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  1. #1
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    Ideal new bike for John Muir system

    Hi;
    I am a relative beginner to mountain biking and do about 80% of my riding on the John Muir/Emma Carlin system. I love it. I am ready to upgrade from a Scott Aspect entry level bike with 26" tires.

    Would you consider this trail system cross-country or trail? I would like to be able to ride over the rocks a little better but I am not a big jumper. I know that both a hard tail or FS bike will work on these trails, but what about XC vs. a trail bike? at 5' 9" I am sold on getting a bike with 27.5" tires.

    The bikes I am looking at are Santa Cruz Superlight D (FS), Santa Cruz Chameleon hardtail, Trek XC X-Caliber 9, and maybe the Kona Precept 130 FS. What is your perfect under $2K bike for these trails?

    What about it for John Muir? Is an FS bike over kill? Should I go XC or trail bike? I am also 47 years old and wondering if its best to just get and FS bike for that reason.

    Thanks much!

  2. #2
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    I just rode there yesterday with my Superfly Singlespeed (which is what I would imagine the perfect trail for this bike). Personally, I had a ton of fun with my rigid singlespeed there, but also think that it would be equally as enjoyable on an XC bike like the Procaliber or the Top Fuel. Right now there is a crazy deal on the Top Fuel 9 before the come out with new models next month. As for tire size, you can do your research, but I suggest riding both and seeing what works for you. Trek uses what they call "Smart Wheel Size" where their 15.5" frames come with 27.5 and everything above that is 29 (for some models...). I would say that if you are looking for something that rolls over rocks better, then go with a 29er...

  3. #3
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    Welcome!

    Delay the gratification and rent bikes if you can. Go to demos. I'm not sure how far you are from trail head. The bike shop near there rents and so does Cam Rock Cafe and Machinery Row (Cambridge, Madison). Trail This in Madison has a Kona demo day in around a week or so. I think there will be another Rocky Mountain demo coming in the Madison area.

    I've been riding those trails since moms dropped us off there with Typhoons and Sting Rays in the 1960s. Every bike worked. The Raleigh Sports and my 1930s Elgin were not the best.

    I consider that a cross country trail system. I share bikes with my wife who's same height. We mostly ride a 2016 Trek Remedy 29r and 2014 Kona Honzo. Dual suspension makes the big ride of both outer loops and connector more comfy or easier but I've done it with the Honzo hard tail too. Last week I rode both loops and connector with the Remedy and as bumpy as it can be, I never used the 140 mm travel, but I'll use it about every ride at some other trails in S. WI because of the drops, or very different nature of Blue Mound. S. Kettles is a lot of fun with the hard tail. Actually, most riding is fun with the hard tail.

    The other reason to demo and try stuff and delay the gratification is sort out what's best for you. My wife and I encountered an incredible amount of bias in our last round of bike shopping. Some sales people are biased toward racing, some toward gravity riding, and some not even aware of or experienced with all the riding opportunities in the region.

    On your age, it took another 10 years for my back to at times need the full suspension but many times a hard tail is still best. I have associates who drive a car to trail heard or to ride their MTB. Our Honzo is as great for a ride that starts at our driveway as it is at trail head.

    If you want to be a racer or serious gravity rider both versatile bikes we love might not be ideal. They're far more about versatility, control and fun.

    Sorry for not knowing who has demos toward the other metro areas. Finally, consider getting your new bike at a shop that helps make the trails happen.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by bitflogger View Post
    Welcome!

    Delay the gratification and rent bikes if you can. Go to demos. I'm not sure how far you are from trail head. The bike shop near there rents and so does Cam Rock Cafe and Machinery Row (Cambridge, Madison). Trail This in Madison has a Kona demo day in around a week or so. I think there will be another Rocky Mountain demo coming in the Madison area.

    I've been riding those trails since moms dropped us off there with Typhoons and Sting Rays in the 1960s. Every bike worked. The Raleigh Sports and my 1930s Elgin were not the best.

