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  1. #26
    Slothful dirt hippie
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    I know folks here in the mountains that ride both 26 and 29 hoops. I don't think there's a right answer per se- everyone loves their bike, at least until they start jonsing for their next bike, lol.

    For *me*: I have knees that are older than the rest of me and ride trails with repeated stupidly steep pitches. Having the lowest gearing possible is a good thing.
    "...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."

  2. #27
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    I'm 6'0" 195# and have been beating on my 29ers for 5 years now. My initial set of wheels, for my endurance rig, have over 4k miles on them and have only had to be trued once. The wheels that came with my 29er Stumpjumper had really lightweight alloy spokes/nipples (so Specialized can say how light the bike is) on them and I had to get the rear wheel rebuilt inside of 6 months with heavier gauge parts as I was breaking spokes every other ride.

    My reason for saying to avoid an XC bike were specifically based on the original poster's expressed desire to ride rougher terrain and my own memory of how much time/money I spent repairing my own carbon XC bike (a Giant NRS - C2) after riding rougher trails and even just railing down Preston RR. Also, the aggressive body position and steep head-tube angle on an XC race bike are not conducive for rides. The endos were common.

    As for 29er versus 26er. When I first got my Mooto-X YBB in 2007, I gussied it up with X.0 and XTR parts and intended to not ride it in the winter much to protect the drivetrain. Well, I found that after riding the 29er all spring/summer/fall I just didn't feel safe on the 26" wheels anymore. I promptly sold the Giant NRS-C2, bought myself a Kona Unit 2-9 for a winter SS.

    As much as I love that Moots though, I reach for the Stumpy on most days. It's 4+" travel 29er that climbs extremely well and is so rock-solid on the descents and drops that I can ride a lot more aggressively. Also, though it's 4lbs heavier than my soft-tail, it climbs well enough to hardly notice it.

  3. #28
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    I got about a year(roughly 2000 miles) on my Tallboy carbon on stock rims (Mavic TN719), I also have a 120mm fork on it...So, it's setup for longer days with some mildly aggressive XC. There are the occasional times I wouldn't mind having a little more travel but I do enjoy longer rides (25-40 milers).

    I am a definite clyde (was 210-215lbs before injury) now about 220-225lbs.

    I also like the grease ports on the TB to grease up the bearings.

    Cheers,
    Mike

  4. #29
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    Thanks for the replies! Bike-buying time is nearing each day, and I'm starting to lean towards a FS 29er. I finally rode my first ever trail (Lake Sawyer), and it was beyond awesome. Also, very challenging for a beginner, haha.

    I'm currently riding a 2011 Giant Talon 29er 2, and did feel pretty safe on the big wheels, while imagining I might feel a lot less safe on 26er wheels. Going over rocks and roots (tons of em) was handled very well by the Talon. The tight, twisty singletrack turns were pretty difficult, but so was getting over multiple logs, which likely has more to do with skill level than bike capability.

    All-in-all, I'm thinking a Tallboy LT, or something similar, would be a solid bike. I may rent a 26er, to get a feel for the difference, but I also don't want to overthink things. A slacker HTA and more travel will be fantastic for descents, and I can put up with climbing, as avoiding endos seems a lot more important for a beginner.

    Let me know if you guys have any thoughts. The Tallboy LTC is SO damn tempting, but the cost is just enormous, compared to the aluminum version. I like the idea of the 12mm rear TA and stronger carbon frame, being 220, but am wondering if that may be going too far for a first FS rig.

  5. #30
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    I like a lot of the suggestions people offered on this; some very good bikes mentioned. I am a "do it all" AM-type rider and can really only afford 1 bike, so that's the category of bikes I look at most closely. A few bikes I want to add to the list, which I did not see mentioned in this thread, are: Specialized Enduro and Banshee Rune. I have the former (26er) and really like it for the range of our terrain. Its only weakness is the Mother Of All Log Rides (long wheelbase) and Cuss Hollow (f*@#ing uphill switchbacks!).
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  6. #31
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    Another bike to take a test ride on if you get the chance is a Kona Satori. Its a FS 29er that should be able to handle AM riding very well. I took one for a little spin and loved it. The short chainstay and slack head angle are what I was looking for. I have drank the 29er coolaid and won't be looking back. I am hoping to pick one of these up when I am monetarily able. Till then I am loving my HT 29er.

