What Is a Rigid Frame Motorcycle? The Essential Guide

Are you searching for a new motorcycle? You've checked out essentials like the prices of motorcycles, reviewed your insurance options, and plugged your details into a motorcycle loan calculator. Now, you find yourself with a plethora of options in terms of features and frames. If you've been trying to decide between a rigid frame vs. a soft-tail frame but haven't quite decided which is best for your riding needs — you've come to the right place.

Keep scrolling for an in-depth look into both hard-tail and soft-tail frames, their uses, pros, and cons, so you can determine what type of frame is the ideal choice for your purchase.

What Is a Rigid Frame Motorcycle?

Also known as a hard-tail frame, the short answer to what a rigid frame motorcycle is that these are the old school type of construction. A rigid frame motorcycle has a simple design that is lightweight and cost-effective. Rigid frames don’t have all the bells and whistle that bikes with a soft-tail frame have, but they include all the essentials you need to get you from Point A to Point B.

The first feature that differentiates rigid frame motorcycle choppers is the fact that they lack a rear suspension. With rigid frames, the axle is instead affixed straight onto the frame, so the only suspension is directly through the tire. You'll feel the impact of your ride more when operating a rigid frame motorcycle. That could be an advantage or a disadvantage based on your personal riding preference.

However, because a rigid frame motorcycle comes without a suspension, it could cost considerably less than a soft-tail frame motorcycle. You can purchase a quality rigid frame for roughly $800, which is fantastic if you like to stick with used motorcycle values. With less moving parts, there’s less to install and upkeep. The modicum of components also means that the frame is significantly lighter than a soft-tail frame.

What Is a Soft-Tail Frame Motorcycle?

A soft-tail frame refers to a motorcycle frame that sports an active suspension. A soft-tail frame motorcycle could have either a swing arm design or an A-frame. With a soft-tail frame, the suspension is mounted to the frame by a horizontal axle. The axle allows the frame to pivot. If you prefer a smoother and more seamless ride, a soft-tail frame could be the choice for you.

Another notable component of soft-tail frames is that the active suspension features shock absorbers that you can mount in a variety of configurations, from vertical to horizontal. The shocks could be coil-over, air-adjustable, and even hydraulic.

Because soft-tail frames sport active suspensions, this boosts the sturdiness of the chopper. The suspension also reduces the level of bounce you’d experience on rough terrain while still keeping the tire in alignment with the surface you’re riding on. A soft-tail frame will also cut back the level of vibration you’ll feel while riding.

With that said, because a soft-tail frame incorporates so many moving parts, the cost to build and maintain this type of frame is considerably higher than it would be for a rigid frame. Purchasing a soft-tail frame alone could run you upwards of $1,300, but this also means the motorcycle values could be worth more. It is vital to hire a professional to check out the axles and shocks regularly to ensure they are in mint condition and sturdy structurally.

A soft-tail frame also typically means more weight on the whole of the bike, because you need to give additional consideration to how the passenger seating and rear fender are mounted. Pros and Cons of Hard-Tail Frames

The main advantages of a rigid frame motorcycle include:

  • More basic construction
  • Less expensive than a soft-tail frame
  • No rear suspension so fewer moving parts to assemble and maintain
  • Weighs considerably less than a soft-tail frame
  • No swing arm or additional frame assembly

The primary downside of a rigid or hard-tail frame is that no rear suspension means a much rough ride. Neither you nor any passengers will be as comfortable because the shock of impact is greater. Also, rigid frames aren’t particularly well-suited to cruising for very long distances.

Pros and Cons of Soft-Tail Frames

So, what do soft-tail frames have going for them? For one thing, the active rear suspension means you and your passengers will experience a much smoother ride. Whether you’re taking a short jaunt around the neighborhood or cruising more extended distances, you won't feel all the bumps and crevices in the roadway.

You’ll also have an easier time handling a soft-tail frame, which makes this type of design an ideal choice for long-range cruising. The lack of vibration is also a huge plus.

However, there are a few cons to take into account if you’re in the market for a soft-tail frame motorcycle. First, these types of bikes cost more to build and maintain because they have a higher number of moving parts. If you decide to build your bike, these types of frames are much more complicated to construct. Also, the extensive moving parts means these motorcycles tend to weigh more.

Wrapping It Up

Now that you understand what a rigid frame motorcycle is, hopefully, you’re one step closer to deciding which type is the best choice for you. When you’re on the hunt for your next motorcycle frame, it ultimately comes down to a matter of preference and price. If you want a smoother ride and a design manufactured for long-distance cruising, a soft-tail frame could be an ideal fit. You'll have to contend with a higher price tag.

Rigid frame motorcycles tend to have better structural integrity than soft-tail frames and require minimal maintenance over time. If you like the simpler design a rigid frame motorcycle has to offer and don’t mind the bumpier ride, this old school look with less moving parts could be a match made in heaven.