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  1. #1
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    full-sus and climbing

    I've been riding a ridged bike for awhile now and though my brain loves it my aging body is protesting some. It's been a long time since I've even had a hardtail but now I'm kicking around the idea of going straight to full suspension to try and squeeze a few more years of fun out of mountain biking before I give up and take up knitting.

    I like climbing, probably because I've never been a great descender and going up gives me a chance to even things out some. I alternate frequently between on and off the saddle on climbs depending on the grade and terrain. Will a full suspension bike kill my buzz in this regard? I realize I'll have to change my riding style somewhat. I'm looking at xc oriented bikes- spearfish, tallboy, etc.

    Any other climbers out there that have went full-squish?

  2. #2
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    A few things to keep in mind moving from a rigid rear end to a FS bike. Moving from fully rigid to suspension at both ends will double these effects.

    A FS bike rear suspension should move while climbing on rough surfaces, that's where you gain traction, a well designed rear suspension will keep driving the rear wheel down into the dirt on a climb, and keep the wheel in contact with ground. So if you look down and see the shock linkage moving, don't immediately assume it is wasting your climbing energy. On smooth surfaces you can lock it out and it won't significantly affect climbing at all.

    Suspension movement while pedaling is typically generated by the bike trying to isolate your body weight from the trail surface. That isn't pedal bob. Pedal bob is the thing that wastes climbing energy, it happens when the pedal effort pulls on the chain, and the chain tension causes the suspension to compress. Very few modern FS bikes have big problems with that any more. So again, shock movement doesn't always mean wasted energy.

    A FS bike generally rewards seated climbing and spinning more than out of the saddle hammering. It is hard to get a FS bike to behave well under pedal mashing and out of the saddle climbing because your body weight has a big vertical component of motion while doing either of those things.

    An FS bike will change the way you corner as well, as the front and rear suspension will compress differently depending where your body weight is positioned in the corner. The suspension compressing changes the head angle so you will find that the steering can slack out at the highest peak vertical load in the corner. I notice this going from my FS bike back to a hardtail where I pre-correct for that head angle change that never comes and I turn into the apex of a corner early.

    And it will make a big difference in comfort, but even more in terms of how much speed you can carry into rough surface trails and still pedal, as the suspension will keep the tires in contact with the trail and still let you pedal.
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  3. #3
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    All that to say, try a rental demo or borrow a bike to try it out. That will answer a lot of questions. Do the same trails you would do on the SS where you can hammer v. spin, longer ascents with more platform or lockout, and tech descents where you can pick up speed and carry it with the added FS benefit.
    Sometimes, you need to go fast enough that the trail is a blur to find clarity. -- Wild Bill

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glide the Clyde View Post
    All that to say, try a rental demo or borrow a bike to try it out. That will answer a lot of questions.
    I agree that would make the most sense but it's difficult out here in the sticks, the one lbs has nothing. I'll be going to the big city in a few weeks and will ride a few there but no demos going on so it will be curb hopping only. Maybe I'll see what I can do for a rental.

  5. #5
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    The modern full-suspension bike now digs into the terrain more effectively, increasing your climbing confidence, without spinning out the rear tires. I'm a believer....
    "The ONLY person who needs to race.....is the entrant"

  6. #6
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    Of course you can always get suspension with lockout. I'm not a racer, but I absolutely never feel the need to use lockout.

  7. #7
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    I have full-suspension on my race MTB, and I feel it doesn't hinder climbing, especially if you have technical climbs with rocks and roots. Both my shocks have 3 settings, lockout, trail, and descent, so I have options. Also, if you look at the top of XC Racing, the best MTB climber in the world is riding a full suspension bike, so really I don't think its a hindrance.

  8. #8
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    full-sus and climbing

    If you do a lot of climbing out of the saddle then for a full suspension bike something like the Rock Shox E.I system, Specialized Brain or Fox iCD system would be worth looking into. That way bob is essentially a non issue whilst climbing.

