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  1. #1
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    Heavy weights on soft tails?

    I am looking for feed back from heavyweights with experience on a soft tail. I weigh in around 240 lbs., am currently on an aluminum Fisher hard tail 29er, and am a XC-type rifer in the upper Midwest. I am on the hunt for a new frame for a couple reasons: 1) I would like a frame that fits and handles a little better; 2) I injured my back this spring and have been feeling kind of stiff and sore after I ride.

    I like the simplicity and general feel of a hard tail, though lately I have not been enjoying the stiffness after a ride. I am posting here in search of advice on the best way to get a comfortable ride without going to extremes. In other words, are there recommendations for a frame that will ride like a hard tail, but not leave me feeling too battered?

    For my riding style (generally pretty boring stuff - I try not to go airborne or plow into obstacles), I think a full-suspension rig would be excessive. Admittedly, I have not had much experience riding FS bikes. A soft tail, such as a Dos or a Curtlo, look like they might provide a happy compromise, but for someone weighing 240+ lbs., would the small shock/travel have a discernible effect? How might the ride of a soft tail compare to a comfortable clyde-worthy steel frame, that is, how much difference might I expect going from my aluminum Fisher to a soft tail Dos or steel hard tail like a Niner or Mariachi? Is there a pronounced difference?

    Thanks in advance. I hate the "tell me which bike to buy" type of threads, but I would appreciate some comparison of soft tail vs. hard tail from someone of a comparable weight. I'm not sure ride reviews from 150 lb. riders are beneficial in this case.

    EDIT: I should add that I was planning on a Niner prior to injuring my back this spring. I like the fit, handling, etc., but I'm concerned that despite being more compliant, a steel hard tail is still a hard tail.
    Last edited by Wormburner; 10-21-2007 at 07:22 PM.

  2. #2
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    I am a guy that has...

    Steel hts (26ers and 29ers) and a steel softail (Dean Jester) that also weighs 250 lbs w/o gear. For these reasons I feel some what qualified to answer your question. I personally love the softail concept. Just enough suspension to take the edge off. It is noticeably smoother than a 26in ht but not as much difference compared to a 29er ht. It is still smoother though. The Dean handles my weight no problemos, and there are guy's your size riding Curtlo's and Salsa softails on the 29er forum. I dont know if a 29er appeals to you, they arent for everyone but, no bike is. However, I would imagine a 29er softail being a pretty smooth ride.
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  3. #3
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    Thanks for the insight. I'm hooked on the big wheel thing, so whatever I decide on will be a 29er.

  4. #4
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    I can testify to there definitely being a difference between a steel hardtail and softtail. I have both, Curtlos naturally. I've been riding the softtail for 7 years, and when I take out the hardtail occasionally, I'm amazed at how much I notice the rear end being hard. 1" may not sound like much, but it is noticeable. I live outside Chicago and ride very tame trails out of necessity. The soft tail has proven to be a very good choice for me.

  5. #5
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    I am 6'-5" and 250 with a hydro-pak & trail gear. I have been on 29er full suspension since I got into biking 3 yrs. ago, and would recommend them to anyone on the tall side. I love the ability to ride hard in rough country on a full suspension. I also have a Gary Fisher Rig HT 29er singlespeed and love it too. It's just a bit rougher on the singletrack (but oh sooo much fun!).
    Previously, I was over the bars often on a 26" HT. I have broiken two Gary Fisher Sugar 292s - w/ 21" frame. Got my last frame replaced by Fisher under warranty with a Supercaliber 29er. Two Weeks after I got my bike back, another friend broke his Sugar (he is 310 lbs!). He wasn't given the supercaliber frame, but got a Hi-Fi 29er frame because it's supposed to be a stiffer frame. Don't know what his thoughts are on it yet, but here's mine on my Supercaliber:

    On the really technical stuff we have here un Northern Wisconsin, there is a bit too much flex in the rear on bumpy downhill singletrack. I sometimes get the feeling I am flatting out in the rear - slipping a bit sideways each direction. Kinda scary when the trees are large and close. I love many other characteristics of the bike though. It climbs awesome - better than the Sugar, and is easier to get out of the saddle on too. Just wish it wasn't flexing so much. I know other riders who are hoovering at 200 lbs, who don't get this flex. It must be the little bit of extra weight I am. Try this bike if you can, and see if it flexes for you. If not, it's a Groove. Seeing as we are about the same weight, I would assume you would have the flexing.

