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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    XC bikes vs. something more agressive (DH, FR, DJ, etc): question about bikes needed

    Alright, so there is generally a difference when bike companies sell bikes that are labeled as XC vs. downhill, freeride, and dirt jumping.

    But where is the difference?

    And why is it important?

    Let's forget FS for now and just think hardtails.

    I clearly see a difference when talking about a DJ bike having a more heavy duty frame, but is that needed? And when? Clearly, those DJ bikes are meant for even the most hardcore riders, so where is the line drawn? Where can a less aggressive bike frame overlap into what a DJ bike is meant for?

    And likewise with some more aggressive DH with a lot of rocks, logs, drops, and so on.

    I assume it's mainly the frame here since I see dirt jumping bikes with 100mm travel forks that are identical to ones on XC bikes. Across the board, many bikes will really have similar components, and some that might be different, like say shorter stem/heavy duty handlebars, can be easily/cheaply swapped in.

    So, am I right that the main difference is frame? And if so, where is the limit drawn?

    I feel like even XC frames can handle a lot. They are lighter and clearly less sturdy, but i know it seems like the extra sturdiness of my brother's DJing bike is almost overkill--at least for the size jumps he's doing.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post, but I just am curious about this and was wondering if anyone could help me out here. I realize it's a grey area I'm talking about and might be hard to answer.

    But I think an answer could help others too. Mainly because say someone wants to do XC stuff, but also get more aggressive (like myself). Who is to say there Trek 4 series, Genesis GF, or whatever XC bike can't handle a bit of light DJing or aggressive DH? I mean, bikes are expensive too, so not like everyone can buy different bikes for all styles of riding they want.

    Alright i know that was pretty long, but I'm done! I promise, lol.

  2. #2
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    There is a pretty big difference between XC bikes and DJ bikes, while they have the same amount of travel, lets take a 100mm Rockshox Dart 1 that comes on a lot of lower end XC bikes, now lets take the Marzocchi Dirt jumper 3. Both forks have 100mm of travel, but the crowns, satuntions, lowers, dropouts are all more burly on the dirt jumper 3 fork from marzocchi, this is because the dart is not meant to be ridden aggressivly, its designed to be cheap, simple and functional for moderate trail riding.

    With bikes designed to jump, its all about strength, while some XC frames might be more burly than others, they are not designed to be jumped in any way. there is a reason there is XC bikes, then there are DJ bikes. if there wasnt difference in materials or the abuse they can take, we would all be riding on the same hardtail frames.

    Here is the deal, you can jump your XC bike, but you're going to snap that frame really fast, and thats going to end up with you face first in the dirt. XC hardtails are really capable of AM at the most, but jumping, DH and FR are a no no on the XC frames like you mentioned.
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  3. #3
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    How big of a jump do you consider big enough to snap a frame?

    Also, for DH, what type of trail (like specific obstacles), is too much for an XC?

    I personally have a Marlin that I just bought and after my first day riding, I definitely hope the frame can take some abuse. While I doubt I'll be doing any DJing (was just throwing that part out there), I definitely would like to do some hard DH stuff.

    But, what is the limit my bike can take? And, what parts of the bike can/can't take it? I assume it is frame/fork mainly then?

    And the trails I were doing I would basically go out of my way to go over DH rock gardens, roots, logs, and drops. It was more fun and exciting to pop off a rock and get air, land, only to have some more obstacles.

    Maybe, if that's the riding I enjoy, the bike wasn't a good choice (the to be honest, wasn't expecting to be going that hard).

    Regardless, it's a 700 dollar bike, if XC bikes can't handle anything aggressive, then why does anyone buy something that expensive or more expensive (some XC hardtails get up near 1000 with top of the line parts)?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jay687
    How big of a jump do you consider big enough to snap a frame?
    It's not the jump that'll brake the frame, it's the landing
    Keep the landing smooth and they will take a lot


    Also, for DH, what type of trail (like specific obstacles), is too much for an XC?

