Listen to the podcast

What springs to mind when you hear the terms “hard-tail” and “soft-tail?” Is it “what’s a hard-tail” and “what’s a soft-tail,” respectively?

If that’s the case, this episode of the 30 Minute Motorcycling Podcast is for you.

Tune in to discover:

  • The differences between a hard-tail and a soft-tail
  • The pros and cons of each type
  • Why a hardtail is a good choice for a beginner bike customizer


Hello and welcome to 30-minute motorcycling – a podcast for new aspiring and returning riders where you will learn something about motorcycles and other two-wheelers in 30 minutes or less.


If you’re a Harley lover, you’ve probably heard terms like “softail” and “hardtail” before. 


But what is a Softail? and what is a hardtail? 


And what are the pros and cons of each type? 


That’s what this episode is all about. 


Before we start, however, it’s important to note that even though the terms Softail and Hardtail are often associated with Harleys – any bike can be called a “Softtail.” or a “Hardtail” – even a pedal bike.


But either way, what is a Softail?




The term “softtail” comes from Harley Davidson, who in the 1980s, tried to market to a broader audience – one that wanted a motorcycle that had a “classic look” that still had soft rear suspension and a more comfortable ride.


And a Softail motorcycle reflects that, with a hidden rear suspension system with shock absorbers and a swingarm to connect them to the main frame, which is assembled from two pieces. 


A prime example of a Softail from Harley Davidson is the Fatboy, 


But remember, any two-wheeler with rear suspension can technically be considered a “soft tail.” 


The biggest advantage of a soft-tail is comfort – after all, that’s what it was designed for. 


But that comfort comes at a price – a financial one. Fitting rear suspension to a bike means buying among other things shock absorbers and a swingarm (or “swinging arm”).


Building a soft-tail can be an expensive feat, not to mention a hard one.


But what about a Hardtail?




Unlike a Softail, a hardtail frame is made from just one piece of metal, with the rear axle mounted directly onto it. 


They also have no rear suspension to speak of. Some hard-tails might have suspension at the front, but either way, there’s no rear suspension. 


As you might have figured out, this gives you a very rough ride. 


While a hard-tail can be a lot of fun to ride, taking long-distance trips on one can be painful in the long run.


And since there’s no rear suspension to keep the tire in contact with the road, hardtails also bounce more. 


If you hit a pothole, odds are that you’ll be thrown off balance 


So with that in mind, perhaps you’re asking yourself “well, if it’s so uncomfortable, why even bother with a Hardtail then?”


First of all, since their frame only has one piece and fewer parts, they’re very easy to build – perfect for the beginner customizer. 


If you talk to people who build motorcycles – whether as a hobby or for a living, it’s not rare that they started out building a hardtail. 


They’re also cheaper to build since they have fewer movable parts. 


And that’s a brief explanation about the differences between a soft-tail and a hard-tail. 


If you’d like to read more about Hardtails and Softtails, I’ve included a link to an article on about the subject.


Also, if you’d like to know more about how rear suspension works, I’ve included a video about it from the Bennetts BIke YouTube channel in the show notes: 


Until next time, keep your helmet on and your eyes on the road. Bye!