    Some background links about the Rock Shox E.I and Fox iCD electronic suspension.

    http://www.pinkbike.com/news/ei-and-...hock-2012.html

    http://www.pinkbike.com/news/Fox-iCD...n-Earnest.html

    User review of the Fox iCD system:

    FOX FLOAT iCD riders

    Rock Shox E.I. on a Lapierre XR29:

    Lapierre an their 29er FS

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by WR304 View Post
    If you do a lot of climbing out of the saddle then for a full suspension bike something like the Rock Shox E.I system, Specialized Brain or Fox iCD system would be worth looking into. That way bob is essentially a non issue whilst climbing.
    Thanks, I'll look into those. For whatever reasons climbing out of the saddle has always worked for me and I was wondering how much I might have to modify my ways, so I guess that's what I was mostly curious about.

  10. #10
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    you will need afull lockout system of some type

  11. #11
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    FYI...just don't expect the Specialized Brain to be a full lock-out, it's far from it. Firms things up a bit is all, and at the expense of plushness when you want it. Love the Specialized, but not the brains disclaimer - the last brain fork/shock I rode was from 2012. Maybe they are better now

  12. #12
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    I was going to mention the same thing. The front/rear Brain on my Epic is the closest FS to my rigid bike I've ever ridden. Same disclaimer as well. Like the bike, don't like the brains of my 2011 Epic. Everything could be better now,
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by PAmtbiker View Post
    I was going to mention the same thing. The front/rear Brain on my Epic is the closest FS to my rigid bike I've ever ridden. Same disclaimer as well. Like the bike, don't like the brains of my 2011 Epic. Everything could be better now,
    The 13 brain on my Epic was awesome can't wait for the 14.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm01 View Post
    FYI...just don't expect the Specialized Brain to be a full lock-out, it's far from it. Firms things up a bit is all, and at the expense of plushness when you want it. Love the Specialized, but not the brains disclaimer - the last brain fork/shock I rode was from 2012. Maybe they are better now
    ^^^Same experience here

  15. #15
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    My FS bike climbs really well. I will venture to say that it will decend about 1 million times better than your rigid bike also. Descending on a full suspension bike is so much fun I can't even express what it's like

  16. #16
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    Staying seated while climbing is more efficient( in most situations) than standing while climbing. I ride a SC Blur XCc with 27.5 wheels, the bike is an awesome climber, even while standing, which I do only to get over some obstacles or just for a quick burst of acceleration.

  17. #17
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    full-sus and climbing

    Quote Originally Posted by jcm01 View Post
    FYI...just don't expect the Specialized Brain to be a full lock-out, it's far from it. Firms things up a bit is all, and at the expense of plushness when you want it. Love the Specialized, but not the brains disclaimer - the last brain fork/shock I rode was from 2012. Maybe they are better now
    If you didn't like the 2012 Epic brain shock feel I doubt that you'd like the newer ones either. It's just small tweaks really year to year. The same criticisms are going to be there in a 2014 Epic brain shock too.

    I'm really interested to try the Rock Shox E.I. system. It sounds like it addresses the main issues that a brain rear shock has, without the compromises between lock out and plushness that you make when choosing brain shock settings.

    My favourite one was a few years ago. I'd been out on the road club run on my 2009 Specialized Epic marathon carbon and we'd just been up a climb. Everyone had stopped at the top to regroup. I'd been going ok and actually dropped a few people for once. Anyway, my friend who I'd dropped comes over and goes "it's because your mountain bike is faster than my road bike." (true story)

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by WR304 View Post
    If you didn't like the 2012 Epic brain shock feel I doubt that you'd like the newer ones either. It's just small tweaks really year to year. The same criticisms are going to be there in a 2014 Epic brain shock too.

    I'm really interested to try the Rock Shox E.I. system. It sounds like it addresses the main issues that a brain rear shock has, without the compromises between lock out and plushness that you make when choosing brain shock settings.

