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  1. #1
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    The right bike for most alaskan trails

    Hey guys. I'm practically new to Alaska trails available in peninsula, anchorage, valley and denali area. I'm in the market for a full suspension bike. I'm deciding between specialized camber 29er with 110 mm travel and stumpjumper 29 with 130 mm. What kind of bike that fits more on what is available trails in the area. I just can't decide whether I should go with a longer travel or a shorter one. I'm looking for technical terrain and single tracks too with some little jumps. I want an all around bike that would be capable of any terrain in alaska. Thanks guys in advance

  2. #2
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    You can definitely use the longer travel bike here and on the peninsula, just as said before it will be somewhat overkill on some of the trails around anchorage, but it's also nice to have the slacker bike to do all the fun little jumps and features on the trails around anchorage. I'd base it on your previous mountain bike experience and what you like to do. There are some longer downhills on the peninsula and they do get rough in spots, so again, it's funner to have that bit longer travel bike. I'd save up for a fatbike and put 29er wheels on that in the summer time as a hardtail if you want to do a race-series in the summer or something to that extent.

    A bigger issue might be that as far as FS bikes go, those aren't particularly efficient ones. For a reasonable-cost version of the same type of bikes that would be better, I'd suggest looking at Giant.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  3. #3
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    I have a big travel trail bike (26"), and after I bought a HT 29", I seldom rode the 26". There are trails that are a lot more fun on all that travel , but the efficiency of the 29" bike is hard to pass up in my increasing laziness. A fs 29 properly built would be a good compromise I think. Or might try the 27.5 bikes for a better in betweener (though I've need been on one, I can imagine it might bridge the two ok. Hayek is definitely right though, a fatbike is a must have up here. You can run it as a 29r with a nice suspension fork if you want. Then decide later what 2nd bike to go with.
    "Having lack of self-preservation makes biking more fun."

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    Thank you guys for the great input. It is giving me a definite decision to which bike I should be considering. Are there trails near Russian River? I remember seeing a lot of park cars on the side across the road of the river side...

  5. #5
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    Russian River Trail, Resurrection Pass Trail, and Devil's pass trail. A real rad loop covers all of them with a booze stop at Gwins on the way to Resurrection. On which, I'd recommend a 29r hardtail for efficiency sake.
    "Having lack of self-preservation makes biking more fun."

  6. #6
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    OK - all this is just my opinion, so take it for what it's worth. Bikes are totally a personal thing, some people get more enjoyment out of a slack, long travel trail bike than a 29er rigid single speed. And vice versa of course.

    With that out of the way, lets talk bikes. What do you NEED in Alaska to access most of the trails? Not much. I have taken my fully rigid 1x10 Stumpy 29er over Johnson's Pass and Lost lake and its a blast. But it can beat up your body if you are making long, fast descents. I have ridden my 26" enduro all over the place and it is super fun and playful and has WAAAY more travel than you need for anything you come across up here. But it still makes me smile because I love to pre load the suspension and pop off everything. Last season I rode a Stumpy Evo 29er all season and I would say it was one of the best suited bikes I have come across for AK. Here's why:

    -29er with short chainstays makes it roll fast and handle better than most 29ers. the efficiency of a 29er over a 26er (and even a 27.5) makes a big difference when you are doing +30 mile days on the Kenai

    -135 mm travel will more than handle anything you come across up here

    -trail bike geometry will be less taxing on the body for longer days/higher mileage

    So basically, I think a snappy handling 29er trail bike like the Stumpy 29er (or one of the many other brands out there building good bikes) is a solid choice. Now for the Caveats....

    Want to go blazing fast, be ultralight, and focus on efficiency? Nothin' beats a 29er Hardtail

    Want to jump it, drift it, huck it, whip it, and generally be a hooligan? Get a 6" trail bike with 26" or 27.5 inch wheels that doesn't weigh too much.

    Just be honest about the type of riding that you really like to do and buy a bike that suits that. Doesn't matter what anyone else rides as long as you like what you ride!
    -Ride it like you stole it

  7. #7
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    gotta throw it in here.....a fat bike.

    We're no Squamish or Colorado or Moab. AK just doesn't offer those types of riding and if we do our options are limited by not only area's/miles but also by the seasons.

