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  1. #1
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    'Blade review (after a year)

    Well i've now owned my switchblade for about a year now. So here is my indepth report on what i think of the bike. The honeymoon is finally over, and the real deal has set in.

    What i think of it.

    It is a decent bike for trail riding, but there are some huge flaws that see. First off, the chainline on the bike is horrible. In order to get around the rear triange the bottom bracket needs to be pretty wide. This throws the chainline into a dizzy. I have the narrowest bottom bracket i can have on there with still being able to use my third chainring and it is still too wide. This causes lots of broken chains and chainsuck if i don't keep that in the front of my mind while riding.
    Other things about the bike. the talas shock is awesome, being able to choose from different travel levels is really nice, especially since you can do it on the fly. The only problem is that the shock i have on in the front i need to stop to adjust. Ergo to keep geometry in check, i need to stop anyway to adjust travel. No biggie, i stop to catch my breath all the time anyway.

    Comfort, it is a very comfortable bike, but that makes me lazy. I take horrible lines when i ride this bike. Now on the hardtail i need to use finesse and be alert, this thing.... My riding partner put it best. "you're a goddamn panzer tank on that bike" Bad thing? not really.

    Lastly what i think of the bike overall. It is a good bike, i'm moderately happy when i'm not picking my chain out of the frame. Could it be better? YES. I really didn't expect this froma boutique bike, i expected to get perfection for how much a paid. And this bike just isn't perfect. It really doesn't match my riding style too much, (straight XC). And the pedalling efficiency isn't so great. I bob a lot on this bike, just as much as on some other lower end bikes i've ridden. I kind of wish that there was a trade in policy with titus because i'd rather something different. I'm not saying titus is a bad company, its just that the bike isn't what i thought it would be.
    Looking back, i would have been much better off with a racerX. Would i but this bike now knowing what i do? I don't think so. Would i buy another titus? yes most definitely. The crasftmanship on the frame is superb, its just the design that leaves a little bitter taste in my mouth. I do have to say that my hardtail is getting a ton of miles on it because i'd just rather ride it, or the titus is always waiting on a new chain.

    But what can you do? eat, breath, ride some more i guess.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Penn State
    It is a decent bike for trail riding, but there are some huge flaws that see. First off, the chainline on the bike is horrible. In order to get around the rear triange the bottom bracket needs to be pretty wide. This throws the chainline into a dizzy. I have the narrowest bottom bracket i can have on there with still being able to use my third chainring and it is still too wide.
    What cranks / bb / bb spindle width are you running?

  3. #3
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    The Blade

    What kind of rear shock are you running? What links? Which crankset. When I read your post I thought back about the chain jumping off. Before I had a XT first generation Hallowtech I crankset. A couple months ago I switched to a XT Hallowtech II and I don't have the problem anymore.

    Chris

  4. #4
    "El Whatever"
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    I've the chain coming off too... but have been lazy to watch the issue out.

    I'm on the same chain since a year now. 8sp one... with a Performance 8sp steel casette and Alivio crankset... all at the recommended specs. 73 X 113. SRAM PC-58 crapola chain.

    As I said, I havent checked my chainline and I just remember that I didn't checked for chain lenght when I transplanted parts from the Warp. So, that could be off, even when the only thing different is the frame.

    I have this off chains happening when on the middle ring... it doesn't really matter if shifting or not. But the drivetrain has too many things to look at, than I hardly blame it on the frame. However, your appreciation may be spot on. I'll take a further look.

    But so far I love it... the suspension bob doesn't hit me much as I pedal low gears seated and I rather have suspension compliance than pure pedaling efficiency. This doesn't make the Blade any better neither means there aren't better bikes... but for a suspension design that dates from 2001 and that still holds its own against newer top end frames, it does remarkably well.

    Thanks for sharing, bro!
    Are there plans for a two year review?
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Penn State
    It is a decent bike for trail riding, but there are some huge flaws that see. First off, the chainline on the bike is horrible. In order to get around the rear triange the bottom bracket needs to be pretty wide. This throws the chainline into a dizzy. I have the narrowest bottom bracket i can have on there with still being able to use my third chainring and it is still too wide. This causes lots of broken chains and chainsuck if i don't keep that in the front of my mind while riding.
    You're probably going to hate this suggestion, but how about dumping your big ring and putting a bashring on? That should solve some of your chain-dropping issues, and make the drivetrain a heck of a lot easier to adjust. Or better yet, blow like 8000 bucks and get a rohloff rear-hub. That'll fix all of your problems.

