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  1. #1
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    Scalpel vs Epic vs Spark vs 429SL vs Revolver vs Jet 9 vs Fourstroke vs Element

    Trying to figure out what I should get for my first 29er. I previously had an Ibis Mojo SL that I used for everything, but now I have a Canfield Balance, and want something lighter for long endurance rides, bikepacking, and maybe some racing.

    Considering pretty much any 100 mm 29er dual suspension bike. Lefty seems like the biggest thing that stands out to me with the bikes I'm looking at, and otherwise they seem fairly similar. Any advice?

  2. #2
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    My advice is to narrow down your choices to two or three bikes before asking for advice. Other than that I've owned two 429 SLs and loved them both for XC racing and most trail riding.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott@GO-RIDE.com View Post
    My advice is to narrow down your choices to two or three bikes before asking for advice. Other than that I've owned two 429 SLs and loved them both for XC racing and most trail riding.
    Probably a good idea. I can say I'm leaning towards a Scalpel since I can get the lowest weight per dollar on the bike, and people seem to really like the Lefty. I guess I just want to hear if anyone has a strong reason for not going with the Scalpel then.

  4. #4
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    For me, durability is very important, and I was really disappointed with my Jet9 RDO. I've lost track of the number of ways it failed me... Eventually it was replaced with a new frame. I sold it before even building it up. Unfortunately, the seat tube cracked for the new owner. My local LBS gave up on the brand. Twice.

  5. #5
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    I've never raced a faster, less fun, bike than the Epic. If I were riding and racing for a paycheck, that might still be my choice.

    People that love the Lefty are vocal about it. People that dislike it are much quieter. I'm in the second camp.

    The Spark (esp in the 120 mm version) and 429 SL are my two picks on your list. Sparks are so light that they do have some -- not tons -- of breakage reports. 429 SLs seem to hold up under anybody. Also, I've heard Sparks may be hard to come by. Maybe even already sold out for the year in certain areas?!

    I'm a bit of a Trek guy, and have logged some time on the new Top Fuel. Other than a grumpy remote lockout switch, that bike is a stone cold winner (with a 120 fork for my tastes).

    Enjoy the hunt!
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  6. #6
    Elitest thrill junkie
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    Epic: crap suspension design that relies on the "brain", which makes it harsher, but if you ditch the brain, it pedals significantly worse. Cannondale is all over the place these days IMO. The question for me isn't what is lightest, it's what combines the traits I'm looking for with decent durability and reliability. Is it a bike that will last a season, or will it last season-after-season? Many of the big manufacturers use crap bearing systems IME that aren't really meant to be replaced, although in most cases they still can be. They end up being frustrating though and require the shops to work on em or specific bearing tools. The frame stiffness is another factor, somewhat related to the pivots and bearings. This is endurance racing, so I'd choose the bike that has decent pedaling traits (429SL, Czar, Ripley, etc.) with other desirable features and an open front triangle to put bottles or custom bike bags, so you can get as much off your back as possible.

    I have the 429SL (large) and I like it a lot. Kind of wanted a Czar due to the more open triangle, but it was a lot more $$ and I still have pretty good front area for that on my size frame. I do like how stiff the frame is, that's a very nice feature. Travel is good, if you can't make something on a climb it's not because of the bike.
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  7. #7
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    I would double Jayem here; good platform is a key for long endurance racing, especially in demanding terrain. Being able to pedal effectively while maintaining suspension active is nice to have.

    Said this... perhaps not pure XC racer, but seems a good candidate for endurance events -> Tallboy from Santa Cruz.

    BTW I am running old Blur TRc converted to 650b standard for such events. Does his job.

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    IMO, TallBoy 2, not 3, but you may have different ideas.

    I'm on a TallBoy 2 which I love for XCM and the riding I do with a 120 mm fork. I'm not sure what I would replace it with when it comes time to replace. I'm not a big fan of the new TB3, so would probably look at the Czar or 429SL.

  9. #9
    DLd
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    For your reference, a local racer set a new course record for the GJOR30 course a few weeks ago on a 2017 Scalpel. He was raving about the new slacker HA and 55mm offset on the lefty. He had previously raced Enduro, and switched to XC, so he's a beast on the downhills, and at ~180lbs is pretty burly for a XC racer, so the bike is getting a good thrashing from someone at that weight, going that fast. He ended up setting the ride to private to go stealth for this year's race I guess or I'd link it. He's had all good things to say about it. He's been setting a ton of PR's lately.
    Wow, GJ, Fruita, and Moab trails are riding great. This is a killer spring for riding!