  7. #32
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    Welcome to the area!

    all mountain bikes are pretty much where the industry is headed these days. They are light enough to pedal up, but sturdy enough to bomb down.

    I would definitely second the mission from diamondback, or the enduro from specialized. the reign is also a great choice, but I know a few people who haven't been happy with theirs.

    pretty much anything that pedals well and is light enough will be a good choice for you.

  8. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heretic Skeptic View Post
    Thanks for the replies! Bike-buying time is nearing each day, and I'm starting to lean towards a FS 29er. I finally rode my first ever trail (Lake Sawyer), and it was beyond awesome. Also, very challenging for a beginner, haha.
    Since you already have a bike, don't buy something until it really sells itself to you. There are some demo days coming up at Duthie and Black Diamond. So you can ride a few bikes and make an educated decision.

    Evergreen Mountain Bike Festival! June 8th - 10th 2012

    I'm 5'8" and at 170 lb and I'd like to be back at 145, I'm not sure how much that impacts what I like in a bike. But I haven't yet ridden a FS that I've liked. When I demoed a Santa Cruz Highball last year, though, it really sold me on the 29er hardtail concept - smoother than my little 26" bike, without the things I didn't like about the FS bikes. I have a shop's name on my shorts and doubt I'd buy a Santa Cruz unless they felt like giving me an insider price. Which they have no reason to. But I'm pretty confident that my next bike will still be a hardtail, just a 29er.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  9. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Since you already have a bike, don't buy something until it really sells itself to you. There are some demo days coming up at Duthie and Black Diamond. So you can ride a few bikes and make an educated decision.

    Evergreen Mountain Bike Festival! June 8th - 10th 2012

    I'm 5'8" and at 170 lb and I'd like to be back at 145, I'm not sure how much that impacts what I like in a bike. But I haven't yet ridden a FS that I've liked. When I demoed a Santa Cruz Highball last year, though, it really sold me on the 29er hardtail concept - smoother than my little 26" bike, without the things I didn't like about the FS bikes. I have a shop's name on my shorts and doubt I'd buy a Santa Cruz unless they felt like giving me an insider price. Which they have no reason to. But I'm pretty confident that my next bike will still be a hardtail, just a 29er.
    Thanks for the link Andrw. I won't be able to buy the new bike until July anyway, so the demo day works out perfectly. Why not Santa Cruz for you? I'd love to stick with a HT, as the price for what you get is stellar, but I have a bad back, which sort of takes precedence in this situation. Being able to demo bikes will be a huge plus though. Thanks again.

  10. #35
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    Sorry, I guess I was a little too circumspect.

    Santa Cruz doesn't sponsor my team. I'm in a place in my life where I need to stretch a buck, and I don't believe the Santa Cruz is all that much better at making a bike for me than one of the brands that does. I think they're fine bikes, though.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  11. #36
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    Oh okay, I can definitely dig that. The big attraction to Santa Cruz for me, is that one of my my LBS's offers free lifetime tune-ups, and Santa Cruz is the main brand that they sell. Their other brands don't interest me. Also, I dig Sanata Cruz's crash replacement policy and seemingly excellent customer service. Geometry seems solid (tried a Nickel and Nomad), and the carbon frames are really drawing me in. Just need to demo, for sure.

    The other LBS I deal with sells Specialized and Giant, so I'm somewhat considering Giant bikes as well, but they have no FS 29ers besides the Anthem X 29er, and I'm looking for a cushier ride, moreso than a race machine. I don't dig Specialized's proprietary parts, so I'm not really considering them, though the Comp EVO and COMP 29 geometry felt superb when testing in the parking lot. I definitely want the option to try coil shocks, or just any different shock, seeing as I'm so new to the sport and don't know what I'll like down the line.

