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  1. #1
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    So, is the Spesh Brain worth it over a non-brained bike?

    Now that I've narrowed my choices down to the Niner RIP 9 and the Spesh SJ FSR Ex I'm trying to figure out exactly what I want. I like the looks of both frames and each Co. has a dealer fairly close so frame support isnt an issue. Since I've only been able to test each bike on the street, I can't tell if the brain is going to make a difference since it wasn't (I hope at least) set up for my weight or whatever you set it in accordance with. For those of you that have ridden the SJ versus a similar RIP frame, is the brain really all its chocked out to be? I guess itd help if I knew exactly what it does as well opposed to "it acts like a HT when you peddle"...
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  2. #2
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    If I needed to buy a new 29er FS it would almost certainly be a Specialized SJ FSR w Brain. Take a Horst/FSR rear and add the brain = unparalled climbing with all the small bump, pedaling, and braking of the Horst. Also, they get it done with 17.7" chainstays on a long travel 29er. If you've not actually experienced the ride CSs this length impart STFU and get some real riding time in on them - the difference is quite palpable.

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  3. #3
    Harmonius Wrench
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    I would ask, "How important is it to you that your FS rig feel solid when climbing out of the saddle?"

    If you value a bike that doesn't pogo up and down into its travel when huffing it up a climb while standing, then get the specialized. If you will spend all your time spinning in the saddle, regardless of climbing or descending, then get the Niner.

    Oversimplification of the situations at hand, perhaps, but this is basically where these two bikes diverge from each other performance-wise.

  4. #4
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    Well sweet then, the RIP is outta the picture now. I've always been partial to Spesh anyway. Before anyone brings up G Ted's point, I rarely climb in the saddle unless its a long hill with a not-so-steep grade.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guitar Ted
    I would ask, "How important is it to you that your FS rig feel solid when climbing out of the saddle?"

    If you value a bike that doesn't pogo up and down into its travel when huffing it up a climb while standing, then get the specialized. If you will spend all your time spinning in the saddle, regardless of climbing or descending, then get the Niner.

    Oversimplification of the situations at hand, perhaps, but this is basically where these two bikes diverge from each other performance-wise.
    So, if you climb in the saddle, the Brain isn't as important?
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  6. #6
    ballbuster
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    Second that

    Quote Originally Posted by Flexon Phil
    So, if you climb in the saddle, the Brain isn't as important?
    I ride a RacerX29er. I've always loved FSR suspension, but not Specialized as a company so much.

    I've ridden Brain bikes, but not much on the actual trail. The way I ride, I noticed that the Brain didn't seem to react instantly to bumps. That could be simply that I have not spent enough time setting up the brain to my tastes, but I suspect I would run mine wide open.

    My bike has an RP23 with ProPedal, but I usually run it wide open. On long climbs, I just reach down and flip the lever to engage the Propedal which is set at maximum, so its basically a full lockout. Way simpler than the Brain thingy. Way less to break. I have two buds with Brain bikes, and both have been in for service a few times for Brain issues.

    I dunno... my take is that the Brain is trying to solve a problem that is better served with an easily reached manual lockout lever. I'd rather decide on the fly if I want lockout or not... not some mechanical computer that may or may not be set up properly.

  7. #7
    JNL
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    I have a stumpy FSR 29er with the triad in the rear and love it. For the most part I find myself just leaving it in propedal and it works great.....I have yet to find a hill I can't climb. The only noticeable bob I get while hammering out of the saddle comes from the front shock which is easily taken care of by giving the compression knob a quick turn

  8. #8
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    I've been loving mine

    The brained Expert does exactly what it says. Climbing is spot on - very efficient, but still maintaining a little suspension action to hook up on the techy bits (the brain does not lock out the shock completely). It then goes seamlessly into the bigger hits, while remaining active under all riding conditions, especially under braking.