  10. #10
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    Keep in mind the new Niner Jet 9 RDO is no longer a race bike. It's a 130mm light trail bike that can be pressed into race service. Imo it's a great all arounder.

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  11. #11
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    I have owned a few of the bikes listed (Scalpel, Element, Jet 9) and am currently racing a 429sl for endurance races. The scalpel was great but I didn't like not being able to swap out wheels with the others I have in my garage. While I do like the lockout on the scalpel and Element I have found that I prefer a bike with an excellent suspension design and solid pedaling platform that is efficient without the need for a lockout. I find that I love the way the 429sl pedals and am not having to choose between a fully locked out bike or an inefficient bobbing suspension. It seems like some of the bikes I have ridden compensate a poor suspension design with putting lockouts on it to help it climb better.

  12. #12
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    Sounds like an older, Trek Superfly is what OP is really after. I'm still riding my 2012 SF 100 Pro.... albeit with updated trail components(Dropper post, RS Pike, 2.35" wide tires, XTR Trail brakes, XX1, carbon wheels, etc). I'm still NOT ready to ditch this sub-25 pound rocket with external cable routing:
    Scalpel vs Epic vs Spark vs 429SL vs Revolver vs Jet 9 vs Fourstroke vs Element-sf_2016.jpg
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by SLCpowderhound View Post
    ... I have found that I prefer a bike with an excellent suspension design and solid pedaling platform that is efficient without the need for a lockout. I find that I love the way the 429sl pedals and am not having to choose between a fully locked out bike or an inefficient bobbing suspension. It seems like some of the bikes I have ridden compensate a poor suspension design with putting lockouts on it to help it climb better.
    ^^^ This.

    I've had and raced 7 different full suspension 29ers. Five of them were modified single pivot or plain ol' single pivot (the Caliber). One FSR/4-bar/Horst Link, one maestro.

    Now getting acquainted with a dw-link bike.

    Fisher Caliber (2006)
    Lenzsport Leviathan 4 (2007)
    Voodoo Canzo (2009)
    Specialized Stumpjumper (2010)
    Tomac Diplomat (2011)
    Giant Anthem (aluminum, 2013)
    Yeti ASRc (2015)
    Pivot Mach429 Trail (only weeks ago!)

    Without question, by far the worst bike for anything but riding fast downhill was the FSR. I made a fundamental blunder with that bike by passing on the build level that came with the brain (Stumpjumpers were shipping with a brain at the higher level, mine had the awful Fox Triad). The fact that it needed to be fiddled with to climb well was dead obvious. It was like pedaling a kiddie pool with the shock open. Especially since the platform that the triad offered was terrible, the achilles heal of the FSR was obvious. The only option was locked out, which sucked on really chunky climbs. That shock failed on me as I was descending Canyon Creek in the 2010 Vapor Trail 125, then I crashed and was a DNF anyway.

    Good times.

    The Anthem was amazing for climbing. No fiddling with the shock, I left it open all the time. Just not much fun on the descents. It was fine, just not, um, hell I don't know.

    I've had really good times on those modified single pivots. But they were 3 and 4 inch travel bikes except for the Tomac. Which was the worst climbing of my single pivots. Short travel, progressive rate. Works just fine. Shaves a few seconds off your descending, but you can do great things on a modified single pivot.

    Now here's where I'm going with this. I've been on an ASR for two seasons. Great bike. Very good climber, fun descending and trail riding. Awesome bike. So now I'm on a Mach429 Trail which I don't own but have to use for the season (bike shop employee perk). It's a little heavier than the ASR, but not much. I haven't had to fiddle with the ASR shock much, I sometimes use Climb or Trail on long climbs, but often just leave it in Descend. I don't like needing to fiddle, when I do I often forget to open it back up when it's time to go down.

    The Mach does not require any fiddle. It's just like the Maestro. Not much efficiency loss from leaving the shock open. I like to have my suspension working. Most of my climbs are chunky. The Mach just soaks it up. Smooth power transfer. But the difference I'm really seeing right now is that the Mach is solid. Some of it is boost spacing I'm sure. Wheels. Also the Fox 34. But damn. Solid. I never thought of the ASR as flexy, but it really is compared to the Mach. That stiffness in addition to the smart linkage (DW) makes it really feel like my energy makes it go. Like a stiff road bike. Stomp and go.

