titanium is so difficult to process. However, those who are willing to invest get an almost indestructible frame.
As you can see, the differences are mainly in weight, riding comfort, stiffness, riding feeling and, of course, cost. You have to decide what you value.
No matter which material you choose, the size of the frame must always be individually tailored to you.
The frame size for all mountain bikes is the measurement from the centre of the bottom bracket to the end of the seat tube.
Only with the optimal size can you make the best use of the frame geometry to master exciting trails with maximum riding comfort. This is how you achieve the best possible manoeuvrability and acceleration of your bike.
Frame sizes are generally given in centimetres or inches. Many manufacturers categorise these individual sizes as S, M, L and XL. It seems easier to orientate yourself according to these specifications, but you should not rely on them. Depending on the manufacturer and Fully type, they can mean something different.
There is no getting around the exact calculation. Fortunately, this can be done quite simply in two steps. You only have to measure the inside of your leg up to the crotch. Multiply the result by 0.226 to get your inch measurement. Now you know how high your saddle should be. The saddle is a crucial element of your Fully because it carries 70% of your weight.
You can make more specific adjustments here to achieve an aerodynamic riding position. In contrast to traditional mountain bikes, it is advisable to lower the saddle slightly at the front of a full suspension bike so that it is horizontal when the suspension is compressed. It’s best to get advice on the optimal settings down to the smallest detail when you buy your bike.
In order to make progress with a Fully, a rear derailleur is also necessary. It is the drive of the mountain bike. It is usually a derailleur, in which different combinations of chainrings and sprockets lead to different gear ratios. Important components are the shift lever, rear derailleur, front derailleur, cassette and, of course, the chain. There are two manufacturers that rule the market for fully derailleur bikes.
The choice of gears at different quality and price levels is huge. For mountain bike gears, one can point out a few overarching commonalities that also apply to fullys. In practice, however, these vary greatly.
There are usually one, two or three chainrings. The maintenance effort is significantly higher with three than with one. The golden mean with two chainrings is often chosen. The cassette with 11 to 12 sprockets is attached to the rear. The rear derailleur determines which of the sprockets the chain is routed to.
If you divide the number of teeth on the chainring by the number of teeth on the sprocket, you can calculate the exact gear ratio. This tells you how often the rear wheel rotates in one crank revolution.
Since a mountain bike is exposed to extreme loads and vibrations, the chain can quickly jump off. Cluch technology offers a solution here. The chain is always kept under tension. Two systems can ensure that your rear derailleur works:
- Mechanical system: shift cables connect the shifters to the rear derailleur. By shortening or releasing the shift cables as a result of shifting, the chain is brought into the desired position.
- Electronic system: Less common is shifting by electrical impulses. After these have been transmitted to the rear derailleur via cables, small motors bring the chain into position.
The different derailleurs differ in material, manufacturing tolerances, weight, bearings, precision of operation, ease of movement and the number of shifted gears. Again, if you are looking for high quality, you will have to invest a little more money.
You will then be rewarded with efficient, durable, light and fast gears. As a beginner, you can also opt for a cheaper, heavier gear system. However, this is out of the question for professional riding.
If you want gears for cross-country and marathon riding, it is best to look for a low weight. For enduro, freeride and downhill it is particularly important that the gears are durable and long-lasting, even under extreme stress.
The brakes are closely linked to the shifting group. Hydraulic disc brakes are usually integrated into a Fully. These offer reliable and high braking power with low weight and maintenance. That was a lot of unfamiliar terms and dimensions?
It’s not easy to keep track of them all. Completely understandable! It’s best to go to a specialist dealer for advice. If you know what you need your bike for, the shop assistants will quickly know which gears are perfect.
What is special about a full suspension bike and what advantages does it offer?
The decisive element that sets the Fully apart from conventional mountain bikes is the integrated rear shock. This means twice as much suspension for more riding comfort. Through this distinctive feature, the Fully offers excellent stability and you simply keep control in the terrain.
In combination with the ideal traction, this gives you the possibility to pick up high speeds on uneven ground. A Fully can absorb almost every pothole and root. This allows you to master rides in very difficult terrain.
Sounds great, but fullys don’t only have advantages, of course. These bikes are much more expensive than traditional ones with the same equipment, because the construction is more complex. They weigh a lot, which can make uphill rides rather arduous. They also require a lot of care and maintenance. After all, it has more suspension elements and moving parts for the damping function.
