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  1. #1
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    New AM bike - No Demos...Looking for feedback

    I'm in the market for a new FS AM bike. I'm considering a Stumpjumper FSR Comp, but all of the bike shops in my area only carry 29ers. I can get a great deal on either a 2013 29" Comp or a 2013 26" Carbon Comp. Unfortunately, no shops in my area have a demo program so I can't try out any bikes on a trail. I was able to ride the 29er in the parking lot, but parking lot test rides are pretty worthless, so I'm still undecided. To make matters worse, a lot of the bike shops want to sell me a 650B bike, even though they don't plan on stocking them and can't even get them on order yet. My questions are:

    -Am I a fool for considering a 26 inch bike? Its pretty clear, at least where I live (PA), that they're extinct (for now). They haven't been stocked at all for the last 3 years. This means very few options for 26" tubes and tires are still being stocked.
    Is this the same situation around the country or is this specific to the northeast?

    -Whats the deal with carbon mountain bikes? I know its lighter and stiffer, but it seems like a bad idea to me. I would like to know what durability is like from current owners. I'm considering carbon because its the only 26" available at steep discount.

    -For SJ 29er owners (or 29er full sus owners) , how does it handle? I found that I liked the fit and feel from my parking lot test ride...much different than my Rockhopper 29, but how does it climb and turn? My Rockhopper is around the same length and feels like I'm turning a bus on some of my local trails.

    If you have any other recommendations for bikes I should consider, I have access to Specialized, Giant, Trek/Gary Fisher, Scott, Cannondale, and Santa Cruz...but I can't afford Santa Cruz and my local Trek dealer is kind of a dick. I'm not really keen on 650B at this point. 26+fatter tire is the same size as 650B...I don't get the allure. Thanks, in advance, for your feedback.

    I'm 5'10 around 170lb, so I fit comfortably on a medium bike in either 26 or 29...and probably 650B.

  2. #2
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    I've got no idea what your budget is because you didn't tell us but I would suggest that you increase the radius of your search. Based on where you live, you probably have 200 bike shops within a 4 hour drive from you. Invest a weekend and stay in crap hotels if that's what you have to do.

    Go to the websites of the bike companies that you're interested inane see if they have shops in that x hour radius.

    I have purchased frames that I have not ridden and just went off geometry charts and reviews. However, I wouldn't drop thousands on a complete bike without a test ride .

  3. #3
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    My budget is $3k or less (around the MSRP of a new Stumpjumper). I appreciate the suggestion, but that sounds like a lot of work to test ride bikes. I'd probably end up spending more on travel and rental costs than the actual bike by the time I got finished trying them all.

    I did go as far as calling a ton of shops within 100 miles of where I live to try to hunt down a demo in my size. Out of about 40 shops, I found a total of 2 with demos in my size for bikes in the range I'm considering. Each shop had 1 bike each to demo and both shops were over an hour drive away. I don't really want to buy a bike from a non-local shop. I would like to drop my bike off locally whenever/if ever I have a problem instead of having to make a day trip out of it each time. I would also like to be able to demo a bike on my local trails.

    Based on what a lot of shop owners have told me so far, it sounds like local distributors used to provide demo fleets for bike shops that they supplied but are starting to require shops to purchase their own demo bikes. At least that's what I've been hearing from Trek, Spec, and Giant dealers. The shops around me that do have demos only have road bikes and short travel hardtails because that is what they sell most...makes sense I guess. Most of the shops that I've been to that sell the smaller brands (i.e. ibis, Norco, Pivot) don't stock any bikes. They only place orders.

  4. #4
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    For starters, 26 big volume tires might be close to 27.5 with whimpy tires but not close with same volume tires on the 27.5! Game changer for me. As for carbon frames, strong strong strong.

  5. #5
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    Dupe

  6. #6
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    Few things... First, most shops will promise free tune ups but that's about it. Just because you buy a bike from a shop doesn't mean that they will perform services for free. When they say you get lifetime tune ups, that means they'll turn a screw here, tighten a bolt there. They usually won't bleed your brakes at cost, etc. if your LBS doesn't have what you want it is their problem, not yours.

    Second point, you usually have to follow the national demo tours to get your hands on a boutique bike for a demo. But the big brands will generally have demos one or two times a year close to larger cities. When I lived in Columbus OH Speci had 3 demo weekends a year - that was in Columbus. Surely Philly would get a visit too.

