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  1. #1
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    Downhill Speed: How much is due to suspension, tires (Yes, rider skill matters most)

    It's interesting what patterns you can see when you have quantitative data through apps like Strava.

    I've been riding my mid-90s Kona hardtail. I was sure that it would climb decently well, but I've been surprised to see that my downhill times on a not too rocky, not too steep trail that I ride regularly are not too far off of my PRs on a full suspension bike. That's with a late 90's 70mm travel Marzocchi Z-2 Atom Bomb fork.

    Downhill Speed: How much is due to suspension, tires (Yes, rider skill matters most)-img_0121.jpg

    One change I made when I rebuilt this bike about two years ago was to put a 3C MaxxTerra DH-F tire on the front (Yes, the picture has Trail Kings which I swapped out for the far better cornering DH-Fs). The difference that DH-F has made in than handling and cornering ability of this bike is just night-and-day better compared to the Panaracer Fire XC Pro tires that were on bike when I last rode it frequently in 2000 and Specialized Team Control/Master tires.

    I also shortened the stem from 110mm to 70mm with a low riser bar which surprisingly works great and improves the fore-aft handling balance.

    I will say that my full suspension bike definitely has a larger tolerance for rider error. I can tell my hardtail Kona might not regain traction as easily if I happen to overstep its limits.

    Thoughts on the impact of full suspension versus upgrading to modern tires?
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  2. #2
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    Key words: Not too rocky. If you want the advantages of travel you need some stuff to travel over.

  3. #3
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    One thing that does affect my mountain biking enjoyment is my bike.

    One thing that does not is my strava time.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrashbarg View Post
    One thing that does affect my mountain biking enjoyment is my bike.

    One thing that does not is my strava time.
    I will say that I like riding my FS bike more. Much more comfortable as my body gets older.

    My point wasn't as much about the Strava time as it was about my surprise that my hardtail was anywhere near as fast of a descender as my FS bikes.
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  5. #5
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    Rocks, roots and jumps make me highly prefer full suspension.

    You can ride old aggressive tires. Rampage or something like that. You'll get down fine. But if you take away my modern fork and shock I'll be really upset.
    Quote Originally Posted by Schulze View Post
    Key words: Not too rocky. If you want the advantages of travel you need some stuff to travel over.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spectre View Post
    I will say that I like riding my FS bike more. Much more comfortable as my body gets older.

    My point wasn't as much about the Strava time as it was about my surprise that my hardtail was anywhere near as fast of a descender as my FS bikes.
    I personally think that most people ride bikes that are WAY over biked. Really. Most suspension is just for comfort for us old folks and to keep us from hurting ourselves.

    ps. Beautiful Kona. Loved those bikes and the Z2 was, and still is, a great fork.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vespasianus View Post
    I personally think that most people ride bikes that are WAY over biked. Really. Most suspension is just for comfort for us old folks and to keep us from hurting ourselves.
    I find paradox in these statements. Or is it self-explanation? I'm not sure.

    Anyway individual riding style determines "how much bike" is appropriate. A given trail ridden at a given speed may not require a bigger bike but increase rider skill, speed & the commitment to alt lines and perhaps a different rider will utilize all of the bigger bike's capabilities.

    For example as a rider I didn't discover my leaping capabilities until I acquired a bike with more capable suspension (as well as geometry). Prior to owning the bigger bike, I considered anyone riding such a machine over biked.

    These days the bike's capabilities determine what I do with the trail, not the other way 'round. FWIW I'm 64.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    I find paradox in these statements. Or is it self-explanation? I'm not sure.

    Anyway individual riding style determines "how much bike" is appropriate. A given trail ridden at a given speed may not require a bigger bike but increase rider skill, speed & the commitment to alt lines and perhaps a different rider will utilize all of the bigger bike's capabilities.

    For example as a rider I didn't discover my leaping capabilities until I acquired a bike with more capable suspension (as well as geometry). Prior to owning the bigger bike, I considered anyone riding such a machine over biked.

    These days the bike's capabilities determine what I do with the trail, not the other way 'round. FWIW I'm 64.
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    If that bike gets similar times to a modern FS it must be a pretty easy trail. Ride a harder trail and compare.

    I agree with sparticus. Over or underbiked is in the eye of the beholder. The same track can be shredded differently on different steeds and skills.


    My bike snobbery is is opposite to Vespasianus. I ride my daily ride is 165/180mm and i love it on all trails. I can ride the easy trails all the way up to full blown dh tracks. I look at someone on a smaller travel bike and see that they are potentially missing out on riding lines and track that there bikes are not capable of riding.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by plummet View Post
    If that bike gets similar times to a modern FS it must be a pretty easy trail.
    This. My hardtail 'feels' faster than my full-sus but it really isn't. Not even on tame trails. If you were to really push it there would be no comparison. The full-sus would be quick to the bottom and the hardtail would be lucky to stay on the trail!

  10. #10
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    What trail are you riding?

    I should try it on my 1997 VooDoo with a Z2 on it. It has an ancient Ritchey Z-max on the front and a Panaracer Fire Pro on the back. I still like the Z-max.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by plummet View Post
    If that bike gets similar times to a modern FS it must be a pretty easy trail. Ride a harder trail and compare.
    Trail knowledge plays a lot into this as well. If you know every little feature you can make up for difficiencies in the bike.


    Strava times arenít really as valuable as you might think though. Especially when comparing PRs. There are so many variables that come into play on a single ride that you canít control for. Having said that though, I agree that for most trails most people are overbiked as they havenít reached their max skill level yet. Skill trumps bike setup in the same way that fitness (and body weight) trumps bike weight.

