Up front warning: This thread sort of goes with the "if you didn't ride a Scwhinn" thread - there's going to be minimal Schwinn content in it. But since we're all friends here, I thought I'd post it.

Background info on me that you'll need to put the reviews into proper perspective:
* I'm a suspension geek with an automotive suspension background
* I've had both back and knee surgery in my time

What a great day! The projected rain never materialized, so I headed to the Giant bike demo day at one of our trails. I've wanted to try a Maestro for some time now, and now I have.

First up, Tina, a size-S Trance X1:

Very plush bike, plusher than my Banger in some cases. This bike had a 2010 Fox F120RLC with Fit on it, and I found the fork performance to be excellent - better than my 2008 F100R. Bob was not noticeable with no Propedal - I found no need to turn it on. However, I did learn that I pedal fairly smoothly after not needing PP on another bike that my friend did, so take that for what it is worth.

Bike had less weight on the front than I like (70mm stem didn't help any) and was a bit sluggish to turn. Felt slack, a lot like my Banger did when I had the OE coil setup on it with the slack head angle. For my taste, this bike would need a longer stem to get me more up and over the front wheel (I like to ride with a lot of weight up front), and maybe drop the front to a 100mm fork to speed up the geometry. I have zero power, yet this bike wanted to wheelie up climbs, and it felt like riding a chopper at times. Bike had 2.1 Neve's on it, Stick-E front, DTC rear. Pedaled very efficiently, I thought, as did all the Maestro bikes I rode.

Summary: plush, slack, too upright in seating, too far rearward weight bias. Would be a great bike for more severe terrain than I have here. My buddy suggested that he would have liked it in Fruita, but not here.

Next up, Abbie, a size S Anthem X:

Ergos: A ha, now we're talking. Seating position dead-on for me. I felt like I was up over the front of the bike, though a bit stretched out. Bike felt very light, as well, which it is. However, for my taste, this bike is too quick-steering. I don't like "fast twitch" bikes, and this one is definitely a racer, as intended. Of course, if I were racing, I still wouldn't want a bike this twitchy, but that's me. I bottomed this bike a few times, using all the 100mm rear travel. Bike had a 100mm SID up front, and my personal taste was that the F120RLC was superior. My other friend liked the SID better, so it's all up to you. However, I have traditionally preferred Fox feel over RS feel, and this was again no exception. This is the bike that bobbed for my buddy, but I didn't need to turn on Propedal, and thus didn't. The bike had a Crossmark up front and a Michelin in the back. Wow...I will NEVER buy a Crossmark for front duty. That tire scared the hell out of me. Couple the lightning-quick turn-in with questionable grip, and this bike left me with zero confidence in the high speed loose stuff. Slapping a better tire up there might make a world of difference, but as it is, this is the only bike that any of us crashed. My buddy washed out very suddenly in one section, and that sapped his (and my) confidence in it. This bike needed better rubber.

Summary: Racy ergos, nice weight distribution, light bike, efficient pedaler that may need Propedal for you, lightning-fast turn-in. Given a choice of only these two bikes, I'd pick the Trance and work on the seating position and try to speed it up. Alternatively, maybe slapping a 120mm fork on the Anthem might slow it down enough, but I still preferred the Trance's rear suspension feel.

Next up, the unamed old timer:

No better way to compare than to take your own bike to a demo, right? A ha, now I'm home. My bike felt about 5" shorter than the other two, though of course it is not that much of a difference on paper. The Trance was slightly more plush, but the Banger made a great effort. I felt that my Banger didn't pedal as efficiently as the Maestros did. It isn't just weight, as I think the Trance X1 weighs about the same as my Banger (27.5 lb). I also have low-RR tires on it, (Conti MK SS 2.4 front, Conti RK SS 2.2 rear, both set up tubeless) and as we all know Neves are pigs to pedal, yet the Trance still felt more efficient. As you'd expect, I felt very confident on my bike. Note that this is the first time I rode this trail with this version of my bike, so in a way it was also "going in fresh" like the other two. Steering response was right where I want it (obviously...I can tune it on my bike) - quick enough, but not "YIKES!" quick like the Anthem was. My bike felt very short underneath me - like the fork was directly under me. That's how I've ridden for the past 16 years on my Schwinns, so it felt very comfortable. On this trail, the Maestros didn't stand out as being a lot more active under braking, either, something I noticed last year when I tried a Trek with ABP.