    I am looking at getting a new frame and building from there. Based on the forums and reviews, I am looking at a Turner Sultan, Ventana El Capitan, or a Niner RIP 9 to see if I can get a similar feeling bike with no flex. Any input from others would help us both out.

    Ride On!

    T

  6. #6
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    What you describe is part of why I have reservations on a full-suspension setup. I'm afraid that a lot of XC-type bikes are race oriented, and few are intended to stand up to 250+ lbs hammering away on them. On the other hand, I'm still put off by the thought of a heavy-duty FS rig because I worry that I'd lose the "feel" of the trail if I end up on a huge tank of a bike. I have given the Hi-Fi a look and had the opportunity to take one for a brief ride. If I do opt to go FS, this will be one my short list of candidates.

  7. #7
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    I only do about 3 races per season, and two of those are on local trails that are pretty technnical and I just can't see doing a 10 to 15 mile race on a hardtail with the amount of rough stuff we have. We had a "Marathon Series" race for WORS on our 10 mile course which required the comp & expert riders to do 4 laps! It shouldn't have been that many laps, because they had the snot beat out of them on their hardtails by the time they were done. I also don't want a heavy duty all mountain style frame. I'm going to check out the Hi-Fi too, although It will have to wait until the spring when the LBS gets their new year of bikes in. I'm on the border about spending the big bucks to get a frame only and get it built up, when there ought to be a complete bike available to handle us.

  8. #8
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    As a once-owner of a Moots YBB I'd say don't do it. I'm 6'6" and a light-n-lean 205 lbs. I found the 21.5" YBB to be uber-flexy. Sure the vertical compliancy was nice but for aggressive riding it was unacceptable.

    The 29er concept for bigger guys is intriguing tho I've never tried one. Short travel suspension or compliant frame materials are definitely the way to go.

    I always thought that a heavier-gauge Ti frame would be just the ticket but it's hard to justify the extra cost when there are so many good steel bikes around that need your love!

    A

  9. #9
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    You have to remember that...

    Quote Originally Posted by asin
    As a once-owner of a Moots YBB I'd say don't do it. I'm 6'6" and a light-n-lean 205 lbs. I found the 21.5" YBB to be uber-flexy. Sure the vertical compliancy was nice but for aggressive riding it was unacceptable.

    The 29er concept for bigger guys is intriguing tho I've never tried one. Short travel suspension or compliant frame materials are definitely the way to go.

    I always thought that a heavier-gauge Ti frame would be just the ticket but it's hard to justify the extra cost when there are so many good steel bikes around that need your love!

    A
    The YBB is titanium, which is usually not as stiff in the bottom braket area as steel. My Dean is not flexy like you mentioned, but its steel. Custom is usually the only way to get Ti and a non-flexy big guy frame.
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  10. #10
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    Going for a custom build seems like the way to go in order to get exactly what I want (stiff in the right places, forgiving in others) especially given that the price of a Curtlo - at least by the '06 pricing on his site - looks to be in line with the MSRP of the Salsa. Investing the time and money for a custom rig is a little scary given that I'm not sure a softtail will be enough cush for me. A more practical approach might be to pick up a used Dos at a decent price and give it a shot. If it works well, then it might be time to go the custom route. If not, I might have to get over my FS fears...ugh, decisions.

  11. #11
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    Which ever way you go, it does make sense to experiment with "off-the-rack" bikes before you go the tailored route.

  12. #12
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    I have owned a couple of hardtails, a trek stp soft tail, and now currently am riding my second ventana full sus.

    I really liked the soft tail, untill i got into faster rocky descents; This might have had somthing to do with the carbon frame though. If you are looking to take some edge off and still have the feel of a hard tail, this might be the way to go.

    But...i can honestly say that in my opinion Ventana makes a seriously stiff bike that has give in all the right ways. Probably the best frame for clydesdales. (or any rider for that matter). A little expensive but if you have a chance to demo one i would highly recomend it. Plus they customize the size to fit you exactly. The reviews really dont lie.

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