    I wouldn't go into a rock garden at 35kmph but an XC bike will do a huge amount of tough terrain. It just wont do it at the same speed or as easy as an DH bike, if you try to do it the same speed as somebody on an 8" DH dualie then you will brake the bike quickly.


    But, what is the limit my bike can take? And, what parts of the bike can/can't take it? I assume it is frame/fork mainly then?

    Personally I think the weak point of an XC bike at that price point is the wheels then the fork.



    Maybe, if that's the riding I enjoy, the bike wasn't a good choice (the to be honest, wasn't expecting to be going that hard).

    Regardless, it's a 700 dollar bike, if XC bikes can't handle anything aggressive, then why does anyone buy something that expensive or more expensive (some XC hardtails get up near 1000 with top of the line parts)?

    $1000 that's a good one*


    Really an XC bike can take a lot of rough riding if your smooth and smart about your riding.
    *$1000 wouldn't buy me my wheels.
    Not that all teenagers are evil mind, just most of them.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the post.

    Well, I'm not planning on being an amazing DH rider or doing anything at the highest speed possible and what not.

    I also am not about to do flat trails or avoid all the rocks, roots, and drops.

    But I just wanted to know if some 1-2 foot drops, rock gardens at high speeds, and so on... is alright for a bike like the GF Marlin or even similarly equiped XC bike.

    I think that is probably the furthest I'll go in terms of aggressive riding--I'd consider it moderately aggressive I suppose. And so curious if that is within XC bike capabilities.

    From what you've said, I think it probably is. I mean, I rode for a few hours the other day and my bike didn't break... so guess that's good, lol.

    I guess, in the end, I'll ride how I want to ride and see how my bike handles it.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jay687
    But I just wanted to know if some 1-2 foot drops, rock gardens at high speeds, and so on... is alright for a bike like the GF Marlin or even similarly equiped XC bike.

    I think that is probably the furthest I'll go in terms of aggressive riding--I'd consider it moderately aggressive I suppose. And so curious if that is within XC bike capabilities.

    I consider that to XC riding, we go rougher than that on some XC race tracks around here.

    Contrary to popular misconceptions an XC bike WILL NOT spontaneously combust at the first sign of a rock.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by gumbymark
    I consider that to XC riding, we go rougher than that on some XC race tracks around here.

    Contrary to popular misconceptions an XC bike WILL NOT spontaneously combust at the first sign of a rock.
    naw, it'll turn to dust

    I must have mis-read the original post. I thought we were talking that a XC bike is as strong as a DJ bike.
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  8. #8
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    Geometricly the frames are very different although they don't initially appear it. One major difference between DJ and XC frames is DJ frames tend to run shorter seat tube lengths. Typically bikes are sized by seat tube lengths (why I dont know) and what would be considered a large DJ frame would be small or medium in an XC frame. DJ frames also tend to run more camber in the head tube which adds to steering stability (a must for jumping and landing) but makes getting over obstacles such as rocks and roots more difficult (bad for xc). While the beffy construction may seem overkill for each bikes intended purposes it's much better to err on the side of excess in frame strength. You XC bike will handle much more than it's "designed" for but remember it also has to handle it for years to come so rule out dirt jumps for you xc bike unless you dont mind disposable frames.
    As far as the forks go the only thing the same between a 100mm XC fork and a 100mm DJ fork is the travel. The bound and rebound rates are going to be much different as the DJ fork needs to handle potentially large impact loads and the XC fork needs to smooth out the ride. There will also be obvious construction differences as stated above making DJ forks stronger and XC forks lighter.
    So your XC frame MAY be able to handle SOME dirt jump but geometricly it's not ideal. Your DJ frame could be used for XC as well but again, geometricly it is not ideal.

