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  1. #1
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    650b Conundrum ~~~

    I'm a road biker, but am a mountain biker at heart - literally it's only in my heart at the moment aside from the fact that I rode a Cannondale Hard Tail I rode for a few years in the Central Park when I lived in NYC.

    In the fall of 2012, I was this close to pulling a trigger on a new Yeti SB66 (26er), until I came across 650b bikes - on paper, this makes a lot of sense to me. In the meantime, both my LBS and other fine shops are pushing 29ers on me. I'm thinking that they need to unload their inventory, on the one hand, and also because they truly believe in it, especially here in the rocky Northeast (NJ).

    In the meantime, I have been voraciously reading and watching Francois give his awesome reviews on an array of the early 650b birds: Intense, Norco, Scott, Jamis, Foes and others. Since, its practically impossible to test rides these I am very reluctant to pull the trigger. Plus, the cost on these bikes seem to be at its premium.

    In the meantime, I'm thinking of just getting into a used or NOS 29ers ($2k range) and sell it when bigger manufacturers get in the game, i.e., Cannondale, Specialized, etc.

    What to do? What would you do?

  2. #2
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    If you just want to get rolling on an mtb, a NOS 29er may be a good idea for the price and for very rocky trails. But thereafter I'll probably save for something better than a "just" a mainstream cannon dale or specialized if I'm going 650b and big anyway. Probably a turner burner or an intense carbine. Yum.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mergetrio View Post
    I'm a road biker, but am a mountain biker at heart - literally it's only in my heart at the moment aside from the fact that I rode a Cannondale Hard Tail I rode for a few years in the Central Park when I lived in NYC.

    In the fall of 2012, I was this close to pulling a trigger on a new Yeti SB66 (26er), until I came across 650b bikes - on paper, this makes a lot of sense to me. In the meantime, both my LBS and other fine shops are pushing 29ers on me. I'm thinking that they need to unload their inventory, on the one hand, and also because they truly believe in it, especially here in the rocky Northeast (NJ).

    In the meantime, I have been voraciously reading and watching Francois give his awesome reviews on an array of the early 650b birds: Intense, Norco, Scott, Jamis, Foes and others. Since, its practically impossible to test rides these I am very reluctant to pull the trigger. Plus, the cost on these bikes seem to be at its premium.

    In the meantime, I'm thinking of just getting into a used or NOS 29ers ($2k range) and sell it when bigger manufacturers get in the game, i.e., Cannondale, Specialized, etc.

    What to do? What would you do?
    What do you want out of the bike?
    A SB 66 is a very aggressive am/trailbike not a lot of 29ers in this category. How do you plan to use the bike and what type of trails do you plan to ride?
    This will make all the difference in what bike you should buy and if you will be happy with the purchase.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1soulrider View Post
    What do you want out of the bike?
    A SB 66 is a very aggressive am/trailbike not a lot of 29ers in this category. How do you plan to use the bike and what type of trails do you plan to ride?
    This will make all the difference in what bike you should buy and if you will be happy with the purchase.
    I just had a lengthy discussion with my LBS, and he put some sense and perspective into my thinking similar to what you're asking. Since, I've been away from MB for a long time, I'm leaning heavily towards getting a Front Suspension/ Hardtail around $1k. Once, I get some skills and miles under my belt I may upgrade to higher end, aggressive bikes such as SB66 or high end 650bs. I'm close to buying a Cannondale SL3 at the moment.

    I imagine my rides to be about 50% cross country/ trails with the other 50% that is technical and aggressive.
    Last edited by Mergetrio; 01-24-2013 at 12:09 PM.

  5. #5
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    Another angle to throw out.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Mergetrio View Post
    I just had a lengthy discussion with my LBS, and he put some sense and perspective into my thinking similar to what you're asking. Since, I've been away from MB for a long time, I'm leaning heavily towards getting a Front Suspension/ Hardtail around $1k. Once, I get some skills and miles under my belt I may upgrade to higher end, aggressive bikes such as SB66 or high end 650bs. I'm close to buying a Cannondale SL3 at the moment.

    I imagine my rides to be about 50% cross country/ trails with the other 50% that is technical and aggressive.
    "Your" size "may", I repeat "may" play a role in wheel choice. But if the $1k budget is where you're at, then probably not a 650 HT in that pricepoint at this time. If you're a "typical" taller rider then a 29er would be the choice. Right now in production 650 HT it's Jamis Dragon/Nemisis and some KHS models are the ones that come to mind.

    With that being said, word is a couple big names will be stepping up with a various assortment of 650's for '14.