    The Spesh is a slacker bike too than the RIP9 (owned one for ~2 years) and for me the RIP always felt a little too steep (read nervy). The Expert is a more confident bike, especially on the downs, while losing nothing climbing. The short CS's are a great bonus. A very well sorted bike

  9. #9
    Harmonius Wrench
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flexon Phil
    So, if you climb in the saddle, the Brain isn't as important?
    Then you have a less "plush", (or insert your favorite suspension terminology in here for "very smooth"), ride that will feel a bit quirky due to the platform threshold. It is better than most suspension systems, but it is not going to react to every little trail irregularity either.

    Basically, if your preference is to feel as though you are "floating on a cushion of air" as opposed to getting some trail feedback through feel, then the RIP 9 is a better bike. You'll give up standing climbing efficiency, but that's why you stay seated and spin on those sorts of bikes, for the most part.

  10. #10
    I don't huck.
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    My thoughts having been on a Mini Brain-ed Epic now for a while and having ridden both the RIP and the FSR.

    The Brain does exactly what it sets out to do...remain inactive to bumps until it is called to duty and you set that point of activity. It is a unique experience and not really like a PP bike. Flipping the lever is not simpler than having to flip no lever at all.

    That said, the Brain on the FSR is tuned differently and will never be as firm... or resistant or how ever you want to say it...as the Epic is. It still does a great job of keeping the bike buttoned down when you stomp the pedals or stand and crank on it. Seated too, just not as dramatic there.

    The RIP is a bike I really like but IMO was much happier being pedaled seated rather than out of the saddle. Other than that, they are both pretty darn good heavy trail bikes and the RIPs CS length is around 17.75 as well IIRC.

    It would be a tough choice for me, but I value the snappiest, best pedaling performance I can get, especially out of the saddle, so the FSR would get my money. It rails on rough singletrack too.

    I have heard of no real reliability issues with the new Fox Brains as compared to the past, but you are on a specific shock tech there with no option to run an RP23 AFAIK. That could be good or bad, depending.
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  11. #11
    Master of Disaster
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    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the ticking noise. I demoed a Epic with Brain last weekend and took it right back after just a couple of minutes. A bike that makes random, loud ticking/knocking noises doesn't interest me a bit. I asked the mech about the noise and he said that was just the Brain. No-brainer for me then!
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  12. #12
    jms
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    Ride Them Both

    If you have an opportunity, ride them both.

    Begin how the bike's basic dimensions, like TT length and seat angle, interact with yours. The nuances and differences in the suspension systems are going to be lost on you, if you're forced to compromise the saddle setback or stem rise/lengths, etc. to fit the bike comfortably and correctly.

    After that, ride em. Then you'll know. They're both excellent choices.

    Some other random bits:

    As Pimpbot alluded to, I'm also leery of proprietary shocks [brain] - it's easy to wind up with an "orphan" bike after a couple years because the the shock isn't available any longer. And the ability of the horst link bike's suspension to remain active under braking can't be undervalued - it helps a lot!


    FYI I use an FS [RX 29], small bump compliance is not really a concern of mine, it's all about efficiency, handling and durability for me. The damn thing is still tight and squeak free after a couple years of endurance racing.

    Good luck with your purchase and have fun.

  13. #13
    I don't huck.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clones123
    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the ticking noise. I demoed a Epic with Brain last weekend and took it right back after just a couple of minutes. A bike that makes random, loud ticking/knocking noises doesn't interest me a bit. I asked the mech about the noise and he said that was just the Brain. No-brainer for me then!
    I did not mention it cause it does not do that. At least mine does not. If I crank it up to a max setting it is louder, but there is no good reason to ride it set that way. I think the mech is off a bit there.

    It is a subtle click/clunk at about 5-6 turns out (IIRC). When I am moving down the trail, that is the least of my worries.
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  14. #14
    SSolo
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    Great thread, I'm in the same boat suspension-wise...between the Spesh SJ FSR Expert 29 with Brain and the Spesh SJ FSR Comp 29 without Brain. Coming from HT and rigid bikes only it is hard to know if the Brain is worth the extra money as I look for a new FS 29er.
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  15. #15
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    Personally I don't like "brain" shocks. I am used to active suspension.

