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  1. #1
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    New question here. Test riding small frames?

    So I know I want a few things from my next bike, and right now, it looks like I can only test ride one of them.
    Two requirements: 160mm travel front and rear (I need to actually run a bike that takes a 160mm fork and not keep overforking my trail bikes) and 26" wheels (don't judge ).

    So based on that, I have my choices fairly narrowed down. I'm really thankful that a friend of mine rides a small Mojo HD and is letting me borrow hers for a few rides. Which I'm really lucky about, because no one of the local dealers have any smalls. It's not even a matter of WSD--it's a matter of small sizes (which affects a lot of us here).

    However, I'm stuck with either parking lot rides for others (if I can find them at all), or ordering sight unseen. I've already done the sight unseen with Ventana for the past few years, so I'm curious to what you guys, er gals, have done when it comes to test riding or how you determine if you want to buy sight unseen.

    Right now my choices are (in no particular order, except the first one):
    - Ibis Mojo HDR (can test ride for a few trail rides)
    - Transition Covert (can't even find to see)
    - Pivot Firebird (might be able to do a parking lot ride)
    - Specialized Enduro (might be able to do a parking lot ride, possible demo)
    - Rocky Mountain Slayer (don't think I know of a local dealer)

    Any thoughts on how you shop for a new bike? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Dudette
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    Good topic, Stripes! I can vouch for parking lot rides not really being enough to get the real flavor of a bike. My first mtb was a Giant Yukon hardtail that was the previous year's model, and one I'm sure the owners were anxious to get out the door. I was just getting started though and didn't really know anything about fit and geometry and what felt good. I've made a lot of changes/upgrades (ha ha ha, don't most of us when we're newbies?).

    Second bike was a mail-order Ibex full-suspension Ignition Super. The standover was right at 29.5" and I was convinced that standover wasn't that important (my inseam is the same as the bike's SOH). I believe the bike came with a 110mm stem. I learned a lot on that bike and it took me to another level, but the fit was just never right. I found the lack of room between the top tube and myself intimidating, particularly when riding more technical stuff. I think despite the deal I got on it, if I had actually tested it first on the trails, I probably wouldn't have gotten it.

    Third bike was my first 29er, and again mail order. But, this time, I had a better understanding of fit and the top TT and SOH were at my "sweet spot". This bike was also built from the frame up, so I was better able to customize my fit. It's a great bike and I've been very happy with it.

    A couple of years ago I went to Dirt Rag Magazine's Dirt Fest and got to demo a few bikes on the trails. It was great because not only did I get to ride the trails, but I was professionally fit, too. If you get a chance to go to an mtb festival with demos, I highly recommend this route. Usually they bring along small frames, too, so that's nice. Another suggestion is checking out the brand's website you are most interested in and seeing where their demo fleet will be touring. I know that's not always possible either, though.

    My latest ride is a Giant Trance X 29er. The demo fleet came to our LBS and I was fit and able to take it out on my favorite trail. I wasn't even sure if that was what I even wanted, until I rode it, and that's what sold me. I've been extremely happy with it and never fail to return from a ride without the biggest SEG on my face. I had done quite a bit of research on bikes that would fit my needs/wants in regards to geometry and travel, so that helped me narrow it down, but those numbers won't tell you how it will feel beneath you when you are bombing down a hill or doing a technical climb. Then it comes down on how all those features play together with the suspension and other components; something I don't think I could appreciate without actually riding it.

    That being said, I'm not sure what that means if you are already familiar with a particular brand's suspension and fit and simply want more travel, etc? I'd feel more comfortable ordering a bike from a brand I was already familiar with, than one I wasn't. That definitely limits things for me. Shops around me don't often have small sizes available and they primarily carry "The Big Three" probably because that's what people are familiar with and will buy. I personally have not seen any all-mountain or longer-traveled bikes in my local shops because that's not the type of riding our trails support. Downhill centers are over a two-hour drive. even though I'm interested in more aggressive riding, including downhill, I'm going to be limited to what I can rent. With so many amazing options out there, it kind of stinks I can't try them all. I read a lot of reviews from other women and ask a lot of questions, but even then, it still boils down to personal preference.
    I simply don't have enough of a disposable income to buy something I'm not sure I'll be happy with. It's tough!