    My favourite one was a few years ago. I'd been out on the road club run on my 2009 Specialized Epic marathon carbon and we'd just been up a climb. Everyone had stopped at the top to regroup. I'd been going ok and actually dropped a few people for once. Anyway, my friend who I'd dropped comes over and goes "it's because your mountain bike is faster than my road bike." (true story)
    So...wait? It's not about the engine!? ")

  19. #19
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    full-sus and climbing

    Quote Originally Posted by rydbyk View Post
    So...wait? It's not about the engine!? ")
    Considering my left leg barely works that would have had to be an engine concealed within the frame.
    Last edited by WR304; 11-05-2013 at 04:19 PM.

  20. #20
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    OP, I wasn't riding rigid, but I got my first FS a few months ago. I've set several Strava PRs on it and was a minute off my best-ever lap time when I raced it. Since it was a duathlong and I've done a ton of XC on that course... anyway, I don't think it's made me slower. I think it's made me faster.

    My bike is a Kona Hei Hei. I usually leave the shock open on singletrack, climbing included.

    I've demoed a couple other bikes that I liked on the way up: the Specialized Camber and Trek Fuel EX. The Camber did a pretty good job with the shock open. The Fuel seemed pretty dependent on having it in "trail" mode, which is a compression damper.

    I like to think I wasn't being ideological about it, but it took me a while to switch and I was frequently underwhelmed at demo days. But things have gotten a lot better, and a lot of FS XC bikes, and trail and AM actually, are good climbers now.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by WR304 View Post
    If you didn't like the 2012 Epic brain shock feel I doubt that you'd like the newer ones either. It's just small tweaks really year to year. The same criticisms are going to be there in a 2014 Epic brain shock too.

    I'm really interested to try the Rock Shox E.I. system. It sounds like it addresses the main issues that a brain rear shock has, without the compromises between lock out and plushness that you make when choosing brain shock settings.:
    I'm interested to check out the new ones but you are probably right. On my 2012, I had the brain cartridge removed and installed a push-lock cartridge instead. So happy. Even the mechanic was surprised by how much smoother the fork was. And the push lock allowed me to completely lock it out when i wanted.

  22. #22
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    I had on '07 Epic a few years ago, I liked that bike, I was not racing or riding much at that time, but pretty experienced from years ago. I'm racing a hardtail now, fs bikes were super weird when I was racing in the early '90s and I was never seriously tempted to get a FS race bike.
    If I had the budget for it now I'd get a full suspension race bike, I think I'd feel less beatup after a long race, I'm 46 and not quite as durable as I used to be. Eventually I'll get a FS race bike. The racer guys at the lbs swear the Cannondale Scalpel is better than the Epic, they sell both, I have not ridden either.
    It probably wouldn't take you long to form a new habit of climbing while seated, you might adapt pretty quickly especially if the climbing was really smooth.

  23. #23
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    Something you should look at is a Scott with twinloc system. It's advantage is you have one lever on your bars with 3 positions - full suspension, traction mode and full lockout. I have a buddy with a Scott with twinloc and he loves it.

