Titus vs. Leviathan vs Fisher
I own two of these bikes and borrowed the third from Mike Curiak to do the first full suspension review of all three bikes on a relatively controlled course. Quantitative info is reported first, qualitative is second
Bikes – Fisher 293 with Fox Float R shock and BW 1.0 fork (run in the 4.1” travel setting)
Titus Racer X with Fox Pro Pedal shock and BW 1.0 fork
Leviathan with DT shock and BW 1.0 fork with 20mm thru-axle
All shocks were set to specification for my weight of 158 lbs.
All tires inflated to 40 psi and Kenda Klaws were used for all bikes to keep it consistent.
Test loop was the Grand Loop (Mary’s, Steve’s, Lions, Troy’s, frontage road) at the Kokopelli trailhead in Loma, CO, ridden on three separate days so that fatigue was not an issue.
Temps each day were 95+ degrees Fahrenheit.
Heart rate range 145-170 (high and low settings on my monitor), each loop was completed without incident and loop times were:
I neglected to set my calorie counter with the Leviathan so that comparison is not valid however the difference between the Titus and Fisher was 155 calories with fewer being burned on the Titus.
Quick ratings for general overall ride impression: Titus, Leviathan, and then Fisher.
Comfort rating (subjective feel): Fisher, Leviathan, and Titus
Handling: Titus, Leviathan, and Fisher
Weight: all within 2 lbs. of each other (that’s less than two water bottles)
Value rating is difficult to do since each bike was not stock – even the Fisher had many parts switched out. Shifters are irrelevant, as are posts, cranks, BB, brakes… All bikes were measured and adjusted so that I had the same distance from center of saddle rails to bar center and center of BB spindle to top of saddle. Saddles were all centered to the seat tube so there was no issue with seatpost layback. Please don’t ask me for all the quirky measurements like front-center, rear-center, wheelbase, trail, bb height, chainstay length, head angle, seat tube angle. Even though all of these measurements do matter they are all available from the manufacturer and I was only concerned with rider cockpit setup to find out which bike rode best for me, in a normal setup, without being too anal.
Of note, the wheel system on the Leviathan, technically, should have been much stiffer than the other two bikes. The Leviathan had a 36-hole front with 20mm thru axle, and the rear was a Zipp. Both other bikes made use of the same wheel set, Bontrager Race Lites. However, I did not notice an overwhelming difference. Stiffer? Yes. Earth shattering? No. I may not weigh enough to truly take advantage of this. That being said, since the front wheel was 200g heavier than the Bontrager, and the fork is 90 grams heavier with the 20mm thru axle, some performance issues would change from the weight difference. I will be testing this more over the next few months, along with 20mm axles on shorter travel.
The most active feeling bike is the Fisher. The overall feel is like you are sitting into the bike and suspension due to the high front end. It is important to note that the Fisher, set in the 4” mode, was the most balanced with the 4” travel fork. It was the only bike to not feel choppered out with the BW 1.0. However, when you first start to ride the Fisher the bike feels very flexi. It does not ride flexible it just feels springy. Point the bike where you wish and it goes. The bike climbs well on the trail and there is not excessive motion when on the trail. Overall the bike feels good once you are used to the rider position, but it always feels flexible even though it is not.
The next most active bike is the Leviathan. However, this bike feels right from the start. It was the first 29” bike I threw a leg over that felt like a 26” wheeled bike set-up. The bike felt custom from the start. The only complaint is that the 4” fork chopped the front end out a little bit giving a slight tiller effect for the first 20 minutes of riding until rider compensation set in. Mike C. has commented before on how the bike handles, and I would echo his feelings. The Leviathan has a point and ride characteristic superior to that of the Fisher without a soft feel.
With all that I have written so far I am lead to the Titus in the end. It is, without a doubt, the most efficient and best feeling 29” bike I have ridden. Some of the feel may be attributed to the rear shock, but this bike accelerates like a ridged bike and tracks like a sports car descending. The rear end is stiffer laterally than any other FS bike I have ridden (maybe a normal characteristic of the Racer X design). That being said, when riding the bike it gives a sports car type ride meaning that the rear suspension does not “feel” as compliant as the other bikes. However, I did not finish riding my test loop feeling more fatigued as I would expect from such a firm feel. Climbing was very efficient – hard tail feel with FS traction. I truly found certain climbs surprisingly easy having thought they would be difficult in my mind from my previous ride.
