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  1. #1
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    Did I Buy the Wrong Bike? Santa Cruz Solo

    This past summer I bought my first new MTB in 10 years - a SC Solo. This is also my first full suspension bike. I've gotten a lot more serious about mountain biking and am riding 40-50 miles per week.

    The Solo is a 27.5 and has a 68* head tube angle. The problem is, I just can't get the front wheel to behave like I want. In tight corners the front end pushes out, it doesn't track like I think it should.

    In slower chunky tech stuff I frequently miss the line I want because the wheel again doesn't track on my intended line. This has led to a few over the handle bar crashes when the front wheel hit big rocks.

    I'm a middle aged guy that wants to do some racing and longer XC rides (30-40 miles). I do ride some chunky tech, but have no desire to run super fast, bash and crash down big drops.

    So, should I have gone with a bike with a more upright head tube angle?

  2. #2
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    What was your previous bike? It may be just a matter of getting used to the relatively slacker HA compared to your old 71 deg HT with 120 mm stem. Also check that you're getting proper sag on the fork and shock. If it's not settling into corners properly this will accentuate this pushing you've noticed.

    When I rode the 5010 at Interbike I thought it felt very sharp and quick handling.....especially compared to my normal bike which has a 65 deg HA. Everything's relative.
    Last edited by KRob; 11-15-2013 at 01:20 AM.
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  3. #3
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    Did I Buy the Wrong Bike? Santa Cruz Solo

    Bikes have changed a lot in ten years and you've made a hell of a change to new wheel size, FS, and new geometry.

    When I first get my 29 FS, I spent about a month plowing off trails, missing turns, and wrestling the front wheel down on climbs. Then I figured out how to use my body and move the bike around, and eventually I got it.

    The Solo is a great bike, and my guess is that you need to learn to ride it like a new bike instead of trying to ride it like your old bike. That might be presumptuous on my part, but it's just a guess.

    Good luck.

  4. #4
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    Did I Buy the Wrong Bike? Santa Cruz Solo

    I wouldn't rush to judgement. Since it's also your first full suspension bike, you'll have that learning curve in addition to adapting to a new bike. You didn't mention what your previous bike was, or how long you've been riding this one (I know you said summer, but I didn't think they've been widely available for all that long).

    If you aren't already, focus on keeping your weight over the BB (Lee McCormack's mantra of "heavy feet, light hands) and make sure you're looking ahead at where you want to go. I don't mean to suggest that you aren't doing that, but those techniques help address the symptoms you describe.

    In the end, if you don't like it, fair enough. But I would give yourself some more time to make that call, since there's almost always a cost to changing bikes.
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  5. #5
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    Good suggestions all.

    My old bike was a cheap Specialized Rockhopper that I rode mostly in the Northwest (wet and sticky). Now I'm in Arizona where it is dry, sandy and rocky). I guess I'm starting over on MTBing!

    I pre ordered the Solo based on demo rides of the Tallboy and the attractiveness of the 27.5. Mine was in the first shipment, so I got it in late July.

    I have experimented a lot with weight shifts, I've moved the stem down two spacers, I bought knobbier tires. I'm just not finding what is right!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkP View Post
    Good suggestions all.

    My old bike was a cheap Specialized Rockhopper that I rode mostly in the Northwest (wet and sticky). Now I'm in Arizona where it is dry, sandy and rocky). I guess I'm starting over on MTBing!

    I pre ordered the Solo based on demo rides of the Tallboy and the attractiveness of the 27.5. Mine was in the first shipment, so I got it in late July.

    I have experimented a lot with weight shifts, I've moved the stem down two spacers, I bought knobbier tires. I'm just not finding what is right!
    You made a huge upgrade from your old bike man. You just have to ride more until you get used to your new bike
    Last edited by Max24; 03-02-2015 at 07:34 PM.

  7. #7
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    Lots of good advice posted up there.

    Make sure your fork is where it needs to be in terms of tuning... That is a whole topic in of itself.

    Wider bars and slacker HTAs go together like cookies and milk. Make sure you've dumped your old narrow bars.