    (Note that Iím not trying to say anything about anyoneís personal skill level here, Iím just talking about the concept.)

    * I didnít notice the full title until after I posted due to my tablets small screen
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott2MTB View Post
    Trail knowledge plays a lot into this as well. If you know every little feature you can make up for difficiencies in the bike.
    That is absolutely true for me on this trail. I know this trail REALLY well. I think the key difference riding my older hardtail compared to the FS bike is a larger tolerance of less than perfect riding on the FS bike. The DH-F front tire works as well on the hardtail as it does on my FS bike, but it seemed that any error in line choice or getting knocked off line on the hardtail seemed magnified in impact as opposed to the same event happening on an FS bike. Because I know this trail really well, I pretty much knew what line to take and what to expect.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curveball View Post
    What trail are you riding?

    I should try it on my 1997 VooDoo with a Z2 on it. It has an ancient Ritchey Z-max on the front and a Panaracer Fire Pro on the back. I still like the Z-max.
    This is on the Grand Ridge trail coming down from the Highlands. My guess was that tire cornering traction and confidence in that tire when cornering is probably the most important variable in going faster on Grand Ridge given how generally smooth that trail is and the amount of cornering speed you can generate on that trail. I think that being able to go almost as fast on a hardtail as on a FS bike is proof of that for me. I know that switching my front tire from a Trail King to a DH-F increased my speed on that trail by a large margin. The Trail King tended to wash out unexpectedly when pushed hard. The DH-F doesn't unless you do something really dumb.
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  14. #14
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    I brake for bumps and things that would look like hucks if I were going too fast, due to habits I picked up while riding my HT. I am nowhere close to hitting the limits of the FS bikes I've ridden. Some FS bikes were faster than others, like the Yeti SB6c; I got the feeling of the bike getting away from me because it was so fast. I did not feel worthy, considering that I was riding it on very tame trails where managing speed and traction in curves were really the only challenges.

    I find that tires give the bike its personality. I feel right at home if I'm running the same tire combo on a totally diff FS bike. The bike frame would need some extreme geo to feel undeniable performance differences, maybe a 70+mm change in wheelbase. The shittier the suspension on my bike, the more I make up for it with my body; the higher quality the suspension, the less effort I tend to put out.

    If I were riding some place unfamiliar, I'd most likely opt for plenty of suspension to take a load off my body to prepare for rough terrain. Something less weight weenie too, as I find myself holding back in order to not make the ride excessively costly.

  15. #15
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    Tires are the most important piece of equipment in mountain biking

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  16. #16
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    yeah...I thought I'd be overbiked adding a 160r/170f bike to the quiver

    nah

    I'm hitting PR's on chunk, but also PR's everywhere else,
    [except pavement, and boring climbs....my hardtail rules those]
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by coolwasabi View Post
    I am nowhere close to hitting the limits of the FS bikes I've ridden.
    I think that's a good point. A full-sus has the potential to go much faster than a hardtail, why wouldn't it? Our ability to exploit that potential is a different matter.

  18. #18
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    An aggressive ht allows you to ride most trails out there...

    Plus, you'll reach your limit sooner... which means you'll progress/adapt quicker - no...??

    Surely skill development trumps speed/comfort ;-)

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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schulze View Post
    Key words: Not too rocky. If you want the advantages of travel you need some stuff to travel over.
    Quote Originally Posted by 127.0.0.1 View Post
    yeah...I thought I'd be overbiked adding a 160r/170f bike to the quiver

    nah

    I'm hitting PR's on chunk, but also PR's everywhere else,
    [except pavement, and boring climbs....my hardtail rules those]
    Yep. 160/170 is the new 140. It's awesome.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spectre View Post
    The DH-F doesn't unless you do something really dumb.
    Are you calling me dumb because I wash out the DHF on my FS bike?

    Yeah, GR really doesn't demand much from the bike at all and I can see where tire grip would be a bigger factor there than suspension. Now I want to ride my VooDoo there. I could probably find a 26-inch DHF for it on Craigslist.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curveball View Post
    Are you calling me dumb because I wash out the DHF on my FS bike?
    Some days I start off dumb before Mother Earth knocks some sense into me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Curveball View Post
    Yeah, GR really doesn't demand much from the bike at all and I can see where tire grip would be a bigger factor there than suspension. Now I want to ride my VooDoo there. I could probably find a 26-inch DHF for it on Craigslist.
    The way I think of GR is what factor is limiting me from going 25, 30, 40 mph or faster and cornering grip seems to be it (along with cojones). With pretty much no one else out there on rainy winter mornings before 9:00am or so, it's like a track day but with a mountain bike. The minimal amount of 70mm suspension provided by the old Z-2 Atom Bomb is probably just enough to keep the front tire from getting knocked offline too much given that GR is pretty smooth. You should take your Voodoo there for a change of pace. Definitely need to be on it more than when riding a more forgiving FS bike.
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  22. #22
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    DH times are never too far off IME. An experienced and skilled DH rider can ride damn near any bike within a few fractions of their DH bike and it takes a pretty damn steep and rough track to actually make the DH bike faster.

    I was racing a hardtail a few seasons ago in the XC series and on the extended downhills, through roots, rough, drops, etc. I was being pounded and I felt my body just couldn't take it, but also felt super sketchy, younger guys have no problem getting pounded and riding at those speeds. Ultimately, I wasn't losing speed on those sections, but I didn't feel as in control as I'd like.

