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  1. #1
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    First Mountain Bike - XC?

    Hi Everyone,

    I am coming from the road world and looking to get into some off road riding! I haven't really rode a mountain bike since I was a kid, except for handful of times on a hardtail.

    I live in southern Ontario, Canada so no big mountains by me. It would largely be singletrack, fireroad and trails.

    My budget is around $2000 Canadian Dollars or $1700 USD (give or take). At this price range I am thinking a hardtail xc. I might dabble in some xc races in the future, but want something that I will also enjoy riding.

    My question is, does anyone have a recommendation on a hardtail in this price range? Also, can an xc bike be your 1, do it all mountain bike (can't really afford to have 2), or will I regret it because its not as compliant?

    I've been looking at the Specialized Chisel Comp, Giant Fathom 1 and Trek X-Caliber 9 (open to other recommendations as well!).

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    I would not really be looking into a chisel at that price range or the Fathom.


    Trek Stache 5

    Santa Cruz Chamelion

    You can also typically get a Specialized Camber comp in that price range on closeout. That an excellent all around bike.

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    Thanks, FJ I appreciate the feedback.

    Any particular reason you wouldn't look at the chisel or the fathom?

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    I ride a HT as I live in an area where 95% of the trails are XC and sound a lot like yours. IMO, this is the perfect bike for me for these types of trails. It keeps things challenging and it climbs well. A few times a year I go to the Sierras and get beat up on rocky trails and have talk some sections (mostly because of fear and old age), but to me that's a small price to pay. I think a HT will be fine. Plenty out there, new or used in that price range. I recommend 29er HT, not 27.5 HT.

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    I have an X-Caliber 9 and it can do most, if not all, mountain trails, but it is tougher on rocky terrain which means I go slower than my friends with full suspension. I got my XC9 used and it is a good bike. But if I was buying new, I'd look at one of the hard tails that get talked about here a lot (Trek Stache 5 and SC Chameleon being among them). I like cromoly, so the Jamis Dragonslayer is also at the top of my list to eventually replace my XC9.

    Note that I have not ridden any of the 3 bikes recommended.

  6. #6
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    Since you're in Canada, check out some of the Canadian bike companies like Rocky Mountain (Vertex), Chromag (more All Mountain than XC) and Norco. At your budget, you may have to look at a closeout on a previous year's model, a not-quite-reace-ready model like a Rocky Mountain Fusion or Soul, or something slightly used. Check out ads on Kijiji and the BuySell ads on Pinkbike.com. Pinkbike currently has 229 XC bikes listed for Ontario. What size are you looking for?

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    I have a size 58 road bike, so probably a large (I am just over 6 feet tall).

    My LBS carries Specialized, Norco and Giant, but I am willing to venture farther afield for the right bike.

    The chisel comp is $1999CAD new, the Giant Fathom 1 is $1899CAD, for comparison.

    I am getting the sense that you canít get something decent for $1750USD or $2000CAD?

  8. #8
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    You can definitely get a pretty decent hard-tail for that price, but a "race" bike can cost quite a bit more. As an example, the first link shows a Norco Race XC hardtail with different components and frame types (carbon fiber and aluminum). The second shows a recreational XC bike and the third a "Trail" type hardtail. As you can see the range of prices is very large. The prices shown are list price for the latest model, but you can typically get a deal on a previous season's model (15-25% off and sometimes more). Other brands will have similar options and prices.

    Revolver HT - XC Race - XC Race - Mountain - Bikes - Norco Bicycles

    Charger - XC Recreational - XC Recreational - Mountain - Bikes - Norco Bicycles

    Fluid HT - Trail - Trail - Mountain - Bikes - Norco Bicycles

  9. #9
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    Thanks, this is helpful. I guess that I'm still struggling based on the wide range and differences in style of mountain bikes! Even within "XC" there seem to be a lot of differences.

