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  1. #1
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    New question here. Compare ride quality: Trek Fuel vs 06 Spec Epic & SJ

    I've been riding a 2001 Trek Fuel since new. Overall I have been very happy with this bike. It fits me well and is reasonably light at about 28 lbs (even though I don't pick my components based on weight). I ride in the mid-atlantic states. I don't race, but I am a little guy so weight matters.

    I am looking for a new ride now that has a little more rear travel (my Fuel has 3") and maybe a little better small bump compliance too. If anyone here has ridden both a Fuel and either an 06 Epic (4") or an 06 SJ (5"), I would appreciate your comments comparing the ride quality.

    Q1 - Epic: does the brain fade control on the rear shock allow you to fully "turn off" the lockout feel (and so "turn" on small bump compliance)? I enjoy going up more than going down, but I do not want to sacrifice small bump compliance too much.

    Q2 - SJ: s the 5" travel and relaxed geometry of the SJ translate into a slow handling, hard to climb with machine? My trails are rollers, up and down, no extended climbs to make use of adjustable Talas up front.

    Unfortunately, the Spec LBS doesn't rent (or provide demo) bikes, and I can tell only so much in a parking lot test...

    Thanks in advance for your time,

    Phil

  2. #2
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    I own an 06 epic and i've put about 100 miles on it in the last couple weeks. The Brain has significantly changed since '05 so keep that in mind when hearing about 05 Epics

    The brain is very bizarre, and i've not got it down just right yet. It really works, i set it all the way to firm on uphills and its pretty much a hardtail. It does fully turn off the lockout. you feel some vibration dampening, but no real compliance. About halfway and it gets softer. it activates really only on lumps that throw you off and bigger, like going over a little rock. a good example is riding up a side walk with lots of small curbs. when you do hit that curb, you honestly do not feel it. I was weirded out and still am at that phenomenon, and i'm a DH rider.

    When its on trail mode, its full active and very soft. when i head back down the hill i usually put it to soft and its very nice and compliant over just about everything.


    if your Fuel is about 28lb, the basic epic is about 27, it'll feel much more similar. Going uphill on the SJ is harder cause the geometry is less forward, but its a great bike.

  3. #3
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    Epci vs Fuel

    Although my Epic is a completely upgraded "03, it has the oldest brain for the Epics. Last year when the Epic was out of commision I rode the shop's fuel 98. The differences that I had seen were the following:
    The Epic has a bit more aggressive geometry, you are a bit more stretched out with your weight a bit forward. I love the brain for climbing as I weigh about 220-230 lbs in season. The brain makes my ride very economical as I have no energy lost to a po-go rear suspension. This all makes climbing much better. That being said, the Fuel was a bit more upright, with my weight centered back a bit. I really came to enjoy the always-acitve rear suspension of the Fuel on wash boards and other smaller stuff. What I did find is that I did a lot of bouncing (even with the suspension dialed in), especially climbing when riding the Fuel. Downhilling was a bit more plush on the Fuel and the geometry was a bit better suited for it.

    With this all taken into consideration, I prefer my Epic over the Fuel for the advantages in climbing and its overall eficiency. I do think that Trek put out a great bike and some would prefer its ride over the Epic.
    BoiseBoy

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by acrylucs
    When its on trail mode, its full active and very soft. when i head back down the hill i usually put it to soft and its very nice and compliant over just about everything.

    if your Fuel is about 28lb, the basic epic is about 27, it'll feel much more similar. Going uphill on the SJ is harder cause the geometry is less forward, but its a great bike.

    When the brain fade control is set to trail mode, is it really fully active? I mean, is it like there is no brain at all, just normal stiction to overcome before the rear starts moving, or is the platform effect just minimized? I'll have to play with that knob next time I'm in the lbs.

    Thanks for your comments on climbing with the SJ. I am definitely concerned about the geometry, I think it is a little too relaxed for the twisty trails around here. 5" of travel is a bit much for me too. I wish I had bought one a few years ago before all of the changes...

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoiseBoy
    The Epic has a bit more aggressive geometry, you are a bit more stretched out with your weight a bit forward. I love the brain for climbing as I weigh about 220-230 lbs in season. The brain makes my ride very economical as I have no energy lost to a po-go rear suspension. This all makes climbing much better. That being said, the Fuel was a bit more upright, with my weight centered back a bit. I really came to enjoy the always-acitve rear suspension of the Fuel on wash boards and other smaller stuff. What I did find is that I did a lot of bouncing (even with the suspension dialed in), especially climbing when riding the Fuel. Downhilling was a bit more plush on the Fuel and the geometry was a bit better suited for it.

