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  1. #1
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    why no shorts stays with steep angles?

    We finally got some nice spring weather here in Ohio, so I hit the trail both days this weekend. I was riding some of my bikes back to back, and that got me thinking about their relative characteristics.

    The finest handling bike I've ridden was an OS Blackbuck with the medium fork: 73* HA with 51mm of rake, about 60mm of trail. Quick, but not nervous, it would go exactly where I pointed (contrast that with my Rawland Sogn that I rode off road, also a 73* HA but more rake on the fork to end at about ~35mm of trail. That was too quick, there was no relaxing or you were off the trail). I took my Drakkar out today for its first real mountain bike ride, and it was pretty similar to the Blackbuck: quick, easy to maneuver, but not too quick. It has basically cyclocross geometry: 72.5* HA with 50mm of rake for about 61mm of trail. I like the way both of these bikes handle. By contrast, my Soma Juice is just so so: with it's 72* HA it's sorta maneuverable, but not great. Probably the big wheels don't help here.

    By contrast, I demod a Jamis Dragon 650B last fall. I pretty much hated the front end: the 68* HA was loose and floppy, especially on climbs. Some people, somewhere, like these slack front ends, but for my riding on my terrain, I want sharp handling.

    Thinking about the back end of the bike, with the Drakkar (and my Fargo, and most 29ers I've ridden), it's a struggle for me to get the front wheel up. The Drakkar has track ends, and I was running them in the middle of the length, for a chainstay length of about 455mm. When I got home, I was toying around and shortened them as much as I could, down to about 440mm. That made a noticeable improvement in lofting the front end, but it's still not as easy as my 26" Stumpjumper FSR (425mm chainstays).

    So my question is, why can't I have it all? I'm sorely tempted by the Nimble 9, with its ultra short chainstays, but I'm worried I wouldn't be happy with the front end. Kona Honzo, same story. I've tried a Karate Monkey, and it was only a marginal improvement over my Juice--easier to lift the front wheel, but not a night and day difference (and, I hated the stupid short head tube). I want a steep front end, short rear end bike, but I can't seem to find one anywhere (I also want it in steel, with a tall head tube, and to cost $500 while I'm at it ) It seems like people who would enjoy tight woods riding would like all of things.

    Maybe I need to give 650B or a 69er another try. Something.

    Pics of the usual suspects:

    Nice and quick, maybe worth another shot:


    Also a good front end:


    Too quick!:


    Standard 29er geo:

  2. #2
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    Sounds like you should sell everything but your BlackBuck!

  3. #3
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    An older kona unit frame (if its a bigger size) would fit the bill

  4. #4
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    It was gone last summer. But, maybe at some point in the future!

    Quote Originally Posted by Yogii View Post
    Sounds like you should sell everything but your BlackBuck!

  5. #5
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    Keep in mind that shorter stays and shorter wheelbases, all other things being equal, are going to make a bike steer a lot quicker. I've got a 40cm chainstay/105cm wheelbase (that's 15.7"/41.3") 29er here with a 69 HTA that I pretty much guarantee steers quicker than any of the bikes you've described. In fact it took me a while to even get used to riding it competently - it wants to change direction if you look at it funny. Good stuff if you're on top of it and making no mistakes - but I can only imagine the disasters that would ensue if you tried to ride it for a 24 hour race or something.

    I think if you built the super-steep front end/low trail, short rear end bike you think you want you'd find it to be a handful on even really buff stuff. That said, I don't think that the bike you want is out there in the production world right now, and you might love it... time to start saving your pennies!

    -Walt
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  6. #6
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    Yes, I think wheelbase is often an underlooked part of the handling picture. Some of the bikes I've ridden than handle very quickly (Sogn, Drakkar, and Fargo) were designed for drop bars--the shorter top tube typical of this reins in the wheelbase pretty quickly.

    Maybe the N9 is worth a try. I have too much turnover to commit to another custom at this point. And I am worried that it might a twitchy mess when it was all done, which is why it's not out there on the market.

    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    Keep in mind that shorter stays and shorter wheelbases, all other things being equal, are going to make a bike steer a lot quicker. I've got a 40cm chainstay/105cm wheelbase (that's 15.7"/41.3") 29er here with a 69 HTA that I pretty much guarantee steers quicker than any of the bikes you've described. In fact it took me a while to even get used to riding it competently - it wants to change direction if you look at it funny. Good stuff if you're on top of it and making no mistakes - but I can only imagine the disasters that would ensue if you tried to ride it for a 24 hour race or something.