    I consider that a cross country trail system. I share bikes with my wife who's same height. We mostly ride a 2016 Trek Remedy 29r and 2014 Kona Honzo. Dual suspension makes the big ride of both outer loops and

    connector more comfy or easier but I've done it with the Honzo hard tail too. Last week I rode both loops and connector with the Remedy and as bumpy as it can be, I never used the 140 mm travel, but I'll use it about every ride at some other trails in S. WI because of the drops, or very different nature of Blue Mound. S. Kettles is a lot of fun with the hard tail. Actually, most riding is fun with the hard tail.

    The other reason to demo and try stuff and delay the gratification is sort
    out what's best for you. My wife and I encountered an incredible amount of bias in our last round of bike shopping. Some sales people are biased toward racing, some toward gravity riding, and some not even aware of or experienced with all the riding opportunities in the region.

    On your age, it took another 10 years for my back to at times need the full suspension but many times a hard tail is still best. I have associates who drive a car to trail heard or to ride their MTB. Our Honzo is as great for a ride that starts at our driveway as it is at trail head.

    If you want to be a racer or serious gravity rider both versatile bikes we love might not be ideal. They're far more about versatility, control and fun.

    Sorry for not knowing who has demos toward the other metro areas. Finally, consider getting your new bike at a shop that helps make the trails happen.
    Thanks both of you. Very helpful. Sound like a versatile bike would work well.

  5. #5
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    I would wait tell more 2017 bikes come out. I have a fuel ex 9 and old giant xtc hard tail. I ride my hard tail more then my fs. With all the up Hills just makes life easier. But with this new gt coming out that will be 1st on my list for tax return.
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    Great advice so far. For those trails and most trails in the midwest, 100mm of full-suspension travel is about perfect. Hardtails are great, as well, but that is personal preference. The only time I've really needed more than a cross-country bike in Wisconsin was when I was actively searching out jumps and drops. I would strongly consider 29" wheels for cross-country trails.

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    I actually am in a similar position and looking for input on what others are riding in the area. This is a great thread with info. I am new to singletrack only have a few years on the trails locally (primarily ride on the road). I have a 2007 Cannondale F29 hardtail up on ebay now. I am looking to sell because it feels top heavy and not very confident on the trails (primarily on tighter turns at Alpha trail and Minooka park). I have not ridden any others in the area so I am curious how knarly are the other trails in SE WI? I just want something that is lighter, easier to turn, and has a little give. My current bike is 27.5 lbs, 3x setup and only 80mm of fork travel with the lefty fork . I am considering either the Trek Top Fuel 9 2017 or the Fuel Ex9 2017. Same question on those two... One has has less travel less slack, the other more. Does anybody have any input on which would be a great all round bike for singletrack? I am 210 lbs and I don't really care about DH or doing jumps if that helps. Thanks!

