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  1. #1
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    Marathon bikes vs XC bikes

    I see them marketed as separate categories of bike. What's the difference in requirements for the two sports?

  2. #2
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    you made me wonder, so i looked it up found this;
    http://forums.mtbr.com/beginners-corner/xc-racing-vs-marathon-bikes-581549.html#post6446332

    i guess maybe that is it(?) sorry if not helpfull

  3. #3
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    Marathon bikes are intended to be comfy. You're gonna be sitting on them for a long time. XC race bikes are intended to be ridden for 2 hours or less in races, so you sacrifice some comfort for less weight and speed. Generally, I think marathon bikes are a little heavier too, as durability over 6-24 hour rides becomes an issue.

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    the only difference is marketing as far as bikes go.

    most high level XC racers regularly do 4+ hr rides on their XC race bikes (HT or FS). in the past Specialized has used "marathon" as a designation for a bike that fell between the Sworks and Expert in cost/build, but i don't feel it necessarily means the bike is optimized for that discipline.

    depending on where you race the marathon courses often have more fire road or pavement to be able to connect different trail networks. marathon races often do not have more than two laps of a fairly long course. (50 miles approximate total distance)

    XCO (olympic) racing is more loops of a shorter course. (length varies, often around 18 miles or so but "XC" races like Sea Otter amateur course are as long as 30+ miles which in my opinion borders on Marathon length!)

    the same riders can do well at both disciplines, but the course length and race duration can effect riders differently. i have issues cramping and the longer races definitely challenge me in that regard.

    the ultra endurance stuff (6+ hrs) is a whole different category IMO. i have done one 12hr solo and can tell you that it isn't for me! people that do ultra endurance have a huge range of participants, more so than XC or Marathon IMO. at the local ultra endurance races you can find people in costumes and riding with backpacks full of booze or beer getting passed by super stars of the sport like Tinker.

    hope that helps....
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    Good info from all of you. Thanks.

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    marketing and personal preference....

  7. #7
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    I decided to try doing some endurance racing this season. I only have one of them behind me, but here's what I noticed - attendance was a lot bigger than for my local XC races. Or at least, it looked bigger. My distance (30 miles, so relatively modest) started in one big wave. The 60 mile guys had gone in one big wave about a half hour previously. The people who were riding like they meant it in my wave were on bikes that would be completely at home in the XC format common to my area, with a roughly 30-minute lap. The ones I knew were actually on the same bikes they ride in those races. The people in the 60 mile race who were getting by me at the end of my race were on bikes that weould be completely at home in the XCO format.

    The people in my wave who I left behind early on and didn't see again were on things that looked like trail bikes. The 60 mile people I had started catching by the end of my race (it was a 15 mile lap) were on things that looked like trail bikes, or short-travel hardtails.

    I think the bike industry has found a way to sell another bike. Many of the people who were just riding to complete the race were better-funded than I am, and about the same income group as most of the people who race in my area - so they can afford more bikes, or at least to take a loss on a relatively new bike and buy a different one, if they can be convinced it will make them faster.

    A few posters here have commented on the setup changes they make to do marathon vs. shorter races in the "post your race bike" thread. I'd say for many people, that's as deep as the differences go. I didn't even change setup, but I'm thinking about adding a Bento Box for the six hour race I have later this month.
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  8. #8
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    Just advertising really...sounds "cool" now that so many people are into marathon/endurance events now too...

    DO NOT attempt to ride your "XC" over 3 hours!! Also, if you purchase a "marathon" set up, you will be obligated to ride at least 6 hours every ride..

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    yeah.. around here our XC races are a bit longer than was posted earlier, and the races in Michaux are usually in the range of 10/25/40 and most racers are riding hardtails/short travel fs bikes using them all the way up from XC racing to the popular 100 milers (Wilderness 101/SM100) and a carzy 50 miler( stoopid 50)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryguy135 View Post
    Marathon bikes are intended to be comfy. You're gonna be sitting on them for a long time. XC race bikes are intended to be ridden for 2 hours or less in races, so you sacrifice some comfort for less weight and speed. Generally, I think marathon bikes are a little heavier too, as durability over 6-24 hour rides becomes an issue.
    +1.... This.