    As far as the xc-thing, what fork do you have on the bike? Do you think you could ride the bike in its short-travel set up (3.7"?) with a 4" front fork and be happier? Maybe you should just get your hands on the normal rocker (3.7 & 4.5", I think) with a regular float shock, and leave it in the short travel config so that you aren't tempted to dial it into a long-travel beast all of the time. Set up for short travel, is it going to be that different from a racer-x? I don't have the answers (never ridden a titus, although I have tracer, which is similar). Switchblades are pretty damn sweet, imo, and it seems like you should be able to adjust it more to your liking.

  6. #6
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    I am running the 113mm x 73mm bottom bracket with the old XTR cranks (M-952). I am running the Fox TALAS shock in the rear and the Rock Shox Reba Team in the front. I can dial the talas down to 3.5 and the front to 80mm and thats what i run most of the time.

    About using a bash ring...i really like having my large chain ring, i've often thought about a bash ring, but i do spend a ton of time in the big one.

    And as for blaming it on the frame. Its not like this was a hasty conclusion. I have a brandnew cassette, chain, and the cranks were fine. Its just that over the past year i've determined it as just the nature of the frame.

    And again i'm not saying it isn't a sweet bike. There are just some things that i don't really enjoy about it. But hey, i still ride it quite a bit...so can it be that bad.

    A year two review....hmm maybe a racerX review next summer.

  7. #7
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    Well, maybe you could try using an anti-chainsuck device? There are other ones out there, this is just one that I found in poor old Gnarlygig's thread. I'm pretty sure that there are ones out there that mount off of the bottom bracket, in case you don't have room for this one.

    Found the one I was looking for: AJ's Frameguard. It looks pretty sweet. This thread shows some photos of one mounted on a Turner.
    Last edited by Fat Elvis; 07-14-2006 at 08:54 AM.

  8. #8
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    I love my 04 Switchblade

    I've got two years on my TALAS blade and haven't had any problems with chainline or bobbing. However, I do have a smooth cadence also I am running XT Hollowtech2 for the crankset.

  9. #9
    thats right living legend
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    The SB is a hard hitting trail bike, one of the best in fact. If someones "only" idea of a good FS bik is an XC type rig, I don't see a SB filling the roll much.

    I found a zip tye to be perfect for preventing chain suck. Not that you don't know already, but just in case...

  10. #10
    "El Whatever"
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackagness
    I found a zip tye to be perfect for preventing chain suck. Not that you don't know already, but just in case...
    Care to elaborate, Blackey?
    There are some ignorant people like me on this board and that may benefit from a simple zip-tie fix.

    thanks, bro.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warp
    Care to elaborate, Blackey?
    There are some ignorant people like me on this board and that may benefit from a simple zip-tie fix.

    thanks, bro.
    And thank you for stepping up to the plate for the rest of us.

  12. #12
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    Sure!

    Quote Originally Posted by Warp
    Care to elaborate, Blackey?
    There are some ignorant people like me on this board and that may benefit from a simple zip-tie fix.

    thanks, bro.

    Take a zip tye, and put it around your chain stay up near the front chain rings "well about an inch or so off" and it does a really good job of stopping the chain from getting sucked in. At the very least it gives you alot of time to reverse your spin and keep it out.

    On the ML right before the chainstay gets thinner is a good spot. Mine is right at the edg of my lizard skin, helping to hold it on better too.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackagness
    Take a zip tye, and put it around your chain stay up near the front chain rings "well about an inch or so off" and it does a really good job of stopping the chain from getting sucked in. At the very least it gives you alot of time to reverse your spin and keep it out.

    On the ML right before the chainstay gets thinner is a good spot. Mine is right at the edg of my lizard skin, helping to hold it on better too.
    Thanks, bro!!!

    I'll do that!
    Check my Site

  14. #14
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    Your chain problems sound ugly. I have had my SB for about a year, and have never had the issue you are describing, but I can see where it would be a real *****, as the beefy construction of the chain stay does translate to tight clearances..
    Anyway, if Dumond Tech chain lube is available in your area, give it a try. I find it really keeps chain problems to a minimum, and I used to have a lot of chain suck problems on other bikes before I started using it.
    The worst I have had on the switchblade was a little bunching up, that could be cleared with a quick back pedal. Even that is basically only when the chain has gotten pretty dirty

    Overall, I'm with Warp. The Switchblade may not be perfect, and it certainly isn't the perfect bike for every rider, but in most respects it acquits iself very well. It's true that riding a hardtail requires more finesse, but far from making me lazy, the 'Blade pushes me to try more and more stuff, both up hill and downhill

  15. #15
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    Setup?