    I will say I have demoed a Pivot Mach 5.7 and loved it (might have been my next bike instead of the Trance, but I really loved the Trance and got a fantastic deal on it). The suspension on the Pivot really was "all that" and it climbed like a goat. Reviews for the Firebird are great and it comes in a small. How does its geometry compare to the bikes you are most comfortable on, now? I suppose that's what I would look at first in regards to buying a bike without getting to really demo it.

    I have a couple of friends who own mojos and they absolutely love those, too. Good luck, Stripes! I hope you are able to get on some of the ones you mentioned for a demo. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by petey15 View Post
    Second bike was a mail-order Ibex full-suspension Ignition Super. The standover was right at 29.5" and I was convinced that standover wasn't that important (my inseam is the same as the bike's SOH). I believe the bike came with a 110mm stem. I learned a lot on that bike and it took me to another level, but the fit was just never right. I found the lack of room between the top tube and myself intimidating, particularly when riding more technical stuff. I think despite the deal I got on it, if I had actually tested it first on the trails, I probably wouldn't have gotten it.
    I've been thinking about this particular issue lately. I got a small Blur TRc off Competitive Cyclist - and I've been struggling with the standover (about the same as my inseam). I do not have any extra clearance. I had the bike fit and my shocks set properly by a local guy, and he fit the frame to me, but that the SOH is something I need to accept. But I'm trying to get comfortable with the top tube. I chickened out on a more technical descent that I have done several times on my hardtail (about 1-1.25" inch space on SOH). Will I get over the fear of clam slam?

    My plan is to ride the bike a bunch more times to try and get acclimated, but I may send it back to Comp Cyclist and look into a XS Pivot Mach 5.7 (SOH 26.6") frame if I can't get comfortable. (Spoke to the guy who fit me about he said this is a good option.)

    I had thought it was just me, but now it seems like I'm not alone. I thought I was being paranoid - or silly.

    Here's the thing that I feel stupid about. I did test it on a trail at a demo day. I don't think the setup was the same as mine, and I know I can convert my 140mm fork to 130mm and lower the SOH by maybe .25" to .5". But I really liked it on the trail.

    But to Stripes' point, it's hard to find XS or S bikes to test on trail. I tried a Pivot Mach 4 at a local demo day, but it was raining and muddy, so hard to really gauge (and I wanted more of a trail bike). Tried a Niner Jet RDO (my hardtail is a 29er) at the Santa Cruz Mtn Bike Festival, but it just didn't feel right (and again, wanted more travel). I was able to test someone's Mach 5.7, and I really liked it, but it was in a parking lot, so at the time, I just felt like the Blur would be a better choice. Testing the Blur was my first hard trail ride on a high-quality FS trail bike - on trails that I had been riding my hardtail on.

    I think it's just that I spent so much money on it - I want to love it right away. And I'm constantly thinking about the top tube height on more technical terrain. I've only had it a few weeks and haven't done that many rides yet, so I'm hoping I get over it by the end of the month.

    Not sure what kind of response I'm expecting - I think I just had to get my insecurities off my chest. Is this normal?

  4. #4
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    Petey: thanks. I've been riding the same type of bike for 10+ years, and I want to see the new suspension designs have to offer. It's just a b*tch to find something to test ride/demo in a small. I bet if bike shops actually stocked those they might have some happier customers (ok, I'm off my soapbox now).

    The way I found my DJ was test riding it, in of all the things the parking lot. The bike just fit me perfectly, and I haven't had so much fun on a bike in a long time (been riding it the past 6-9 months, and that bike is just awesome). It lets me do things I didn't think I could and I have a smile on my face every time I ride it. Unfortunately, I can't say that with the Ventana anymore, and I want to test ride to know--not just guess blindly what looks good on paper and on the forums (although the forums do help me narrow down my choices).

    So I want to try something other than Ventana (if you want to know why, PM me), because I know how their suspension behaves and what a single pivot does. And I've ridden Horst link bikes prior to Ventana, and I'm pretty sure that's not what I want, but if I can demo a small
    Enduro, I might check it out.

    I'm pretty sure I want something that's going to limit user feedback (e.g. I mash, and I keep trying to change it, and it's not going to happen), but I want something with 160mm travel if possible. Something that does well downhill, but doesn't kill me on the ups (I get the compromise, nothing's perfect ). I don't care about feeling every bump in the trail either.

    So I'm looking at DW link primarily, but I'm open to other options that I basically don't have the leave the shock locked out the entire time to enjoy the ride, but is still decent on the downhills. I've talked to various people about the Pivot Firebird and Ibis Mojo HD and heard really good things. I think if it came between the two, I would go to Ibis because of the CS. That's a very big thing with me.