Who are full suspension bikes suitable for?
Do you want to race down demanding trails and bounce easily over bumps and obstacles? Are you planning extreme day tours or alpine crosses off the beaten track? Then the Fully is the bike you are looking for. It will provide you with stable support for your adrenaline rush and unpaved trails. Thrills and maximum safety are combined in this mountain bike model.
However, your passion for biking on extreme trails must not stop at the end of the road. A Fully needs a lot of care and attention if it is to carry you over hill and dale for some time. You should also be prepared to pay enough money for a high-quality fully.
What are the alternatives to a full suspension bike?
Since you’ve landed on this guide, you may have already decided on a Fully or you may be looking into your options. To make this difficult choice easier for you, you will find important key points about the hardtail here. Especially if you have not been convinced by the Fully so far, this could be a welcome alternative.
Hardtail means nothing other than hard rear part. This means that it has no rear suspension, only the front wheel is suspended.
The hardtail is the original mountain bike and a few years ago there was no choice. Today, however, you should familiarise yourself with what it has to offer.
This bike is ideal for fast and agile use on dirt and forest trails. If you don’t want to be limited to asphalted roads on your day tours, this bike also lets you ride moderate off-road routes comfortably. Even when going downhill.
However, the range of use is rather limited to roads, field and forest paths. In this easy terrain, they usually achieve even more speed than the Fully. Because the bike is stiffer in the rear, your power can be ideally transferred to the firm ground. This is how you achieve a strong propulsion.
If less off-road capability is enough for you, you can score points with a hardtail in terms of price-performance ratio and maintenance effort.
For these reasons, the hardtail is recommended if you have a low budget. You will get better equipment for less money than for a Fully at the same price. It is therefore also ideal as a beginner’s mountain bike. In addition, your mistakes are less compensated for by the hardtail.
You can train your riding technique better because you have to actively compensate for bumps. The question of whether to choose a hardtail or a fully can only be answered by yourself. There is no single, generally correct choice. It is important that your bike meets your personal needs.
In addition to the hardtail, the fatbike is also a possible alternative to the fully. This is made for extreme and loose surfaces such as snow or sand. The wide tyres with 4 to 4.8 inches make the bike unmistakable.
The diameter of the wheel is also unusually high, which is why the bike has a higher weight. Suspension is dispensed with here. Instead, the tyres are supposed to take over this function by being ridden with little pressure. The ground deforms the tyres to achieve high traction.
What types of full suspension bikes are there?
Suspension travel as a distinguishing criterion
When subdividing into the different types of full suspension bikes, the suspension travel is particularly important. It decides whether your bike is suitable for uphill riding or specialised for downhill trails. Each size is assigned to different ideal areas of use. This becomes clear in this overview.
|Type||suspension travel||area of use|
|Cross-Country Marathon Fully||100 to 120 mm||Ideal for marathon tours in easier terrain, as they are very manoeuvrable and also cope well with climbs due to their low weight. Often these have the function of deactivating damping, thus increasing propulsion on straight or uphill trails.|
|Trail Fully||120 to 140 mm||ideal for trails with varying gradients, because uphill rides are still easy to master, while downhill rides are somewhat faster.|
|All Mountain Fully||130 to 150 mm||These offer a wide range of uses. They are ideal for uphill rides and longer tours, and they also pick up speed downhill on easy and medium trails. You can already make small jumps with this bike.|
|Enduro Fully||150 to 180 mm||This bike is also largely all-round. Leisurely uphill riding is certainly possible, but its strength lies in downhill routes.|
|Freerider||160 to 200 mm||It specialises in very steep terrain and extreme jumps, which is why attention is paid to using very stable components. Technically demanding slopes are the right challenge for a Freerider.|
|Downhiller||170 to 210 mm||As the name suggests, they are specialised for downhill riding. The goal is to overcome demanding slopes with obstacles as quickly as possible. Riding uphill is virtually impossible but it can withstand the strain of high jumps.|
So here it is important to be aware of what kind of tours you are planning. Every trail makes different demands on you and your bike. If you have long and, above all, undulating tours ahead of you, a lower suspension travel is more suitable for climbing climbs.
However, if you want to race downhill in unstable terrain, a higher suspension travel is better. This keeps the wheels on the ground for more stability. If you are unsure or don’t yet know your own trail preferences, you can lean towards the middle with an All Mountain Fully with 150 milllimeters. This has become the standard.