    Last year, one of our season-capping races was around a relatively short flow track (5 miles) complete with jumps , doubles, table tops, etc. I finished 2nd behind the local pro that is now traveling all over on the circuit. I generally like riding my AM bike more, but my XC bike is faster on all but the nastiest DH-park type terrain. My point is you can't make up for a lighter faster bike by just "going harder". I don't think as many people get to really experience what it's like to ride a light bike fast, and it's a blast. People are pulled way back into the hugely-slack mega-travel categories, and that's fine, but riding a 24lb XC FS bike with a dropper and good-sized tires is like driving a ferrari to some extent. You bring more speed into the corners, so you end up cornering faster. You can often accelerate uphill and pop off of every little terrain feature due to having so much more speed and acceleration. You get to whip back and forth super-fast due to the head angle and momentum. On the DHs, it's easier to make jumps and doubles, you just have to occasionally watch out that you don't overshoot something too much, since it's easier to do. But overall, you aren't as limited as far as DH speed as you'd think.

    The other thing is that there are a lot of good descenders in the XC expert and higher ranks. Many of these guys do multiple disciplines, like enduro, DH, etc. I'd say that many cat 2 racers never really get to see this, they are usually stuck in a crowd that either lacks significant tech skills, or lacks significant athletic ability. Either one of these creates bottlenecks and you never really get to see the high end expert racers descending together. I'd wager that the expert racers ride their XC bikes downhill faster than a cat 2 enduro/DH racer would ride an enduro/DH bike down a moderately rough track. The extent to which they push their bikes is mind-boggling. Most places I've raced in the Western US involved descents where I'd rather be on my AM bike, but on many of those same descents I'm not giving up much, if anything, on the XC bike.
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  23. #23
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    Never use strava but over the years I have found 150ish FS is much preferred for the New England singletrack I ride. At 58 I still push myself hard...my last hardtail was in my early 40's and I have no desire to go back. There is some really boney sh*t around here and I have things set up so I use entire travel for fork and shock on every ride. The trails are also tight with many steep technical climbs but I've found that my big-assed XL framed FS Kona with 2.5 X 27.5 is still plenty maneuverable and climbs surprisingly well.

    So much fun on knarly rocky sections how todays bikes just blast through the terrain...the slacker head tube increases confidence and allows me to be a little more aggressive. Takes some tweaking to get rebound/damping correct but once you find the sweet spot...awesome. Going tubeless with proper tires has also been a big factor in terrain feel and improved traction. Maxxis High Roller II's and most recently DHF Minion's have been awesome for me.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    I was racing a hardtail a few seasons ago in the XC series and on the extended downhills, through roots, rough, drops, etc. I was being pounded and I felt my body just couldn't take it, but also felt super sketchy, younger guys have no problem getting pounded and riding at those speeds. Ultimately, I wasn't losing speed on those sections, but I didn't feel as in control as I'd like.
    That's exactly the reason why I wouldn't go back to riding a hardtail as my main bike. I can feel that it takes a lot more energy and concentration to ride the hardtail. Especially for longer rides, the FS bike allows me to take a more "cruise control" attitude so I don't have to be so focused all the time on what the bike is doing.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by sturge View Post
    Never use strava but over the years I have found 150ish FS is much preferred for the New England singletrack I ride. At 58 I still push myself hard...my last hardtail was in my early 40's and I have no desire to go back. There is some really boney sh*t around here and I have things set up so I use entire travel for fork and shock on every ride. The trails are also tight with many steep technical climbs but I've found that my big-assed XL framed FS Kona with 2.5 X 27.5 is still plenty maneuverable and climbs surprisingly well.

    So much fun on knarly rocky sections how todays bikes just blast through the terrain...the slacker head tube increases confidence and allows me to be a little more aggressive. Takes some tweaking to get rebound/damping correct but once you find the sweet spot...awesome. Going tubeless with proper tires has also been a big factor in terrain feel and improved traction. Maxxis High Roller II's and most recently DHF Minion's have been awesome for me.
    I used to ride in the NY/CT/NJ area and full suspension is definitely helpful with all of the rocks in the NE.
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by targnik View Post
    An aggressive ht allows you to ride most trails out there...

    Plus, you'll reach your limit sooner... which means you'll progress/adapt quicker - no...??

    Surely skill development trumps speed/comfort ;-)
    Depends. My skill progressed to the point where I started breaking stuff (and myself) on a hardtail. The same things I rode the following year on an eight inch DH bike, more quickly and in more control. If I'm going to case a jump, I know which bike I'd rather be on...

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by targnik View Post
    An aggressive ht allows you to ride most trails out there...

    Plus, you'll reach your limit sooner... which means you'll progress/adapt quicker - no...??

    Surely skill development trumps speed/comfort ;-)

    'Born to ride!'
    Man, I dunno about that. I've been forced back onto my HT for the summer while I'm between FS frames. That HT is a bike I've loved dearly for the past 5 years -- a steel Kona Honzo. My dearly departed FS GG Pistola was not only way more comfortable than the Honzo, it was also so much more capable that my aerobatic skills developed quite rapidly in ways they never would have aboard the HT.

    We can learn and push ourselves on anything; I guess line picking is the one skill that the HT does foster best. In the end I think both bikes have their place but whenever it's not raining / muddy here in the PNWet, I'll ride my FS bike and hit the blacks / alt lines / riskier stuff, still learning despite the comfort.
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  28. #28
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    I have found my long, low, slack, steel, 27.5+ hardtail is not far off from my Knolly Endorphin and Warden times on many trails. Some of these trails are smoothish and I expected the HT to be just as fast, but lots aren't and this surprised me. I don't find myself picking different lines, especially since I bumped up the tire pressure a bit.
    I got some bad ideas in my head.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Pig View Post
    This. My hardtail 'feels' faster than my full-sus but it really isn't. Not even on tame trails. If you were to really push it there would be no comparison. The full-sus would be quick to the bottom and the hardtail would be lucky to stay on the trail!
    Pig what is your average speed downhill with a hardtail vs. FS?
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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    Pig what is your average speed downhill with a hardtail vs. FS?
    I have no idea. I have never used a computer etc on a mountain bike and not used one on the road for years either. I do ride the same trails with same guys often though and I know the full-sus is actually faster but feels slower.