    I don't agree its just marketing. XC riders can get away with racing a hardtail with aggressive geometry and very light weight, comfort isn't very important when only racing for 1-2 hours as well as durability.
    For a marathon bike, at least some form of full suspension seems to be the most important and popular thing, apart from non technical 100 milers where a hardtail would be very fast.


    Slighty slacker head angles and a bit more of an upright position compared to XC would be my choice as well, and ergon grips .

    But i am talking marathon as in at least a 12 hour solo.
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  11. #11
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    I see no difference except that if I were building a "marathon" bike I might put a slightly more padded saddle on it for long-haul comfort. Most people just buy an XC bike and ride that everywhere. It's all marketing. I think that I ride an "XC race" bike for my marathons, and yes I think the Epic 29er qualifies as that kind of bike as it has a few XC World Cup wins under its belt now...
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    Quote Originally Posted by PAmtbiker View Post
    I see no difference except that if I were building a "marathon" bike I might put a slightly more padded saddle on it for long-haul comfort. Most people just buy an XC bike and ride that everywhere. It's all marketing. I think that I ride an "XC race" bike for my marathons, and yes I think the Epic 29er qualifies as that kind of bike as it has a few XC World Cup wins under its belt now...
    you're riding one of those XC bikes which had a "marathon" model



    Specialized Bicycle Components : Epic Marathon Carbon

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by rydbyk View Post
    DO NOT attempt to ride your "XC" over 3 hours!! Also, if you purchase a "marathon" set up, you will be obligated to ride at least 6 hours every ride.
    Quote Originally Posted by Damitletsride! View Post
    But i am talking marathon as in at least a 12 hour solo.
    Surely you mean a week long expedition before it truly counts as a marathon. Riding for only 6 hours a day could easily be misinterpreted as merely XC riding.

    A "marathon" bike would be wasted if you only did short rides on it.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Damitletsride! View Post
    But i am talking marathon as in at least a 12 hour solo.
    i guess i follow the UCI definition of marathon (25-75 miles)

    i consider 6+hr events as ultra endurance (we now have the NUE series which IMO is a better description of the effort too!)

    i still think the difference in bikes for the people that are competing is nearly zero. competing is different than going out to "survive" an event.
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  15. #15
    zrm
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    I don't think there's much difference in the bikes elite level XC racers are on and elite level endurance riders are on.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by whybotherme View Post
    i guess i follow the UCI definition of marathon (25-75 miles)

    i consider 6+hr events as ultra endurance (we now have the NUE series which IMO is a better description of the effort too!)

    i still think the difference in bikes for the people that are competing is nearly zero. competing is different than going out to "survive" an event.
    Well the way most riders have their bikes setup for 12 or 24 hour solos would different to XC racers. There is some bikes like the Cannondale scalpel which is a popular 12 and 24 hour race bike, and also suitable for XC, but it would be setup slightly differently in both cases.

    And there's no way I'd consider anything under 50 miles a marathon. 75 maybe, but nothing below. Like i said before, on these very short "marathons", a fast hardtail is usually the preferred setup.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    I decided to try doing some endurance racing this season. I only have one of them behind me, but here's what I noticed - attendance was a lot bigger than for my local XC races. Or at least, it looked bigger. My distance (30 miles, so relatively modest) started in one big wave. The 60 mile guys had gone in one big wave about a half hour previously. The people who were riding like they meant it in my wave were on bikes that would be completely at home in the XC format common to my area, with a roughly 30-minute lap. The ones I knew were actually on the same bikes they ride in those races. The people in the 60 mile race who were getting by me at the end of my race were on bikes that weould be completely at home in the XCO format.

