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  1. #1
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    XC FS 29er Vs. Trail 29er

    So I'm in the process of saving money and researching a new mountain bike for the end of next season to ride next, NEXT season (baby on the way).

    I've done some searching and found little answer to these burning questions.

    1.)Will I notice a huge difference between a 4" travel Full Suspension XC bike and the 5" travel of a "Trail" bike? I know the smart answer is "Yes, approx 1" difference."

    2.)In general how to the geometries of these bikes differ?

    Added the 5" travel bikes in the mic essential doubles the choices of bikes that I have.

    Living in SouthEastern Michigan pretty much everyone rides hardtails so I'm already bucking the trend there. But I do have family in northern michigan very close to Boyne and Boyne Highlands and in up state NY so I'm looking for a bike that I can haul everywhere that will handle anything I throw at it within reason (I don't plan on doing any big mountain riding any time soon).

  2. #2
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    Short answer: the trail (5") geometry is slacker, and will be slower steering. It will also be more "laid-back" feeling and generally not as snappy handling. It will also most likely be heavier.

    I'm in a similar area (Chicago suburbs), so I know what kind of riding you are referring to. To that effect, I just upgraded from a 4" travel 26in bike to a 4" travel 29er. I think that this is a great do-it-all bike, and can do pretty much anything we in the Midwest can throw at it. Of course, the way to really find out is to ride as many different bikes as you can and then make a decision.

  3. #3
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    If most of your riding is in the Midwest, you'll be fine with a 4" FS 29er. It will be fine on chunkier stuff, too. You'll just need to choose good lines on really gnarly rocky stuff. I live in VA and most of my nearby trails are XC, but I also ride a lot in NC and CO, so I went with a 5" to have something more for the chunk. It's slight overkill for my local trails, but I was just in CO and was grateful that I had the extra cush for there. As the earlier respondent posted, you will be dealing with slacker angles on a 5" bike, so climbing will be a bit more work. I haven't noticed it being slow in handling, but it is super solid and stable, and I love the confidence it gives me on technical descents. If I lived where you do, I'd go with 4".

  4. #4
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    Appreciate the info guys.

    Lets just say for sake of argument I fall in love with a 5" FS bike. Anyone know if it's daily easy to tune the shocks on bikes these days to limit travel to under 5". Lets say I found a sweet spot in between 4 and 5" of travel. Is this possibly to do?

  5. #5
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    I'm building up a bike for next year too.

    I have a Specialized FSR XC Pro 26"and I like it a lot,and I considered a full suspension 29er, but I just ordered a "trail" type hard tail 29er instead. Went with the Banshee Paradox. I'm going to build it up over the winter. I wanted something a little burlier than the xc type bikes. I ride everything except true downhill stuff and the 120mm suspension was fine for most of my needs. Now I'll have a stiff 29er with a trail geometry ( slack head angle and short chainstay) with 120mm. Hopefully I'll like it

    Good luck on your quest.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan.gurc View Post
    So I'm in the process of saving money and researching a new mountain bike for the end of next season to ride next, NEXT season (baby on the way).

    I've done some searching and found little answer to these burning questions.

    1.)Will I notice a huge difference between a 4" travel Full Suspension XC bike and the 5" travel of a "Trail" bike? I know the smart answer is "Yes, approx 1" difference."

    2.)In general how to the geometries of these bikes differ?

    Added the 5" travel bikes in the mic essential doubles the choices of bikes that I have.

    Living in SouthEastern Michigan pretty much everyone rides hardtails so I'm already bucking the trend there. But I do have family in northern michigan very close to Boyne and Boyne Highlands and in up state NY so I'm looking for a bike that I can haul everywhere that will handle anything I throw at it within reason (I don't plan on doing any big mountain riding any time soon).
    are you racing?

    if no, add the 5in bikes in. their are some great ones out there, and they are not neccesarily heavier and slower handling. often 100mm xc bikes are designed longer and steeper, which makes them less playful and slower handing in the fun stuff. if you are not racing, the small amount of time you "may" loose on a climb more then pays for itself in smiles in the fun stuff.

    if you are racing, lighter is almost always better.

    cheers,
    holiday

  7. #7
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    Not Racing regularly. I might do one here or there just for fun. Currently I ride a 2008 rockhopper which is a beast in the weight category so I'm not really worried about the weight factor. I think I'll expand my search to include trails bikes and just demo as many as I can.