    But to copy what's been said, SB66 or similar is a step up in both $$ and performance abilities compared to entry level HT's mentioned.
    Wait,who did he tell you that?....

  6. #6
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    My advice is to get a used/NOS 26" w/ good tire clearance. you can add a 27.5 front or on both ends at any time. If you go high end later extra wheels & tires are handy to have around
    I'm running an ancient 26" Kona hardtail (V-brake) w/ a rigid corrected 26" carbon disc fork & a 650b wheel. I'm 5' 8" & this is my best XC bike.
    . Later, mike
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  7. #7
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    Seriously? Grab a bike ASAP. Doesn't matter which as long as it fits you and you can ride it comfortably. Get out on the trails and enjoy them. Reunite with mountain biking.

    Then worry about wheel size later. It doesn't matter that much. It really doesn't. Technicalities aside, all that matters is having fun on the bike. If you're thinking about going out and buying a cheap hardtail, buy a really cheap hardtail and get out there. Technology hasn't improved that much in the last ten years.

  8. #8
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    I'm also a hard core roadie; nothing better to strengthen the legs. But all road and no mtb makes any cyclist dull. Mtb is just plain fun and a challenge to your athleticism as well as strength. Road is all about strength and conditioning. Which is not a bad thing but a limited thing.

    As far as picking a bike, first determine what terrain you will mostly ride. In ascending order of difficulty, there is Cross Country (XC ); Trail; All Mountain (AM); and Downhill/Freeride (DH/ FR)

    For a relative newbie, you realistically are looking at XC, Trail or AM.

    Once that is decided, you look to how much suspension and wheel size you need using this formula (which is a direct quote from Walt of Waltworks Bicycles who posts often on this forum and knows whereof he speaks):

    For XC: Ride the biggest wheels you can fit on without making geometry sacrifices. If you have to pick between wheel size and suspension travel, pick the big wheels (4" 29er beats 5" 650).
    For AM/FR: Ride the biggest wheels you can fit on. If you have to pick between wheels/suspension, pick suspension (6" 650b beats 5" 29er).
    For DH: Ride 26" wheels because right now there's not much for 650 and nothing for 29 (and for 29, there probably never will be).
    Notice he does not mention Trail. I believe he would say if specifically asked:

    Ride the biggest wheels you can fit on. If you have to pick between wheels/suspension, pick suspension (5" 650b beats 4" 29er).

    That's my guess. Then again for Trail terrain/style riding, the 5" 650b and the 4" 29'er are a toss up and a personal preference thing. The next determinative I would suggest is pick the bike that is the lighter of the two.
    Old enough to know better. And old enough not to care. Best age to be.

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    Some great input here, IMO.

    Have to agree with the just-get-out-there angle. We had tons of fun on our archaic bikes back then; never knew or cared what cool bike technology would surface.

    That said, I'm totally in with full suspension and wish I had gotten into it earlier. For me, it makes MTB more fun.

    Maybe sniff out a great deal on a used, mell-maintained bike?

    Impossible to define your preferred riding types when MTB's just in your heart. Hit some trails by hook or crook–borrow, demo, rent, buy–and start loving it in real life so you can make it even more fun by tooling up for your preferences.

    Cheers,

    Mike

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    I rode a sb-66 for a day and a half. Great bike I loved it. But, I to live in NY and with the low bottom bracket on that bike I was striking rocks all day long. It was a little frustrating. Two things I think would've helped would be to get shorter crank arms and the bike had a fox 32 150mm. going to a fox 34 160mm would raise the bottom bracket height. The other thing you could do is learn to adapt to the lower BB. I've run into a few people that have them and they love the bike. What ever you decide to get, enjoy it.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandwich View Post
    Seriously? Grab a bike ASAP. Doesn't matter which as long as it fits you and you can ride it comfortably. Get out on the trails and enjoy them. Reunite with mountain biking.
    I just did this! I bought a 2013 Cannondale SL3. It only weighs around 26.5lbs. I'm ready to hit the trails!

    TRAIL SL 3 - Trail SL - Hardtail - Mountain - Bikes - 2013

  12. #12
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    Thanks for all the great inputs! Very informative and helpful!

    I decided to go with a hard tail to get a better sense of the back tire as I work on my technical skills. I hope to get into a FS bike in about 2-3 years when my skills warrant it, and will hand off my current bike to my son!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandwich View Post
    Seriously? Grab a bike ASAP. Doesn't matter which as long as it fits you and you can ride it comfortably. Get out on the trails and enjoy them. Reunite with mountain biking.