    I think the smart linkages are worth it. Switch Infinity is amazing. I just don't like the slackness of the SB yetis, and I want a bottle cage. Maestro is valid, kind of a rip-off of DW (I think Weagle has filed some lawsuits against Giant).

    Yes I chose the 429 Trail and not the SL. I would like to take on some big challenges, maybe even Vapor Trail 125 this fall. I'll still have the ASR, but if I do vapor the Mach will be under me. No question. It climbs as well or better, and when it's time to descend I'd rather be following that 34. It's always faster to not crash.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cayenne_Pepa View Post
    Sounds like an older, Trek Superfly is what OP is really after. I'm still riding my 2012 SF 100 Pro.... albeit with updated trail components(Dropper post, RS Pike, 2.35" wide tires, XTR Trail brakes, XX1, carbon wheels, etc). I'm still NOT ready to ditch this sub-25 pound rocket with external cable routing:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    ^^ Me too; exact same bike, getting ready for race season #5. After five years the only original part is the frame; upgraded to RS SID fork, PUSH'd shock, XT drivetrain & brakes, carbon wheels and accessories. Chipped, scratched, beaten up but basically still the same bike that I bought in 2012.

    Having said all that, if I was buying a new bike it would be tossup/testride between a Czar and a Top Fuel.

  15. #15
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    I know it wasn't one of your original choices, but I have been having a lot of fun on my 2016 Trek Top Fuel. I put a dropper on it and it opened a whole new side of the bike. Light and fast for racing, but I also take it to my local bike park and can ride some of the jumps and drops on it as well.

    I want to like the new Scalpel, but the proprietary offset rear wheel, proprietary front hub, and my history with lefty problems...I personally don't think I would go that route.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by sdcadbiker View Post
    ^^ Me too; exact same bike, getting ready for race season #5. After five years the only original part is the frame; upgraded to RS SID fork, PUSH'd shock, XT drivetrain & brakes, carbon wheels and accessories. Chipped, scratched, beaten up but basically still the same bike that I bought in 2012.

    Having said all that, if I was buying a new bike it would be tossup/testride between a Czar and a Top Fuel.
    I "rented" a Turner Czar last summer, and it still did not justify the cost of entry - the Superfly with upgraded AM/Trail components smoked the Czar and transformed the SF into an Endurance/Enduro 29er race rocket. Same with the Fuel...which the Superfly still performed on-par with.
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  17. #17
    zrm
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    The Epic is probably the fastest bike on your list. Whether or not it's the best endurance bike is probably a question of fit and preference. I have a 2016 S Works Camber and it's almost as fast as the Epic, but it's a lot friendlier beast to tame. (I've had an Epic so have experience with the comparison)

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by zrm View Post
    The Epic is probably the fastest bike on your list. Whether or not it's the best endurance bike is probably a question of fit and preference. I have a 2016 S Works Camber and it's almost as fast as the Epic, but it's a lot friendlier beast to tame. (I've had an Epic so have experience with the comparison)
    Agreed. I race an Epic one year, and a Camber the next in 100 milers. Camber all the way, but you have to be willing to flip the rear shock lever a lot for good pedaling.

    The tradeoff being a very supple ride when the rear shock is fully open.

    Caveat: My first hand experience on this is 5 years old now (100 mm Epic, 120 mm Camber), so details on the Epic and Camber may have changed.
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  19. #19
    Daniel the Dog
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    I think I'm faster on my Kona Honzo than my superlight 2013 Tallboy. I like slacker bikes for speed. I'm looking at a Tallboy 3 when I can raise the funds!

    The 2016 Trek Fuel looks good with 120 front and rear!

  20. #20
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    I think it is hard to find a bike faster than the Epic WC. However, if you race long rough endurance races fatigue is more of a factor. This bike brutalized me on rough 100k courses. At Leadville type races its hard to beat.....but if you are racing more NUE stule or Canadian stuff, I'd look elsewhere. I did an NUE race last year, had a great result, but could barely feel from my waist down for about 10 minutes after the race. Currently riding a Kona Hei Hei Race Supreme.....it's plenty fast and significantly more capable and comofortable

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by wgerow View Post
    I think it is hard to find a bike faster than the Epic WC. However, if you race long rough endurance races fatigue is more of a factor. This bike brutalized me on rough 100k courses.
    Same. By the end of the Cascade Creampuff 100 miler, I had both "brains" fully open, and I was still numb.

    It was a rocket on the fire road climb portions, though!
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