Conclusion is this. For a do everything race/trail bike the Titus is my choice hands down. Faster ride with less energy burned sums it all up. The Leviathan is a close second but did not feel quite as responsive climbing and handling was a touch slower than the Titus (I like “traditional” race type feel). As mentioned the wheel/fork combo had an effect on this. The Fisher, although third in my test, may still find a place in my stable, as it is a great all around bike and I need to ride it in short travel mode to see if that changes my opinion. Also, if on a smaller budget (although still large) the Fisher is a fine choice as it comes stock with very useable parts and is ready to go, the geometry takes a little bit to get used to (I have owned this bike for 10 months and it still requires a get to know it break in each ride).
Ask me any questions that you may have, I’ll answer honestly. I only ask that we don’t get too lost in the technical theory of this and that (see earlier note). The bottom line results are truly gleaned from the brief quantitative info up top.
Excellent review, very thorough and I'm sure time consuming. Even given that some of the time difference could be attributed to other varialbes, it's pretty amazing that the Titus was that much quicker. A couple questions:
-You seem to indicate that the Titus still has a quick feel to it with the BW 1.0; would this discourage you from running a BW .8 on it?
-The Fisher will no doubt be ultimately plusher than the Titus with the extra inch of travel, but how close do you think the two would come if a non-propedal shock set up for plushness was used for both?
Last edited by miles e; 06-09-2004 at 09:49 AM.
A 20 minute differential? So the Titus was ~15% faster?!? I have to say I'm shocked that ANY bike (assuming relatively similar weight/suspension/setup as these bikes had) would make that much of a difference...especially on a loop that has a mix of pretty much every kind of terrain and of that length.
I've briefly (and not at all scientifically) compared times of my own on various bikes and found that the difference was less than 1% with vaguely comparable rigs. Heck, I can ride my downhill bike within 15 percent of my fully rigid most places (as long as it's not too flat for too long - and yes, the DH rig has a triple on it).
I'm not trying to be snide, but I just don't think any bike without a motor can be that much faster or slower over the same course with the same rider on board, calorie counter or no. The valuable part of your review is in fact NOT the quantitative part, but the qualitative report on ride qualities. Which is great, IMO.
Thanks for doing the, uh, leg work on that Jason.
My only question is if you notice more pedal strikes with the Fisher? I know that is the most annoying feature of mine, although I am back to running the stock fork at only 80mm and 4.1 in the back I know the Lenz is a higher bb but what is the Titus riding at there?
I guess now you have to get ahold of the Airborne at some point to add it to the equation? And also I would be interested to know how the SlingShot performs in comparison?
A bike by any other name is still a bike.
No real questions here, just a thanks for the 'effort' of doing this. 'tis good to see a nice comparo done in writing.
Great writeup. I think it's well thought out and I agree with most of your assessments. I like the fact that you controlled as many factors as possible, and they were, in my opinion, the essential things to control.
The Titus seems to make the most sense for the racer crowd, the Lenz will probably work well for some racers and most trailriders, and the Fisher? Gosh, I just didn't like the way that bike climbed at all, and on descents the suspension felt great but the bb height just killed it for me. I guess that means the Fisher would work well for the non-technical trail crowd that doesn't mind a bit of extra weight and movement on the climbs. Wherever they live...
I'd like to see another test this summer with a .8 on the Titus and the Lenz. I think putting the lighter fork and significantly lighter front wheel on the Lenz would close the very narrow gap between the two, even though the Lenz will always be a more active bike with a non-platform shock on it. That was the point of the Lenz after all--to have an active bike for techy riding, but one that could still climb anywhere, anytime.
Maybe when I get back from the GDR and it's only 200 degrees here in the valley we can give it a whirl.