    .
    Again, there is no way a 30 mile event should be promoted as a "marathon". Even 60 miles is pretty short. Considering world cup XC races are often 45km long (or about 30 miles), I'm not surprised you saw guys on top XC bikes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Damitletsride! View Post
    And there's no way I'd consider anything under 50 miles a marathon. 75 maybe, but nothing below. Like i said before, on these very short "marathons", a fast hardtail is usually the preferred setup.
    interesting. so you don't accept the UCI definition of Marathon racing? in your opinion Sauser didn't ride long enough to wear rainbow stripes this year?

    i do agree that 25 miles is quite short, but they likely picked that as an arbitrary lower bound that overlapped with a long XC race. personally i would have made the lower bound around 35 miles. (for some reason 35-75 seems so much better than 25-75)

    as for the bike, i wouldn't change a thing on my setup to race for any duration though you won't catch me trying to race at anything longer than 3 hrs. riding long distances on the mountain bike isn't a bad thing IMO, I do so at least once a year in the San Jacinto Enduro (local underground endurance "race"). i don't however really treat it like much of a race...



    and



    this race is about the upper bound of what i would consider "marathon racing". anything longer is just pure survival (not that 12hour soloists aren't "racing", but IMO is a totally different "race" and thus "ultra endurance")
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  19. #19
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    How about a marathon is any race that takes the winner of that race longer than 3 hrs? That would mean that the majority of the field is taking between 4 and 6 hours to finish. Also the term "marathon" and it's definition only applies to races. A social bike ride that takes 3+ hours to finish is just that, a social bike ride.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by whybotherme View Post
    interesting. so you don't accept the UCI definition of Marathon racing? in your opinion Sauser didn't ride long enough to wear rainbow stripes this year?

    i do agree that 25 miles is quite short, but they likely picked that as an arbitrary lower bound that overlapped with a long XC race. personally i would have made the lower bound around 35 miles. (for some reason 35-75 seems so much better than 25-75)

    as for the bike, i wouldn't change a thing on my setup to race for any duration though you won't catch me trying to race at anything longer than 3 hrs. riding long distances on the mountain bike isn't a bad thing IMO, I do so at least once a year in the San Jacinto Enduro (local underground endurance "race"). i don't however really treat it like much of a race...

    this race is about the upper bound of what i would consider "marathon racing". anything longer is just pure survival (not that 12hour soloists aren't "racing", but IMO is a totally different "race" and thus "ultra endurance")
    Yeah i think the distance the UCI class as marathon racing is a bit of a joke, I'm sure a lot of people would agree with me. But thats another thread topic.

    I think the term you use "ultra endurance" is the same as what i would call "endurance".

    I reckon the winning time for a marathon should be at least 4 hours, otherwise its just a slightly longer race than XC, but not what I'd call a marathon.

    And as for the bike-setup, your oppinion might change if you did some 12 and 24 solo races. It can be very tight racing too, with only a few minutes seperating places. I know i wouldn't want to do one on a light hardtail with agressive geometry and a low riding positon. For a smooth 12 hour race course it would be OK, but still not desireable for me.

    My bike at 100mm front and rear weighs a good bit more than some ultra lightweight race hardtails, but i'd still choose it for a marathon any day (>4 hours), or an ultra endurance race as you call them.
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  21. #21
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    I ride the same bike for 30 min sprint races as I do for a 8 hour solo race, 100mm of travel front and back, nice aggressive position, very comfortable for me with lots of control. Although I am considering getting one of these so called Marathon bikes next year, nice steep race geometry with 120mm travel. Then I will have some more travel for those great 3 or 4 hour group or solo rides but still nice position and handling for those short sprint weekly races.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Damitletsride! View Post
    Yeah i think the distance the UCI class as marathon racing is a bit of a joke, I'm sure a lot of people would agree with me. But thats another thread topic.