    It depends on the trail too I guess. A few months ago I rode down a fairly smooth but loose forest track at the same time as two guys on enduro bikes. I was on my hard-tail. I'd seen them earlier in the day on trails further up the hill and they were going pretty quickly. It just so happened we headed down the track to the car-park at the same time, I was next to them chatting near the top and then...they were left behind. I was going pretty fast for a loose trail, guessing thirty to forty, but I'm used to it so comfortable. I guess they weren't.

    My point is that there are loads of variables but there is no technical reason why a hard-tail would be able to go down any kind of hill faster than a full-sus, all else being equal. It has no advantage over a bike with suspension.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Pig View Post
    I do ride the same trails with same guys often though and I know the full-sus is actually faster but feels slower.
    This actually makes a lot of sense. A hardtail ridden at its limit and a full suspension ridden at its limit over rough terrain will feel the same. That's at max possible speed. Things like turns, jumps and self preservation get in the way of hitting max speed. Since the hardtail's max speed will be lower than the full suspension's things will feel slightly more out of control, can be perceived as faster, on the hardtail.

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  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by targnik View Post
    An aggressive ht allows you to ride most trails out there...

    Plus, you'll reach your limit sooner... which means you'll progress/adapt quicker - no...??

    Surely skill development trumps speed/comfort ;-)

    'Born to ride!'
    No, there's the whole mental side to it. A big get off that could have been saved via suspension can introduce a mental setback someone may never get past. It's a balancing act.

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  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by targnik View Post
    An aggressive ht allows you to ride most trails out there...

    Plus, you'll reach your limit sooner... which means you'll progress/adapt quicker - no...??

    Surely skill development trumps speed/comfort ;-)

    'Born to ride!'
    To add to what other people say, I would point out that the technique you use on an HT inít the same as the FS bike (ie. ďriding the front wheelĒ) so the lines you pick arenít necessarily the same - s maxing out ďsoonerĒ isnít really comparing like to like. You are still building skills but not always the same skills - as you need to learn to see the line for the bike youíre on. Same goes with different wheels sizes, geo, etc. For me thatís the fun in it.

  34. #34
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    Re, speed... I've not long had a Mini GPS from Lezyne.

    Here's some data from yesterday's ride.

    7 of us on the trail, so lots of standing around & waiting...

    35km/h ain't to shabby on tight, twisty single track.

    TBH, would've been on the jump line. Still I'll take it ;-)

    HT FTW!!Downhill Speed: How much is due to suspension, tires (Yes, rider skill matters most)-_20180709_122749.jpg

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  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Bickle View Post
    I have found my long, low, slack, steel, 27.5+ hardtail is not far off from my Knolly Endorphin and Warden times on many trails. Some of these trails are smoothish and I expected the HT to be just as fast, but lots aren't and this surprised me. I don't find myself picking different lines, especially since I bumped up the tire pressure a bit.
    Oh hell I'm pretty sure I can go nearly as fast on my HT Honzo as I could on my FS Pistola (based on chasing or leading me buds) but I sure as hell didn't like doing so much and probably couldn't stay with it for too long. Even with a well dialed 160mm Fox 36 mounted to the front of Mr. Honzo, it kicks a bit.

    I dunno about split times, tho. Never raced myself on both bikes at the same time so I've got nothing to compare. Not addicted to Strava, don't want to be.

    Not arguing with anything you said, Travis.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spectre View Post
    It's interesting what patterns you can see when you have quantitative data through apps like Strava.

    I've been riding my mid-90s Kona hardtail. I was sure that it would climb decently well, but I've been surprised to see that my downhill times on a not too rocky, not too steep trail that I ride regularly are not too far off of my PRs on a full suspension bike. That's with a late 90's 70mm travel Marzocchi Z-2 Atom Bomb fork.

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    One change I made when I rebuilt this bike about two years ago was to put a 3C MaxxTerra DH-F tire on the front (Yes, the picture has Trail Kings which I swapped out for the far better cornering DH-Fs). The difference that DH-F has made in than handling and cornering ability of this bike is just night-and-day better compared to the Panaracer Fire XC Pro tires that were on bike when I last rode it frequently in 2000 and Specialized Team Control/Master tires.

    I also shortened the stem from 110mm to 70mm with a low riser bar which surprisingly works great and improves the fore-aft handling balance.

    I will say that my full suspension bike definitely has a larger tolerance for rider error. I can tell my hardtail Kona might not regain traction as easily if I happen to overstep its limits.

    Thoughts on the impact of full suspension versus upgrading to modern tires?
    I often compare my rigid 29er to everyone else. It's very trail dependent.
    On smooth trails, it all comes down to fitness. Technique and equipment is secondary.
    On descents, I find I can still go pretty fast, but chatter in the turns or an extended rock garden makes me slow down.
    Small drops have no effect.
    Short root or rock sections I can often manual or clear with extra speed, so no effect there either.
    Tight turns? No effect.
    When the chunk just keeps coming, I reach my limit pretty fast and I have no business being near the front.
    I would say that my 2.4/2.5 tires make a diff. from 2.1-2.3. But the one trip where I rode a 5" bike I knew I was going much faster due to my ability to stick in the corners and pick more daring lines (and get away with a few judgemental lapses) - of course, those trails had the perfect combination of chunk, roots, chattery turns, and other features that made FS shine.