Miles – No, in fact I’m switching my BW 1.0 over to a .8 (I have the internals to do so) and think that will be the optimal setup. My experience with the 80mm air is that it ramps up very progressively and I have yet to ever bottom it out resulting in a harsh feel. As Mike C has hinted at we want to re-test all the bikes with shorter travel forks anyway, both the Lenz and Titus were designed with 80mm forks in mind.
Based on my previous experience with FSR link frames, and ridged pivot TREK/Fisher frames, I think the vertical feel of the Titus would be plusher with a non-platform shock. As long as the travels were similar…
Walt – I agree that I was very surprised by those numbers. That’s why I recorded them and posted them. It is what it is. The only explanation I have, which makes sense, is that I rode the Fisher almost three weeks before the other two, one week after my final move to GJ from almost sea level. Although the altitude here is still only 4500 feet anything over 4000 feet does require acclimating. Based on past years of very serious training I do know that this could account for such a drastic change. It would be fair to say that the Fisher time could have been a few minutes faster. When I have time I will redo that ride.
Bob – I’ve been riding the Fisher long enough to intuitively time my pedal strokes to avoid that. My original Kelly was much lower, and good training. I have never ridden the Fisher with a 80mm fork; that will most likely change my timing. Also, knowing the trail really helps me in avoiding the pedal strikes – I only need to catch my toes once on a trail to make me remember not to do it again.
I will do a Slingshot review at some point, I just prefer to ride a few similar category bikes together to create a good comparison that readers can relate to. If I can say it rides similar to a Super Cal or different from they know what I mean. I will say this, however, my Slingshot is still the fastest bike I have ever owned!
Mike C – As you and I have discussed I would really like to redo the test with BW .8 forks as well (good thing we have them). I felt that I was missing something with the Lenz and really want to find what that is. The bike is great, I just want more time on it – but that means less time on the Titus…
As the SlingShot is a "suspension" frame I just thought it would be a good control to the equation. I guess it would be better compared to a soft tail bike in all fairness. If you ever get a chance it would be good to see how it compares to the full FS bikes.
Originally Posted by rossixc
I can relate to the way you have to be more intuitive riding the Fisher over a taller bb bike. My problem is that when I switch to my hardtail with the taller bb I end up tip toeing for the first half of the ride as if I was on the FS until I get comfortable with the extra amount of clearance and the need to have to read the trail differently. I know for sure it was better with the 100mm fork though, way better balance.
A bike by any other name is still a bike.
As an every day Front Range and Northern CO trail bike style frame...I still think the plushness of the Lenz Leviathan is for me (if I had the coin.)
The Duuude, man...
I too find those times very difficult to swallow.
In clinical research settings folks would attribute findings that extreme to "expiramentor bias." This doesn't mean the expiramentor is a devious fellow, or that he/she purposely changes things to acheive certain results...just that whatever that person "brings to the table" will have an effect on the outcome.
Take for instance your comments on the fisher, in terms of having weird geometry and riding position that "takes time each ride to get used to" and that "you've been riding for 10 months, still different" (paraphrasing of course).
Also, we all intutitively "know" that in terms of pure XC racing the RX is the fastest, the Leviathan 2nd, and the Fisher last. It's the design, purpose, geometry, cost, etc...so you knew those things too...heck, I dare say you expected those things....
...so no, you didn't go out there consciously saying "OK, I'm going to ride like the wind on the RX, pretty fast on the Leviathan, and like a tank on the Fisher" but I dare suggest you wound up riding like you expected the bike to ride. This type of thing has been demonstrated time and again in clinical settings, ranging from athletic performance, to Kindergarden children's performance in the classroom.
Think of it as a race...do you think that if you could carbon copy yourself, and it was a 3-man race, that you'd really put that kind of time on yourself...20 minutes...heck, in a race that the winner finishes in 1:45, 20 minutes is an eternity....heck, 5 minutes is a slap down...
Last comment: I think you should borrow MC's Mooto-X as well for the next test...
Oh, here's an article that discusses expiramentor bias much more effectively than I can...talks about ways to get around it, such as the common "double blind" procedure...which would be near impossible in this situation, as you'd have to not know which bike you were riding for each trial...
