1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    New question here. 2013 Cannondale Trail SL 2 (26er) or 2014 Cannondale Trail 5 (29er)

    The one-liner:
    Should I get a 26er with better components or a 29er with lesser components if they both cost the same?

    The back story and details:
    I'm able to get both of these bikes for about the same price (~750$). I've done my research with mountain bike frames and components, and how they stack in terms of quality. There's also the endless debate about 26er's vs. 29er's - I'm well-versed with both sides of the topic (in theory). I'm sticking strictly to HT because of cost.

    I've test-ridden both bikes at my LBS. The difference in quality (shifting, front fork, overall weight) is noticeable when comparing the '13 SL 2 to the '14 Trail 29 5. I can't quite feel the 'benefits' of the 29er vs. 26er (but I haven't ridden them proper in the trails... just curbs, grass and rough asphalt around my LBS).

    This is my first mountain bike and I don't have real-life experience to weigh in on which model would be the better buy. 29er's seem to be the way to go in the future (more stable, better able to negotiate stuff... so they say?), but I feel like quality components should also weigh in significantly since these bikes will be taking it rough.

    About me: I'm 5'8'' and 125 lbs. I've been riding road for about a year (~50 miles per week). I live in the Bay Area and plan to ride the single tracks out in the Santa Cruz mountains (Saratoga Gap, Wilder Ranch, Skeggs, UC, etc.). I don't plan to do any racing or extreme technical stuff... just want to have fun riding outdoors in the mountains.

    Here's the spec rundown:

    2013 Cannondale Trail SL 2 (26er) link
    - SRAM X5 FR/DR/shifters; 10-speed
    - Rockshox Recon Silver TK
    - Avid Elixir hydraulic discs
    - Maddux DC 3.0 double wall rims
    - SRAM S800 3.1 crank
    - SRAM Powerspline with alloy cups BB
    - I ride the Large size (18.7")

    2014 Cannondale Trail 29 5 (29er) link
    - Altus/Acera/Altus FR/DR/shifters; 9-speed
    - SR SUNTOUR XCM-RL-29
    - Cannondale Helix 6B hydraulic discs
    - Alex DC 4.0 double wall rims
    - Shimano M371 crank
    - Tange Seiki LN-3912 BB
    - I ride the Medium size (17")

    Hoping to get some insight/advice from you guys with experience. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    I love my 2013 sl2. It's a great bike. The shifters, brakes and suspension are better then the 29er. so it's really up to you if 29 means that much to you.

  3. #3
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    Between those two I'd go with the SL2 due to far superior componentry, but I'd double-check the fit on a large frame. I have a 2011 SL2 myself, and I'm also 5'8", and I ride a medium. A large may not necessarily be wrong, because I remember I was just about exactly between frame sizes according to their fit charts, but when I actually rode a medium and a large back-to-back it was no question, the medium clearly fit better.
    Speed solves all problems, except for those things it makes worse.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by soflotrailer View Post
    I love my 2013 sl2. It's a great bike. The shifters, brakes and suspension are better then the 29er. so it's really up to you if 29 means that much to you.
    That's why I'm asking you guys with actual experience with 26er's vs. 29er's on real dirt. I know the differences in theory - but it's hard to gauge the tangible value of 29 over 26.

    Quote Originally Posted by jjaguar View Post
    Between those two I'd go with the SL2 due to far superior componentry, but I'd double-check the fit on a large frame. I have a 2011 SL2 myself, and I'm also 5'8", and I ride a medium. A large may not necessarily be wrong, because I remember I was just about exactly between frame sizes according to their fit charts, but when I actually rode a medium and a large back-to-back it was no question, the medium clearly fit better.
    Thanks for your input. That's the size I test-rode and it felt just right. I have long legs relative to my height so maybe that's why?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by quickmammoth View Post
    That's why I'm asking you guys with actual experience with 26er's vs. 29er's on real dirt. I know the differences in theory - but it's hard to gauge the tangible value of 29 over 26.
    For me the difference was huge. So much better when I switched to a 29er, I knew there was noway I'd ever go back to a 26" bike. In fact, I'd quite riding a mountain bike if I had a 26" bike as my only option.

    It's too bad that the component level is a bit lower on that Cannondale 29er. For me, the wheel size would be priority knowing that I could upgrade the parts. But that's me after I've experienced both wheel sizes.
    Quote Originally Posted by Psycle151 View Post
    Friggin' coward. Give me a red chiclet instead of debating like a man. You don't deserve your green blocks.