    All-in-all, SC seems to be the perfect fit for what I need, and for my wallet the free tune-ups are so appreciated, and these are actual tune-ups, not just adjustments. I'm only charged for repairs, if something is broken and need replacement. Also, the guys at that LBS are just cool, and I really like how they treat me and other customers, compared to the other shop. They also sell Niner, but I haven't heard too many good things about their customer service/warranty policy, and they're too expensive for anyone to have to even slightly worry about that. I hope SC has some bikes at Duthie or Black Diamond, but I'll also be able to demo/rent the bikes I'm interested in at a certain shop, if it comes to that.

    Pardon the rant, and thanks again for your insight and responses.

  12. #37
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    Santa Cruz certainly came across well when I demoed. And they seem to have a commitment to maintaining compatibility with industry standards. People still have some of the oldest Superlights and Hecklers in service. Funny shock mounts and weird head tubes can really interfere with that long a lifecycle.

    I like racing and climbing singletrack, and the Giant Anthem was the closest I've come so far to liking a FS. It just didn't feel like it descended enough better, and they're so much more expensive than sticking with a hardtail.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  13. #38
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    Yeah, the longevity thing is great, as I'd like to have one bike for a long time. I've actually been VERY curious about the Anthem X 29er, but it seems many feel the benefits of a HT outweigh the benefits of the 4" travel. I'd like to have a 5" to 6" travel FS rig, and a HT. I have the Talon 29er, but at my weight especially, it needs a fork upgrade for the techy trails I was doing at Lake Sawyer. I'm sure Lake Sawyer isn't even considered that technical eitgher, haha. I felt cool on the singletrack, because I was taking things relatively slow, and being very cautious, but this Suntour XCT fork is almost certain to cause issues soon, seeing as it has no weight-tuning options at all. The bike is also 32 pounds.

    Have you ever tried carbon hard tails? Wondering if the absorbtion might offset some of the lack of rear suspension. At any rate, proper demos, and willingness to stick my neck out there and just buy something are all it should take. Eventually, you just have to get a bike and ride!

  14. #39
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    The Highball I demoed was carbon.

    I doubt I could tell the difference. It's not like the frame flexes as much as my tires do. You don't have to take my word for it, though. Santa Cruz is planning to be at both demos, and I'd be quite surprised if they didn't bring along some carbon Highballs. I'd be surprised if the competition doesn't bring along a couple too.

    Depending on where you are in the Black Diamond network, it can be pretty technical. It drove me a little nuts last time I rode there, I felt like I never got a chance to open up the throttle or stretch my legs. It's a great illustration of how many different ways there are for something to be technical - it's not high consequence, mostly, and it's not like there are moves that have to be made to climb, either. But it's certainly hard to keep one's speed up.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  15. #40
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    Oh okay. I did see SC's logo at the bottom of that festival's homepage, so that's awesome. The Highball and XTC 29er are two I'm interested in as well. Highball has more slack geometry...seems better for beginner security, haha.

    I was thinking the same thing about the trail we rode at Lake Sawyer: I never got to really open up and gain speed. I thought I may have just been new, but it seemed quite technical, albeit surely not at all the most technical trail around. Constant logs, roots, turns with logs right off the turn, rocky hills that required you to already have speed. I was TIRED, haha. I'd definitely like to ride something more tame, where one can ride with speed. It was really fun, but I wouldn't want to be constantly riding that sort of trail, as long as other types existed. For that reason, a HT still factors into the equation. I'd definitely just upgrade the Talon fork and ride him as my HT, while saving for a better HT. I do see the usefulness in having a HT and FS bike, but need to demo a FS first, to be sure that it feels good to me on the actual trail.