  8. #8
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    I also live in SE Mich. My current bike is a 29er hardtail which I love. I'm also shopping for a FS for next year and am considering both 4" and 5" for similar reasons to you (I don't race and sometimes travel to more challenging regions). Let us now what u decide.

  9. #9
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    If getting into FS, and its associated drawbacks, make it worth your while and go with a 5" traillbike. Way more versatile. Especially if you are going to keep the HT.

    A lighter wheel set on a 5" traillbike with the compression bumped up on the fork and more sag to steepen the HTA, will still make a good xc FS rig.


    Been there and done it and to me it's a no brainer.

  10. #10
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    Not too long ago, a 4" bike WAS a trail bike.

    Anyway, I'd say ignore the travel and focus on the angles and suspension design you like.

    That said, the idea that people are now choosing between a hardtail and a 5" bike really seems odd to me. The bike press and the stores are pushing people towards longer travel, and customers are really eating it up. I'm not exactly sure why though.

  11. #11
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    There is also a big deference in how 4" travel bikes ride. I wanted a Superfly 100 then I rode a Niner Jet9 RDO. Still light enough to race but way more of a trail bike with a 120mm fork then the Superfly or the Epic that I test rode.

    Test or demo a few bikes to see what suspension design and geometry you like best. Don't just stick to travel.

  12. #12
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    You can kind of do an inbetween bike.

    I was in your same position and went with a Tallboy but got it with the 120mm fork. Slackens it a little keeps a short wheel base and great climbing ability.
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  13. #13
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    Evolution....

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    Not too long ago, a 4" bike WAS a trail bike.

    Anyway, I'd say ignore the travel and focus on the angles and suspension design you like.

    That said, the idea that people are now choosing between a hardtail and a 5" bike really seems odd to me. The bike press and the stores are pushing people towards longer travel, and customers are really eating it up. I'm not exactly sure why though.

    While I still enjoy riding my rigid SS on rough trails, I can appreciate the all-purpose 5" trail bike.

    Advances in design and materials, as well as attitudes toward riding have made what use to be considered a relatively specialized bike/travel into more of an all purpose rig.

    It is now the hard tail and shorter travel xc bikes that are being considerd specialized bikes. Of course, for the entry level rider a HT will still be an all purpose rig, but for experienced riders it will be more of a niche bike.

  14. #14
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    I think a light weight, 100mm travel FS 29er is the smartest bike anyone could have. Just my opinion.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silentfoe View Post
    I think a light weight, 100mm travel FS 29er is the smartest bike anyone could have. Just my opinion.
    but what do you sacrifice at 120 or 130 with the "right" bike?

    this summer, I thought just that, after having a 130/140 26er for 5 years, i thought a 100mm 29er was the answer.
    but,
    It didn't end up endearing itself to me.

    then I have spent quite a bit of time on friend and demo 29ers 130 to 140mm, w/ less racy geo, and they are so much more playful.
    and,
    in my normal 30 to 45min sustained climb, they are w/i 30 seconds of the racy 100mm. if i was racing, I might debate that 30 seconds and if I could make it up on the descent, but as I'm not racing xc, the decent fun more then pays for hte 30 seconds...

    cheers,
    holiday

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by holiday View Post
    but what do you sacrifice at 120 or 130 with the "right" bike?

    this summer, I thought just that, after having a 130/140 26er for 5 years, i thought a 100mm 29er was the answer.

    cheers,
    holiday

    No idea why someone would feel that shifting not one, but two "classes" of bike was going to make them happy.

    There is a mentality permeating the sport that more travel is always better. That people living in the relative flatlands have nothing to lose by upsizing a bike. Quick to advise others to "compromise", but not really willing to do so themselves.