  6. #6
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    My opinion: 26er with the better components. Enjoy the potential ensuing debate about 26 vs. 29. I ride both and think that there are benefits to both. But, my 2 main rides have many other differences besides the size of their wheels (i.e. HT vs. FS). The 2 bikes you are comparing are pretty darn similar. But, the components on the 26 are better, down the line. I doubt you will see a debate ensue about that.

    If you want to read some fairly unbiased articles about the "wheel size thing" you may find the links below interesting. Try not to make yourself too nuts over it. Ride what feels good, not what gets the most votes by some strangers on MTBR.

    url=http://bansheebikes.blogspot.com/2013/10/wheel-size-facts-part-1-dimensions.html]Born on the Shore - The Banshee Bikes Blog: Wheel size facts Part 1.... Dimensions, Weight and Strength.[/url]
    Born on the Shore - The Banshee Bikes Blog: Wheel size facts Part 2.... Rollover factors.
    Born on the Shore - The Banshee Bikes Blog: Wheel size facts Part 3... Contact Patch and Tire Factors.

  7. #7
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    Not to make your decision more difficult, but... I've seen on these forums that you can fit a 650b in the rear of the 26" SL2 (the RS fork won't work though). Please make sure to do your own research to verify though.So with the 26" bike you are still somewhat "future-proofed" -- if you grow tired of the 26" wheel or just want to try something different you could always switch it up to the new fangled tweener size with potentially minimal investment (depends on the quality/expense of the new fork and wheelset).

    For this reason, I would go with the 26" bike (plus, it will ride better with the better components, IMO).

    Either way, I don't think you can make a truly 'bad' choice here. Either bike will serve you well and should be good for many miles of smiles. Good luck and post pics once you are the proud new owner of either bike!
    Last edited by sandyeggo; 06-18-2014 at 08:01 PM. Reason: confirm with research
    2013 Santa Cruz Solo C
    2013 Santa Cruz Chameleon 650b SS
    2012 Giant Defy (Roadie)

  8. #8
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    I like my 29er. I think this depends a lot on how you own things that can have parts thrown at them. If you tend to leave them stock for most of their service life, I think the 26" hardtail is a much better package. I rode mine today, and wasn't crying.

    If this is just the first step toward a lot of obsessive shopping for upgrades, it doesn't matter that much what's hanging on the frame now, and you should choose the one you think will be a better platform long-term.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  9. #9
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    Thanks all for the input. Currently leaning towards the SL 2 - I don't plan to upgrade components so I think higher-quality specs off the bat is a plus. Might make the purchase today if I can get off work in time

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by quickmammoth View Post
    Thanks all for the input. Currently leaning towards the SL 2 - I don't plan to upgrade components so I think higher-quality specs off the bat is a plus. Might make the purchase today if I can get off work in time
    Did you get your new bike??
    2013 Santa Cruz Solo C
    2013 Santa Cruz Chameleon 650b SS
    2012 Giant Defy (Roadie)

  11. #11
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    Dropped by LBS to pick up the SL 2... but they sold it already

  12. #12
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    FWIW, I have a Gary Fisher 26er with better components and fork than on my 2014 Cannondale 29er Trail 5 purchase. For me, the 29er rides so much smoother and seems to fit and feel so much better than my 26er that I have only ridden the 26er once since getting the 29er. Its so much more enjoyable riding now even though my new bike cost less than my previous bike. I used to LIKE riding my old bike, but I LOVE riding my new bike!

  13. #13
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    Thought I'd give some closure to this thread...

    So, I actually ended up getting a 2013 Cannondale Trail SL 3! It was a lucky find and the price was hard to beat. Let's just say my LBS is awesome

    I went on my first trail rides today - it's so different from what I'm used to with road. Perhaps I was a tad overly ambitious (or underestimated the skill needed to ride trail), but for the routes I chose, I was more focused on staying on the bike itself vs actually having fun. I suppose the concept of negotiating roots, rocks and loose gravel are foreign to road :P It'll definitely take a few more runs (maybe starting off with some easier trails first lol) to get into the groove of things.

  14. #14
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    2013 Cannondale Trail SL 2 (26er) or 2014 Cannondale Trail 5 (29er)

    Congrats on the new ride! You'll catch on to riding in the trails soon enough - just be patient and enjoy the learning experience. Before you know it you will be seeking out more difficult trails bc the ones you normally ride are too "easy". :-)


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    Last edited by sandyeggo; 07-06-2014 at 10:36 AM.
    2013 Santa Cruz Solo C
    2013 Santa Cruz Chameleon 650b SS
    2012 Giant Defy (Roadie)

  15. #15
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    Yeah, it's a very different kind of riding. The puzzle is one of my favorite things about MTB.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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