    Were both frames the same size? I ask because the geometry of my Fuel appears to be pretty close to the 06 Epic, at least on paper. The head/seat angles are within 1/2 degree, and the top tube length on the Epic is only 4 mm longer than my Fuel. Based on you comments, I think I'll check the numbers on the 03 Epic too, just to see if the frame has changed, or if I am missing something.

    I tend to do most of my climbing seated, and I like an active suspension (so the roots don't toss me around and ruin what little momentum I can muster). Standing on the Fuel while climbing is out of the question - definitely a po-go effect as you mentioned.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I will definitely doublecheck the Epic geometry based on your comments.

  6. #6
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    Yeah, fully active. if you look at how the brain works, when you hit a bump it opens a small opening in the brain and allows the oil to flow into , allowing the shock to compress. When you set it to trail mode, it keeps that hole open, so the brain is deactivated. When the brain is set to firm, the hole is permanently closed. that said, enough of a shock and it will activate.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil
    ...
    I tend to do most of my climbing seated, and I like an active suspension (so the roots don't toss me around and ruin what little momentum I can muster). Standing on the Fuel while climbing is out of the question - definitely a po-go effect as you mentioned.
    ...
    I also climb seated almost all of the time. Even with my Brain Fade in the fully firm setting, it will activiate when I am going uphill and hit, say, a large root. It just eats it up, up to 4" of it I guess, but in any case the effect is certainly noticeable, and nice. I haven't had the bike long enough to really get an exact feel for how everything behaves, but I have noticed this, right from the start.

  8. #8
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    Hmm, I had a short test on an '06 Epic and playing with the Brain adjustment (blue knob on top) didnt seem to give me any compliance on the small bumps. Washboard/sidewalk cracks were still evident. I still had to hit pretty hard to get it working. This was a brand new bike on city streets though, so it may get better. Im not sure how it loosens up with time.
    I ended up getting the Stumpjumper and it seems great so far. I feel no bob on uphills and get good compliance. The geometry is a little laid back, but I am 6'1" on a medium frame, so I plan on getting some barends so I can stretch forward and get variation on my grip.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcgarry
    I also climb seated almost all of the time. Even with my Brain Fade in the fully firm setting, it will activiate when I am going uphill and hit, say, a large root. It just eats it up, up to 4" of it I guess, but in any case the effect is certainly noticeable, and nice. I haven't had the bike long enough to really get an exact feel for how everything behaves, but I have noticed this, right from the start.
    "noticeable and nice" as in 'geez am i glad that inertia vale thingy finally gave way and let the suspension do its job when i hit that 3" root', or as in 'boy, the transition from firm to compliant sure is seemless as i hit small bumps'? you see what i'm getting at? It's hard to do that test in the parking lot...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil
    "noticeable and nice" as in 'geez am i glad that inertia vale thingy finally gave way and let the suspension do its job when i hit that 3" root', or as in 'boy, the transition from firm to compliant sure is seemless as i hit small bumps'? you see what i'm getting at? It's hard to do that test in the parking lot...
    The latter, it did feel seemless when I hit things that in my judgment called for it to activate. I was pleasantly surprised, as I had been expecting worse, partly because of what I've read about the Brain here and elsewhere. I have not had the bike long enough to say if I always agree with the Brain's decisions, but so far I am pleased. Of course, I am coming from a hardtail, so to me things like not having a shock activate when I go over sidewalk cracks is of no concern. My standards may be lower.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by prod
    Hmm, I had a short test on an '06 Epic and playing with the Brain adjustment (blue knob on top) didnt seem to give me any compliance on the small bumps. Washboard/sidewalk cracks were still evident. I still had to hit pretty hard to get it working. This was a brand new bike on city streets though, so it may get better. Im not sure how it loosens up with time.
    I ended up getting the Stumpjumper and it seems great so far. I feel no bob on uphills and get good compliance. The geometry is a little laid back, but I am 6'1" on a medium frame, so I plan on getting some barends so I can stretch forward and get variation on my grip.

    If they still made your 04 SJ, i wouldn't be looking at new Epic. The 04 still had just under 4" of rear travel with a more XC oriented geometry, right?

    Anyway, i will check out the blue brain fade knob next time i'm in the shop. it should be pretty easier to figure out if it is really fully compliant or not.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcgarry
    The latter, it did feel seemless when I hit things that in my judgment called for it to activate. I was pleasantly surprised, as I had been expecting worse, partly because of what I've read about the Brain here and elsewhere. I have not had the bike long enough to say if I always agree with the Brain's decisions, but so far I am pleased. Of course, I am coming from a hardtail, so to me things like not having a shock activate when I go over sidewalk cracks is of no concern. My standards may be lower.

    Ok, thanks for providing the clarification, i appreciate it.

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