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    Have you guys ever watched World Cup downhill? There is no way that those guys and girls could do what they do on a mid 90's hardtail with a mid 90's 70mm fork. It is crazy to think they could even make it to the bottom if they tried to do it at speed on an old hardtail.

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    Yep, longer travel full suspension bike is faster even it might feel slower. I did a test ride with 3 of my bikes on familiar 1.3 km route containing up- and downhill, technical and easy sections. I think the route didn't favour any bike more than other and represent average terrain around here. I rode two loops with every bike and recorded it all with actioncam. Accurate time is easy to measure later with video editing program. To prove and visualize the results I did make this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V8SLAEuTII


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    Quote Originally Posted by Turner2 View Post
    Have you guys ever watched World Cup downhill? There is no way that those guys and girls could do what they do on a mid 90's hardtail with a mid 90's 70mm fork. It is crazy to think they could even make it to the bottom if they tried to do it at speed on an old hardtail.
    That might be what others are saying, but my original statement was that I was surprised that a hardtail would be as fast as a FS bike going downhill on even a fairly smooth trail:

    "I've been surprised to see that my downhill times on a not too rocky, not too steep trail that I ride regularly are not too far off of my PRs on a full suspension bike."

    For me, I've forgotten how much of the trail a FS bike smooths out compared to riding a hardtail.
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    Your original statement was this:

    Downhill Speed: How much is due to suspension, tires
    I dare say if it is a real downhill course we are talking about then suspension is vital.

    If you are surprised that your hardtail can go fast down a smooth trail, you shouldn't be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spectre View Post
    That might be what others are saying, but my original statement was that I was surprised that a hardtail would be as fast as a FS bike going downhill on even a fairly smooth trail:
    As long as you can maintain traction it should be about as quick as a FS. Suspension helps with proper tracking through terrain (maintaining the contact patch) and fatigue. If those aren't an issue on the hardtail, it should be nearly as fast or faster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Turner2 View Post
    Your original statement was this:



    I dare say if it is a real downhill course we are talking about then suspension is vital.

    If you are surprised that your hardtail can go fast down a smooth trail, you shouldn't be.
    I was surprised at the measured speed on Strava given how much bumpier the same speed felt on a hardtail compared to the FS bike I usually ride. My subjective impression would have been that I was nowhere near as fast on the hardtail as I am normally on a FS bike. Again as you and others have said, I know that hardtails can keep up only to a certain level of trail roughness.
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    Smooth trails, you might not see much difference but for me, time decreased and speed increased dramatically. Going over 30mph on some sections and I can't imagine going speed that I'm going on rock garden downhill with my hardtail.

    I'm not that skillful rider but hardtail and chunky rock garden, I can still ride but it just won't be fun and it's going to be really slow run.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Pig View Post
    I have no idea. I have never used a computer etc on a mountain bike and not used one on the road for years either. I do ride the same trails with same guys often though and I know the full-sus is actually faster but feels slower.

    It depends on the trail too I guess. A few months ago I rode down a fairly smooth but loose forest track at the same time as two guys on enduro bikes. I was on my hard-tail. I'd seen them earlier in the day on trails further up the hill and they were going pretty quickly. It just so happened we headed down the track to the car-park at the same time, I was next to them chatting near the top and then...they were left behind. I was going pretty fast for a loose trail, guessing thirty to forty, but I'm used to it so comfortable. I guess they weren't.

    My point is that there are loads of variables but there is no technical reason why a hard-tail would be able to go down any kind of hill faster than a full-sus, all else being equal. It has no advantage over a bike with suspension.
    30 to 40 km/h? So 18-25 mph downhill? That's pretty much high-intermediate level/low expert-pro level of downhill mph here (it's pretty rocky so they can't go super fast here). I average a beginner level of 10-12 mph. The fastest I've seen here on a real trail is around 30 mph downhill; it's uncommon here, too much loose dirt and rocks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spectre View Post
    I was surprised at the measured speed on Strava given how much bumpier the same speed felt on a hardtail compared to the FS bike I usually ride. My subjective impression would have been that I was nowhere near as fast on the hardtail as I am normally on a FS bike. Again as you and others have said, I know that hardtails can keep up only to a certain level of trail roughness.
    I recently rode Echo Ridge by Chelan and brought my FS/AM bike. The trails are so smooth that it was a bit boring.

    The VooDoo would have added a bit of missing excitement and been a better choice if it only had disc brakes. Our old bikes can spice up what would otherwise be very tame trails.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Turner2 View Post
    Have you guys ever watched World Cup downhill? There is no way that those guys and girls could do what they do on a mid 90's hardtail with a mid 90's 70mm fork. It is crazy to think they could even make it to the bottom if they tried to do it at speed on an old hardtail.
    Agreed. But you have to keep in mind MTBR is full of people from all ends of the mountain biking spectrum. Most people here, I'd wager, have no idea what a real World-Cup DH course is like. You can't tell by watching videos, either. I did race a hardtail in DH events many moons ago, but I did use DH tires. I did pretty well, and even beat a lot of people on full-DH bikes. However, the skill level of the average rider back in those days was much lower, and you practically had to pry my hands off the handlebars with a screwdriver at the end of each race. I doubt I could hang on to the bike like I used to these days.

    Anyway, this thread is kind of impossible to answer, because it depends entirely upon the trails in question. My all-time top speed on a bicycle, on dirt, was on a fully rigid bike on old logging roads in the woods. 50 mph. The trail conditions were smooth as butter, however. Just steep and straight. I have only approached those speeds on a DH bike once or twice.