In addition to these central types of fullys, there is another type that has been gaining momentum for a few years now: the e-fully. Legally, no helmet, licence plate or driving licence is required for this motor model, because it is too slow for that. The electric drive has a level of less than 250 watts, which is why you cannot go faster than 25 km/h with it.
In order to distribute the weight centrally and create a safe riding feeling, the drive is located in the low area of the bottom bracket. If this is successful, the additional weight can even contribute to more speed on the downhill.
Since a full suspension bike is often exposed to extreme vibrations, the motor is protected with special covers. If you love mountain biking, but have trouble going uphill, an e-fully can be the solution. After exciting descents, you are spared lifts or arduous climbs.
How do I care for my full suspension bike?
Moving parts suffer particularly from wear. A Fully has many of these, especially at the rear. It is important to check them regularly for damage.
Also check all screw connections. Screws loosen quickly through frequent use and complex loads. If this happens, be sure to tighten them almost! Otherwise the rear triangle of your fully may break.
After a certain time you should change the seals and oils of the suspension. The exact time varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. For frequent drivers, it is recommended to have the suspension serviced once a year. At the same time, you can also check whether the ball bearings of the rear triangle should be replaced.
If possible, lubricate the sliding surface of the seat post with oil from time to time. After a heavy fall, you should x-ray the frame to find out if there is any internal damage. This is very expensive, but makes sense for high-end bikes! Take extra care of your bike in the wet season. Never leave it outside and make sure to dry the chain to avoid rust.
How do I clean my Fully?
- Removing coarse dirt: Spray your bike with water to remove loose and damp dirt. It is best to use a garden hose. Never use a high-pressure cleaner to avoid damaging your bike’s technology.
- Removing stubborn dirt: Spray the entire mountain bike with a cleaning agent and leave it to work for about 5 to 10 minutes. Wipe off the dirt with a clean sponge and spray your fully with water again. Do not use a detergent with oil, as this will absorb dirt and spread it even more. The ideal solution is to use a bicycle cleaner from a specialist shop.
- Cleaning the rear derailleur: This step is time-consuming but very important. First remove coarse dirt from the derailleur pulley and chainring with a tyre lever. To clean the cassette, we recommend using a special sprocket cleaner from the bike shop or a screwdriver. Be sure to place a pad underneath during this step so as not to pollute the environment with the oil dirt. Then spray on bicycle cleaner again. After this time, the best way to remove any remaining dirt is to use a toothbrush. Rinse off all the bike cleaner again. Some basic lubrication will remain throughout the process. It would not do to completely clean the chain of oil.
- Chain care: A wet ride or the cleaning process can cause the lubricating film of the chain to disappear. To prevent rusting and squeaking, drip some chain oil or chain grease into the chain. After this has worked in, you can wipe off the excess with a cloth. Teflon oil is of particularly high quality and experienced bikers swear by it because it creeps into even the narrowest gaps.
- Brake discs: Special brake cleaner is used for this. If you don’t have this available, a little rinse water will do. During the previous steps, make sure that the brake discs do not come into contact with additional dirt or oil, as they would become soaked with it. You can unhook the gear cables that run along the outside of the frame and then clean them with a bit of krich oil.
- Take care of the suspension elements: The Fully has many of these and they all need to be looked after to prevent dirt from getting in. Coarse dirt should be washed off the protective elements. You should use a gentle jet for this so that the water does not penetrate the seals and damping. With a little oil on the seals, you can then make the suspension run smoothly.
- Finishing: If you want your Fully to look like new again, you can spray it with a special protective spray at the end. A short soak and subsequent wiping is sufficient.
If you have an e-fully, the battery also needs to be cleaned. You should do this separately by first removing the battery. Dirty water should not be allowed to penetrate. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s not. You can get your bike clean in about 30 minutes.
It’s worth it, because this prevents dirt, moisture and mud from getting into the small crevices of your Fully and damaging the technology. Don’t wait too long to wash your bike, especially in winter, because road salt can quickly attack your bike.
It has certainly become clear that the Fully is a very special mountain bike. It is for enthusiasts and extreme athletes and requires a lot of care and cleaning. If you are a beginner, you should not immediately start with a high-end full suspension bike.
Rather choose a cheaper model or a hardtail. However, if you have been bitten by the downhill bug and want to spend every free minute on the saddle of your mountain bike tackling challenging trails, it is worth investing time and money in a Fully.
Picture source: avemario / 123rf.com