    Twinloc Lever System - SCOTT Sports

    If you have to reach down and lock out a shock (like I have to on my Top Fuel) you just don't do it. If you have 2 lockouts for fork and shock I think you wouldn't do that often either. But, if it's one lever that's easy to get to I think you'd use it often. Want to stand? One click then go. Easy, fast and no compromise.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimPacNW View Post
    I had on '07 Epic a few years ago, I liked that bike, I was not racing or riding much at that time, but pretty experienced from years ago. I'm racing a hardtail now, fs bikes were super weird when I was racing in the early '90s and I was never seriously tempted to get a FS race bike.
    If I had the budget for it now I'd get a full suspension race bike, I think I'd feel less beatup after a long race, I'm 46 and not quite as durable as I used to be. Eventually I'll get a FS race bike. The racer guys at the lbs swear the Cannondale Scalpel is better than the Epic, they sell both, I have not ridden either.
    It probably wouldn't take you long to form a new habit of climbing while seated, you might adapt pretty quickly especially if the climbing was really smooth.
    The new Epic is an ample climber. The adjustability of the Fox Shock is key. I like to jack up my psi to about 180 for a firm ride.
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  25. #25
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    All the 2010-newer FS bikes have such excellent suspension tunes you will be able to climb happily on any bike you can afford.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by BDozer View Post
    If you have to reach down and lock out a shock (like I have to on my Top Fuel) you just don't do it. If you have 2 lockouts for fork and shock I think you wouldn't do that often either. But, if it's one lever that's easy to get to I think you'd use it often. Want to stand? One click then go. Easy, fast and no compromise.
    Agree with this. In a race situation, if it's not on the handlebars, you're probably not going to use it. That's why I like my forks to have push-lock mounted on the bars. The new systems like the Scott one sounds sweet too. I think that's the future.

  27. #27
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    I'm content not to lock out anything with my bike. I think in an endurance race with a long fire road climb, I might do it. But with a couple clicks of compression damping on the fork and my bike's firmish platform taking care of the rear, I think I'm good for a typical Pacific Northwest XC course.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  28. #28
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    full-sus and climbing

    Quote Originally Posted by jcm01 View Post
    Agree with this. In a race situation, if it's not on the handlebars, you're probably not going to use it. That's why I like my forks to have push-lock mounted on the bars. The new systems like the Scott one sounds sweet too. I think that's the future.
    You can have linked manual Fox lockouts for the front and rear shock using cables and a single lever. That isn't exclusive to any particular manufacturer so could be fitted to any frame. The 2014 version is a bit smaller than the giant remote that Fox had previously:

    http://www.bikerumor.com/2013/07/26/...lockout-lever/


    2014 Fox CTD manual lockout

    Compared to the electronic Fox iCD system with its small thumb switch it's still quite clumsy and not as convenient. LMN was saying how the main benefit of Fox iCD is just how easy it is to use for short bursts, a quick tap on a switch, sprint, then back to open suspension again without needing to move your hands or break concentration.


    Fox iCD lever on Jamesm925ís bike

    For Rock Shox you can get a Rock Shox Monarch rear shock with a manual remote lockout lever. Ondrej Cink was racing a Merida Big Ninety Nine 29er this year with two remote levers on the handlebars (one for the fork and one for the rear shock).

    http://forums.mtbr.com/xc-racing-tra...l#post10565797

  29. #29
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    What kind of problems are you having that make you want to switch? Is it low back pain or some other orthopedic issue? If so, you might consider doing some strength/conditioning/mobility training. A little goes a long way and may allow you to keep your current setup if, in fact, it's what you like best.

    Having said that, the Specialized Epic is the best all around bike out there, IMO. I've had several and loved every one. The brain system works well when dialed in, but you have to keep on top of maintaining them or they'll blow. I usually had mine sent off for maintenance once per season, during a rest week. Ride one

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  30. #30
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    I recently upgraded from a carbon hardtail 2012 Orbea Alma with 80mm to a 2013 Epic Marathon and it has made a huge difference for me. I'm not sure why, but I climb much better on the Epic than I ever did on the Alma.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by PHASES View Post
    What kind of problems are you having that make you want to switch? Is it low back pain or some other orthopedic issue? If so, you might consider doing some strength/conditioning/mobility training. A little goes a long way and may allow you to keep your current setup if, in fact, it's what you like best.
    Herniated disc, joint pain, maybe the beginnings of carpel tunnel?, old person $hit in general. I'm not sure the human body was designed to ride off-road on a ridged frame and fork forever, not mine anyway. I'm sure my body would benefit from extra training, yoga, etc, but nothing aside from surgery is going to fix that disc and I'm not going there, and I doubt it would help with joint pain a whole lot.

