The fact is that XC riding can be really tough riding and XC riders can be really skilled. It seems to me that mindset is as important as anything. That i why I liked Walt's description.
When I ride I ride every bit of the trail hard. I don't take it easy anywhere really. On the climbs I charge them and run right near max out put. On the descents I ride them hard too, but I will say that I back off to maybe 80-90% speed so as to reduce my crash risk. When it comes to techy stuff I will give most stuff a try, but I am not the type that seeks the toughest lines through a section or will to clear some section over and over again. I will walk it on stuff outside my comfort zone.
So for me I want a good all around bike with emphasis on climbing performance. I don't need go 20 mph down a rocky descent, but will be happy with 15 mph. I don't tackle big jumps or drops over about 2 feet, but I will ride 1 to 1.5 foot drops all day long. I like to pick my way around terrain rather than fly over it. I also like a maneuverable bike where I have feel what it is doing and make it respond. I don't ride to plow over stuff like it not even there. I ride to enjoy the challenge of working around and over terrain.
So given this heavy long travel bikes don't appeal to me. The idea of 29er freight train is kind of nice if raced alot, but I have done 1 mtb race. I will do more, but I doubt enough to warrant bike just for that. Plus I will never be as fast as some so I will not try and just have fun. So for now I ride 26" hardtail. Maybe 650 would be better for me. I don't really know. I don't have the money to experiment so I just have been sitting and watching how this plays out.
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Thread: 650b Conundrum ~~~
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