    I have looked at a couple of plus size tire bikes given the extra grip and lower psi that you can run, but it just looks so foreign coming from a road bike!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryhon View Post
    Thanks, this is helpful. I guess that I'm still struggling based on the wide range and differences in style of mountain bikes! Even within "XC" there seem to be a lot of differences.
    Part of the problem is bike manufactures will tend to label hardtails as XC even if the geometry is more inline with a trail bike. The Giant Fathom for instance has a 67* head tube angle which if it was a full suspension would be considered a trail or all-mountain bike most likely. I'd recommend the Fathom 1 btw, it's a good all arounder.

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    If your looking to bust out epic 80 mile rides I would get a B+ with a 120mm fork. If your looking to do 20-30 mile rides I would get the giant fathom. The fathom will climb a little better and be easier to maneuver. The B+ will allow you to sit through more rough stuff so when your tired on a long ride you can stay seated more. Typically you want a bike that will cover your weaknesses and a bike that does both trail and xc will help you descend better even though your not a mountain biker.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryhon View Post
    Thanks, FJ I appreciate the feedback.

    Any particular reason you wouldn't look at the chisel or the fathom?
    Yes, because I would not ever spend that much money on the entry frame hardtail offering from the company. the bike is designed to hit a price point. Its like buying the best house in a crappy neighborhood.

    What is your ultimate use for the bike and what will be your starting use for the bike? Because lets be honest, Coming from the road, you are going to be a pretty mediocre bike handler for quite some time unless you are a masterful BMXer from youth or CX racer. Moto background helps but does not always directly carry over because it has a throttle to bail you out.

    Most people with significant road bike background will buy a hardtail or something like an Epic as their first bike. They try to ride like a road bike and put down power in the saddle. Then they bounce all over the place and its kind f a mess for a while.

    I would say a 100-120 mm full suspension bike could be your do it all bike. I would not look specifically at the hardtail. Especially since you will have a predisposition to try to sit and put power down. The FS allows this. Hardtails thrive with the ability to ride out of or just above the saddle when the ground is not smooth.

    This is why I recommended the Camber if you are buying new, because its descent at that price point on closeout. It is a super solid bike. There arent many bikes specd that well you can usually find for under 2k US.

    The Trek stache 5? Well that bike is just a blast. EVERY single person I know who has one loves it. 29x3 aka 29+ will give you gobs of traction and some compliance. You will also be able to get away with seated pedalling on rougher trails when you eget the pressure droped down well under 20 psi where they belong. You can do most things on this bike. XC race, Fun enduro races, Blasting trails with your buds, or just cruising to the pub for a beer.


    for my money, I would buy one of these two bikes at this price point if I were buying a new bike.

    You can probably rent both of these bikes since they are common rentals at nice shops.

    I highly recommend riding each of these on multiple trails in 1 day to see what you will like best. Most shops will let you put the cost of the rental towards the purchase.

  13. #13
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    I would go with the Stache. My son is starting out and I bought him a Stache (live in Colorado) and I think it fits the bill as a great "trailbike" hardtail. In other words, it's still a hardtail with XC guts, but it's travel and frame can handle more technical trails than other XC oriented bikes which makes it a great all-arounder that will allow you to explore a wider range of trails. Once you get comfortable with riding and start figuring out your preferences, you can zero in on a more specific bike but you might end up riding the Stache for life - it's that good of a bike and I ride a $5000 trail bike and enjoy hopping on my son's Stache every once in a while!

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    Thanks. Sounds like I should check out the Stache. Iím also willing to be somewhat flexible on price (up to $3000CAD) if it means a significantly better bike.

    My rides wouldnít be epic, largely in the 30-40km or less I would imagine.