Summary: The new bikes had areas where they were better and areas where they were worse. Neither was anything that would make me spend the cash and replace my Banger, however. Granted, I've spent a lot of cash on the Banger, but I think I've gotten good results from the money, and it's fun when the bike demo guys don't know what the heck you're riding.

Next up: Fancy. Ah yes...Fancy...now THIS bike was a big mistake to ride - Giant Faith.

I've never been on a DHer or freeride bike before, and I've always wanted to. I knew better than to take this on the trail loop, esp since picking it up resulted in a hernia, so I just rode it around the parking lot, looking for obstacles. Beautifully made hydroformed frame, 40mm Rock Shox Totem, Rock Shox Vivid (I think) rear, big honkin' Neves (2.5), 7.0" of travel.

For years I've wanted a DH bike, just to see. I also think I'd enjoy DH riding, though I'd never be good at it. Riding this bike made me realize that yeah, I gotta do that. I rode this thing over tall parking lot curbs (you know, the kind you drive up against with the front of your car) and never felt it. The seat moved up maybe an inch as I traversed a 7" curb. I immediately turned into a hunter, looking for anything stupid to ride over/into/off once I became bored with the parking curbs (which I hit about a billion times at faster and faster speeds). I couldn't stop grinning. Truly this was suspension geekery at its best. We only have one chairlift area close by, and it isn't very tough, but methinks I have to get the gear and try it.

And finally, Bethany - an XTC 29er hardtail.

I've never ridden a 29er, so this seemed like a good time to try it.

WOW. 29er ain't no bulls**t! All the stuff you've read about how they roll over everything and smooth out the ride is true. I am not a hardtail person, nor will I ever be one (more on that later). However, this hardtail was amazingly plush and compliant. This one had a Fox F29 front fork (once again I liked the Fox feel) and 2.2 Kenda Karma tires on it. I've heard magazines say that 29er is like "having a 3 or 4-inch rear suspension." Well, IMO, that's still crap, but it is like having a 2-inch suspension. Really amazing.

This bike had a racey seating position (we flipped the stem to the negative to drop it down, which was good) and the seat was a torture rack (esp at this point in the day, being my 4th lap), but I was very impressed. Downsides: I did feel a bit undersized for those big wheels. I'm 5'6", 160lb, and the bike did feel very long to me. However, it was stable like a train in the segment where the Anthem had me soil my drawers. Also, I cannot ride hardtails anymore. This isn't a rant, it's a statement of health. I haven't ridden one since 1999, and that's been a wise choice. When seated, this bike had a 5-6Hz chop frequency in the ride that was death on my sub-par, post-surgery lower back. That 5-6Hz bounce is why I had to stop racing shifter karts, and it's why a car that has that characteristic is very annoying to humans. It slowly hammers my back to pieces, and since it is already missing pieces, no way I'd ever ride one of these. However, for someone without this problem who likes hardtails, this bike was really sweet. Nice looking, too.

Very educational day. Giant makes some very nice bikes, and everyone was very friendly. I learned that I don't need to spend money on a new bike to replace the Banger, I learned that DHers are even more entertaining than I thought, and I learned that 29er really does have something, esp if you're a larger rider. I'm going to step up my efforts to build up a 650B front wheel for my Banger now to see if I can get some of the benefits of bigger hoops. 650B won't fit in the rear, so I'll have a "76er" setup. I also have added some bikes to my "must ride" list for May's big bike demo. Hopefully they'll bring a Gary Fisher Rumblefish or Hi-Fi 29er to the demo. I really want to try a 29er with full suspension. Now that could really be something.