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  1. #1
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    Upgrading to a better Hardtail

    Hi all,

    First time poster here and just started getting into mountain biking earlier this year - and i'm hooked . Still in research process, but i'm planning on upgrading to a better hardtail bike by year end (not interested in Full Suspension).

    Currently, i have Cannondale Catalyst 3 and while it has worked well for me, i started seeing its limit on technical, rocky / rooty trails (obviously the bike with cheapo fork was not meant for these trails, but was still fun nonetheless). The three bikes in my price range (under $2000) are:


    While i've read reviews on SC and Norco bikes (both have had great reviews), i haven't seen / heard much about the giant fathom 1.

    Any thought about these three? currently i'm drawn more to SC but the Giant with dropper post is really tempting. Geometry wise, it seems like all three have a similar modern / slack geometry, but being a noob, i might not have caught on the differences.

    One thing to note - i will have local bikes shop support on SC and Giant, but i have no Norco dealer nearby, so there is that. Lastly, I'm not a speed demon. I ride to have fun, not to have the fastest time. I like a more technical trail where i have to learn and pick the right line, etc. enjoy flowy trail as well, but being in New England (CT), there is not much flowy trail around here.

    Thanks in advance for the advise.

  2. #2
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    27.5+ isn't the same as 27.5 so you should settle on a wheel size first if you have a preference. Demo the bikes and see which one you like. If you feel like you might have warranty issues or the LBS offers free tune-ups or you just want to support them then stick with SC or Giant. Any reputable LBS should offer you maintenance and tuning services regardless of whether they sell the bike.
    Everyone is entitled to my opinion.

  3. #3
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    Thanks ghoti. Yes, the fathom 1 has "normal" 27.5 tires, but i believe it can also fit + tires, so that's why it's in my consideration.

    Yes, i will def test ride at least Giant and SC. The SC and Norco are both marketed as trail bike.

    While Giant geo seems like a trail bike as well (in 27.5), it's listed under XC on their website - maybe just marketing? Curious if owners of Fathom 1 can chime in as well and if they've ridden their Fathom 1 on rough / rocky terrain and how they've performed thus far.

  4. #4
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    What about... Kona Precept 150 Bike 2016 | Jenson USA

    Might even be able to get back 12% is you buy through activejunky.com

    That would be nice

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by bim6180 View Post
    Hi all,

    First time poster here and just started getting into mountain biking earlier this year - and i'm hooked . Still in research process, but i'm planning on upgrading to a better hardtail bike by year end (not interested in Full Suspension).
    Quote Originally Posted by eshew View Post
    Great advice
    OG Ripley v2
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  6. #6
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    If it were me I'd go with the Santa Cruz D+ for sure! Hell, that might even be my next bike. Great geometry, very good spec's, and if I am reading correctly, it comes set-up tubeless from the factory.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by eshew View Post
    What about... Kona Precept 150 Bike 2016 | Jenson USA

    Might even be able to get back 12% is you buy through activejunky.com

    That would be nice
    Hmm, that's tempting and thanks for the suggestion. Had I been considering FS, i would've snatch this right now . Looking at the frame though and the way they do rear suspension, the space between rear shocks and top tube is pretty tight and not sure if that will fit my Thule bike carrier.

    Either way, nice bike and great deal, but i would like to stick with Hardtail.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MaxInMn View Post
    If it were me I'd go with the Santa Cruz D+ for sure! Hell, that might even be my next bike. Great geometry, very good spec's, and if I am reading correctly, it comes set-up tubeless from the factory.
    The more i compare the three, the more i lean toward SC Chameleon D+ as well. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have a local bike shop support on it. I'll have to do a test ride between this and Fathom toward end of the year or early next year and then pull the trigger.

    On the tubeless, i think you are right on that - even better as i wasn't expecting that

    If you have Fathom 1 with 27.5 tires, please chime in - reviews are very scarce on this model for some reason.

  9. #9
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    Check out the Commencal Meta HT AM (Chromo version). It's right at $2k and the spec is solid. Other models to check out are the Norco Torrent HT (27.5+) and Chromag Wideangle (Jenson USA build).
    His: 2017 Commencal Meta AM V4.2 Ride. With Zee brakes
    Hers: 2018 Commencal Meta TR V4.2. Zee, too!

  10. #10
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    First thing as mentioned is make sure you like the plus tires before jumping on that fad.

    I tried one, absolutely hated the vague feeling.
    OG Ripley v2
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoTone View Post
    First thing as mentioned is make sure you like the plus tires before jumping on that fad.