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    It seems like you're flexible on budget if justified. The quality of the damping of your fork makes a major impact on hardtail performance. The Yari fork on the Stache 7 is an excellent fork well worth the price bump. 35mm stanchions based on the higher end Rockshox Lyric will take the bike through much rougher terrain.
    Here's a Stache discussion thread.-
    Lets see your Stache official thread

    The next step up would be a 5 with a fork upgrade to a Manitou Mattoc Pro IRT.
    https://nsmb.com/articles/manitou-mattoc-pro-fork/
    "The Mattoc Pro arrived on the scene and immediately changed my Trek Stache 7 experience such that I felt it compulsory to throw on more aggressive brakes and rubber and re-review the bike. The bike went from being enjoyable to the fastest hardtail I've descended on and one of my best review experiences."*

    Trek pricing can be negotiated with a manager only. Sales guys must say no cuts are possible. Maybe 2 in 6 managers will work with you to get a deal done. Cash can get you 15-18% off + tax .Figure the amount and ask for that price range. Mention you'll put 60% down on an order with no refund. Bargain for 20 off on future products the shop orders for you. Shops often give their team riders 25 off.

    I would go for a discount on the standalone carbon frame with lifetime warranty and build with the Mattoc fork, Chinese carbon wheels with DT 350 hubs with the 54t ratchet upgrade from CarbonFan and drive components ordered from a German online seller like bikecomponents.de, Bike24, etc.
    If you want to go that way we can offer more info.

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    Thanks again everyone for the help. I have definitely decided to up my budget to the $3,000 to $4,000 Canadian dollars range.

    I am now looking at the Norco Revolver, Trek Procaliber and Top Fuel (this may be a bit out of the range), and the Specialized Epic (I havenít rode any of them yet as it is winter here).

    Looks like I may be able to get some deals on the 2017 Norco frames, based on the Norco website. m.norco.com

    Any thoughts?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryhon View Post
    Thanks again everyone for the help. I have definitely decided to up my budget to the $3,000 to $4,000 Canadian dollars range.

    I am now looking at the Norco Revolver, Trek Procaliber and Top Fuel (this may be a bit out of the range), and the Specialized Epic (I havenít rode any of them yet as it is winter here).

    Looks like I may be able to get some deals on the 2017 Norco frames, based on the Norco website. m.norco.com

    Any thoughts?
    The Norco revolver FS 9 or Hardtail?. Don't do a build up on a frame. You will get slaughtered on the price unless you just plan to shop for the best deals on ebay for 6 months and assemble a bike after that and can do everything yourself. Any revolver may be easier to come by and it may even be easier to get cheaper and negotiate. The New Giants and Epics may be harder to come by unless they are finally catching up on demand and orders.

    Three very different suspension designs. All of these bikes will work well for you. I have a Top fuel and it is super smooth. I bought a closeout 9.8 Top fuel. If you can look for a '17, it will be on the high end of your budget, but you will have a pretty amazing bike. You will appreciate the remote twinlock system if you fork out for the bike that has that feature. I am not sure which top fuel model you were considering.

  18. #18
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    Thanks, FJ. Do you have any thoughts between the Norco Hardtail and FS? I am unsure how rough a hardtail really is on moderately technical terrain.

    As for the Top Fuel, I checked them out at the local Trek store. Very nice bike, but may be out of the price range. I emailed them to look at 2017 stock, nothing left in store or warehouse, unfortunately.

  19. #19
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    Long answer:

    I have a carbon hardtail that I will do most races on this year. Its an absolute blast. I have been riding it all over for 2 months now leading up to my Top fuel purchase (The top fuel is replacing my anthem). Yes you can ride gnarly terrain on it. You will be slower on the hardtail without necessary skills. You will either build those skills quickly or never be as fast as you would be on the full suspension. It really helps to follow talented riders to understand what they are doing on the bike with body English and line choice.

    The hardtail will also just beat you down some days on super long rides. But, boy does it feel like a rocket ship when you put the power down on a 21-22 pound hardtail. On the hardtail it is imperative that you get out of the saddle a lot to allow the rear end to float over the terrain vs. trying to do seated riding through chunk, roots, etc. Big volume XC tires make a huge difference in your experience. When I built the hardtail, it got all of my spare parts and was on 2.2 tires. When I swapped on 2.35s one day and my race wheels form the Anthem, it was night and day. I cant recommend a high volume tire enough.