    Last point, it would probably cost you $200 in gas and demo fees to drive 200 miles and test ride 2 bikes. Sounds like a bargain to me if it meant that I did not end up with a $3k mistake on my hands. And a trail is a trail, you should be able to get a good feel for how a bike handles and pedals regardless of if you're riding your home trail or not.

    If you are just looking for someone to give you a good review on the SJ, head over to the Speci forum and ask those guys. Not knocking them, I think Specialized do a great job with their bikes. I'd ride one.

  7. #7
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    You make some good points. I guess I'll hold out for some demo days. I was really looking for some feedback from people who have tried both the 26 and 29 SJ, but I guess I'll head over to the specialized forum for that. It sounds like I'm going to have to pick some bikes in my price and spec range and then try to hunt one down to demo over the next few months.

  8. #8
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    I bought a 2013 stumpy fsr evo 29 comp solely on the suggestion of my LBS. I'm happy, and its a great bike. I did read every review I could find and found mostly good things. You have to filter somewhat to compare how and where you ride. 29ers definitely are on top where I ride. I also asked other riders on my trials how they like their bikes. Again, I filtered out how they ride and such. Even a demo ride doesn't tell you everything. A single ride on a new bike will only sort out the basic such as fit. My stumpy climbs much better than my 29er hardtail did. I'm definitely faster on a dual, but my younger riding buddies drop me with ease on their 26 hardtails. My LBS would bend over backwards to sort out an issue, other shops wouldn't no matter how much you spend. Buy from the shop you like, a good one will get you whatever you need.

  9. #9
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    I would agree that you should buy from someone you like but not if it means that you buy the bike THEY want you to buy or the bike that THEY can get.

    I'll also say that there are very few "bad" bikes out there. Most of what you see here on mtbr is hair-splitting. Some people love VPP some DW, some Horst, single pivot designs, etc. Unless you have spent time on all of those designs you will most likely be happy with what ever you end up buying. As long as it fits you well and it's the right wheel size for you. The benefit of demo or test riding a bike is that you can pick your favorite between a few bikes and not have second thoughts about your purchase.

    The big decision for you is 26 vs 29 which really does require a demo ride. BTW, if you have a local mountain bike forum, either here on mtbr or via your local IMBA, maybe you can meet someone at your trails and they'll let you ride their bike for a bit. Offer a 12 pack and you'd be surprised at how many people will come to the table.

  10. #10
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    27.5 Heckler, size large, 60mm stem

    super reliable, tuff, low maintenance and well loved. do a "santa cruz heckler review" Google search
    2010 GT Avalanche Expert

  11. #11
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    It sounds like you need to put some more time and effort into your shopping if you want to be happy with your purchase. Clearly you have some requirements, so you're not going to be able to just walk into a store and pick out a bike. And you're not going to be able to just go with what someone on the internet recommends.

    You're going to be dropping a lot of money on a new bike. You're going to have to spend more once you get the bike (tools, parts, etc). So, you might as well spend some time and money on demoing bikes beforehand.

    I just got a new bike that I spent two years shopping for, and I demo'ed probably close to 20 bikes. It takes a lot of effort, but now I'm 100% sure I made the best possible choice.

  12. #12
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    New AM bike - No Demos...Looking for feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by nauc View Post
    27.5 Heckler, size large, 60mm stem

    super reliable, tuff, low maintenance and well loved. do a "santa cruz heckler review" Google search
    This is my suggestion, super low maintenance, single pivot, below your price range and an absolute killer bike. You may be able to still find a new 26 heckler for a ridiculous deal.

  13. #13
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    you know, ive owned and ridden on six different frames since i started riding, and I never test rode a single one before i bought them.

    and i loved each one; each serving perfectly for what I wanted to do with it at the time.

    I think the 2 most important things for you regarding test ride are 1) making sure size is right (but since youre def in medium territory, I wouldnt be too worried) and 2) deciding what wheel size you want. That last one is a biggie for you to figure out, and no one can help you there. DO NOT TRUST GUYS AT BIKE SHOPS AT FACE VALUE - 80% OF THE TIME THEY WILL SELL YOU WHATEVER THEY MAKE THE MOST $ ON NOT WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU

    I know a lot of conventional wisdom disagrees with me but I dont feel like its 100% essential to test ride. If you do enough research, I think you can get a very good impression of how the bike will ride by pouring over online reviews and chatter in forums. Most of my buddies dismiss the value of taking advice from strangers online, but as long as you apply a filter and can pick out who knows what they are talking about VS someone thats either doesn't or is too stoked with emotion on their shiny new toy to provide solid feedback then you can get good information.