  9. #9
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    How much do you weigh? That is a factor. If you are 6'4" and 250 lbs, that will make a huge difference on whether you can ride a lighter bike and not deal with durability problems.

    I ride a Fisher Hi-Fi Pro with a set of Stans ZTR 355 wheels and a really light seatpost and have ridden some very technical terrain without a problem. But I weigh about 145 lbs., so when I inadvertently plow into a baby head or land not so smoothly off a little drop I'm not stressing the frame and wheels as much as a bigger rider. You put a 250 pound rider on my bike with those light wheels and they may start having serious durability issues.

    That GF Marlin will probably hold up great for you if you are not a really large person and don't run straight into a big rock. That bike is made to take the kind of riding you are describing. Remember an XC bike is an off road bike and is much sturdier than a recreational bike meant for riding on paved pathways. XC racing and riding is often done on some very technical terrain, the type of terrain most people would refer to as "all-mountain."

  10. #10
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    i would say that it depends on how good a rider you are! i mean if you dont land well etc, you need a stronger bike! i give mine hell as do the guys i ride with as they love how light it is and the small geometry lol!
    Ride hard or go home!

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  11. #11
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    Lets for a moment step away....

    from the XC vs DJ thing. There are bikes that are meant for more aggessive/abusive riding than a Marlin. A Marlin is abviously an XC bike with lighter components. The frame isn't made of glass and will handle 1 to 2 foot drops to transition, and mild jumps 2 to 3 feet of air as long as the rider is smooth and lands things correctly etc. Rock gardens are going to be a problem, but it'll have more to do with control of the bike. Your speed through a rock garden is limited by two things, your ability and the capabilities of the bike. Through a rock garden a hard tail is at a distinct disadvantage due to the lack of rear suspension. At some point the rear is going to start bouncing around and make the bike uncontrolable. The same thing will happen to an fs, but the speeds are much higher due to the shock obsorbing rear end. This should be obvious. The obvious solution with the hardtail is fatter tires. But with an XC oriented bike you'll only be able to go with 2.3" tires at most. The frame won't have clearance for much more if that. Plus forks and other components will be lighter and flexier so you are limiting the amount of control you have in that respect as well.

    But there are other hardtail bikes, even in the Fisher line, that will take a bunch more abuse than their XC hardtails. While Fisher lists them as dirt jumpers, the Opie and Mullet really aren't in the strictest sense. They are more of a cross between a DJ bike and an XC bike. Burly frames certainly, but the geometry speaks more of an very heavy duty XC or Freeride bike. Even the available sizes speak more of XC, All Mountain or Freeride. The Opie and Mullet are available in anything from 13" to 21.5" sizes. No dirt jumper in his right mind (even those 6' plus) would ride a 21" hardtail for jumping! If you want to see a hardcore jumper look at the Fisher PHD or the Specialized P series of bikes, those are pure jumpers! And they aren't good for much else.

    And here's my point. The Marlin is a solid XC bike that will handle just about anything that can be considered XC, even the occasional drop, jump, rock garden etc. But it won't do it all day every day! It is an XC bike and is built lighter and for that reason will eventually fail if beaten hard. The Opie or Mullet designs are designed to handle a severe beating on a daily basis and sit in the corner of the garage afterwards begging for more! The bottom line is the beating that a Mullet is capable of taking and just shrugging off, would destroy a Marlin in very short order. As for the line where DJ and XC blurs a bit, you've found it. The Mullet and Opie are not pure jumpers, even though Fisher lumps them with their jump bikes, but they're deffinately not an XC bike either, though they share some of the same characteristics.

    So which one if right for you. Well if your going to be feeding the bike a constant diet of jumps, drops, rock gardens, and perhaps start going bigger and harder as your skills improve, then go with the Mullet, about the same price as the Marlin. If you intend to ride XC with the occasional mild jump, drop, etc. tossed in, then the Marlin will be fine. Like I said earlier, if your looking for that blured line between XC and Jump, you've found it in the Mullet and Opie. Sized like an XC bike and either will be a great heavy duty trail, all mountain or free ride hardtail. Drop down a size or two smaller than what you would ride for an XC bike and either would be a good jump oriented bike. So take your pick, just base your choice on the worst that you intend to put the bike through.