    I tried one, absolutely hated the vague feeling.
    Good advice - will definitely keep that in mind.

  12. #12
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    I'll keep the Commencal in mind. The website indicates that this is the 2017 model, and only available in S or M size. I'm 6.4 and will probably need XL. SInce i'm buying this next year, my guess is the 2018 model price will go back up to $2,300. However, if it stays in this price range, might be another great choice - thanks

  13. #13
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    I think the Diamondback Mason Comp is worth considering too, if looking at plus bikes. I have the 2016 version, and the bike has nice geometry and handles really well. You can get the '17 for $1600 on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Diamondback-B.../dp/B01LYL7Y71). It's not as snazzy looking as the SC Chameleon but has a Fox Float fork, KS dropper, and GX drivetrain.

  14. #14
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    Commencal HT.

  15. #15
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    Thanks All. I actually came across Kona Big Honzo and that bike looks great as well. From the geometry and 27.5 plus tires, the two finalist on my list seems to be SC Chameleon D+ Spec and Kona Big Honzo. Both have the same price point at $1,700.

    Spec wise, can someone chime in between the two? looks very similar, but Kona seems to worth more with the dropper seat post. Also, the Seat Tube angle on Kona seems to be steeper, which should help with climbing no?

  16. #16
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    Well, basically they both have very similar specs, except as you deduced, the Kona also has a dropper. Breaking down the spec for me, the Kona wins all the way with the Scraper rims, Shimano brakes and Nobby Nic tyres, much prefer those options to what SC is offering on the Chameleon.

    As to the STA, technically I guess yes, a steeper STA will help in getting you further forward while climbing and is the trend these days, but you've also got to consider the rest of the ride and what it does to it. Also, no matter what any manufacturer tells you, the first and most important thing to do when setting up a bike is saddle position relative to the BB and no matter the STA, you set it where you set it, whether that means you use a straight or offset post is the question - for me personally, not a fan of the new steeper STA angles, always have to run a setback post o get my saddle to where I want it.

    One other thing to remember is that the Kona is a bigger/longer bike, so be careful about sizing, their Large is about as big as a lot of others XLs.

    Quote Originally Posted by bim6180 View Post
    Spec wise, can someone chime in between the two? looks very similar, but Kona seems to worth more with the dropper seat post. Also, the Seat Tube angle on Kona seems to be steeper, which should help with climbing no?
    One day your life will flash before your eyes, will it be worth watching??

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by LyNx View Post
    Well, basically they both have very similar specs, except as you deduced, the Kona also has a dropper. Breaking down the spec for me, the Kona wins all the way with the Scraper rims, Shimano brakes and Nobby Nic tyres, much prefer those options to what SC is offering on the Chameleon.

    As to the STA, technically I guess yes, a steeper STA will help in getting you further forward while climbing and is the trend these days, but you've also got to consider the rest of the ride and what it does to it. Also, no matter what any manufacturer tells you, the first and most important thing to do when setting up a bike is saddle position relative to the BB and no matter the STA, you set it where you set it, whether that means you use a straight or offset post is the question - for me personally, not a fan of the new steeper STA angles, always have to run a setback post o get my saddle to where I want it.

    One other thing to remember is that the Kona is a bigger/longer bike, so be careful about sizing, their Large is about as big as a lot of others XLs.
    Thanks LyNx. I found a dealer than carries both SC and Kona. I'll try them back to back and see which works best for me. Obviously, with dropper post, I'll lean toward Kona so hopefully the sizing works for me. I'm 6.4" with a little over 34" inseam, so i should be comfortable on XL. Can't wait to test these two. Thanks all

  18. #18
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    Definitely give the XL and L a try in the Kona.

    I'm 6'2.25" with a 35.25" inseam and matching long arms and on my XL PP Prime with a 474mm Reach I run a 50mm stem/800mm bar and am quite comfortable on it. Rode that bike with a 65mm stem for about 2 years because I kind of refused to believe I could need a shorter stem, only tried the 50mm when I got my L Phantom with 450mm Reach and the 65mm worked on there. Never felt really comfortable on the XL Prime with the 65mm stem on faster DHs, but once I got the 50mm on there, that was gone, much better control.

    Thinking if you try the XL Honzo, you'll be wanting as short a stem as you can find, like 30-35mm and even then may feel a bit stretched out for you, unless you are one of the ones who like the steeper STAs and like to be more over the pedals, then that would bring you forward and shorten the cockpit up for you. Me, I've got long legs and I set the back of my saddle about 14" behind the BB.