  16. #41
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    Lot's of great bikes listed here. The most important thing is to get something that puts a smile on your face. It sounds like this will be your first "real" bike beyond your starter bike, which means your level of stoke is about to go up a notch.

    One thing that many, many, many people do not think about or do not pay enough attention to is fit. A poorly fit bike will not perform up to its potential and can also lead to injuries in knees, etc. Spend some time with it. If you can afford it, spending the money for a custom fit will do more for your riding than shaving that next 1/4 pound of fit. Zac Daab is probably the best in the area for fits, but there are lots of options at many price points. If you don't go the pro-fit direction, plan on spending some time on learning about fit. Just because you lower your seat for the descents doesn't mean you have to compromise for the climbing. It is amazing how much difference a few millimeters can make here and there, much less the inch or so that many people are mis-adjusted by.

  17. #42
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    My advice as a lifetime rider. Don't agonize over weight, material or wheel size. Like people have mentioned, go to a few demo days and ride bikes. Write down the model/size of the ones you like best. Go online and look at the geometry. You'll probably see that the ones you like are very similar.

    Now you've discovered the single most important factor in your enjoyment of a bike. Your decision just got easier, because all you need to do is find a frame with close to the geo you like. Anything else is swappable/upgradeable. See above where I said enjoyment? A bike only exists to facilitate your enjoyment of the ride. Anything else is meaningless, unless you're racing for a living, which you're not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heretic Skeptic View Post
    Yeah, the longevity thing is great, as I'd like to have one bike for a long time. I've actually been VERY curious about the Anthem X 29er, but it seems many feel the benefits of a HT outweigh the benefits of the 4" travel. I'd like to have a 5" to 6" travel FS rig, and a HT. I have the Talon 29er, but at my weight especially, it needs a fork upgrade for the techy trails I was doing at Lake Sawyer. I'm sure Lake Sawyer isn't even considered that technical eitgher, haha. I felt cool on the singletrack, because I was taking things relatively slow, and being very cautious, but this Suntour XCT fork is almost certain to cause issues soon, seeing as it has no weight-tuning options at all. The bike is also 32 pounds.

    Have you ever tried carbon hard tails? Wondering if the absorbtion might offset some of the lack of rear suspension. At any rate, proper demos, and willingness to stick my neck out there and just buy something are all it should take. Eventually, you just have to get a bike and ride!

  18. #43
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    I can't wait to demo some bikes! Hopefully I don't crash and ruin demo day for everyone else, haha!

    $200 seems like a lot of coin for a mountain bike fit, especially for a guy who's not gonna be racing, but what do I know. I'm definitely gonna head over to Fremont and talk to Zac, and just see how the convo goes. I'd be willing to get a bile fit, but I'm definitely somewhat wary. I'll just be riding recreationally, once or twice per week. Seems like bike type (FS vs HT) and geometry will be more important than fit for someone like me, but again, I'll have to speak to a fitter and see what they have to say about it. Thanks for the recommendation, for certain.

  19. #44
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    $200 is a lot of coin, and I'd probably recommend just starting out with a shop fit (should be free with bike) and ride that for a while to get used to the bike. Once you have a better idea of your riding style, what you like, and things you notice about how your bike handles (may take a while), then go for a better fit. Geometry of the bike, etc will be the biggest determiner of general ride quality. But, if you are looking at $200 for a different set of bling cranks or a fit... go for the fit. Once you have a good fit on a bike, you can record key dimensions like bar to saddle, bottom bracket to saddle, etc and use that as a really good starting point on other bikes in your future (provided you aren't using road bike setup on a DH bike...).

    Racing is just riding your bike faster with a lot of other people on the trail at the same time. The reason to get a fit is to prevent injury, and to improve ride feel and efficiency. Neither of those is specific to racing.

  20. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by ep3w View Post
    Thanks Mind me asking what shop you got your Mission from? Thats one bike I was looking at but really wanted to ride before I considered it.
    Sorry didn't read whole thread but... if you want to do jumps and etc stay away from the Mission, that down tube will crack in no time (bad design). I cracked my goat and diamondback more or less said meh, tough luck. Anyway.