    If I were to only have 1 bike for AK, it'd be fat-bike. Good thing I only have one bike, cuz then I'd be a liar..... Here's my reasoning....AK is not the place to live or travel to if techy singletrack, long all mountain routes, and downhill are what you crave. What we do have is hundred of miles of beaches, rivers, extremely remote terrain, gravel roads, and a few nice places of singletrack and bike friendly trails. We also have winter. 8 months of snow at higher elevations. If you live in AK a fat bike allows you ride all year round in places you'd never imagine over terrain you could've never dreamed about. Not only can you ride over/through most things they are designed to be able to carry your ****. Load it up and disappear. Go see the state. You can ride a FS bike anywhere. A fat bike allows you to go anywhere. Your FS will sit and collect dust for at least 7 months a year. Fat bikers have a culture, there are organized rides and races all winter long, and it's a uniquely Alaskan thing to do - we started it. When the fishing's good, go fishing. When the powder's good, go skiing. No matter the conditions, you can always hop on your fattie.

    Did I mention they are incredibly fun?

    Remember your first bike....the feeling of rushing through the air, crushing everything in your path, looking for **** to go down, up, over, through, or across - that's a fat bike.

    If I lived anywhere but AK, I'd have more than one bike, a quiver, like my skis, but I don't, so one bike is all I need.

  8. #8
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    Word!!!
    "Having lack of self-preservation makes biking more fun."

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by smthgfshy View Post
    gotta throw it in here.....a fat bike.

    We're no Squamish or Colorado or Moab. AK just doesn't offer those types of riding and if we do our options are limited by not only area's/miles but also by the seasons.

    If I were to only have 1 bike for AK, it'd be fat-bike. Good thing I only have one bike, cuz then I'd be a liar..... Here's my reasoning....AK is not the place to live or travel to if techy singletrack, long all mountain routes, and downhill are what you crave. What we do have is hundred of miles of beaches, rivers, extremely remote terrain, gravel roads, and a few nice places of singletrack and bike friendly trails. We also have winter. 8 months of snow at higher elevations. If you live in AK a fat bike allows you ride all year round in places you'd never imagine over terrain you could've never dreamed about. Not only can you ride over/through most things they are designed to be able to carry your ****. Load it up and disappear. Go see the state. You can ride a FS bike anywhere. A fat bike allows you to go anywhere. Your FS will sit and collect dust for at least 7 months a year. Fat bikers have a culture, there are organized rides and races all winter long, and it's a uniquely Alaskan thing to do - we started it. When the fishing's good, go fishing. When the powder's good, go skiing. No matter the conditions, you can always hop on your fattie.

    Did I mention they are incredibly fun?

    Remember your first bike....the feeling of rushing through the air, crushing everything in your path, looking for **** to go down, up, over, through, or across - that's a fat bike.

    If I lived anywhere but AK, I'd have more than one bike, a quiver, like my skis, but I don't, so one bike is all I need.
    Ill second that. My one bike to rule them all is my well loved and beat to shizza pugs. I ride everyday as my commuter, on evenings and weekends as my downhill, road climb, single track, fire road, multiuser trail, grocery getter, best 17k I ever spent bike.

  10. #10
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    Buy a bike to suit your style. If you ski/board in the winter then perhaps a fatbike isn't top priority. If you like to hit jumps and you mainly ride up to focus on the down, then a FS makes more sense. If you like to cover lots of xc miles while still enjoying the descents then a short travel FS 29/27.5 would be a good choice. I don't think there is a do-all quiver killer bike for AK if year round riding is the goal. If you plan on riding in the winter a fatbike would should be high on the list. When I moved up here I had a 6" travel bike (SC Nomad) and thought It'd be ok for dabbling a bit on the DH stuff here at the resort. And it was fine for some light duty stuff and I still load it on the chairlift every now and then. When I had some extra $$$ I had to decide whether to buy a fatbike or a full on DH bike and the DH bike won. For me I like bombing runs and hitting jumps more than riding a fatbike. I'd rather just put on the XC skis or go for a backcountry ski at that point. But fatbikes are pretty fun. I'll admit my 6" bike is overkill for most of the trails on the Kenai and around Anchorage. But with the right rear shock it still pedals really well even though the geometry is a bit slack for steeper climbs. But when that trail starts dropping and I switch to full float on the shock and fork I forget all about that wagging front tire on the climb and wahoo! Ain't no bouncy tire going to take the place of 6" of preloaded and rebound dampened floatiness, 180mm rotors, and a 65 degree head tube angle. I can't recall the last time I hooted and hollered after a sweet climb. A feeling of accomplishment for sure, but for me, riding a great descent is what stands out as the crown of a great ride. It all comes back to your style and what you tend to focus on as fun. Cause fun is what it's really all about. Angles, travel, wheel size, tire size, carbon, aluminum, kashmina, inverted, dual reservoir, tubeless, bar width, rotor size, all pale in comparison to riding any bike on a sunny day with your friends on a well built trail with beers waiting in the river at the trail head. And if you happen to catch some reds in the Russian river before or after that ride you have taken fun to 11.
    "Speed focuses the mind. It cuts through the fog of drab everyday living and keeps us on our toes."