    Compared to older xc style bikes, where we rode'm hunched over the front end and steered the front end with the bars, trail bike are now a different animal entirely. A post above alluded to not steering with the hands. You've got to steer these trail bikes more with your body and by leaning the bike with its wider bars.

    Find a smooth trail with a lot of high speed turns and ride it over and over and over. Try different techniques. It will eventually click.

    Admittedly, bikes the days do not steer like old xc bikes with 71 degree head angles. But what you loose by a bit there, you'll gain exponentially in other areas.

  8. #8
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    Make sure your suspension is set up properly-balanced, tuned, etc.
    Common problem for "poor" front end handling is incorrectly set up rear suspension-too much sag, wallowing, etc. Or, rear is set too stiff and front is set too soft.
    You didn't buy the wrong bike, there's just a learning curve and a lot of variables with full suspension set up and how a bike will handle.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkP View Post
    Good suggestions all.

    My old bike was a cheap Specialized Rockhopper that I rode mostly in the Northwest (wet and sticky). Now I'm in Arizona where it is dry, sandy and rocky). I guess I'm starting over on MTBing!

    I pre ordered the Solo based on demo rides of the Tallboy and the attractiveness of the 27.5. Mine was in the first shipment, so I got it in late July.

    I have experimented a lot with weight shifts, I've moved the stem down two spacers, I bought knobbier tires. I'm just not finding what is right!
    move your center of gravity towards the handlebars, find where the bike is going to pivot and learn to ride your bike in that position, it will take a while. if you ski it's similar to learning how to carve turns instead of skidding turns.
    nothing witty here...

  10. #10
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    What tires are you running? I always ran the same tires on all my trail bikes, when I switched to 27.5, the most common tire was the Kenda Nevegals. With the Kenda' s, I had the same problems, blowing through corners, loss of traction, couldn't stay on my line, etc. After I switched to 2.25 Schwalbe RR' s, everything I knew about how the bike was suppose to ride was realized.
    I ride a converted SC Blur XCc, I love this bike more than any other bike I own or ridden.

  11. #11
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    I really appreciate all of the help and I'm glad to hear I probably don't need a different bike!

    To answer some questions and comment on a few points:

    - I need to work on turning the bike without steering the handle bars.
    - I do fine on the faster flowing corners. The problem is in the tighter stuff where I have to slow down.
    - I have worked on moving my weight forward and that does help some. Wonder if I should get a longer stem?
    - My new tires are Schwalbe Nobby Nic at 25 psi
    - I'm 170lbs geared up and front shock is at 65 psi, rear is 130 psi

  12. #12
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    Front and rear suspension psi will only help someone if they own the bike and know where you should be. Maybe someone can chime in.

    Until then...What you really need to look at is running about 25% sag. You can increase or decrease sag from this starting point. Also, too slow rebound is not good either. Try riding off of a curb while standing and weighting the front a bit more than rear. Dial out the rebound until it just starts to buck you up. Then dial down one to two clicks. Same for the rear but I would do it while sitting because I find I'm more sensitive to rebound while sitting and climbing and if it's too fast this is when I'd notice. When standing I can deal with a faster rebound and be ok.

  13. #13
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    shorter stem always and wide bars with in reason, it is all about body position and using your body to move the bike not the handle bars. The Solo is one of the best trail bikes out there so if you having problems it is your technique not the bike.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norman Clydesdale View Post
    Make sure your suspension is set up properly-balanced, tuned, etc.
    Common problem for "poor" front end handling is incorrectly set up rear suspension-too much sag, wallowing, etc. Or, rear is set too stiff and front is set too soft.
    You didn't buy the wrong bike, there's just a learning curve and a lot of variables with full suspension set up and how a bike will handle.
    Im thinking your answer is in this post.
    No moss...

  15. #15
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    Yep, I think I have too much rear sag, I bottom out the shock ring way more often than the front. That and my bike handling skills.

    Quote Originally Posted by jeffw-13 View Post
    Im thinking your answer is in this post.

