I get a lot out of these forums so figured time to contribute a bit. I spent the 3-day President's Day weekend on brand new Tracer 29er and thought I would share the experience.
For starters, a shout out to my LBS Gareth Jones at Georgia Pro Bicycles (GPB) http://www.georgiaprobicycles.com/ for loaning me his Tracer 29 demo. IMHO easily the best bike shop in Atlanta, especially if you value super capable wrenching skills. Speaking of GPB, Gareth had previously lent me his Tracer 26" demo, and my regular bike is an original Spider XVP, so those will serve as comparisons.
Here's the picture of the bike:
I didn't take note of every component, but here's what I recall or can glean from the picture:
Tracer 29 Medium with Fox shock
Shimano XT Dynasis Gruppo with 8-inch rotors
Rock Shox Reba fork (140mm I believe) with 20mm thru axle
EDGE (now ENVE) carbon bar
Titec 100mm stem (inverted)
EDGE carbon rims laced to DT Swiss 240s (with tubes, not UST)
DT Swiss ratcheting rear QR
Time ATAC pedals (basic variety)
Kenda 2.2 tires (not sure which model)
Grips were some sort of lock-on
RockShox Reverb adjustable seatpost
Saddle not sure
Gareth says the bike tips the scales at 31.3 lbs. It feels lighter when you pick it up -- perhaps because as a 29er it looks larger. Travel setting was 5.5 inches. I kept the Fox shock in Pro Pedal mode most of the time.
I rode these trails...
Big Creek http://trails.mtbr.com/cat/united-st...6_4541crx.aspx -- fairly flat, rocky and rooty, technical aspects limited to short pitch changes, burmed turns and occasional log crossings, etc. (note: I have ridden this trail a bunch)
Chickopee http://trails.mtbr.com/cat/united-st...9_4541crx.aspx -- relatively more climbing, mostly smooth except for some heavy rooted sections, several sections of tight yet very fast singletrack (note: I had never ridden this trail before)
Blankets http://trails.mtbr.com/cat/united-st...0_4541crx.aspx -- most climbing of the three, some tight switchbacks, a few technical sections if you know where to find them (note: I have ridden this trail some, but not a lot)
...and since we're talking trails near Atlanta, we are definitely NOT talking about Durango or Fruita or Moab or Tahoe (all of which I am familiar with), so take with a grain of salt that I could not adequately test hard core technical
Here are my thoughts:
Wow, this bike is fun to ride! I liked the regular Tracer I had demo'd earlier, but Gareth had it setup pretty burly (36mm Fox fork, 2.4 tires, etc.) and so while it was fun to moto over stuff with reckless abandon, the XC rider in me found it a bit overkill for the trails I could get access to. The Tracer 29er, however, had nearly the same crush-everything-in-its-path feeling, except that A) it felt far faster, almost XC like, and B) the handling just felt right on.
I figure the EDGE carbon wheelset has a big deal to do with it. If I came to a hairpin and had to bring the bike to a near stop and then re-accelerate, it took definitely took more effort than getting my Spider back up to speed, but other than in that situation, it just felt responsive to pedal force input translating into speed. I must say I thought the climbing was pretty darn good. I didn't feel like I was paying the price for all the high speed fun when the trail pointed uphill like I had on the 26" Tracer. As a side note: I am now fully convinced 29" is the way to go. Whatever my next bike, it will be a 29er.
I tried my best to conduct some tests. I rode the same loop at Big Creek back-to-back on the Tracer 29er and then my Spider. First I must mention that when I stepped aboard my Spider after being on the Tracer, it was as if I had gotten on my 7 year old's bike. It felt tiny by comparison! It actually took me a few minutes on the trail to reacquaint myself with my own bike. Net net, for the 30 minute loop -- though I didn't have any super accurate way of timing myself -- I was no more than 30 seconds difference in time between the two. Then, at Blankets, I wound up catching up to two riders ahead on XC bikes, one of which was on a Specialized Epic (29er very possibly). My arrival put the fire in their bellies and it turned into a 3-person mini competition. By now I had over 2 hours in the saddle on the Tracer and the others were likely fresh or near so, so not sure how fair it was, but I managed to pass the one guy and push on the Epic rider, though never was able to get him to cede. No idea their fitness level relative to mine, but I thought, "Hey, okay, I can play XC on this bike."
I must also say that when the chance to open the bike up on moderate downhills (no big downhills on the trails I was on) I was amazed at the handling and how well -- and how fast -- I took some of the sections...especially given it was a bike I was unfamiliar with. Fun, fun, fun.
A few other observations:
Kenda tires seemed really good. They said 2.2 but looked wider. Never had any traction issues.
Reba fork worked just fine. I did notice my hands going a bit numb (something I seem susceptible to) relative to when on my Spider (Fox Talas). Not sure if was the grips or the Reba's small bump compliance or what.
Really liked the EDGE bar. Felt super stiff.
Loved loved loved the Reverb hydraulic adjustable seatpost! Whatever bike I ride will have one of these. Amazing. The infinite adjustability is awesome. If it weighs an extra pound or more, could care less.
EDGE carbon wheels. I said awesome above. Just reiterating. Gareth concurred by saying single best upgrade to any mountain bike. I suspect more difference maker than carbon road wheels.
Dynasis XT shifted like a champ. The rear brake squealed like a pig, so probably needed new pads, but otherwise spot on. BTW, braking with 8-inch rotors was really nice.
Bottom line, I had been angling for the soon to be released Spider 229, but wonder if I'd be giving up too much fun for not so much needed XC superiority? Man, I hate tough decisions! I wish I could test a Spider 229 to compare. It's tempting to just go with the Tracer 29er and train a bit harder so my friends on Nomads and so forth don't have an advantage. I doubt they'd be having more fun.
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