The Duuude, man...
another thing to think about:
2 years ago, a buddy of mine and I were duking it out in the Arkasnsas state series (14 races)
Start of season:
Me: Fully custom Ibis Softtail, fully loaded, 23lbs and change
Him: Mid/late 1990's Diamondback full suspension, 8speed parts, beat to hell, 30-something pounds.
I won most of the time, by a margin or about 30 sec to 1 minute
Then, mid season:
He buys a full custom, made for him Sofa King, fully loaded, 23 and change pounds.
Me, no change:
Results: He won most of the time, by about a 30 sec to 1 minute margin.
I dare (dare is the word of the day for me) say that the difference between his old and new bike was WAAAAY more substantial than the difference between a 29er fisher and RX. The total time variences where from 1-2 minutes.
Anacdotal, perhaps. Certainly no expiramentor bias though...
Now if it was a fork comparison I might wonder though.....
It is not like RossiXC works for Titus, or Lenz or Fisher. He is just an enthusiast like the rest of us and if he says that is what the clock says, then I am not going to try and label him any fancy names to say its wrong or not applicable to his test. He is one person, and it doesn't take a degree in rocket science to figure that anothers times and conclusions would vary.
It is funny that I didn't even pay attention to the times when I read the article, but went right to the part about how the bikes felt underneath.
Thanks again for taking the time to get this on the board Jason!!
A bike by any other name is still a bike.
I'd have to agree with NCJ01 on this one. I cannot believe the difference between the ride times as being atributed only to the bike. It is subjective to physical factors like air density and temperature, fatigue, hydration, ect.
Also, you mentioned feel as being you criteria for selecting your favourite bike. I guess it is subjective to how you want the bike to feel.
Good review though!
MTBR is serious stuff.
You never get better until you get out of your comfort zone.
Mike - Do you think you would have had a faster time if you were riding Chads bike in the Kokopelli Race?
Chad - Do you feel you would have suffered on Mikes Ti hardtail?
If the Titus design is even just 1% faster, than a hardtail...that would mean a 9 minute faster finish on a 15 hour race. That's pretty substantial.
Ncj01 – Sorry to squash your theory, but I considered each bike to be a race bike, trail bike, and all around fun riding bike. I really don’t have any preconceived notion of how the bike is designed to ride when I do these reviews. I just know how I want it to ride based on what I do and how I set them up. Names really don’t play a part in my assessment. If I called the RX the Asylum instead should I expect it have an insane ride and be crazy on the climbs and descents?
As for my times, please see my reply to Walt regarding altitude; it’s the only explanation I can think of. If I cloned myself on the loop I did, and had each clone take a different bike on different days I would expect the same results I had. Now if I do this test again say in August or October three days in a row, using heart rate (level 2-3) as my benchmark I will expect to be closer in times as my fitness levels out. I admit that early season fitness and/or altitude played a part in the results.
Of those three bikes the only one I have raced is the Fisher – that’s what I bought it for. Even though I regularly have a stable of 6 bikes or more, I set each one up to suit the style of riding I am doing, I don’t ever compare different purpose bikes; it’s not fair. Each of these bikes is built relatively light with comparable travel and marketed handling traits. They each claim to be 24-hour race worthy (they are) and great all day trail bikes (they are). My comment on the Fisher is just that, my comment (see original disclaimer that this is one riders opinion). It does take noticeable adjustment on my part every time I ride it because it is different in feel from my other bikes.
Again, for those reading. I’m not trying to make a statement here. I just thought it might be helpful by giving the first opinion of these three segment leaders in a not so perfect side-by-side test. Get your hands on as many bikes as you can and make your own assessment. All three of these bikes are great, for me I have my results.
Bob – I agree that the Slingshot could work well being compared to the soft tails. I had to chuckle at the vision of you “tip toeing” for the first mile – but I know what you mean.
Word. You did a great job Jason.
Maybe we should post this on the endurance board. How come so many of those guys are still riding the 26" wheels anyway? Did they not see the times of the Kokopelli race and the top three finishers?