  16. #16
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    I see you are in Scottsdale. We don't really have dirt or anything close to the tacky hero dirt conditions of the north west. It's all rock. I would describe north Scottsdale's decomposed granite trails like riding on a continuous pile of shattered tempered glass shards. Your bike is never connected to the trail. If you are not riding granite then you are riding square edged chunk. I use different cornering techniques in granite compared to riding the tacky soil near Flagstaff. I would guess it's your new terrain as much as it is your bike. Findig the right tire and tire pressure are critical. I run 25 psi front and 30 psi rear tubeless. Well balanced suspension with good small bump sensitivity is also important.

  17. #17
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    Def NOT the bike - low and slack is where it's at for railing corners. It really is all about technique and that's changed with the advent of wide bars and short stems. You cannot expect to just steer thru corners with that setup. Cornering is 70% technique, 20% tires and maybe 10% suspension setup. I can rail corners with my suspension set up all wrong so don't focus on that. If faster speeds and laying the bike way over is scary to you then go with a longer stem and weight the front tire more. Hans Dampf's are really good for cornering grip for guys that aren't aggressive and will be world's better for you than Nobby Nicks. Learning to lay the bike over and real aggro tires like High Roller 2's is where it's at tho with the Solo and it's wider bars, shorter stem. You'll become a much better rider but you have to be comfy going a lot faster.

    Having said that tho, the low BB and short chainstays of the Solo are a HUGE difference from what you're used to and not really beneficial for AZ type riding with all the rocks and chunk to deal with. A Bronson would have been a better, more stable choice because the longer chainstays keep the font end planted more and provide more stability at speed and it has a higher BB for better rock clearance.

    Have FUN!

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  18. #18
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    Good points... I was in Flag until 10/1, now on the granite.

    Can you elaborate on 'small bump sensitivity'?

    Quote Originally Posted by SiO2 View Post
    I see you are in Scottsdale. We don't really have dirt or anything close to the tacky hero dirt conditions of the north west. It's all rock. I would describe north Scottsdale's decomposed granite trails like riding on a continuous pile of shattered tempered glass shards. Your bike is never connected to the trail. If you are not riding granite then you are riding square edged chunk. I use different cornering techniques in granite compared to riding the tacky soil near Flagstaff. I would guess it's your new terrain as much as it is your bike. Findig the right tire and tire pressure are critical. I run 25 psi front and 30 psi rear tubeless. Well balanced suspension with good small bump sensitivity is also important.

  19. #19
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    Did I Buy the Wrong Bike? Santa Cruz Solo

    I had a buddy build up a Ti ElMariachi and it rode exactly the same. Not a fun bike to ride at all. He messed with it so much took all the fun out of the rides. Tried 3 different forks, different tires, stems, pretty much anything that affects handling. Thing rode like a truck. He just gave it back to the shop and QBC is warranting it (of course they said it was perfect). So sometimes it really is the bike.

  20. #20
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    how tall are you, which size frame did you get, how long is the stem on it, how wide are the bars and are you running tubeless?

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    Re: Did I Buy the Wrong Bike? Santa Cruz Solo

    Quote Originally Posted by 2w4s View Post
    move your center of gravity towards the handlebars, find where the bike is going to pivot and learn to ride your bike in that position, it will take a while. if you ski it's similar to learning how to carve turns instead of skidding turns.
    This.

    10 years ago you hang off the back.

    Now you ride with your hips WAY more forward. Very similar to skiing stance, except your bindings are pedals, and your poles are grips. Even the loading, weighting, and release are the same.

    Its not the bike.

  22. #22
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    I like the skiing comparison - I taught skiing and inline skating for years. You are right, my old habit is sliding my hips back when going in to the corners.

    I'm 6'0" with a 32" inseam, frame is large, stem is 70mm, bar is 750mm, tubeless.

    So, are you out of the saddle a lot to get forward?

  23. #23
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    Try going 50mm stem?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by JFD27 View Post
    Try going 50mm stem?
    This is opposite what I was thinking. Why shorter, what changes?