    Who knows? I might end up with a long travel hardtail if I can't find a suspension design I like. *shrug* But everyone tells me what I'm looking for is a DW link, so I'm opening my mind and checking it out.

    Basically, it's going to be 1) what fits me, 2) what I can demo, and 3) if It changes my mind.

    So I'm currently looking at:
    Ibis Mojo HD (can demo on a trail)
    Piviot Firebird (might be able to demo on a trail)
    Santa Cruz Nomad (not really a fan of Santa Cruz, not sure I can find one to demo)
    Transition Covert (prolly out of the running, can't find one to see if it fits, much less test ride in the parking lot)
    Rocky Mountain Slayer (I'll have to talk to the local dealer and see what they do, but also prolly out)

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by laine View Post
    I've been thinking about this particular issue lately. I got a small Blur TRc off Competitive Cyclist - and I've been struggling with the standover (about the same as my inseam). I do not have any extra clearance. I had the bike fit and my shocks set properly by a local guy, and he fit the frame to me, but that the SOH is something I need to accept. But I'm trying to get comfortable with the top tube. I chickened out on a more technical descent that I have done several times on my hardtail (about 1-1.25" inch space on SOH). Will I get over the fear of clam slam?

    My plan is to ride the bike a bunch more times to try and get acclimated, but I may send it back to Comp Cyclist and look into a XS Pivot Mach 5.7 (SOH 26.6") frame if I can't get comfortable. (Spoke to the guy who fit me about he said this is a good option.)

    I had thought it was just me, but now it seems like I'm not alone. I thought I was being paranoid - or silly.

    Here's the thing that I feel stupid about. I did test it on a trail at a demo day. I don't think the setup was the same as mine, and I know I can convert my 140mm fork to 130mm and lower the SOH by maybe .25" to .5". But I really liked it on the trail.

    But to Stripes' point, it's hard to find XS or S bikes to test on trail. I tried a Pivot Mach 4 at a local demo day, but it was raining and muddy, so hard to really gauge (and I wanted more of a trail bike). Tried a Niner Jet RDO (my hardtail is a 29er) at the Santa Cruz Mtn Bike Festival, but it just didn't feel right (and again, wanted more travel). I was able to test someone's Mach 5.7, and I really liked it, but it was in a parking lot, so at the time, I just felt like the Blur would be a better choice. Testing the Blur was my first hard trail ride on a high-quality FS trail bike - on trails that I had been riding my hardtail on.

    I think it's just that I spent so much money on it - I want to love it right away. And I'm constantly thinking about the top tube height on more technical terrain. I've only had it a few weeks and haven't done that many rides yet, so I'm hoping I get over it by the end of the month.

    Not sure what kind of response I'm expecting - I think I just had to get my insecurities off my chest. Is this normal?
    Guess I know what I'm going to rant about next for MTB4Her. It's going to be about test riding smalls

    You bring up a good point Laine: I'm not sure if part of my issue with my bike is fear of clam slam even though I've had it two years now. My issue is more to do with my lack of pedaling technique and I want something to cover for it instead of amplify it (a few other things too, feel free to PM me).

    But your fears aren't unfounded. It's frustrating to spend a lot of money on something that doesn't feel like you want it to, it really is.

    At least Competitive Cyclist will let you return it. How do they do that? Most places won't allow you to return a frame or an entire bike. They're one of the few companies out there that has a small Mojo HD, so that's very tempting once I get the cash together if they let you take the risk.

  6. #6
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    laine: yes, I think being insecure about the top tube and "clam slam" (I love that - never heard that one before, but it's a perfect descriptor) is normal. I have had way too many close encounters with my TT (well, on the Ibex I did) and I don't care if we don't have the same junk guys do, it still took my breath away. It seriously messed with my confidence.

    Stripes: I think test riding smalls would be a great topic on mtb4her. If it hadn't been for demo days, I know I wouldn't have gotten to try out a bike in my size, let alone something with more than 4" of travel. And even then, demo fleets don't always bring xs or small bikes. The Giant demo I went to did not have the TX29er in an xs, despite it being one of the sizes they offer. Why not? Would it have been that hard to include one of those instead of something else in an XL? They did have an xs in the lady's Anthem X29er, but I wasn't interested in that even if it had fit, I wanted something a little more aggressive and with more travel. I was able to quickly determine the xs (at least in womens) was too small for me. It still would have been interesting to see how the xs Trance X29er would have felt, though, because it wasn't women's-specific. But, the small felt good in the lot and I was able to demo it on the trail later, which was what really sold me. It's frustrating not to have a trail or somewhere to demo bikes sometimes.