    Penn State, after riding two different 'blades for over 3 years it looks the only thing wrong is that you don't know how to properly set up a dual suspension bike. It's totally different than a hardtail

  16. #16
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    Racer X?

    Does this chainsuck problem occur on the racer-x. I am looking at that bike real hard but if this issue exists I'm taling it off the list.

  17. #17
    thats right living legend
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    Quote Originally Posted by artsn
    Does this chainsuck problem occur on the racer-x. I am looking at that bike real hard but if this issue exists I'm taling it off the list.

    Well, theres only about 10,000,000,000 reviews and write ups on the RX. So go find out. It's only oe of the most highly regarded FS bikes to ever be made.

    To answer your Q I've never exp chainsuck riding one, but I've never owned one. I also can't remember it ever being brought up much in anything I've read...

  18. #18
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    Recommendation

    Ok, ok. I can almost guarantee it is the crankset. I can remember having some chaindrops and alot of chainsuck on the Blade when I was running a XT Hallowtech I crankset. Now that I am running a XT Hallowtech II crankset I have not had a hint of any problems. The only variables are having the bike out in Colorado and lubing after almost every ride vs. having the bike in Minnesota and lubing after a couple rides. Get an new XT crankset and I think you'll be all set.

    Chris

  19. #19
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    As far as the bobbing goes, the Switchblade has one of the lowest pedal kickbacks of any bike. The RX and Ellsworth Truth edge it out by about 5%, and the Motolite has about 30% less kickback (woohoo) according to Linkage. But comparing it to other stuff says it's still damn good. Whoring some figures from Linkage, picking on some well-known, well-regarded XC bikes:
    • Turner Flux: about 7% more kickback than the SB
    • Trek Fuel: about 20% more
    • Iron Horse Hollowpoint MKIII: about 28% more
    • Giant Anthem: 40%ish more
    • Intense Spider: about 45% more
    • Cannondale Rush: a bit more than 45% more

    What's my point? EVERY full suspension bike without a platform shock will bob a bit when you pedal, if your body weight is moving around. But bobbing doesn't mean you're wasting all your energy. Each design kicks a little bit different of an amount of force back to the pedals. Is the Blade perfect? No, or Titus wouldn't have made the Moto-Lite. BUT! It's certainly competitive. The suspension reacting, comparatively speaking, is doing very little to slow you down. If you're blowing through a full inch of travel, that's 3 degrees of unopposed kickback. By my math, at the risk of sounding too much like Tony Ellsworth, that is a 0.837% decrease in efficiency. If that's too much of a hit, change your tires.

    Make sure you have your shock set for correct sag at riding weight and whatnot, turn on some platform on your shock if you've got the option and the bob just mentally bugs you, or send your shock off to a tuner like PUSH if you don't. Or just practice spinning without bouncing your weight around.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris9702l
    Ok, ok. I can almost guarantee it is the crankset. I can remember having some chaindrops and alot of chainsuck on the Blade when I was running a XT Hallowtech I crankset. Now that I am running a XT Hallowtech II crankset I have not had a hint of any problems. The only variables are having the bike out in Colorado and lubing after almost every ride vs. having the bike in Minnesota and lubing after a couple rides. Get an new XT crankset and I think you'll be all set.

    Chris
    Interesting. I've been running my '02 blade with both XTs and only time I've had chainsuck was when the chainrings started getting screwed up/ worn, old chain or really fugly slop rides. Never tied things back to the frame design.

    Oh, Blackagness, I like the zip tie idea. May just pop one of those on. Thanks
    Don't harsh my mello

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big boss man
    Penn State, after riding two different 'blades for over 3 years it looks the only thing wrong is that you don't know how to properly set up a dual suspension bike. It's totally different than a hardtail

    Well could you elaborate on this a little bit? How should i have it set up? Really helpful post telling me i have it setup wrong and then just leaving it at that. So would you please give a bit of insight here.

    As for the suspension thing i've been messing around with setting up the shock and i've found what i think is my best setup thus far. But i still will never be a hardtail. After riding a super V for 3 years...the switchblade is already 100 times better. But that is a different story. And yes i do bob around when i pedal...but we all can't be perfect can we?

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    Wasn't picking on your pedalling, most people can't pedal without a bit of bobbing. I bob a bit, but I've put effort into practicing a smooth spin and it's gotten better...but still there. The whole point of my post was just that, except for mentally bugging you, a bit of bobbing on a Switchblade doesn't hurt anything.