  25. #25
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    Did I Buy the Wrong Bike? Santa Cruz Solo

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkP View Post
    I like the skiing comparison - I taught skiing and inline skating for years. You are right, my old habit is sliding my hips back when going in to the corners
    There's your washout problem sorted. If you're a ski instructor, you know the drill- focus down the course, and move your hips and the bike around a stable core.
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  26. #26
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    the bike should fit you pretty good. you might try a shorter stem. thats helped me a lot. i just think a bigger wheel than youre used to, will take some time. seems yould have to turn sharper to get it to bite with a bigger wheel

    having a shorter stem, makes turning quicker/easier

    whats your sag like, front and rear? are you around 25%?

    also, lock out your suspension or put it in Climb mode, and try it. maybe its the suspension too thats helping you wash out, and youre just not used to it.

    or maybe not

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    Most of the previous posters told you more or less what you should do. Usually a FS bike if it is not properly tuned will not behave as expected. And when I say tuned I mean fork, shock and tyres pressure. And the slacker the head angle the better the bike will perform with a wider handlebar and even a shorter stem. For example in my 2013 Fuel that is similar to your bike (130 instead of 125mm and 26 instead of 27.5) i prefer better a 78mm handlebar vs. the stock one.

    And of course it is obviously a mater of evolving your technique as you move from a steeper XC bicycle to a more slacker trial or AM one.

  28. #28
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    I will leave this right here might be of some help.


  29. #29
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    Fabian is the MAN! Something he didn't mention tho is that you also pressure the outside hand on the bars while you're pressuring the outside pedal with your foot. This is why wider bars work - they give you even more leverage to pressure that outer grip and your front tire just will not wash if you do that (because you're driving the tire side knobs in to the dirt harder)! In fact that may be your biggest problem - you're trying to steer and not pressuring the outer grip and laying the bike over.

    Have FUN!

    G MAN

    PS - I've railed plenty of courses with completely BLOWN out shocks so don't focus on suspension being the main problem!!! It is technique which has changed from sit down steering to stand up laying the bike over (much like skiing as has been stated).
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  30. #30
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    EDIT: went back and read more of the thread and now, i think its an "all of the above" situation between body position/ technique and suspension tuning. Still, front end pushing badly like that is telltale sign of bad suspension tune

    yes, I agree with those that said this is most likely a suspension tuning issue.

    tuning suspension can be tricky. i learned how to get 60% of a theoretical perfectly tuned setup when i was new, but getting 95% of the way there really took me many years to learn. (I love to tinker but not so proud to claim I can get 100% there...impossible with most products anyways)

    In general, if you have stuff with high end dampers:
    - first set sag with 0 (least) compression and rebound damping. (start w/ 25% sag, fork and shock)...setting damping at 0 not 100% necessary but i like to do it to be sure ONLY the spring is at play
    - then set rebound damping. start with 100% all the way engaged and then go down until you can pre-load and bunny hop the bike in the driveway without it stealing the "pop" out of the bunny hop...this is somewhat specific to riding chunky trails at speed, but i also feel a good way to start in general...
    - then set compression damping. start halfway in and only reduce damping if it feels "dead" in the driveway; then just fine tune on the trail. dumming it down here but you can hopefully find the right level where one more click and the fork feels a bit harsh in the chunk and the next click down feels just right in the chunk. if you have separare low and high speed comp damping, dont make the mistake i did for years and under-utilize the low speed...they work together.

    The general idea is that a lot of the $ you spend on high end suspension is in the damper so put it to work! For many years I thought adding damping would make the fork feel harsh, but that is only true if youre really over-damped. Up until that point, the fork actually feels a bit more plush if youre at the right level (on trail in real riding conditions is not same as in driveway) since it is more controlled.

    Now if youre real heavy and charge hard, the bike simply may be a little on the spindly side for your riding, but still shouldn't cause the issues you describe.
    Last edited by ride the biscuit; 11-15-2013 at 02:10 PM.

  31. #31
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    Well you said you are pushing through corners right? a 50mm or direct mount will place your weight more towards the back of your bike thus taking weight away from the front wheel which could be causing the plowing? im just thinking out loud, maybe someone else can chime in.

