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Is a Hard Tail Frame Right for Your Motorcycle?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


Is a Hard Tail Frame Right for Your Motorcycle?

Tyler Powers
October 1, 2006

If you are considering building a custom bike, you'll need to determine whether to select a hard tail frame (also called a rigid frame), or a swing arm frame. Deciding on a frame is not to be taken lightly because there are some significant differences in the frame styles.

The hard tail frame is a single piece frame. The rear motorcycle wheel assembly attaches directly to the frame, as opposed to a soft tail frame which is made of two pieces of tubing connected at a pivot joint. That is the source of the nomenclature; the frame really does have a hard tail. The result is that there is no rear suspension to give that 'floating' feel to the ride.

Initially, all motorcycles were hard tails. The bent tubing frames allowed the rear hub to be attached through the one piece frame. That is still the way hard tails are put together today.

The Harley-Davidson Duo-Glide, released in 1958, gave riders the first option of purchasing a bike with rear suspension. Purists, however, still love the ride and feel of the hard tail frame.

Jesse James custom bike builder and owner of West Coast Chopper, in a recent documentary about the history or motorcycles, stated that he loves the hard tail ride because it allows the rider to truly become part of the road. There is no 'bounce' and the road vibrations are not absorbed by shocks, providing a hardcore sensation unlike the swing arm motorcycle frames.

Hard tail frames provide a somewhat rougher ride; people that experience back pain during long rides almost always avoid this frame style. Kidney-jarring jolts can result from hitting bumps. Yet in this modern day, most roads are relatively smooth.

Some people simply love the ride provided by the rigid hard tail frame. Others really hate the differences in ride. The bottom line is that you want to select the right frame for your motorcycle based on your personal needs, expectations, and planned use.

If you want a cross-country touring cycle, a hard tail may not the right choice be for you. If you want to build the ultimate custom show chopper, this frame style could be perfect for you. If you are young, have lots of stamina, are in great physical condition and don't mind a bit of kidney jolting, the hard frame is a viable option. However, if you want to ride from New York to California when you retire, most likely you'll be much happier riding a soft tail.

The choice of hard tail frame or soft tail frame is entirely a personal choice. Just remember, it takes a lot of work to change frames, so think through exactly what you expect from your motorcycle before making a decision about whether a hard tail frame is the best solution for your custom motorcycle.

Tyler Powers is a contributing author and webmaster for http://www.custom-choppers-guide.com . Here is where you can find quality information on motorcycle frames and custom chopper frames http://www.custom-choppers-guide.com/custom-chopper-frames.html .

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