    -------------

    Anyway, it's obviously difficult to have a vague discussion like this on the forum. You enjoy your "descents", and there's nothing to which I could apply that term within 3 hours of my location. As usual, I guess this has turned into a thread of people advocating whatever they choose to ride.

  17. #17
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    open

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    No idea why someone would feel that shifting not one, but two "classes" of bike was going to make them happy.

    There is a mentality permeating the sport that more travel is always better. That people living in the relative flatlands have nothing to lose by upsizing a bike. Quick to advise others to "compromise", but not really willing to do so themselves.

    -------------

    Anyway, it's obviously difficult to have a vague discussion like this on the forum. You enjoy your "descents", and there's nothing to which I could apply that term within 3 hours of my location. As usual, I guess this has turned into a thread of people advocating whatever they choose to ride.
    I don't disagree with you Jeff. the title of the thread is "xc fs 29er vs. trail 29er" though.

    I also have argued for years for riding less bike. my singlespeed hardtail race time is only @1 min off my fastest (race winning) time on the downieville classic downhill. you don't NEED more bike. You also don't have to cubby hole yourself. Figure out what you enjoy. I believe there are 5 inch 29ers that are way better on flats then many 4 inch travel 29ers. weight, efficiency, brand leanings and suspension design preference, those are more important then the inch in travel change imo.

    cheers,
    holiday
    Last edited by holiday; 12-01-2012 at 11:14 PM. Reason: clean up

  18. #18
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    PS,
    I also followed up on hte last comment of "we all advocate what we choose to ride".

    we all move through our process's. part of the idea of forums seems to benefit from others knowledge and experience.

    I noticed in pictures that Silentfoe above recommends 100mm fs, and looking at user gallery, spent quality time on a turner sultan, and maybe decided 29er long travel wasn't quite right based on that, then there are pics racing on a scott scale, and maybe decided a hard tail wasn't quite right, so then, 100mm is maybe his Goldilocks. makes good sense. I know the sultan and the turner clan, and don't think the sultan is quite the right one either.

    and I have spent lots of time on lots of "classes" of bikes as the industy cubby holes them, and right now the lines are more blurred to me then they may be to you. maybe as I don't have 1300+ posts, my thoughts are taken more off hand. 167 post in 8 years is light, but I do know my bikes, and I ride them effectively, and,
    between, say a scott scale and and s stumpy fsr 29r, there is only a couple % time difference on a climb, and if you are not overly concerned about that 30 seconds to 1 min on an average ride, but prefer something easier on the back and more playful, it's worth keeping your eyes open.

    cheers,
    holiday

  19. #19
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    Have I missed something??

    What is the buget because with out knowing that it is hard to know what bikes you would be looking at.

    There is a major difference between all the 4 inch bikes with out even looking at the even bigger difference between the 5 inch bikes.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miker J View Post
    If getting into FS, and its associated drawbacks, make it worth your while and go with a 5" traillbike. Way more versatile. Especially if you are going to keep the HT.

    A lighter wheel set on a 5" traillbike with the compression bumped up on the fork and more sag to steepen the HTA, will still make a good xc FS rig.


    Been there and done it and to me it's a no brainer.
    I'd echo Miker J's comments when it comes to the OP. Go with more travel.

    Like Miker J, I've been there and done it. We're trying to save you money and advise you to go "all the way".

    BB
    Last edited by BruceBrown; 12-02-2012 at 04:12 AM.

  21. #21
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    For me, if I could only have ONE bike, it'd be a 100mm rear travel, 100-140mm adjustable front travel, light weight FS bike, with a HA no steeper than 69* and chainstays no longer than 17.6". I think that for general riding it all depends a lot on your physical and body condition, if you're young and healthy then a HT can be ridden in a lot of different terrain without issue, but if you're older you might not be able to handle a HT on anything more than slightly bumpy terrain - back issues etc.

    Once you can get a bike somewhere within the 26-30lb range, I think that is a good bike and shouldn't give up much going either way. I will say, riding a nice plush, cushy 5" FS bike can make you lazy as in general you can just sit and pedal through.over a lot of stuff, whereas on a HT or shorter travel bike you have to pick lines and/or stand more to help absorb bumps etc.