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    The Top Fuel is more likely to deliver what you are looking for. Lighter, slightly more forgiving, and light handling. The Fuel ex is a great trail bike as well, and might feel better to a heavier rider on rowdier terrain. Can you rent each bike for a half day? It realky is personal preference. I would also consider taking your Cannondale to a good bike shop for a proper fitting or just discussing your concerns. There are relatively inexpensive ways to lighten your bike, alter handling to your preference, and add some plushness to the ride. Bigger tubeless tires, handlebar placement, and a possible fork upgrade could make your bike feel completely different.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountainbiker24 View Post
    The Top Fuel is more likely to deliver what you are looking for. Lighter, slightly more forgiving, and light handling. The Fuel ex is a great trail bike as well, and might feel better to a heavier rider on rowdier terrain. Can you rent each bike for a half day? It realky is personal preference. I would also consider taking your Cannondale to a good bike shop for a proper fitting or just discussing your concerns. There are relatively inexpensive ways to lighten your bike, alter handling to your preference, and add some plushness to the ride. Bigger tubeless tires, handlebar placement, and a possible fork upgrade could make your bike feel completely different.
    Thank you for your input, I really appreciate it. I will try to go ride a top fuel this weekend or next. I tried a Fuel Ex recently and it was okay but they only have a size smaller than what i need. It felt weird on fast turns. Not sure if that is the wheel size getting in the way or the slack geometry.. I did get a bike fit on my cannondale and they could only do so much. Component wise I can see what you mean about making the bike different with some changes. I do that a lot with my road bike. Unfortunately I have a lefty fork on the mtb and its not exactly upgrade-able on a 2007 model especially. I guess its splitting hairs for what I do which is recreational singletrack when I get bored of road riding 95% of the time. Its about riding confidently and not blazing through courses. I just value a lighter bike because pulling extra weight (I think the Fuel Ex is 30lbs, and the top Fuel is 25lbs) makes a difference on climbs and over a few hours of riding. Curious then if generally speaking the Fuel Ex is overkill for this area and a cross country mtb is more suited for WI. Well, anyway thank you for the input, I will go do some demos at Wheel and sprocket. I cannot find a place that would rent either, but am all ears if someone knows who does.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountainbiker24 View Post
    Great advice so far. For those trails and most trails in the midwest, 100mm of full-suspension travel is about perfect. Hardtails are great, as well, but that is personal preference. The only time I've really needed more than a cross-country bike in Wisconsin was when I was actively searching out jumps and drops. I would strongly consider 29" wheels for cross-country trails.
    Well I am definitely waiting for 2017 and have done a lot of research on bikes I may want for the John Muir trail system. Looking at several 27.5 plus bikes with 120mm fork. Seems like a good fit for the trial. I am still concerned about more effort needed to keep a plus tire going than a regular 27.5 but reading most reviews it seems not a big deal. Looking at the Salsa Timberjack and Norco Fluid HT+ for plus size bikes (along with the specialized fuse expert), and the Orange Clockwork 120 S for regular 27.5.

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  12. #12
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    [QUOTE=David_315;13011372][url=http://www.backyardbikes.com/]Bike and Ski Rental, Trail Maps, Quality Deli and Gift Shop

    Thanks. Been there. I actually bought a 27.5 plus bike two weeks ago for the trails. Can go to 29 if need. Salsa Timberjack. Didn't break the bank so I can always get another bike

  13. #13
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    I was looking at that one my self. you will have to let me know how you like it. what size did you go with? that is the one nice thing about 27.5+ is we can go 29er.

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    Quote Originally Posted by David_315 View Post
    I was looking at that one my self. you will have to let me know how you like it. what size did you go with? that is the one nice thing about 27.5+ is we can go 29er.
    I went with a medium (GX1 build). I am 5' 9.5". I am not much of a cold weather rider, yet, so it will be a little while lol.

  15. #15
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    after doing some more reading and info from this thread i think i am going to get a top fuel.

  16. #16
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    I ended up getting a superfly.

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    I realize I am too late to this thread, but in case others are still reading through for ideas, I ride the Kettles all the time on a 27.5 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt and love it. They are not easy to come by in this region, but after renting one out west, it was enough to know I wanted that bike. I think it handles fantastic at the Kettles & elsewhere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by David_315 View Post
    I ended up getting a superfly.
    Which Superfly did you end up with, and how do you like it? I'm in the market in SE WI as well and was pretty set on 27.5 due to an negative experience on a 29er, but have been getting feedback that it may be better for local trails.

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    I called today, trails still closed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by maninthebox View Post
    Which Superfly did you end up with, and how do you like it? I'm in the market in SE WI as well and was pretty set on 27.5 due to an negative experience on a 29er, but have been getting feedback that it may be better for local trails.
    You shouldn't have a negative experience with 29r in mind if that was not on the new breed of bikes. I held that bias but it disappeared with more contemporary bikes. Just go test a bunch of bikes in real world settings. It happens that I share both wheel sizes with my wife. It's about the bike you like and your bike engine more than wheel size.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bitflogger View Post
    You shouldn't have a negative experience with 29r in mind if that was not on the new breed of bikes. I held that bias but it disappeared with more contemporary bikes. Just go test a bunch of bikes in real world settings. It happens that I share both wheel sizes with my wife. It's about the bike you like and your bike engine more than wheel size.
    I've only ridden a 29er once, and it was a rental (2015 Trek Fuel - not sure what version but it was carbon). I liked the weight of the bike but wasn't really a fan of how it handled. Iit just felt huge which is why I was originally looking at 27.5.