    I love my bike but it's the only one I've had for awhile so I guess I'm not sure what I like best. I'll probably take a leap of faith and give a (relatively) lightweight, short(ish) travel full-sus a go which I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy on the rough downs, but not so sure how much I'll like it on the way up. I really like climbing and was hoping I wouldn't have to sacrifice too much.

  32. #32
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    full-sus and climbing

    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    I love my bike but it's the only one I've had for awhile so I guess I'm not sure what I like best. I'll probably take a leap of faith and give a (relatively) lightweight, short(ish) travel full-sus a go which I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy on the rough downs, but not so sure how much I'll like it on the way up. I really like climbing and was hoping I wouldn't have to sacrifice too much.
    Have you tried turmeric? It's something that does seem to help a bit with my joints.

    When it comes to full suspension bikes it's always worth trying them, rather than taking a leap of faith or relying on online reviews. I know I've seen bikes that look fantastic in a showroom, read how awesome they are online (you can always find someone somewhere who will say that there's no discernible bob from the rear suspension, regardless of which bike it is). Then you test ride one and it's a pogo stick with a back end that feels like mush.

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    you're absolutely right about the disc issue, but strength and mobility training will help w/ joint pain and endurance, for sure. I've seen it.

    Have you considered just putting a front shock on your bike? It sounds like most of your issues are from the ribs up. Maybe a little cushion up front will help dial back the "jolting" forces on your hands, wrists, elbows and shoulder girdle. All that stuff shoots right up through your neck. Soak up more of the rough stuff with a shock and you can still climb like a goat by keeping the HT. If that doesn't work, get an Epic. It's the most tunable suspension system out there. Yes, there is sag just like any other FS bike, but it is minimal if set up right. Still climbs well and, I might add, is the only FS bike to have won MTB worlds.

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  34. #34
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    I raced SS for a few years and when I wanted to race with gears I wanted full suspension to take advantage of the gears. Get a good full suspension bike that actually adds traction to your climbs and your times and back will improve. I built a Niner Jet9 RDO and love it. I'm faster everywhere on the trails with this bike then my single speed.

    A well designed supsension will help you more then it hurts on the climbs. If it needs lockouts to climb well then you should have bought a hard tail. In my opinion the Epic is a bike for guys that don't need suspension but just want to take the edge off of bumps.

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    I've been expecting some new full suspension frames to be available, someone correct me if I'm wrong: I read that that Specialized held the patent(s) on the Horst Link, one patent expired last spring, which might allow more xc type full suspension systems? Might there be some new and affordable offerings soon? LaPierre seems to have one (maybe not super affordable). A guy I race with has one of the Chinese carbon 29er fs bikes it's seems ok but a little odd, very lightweight however.
    This thread is making me want a FS frame for next season.

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by PHASES View Post
    Yes, there is sag just like any other FS bike, but it is minimal if set up right.
    Did you mean bob? All suspension should have sag or you're not getting the full benefit of suspension.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimPacNW View Post
    I've been expecting some new full suspension frames to be available, someone correct me if I'm wrong: I read that that Specialized held the patent(s) on the Horst Link, one patent expired last spring, which might allow more xc type full suspension systems? Might there be some new and affordable offerings soon? LaPierre seems to have one (maybe not super affordable). A guy I race with has one of the Chinese carbon 29er fs bikes it's seems ok but a little odd, very lightweight however.
    This thread is making me want a FS frame for next season.
    I do like the look of the Lapierre XR 29.

    XR 929 | Cycles Lapierre



    In the UK a Lapierre XR929 (claimed weight 22.5lbs) is £5,800 GBP compared to a 2014 Specialized S-Works Epic that's £7,500 GBP, so quite a bit cheaper. The geometry is similar between the two bikes too. With a dedicated frame the Rock Shox E.I. electronic suspension is packaged neatly, rather than being a mass of wires.

