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Sorry, for the beginner question.

Where I live (Ontario, Canada), I am lucky enough to have a number of packed limestone trails (former railways). Those are fairly flat and great for bicycling. They are mixed use, so sometimes they are very uneven - mostly from dried up horse tracks or farming machinery.

I am using currently, cheap sumermarket bike, and it makes ride really bumpy and uncomfortable at times. I was thinking to upgrading to proper mountain bike, but I am wondering if that would be an overkill - the trails are pretty flat. Should I go with a bike with front-shocks only, or both front and back? Any suggestion appreciated.

I also have more of a hybrid-bike - Specialized Sirius Sport, but the thin tires and, clip-in pedals make it less than ideal for those trails. It also makes me feel like I am hurting it :)

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Knobby, fat tires (2.0 and up) should do with any bike, even without front suspension. –  heltonbiker May 6 '13 at 0:49
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They have "packed limestone" in Wisconsin and the trails are easily smooth enough for road bikes. It really depends on the specific trail –  Daniel R Hicks May 6 '13 at 3:33
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I ride the exact same bike, a Specialized Sirius Sport, on packed limestone daily without trouble to me or the machine. –  kmm May 7 '13 at 0:53
    
@kmm, thanks, I may give it a shot. I may just put back on old pedals - I do not know if I am physically challenged, but when riding with other people, I often find myself in situations, where they just do not click out when needed. –  Sebastian K May 7 '13 at 3:02
    
Some pictures of the trail would help. I've ridden packed/crushed limestone trails for years on tires from 23mm slicks to 2.1" MTB with suspension and frankly it was always fine except for the odd trail made more of big chunky bits which is only really good for walking. –  John Zwinck May 9 '13 at 14:21
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

No need to a full suspesion - waste of good money on these trails, you need $2K to get one thats half decent - however if you have got $2.5K burning a hole in you pocket, full sus will be more comfortable. A Hardtail MTB is built a little heavier than a hybrid, but in the end, I doubt very much it would make a difference.

What I would do is look at some cheap upgrades to your existing bike. Go to the biggest tires you can fit (Without going insane) 2" would be good - rim width and frame cleance need to be considered. No only comfort, you might want to consider a shock seat post. These are a often considered "poor mans softtail", but do not get the attention they deserve - they do take some of teh stress and shock loading off the frame and wheels. They are great for taking the small ( <25mm ) bumps on these kinds of trail while remaining seated.

If you decide to go for a new bike, a quailty steel hardtail MTB or hybrid would be my pick (unless you can afford carbon or titanium), with low travel shocks (80mm, no more than 100). A 29er (29" / 700C wheels) rolls better over the rough than 26" and are ideal for these kinds of trails

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He might also look at a shock absorbing stem (The Girvin Flexstem is one example) as well as thick foam handgrips to reduce vibrations in the handlebar. When I ride on rough roads, it's my hands that suffer more than my butt. –  Johnny May 6 '13 at 19:45
    
Thanks, that's really useful. You guys gave me something to think about. Yeah, handlebar vibrations get to me too. –  Sebastian K May 6 '13 at 21:23
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