    I think the term you use "ultra endurance" is the same as what i would call "endurance".

    I reckon the winning time for a marathon should be at least 4 hours, otherwise its just a slightly longer race than XC, but not what I'd call a marathon.

    And as for the bike-setup, your oppinion might change if you did some 12 and 24 solo races. It can be very tight racing too, with only a few minutes seperating places. I know i wouldn't want to do one on a light hardtail with agressive geometry and a low riding positon. For a smooth 12 hour race course it would be OK, but still not desireable for me.

    My bike at 100mm front and rear weighs a good bit more than some ultra lightweight race hardtails, but i'd still choose it for a marathon any day (>4 hours), or an ultra endurance race as you call them.
    i too race on a 100mm travel FS bike (Specialized Epic). when i did race a 12hr solo, it was on a 29er HT with a thudbuster seatpost (whacky setup, but it worked). if i were to race another one i would use my Epic in exactly the same condition that got me on the podium at XC nationals. i will however avoid said race like the plague. it just isn't for me.

    i have seen some close racing on 12 and 24hr races but they were team efforts for the most part (there are of course exceptions i am sure)

    i think the term "endurance" covers all the bases, both XC, Marathon, and Ultra Endurance. training for these events is similar across the board. it is all about aerobic conditioning and endurance, with of course differing levels of "speed". i would also say that as you go toward the top of the sport, the "speed" gets closer together and the best at Ultra Endurance (Tinker!) go just as fast during a 12hr race as they do during a sub 2hr XC race.

    my wife loves 12hr solo racing (read: not right in the head). she has won at least two of them and would do more if i let her!
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    From what I've seen the top endurance/ ultra-endurance guys seem to race typical xc setups with maybe a small mod for comfort, like a slightly less saddle to bar drop. Just a bit less 26" hardtails, mostly 26 FS or 29ers. The fastest bike for 1.5 hrs will pretty much be the fastest bike for 10 hrs, provided a similar course.

    I see the "marathon" label used to distinguish 5" trail bikes that are more xc biased than more plush all-mountain biased. I have an older Titus Moto-lite that fits that category (it was designed as a longer legged version of the racer-x), versus a Chumba XCL (designed as a shorter travel free-ride bike) that has about the same travel but setup more plush. The "marathon" bike would be a little more comfortable and maybe more fun to ride than a true xc bike, at the sacrifice of a little weight and quick handling.
    The question is do you want a trail bike that you can also race, or an xc bike that you can also do long rides on?

  24. #24
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    I race a little XC and a lot of NUE races, and I use the same bike for both- Air 9 Carbon

    The things I change between the 2 types of racing:

    -Rigid vs. Suspended: might seem counter-intuitive, but I'm more likely to use the rigid fork in an endurance race if I think I can get away with it for a given course (Cohutta and Mohican are good examples). At 70 miles into a 100 mile race, a lighter, stiffer front end is wonderful when you have to go uphill. I like suspension for XC because I can make up seconds by taking the "less smooth" lines.

    -Singlespeed vs. Gears: I use gears for XC, and I race almost all of my endurance races singlespeed. It's one less thing to break/malfunction during a long race, and I climb faster on a singlespeed. I lose some time on the flats, but I feel that in the NUE races, it's not my limiting factor (i.e. even if I had gears, I'm still not going to be up front battling with Amanda Carey any time this season).

    -Lightweight vs. comfort vs. durability in other gear choice: grips, tires, saddle, saddle to bar drop, etc. are all little things where you can make changes for short races.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea138 View Post
    Rigid vs. Suspended: might seem counter-intuitive...
    Counter-intuitive indeed

    I recently joined a popular organized tour near here, that included a lot of farm tracks. The semi-petrified tracks of tractors are hell. I ride a rigid bike and my hands, wrists, shoulders, neck and butt were all shook up. I actually decided to buy me a smoother bike based on this trip, since I'm planning to go on things like this more often.

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