I'm not sure my current bike is right for me. Suggestions for a new one?
I am somewhat more than a beginner, but probably not an intermediate rider. Two and a half years ago I bought my first mountain bike, an Anthem 29er, but I'm not sure this bike is right for me and my riding style. Here in Colorado's front range the trails are generally pretty rocky, and so on many climbs you have to pick your way between lots of rocks and steer accurately between obstacles. I find this very difficult to do with the Anthem because its steering is very twitchy at low climbing speeds. I often have spotted my line, but with the front wheel moving all over I inevitably steer right into a rock or something.
As I understand things, a steep head angle, like the Anthem's 71 degrees, makes for faster steering but also leads to this twitchy feeling at low speeds. I wonder if a bike with a lower head angle, such as a Trance (69.5 degrees) or even a Reign (67.5) would help?
Also, when I'm climbing if I do hit an obstacle, even a rather small one, it can stop me in my tracks. So would the larger fork travel of these other bikes help me get over them?
I think that at age 55 my skill set and endurance/strength are what they are, and I don't expect any great improvements in this area. I have never left the ground on a decent, nor have I dropped off anything more than a foot, and I don't really intend to. I just like to get out and ride the trails safely, make a good climb without too much walking, and enjoy a controlled decent.
I do note that Giant lists the Anthem as a "competition/XC" bike, which is not at all my style. The Trance is listed as a "Trail" bike and the Reign as an "All Mountain," although I am not sure which of these classes fit me better.
So any suggestions on whether these other bikes (or even another brand/model) would be better suited for me?
You've got things backwards. The steep head angle is exactly what you want at low speeds. You'll find a slacker head angle a bit of a bear in these situations. Many (not all) of these slack designs suffer from wheel flop in slow corners (the wheel tucks in on its own), and changing your line mid corner is often more difficult.
I suspect that you may need to get your weight forward quite a bit more so the front is more planted. Having too little weight on that wheel will cause it to wander all over the place. Drop you chest closer to the bars for starters, and see if that helps. Gasp (heresy), a longer stem and less rise helps too....
One thing is true as well, if you are looking at that rock you will steer right into it.
JSYN, I ride really rocky slow speed climbs all the time and believe me being able to change one's mind about a line mid climb is a good thing.
I live in another "front range" in the Rockies, and have 20 years experience riding the technical stuff. My first thoughts are sometimes the best line is the straightest line. Lift the front wheel and go over the rocks if possible. Twisting along like a snake is a pretty hard way to climb (but sometimes necessary)
I would call the Anthem a XC race bike for fast, flowy singletrack. More travel and a higher bottom works well in the rocks.
I ride a 2008 Giant Reign with 6" travel and 68 or 69 head tube angle and it's about perfect for me. The head tube angle is "old school" now, but it makes climbing and slow speed technical maneuvers pretty easy. I imagine a slacker head tube angle would rip downhill, but I am getting old and crashing hurts more now.
I would get a "trail bike" like the Trance X.
Another option is putting a longer travel fork on the Anthem. This will slacken the head tube angle and raise the bottom bracket.
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