    I have a 29er hardtail now, and it is most definitely faster on some trails and some sections of trails, compared to my enduro-style bike. There is a trail close to my house that is somewhat of a flow-trail, but does have some root gardens in places, as well as braking bumps and g-outs. Most corners are bermed, and traction is usually pretty good.

    I ride it on both bikes, but usually on my enduro bike as it's a lot more fun. I can definitely identify with the idea that a light XC bike can feel "faster" but really be slower. When I time my descents, I consistently am about 1 minute slower on the hardtail (I'm usually in the ballpark of 5:30 on the enduro bike). The trail has a few flatter spots, and in those places, the hardtail is definitely faster, as it picks up speed so easily. I think the main place I shave time on the enduro bike is in the corners; it has much better brakes, so I can wait until the last possible second to shave speed, and the suspension and tires allow me to slam corners much harder and maintain traction. In the straight/brakeless sections, I think it's an even-match.

    I ride some trails, though, where it would be impossible for anyone to ride an XC bike as fast as an enduro bike.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cookieMonster View Post
    Agreed. But you have to keep in mind MTBR is full of people from all ends of the mountain biking spectrum. Most people here, I'd wager, have no idea what a real World-Cup DH course is like. You can't tell by watching videos, either. I did race a hardtail in DH events many moons ago, but I did use DH tires. I did pretty well, and even beat a lot of people on full-DH bikes. However, the skill level of the average rider back in those days was much lower, and you practically had to pry my hands off the handlebars with a screwdriver at the end of each race. I doubt I could hang on to the bike like I used to these days.
    I think this is pretty much true, but that it also takes a trail like this to make a DH bike "faster" than other bikes with less travel and weight. That's what people have a misconception about. Even on pretty steep rough local DHs, many times they are not so rough and steep that a DH bike would be the "fastest". Note, I'm not talking about what would be funnest or most "secure", but simply what would be the fastest overall speed. This is why the skilled riders can go so damn fast downhill on XC bikes, to a point, as the rider skill goes up, they can go faster on the lighter/lower travel bikes. When the trail gets too rough, then they need more travel/bigger bike, but that magical point at which that happens is usually a lot further towards the "rougher side" of things that many people perceive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spectre View Post
    It's interesting what patterns you can see when you have quantitative data through apps like Strava.

    I've been riding my mid-90s Kona hardtail. I was sure that it would climb decently well, but I've been surprised to see that my downhill times on a not too rocky, not too steep trail that I ride regularly are not too far off of my PRs on a full suspension bike. That's with a late 90's 70mm travel Marzocchi Z-2 Atom Bomb fork.
    Nice to see that you've finally got your 95 Explosif built up! I have the 96 model with a 100mm fork on it, had an 80mm on it for a while but liked it more with 100.

    I also have a 2006 Explosif with a dropper post and the same tires as my Norco Range enduro bike, I can't get it close to the Norco on anything but the smoothest downhills. Once I get past a certain speed it gets bounced around too much to hold a good line and I start losing large chunks of time to the FS bike. Not that the Explosif is slow, I used to take it to the local bike park where I'd pass quite a few folks on DH bikes but the Norco is just way faster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    I think this is pretty much true, but that it also takes a trail like this to make a DH bike "faster" than other bikes with less travel and weight. That's what people have a misconception about. Even on pretty steep rough local DHs, many times they are not so rough and steep that a DH bike would be the "fastest". Note, I'm not talking about what would be funnest or most "secure", but simply what would be the fastest overall speed. This is why the skilled riders can go so damn fast downhill on XC bikes, to a point, as the rider skill goes up, they can go faster on the lighter/lower travel bikes. When the trail gets too rough, then they need more travel/bigger bike, but that magical point at which that happens is usually a lot further towards the "rougher side" of things that many people perceive.
    Yup. Even much of the typical terrain you find at lift-served parks these days doesn't really work all that well with full-on DH bikes, as the 'flow' style of building has become prevalent (at least around here). There just aren't all that many trails that are really gnarly enough to make the most of a big bike anymore.

    I remember a time when this was considered an intermediate DH trail. Nowadays, the slap a 'double black diamond' rating on trails that are practically downhill BMX tracks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    I remember a time when this was considered an intermediate DH trail. Nowadays, the slap a 'double black diamond' rating on trails that are practically downhill BMX tracks.

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    That's because there's more riders that can clean that rooty downhill than can clear every jump on a double black diamond jump line.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeremy3220 View Post
    That's because there's more riders that can clean that rooty downhill than can clear every jump on a double black diamond jump line.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    I think this is pretty much true, but that it also takes a trail like this to make a DH bike "faster" than other bikes with less travel and weight. That's what people have a misconception about. Even on pretty steep rough local DHs, many times they are not so rough and steep that a DH bike would be the "fastest". Note, I'm not talking about what would be funnest or most "secure", but simply what would be the fastest overall speed. This is why the skilled riders can go so damn fast downhill on XC bikes, to a point, as the rider skill goes up, they can go faster on the lighter/lower travel bikes. When the trail gets too rough, then they need more travel/bigger bike, but that magical point at which that happens is usually a lot further towards the "rougher side" of things that many people perceive.
    I would think the determining characteristic of the course would be how much pedaling is required. I guess in theory if traction isn't an issue whatever bike has the lowest rolling resistance and best aero would win but surely that's not what we're discussing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeremy3220 View Post
    That's because there's more riders that can clean that rooty downhill than can clear every jump on a double black diamond jump line.
    I dunno about that. My kid has been clearing "double black" jump lines on an XC bike since he was 10, with very little MTB experience. I see people on DJ bikes clearing them all the time. Though I can barely jump a bike, I can get down just about any 'double black' jump line pretty easily and safely without ever feeling I need to put a foot down or am above my head. Simply not the case on technical trails. The trails I consider truly 'expert' level are simply a whole different game than the 'big BMX' style trails.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    I dunno about that. My kid has been clearing "double black" jump lines on an XC bike since he was 10, with very little MTB experience. I see people on DJ bikes clearing them all the time. Though I can barely jump a bike, I can get down just about any 'double black' jump line pretty easily and safely without ever feeling I need to put a foot down or am above my head. Simply not the case on technical trails. The trails I consider truly 'expert' level are simply a whole different game than the 'big BMX' style trails.
    Perhaps it's an issue of where you live then. The double black jumps I have experience with are not ones that someone would hit with a DJ bike, slopestyle bike yes but not a DJ. An XC bike would be in way over its head on them as well. When talking about 10'+ tall lips and 40' distance from lip to lip there is still a large amount of force even when landing on the transition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tuckerjt07 View Post
    Perhaps it's an issue of where you live then. The double black jumps I have experience with are not ones that someone would hit with a DJ bike, slopestyle bike yes but not a DJ. An XC bike would be in way over its head on them as well. When talking about 10'+ tall lips and 40' distance from lip to lip there is still a large amount of force even when landing on the transition.