    Santa Cruz Nomad would be perfect for freeriding but probably a big of a hog for xc. It's hard to find a bike that will do all mountain freeriding and xc well. I have a 6" bike and a 5" bike because of this exact reason. Sounds like you have some XC potential with your hard tail already so maybe go more towards 6"?

  21. #46
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    I think the dt issues for the mission were resolved a couple years ago. I read about that stuff when I was looking for a new bike myself.

    one comment I would like to make is that people have said that a 29er is safer. I do not agree with this statement at all. Feeling safe comes from your own confidence in your abilities. I feel completely safe on a 26er. I rode a friends 29er ht and it didn't feel safe to me at all. There were other issues at hand like fit and geometry. A blanket statement about 29ers being more safe just simply isn't true. That said, I was at gerks in Redmond and was checking out a stumpjumper 29er. Seemed like a viable option and something I'd love to try it in the future.

    i see the all mountain category like this. There's the AM bikes setup towards xc like the stumpy, reign, fuel. Capable of hitting jumps and drops, but better suited to lots of pedalling and keeping the tires in the dirt. The other end is AM bikes more suited to freeride like the reign x, remedy, or enduro. Better suited for jumps, drops, and rough terrain. You can pedal it to the top, but you aren't gonna be the first one there. Assuming everything else being equal.

    btw, I was also at the Kirkland bike shop and they had a medium giant reign X2 for 1600. Seemed like a really good deal on a brand new bike.

  22. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by glenwallace View Post
    Racing is just riding your bike faster with a lot of other people on the trail at the same time. The reason to get a fit is to prevent injury, and to improve ride feel and efficiency. Neither of those is specific to racing.
    I paid for a fit several years ago, before I moved out here or picked up racing again.

    I'd been approaching fitting my bikes wrong. Saddle too high, bars too low. Basically, too slamthatstem.com. It made a big difference for me, and I think it facilitated rehabbing a nagging knee injury.

    $200 seems like a lot. I'm not sure if bike fits were a "thing" yet at the time. I certainly thought it was a secret roadie weapon when I went for it. I think I spent under $200, including picking up some fancy new insoles and a different stem. Granted things have been getting more expensive, but Cascade Bike Studio is a very high-end shop too... At least they're nice, and the more I learn about the way they make decisions when they're being MFG Cyclocross, the better I like them.

    Here's an article from Peter White Cycles about fitting a bike.
    How to Fit a Bicycle

    I think his handlebar position advice needs to be placed in context for a mountain biker: if the bar position as done in his article is right for you on the road, it's probably too low and too far on trails.

    A lot of people, including some whose opinions I respect, (it's in Friel's book, for example) suggest dropping a saddle about a 1/2" on a MTB, as opposed to a road bike, if you're not planning to throw more money on the bike at something like a dropper post. I have my saddle at the same height across all my bikes with 170mm and 165mm cranks, but then I'm special. I do have it a bit lower on the ones with longer crank arms.

    Since you've got a bike already, it's worth trying to get the fit really dialed. If you were to pay for a fit and your Talon can be fit correctly, it wouldn't be wasteful to do that - just record the fit information so you can copy it over to your new bike. Park Tool has position charts for road and mountain bikes that will help you be precise about it.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  23. #48
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    Thanks for all the insight you guys! I've had the chance to pedal a few more bikes in the past week, up and down some steep hills (which is something I really wanted to do), though not so much on rocky, rooty trails we have here. It was pretty eye-opening, but it's tough to judge suspension designs when bikes are set up with different shocks (Float R vs RP2 vs RP23 vs Dyad).