    The Lapierre XR 29 isn't a horst link design though, only having a single pivot and a flexing carbon chainstay. Probably the main selling point for a 2014 Epic is that it can carry two water bottles in the frame triangle.

    Specialized Bicycle Components


  38. #38
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    I almost bought an HT when I got my new 29er bike (was on a 26 FS) but last minute I went with a short travel FS with CTD on the fork and shock to be easier on my back/body (53 y/o). I ride in T or trail mode most of the time. I like it as it's almost like being locked out yet it's forgiving too. For climbing I lock out the fork but usually leave the shock in Trail. I find this keeps the rear wheel glued to the ground better. Trail mode is fairly stiff so I don't get noticeable bob. Like I said, I lock the front which is great for climbing.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by fongster View Post
    I almost bought an HT when I got my new 29er bike (was on a 26 FS) but last minute I went with a short travel FS with CTD on the fork and shock to be easier on my back/body (53 y/o). I ride in T or trail mode most of the time. I like it as it's almost like being locked out yet it's forgiving too. For climbing I lock out the fork but usually leave the shock in Trail. I find this keeps the rear wheel glued to the ground better. Trail mode is fairly stiff so I don't get noticeable bob. Like I said, I lock the front which is great for climbing.
    The CTD system sounds slick. Do you know how much weight it adds?

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    I've been riding a ridged bike for awhile now and though my brain loves it my aging body is protesting some. It's been a long time since I've even had a hardtail but now I'm kicking around the idea of going straight to full suspension to try and squeeze a few more years of fun out of mountain biking before I give up and take up knitting.

    I like climbing, probably because I've never been a great descender and going up gives me a chance to even things out some. I alternate frequently between on and off the saddle on climbs depending on the grade and terrain. Will a full suspension bike kill my buzz in this regard? I realize I'll have to change my riding style somewhat. I'm looking at xc oriented bikes- spearfish, tallboy, etc.

    Any other climbers out there that have went full-squish?
    Niner's CVA works really well on climbs. There is a nice sale going on at Jenson for the prior model of JET 9 for 51% off MSRP. It would take the edge off for sure and accomplish what you are seeking to do.

  41. #41
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    You do not and probably wouldn't use it if you had lockout on climbs, even while standing.
    Staying seated while climbing is more efficient, but there are times when you do need to stand. On my Blur, the Fox RP 23 shock has two settings, fully open and half open. I've found I'm almost always in full open, even when I have to stand, it's all about being smooth in your pedal stroke

  42. #42
    XC Hack
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    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    280
    Quote Originally Posted by jcm01 View Post
    The CTD system sounds slick. Do you know how much weight it adds?
    Hi, CTD is the newer adjustment after the older RP models. I don't know what weight it adds per se, if anything, as it's a standard part of current Fox suspension offerings. CTD is just a valve gizmo and switch built into their forks and shocks. I held one next to an old shock and it weighed less, lol--bodies must be lighter now. It's available as a switch on the fork itself or as a cabled remote for h-bar mounting. I have the non-remote on my fork and find it's no hassle to flick on the go. Switching the shock is a bit tougher but I ride it in Trail mostly and only flick it to Descend for extended or really rough descents. I only ride the rear shock in Climb, or locked out, on roads or really smooth flat fireroads.

  43. #43
    mtbr member
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    Nov 2004
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    369
    I have ridden a ton of bikes, hardtails and full-sus- all wheel sizes.
    I think hardtails only work best for smooth climbs. If I climb is at all rocky- I am better on a full-sus.
    Overall (entire ride)- I am way faster on a full-sus than a hardtail. There are too many places that you can't go fast on a hardtail.
    I am way less beat up (or even not beat up at all) after a day in the saddle on a full-sus.
    Current bike is a Santa Cruz 5010 (SOLO)- raced out so it weghs 23 lb.
    I think the 5010 or a Tallboy would be good choices. They are more active than an Epic- they will save that back!
    I did a 4+ hr ride today with 8100 feet of climbing- Going to gym for next workout now!

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