  20. #20
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    If there is any way you can test ride a bike on even some basic trails with slight uphills and downhills, maybe with some roots, or slight (8-10 cm) drops, you'll get a better sense of whether you want something in the 67-68 head tube angle range or 70-71 degree range.

    The 70-71 degree head tube angles will be much more responsive/precise feeling with steering input (some people might call this twitchy), but less stable going fast downhill and over rough terrain.

  21. #21
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    Have you search Pinkbike for a good used one?
    Also- ride a plus bike before you buy- I person can't stand the way they ride.
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    Thanks everyone. I have been looking on pink bike, but just trying to narrow my options. I have been looking at the top fuel and the giant anthem.

    For HardTail, Norco Revolver, Trek Procaliber and Giant XTC.

    Any thoughts between the models/brands?

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    I would look at the fuel ex, Santa Cruz tallboy 110 rear, anthem, and something like a specialized fuse. They will let you sit and grind in high cadence more than traditional xc bikes do. Bikes suited to endurance riding are more fit for long high cadence rides.

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    Are your local trails rolling or are there 45 minute climbs and long descents?

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    If you could up your budget a little- something like this would be perfect:
    https://www.pinkbike.com/buysell/2324376/ he's taking offers. I had a TBcv1 and liked it alot, the V2 made a lot of improvements.
    Ort if you want a HT : https://www.pinkbike.com/buysell/2305931/
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by party_wagon View Post
    I would look at the fuel ex, Santa Cruz tallboy 110 rear, anthem, and something like a specialized fuse. They will let you sit and grind in high cadence more than traditional xc bikes do. Bikes suited to endurance riding are more fit for long high cadence rides.
    Uh, what?

    Can you clarify this statement?

    Isn't that entirely dependent on gearing?

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    Typically rolling single track.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Uh, what?

    Can you clarify this statement?

    Isn't that entirely dependent on gearing?

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    LOL loving read stuff like that. Come on Duke, you know a 71 HTA really affects your ability to maintain a high cadence.

    Once you go above 69 HTA or so you can forget it, that's why there are those choppers on the TdF.
    Last edited by TwoTone; 02-10-2018 at 12:29 PM.
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  29. #29
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    It's slightly higher than your budget, but take a strong look at the Trek ProCaliber 8. The ISO Link is amazing for smoothing out trails. They are fairy light for an aluminum frame and come with a pretty solid component build. There should also be a pretty good Trek factory sale coming up in the spring that should get you closer to your budget.

    https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/b...colorCode=grey
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    Thanks, Stalk. Coming from the road world, a HardTail is definitely appealing! ISO speed really works? Iím just not sure how beat up I would get on roots, small rocks and the odd rock garden.

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    I swore off hard tails years ago......until I demo'd a ProCal 8. I ended up with a 9.8 carbon version, but the ISO Link makes a HUGE difference. I can do 40-50 mile endurance rides without lower back pain I always got on a true hardtail. Game changer IMO. I still have a full suspension for shred days in the mountains, but this this is still an awesome bike.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Stalkerfiveo View Post
    I swore off hard tails years ago......until I demo'd a ProCal 8. I ended up with a 9.8 carbon version, but the ISO Link makes a HUGE difference. I can do 40-50 mile endurance rides without lower back pain I always got on a true hardtail. Game changer IMO. I still have a full suspension for shred days in the mountains, but this this is still an awesome bike.


    Click image for larger version. 

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    See the OP is looking is only going to have a one bike it begs the question which would you keep if you can only have one, HT or FS?

    I have a HT and it has its uses, but if I only could have one it would be FS.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoTone View Post
    See the OP is looking is only going to have a one bike it begs the question which would you keep if you can only have one, HT or FS?