  32. #32
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    Sounds like the OP needs to keep his weight up on the bike instead of back over the rear tire. The knobs on the front tire wont do a whole lot of good without being weighted into the dirt. GET LOW.

  33. #33
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    I've been away from the computer all day. Fantastic to get back and find all of the help, the video is awesome (no wonder I'm screwed up, I've got it all wrong)!!

    Reps all around, thanks again guys!

  34. #34
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    Some pointers:
    130PSI is way too low. I am guessing it should be around 160-170 for your weight. Santa Cruz does provide this information, did you look at the manual that came with the bike? That's a starting point, then you have to set the sag on both shock and fork. Very easy to do.

    At 6' on a large frame you may not like a shorter stem, especially if you think you need to move your weight forward. The bars are good size too. I would leave both alone for now.

    Bikes with slacker head tube will not steer as quickly as the steeper cross country bikes, no matter how you set them up. That's the geometry of a modern trail bike and it's a good thing once you get used to it. You have to get used to force the bike more to do what you want. More aggressive in the turns.

    Sad thing to say, if you demoed a tallboy and liked it, you probably should have got it.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkP View Post
    I really appreciate all of the help and I'm glad to hear I probably don't need a different bike!

    To answer some questions and comment on a few points:

    - I need to work on turning the bike without steering the handle bars.
    - I do fine on the faster flowing corners. The problem is in the tighter stuff where I have to slow down.
    - I have worked on moving my weight forward and that does help some. Wonder if I should get a longer stem?
    - My new tires are Schwalbe Nobby Nic at 25 psi
    - I'm 170lbs geared up and front shock is at 65 psi, rear is 130 psi
    You'll likely get different advice on the leaning the weight forward issue.

    While it seems counter-intuitive I'd say don't put more weight forward to get the bike to turn. Yes, there are times when that is need, but over all that mentality is more of a throwback to the steep HTA days. Turn slacker bikes more with your hips and butt. I find simply putting more weight up front, without a good lean, will make the front tire "push" in turns.

    Think about downhill guys with super short stems and super slack HTAs. They have no problem cornering.

    Where newer, slacker bikes don't corner as well as older xc style bikes is during pedaling. A xc geo shines in that it allows you to remain in a strong, seated, pedaling position and still carve up corners. Slacker gone seems to require steering from the hips and butt and leaning the bike over. The unweighting of your hips and butt and leaning of the bike takes you out of your seated power pedaling position. That's is what I find I loose when moving to slacker geo. Not bad, just different.

  36. #36
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    Yes, you bought the wrong bike.

    Send it to me.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  37. #37
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    You are correct on the shock PSI, I'm correcting that for my ride today.

    I had some cornering issues with the TB also, but I thought it was the 29" wheels so I waited for the 27.5 bike. At the time I didn't understand the small HTA differences and how they would impact handling.

    I think most of this is about how I'm riding the bike. I have new skills to learn!

    Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    Some pointers:
    130PSI is way too low. I am guessing it should be around 160-170 for your weight. Santa Cruz does provide this information, did you look at the manual that came with the bike? That's a starting point, then you have to set the sag on both shock and fork. Very easy to do.

    At 6' on a large frame you may not like a shorter stem, especially if you think you need to move your weight forward. The bars are good size too. I would leave both alone for now.

    Bikes with slacker head tube will not steer as quickly as the steeper cross country bikes, no matter how you set them up. That's the geometry of a modern trail bike and it's a good thing once you get used to it. You have to get used to force the bike more to do what you want. More aggressive in the turns.

    Sad thing to say, if you demoed a tallboy and liked it, you probably should have got it.

  38. #38
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    OK guys, just back from a ride in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve and I'm psyched!

    Cornering was vastly improved - standing, leaning the bike, turning hips and shoulders into the corner. I blew it on plenty of turns, but I got enough turns right to see how it all works. Faster and powering out of the corners = really fun!

    Thanks again for the help!

  39. #39
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    what % of sag do you have, front and rear?

    ps, dont forget to put up pics of your new ride, or the mtb gargoyles will pay you a nasty visit!

  40. #40
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    Read Lee McCormak's response to this ?. Tons of good info on his site as well.