    It is an easy choice here. If you don't mind it being harsh and choppy and want to stand up like a hardtail with no bob, then get the brain.

    If you want the shock to be active and absorb all the little trail chop at the expense of a little bit of give when you get out of the saddle, then get the Comp.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by twowheelsdown2002
    Personally I don't like "brain" shocks. I am used to active suspension.

    It is an easy choice here. If you don't mind it being harsh and choppy and want to stand up like a hardtail with no bob, then get the brain.

    If you want the shock to be active and absorb all the little trail chop at the expense of a little bit of give when you get out of the saddle, then get the Comp.
    Oh but it's not quite this black and white, IME. I've ridden my Expert for about a 100 miles +/- now on smooth and choppy/techy stuff and at about 5-7 clicks from full on, it rides as plush and "active" as any other FS I've been on. But when I'm climbing and tread is smoother, full on works nicely, keeping the rear susp calm while seated or hammering and absorbing the occasional jolt...it works.

    I was going to get the Comp, too. Glad I went Exp.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by twowheelsdown2002
    Personally I don't like "brain" shocks. I am used to active suspension.

    It is an easy choice here. If you don't mind it being harsh and choppy and want to stand up like a hardtail with no bob, then get the brain.

    If you want the shock to be active and absorb all the little trail chop at the expense of a little bit of give when you get out of the saddle, then get the Comp.
    Well I'm going to run with you on this one, the FSR brained suspension is active - very active when needed, and definitely not harsh, or choppy (whatever that is ). We see it so many times here, but have you ridden a 2010 brain?

    Brained FSR excels at doing the right thing for every condition.

    If you're comparing to a single pivot Lenz on large big hit chunk at slow speed the Lenz is a fine tool, not that the Spesh would fair badly I'm sure, but for a trail bike the brain performs as good as the best of the rest

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by bonesetter2004
    Well I'm going to run with you on this one, the FSR brained suspension is active - very active when needed, and definitely not harsh, or choppy (whatever that is ). We see it so many times here, but have you ridden a 2010 brain?

    Brained FSR excels at doing the right thing for every condition.

    If you're comparing to a single pivot Lenz on large big hit chunk at slow speed the Lenz is a fine tool, not that the Spesh would fair badly I'm sure, but for a trail bike the brain performs as good as the best of the rest
    I did ride the 2010 FSR Expert at a Demo here in Tucson. The bike felt better and better the more I turned the "Brain" down. It felt the best with it as low as it could go, and I could still feel a bit of a clunky engagement that bothered me. Wished I could have turned it off completely.

    Keep in mind that the trails here are embedded rocks, loose rocks, broken up pieces of rocks, and all other forms of the rock species.

    We pride ourselves on our states Rock Breeding and Export program. The only thing our state politicians can accomplish, as they can't even keep our highway rest areas open.

  19. #19
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    The 2010 Brain works. It's not simply about hammering out of the saddle either. I'm sure the Niner is a great bike, but for me, the slacker geometry of the Stumpjumper Expert is more "confidence inspiring" on the rocky downhills. I guess it depends on the trails you ride, but don't forget to compare geometry as well. And dollar for dollar, the Stumpy wins easily compared to a Niner at equal spec (X.0, etc.), if money is a factor. And in response to pimpbot, the Brain is not a "computer". If you ever want to "remove" the Brain just dial it all the way down... it feels fully open and performs better than the Triad in fully open. Regardless of the Brain, the rear shock on the Expert just performs/feels better than the Triad on the Comp at equal platform. Don't think of the Brain as a Triad with a computer. The shock itself is better to begin with. (FYI, I have tested a Niner and ridden the Comp w/ Triad more than a few times).

    So is it worth it compared to a Niner? Well of course, considering that 1) the Specialized with Brain still costs less and 2) you can essentially turn the Brain off (fully open). If by "worth" you mean "monetary value", then of course the Brain is worth it.

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