    Quote Originally Posted by bim6180 View Post
    Thanks LyNx. I found a dealer than carries both SC and Kona. I'll try them back to back and see which works best for me. Obviously, with dropper post, I'll lean toward Kona so hopefully the sizing works for me. I'm 6.4" with a little over 34" inseam, so i should be comfortable on XL. Can't wait to test these two. Thanks all
    One day your life will flash before your eyes, will it be worth watching??

  19. #19
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    Yea, i have to try both L and XL. Looking strictly at "reach", my current Catalyst 3 has a reach of 18.2" with XL. Kona's Large already has longer reach than that. I realize reach spec isn't everything, so i'll get a better feel once i've demoed both L and XL. Thanks for the insight.

  20. #20
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    I really like my Diamondback Sync'r Pro. It's a fun hardtail on the trail bike end of things. It's confidence inspiring downhill and good at tight turns. You can get the bike for about $1,400 with the corporate discount. The bike's got a slack head angle, short chainstays, a threaded BB, internal dropper routing and a Boost rear end. The frame is very similar to the Chameleon but has a significantly nicer build for less money: Fox Float 34, dropper, XT-based 1x11 and Race Face Aeffect everything else. The frame is very tough and stiff.

  21. #21
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    At your height 29 xl is to you as 27.5 medium is to me at 5'9". I suggest to demo 29ers as well as 27.5. You being bigger are entitled to roll over stuff on a 29er that I am not.

  22. #22
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    Im jumping in because Iím i the same boat. Looking to upgraded my DB Overdrive.
    Good info here as usual.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  23. #23
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    So, i thought i was pretty set with Big Honzo, but then i came across Salsa Timberjack - TIMBERJACK GX1 27.5+ | Salsa Cycles.

    So, it's $400 cheaper than big honzo, but it came with GX r/d vs. NX on honzo, same fork (i think), and only thing missing from TJ is dropper post, which i'm pretty sure doesn't worth $400.

    Do i miss anything here? is Honzo really that overpriced for the bike? or am i just comparing parts without looking at the whole bike?

    Thanks for any input.

  24. #24
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    Big Honzo definitely looks a lot sexier to me.

    Timberjack gx1 27.5+ looks to be 30.5 lbs in size LG. Big Honzo DL looks to be 29.5 lbs. including the dropper.

    Looks, dropper post (~$150+) and a pound less weight would justify $400 difference to most riders I would think.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevbeer View Post
    Big Honzo definitely looks a lot sexier to me.

    Timberjack gx1 27.5+ looks to be 30.5 lbs in size LG. Big Honzo DL looks to be 29.5 lbs. including the dropper.

    Looks, dropper post (~$150+) and a pound less weight would justify $400 difference to most riders I would think.
    Hmm... that's still a hard sell . Both look great to me, and 1 pound won't really matter since i don't race. So, if i get a really nice dropper post for $200, it's still cheaper to get TJ.

    Also, if i can work a deal with LBS to upgrade the TJ fork to Rockshox Revelation, i can get a nice setup on TJ that is comparable to the Big Honzo DL for a lot less money (big honzo is $2,400).

    Am i missing something here? Or am i just paying for the KONA brand name?

    TJ seems to have similar gemoetry as honzo - low, long, slack (although not AS long).

    Another difference i see is lifetime warranty on honzo vs. 5-yr on Salsa...

  26. #26
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    the added weight for the dropper may be an additional 1.0 lbs, so 2 lb difference...

  27. #27
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    I've got a soft spot for well designed steel hardtails. That being said, the Ragley (frames or bikes) from Chain Reaction are a good deal.

    The Blue Pig and the Piglet are both triple butted 4130 Chromoly steel frames and say they'll fit 27.5 2.4-2.8" tires (so good if you're Plus curious, but then decide to revert back to "regular" 27.5).

    You will likely look at these frames and think "holy crap that's a slack bike!"... remember, slack is good on a trail hardtail. Unlike a full suspension bike, a hardtail's head angle will steepen 1.5* when you sit on it (seat tube angle will also steepen, which increases the reach and slightly decreases the effective top tube length).

    The Blue Pig and Piglet are is 66* & 67* at sag, respectively.
    I like 'em long, low, slack and playful

  28. #28
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    personally I have been looking at the pedal head from guerrilla gravity, chromoly 29er w/65.5 HA.

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