    I have a HT and it has its uses, but if I only could have one it would be FS.
    Seemed to me his focus was XC riding. If thatís the case Iíd stick with a hardtail.
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  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stalkerfiveo View Post
    Seemed to me his focus was XC riding. If thatís the case Iíd stick with a hardtail.
    If I was riding XC and only had one bike, it would be an FS

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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    If I was riding XC and only had one bike, it would be an FS

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    I have been both routes. Scott Spark and this Trek. As long as ISO link exists, I will probably prefer the hardtail. The Spark was a sweet ride and super fast, but the lower weight and pedaling efficiency of the hardtail is my preference for pure XC riding. With a dropper post there isn't much I can't do on the Trek.

    But that's why there's so many options right?
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    If I were to buy a Norco Revolver 7.2, would a 29er wheel fit on the frame, or only 27.5?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparkman999 View Post
    Rocky Mountain (Vertex)
    is Good One Bike




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    For a true allrounder that can handle XC courses, all day rides and a variety of technical terrain while still being fast on the flat and easy trails, I'd suggest 2 options.

    The "safe" and reasonable option is a XC/trail FS 29er with 100-120mm of travel. There are some options with 120 front and 100 rear now, this appeals to me for such a bike. On the upper limits of you budget I'd pick something from this category. Something like the Specialized Camper or Scott Spark for example. The 29er Giant Anthem looks good too as an XC based allrounder.

    The other option is a "trail" hardtail. Being a ht it would have a good cost/weight ratio and will certainly feel responsive on flatter trails or fireroads. The geo of a modern trail ht on the other hand will give you some room for error in technical situations as you build skills. The Fathom belongs on this category (the smaller wheeled version more so) and such bikes are a lot of fun to ride, but will require a somewhat steeper learning curve on the techy bits compared to an FS rig.

    Personally I chose something from the 2nd category, a 130mm forked ht with a slack head angle and long reach/wheelbase. It's great fun everywhere, only has a speed limit on very hard terrain (but still copes due to geo) and can become more demanding on rides longer than 40km with decent elevation. My typical ride is 25km of mixed terrain, while the longest was 60km with 1600m elevation. At the last 15km I wouldn't mind some cushion on the rear...

    I can't comment on plus ht's as I have never ridden one. I'm sure they would be great fun on an everyday ride, but for XC racing or all day epics I'd like to try before buying.

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    Drop by your local giant dealer and demo 2018 giant anthem 2, giant fathom, and XTC plus. Those are the three styles of bikes I would pick from and all three are a good price for what they are and would be a great bicycle if you only had one bicycle. Giant AL is likely the best there is in the bike world so I wouldn't have any trouble calling a fathom my only bicycle. It has a great fork and good geometry for a playful do it all XC bike. Pick one of those three and then a list of similar bicycles can be generated based off of those that you can pick from. Personally I would go with the Fathom with a nice wheelset if spending around $2500usd. Also be sure to leave things like cleats, pump, helmet, and pedals in your budget.

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    Quote Originally Posted by party_wagon View Post
    Drop by your local giant dealer and demo 2018 giant anthem 2, giant fathom, and XTC plus. Those are the three styles of bikes I would pick from and all three are a good price for what they are and would be a great bicycle if you only had one bicycle. Giant AL is likely the best there is in the bike world so I wouldn't have any trouble calling a fathom my only bicycle. It has a great fork and good geometry for a playful do it all XC bike. Pick one of those three and then a list of similar bicycles can be generated based off of those that you can pick from. Personally I would go with the Fathom with a nice wheelset if spending around $2500usd. Also be sure to leave things like cleats, pump, helmet, and pedals in your budget.
    Wow Giant has the best AL in the bike world.
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    People earlier in the post said they wouldn't get a bike like that. There is nothing wrong with a high end al frame. Personally I ride a similar bike but steel. Steel costs a bit more though. Some companies offer a nice al bike and others offer a heavier cheaper al bike. Thats a good way for him to figure out if he wants a mid plus, hardtail, or softail. One of those bikes mentioned is a carbon framed bike.