    Good Dirt
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  12. #12
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    Thanks for posts everyone.

    I guess something like the mullet or opie might have been a better choice.

    I do have one thing on my side that's good. I'm 5'4" and 130 pounds. So, I can definietly abuse a bike a lot more than someone who is 200 pounds.

    And, I don't plan on abusing this bike all day everyday. I really will only abuse it on weekends and who knows if i'll do the harder trails all the time, probably not.

    I will say right now, for me, I am not concerned with DJing, but much more with aggressive XC and DH. I really just underestimated how much fun I'd have with the hard DH sections of some trails. I began to go out of my way to go over the rock gardens. Yes, the back of my bike was bouncing like crazy, but I didn't mind.

    And really, that kind of stuff is the worst my bike is gonna be going through. And I think my 130 pound body (which, if I start lifting harder, eating more, and decide to gain a bit of weight, will get to 140-145 tops) won't be killing the frame/wheels/fork even over some crazy rock gardens or small drop or air from rocks/roots/logs.

    For what is possible, I understand I have a hardtail... so they can only control certain speeds. At some point, my back tire can only jump around so much. I just will find that limit and stop there.

    I guess, since I enjoy this type of riding, I'll keep going and see how the bike does. I do have the fact that I'm light on my side, I definitely will be putting less stress on my bike.

  13. #13
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    on a heavier bike, if it gets tough you have to get off and push, or pedal a little harder. if it gets tough on an xc bike your components break because the bike wasnt built for that kind of thing.. i ride a lot of XC, but i do it on a long travel hardtail with 2.4 tires and heavy freeride rims. imo "trail" bikes are better for almost everyone thats not racing.

  14. #14
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    also many dj bikes are steel framed to take the "edge" off, and for durability issues, steel has a plusher ride, and has more fatigue life than aluminum does. meaning it can take stress longer than AL before it fails, i really cant tell the difference in frame material all that much and i ride my dj bike on some xc and ive taken my xc bike on some tame dh

    if you go with the gary fisher mullet or opie (or even an xc hardtail) it will take quite awhile to trash components because of your light weight

  15. #15
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    tomsmoto, what do you mean when you say "trail" bike? This isn't an XC? It seemed to me XC was a trail bike, but sounds like you are thinking differently. I could clearly be wrong though.

    And, I'm curious, considering I am pretty light and it'll take a while to trash my Marlin's stuff, if and when I do--say bend my rim, break my fork, or something--could upgrading the parts to then handle more rough terrain be okay?

    I do understand the Marlin frame is not nearly as heavy duty as DJ bikes (which I suppose are better suited for aggressive DH riding, if you want to DH on a hardtail of course), but I am going to assume it's not an easy task to break a frame--especially since I'm not very heavy.

    So, if the frame does me well, would upgrading to more durable parts (when ones now break and it's necessary) be almost as good as having the sturdier bike to begin with?

    What are the limitations on durability upgrades for an XC bike like the Marlin? Say I wanted to take this frame and make it into a DH bike (since that's probably the one place i'm headed as my skills increase), could I do it? Take into account I am light as well. Can a suitable DH hardtail be had out of my Marlin frame? Obviously this will also be done slowly... since willl replace parts as needed.

  16. #16
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    well the geometry isnt ideal for dh but i think it would do ok especially since you are just learning, when and if you do start breaking parts you could upgrade to a whole differant bike with disk breaks and burleyier parts, (possibley for cheaper than upgrading your old bike) the frame should hold up just fine as long as you arent jumping huge jumps or drops

  17. #17
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    There is a huge geometry, frame quality and strength(I've bent a few XC frames trying to DJ them when I weighed only 100lbs) and standover.