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    Quote Originally Posted by maninthebox View Post
    I've only ridden a 29er once, and it was a rental (2015 Trek Fuel - not sure what version but it was carbon). I liked the weight of the bike but wasn't really a fan of how it handled. Iit just felt huge which is why I was originally looking at 27.5.
    That year is a fine bike but not the fun machine and probably not the shorter stem the current Fuel Ex is. A current model is kind of a variation what the last Remedy 29 was.

    Fat bike or conventional tires, I always feel the large diameter but more recent bikes with large diameter work well at all speeds.

    I like both. My point is delay the gratification and try lots of stuff.
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    Not to hijack the thread but I've been rocking the most basic 26" Hardrock money can buy.
    Being in NE WI, we have tight twisty singletrack, roots, and many smaller man made features....but Milwaukee, Madison, etc are all less than a 2 hour drive away.
    Would a full suspension 27.5 be too much bike? Specifically a Santa Cruz 5010, Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt? I love the smaller trail bikes, and feel like they'd still be playful enough on the tamer trails.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitr0 View Post
    Not to hijack the thread but I've been rocking the most basic 26" Hardrock money can buy.
    Being in NE WI, we have tight twisty singletrack, roots, and many smaller man made features....but Milwaukee, Madison, etc are all less than a 2 hour drive away.
    Would a full suspension 27.5 be too much bike? Specifically a Santa Cruz 5010, Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt? I love the smaller trail bikes, and feel like they'd still be playful enough on the tamer trails.


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    I dont think they would be too much bike. I love having a full sus bike even on smoother trails. It mostly comes down to personal preference. I recently switched to a 130 travel front and rear trail bike, and i had a lot more fun at kettle moraine trails than on my old xc race full sus 100mm bike.

    I feel a lot better after a long day on the trails if i was on a full sus bike vs a hardtail, but not everyone would feel that way. I care more about being comfortable and having fun that being the fastest person on the trails. I dont race anymore, so if you are into racing, you might have different priorities.
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    Quote Originally Posted by the_joe View Post
    I dont think they would be too much bike. I love having a full sus bike even on smoother trails. It mostly comes down to personal preference. I recently switched to a 130 travel front and rear trail bike, and i had a lot more fun at kettle moraine trails than on my old xc race full sus 100mm bike.

    I feel a lot better after a long day on the trails if i was on a full sus bike vs a hardtail, but not everyone would feel that way. I care more about being comfortable and having fun that being the fastest person on the trails. I dont race anymore, so if you are into racing, you might have different priorities.
    Local shop has a 2016 specialized stumpjumper fsr comp 650b heavily discounted at $1800. It's a great price compared to the SC aluminum RX1 build at 3k. However, it's 150mm and 2x in the front. Also comes with a dropper post already.

    Even though the 150mm is a bit much, I may just have to jump on it. Fantastic deal in my opinion. Would be great if I decided to take it up to the UP.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitr0 View Post
    Local shop has a 2016 specialized stumpjumper fsr comp 650b heavily discounted at $1800. It's a great price compared to the SC aluminum RX1 build at 3k. However, it's 150mm and 2x in the front. Also comes with a dropper post already.

    Even though the 150mm is a bit much, I may just have to jump on it. Fantastic deal in my opinion. Would be great if I decided to take it up to the UP.


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    I think you'd enjoy it! You can always swap the drivetrain components.
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    I was at Muir last weekend and feel like you can ride pretty much anything there. I rented a 2017 Fuel EX 29 to test and actually liked it, but then I also rode my brothers Diamondback Overdrive Sport 29 and enjoyed it nearly as much.

    While I enjoyed both 29ers I decided I still prefer the 27.5, so I just purchased a Diamondback Release.

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    Man, fair amount of green limb overhang in the trails already. Lots of rain this year so far.

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