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    Nope, same shit.

    Check out Highland and Thunder Mtn, Hellion and Hawleywood trails for example.

    My son cleared everything on both trails to tranny, second time down (I insist he follows me down for a scoping run before letting it rip), at 11 years old on an old Ibis Mojo SL with a Reba on it. I have friends that ride and clear everything on full rigid, singlespeed and single brake DJ bikes.

    This simply would never happen on what I would consider an actual expert level DH trail, one that would justify the need for an true DH bike.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Nope, same shit.

    Check out Highland and Thunder Mtn, Hellion and Hawleywood trails for example.

    My son cleared everything on both trails to tranny, second time down (I insist he follows me down for a scoping run before letting it rip), at 11 years old on an old Ibis Mojo SL with a Reba on it. I have friends that ride and clear everything on full rigid, singlespeed and single brake DJ bikes.

    This simply would never happen on what I would consider an actual expert level DH trail, one that would justify the need for an true DH bike.
    For your area sure. However those trails are not what a lot of western US and Canadian riders would call expert level DH jump lines. Something like Upper A Line at Whistler would probably be towards the bottom of that scale.

    As I said your issue with judging "expert" level lines is your area and what you've been exposed to. Just because those are considered that in your area does not mean they are similar to what other people are discussing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Though I can barely jump a bike, I can get down just about any 'double black' jump line pretty easily
    A real double black diamond jump line should have large gap jumps. If you're bragging about the ability to bypass jumps then I'll quit wasting my time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tuckerjt07 View Post
    For your area sure. However those trails are not what a lot of western US and Canadian riders would call expert level DH jump lines. Something like Upper A Line at Whistler would probably be towards the bottom of that scale.

    As I said your issue with judging "expert" level lines is your area and what you've been exposed to. Just because those are considered that in your area does not mean they are similar to what other people are discussing.

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    No where would any "bmx style" jump line without large gap jumps be considered expert. Any intermediate bmx dirt jumps would be beyond his riding ability.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeremy3220 View Post
    No where would any "bmx style" jump line without large gap jumps be considered expert. Any intermediate bmx dirt jumps would be beyond his riding ability.
    Like I said, A Line would be at the bottom of the scale. Even though not true doubles, screwing up any of those bigger tables is going to end very badly. I know I wouldn't want to go 38' on that 40'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tuckerjt07 View Post
    For your area sure. However those trails are not what a lot of western US and Canadian riders would call expert level DH jump lines. Something like Upper A Line at Whistler would probably be towards the bottom of that scale.
    Tell me where the gaps are; I don't see any.



    Hawleywood is extremely similar style, as the trails at this park are also Gravity Logic built. Big forgiving tables everywhere. Nothing wrong with it, I just don't see how it rates as a 'double black diamond'. Not saying there aren't any in existence, but in general, the rating system errs strongly towards putting higher difficulty ratings on trails than they deserve IMO/E.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Tell me where the gaps are; I don't see any.



    Hawleywood is extremely similar style, as the trails at this park are also Gravity Logic built. Big forgiving tables everywhere. Nothing wrong with it, I just don't see how it rates as a 'double black diamond'. Not saying there aren't any in existence, but in general, the rating system errs strongly towards putting higher difficulty ratings on trails than they deserve IMO/E.
    Where did I say it had to have gaps to be an expert level trail? Hawleywood is similar but the jumps are not as big, probably not a true double black. A 40' table is not forgiving despite there being no gap to short.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Whistler rates A Line as an 'expert' trail.

    "No where" huh?

    Derrrr.....
    No where would any "bmx style" jump line without large gap jumps be considered expert. You do not know what a bmx style jump line is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tuckerjt07 View Post
    Where did I say it had to have gaps to be an expert level trail? Hawleywood is similar but the jumps are not as big, probably not a true double black. A 40' table is not forgiving despite there being no gap to short.
    Sorry, have quoted Mr Gap Jump King there.

    Listen, I don't care if it's a 200' table, the fact is, it's still a table and there is no requirement to clear it. If you were talking about 40', or even 20' mandatory gaps then yes, I would say a trail with those sorts of things would require and expert rating. But if it's tabled, bermy and smooth and little kids have a strong chance of making it down it on 20" bikes with coaster brakes without putting a foot down, then I don't see how it justifies either an expert rating or the need for a full DH bike. Which was the point in the first place, not going deep into the weeds about trail ratings or e-dick waving.
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    I'd be pretty surprised to see an 11yr old kid flowing A-line on an XC bike...