    XC forks on DJ bikes? I think not, only pros and very smooth riders can afford a light duty fork and get away with it, I'd break an XC fork, I like my slammed Z1 with the 20mm through axle a lot more anyway.

    The difference is not only in the frame's build and geometry, but the wheelset, tires, tubes, crank(cranks are easily bent/broken while DJing), stem, bar etc make a huge difference, look closer. Most cheap DJ bikes use XC components to save on cost, not because it is a good idea.

    To make a XC bike DJable, you'd need to switch a whole lot of components, fitting would suck(you'd either have perfect top tube length and no standover clearance, or huge standover with a TT that is way too short for you) and you'd be quite likely to bend/break the frame. Most manufacturers won't warranty frames that were broken outside of their intended use.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jay687
    tomsmoto, what do you mean when you say "trail" bike? This isn't an XC? It seemed to me XC was a trail bike, but sounds like you are thinking differently. I could clearly be wrong though.

    And, I'm curious, considering I am pretty light and it'll take a while to trash my Marlin's stuff, if and when I do--say bend my rim, break my fork, or something--could upgrading the parts to then handle more rough terrain be okay?

    I do understand the Marlin frame is not nearly as heavy duty as DJ bikes (which I suppose are better suited for aggressive DH riding, if you want to DH on a hardtail of course), but I am going to assume it's not an easy task to break a frame--especially since I'm not very heavy.

    So, if the frame does me well, would upgrading to more durable parts (when ones now break and it's necessary) be almost as good as having the sturdier bike to begin with?

    What are the limitations on durability upgrades for an XC bike like the Marlin? Say I wanted to take this frame and make it into a DH bike (since that's probably the one place i'm headed as my skills increase), could I do it? Take into account I am light as well. Can a suitable DH hardtail be had out of my Marlin frame? Obviously this will also be done slowly... since willl replace parts as needed.
    No, you can't make your marlin a DH bike, putting any more than the stock travel on the frame will increase leverage on the head tube and could potentially break it off causing injury or death, frame won't be warrantied due to the use of a fork too long. Your geometry is way too steep for DH, you'd find yourself over the bars quite often.

  19. #19
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    Well, I'm not trying to make it DJable. i'm looking to make it DHable. I really don't plan on doing DJing, that was just part of the original question.

    I mainly am concerned with some small drops, large rock/root gardens, logs, and so on. The trails I was going on had some long DH sections with lots of rock gardens, some of which had some kinda big rocks or logs strewn about. I often went off those as jumps and continued on my line, bumping my way down.

    That's mainly what I'd like to be doing. Since I guess XC is for smoother trails with the occassional bump I guess? I think the Marlin won't be a good choice for that kinda DH, even with upgraded parts.

    So, if that's the case, what kind of hardtail can be good for DH? I'm thinking framewise mainly because at least a good frame for it could be upgraded to be suited better and better for DH. So, I'd hope the hardtail frame could handle longer travel forks and bigger tires and what not. And the geometry, like smaller head angle and ETT? might need to be different as well.

    I'm not buying a FS bike because I still want to ride on easier trails and use the bike for more than DH. Plus, I like riding a hardtail because I'm still a beginner.

    And obviously, I'm already possibly losing $$ on selling my brand new bike just to get another one, so... I really can't afford a FS.

  20. #20
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    As far as Downhillable hardtails go, I would look go to your shop and try out a spesh P.bike, one of the steel ones. It is purely DJ but I found I enjoy the flickable geometry for everything from riding with my BMX buddies to riding with my neighbor on XC trails. If you don't like the pure DJ geo, I would check out a SC chameleon, it is plenty burly, and can take up to a 6" fork. Also the Transistion ToP would suit you well. Banshee makes a few bikes that do what you are describing, Scirocco, Scratch, etc. good luck
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