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  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkP View Post
    I really appreciate all of the help and I'm glad to hear I probably don't need a different bike!

    To answer some questions and comment on a few points:

    - I do fine on the faster flowing corners. The problem is in the tighter stuff where I have to slow down.
    Bigger wheels means a bigger turning radius. Probably just need more practice getting used to the bigger wheels and learning to compensate for them.
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  42. #42
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    Bigger wheels have zero effect on turning radius. Now a longer wheelbase you could argue that point but not if the wheelbase is the same!!! The wheelbase on a Solo is rather short and that thing can turn on a dime!

    Have FUN!

    G MAN
    "There's two shuttles, one to the top and one to the hospital" I LOVE this place!!!

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gman086 View Post
    Bigger wheels have zero effect on turning radius. Now a longer wheelbase you could argue that point but not if the wheelbase is the same!!! The wheelbase on a Solo is rather short and that thing can turn on a dime!

    Have FUN!

    G MAN
    On curves, I would probably agree but on tight switchbacks I think you will notice a difference.

    If you change wheel size on a car and nothing else, the turning radius is affected. I would assume the same thing would happen with a bike, except, in curves, any difference can be negated with technique and lean.

    You got some science to back your claim? Everything I read about the 27.5 claims they do not handle the tight stuff as good as a 26 inch wheel size.
    1990 Schwinn Sierra MOS
    2011 Santa Cruz Chameleon
    2012 Cannondale Claymore 2

  44. #44
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    Try also to play around with your rebound. My bicycle performance was vastly improved when I also dialed the rebound. Personally I am a heavy rider (110 kgs) so both my fork and shock run high pressures. So when I was setting my rebound based on the generic aporoach that "the faster the rebound without kicking you off the bike the better it is" the bicycle was becoming too nervous for me. But once I set the rebound a little slower the bicycle became much more stable.

    Please lets don't start a "fast vs. slow rebound" debate since this is just my personal experience.

  45. #45
    App-a-LATCH-un
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paris Galanis View Post
    Please lets don't start a "fast vs. slow rebound" debate since this is just my personal experience.
    Thread killer

    Really though, I would run the suspension more "stable" until you get use to the monkey motion.
    Fifty-two, I mean fifty-four bicycles on the wall
    Ready to ride, ready to ride until the last of them falls

  46. #46
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    on the subject of moving your weight forward, try mving a spacer from under the stem to over the stem... you will be suprise how much a 5mm make a difference on putting weight on the front wheel.
    expensive cars are a waste of money. Expensive bikes...not so much!

  47. #47
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    Buy the book "Mastering mountain bike skills" by Lee McCormick. Great read. Its like an instruction manual for the things you should be doing while riding.

    You can also get yourself in a local clinic to get your fundamentals on point.

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkP View Post
    - I do fine on the faster flowing corners. The problem is in the tighter stuff where I have to slow down.
    I've only skimmed through this thread so sorry if this suggestion has already been brought up. Your new bike has a slacker head angle than your older one so slow speed steering will suffer a bit. Practice doing some figure eights in the driveway and very tight circles. It's fun and helps improve your slow speed balance as well as just getting used to how this fancy new bike rides. Good luck!

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkP View Post
    - I need to work on turning the bike without steering the handle bars.
    - I do fine on the faster flowing corners. The problem is in the tighter stuff where I have to slow down.
    - I have worked on moving my weight forward and that does help some. Wonder if I should get a longer stem?
    Those 750mm bars might be too wide for you. I recent chopped my 750 bars down to around 720 and made a huge difference for me in the tight twisty stuff. I found the wide bars was hindering my ability to lean the bike and restricting my side to side movement in tight turns.

    Play around with moving your grips in closer in on those 750mm bars and finding a sweet spot you like with handle bar length. Don't cut them right away just move the grips in a little and do a bunch of rides with different lengths.

    Everyone always preaches wider is better but that in not always the case.

  50. #50
    The Next 100 Miler
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    Thanks again guys, all good suggestions. I did a private skills lesson yesterday and all of your comments are right on - including the bars may be too wide.

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