    I liked the Trance X's playful feel, but the Float R couldn't be set up optimally, so it would either be too stiff, or too open. This could have a lot to do with the shock, or Maestro (how would I know). The geometry was cool, but a bit too steep for me with the stock stem. Using a 90mm stem, it felt better, and still climbed well. Using an 80mm stem, it felt great, and climbed terribly (wheelie central!). The bike felt smallish, and somewhat unsafe when descending, though it had no problems with this as I got behind the saddle. It just felt light and too small for me as a bike, and not sizing-wise....just the model itself. Hard to explain. It could be that I've been on a 29er. I don't think this is the bike for me, though I wanted it to be.

    I really liked the Cannondale Jekyll. geometry fits me much better than the Trance X, it pedaled uphill better than the Trance when in 90mm "elevate" suspension mode, and descending was far more comfy in 150mm "flow mode". On a steep descent, it felt a little shaky, but that had more to do with my own descending comfortability, than the bike's incapability. Peddling out of the saddle in 90mm mode, I felt no bob, which was a huge improvement over the Trance. I am worried about the proprietary Fox Dyad shock, and also would like to ride it on an actual trail, but Cannondale won't be at the festival. Other than the shock worry, this was an excellent all-arounder, I felt. The weight was up there (32.8 lb w/pedals), but it didn't bug me much, as I know my legs and body weight are more to blame than bike weight, for sure. One other concern is that a lot of folks have suggested the switching from 90mm to 150mm mode with the lever, while simple, gets old, and it might be wiser to get a 150mm FS 26er that pedals well uphill without the need to flick a lever (Mojo SL-R has been a frequent recommendation). I really liked this one, but it has its points of concern.

    I also tried the Salsa Horsethief, which is a FS 29er. It pedaled uphill much better than either of the other two bikes, and descending felt much more comfy/safe. Having already ridden a 29er HT on a very rooty, rocky, twisty trail, I know the comfort would be great with a FS 29er. My big conern with FS 29ers is cornering, handling in general and the possibility that my skills will not develop as well on a bike that makes technical stuff much easier (roll over anything, versus picking lines and using other biking skills to maneuver). t feels kind of silly to worry about a bike that makes riding easier, but I just don't have enough experience to know if I will regret this, or if it will keep things fun. I definitely found it far easier to jump the 26ers off little bumps in the street, and I like doing stuff like that, though I don't anticipate doing huge jumps in the near future. I liked the idea of the FS 29er after riding it along with the FS 26ers, but am still apprehensive.

    In the end, I'm over-thinking things, but I'm about to spend around $3000 to $3500 on a bike. I want it to be exactly what I need, enjoyable and durable. Geometry that I seem to dig is around 68 to 68.5 for the HTA, and 72.5 to 73.5 for the STA. ETT length seems to be good at around 24 inches, with shorter than 100m standard stems feeling better. 26er feels more playful and jumpable, while 29er feels more stable and rideable (felt I could pedal the 29er all day, while the 26er would get annoying after a much shorter length of time, or if not using it to jump, corner at speed, etc). Ideally, I'd like a FS 26er and FS 29er, and think I will definitely make this happen. The issue now is to decide on which should be first. I can't lose either way, as I have so much skill, strength and stamina to develop, that getting one and riding often is the most important thing.

    Decisions, decisions.

  24. #49
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    Okay, so this Horsethief comes stock with Stan's Flow rims? That is pretty effin awesome, and may explain how well it pedaled. Not sure about the Formula hubs and the spokes, but Flow rims is pretty cool to get stock. Veeeeery interesting...

  25. #50
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    Sounds like the Trance you tried was too big for you.

    Seat tube angle is a little bit of a red herring. But it's a lot easier to find information about ETT than reach.

    FWIW, I can't imagine having a mode switch lever to screw around with either. The most sustained descent I know right around here only lasts 18 minutes, and a ton of our trails roll. Although maybe if you found yourself at Tokul a lot.

    A ton of FS bikes have custom valving, even if the shock is mostly stock.

    Just buy whichever was your favorite. You can't predict the future, so if you buy the skill-building bike now, you may never get to the one you really wanted. And you already have a hardtail for skill building.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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