    I think if you built the super-steep front end/low trail, short rear end bike you think you want you'd find it to be a handful on even really buff stuff. That said, I don't think that the bike you want is out there in the production world right now, and you might love it... time to start saving your pennies!

    -Walt
    Last edited by seat_boy; 04-07-2013 at 05:28 PM.

  7. #7
    rigid bruce
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    You want a Don McClung. You described it pretty much perfectly. I ride two OS Blackbucks and I want a McClung too. If you can try a Jeff Jones bike you might be very happy with it. His steel version is very reasonably priced. I want a Jones bike too.

  8. #8
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    Angleset.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by seat_boy View Post
    Yes, I think wheelbase is often an underlooked part of the handling picture. Some of the bikes I've ridden than handle very quickly (Sogn, Drakkar, and Fargo) were designed for drop bars--the shorter top tube typical of this reins in the wheelbase pretty quickly.

    Maybe the N9 is worth a try. I have too much turnover to commit to another custom at this point. And I am worried that it might a twitchy mess when it was all done, which is why it's not out there on the market.
    In 2011 I went from a Niner MCR9 with a 90mm stem (72* HA w/490mm rigid fork, 17.something chainstays, I think high-60's/low-70's fork trail, 660mm bars) to Canfield N9 w/ 100mm stem (69* HA w/ 500mm rigid fork, 16.something CS's, near 80mm trail, 710mm bars). Both had the same wheelbase, but the weight was biased to the rear of the N9. Both climb very well, but I get out of the saddle a little earlier on extremely steep climbs on the N9 than I did on the MCR9 to keep the nose down. It does not wander or flop, though.

    The N9 head tube is not long, but a 500mm fork makes it as high as I would ever want it (I have one 2mm spacer under the inverted stem).

    Both bikes handle very well IMO, but the N9 is more stable. The MCR used to get floaty in mud (largely due to tire choice), and I ran off a few trails because of it. The N9 steers quickly enough, but is much more stable (esp. in slop), and descends much better in chunk. Some people have called it slow-handling, but I think they are comparing to a '90's StumpJumper rather than anything current. I think it is much more capable at speed, and still very capable in the twisties.
    If you are at Mohican SP or near Cleveland I'll let you demo sometime.


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  10. #10
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    Would you run the N9 rigid? Are you talking about staying rigid with all these frames? I've thought about getting a Singular Gryphon to use with a flat bar. It doesn't have a stupid short HT like most bikes. Has a slack STA like I want. Not sure how the CS length compares to the Blackbuck though, or if you would like a short TT. I would probably go up a size.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding View Post
    Would you run the N9 rigid? Are you talking about staying rigid with all these frames? I've thought about getting a Singular Gryphon to use with a flat bar. It doesn't have a stupid short HT like most bikes. Has a slack STA like I want. Not sure how the CS length compares to the Blackbuck though, or if you would like a short TT. I would probably go up a size.
    After looking again at the Gryphon, it doesn't really look like it had the geo you would want. I might still like it though.

  12. #12
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    I ride terrain very similar to what you describe and have often wondered why anyone would want to ride one of these slack front end bikes on tight, twisty woods trails. Doesn't seem like a good fit but you never know I guess. My custom 29er has geo that is perfect for me and where I live and ride, but has also faired well in other places as well. Definitely little margin for error on the steep downhills though.
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  13. #13
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    I agree with Fleas, if you haven't actually tried the likes of a N9, Yelli or Paradox or any of the other short stayed (<17") with slack HAs, then I think you should. I ride XL/25"> ETTs and my XL Paradox has a 45" WB and I find it almost telepathic in the tight stuff, steers from the hips. If you find the HA to slack, you could as suggested try using an angleset and steepen it by I think as much as 1.5*.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by edouble View Post
    I ride terrain very similar to what you describe and have often wondered why anyone would want to ride one of these slack front end bikes on tight, twisty woods trails. Doesn't seem like a good fit but you never know I guess. My custom 29er has geo that is perfect for me and where I live and ride, but has also faired well in other places as well. Definitely little margin for error on the steep downhills though.
    You need to try one, it was an eye opener for me. I went from a Spot Longboard and a Salsa Big Mama to the N9 and I'm as happy as a clam. What Walt posted makes sense, you have to take the package as a whole and not concentrate on a single aspect of the design.
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  15. #15
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    I too have thought of a Gryphon with a flat bar (actually, flipped Marys). I ran my Fargo like this, and it was a really nice all around package: fun on the trail, comfy on the road, good for pulling the kids on the trail-a-bike. It would hopefully address some of my nitpicks with the Fargo: too stiff and too long in the rear. It wouldn't really address my short chain stay issue that started this thread... but I still want one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding View Post
    After looking again at the Gryphon, it doesn't really look like it had the geo you would want. I might still like it though.