    but yeah, +1 on the 27.5 Heckler recommendation....you simply cant go wrong with that

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ride the biscuit View Post
    I think the 2 most important things for you regarding test ride are 1) making sure size is right (but since youre def in medium territory, I wouldnt be too worried) and 2) deciding what wheel size you want. That last one is a biggie for you to figure out, and no one can help you there. DO NOT TRUST GUYS AT BIKE SHOPS AT FACE VALUE - 80% OF THE TIME THEY WILL SELL YOU WHATEVER THEY MAKE THE MOST $ ON NOT WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU

    I know a lot of conventional wisdom disagrees with me but I dont feel like its 100% essential to test ride.

    but yeah, +1 on the 27.5 Heckler recommendation....you simply cant go wrong with that
    I agree with some of your comments but when someone is torn between 26 & 29 the only way to find out what they would like best is to test ride. Now if they skipped the test ride and picked a good bike, sure they'd most likely ride it and be happy. But without test riding they'll never know which wheel size they prefer.

    I've never ridden a 29r and have no idea if I'd like one. All I know is that I like my 26 inch bikes. With that information one can say that I would probably love another great 26 inch frame but no one can say that I wouldn't like a 29r better - no way of knowing this until test rides are conducted.

    I also think that most people who haven't owned a lot of bikes have a harder time looking at a geo chart and internet reviews.

  15. #15
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    I took mnigros advice and went on a road trip this weekend to test ride bikes. I was able to find around 15 bikes in all wheel sizes. I ultimately ended up with a semi-custom build 26" Stumpjumper (Pretty much a 2013 FSR Comp with some upgrades). The price for the spec level was unbeatable. I discovered that for the type of AM bike that I want, there is no 29er that offers the handling Im looking for. Most 650B bikes did not feel any different than 26. The ones that did feel different probably had nothing to do with wheel size - the difference was always worse handling and/or heavier/sluggish ride. In fact, both the best and worst bikes that I test rode were 650B (Best:Yeti SB66; Worst: Kona Process)...I couldn't afford the Yeti and deal on the stumpy would have been hard to pass up regardless.

    Unfortunately, I have to drive 120 miles back to the shop next weekend to pick up my new bike because I forgot to buy a TA adapter for my Thule roof rack.

  16. #16
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    nice

    put up some pics when you get it

    congrats!
    2010 GT Avalanche Expert

  17. #17
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    you could ask them to ship it to you using bikeflights.com

    should be a lot less than a tank of gas for a one way, esp if you drive 120m ea way. Its a company that passes business account discount rates on to all bike riders (so they wouldnt continue to lose opportunity to airlines for bike travelers).

    I use them to ship anything large/heavy, not just when traveling with bikes (no one is checking to see if its a bike in there)...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ride the biscuit View Post
    you could ask them to ship it to you using bikeflights.com

    should be a lot less than a tank of gas for a one way, esp if you drive 120m ea way. Its a company that passes business account discount rates on to all bike riders (so they wouldnt continue to lose opportunity to airlines for bike travelers).

    I use them to ship anything large/heavy, not just when traveling with bikes (no one is checking to see if its a bike in there)...
    thats a cool idea!
    2010 GT Avalanche Expert

  19. #19
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    Re: New AM bike - No Demos...Looking for feedback

    Curious to know what you didn't like about the Kona. I've heard nothing but good things about them.
    No moss...

  20. #20
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    Nice, now you can sleep well at night knowing that you picked the best bike FOR YOU. That's the whole point of a demo ride.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffw-13 View Post
    Curious to know what you didn't like about the Kona. I've heard nothing but good things about them.
    +1 I'm curious too! Also, was it the 134 or 153?

  22. #22
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    Jeffw-13 - Its a bike that seems much better riding down hill than up. Not fun at all riding up hill. Compared to the competition, its a very heavy bike for 140mm travel. I test rode the 134, which I believe is the shortest travel, lowest spec model (i.e. 140mm RS Sektor/Monarch R Front and rear). This bike needs a stiffer fork and thru axle on the front. You could feel the cheapness of the suspension on a bike that heavy. Im confident that the higher spec'd models feel much better...still heavy and not geared for any significant climbing...but definitely more capable.

  23. #23
    The White Jeff W
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    Thanks for the info
    No moss...

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