  23. #23
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    What's not to like about SB

    I bought a new '02 frameset in '04 as another ride to my RacerX. The RacerX has pretty much been in the garage since except for times when the SB had mechanical problems. The RacerX is an '03. I builtup both bikes myself and had chainsuck problems with both that required refinement of their setup. It's a potential problem with all fullsuspension bikes.

    Thanks for the ziptie hint. I plan to do that tomorrow before my ride.

  24. #24
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    I'm surprised

    by this guy's problems, mainly because on my 04 Talas Blade, I never get chain suck. I did before I replaced my crankset with a new RF, and I went to a RF big ring bash guard early on, a good sram chain, boutique Mavic wheels, xt fr derr and x9 for the rest of the set up, but NEVER a problem.

    And to say it makes you lazy, what you mean is it's a darn good bike that carries you through stuff you used to have work harder at or walk. It doesn't climb quite like my steel xc hardtail, and it's nowhere as light as my rigid SS, but I really, really like my Blade for technical and/or all-day riding. What a treat, what a kick.

    Hope the guy gets his problems worked out.

    CDB
    May your trails be narrow, crooked, lonesome and dangerous, leading to the most outrageous adventures. Paladin

  25. #25
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    SB does have some "issues"

    I think Penn State nailed a couple issues with the Switchblade.

    My `00 SB breaks a chain about 2x a season. I've never broken a chain on my `99 RX or `04 Joker (coil). I've run several different BBs and cranksets but none have made much difference. Besides breaking chains it drops the chain much more than my other bikes. A new drivetrain decreases the frequency of chain drop but it still happens.

    The other issue is much more subjective but I do notice there is a significant amount of weight shift bob in the SB suspension. The down side of this is during a technical climb moving your weight in the saddle causes a much more pronouced change in the rear wheel weighting. I'm not talking about pedal induced bob, but rather a sluggish sag that makes keeping traction a bit more difficult. I've played with my setup (4") but haven't found a sag/rebound setting that isn't a tradeoff between travel and bob. The bob/sag makes pulling the bike over a large object more work than the 3.5" RX and more surprizingly the 7" Joker. I suspect that a platform shock might help. I'm still running the stock Float R.

    Besides the above I really like the SB. The active suspension does plow through stuff both going up and down and the DH hit and braking performance is great for a 4" air sprung suspension. The bike pedals ok but it's not in the same league as a XC racer like the RX. A sit and spin approach works the best with the SB. Getting out of the saddle to hammer feels less efficient. It's still better than the Joker but not as much as you might expect considering the difference in travel and air vs coil.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by rprice
    I think Penn State nailed a couple issues with the Switchblade.

    My `00 SB breaks a chain about 2x a season. I've never broken a chain on my `99 RX or `04 Joker (coil). I've run several different BBs and cranksets but none have made much difference. Besides breaking chains it drops the chain much more than my other bikes. A new drivetrain decreases the frequency of chain drop but it still happens.

    Can't argue this one, I simply won't.


    Quote Originally Posted by rprice
    The other issue is much more subjective but I do notice there is a significant amount of weight shift bob in the SB suspension. The down side of this is during a technical climb moving your weight in the saddle causes a much more pronouced change in the rear wheel weighting. I'm not talking about pedal induced bob, but rather a sluggish sag that makes keeping traction a bit more difficult. I've played with my setup (4") but haven't found a sag/rebound setting that isn't a tradeoff between travel and bob. The bob/sag makes pulling the bike over a large object more work than the 3.5" RX and more surprizingly the 7" Joker. I suspect that a platform shock might help. I'm still running the stock Float R.
    I think this is a problem with suspension balance. I'm not meanign that you have the same travel front and rear, but rather if both ends work in harmony.

    I just went through this.

    The Blade felt a nice pedaller and plush at the same time with a 5th Air (strictly minimum IFP pressure, deep sag at around 30%). The front fork was a Magura Phaon set at around 25% sag. It felt energetic and plush. Much better than the Warp it replaced.

    As it's natural, the 5th Air blew and I had to put in a Fox Float R... while I swapped the fork for a Zoke AM1. Set at around 30% sag on both ends and the AM at 135mm travel (I thought I had 125, but I measured wrong), the Blade felt exactly as you describe... with a massive weight transfer when pedalling and a lot of wallow on both ends. So much, the ETA was not quite working, because this movement caused to extend the fork.

    I set my sag at 28% at the shock and 25% at the fork, and the bike feels WAY better now. Much better pedalling and overall handling, but still using generous amounts of travel.

    Maybe you already did it, but I'd play with front/rear balance in order to get the most out of the bike.