I agree with Big wheel - nice job on the review regardless of the time info!
Thanks! Interesting read!
I picked up on the 1.0 vs .8 shock thing right away. I'm happy to hear that you will be checking the Titus and Lenz out with the .8 fork. My question is do we really need 4" of travel on 29ers? Many have extolled the ride quality of 29 inch bikes, saying it negates the need for long travel suspension. Perhaps 4" is necessary for 24hr/ marathon events? What is your opinion?
Great information! Post of the year?
Anyway... would love to see a Monkey thrown in just for reference. :-)
Not a regular
I have done similar tests - albeit, not comparing bigwheel bikes to bigwheel bikes - but comparing bigwheel bikes with 26ers. For the same course on similarly equipped bikes, I have seen times as much as 14.5% (not quite 15%) better on the 9er. I think sometimes when a bike just feels "right" you feel like you can do no wrong.
Originally Posted by ncj01
Nice write up rossixc.
Not a regular
I've been thinking about travel too. I've got 4" in the rear and 80mm in front and sometimes I lock out the rear and/or don't properly set the negative pressure in the fork making the bike act more like a rigid. By the time I've figured out that I've just been riding for an hour without suspension, I've had a great time riding and never realized I haven't been using my suspension - unlike on my 26" wheel bikes. A 29er does lend itself very well to a full rigid. I'm on my way to having a 4" front/rear travel geared 9er and a full rigid 29 ss.
Originally Posted by Guitar Ted
The Duuude, man...
I think I was mis-understood. I don't doubt for a second that the REAL times are being recorded. I'm quite certain that those ARE the correct and accurately recorded times from each run.
Originally Posted by ssmike
What I'm saying is that the riding experience wasn't the same from bike to bike....and NO not on purpose...I KNOW he didn't go out there and sandbag on 1 bike and go hardcore on the other....
My gloves stink
Active? What's that?
Thank you for the excellent comparison, and all the time and energy you put into it. Much more scientific than the usual subjective drivel one reads in the magazines. I remember about 25 years ago (when I was young...), Cycle World magazine had a "shootout" of the four Japanese 125 MX motorcycles. They had the same 5 riders turn out several lap times on each bike at several different tracks. The combination of many riders, many laps, and several venues lead to a conclusion about which bike was easiest to go fast on (as opposed to which bike was fastest, or trickest, or whatever). And of course, they got absolutely fragged about their conclusion by the rest of the motorcycle press.
Originally Posted by rossixc
Anyway, I'm going to embarrass myself by asking you (and anyone else who has an answer) what is meant by "active". Are you referring to the suspension? If so, I have never understood what is meant by an "active" suspension, "semi-active", and so forth. From context it appears to mean how effectively the suspension system soaks up the bumps. That is, the more active the suspension is, the plusher the ride. It also appears that fast guys prefer less active suspension systems. Is this because fully active suspension is more susceptible to biopacing?
Here I am now- educate me!
Last edited by Appendage; 06-09-2004 at 10:54 PM.
Reason: Poor choice of words
Wow great comparison - great comments back
great stuff to read
As a racer X rider and ex Sugar rider, I agree with the rear end stiffnss comments
never been on a Lenz - can't wait to
we all know changing just that one crucial item on your ride can make a difference. For me it was stiffness and tracking ability - that's why I went with the Titus, also why I will be buying a WB fork.
Do I miss the longer travel of some of my other rides when I am on the Titus - not at all. It is a point and shot ride. Sure I am not going off anything over 2 - 3'
Would I like it lighter - yes but at the sacrifice of lateral stiffness - no.
I would love to see the aslyum in the mix (with a WB shock) Stiff like an X but lighter in the frame.
Maybe Mike will let you use his wheels and a WB shock on all the rides and the would be apples to apples ( Ok grannysmith's to Royal gala's) But closer.
Let me know if you need another tester - I'll be there!
I don't find that the Fisher has a low bottom bracket.....at least not for the '04 model. I run 175mm XTR cranks and had hit the cranks only on a few select occasions. It is definately not a regular occurrance. I mean is 12.4" supposed to be low?
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