    I've been told shops don't carry smalls because they don't sell. Huh? So frustrating. How will you know you'll even like it if your comparison is with a medium that's too big? I have on friend who decided she wanted a full-suspension bike after learning on her lady's Specialized Hardrock for many years. No local shops had anything that would fit, so she agreed to have one order her a Cannondale Femme something-or-other. They made a lot of tweaks with stem length and things on it, and she barely had any standover. She rode it a lot, but it never seemed to fit right. Another friend demo'd (in the lot) a small Anthem X 29er. She thought it felt fine at the time. But the lack of standover became noticeable on the trail. She likes the bike otherwise, but I think having more room would have been appreciated.

    Stripes, I've been researching like crazy all kinds of more aggressive bikes I could call on that would give me what I'm looking for, and no one near me carries what I'm interested in. Transition intrigues me, but I'm not comfortable looking at their little graphic on what size should fit me without more info than a short dude between 5' and 5'7" and telling me if I fall between those numbers, that's my size? What about standover? I've learned from experience if it's even close, forget it - I want room! Why don't manufacturers realize there are a lot of us ladies out there that long to do more, but were not going to try on something that doesn't fit. And I know from reading these forums, there are small guys out there in the same boat. Why can't they get that women don't necessarily want pink and flowers? And that not all of us who are 5'4" weigh 110 LBS? And that I don't want to pay the same for a bike with lesser components under the guise it's tuned for women?

    With that being said, it saddens me Transition no longer makes the Syren (seems like everyone who has one says they'd never give it up) and even Norco bailed on their women's freeride bike. And it's not so much that I need women's-specific geometry, but gee, it'd be awesome to find aggressive bikes where the top tube wasn't at 30 or 31" on a small.

    That being said, I am intrigued with Canfield's The One - I'd want a bike versatile enough where I could pedal it uphill when needed and isn't just for lift-serviced trails. I don't have any close enough to me to justify that. I hope, Stripes, you get to try out the Mojo and / or a Firebird. I'd be willing to bet one of those (if the fit is right) would give you permagrin

  7. #7
    Dudette
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    Dang you, Stripes! I was just checking out that Mojo. The numbers look great and waaaah, now I want to try one, too!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by petey15 View Post
    laine: yes, I think being insecure about the top tube and "clam slam" (I love that - never heard that one before, but it's a perfect descriptor) is normal. I have had way too many close encounters with my TT (well, on the Ibex I did) and I don't care if we don't have the same junk guys do, it still took my breath away. It seriously messed with my confidence.
    Glad to share the phrase "clam slam"!
    It's the best descriptor I've heard to date.

    I think that's what it is - it's messing with my confidence. It's just hard to get a foot down on the sketchy descents. Went riding this morning and went down new technical trail. Ended up walking a stretch because of the combo of unfamiliar terrain and lack of confidence. At this point, I'm in "wait & see" mode to try and get used to the toptube.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by petey15 View Post
    Dang you, Stripes! I was just checking out that Mojo. The numbers look great and waaaah, now I want to try one, too!
    Yeah, I'm struggling because I have to give Shredchic's HD back

    Found out why all smalls aren't created equal though: take a look at the reach and stack height. The reach for the Ventana small is a 1.5 inches longer than the Mojo HD. No wonder I'm more comfortable on the Mojo.

    First time I've ridden in years without a backache. Guess I was too stretched out. Btw, I was fitted for the Ventana (once a year as my riding changes), but I don't like the stretched out feel like I used to. Since I started going to the BMX track with the DJ, I've learned to really enjoy small and nimble, even on the longer descents.

    We'll see how I feel tomorrow on an extended steep downhill section. That will be a very telltale sign of how I feel overall about the bike. Right now, really enjoying though--I think the lack of backaches is very telling
    MTB4Her.com: mountain bike site for women, by women

  10. #10
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    I got a new bike. Guess what? No more clam slam I didn't write about the clam slam though.. but it was a big factor in test riding.

    Test Riding with Beatrix | Mountain Biking for Women ? MTB4Her.com
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