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    Thanks all...a few options at the bike shops around me:

    2017 Norco Revolver FS 9.3 Regular $3999 plus tax down to $3210 plus tax - Norco Bicycles

    2017 Revolver 9.2 HT $2,880 - Norco Bicycles

    2018 Trek Procaliber 8 (AL) $2,899 (for comparison)

    2016 Cannondale F-Si Carbon 3 - $2,899

    Any thoughts on these options?

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    The Norco geo for both bikes is old school steep. And without Boost front or rear so limited as to tire widths.
    The Procal is too much for aluminum.

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    Check out the trek stache 7. That is a bike you can xc race on but will also handle more challenging trail well too. It will pretty much do everything better than those other bikes but climb a long hill. If there are lots of roots or rocks in your trail it will just glide over them and is still a fast Pedaler bike with the right tires.

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    I'm going to check out the 2017 Norco 9.3 FS and 9.2 HT, as well as the 2017 Cannondale F-Si Carbon 3 this weekend.

    Does anyone have experience owning/riding these bikes?

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    The left fork is pretty sweet, but they get kind of pricey to maintain. If I was going with the norco bikes I would consider a shorter stem and maybe a bar with some rise to get you off the front a little bit. They are set up better for climbing and this would help them descend better. The FSI has pretty good geometry for a do it all XC hardtail.

  47. #47
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    I think a Specialized Chisel Comp is the way to go. Itís got a great frame and comes equipped with Shimano XT components. You canít go wrong with a lightweight XC bike at $1500 USD

  48. #48
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    Yesterday I tried out the Norco Revolver 9.2 HT and the 9.3 FS. Given that I am a road rider, the HT felt natural but Iím thinking the FS will be more versatile.

    In my opinion, the Norco Revolverís are definitely aesthetically pleasing!

    Any thoughts?

  49. #49
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    The HT has much better components than the FS, but which one is better suited for you will depend on what type of riding you'll do most often. My perspective: buy one, ride the crap out of it and then decide if you made the right choice :-) If you feel you didn't, then it's time for a second bike.

  50. #50
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    Components on the 9.3 are ok. The only thing that may need immediate upgrade is the brakes.

    I'm leaning towards the 9.3 for the FS carbon frame and versatility, with the ability to upgrade the components over time. Seems to be the best bang for the buck, as I can't find another brand that offers a FS carbon frame at the price point.

    Thoughts on carbon vs. aluminum? Is it worth the upgrade?

  51. #51
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    If you aren't worried about back pain I would compare the norco sofftail with the cannondal fsi carbon 3. The carbon 3 comes as a fully upgraded race ready hardtail. It has the wheels, fork, crankset, and groupset to make it a super light race bike. It is like a $1200 frame with $1800 in parts on it. The norco is like a $2400 frame with $600 in parts on it. It comes with a cheap and heavy fork, low end wheels, and ect. If you think you would be willing to spend another $500-$800 on the fork and another $500-$800 on wheels it will get to the same level as the cannondale fsi 3. The wheels on the cannondale would cost about $500 and the fork about $1000 new. Lots of people like the cannondale geometry as a only bike hardtail. If you found you had to have a softail you could likely sell the frame and get an aluminum scalpel frame to use as well. The scalpel si 5 is very similar to the fsi carbon 3 but has an al softtail frame instead of the carbon hardtail frame. The wheels on the norco hardtail get bad reviews and people complain of the hubs breaking. The norco softtail has parts that would compare to the giant fathom.

  52. #52
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    Thanks, I will look into it. I'm looking for a bike that I can grow into and not feel the need to upgrade within 1-3 years. I will primarily be doing trail riding (single track), nothing too crazy but typical roots, rocks, etc., as well as looking to get into some local XC races.

    What is the ride of the Chisel like compared to the other bikes mentioned?

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