  16. #16
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    People don't want steep HAs, so that's why you don't see them.

    The point was also made that the short wheelbase provided by short stays quickens up handling significantly. For years, when I explained this, people said I was full of crap. Now, they're on board.

    Also, suspension forks don't like to compress when they get too steep, taking away the endo-proof feel that so many people love with 29er.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by wv_bob View Post
    You need to try one, it was an eye opener for me. I went from a Spot Longboard and a Salsa Big Mama to the N9 and I'm as happy as a clam. What Walt posted makes sense, you have to take the package as a whole and not concentrate on a single aspect of the design.
    What is your terrain like? . Where I live is very tight and very twisty with short ups and downs. Also I havve only owned steel hardtails with racing geometry. The idea of a slack front end is really unappealing to me. I like the immediate response of my bikes.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by edouble View Post
    What is your terrain like? . Where I live is very tight and very twisty with short ups and downs. Also I havve only owned steel hardtails with racing geometry. The idea of a slack front end is really unappealing to me. I like the immediate response of my bikes.
    I have ridden both quick-handling 26ers (1996 StumpJumper) and quick-handling 29ers (Niner MCR9, Canfield Nimble9) in GA, PA, W. Va., OH, NY - endless rocks in PA and NY, ski slopes, long descents, short steeps, babyheads, mud, roots, sand, gravel, switchbacks, twisties, steps, mild drops, ...

    I truly believe that all are better with the short chain stay, slack front. You maybe could argue that it doesn't steer as quick; that it takes more effort or something, but that doesn't mean that I as the pilot can't make it steer as quick. That tiny bit of extra steering effort (which is arguably imaginary) is completely offset by steering stability and tracking accuracy - even when factoring in bar width or stem length and other variables. I think the fork trail is going to affect your handling quickness more than your steering angle, and if you get it right you will have the best of both worlds: stability AND responsiveness.

    -F
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  19. #19
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    What about a slack, short-stayed bike with a travel adjust fork? Something that can be locked down in 80mm mode would steepen the head angle of a N9, Honzo, Paradox, etc dramatically.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by edouble View Post
    What is your terrain like? . Where I live is very tight and very twisty with short ups and downs. Also I havve only owned steel hardtails with racing geometry. The idea of a slack front end is really unappealing to me. I like the immediate response of my bikes.
    I am in South Western WV (where OH, KY, and WV come together). The trails here sound much like what you describe. It is hilly, not mountainous as it is in the North and Eastern parts of the state. The trails I ride regularly started as deer trails.

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  21. #21
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    You could always get a shorter stay 29er and run a slighter shorter fork on the front end to steepen the angles. You'd need a setback seatpost and might have issues lowering the BB though.

    If you're really wanting something twitchy, size down for the shorter top tube and run a longer stem. This will give you a shorter wheelbase as well.

    Here's a calculator for seeing how different fork heights will affect the real world frame geometry
    geometryCalc

    I used to have a vintage 26er GT Karakoram that felt incredible all around. Slack angles for its time with a 69.5 deg head angle with a 2.3" up front but with vintage short top tube, loooong stem setup. Felt really telepathic to ride. The slack angles made it feel great on the downhills and the short wheelbase made it great for weaving in and out of trees on some of our tighter trails. And the 26" wheels made it bunnyhop and manual really well.

  22. #22
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    Why'd that log in your last pic have to go?
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  23. #23
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    I guess it is all personal preference. I think those numbers would suck where I have ridden the most, and be a scary twitchy *****.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by cm374 View Post
    An older kona unit frame (if its a bigger size) would fit the bill
    forget the kona or the canfield. they feel like you are riding a chopper.

    closer to a karate monkey, but even that is a bit too conservative.

    16" chainstays with a 73 degree head angle built by walt is the answer....just saying.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by D.F.L. View Post
    People don't want steep HAs, so that's why you don't see them.

    The point was also made that the short wheelbase provided by short stays quickens up handling significantly. For years, when I explained this, people said I was full of crap. Now, they're on board.

    Also, suspension forks don't like to compress when they get too steep, taking away the endo-proof feel that so many people love with 29er.

    actually a lot of people want them. manufactures are too busy making one bike for all. they wind up making a mediocre bike that only a few people like.

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