  11. #11
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    I have to second bigskyguy on this - buy the bike that suits you best. Fat bikes are cool - I have one. But only for winter riding. It gets hung up in the summer because it just can't compete with a proper mountain bike for the performance I want.

    Granted we are not Squamish or Whistler or PNW - I know it, I grew up in Southern BC. The trails up here are not the most techy but to say we have no long trail rides or techy singletrack is a bit misleading. I seem to recall working my 6" trail bike pretty good coming down the Primrose side of Lost Lake last summer. A Fatbike is not my first choice for a 25 min full on downhill singletrack at speed.

    If getting waaaaaaaay out into no mans land with a bike is your thing - finding deserted beaches and doing multi day adventures, etc.. then yeah, a fat bike may be the ticket. But a lot of people spend most of their time on a bike ripping local trails after work. And for that I don't think a fat bike is the best choice. It's not bad - just maybe not ideal.

    If you can only have one rig and you know you are going to ride a butt tonne in the winter then maybe it is a viable option for some. But if winter riding is a luxury and you find yourself on nordic skis or in the Alpine a lot then I would say that a trail bike will give a better ride quality in the summer.

    But again - its riding style. Like bigskyguy said -Bouncy tires do me (personally) no good at any kind of speed, I prefer the controlled feeling of adjustable rebound and compression so I don't get pogo sticked. But if your style suits a lot of rolling momentum and you don't mind dealing with the rotational forces in the corner then Fatties can be fun.
    -Ride it like you stole it

  12. #12
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    Fat bike for sure IMHO. I got rid of my full squish. On my third fat bike which is a 9ZERO7 carbon Whiteout. Here's an example why I love fat bikes, me and a buddy who was riding a full squish 29r went back to the Bird Creek trail and rode like crazy. He's a much stronger rider than me, but that trail is one rocky mess. I just aired my tires down and literally left him behind. Those tires can steam roll over anything more or less. Here's another example, I took the Whiteout to Maui this winter and bombed down the Haleakala Skyline Ridge trail. 18 Miles downhill from 10000 feet. Same thing, just aired the tires down and went. I was passing people with skinnier tires that were washing out on the many sections where there was very loose dirt and lava rock. Yeah, it all depends on what you want though. I snowboard, paddle board and do all kinds of stuff, but I like that I can leave from my front door anytime of year, hop on the bike and mash some trails or mash some beers at the local pub. Enjoy AK bro. No matter what you choose, I doubt you'll go wrong! My .02 Cheers! -Joe
    two wheel livin'..

  13. #13
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    Thanks for everyone that put their 2 cents in. I have already decided and bought 2014 Specialized Stumpjumper fsr comp 29 Carbon...now I just have to search for some good trails...If any you guys have suggestions then please share.

  14. #14
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    That's a great all-around bike.

    There are amazing epic trails on the peninsula on the way to Kenai/Seward/Homer, good trails right around Anchorage. As fun as winter-fatbiking is, I wouldn't want to ride a fatbike on some of those amazing endless singletrack trails, just way too much fun to not rip it on a regular FS bike.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    That's a great all-around bike.