    BTW... as for pedaling, the 5th feels better on the Blade while not giving up lots of plushness... certainly a 5th feels harsh compared to a Float (and they blow up rather easily, unfortunately), but the Fox can't rival the pedaling and big hit feel of the 5th.

    BTW... Call me crazy, but with less sag, the Fox felt better on big hits. Somehow plusher and controlled.
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  27. #27
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    I have never broken a chain in the 4 years I have had my SB.

    As for the suspension, I noticed a huge difference going from the non platform TALAS shock to a PUSH propedal float. Night and day, felt like a new bike. If you plan on keeping and riding a SB, I think a PUSHed shock is one of the best upgrades you can do. Then get a gravity dropper...

  28. #28
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    What struck me the most is the fact that you are a "straight XC" rider on a Switchblade. I don't think that is the right bike for you but the chainsuck problem can be solved. Not surprised to hear that the SB is ok but you aren't content. I felt the same way with my old Enduro Expert. It was plush, sure-footed, and I learned how to take drops, jump and ride more tech stuff on it. At the end of the day though I went back to what I enjoy most which is riding fast with my buds through our local singletrack (we all enjoy racing too). I still ride more challenging trails (Pisgah) on the weekends and the 4" of travel on my bike is plenty. A Motolite would be perfect on only the toughest trails but the RX is better suited for the trails I ride 90% of the time. I did the PUSH upgrade on my Enduro (I had a Talas too - great fork). Don't waste your money. It is a great upgrade but money that is wasted when you are wearing hiking boots to run a marathon Ok - the SB probably isn't that heavy but anyway, that is my two cents.
    "You can't discern by calculating in your mind how it will work. You have to feel how it rides differently to understand."

  29. #29
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    I have a blade and I agree the chain line is not that great. Sometimes when in the middle ring up front and the lowest rear gear the chain will hop off the middle ring and fall down to the granny. The crankset really needs to be a few more mm closer to the frame. I've done everything to get it closer and I now have it so it works good. I've got the crankset so far inside that when in the granny the front dérailleur rests against the tube that it's bolted on to.

    The problems with chain line are exacerbated by the very short chain stays. If i don't keep the drive train super clean I get bad chain suck. Good news is that since the cranks are slammed up against the frame theres no room for the chain to get sucked in and jam. So a quick backpedal usually clears things out. I'm gonna replace the big ring with a bash guard and shorten the chain to put more tension on the dérailleur. Hopefully the added tension and shorter chain will ease the chain suck situation. Next move after that is to go to thiner steel chain rings that will wear longer and not grab the chain as easily. I've never broken a chain on my blade.

    Overall I love the blade. I have the talus rear shock and I run it at full travel all the time. I have a minute 1 front fork with spv platform. I don't notice any big pedal bob action unless I get up and over the front end then the fork starts to bob. I love climbing with the blade. The rear stays active and swallows rocks and roots as I motor up rough sections. I love the design and the chainline problems are something I can deal with.

  30. #30
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    Good Points.

    Quote Originally Posted by Warp
    The Blade felt a nice pedaller and plush at the same time with a 5th Air (strictly minimum IFP pressure, deep sag at around 30%). The front fork was a Magura Phaon set at around 25% sag. It felt energetic and plush. Much better than the Warp it replaced.

    As it's natural, the 5th Air blew and I had to put in a Fox Float R... while I swapped the fork for a Zoke AM1. Set at around 30% sag on both ends and the AM at 135mm travel (I thought I had 125, but I measured wrong), the Blade felt exactly as you describe... with a massive weight transfer when pedalling and a lot of wallow on both ends. So much, the ETA was not quite working, because this movement caused to extend the fork.

    BTW... as for pedaling, the 5th feels better on the Blade while not giving up lots of plushness... certainly a 5th feels harsh compared to a Float (and they blow up rather easily, unfortunately), but the Fox can't rival the pedaling and big hit feel of the 5th.

    BTW... Call me crazy, but with less sag, the Fox felt better on big hits. Somehow plusher and controlled.
    As you indicated the Fox Float is plush and the sag setting makes a big difference.

    I have played with the setup over the years and have the SB setup on the plush side with a coil front fork. I orginally built the SB with a zoke Xfly which doesn't compare to todays air forks. I also started with a lighter XC build and gradually beefed it up to take advantage of the plush suspension. Started with a #27ish build and now around #30.

    As other posters indicate ths SB is a great trail bike but those looking for a XC ride probably would be happier with a RX.

    As for the chainline issue, my problems haven't kept me from enjoying the SB. I've seen much worse chainline problems with other bike like the Epic...

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