    Then worry about wheel size later. It doesn't matter that much. It really doesn't. Technicalities aside, all that matters is having fun on the bike. If you're thinking about going out and buying a cheap hardtail, buy a really cheap hardtail and get out there. Technology hasn't improved that much in the last ten years.
    I agree. Get out and ride right now. You don't need long travel AM bike to get started. In fact depending on what you ride it maybe alot more bike than you need. I ride a 10 year old 26" hardtail and it handles the trails just fine. I can ride it anywhere I want to. Then again I don't really tackle big jumps and stuff. Not really my cup of tea, but I don't fear miles and miles endless chunk either.

    The issue is bikes have become so specialized over the years that it can be really hard to pick the right bike especially if you don't know what you will ride. Heck I would have a hard time replacing my bike these days. XC race, trail, AM? I ride a little of everything really. Heck I started riding in 1998 and the dirt is still the dirt.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mergetrio View Post
    Thanks for all the great inputs! Very informative and helpful!

    I decided to go with a hard tail to get a better sense of the back tire as I work on my technical skills. I hope to get into a FS bike in about 2-3 years when my skills warrant it, and will hand off my current bike to my son!
    Good move.

    That bike should serve you well to get going.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  15. #15
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    Cake & eat it too

    Quote Originally Posted by Mergetrio View Post
    I just did this! I bought a 2013 Cannondale SL3. It only weighs around 26.5lbs. I'm ready to hit the trails!

    TRAIL SL 3 - Trail SL - Hardtail - Mountain - Bikes - 2013
    I recall - perhaps falsely, that 650b wheels will fit out back. As well, the steer tube might fit a tapered fork. In short, I think you bought a bike that will work well if you decide to one day invest in a proper 650b fork and wheels. With that said, don't rely on this post as proof. Do your research first.
    Eat, ride, eat, rest, repeat.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Entrenador View Post
    I recall - perhaps falsely, that 650b wheels will fit out back. As well, the steer tube might fit a tapered fork. In short, I think you bought a bike that will work well if you decide to one day invest in a proper 650b fork and wheels. With that said, don't rely on this post as proof. Do your research first.
    I'll check, but good to know that there's a good possibility for a 650b conversion!

  17. #17
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    Trail = XC?

    If you try hard to clean the climbs, and you ride fast on the flat sections, you are doing XC riding. If you're mostly spinning (or walking) up the climbs and along the flat stuff just so you can get to the jumps and drops and teeters, then you're doing what I call "all mountain" or "freeride". If you don't go uphill without motorized assistance (ie shuttle or chairlift) then you're doing DH.

    I really only see those 3 categories as worth worrying about - further subdividing is kinda pointless - when I talk to people about what they mean by "trail" riding, it's pretty much XC.

    OP: Get *anything* cheapish ($500-1000) and go ride. You can worry about becoming a wheel size snob later.

    -Walt

    Quote Originally Posted by dwt View Post
    Notice he does not mention Trail. I believe he would say if specifically asked:

    Ride the biggest wheels you can fit on. If you have to pick between wheels/suspension, pick suspension (5" 650b beats 4" 29er).
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
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    waltworks.blogspot.com

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    If you try hard to clean the climbs, and you ride fast on the flat sections, you are doing XC riding. If you're mostly spinning (or walking) up the climbs and along the flat stuff just so you can get to the jumps and drops and teeters, then you're doing what I call "all mountain" or "freeride". If you don't go uphill without motorized assistance (ie shuttle or chairlift) then you're doing DH.

    -Walt
    That is about as good a definition of riding styles as any I have heard.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  19. #19
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    me too. I think it stems from people not wanting to be labeled as "XC" riders, when I think most people's actual definitions of trail and AM fit into XC just fine. For me there was always "bikes that you pedal up", and "bikes that you don't really pedal at all".

    Still though, I think you'd be amazed at what you can get for 500-1000, especially if you go used. Disk brakes, hydraulically damped suspension, two piece cranks, shadow derailleurs. It's a great time to be a biker...gone are the days of caliper brakes!

  20. #20
    dwt
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post

    I really only see those 3 categories as worth worrying about - further subdividing is kinda pointless - when I talk to people about what they mean by "trail" riding, it's pretty much XC.
    Not in my experience. I personally changed what I ride and how I ride it when I switched from an Intense Spider XVP (by anyone's definition an XC bike, with 4" of travel) to a Jamis 650B2, sold as a "trail bike" with 5" of travel. Riding the Jamis was actually somewhat revelatory, even for a geezer, like me, and it confirmed what Pacenti has always said was the wheelhouse for the tweener wheel size: bikes with 5" or 6" of travel.