    My main ride now is a 130/140mm FS that weighs about 33.5lbs for an XL and while I can really put the hammer down either way, I most definitely feel it after a ride with lots of hard effort climbs, would love the bike I described, has enough travel to make it efficient and keep things challenging, yet still be fun too. HT is fun to pick up, very much lighter (5lbs>) and agile, but I feel it after in a different way compared to the FS, so both take it out of me, again that perfect 26lb 4" FS with 100-140mm adjustabele fork
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miker J View Post
    A lighter wheel set on a 5" traillbike with the compression bumped up on the fork and more sag to steepen the HTA, will still make a good xc FS rig.

    Been there and done it and to me it's a no brainer.
    I'm still testing this, but so far I'm 100% on board. I'm trying to build a do-it-all bike that is as fast and as fun for me as I can make it. I've got a 120/120 trail 29er. Swapped out the heavy stock wheels with Flow Exs (I'm 230 and that is a light wheel for me). I've got a 69.5 HTA. I did some testing with the HTA by sagging the rear shock excessively, and pumping up the front. The bike had to be slacked 2 degrees. I tested this on an XC trail (Erwin park in Mckinney TX), thinking it would probably suck (I ride rock most weekends, but it's a drive). Maybe I'm a freak, but the slackness didn't seem to have any negative effect on the tight switchbacks. I felt some wheel flop, but I quickly adjusted for that.

    Based on that, I increased the travel in my Marzocchi TST2 from 120 to 140. I then flipped the stem which lowered the bars by about an inch, so my position on the bike is about the same. Rode the rock today (Johnson Branch at lake Ray Roberts). It was pretty much all goodness. My BB came up a little which of course has it's pluses and minuses, but the hancling with the slackness and travel felt great to me. I've got some Burgtech offset shock bushings on the way, so I'll see how it does a little slacker and with the BB back down a little.

    I really picked up some speed on the bumpy downhills today. Put a big smile on my face.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by muzzanic View Post
    Have I missed something??

    What is the buget because with out knowing that it is hard to know what bikes you would be looking at.

    There is a major difference between all the 4 inch bikes with out even looking at the even bigger difference between the 5 inch bikes.
    Budget is somewhere between 2800 and 3500. Looks to me that I can get a decent 4" or 5" travel bike with a mix of x7/x9 or slx/xt with a decent fork and rear shock for that price. Wheels would definitely need to be upgraded.

    Also to follow up on other replies.

    I'm young but not too young (29 coming up on 30). My hard tail gets the job done but after about an hour on it my lower back starts to get beat up hence my question at the top of the post. I'm really digging all of the responses.

    I may or may not get rid of the hardtail. It's a nice bike ('08 Rockhopper). but it needs some upgrades. The dart 3 fork doesn't do very much in the way of shock absorbtion and the alivio parts are just down right unreliable. Maybe it would be better to keep it for a cruiser bike around town and slowly replace the parts.

    I also agree with Holiday that it's important to find a bike that I enjoy riding. I've already made up my mind that I would be better off on a full suspension bike now I just need to find that FS bike I fall in love with.
    Last edited by bryan.gurc; 12-02-2012 at 08:15 AM.

  24. #24
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    I am normally an advocate for the least bike that you need approach. I ride a 29 hardtail and even ss rigid at times , but the trails here are mostly pretty buff. If you are coming from a 26" hardtail the move to 29er will give you a much smoother ride even without suspension. That said, the current crop of full suspension 29'ers are really amazing. They pedal very well and can roll over almost anything with a good rider. Bikes like the Salsa Horsethief, Yeti sb 95, Turner Sultan, Rip 9, and others can be spec'd well at around your price range but demo as many bikes as you can. You want to find that one bike that really gives you a buzz. Don't leave out 29'er trail hardtails like the Banshee Paradox or Kona Honzo, they just might be just what feels right to you. You will be amazed at their capabilities.

  25. #25
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    I'll keep that in mind mactweek. Just because my $600 hardtail with crap fork beats me up doesn't mean all hardtails would. It's quite possible that a hardtail with a nicer fork might be just what I'm looking for

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