    There are amazing epic trails on the peninsula on the way to Kenai/Seward/Homer, good trails right around Anchorage. As fun as winter-fatbiking is, I wouldn't want to ride a fatbike on some of those amazing endless singletrack trails, just way too much fun to not rip it on a regular FS bike.
    Hey jayem...will you tell me the names of the trails towards peninsula... thanks

  16. #16
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    Sounds like a real cool bike. Peninsula Trails in order from coolest to least coolest IMO.
    1) Lost Lake near Seward
    1 1/2) Gull Rock Trail from Hope is really cool, but about 20 miles too short.
    2) Johnson Pass
    3) Russian River trail as soon as it is clear and dry before it becomes jungle.
    4) Resurrection Pass/Devils Pass (a very nice and long singletrack system through great country.)

    Other cool rides of note:
    From Girdwood the Crow pass trail is open to bikes to the pass. Short, but when hooked up with the winner creek trail/hand tram, and Winner Creek North a very cool day.

    Have fun on that bike. Throw a picture up.
    "Having lack of self-preservation makes biking more fun."

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elfbkr50 View Post
    Sounds like a real cool bike. Peninsula Trails in order from coolest to least coolest IMO.
    1) Lost Lake near Seward
    1 1/2) Gull Rock Trail from Hope is really cool, but about 20 miles too short.
    2) Johnson Pass
    3) Russian River trail as soon as it is clear and dry before it becomes jungle.
    4) Resurrection Pass/Devils Pass (a very nice and long singletrack system through great country.)

    Other cool rides of note:
    From Girdwood the Crow pass trail is open to bikes to the pass. Short, but when hooked up with the winner creek trail/hand tram, and Winner Creek North a very cool day.

    Have fun on that bike. Throw a picture up.

    Should I worry about bears on any of these trails?

  18. #18
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    Here's the picture requested of my 2014 specialized stumpjumper fsr carbon 29
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails The right bike for most alaskan trails-20140322_213019_richtone-hdr-.jpg  


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    Quote Originally Posted by SYCOA View Post
    Should I worry about bears on any of these trails?
    There is a possibility of encountering bears (black and/or brown) on pretty much any trail in Alaska, even right in the middle of Anchorage. Really, more of the worst encounters are the ones in town due to the bears being more comfortable with people, thus letting them get closer before they react. When out in more remote areas, the bears tend to try to avoid humans for the most part and will usually give you a lot more room. The biggest issues come if you happen to get between a sow and cub or stumble across a moose kill site where a bear would be protecting their food. Actually, moose tend to be a bigger problem then bears.

    The odds of a bad encounter with either a moose or bear are very, very low when you look at the overall number of trips people take. Having said that, a good number of riders will carry some form of protection with them. Probably the most common form is bear spray. A smaller number of people will carry handguns. It really depends on what you have and what you feel comfortable with. It also depends on whether you feel there is sufficient need. Personally, I carry something more often when I am alone, but not usually if I am riding in a group.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by anchskier View Post
    There is a possibility of encountering bears (black and/or brown) on pretty much any trail in Alaska, even right in the middle of Anchorage. Really, more of the worst encounters are the ones in town due to the bears being more comfortable with people, thus letting them get closer before they react. When out in more remote areas, the bears tend to try to avoid humans for the most part and will usually give you a lot more room. The biggest issues come if you happen to get between a sow and cub or stumble across a moose kill site where a bear would be protecting their food. Actually, moose tend to be a bigger problem then bears.

    The odds of a bad encounter with either a moose or bear are very, very low when you look at the overall number of trips people take. Having said that, a good number of riders will carry some form of protection with them. Probably the most common form is bear spray. A smaller number of people will carry handguns. It really depends on what you have and what you feel comfortable with. It also depends on whether you feel there is sufficient need. Personally, I carry something more often when I am alone, but not usually if I am riding in a group.
    I was thinking of like a small bear spray. Something small and light to carry. Thanks

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by SYCOA View Post
    I was thinking of like a small bear spray. Something small and light to carry. Thanks
    That is by far the most popular way to go. People have come up with some pretty good systems for carrying them in easy to access locations (doesn't do much good in your pack). People have used water bottle cages and other types of handlebar mounts. Some will strap them to the shoulder strap of a camel back. If you are curious, just look around at other setups when you get up here.

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    Schaaaweeeet!! Nice choice

    I have a Stumpy FSR 29 Evo and it has been awesome. If you are looking for any bells and whistles (not that that bike needs any!) a Dropper post is totally worth it! IMHO
    -Ride it like you stole it

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    Don't forget to zip tie bear bells to your frame.

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