    My Intense weighed around 25 lbs.; the Jamis is a few oz short of 30 lbs.with a dropper post. Not enough difference to change what I can climb (just need more granny) but the rate of ascent and effort at speed would be a total deal killer in an XC race.

    Going down or across technical terrain is much improved, however, in terms of what I can clean and how fast I can clean it. Is it the travel, the wheel size, or the combination? I dunno, but for me the "trail" bike is a significantly different animal than the XC bike was. YMMV.

    As a former weight weenie XC guy, the bike that intrigues me the most right now is the cube stereo 650b, a 6" travel bike @ 22lbs. for the top of the line. Where does such a machine fit into the bike type equation? Light as a decent XC bike, but with AM travel. You could climb anything, but would it feel sturdy enough going downhill through 6" travel terrain? Freaking crabon changing the equation.
    Last edited by dwt; 01-25-2013 at 10:17 PM.
    Old enough to know better. And old enough not to care. Best age to be.

  21. #21
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    While at it, I bought my daughter and son a mountain bike and bought a Thule bike rack! Now, if only the weather will cooperate!!!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    OP: Get *anything* cheapish ($500-1000) and go ride. You can worry about becoming a wheel size snob later.

    -Walt
    Walt,
    I gotta say ... These are the best words of advise I've read in a long time

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandwich View Post
    For me there was always "bikes that you pedal up", and "bikes that you don't really pedal at all".
    I've got a no-pedal bike ... It's made by Yamaha, and it cost me less (new), than some people pay for those things you have to pedal

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwt View Post
    Not in my experience. I personally changed what I ride and how I ride it when I switched from an Intense Spider XVP (by anyone's definition an XC bike, with 4" of travel) to a Jamis 650B2, sold as a "trail bike" with 5" of travel. Riding the Jamis was actually somewhat revelatory, even for a geezer, like me, and it confirmed what Pacenti has always said was the wheelhouse for the tweener wheel size: bikes with 5" or 6" of travel.

    My Intense weighed around 25 lbs.; the Jamis is a few oz short of 30 lbs.with a dropper post. Not enough difference to change what I can climb (just need more granny) but the rate of ascent and effort at speed would be a total deal killer in an XC race.

    Going down or across technical terrain is much improved, however, in terms of what I can clean and how fast I can clean it. Is it the travel, the wheel size, or the combination? I dunno, but for me the "trail" bike is a significantly different animal than the XC bike was. YMMV.

    As a former weight weenie XC guy, the bike that intrigues me the most right now is the cube stereo 650b, a 6" travel bike @ 22lbs. for the top of the line. Where does such a machine fit into the bike type equation? Light as a decent XC bike, but with AM travel. You could climb anything, but would it feel sturdy enough going downhill through 6" travel terrain? Freaking crabon changing the equation.
    You're still riding the same trails though, just riding them differently. I don't know if that really warrants a transitional name in order to cover it.

    As for the Cube, you're still carrying around 6" of travel. Lighter weight is good, but that's a lot of movement. It'll go up faster, just because you're hauling around less weight, but using as little travel as you can tolerate makes for a faster bike, there's just less waste. More pump out of turns, less monkey motion while pedaling...about the only place more travel is really necessary to go faster is high speed (30mph+) over rough terrain.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mergetrio View Post
    While at it, I bought my daughter and son a mountain bike and bought a Thule bike rack! Now, if only the weather will cooperate!!!
    Nice!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwt View Post
    Not in my experience. I personally changed what I ride and how I ride it when I switched from an Intense Spider XVP (by anyone's definition an XC bike, with 4" of travel) to a Jamis 650B2, sold as a "trail bike" with 5" of travel. Riding the Jamis was actually somewhat revelatory, even for a geezer, like me, and it confirmed what Pacenti has always said was the wheelhouse for the tweener wheel size: bikes with 5" or 6" of travel.

    My Intense weighed around 25 lbs.; the Jamis is a few oz short of 30 lbs.with a dropper post. Not enough difference to change what I can climb (just need more granny) but the rate of ascent and effort at speed would be a total deal killer in an XC race.

    Going down or across technical terrain is much improved, however, in terms of what I can clean and how fast I can clean it. Is it the travel, the wheel size, or the combination? I dunno, but for me the "trail" bike is a significantly different animal than the XC bike was. YMMV.

    As a former weight weenie XC guy, the bike that intrigues me the most right now is the cube stereo 650b, a 6" travel bike @ 22lbs. for the top of the line. Where does such a machine fit into the bike type equation? Light as a decent XC bike, but with AM travel. You could climb anything, but would it feel sturdy enough going downhill through 6" travel terrain? Freaking crabon changing the equation.
    Ride things with a motor for a few years, and it will become much clearer.

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