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Sorry, have quoted Mr Gap Jump King there.

    Listen, I don't care if it's a 200' table, the fact is, it's still a table and there is no requirement to clear it. If you were talking about 40', or even 20' mandatory gaps then yes, I would say a trail with those sorts of things would require and expert rating. But if it's tabled, bermy and smooth and little kids have a strong chance of making it down it on 20" bikes with coaster brakes without putting a foot down, then I don't see how it justifies either an expert rating or the need for a full DH bike. Which was the point in the first place, not going deep into the weeds about trail ratings or e-dick waving.
    It comes down to are you riding the trail how it was designed to be ridden. If yes, you need the big bike. If no, you can probably pick your way down it. You are slightly wrong on there not being a requirement for a 40' table. Sure, if you're not going to go for it you're technically correct. However, if you're going to make an attempt to clear it you better make it. Coming up short there usually has a very bad ending.

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  66. #66
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    Ok we're done with the name calling and arguing here. Let's get back on topic.

    Thanks,
    Justin

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Which was the point in the first place, not going deep into the weeds about trail ratings or e-dick waving.
    Says the guy who brought up trail ratings and how easily he and his kid can ride down double black diamond trails. Great self awareness.

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    On a longer local downhill natural trail using strava my fastest times are consistently on my xc fs bike. My xc hardtail on a very good run will get very near the times but it takes a lot more bike handling and luck. A properly setup and maintained bike makes a big difference.

    I found strava let me know what times are possible and which sections of the downhill I was slower on so I could workout how to ride them faster. This has really helped my downhill riding.

  69. #69
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    Remember when considering the original question that what you are really talking about is a bike with suspension vs a rigid bike. A hard-tail has suspension.

    Try riding a rigid bike down a rough track at speed. It rattles your eyeballs so much you cannot see properly.

  70. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Pig View Post
    Remember when considering the original question that what you are really talking about is a bike with suspension vs a rigid bike. A hard-tail has suspension.

    Try riding a rigid bike down a rough track at speed. It rattles your eyeballs so much you cannot see properly.
    Did that in the early 1990's on a Rigid MTB with cantilever brakes which mean I was rapidly accelerating into oblivion with no real braking


    The OP was comparing their HT to a FS.

  71. #71
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    Ride '16 Spartan with a 170 fork, and low/slack hard tail, also with a 170 fork, mostly in New Mexico chunk trails, though there's some smooth stuff in there.

    The HT was a new addition this season, and I was surprised how fast I was able to push it. Nearly as fast as my Spartan in most places. Where I was slower: extended sections of very rough trail where line choice = keeping established momentum, and other rough areas where I wasn't brave enough to commit to a rough line at high speed.

    Jumps were about the same, HT didn't hobble me at all.

    I worked harder to maintain a similar speed on the hard tail; and yes, you ride it differently than a FS. But not THAT differently.

    My personal conclusion is I'm a little more challenged trying to pin it on the hard tail (riding at the edge of my ability). And in a situation where I have to get down the trail as fast as possible, I'd choose my 6 inch FS bike.

    But more often than not, in reaching for my hard tail on daily rides.

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  72. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhazard View Post
    Ride '16 Spartan with a 170 fork, and low/slack hard tail, also with a 170 fork, mostly in New Mexico chunk trails, though there's some smooth stuff in there.

    The HT was a new addition this season, and I was surprised how fast I was able to push it. Nearly as fast as my Spartan in most places. Where I was slower: extended sections of very rough trail where line choice = keeping established momentum, and other rough areas where I wasn't brave enough to commit to a rough line at high speed.

    Jumps were about the same, HT didn't hobble me at all.

    I worked harder to maintain a similar speed on the hard tail; and yes, you ride it differently than a FS. But not THAT differently.

    My personal conclusion is I'm a little more challenged trying to pin it on the hard tail (riding at the edge of my ability). And in a situation where I have to get down the trail as fast as possible, I'd choose my 6 inch FS bike.

    But more often than not, in reaching for my hard tail on daily rides.

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    Amen brother....

    Too many people looking to take the trail (feeling it) out of the equation!?

    Go ride a road bike if you don't like the bumps!!

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  73. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by tuckerjt07 View Post
    As I said your issue with judging "expert" level lines is your area and what you've been exposed to
    Quote Originally Posted by EatsDirt View Post
    I'd be pretty surprised to see an 11yr old kid flowing A-line on an XC bike...
    Okey dokey.

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  74. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Okey dokey.

    Like I said, it has to do with your area. Had every feature been hit I'd say it's into the expert line range. But, they weren't, so it isn't. The main thing that the line was lacking was sheer size.

    As to the end a slopestyle course is not a trail.

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  75. #75
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    Uh huh.
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  76. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhazard View Post
    The HT was a new addition this season, and I was surprised how fast I was able to push it. Nearly as fast as my Spartan in most places. Where I was slower: extended sections of very rough trail where line choice = keeping established momentum, and other rough areas where I wasn't brave enough to commit to a rough line at high speed.
    Holy Cr@p, I can't believe this thread is still going on.

    Anyhow, jhazard, your comment is exactly in line with all that I was looking to share in my original post:

    • Surprised at how fast I could go on a hardtail given the fact that I felt like I was getting knocked around a LOT more even on a pretty tame trail
    • Definitely feel the need to work more to get the same speed on a hardtail as on a FS bike



    That's it. I didn't even intend to imply anything along the lines of hardtails being faster down a WC DH course than 9" travel DH bikes. I've been riding FS bikes for so long that I don't think I would ever go back to riding hardtails on a regular basis, but riding the hardtail for a change does spice up the trails I ride all the time.
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    This thread is done.

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