cross country carbon hard-tail with excellent downhill handling- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    cross country carbon hard-tail with excellent downhill handling

    Hi All,
    Thought I would tap some brains. I'm looking for a carbon fiber hard-tail that has great downhill handling and stability. I consider myself a very good climber and tend to be a weak descender. What are the exact qualities of the the frame that give it stability going down. Long top tube? Slack head tube? Long chain stays? All of the above. Is Niner better then Pivot, Treck or Yeti for this endeavor? Presently I ride a cannondale and like it, no complaints. I would just love more confidence in my downhill. I'm in the market for a new hard-tail and would love your thoughts. Pleas assist!!! I know downhill performance is improved with seat-post adjustments, tires, and shock, I would like to keep this discussion to fame geometry and which manufacture provides it.

    Thanks

    Dave
    Last edited by badsmells; 11-18-2015 at 09:12 PM.

  2. #2
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    For going straight down a mountain youll want a slack head angle, low bb, longer cs's, wide bars and a short stem. If you want a good all around hard tail the is confidence inspiring on the downhills and climbs like a goat back up get something with chainstays around 440, headtube around 70, some wide bars and good brakes. More than. Anything just get used to getting over the rear wheel and looking to where you're going.

  3. #3
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    For XC you just need to find that middle ground. Where you're not giving up the climbing for the sake of descending. Even if you are a strong climber, you don't want to be sketchy squirrely on a steep climb. Some guys are fine with that...but for me...its a waste of energy.

    I think I'd also look at how much climbing vs descending you do. There isn't much sense setting your bike up for going down if you spend 1hr climbing and 20 minutes going back down.

    There are 130-140mm front travel HT's, but those are no longer "XC".

  4. #4
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    Canfield EPO comes to mind
    On One Maccatuskil ?

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    Difficult question to answer.
    As far as the bike is concerned you can augment its ability to descend but much of this might affect its ability to climb easily.
    For example;
    Wider rims (more and wider tyre options = better descending) Bigger tyres weigh more so take more energy to climb with. Even tyre choice makes a difference.

    Longer travel forks (relative) going from 100mm to 120mm makes a significant difference, as does going from a 32mm stanchioned fork to a 34mm or 35mm fork, which tracks better and is stiffer. But more travel can make the effective HTA slacker which makes itself felt climbing if taken to extremes.

    Wider bars / short stem - I'd recommend them anyway for control but it'll put less weight on the nose which can stifle the climb somewhat.

    Dropper post - weighs more than a standard post but believe me if you've not tried one it'll make a massive difference to every descent. I run them on my HT and despite the weight penalty I'd not be without it.

    Short story is you can buy a carbon HT and make it biased towards descending over climbing just by the kit you put on it. Most are reasonably versatile.

    OTOH frames like the ARC (Yeti) Les (Pivot) Vertex (Rocky Mountain) strike me as being more than just XC race rigs. There're bound to be more / others at different price points.

    Good luck!

  6. #6
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    Yeah I agree with jonjones on most things but I've had a bad experience with a dropper post on an xc rig and replaced it with a race face next carbon post and don't look back at all.

  7. #7
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    Good answers, thanks. Are there any manufactures you would avoid? How much does a 120mm fork compromise climbing? I understand how a slack head tube angle and short stem would improve downhill stability. How does chain-stay length effect downhill stability, is shorter better?

  8. #8
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    Longer wheelbase will beore stable but shorter chainstays will give you better acceleration and handling. The longer fork will make it harder to keep weight on the front wheel during climbing

  9. #9
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    You should really look at the EPO. It has quite a long thread in the Canfield subforum. It has all the attributes you are looking for, especially at 120mm. Carbon, short rear, long front/reach & wheelbase, steep seat tube angle for climbing etc. etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 612 View Post
    Yeah I agree with jonjones on most things but I've had a bad experience with a dropper post on an xc rig and replaced it with a race face next carbon post and don't look back at all.
    Dare I ask what happened with your dropper?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonJones View Post
    Dare I ask what happened with your dropper?
    I got an xfusuion hilo and it didn't work for shit. Would only return halfway so I contacted their customer service and head of repairs and they told me to cycle the thing 100+ times before it's any good

  12. #12
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    What about throwing a travel adjust fork into the equation? I hated the old TALAS I had, but that was 5 years ago. They must be better now.
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    Quote Originally Posted by twindaddy View Post
    What about throwing a travel adjust fork into the equation? I hated the old TALAS I had, but that was 5 years ago. They must be better now.
    Don't worry about travel adjust or ctd just get a good fork with a solid lockout like a Reba RL

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    Quote Originally Posted by 612 View Post
    I got an xfusuion hilo and it didn't work for shit. Would only return halfway so I contacted their customer service and head of repairs and they told me to cycle the thing 100+ times before it's any good
    That's piss poor. Droppers are a little hit and miss. But when they're performing they're wonderful!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonJones View Post
    That's piss poor. Droppers are a little hit and miss. But when they're performing they're wonderful!
    Yeah I think they're great for a trail bike or enduro but on an xc rig it's a little overkill

  16. #16
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    I like my my Lefty but it is a maintenance nightmare!!! I'll take a look at the Talas and Reba RL for my next bike and keep the long wheelbase tip in mind. The EPO is interesting but looks expensive.

  17. #17
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    You might check into finding one of these if you can still get one. It's not carbon, but at least take a look:

    Stumpjumper hardtail with a 120mm Pike :-D

    68 HTA, 430mm CS length, XC (35mm travel) dropper post, 1x11 :-D

    Specialized Bicycle Components

  18. #18
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    The new Kona Kahuna seems to have the geometry you're looking for, but I don't see a carbon version yet. Long front end, 69 deg HA, very low standover. Reasonably short stem and 750mmm bar too. I love Kona's take on XC geometry, should make a fast & fun ride.

    If they release a carbon version it may be the one for you.

  19. #19
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    Scott Scale. 69 degree head tube angle. And actually an XC race bike.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Scott Scale. 69 degree head tube angle. And actually an XC race bike.
    I have to agree. The Scott Scale is very stable going downhill.

  21. #21
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    TD hit the nail on the head, whatever you build, give it a dual personality by using a travel adjust fork, that 20-30mm depending on which one makes alot of difference to the handling going up and down. I'd suggest looking at the Scott Scale as LD suggested or the GF Superfly, then pair that up with a 110-130mm travel adjust fork - not sure who has the better travel adjust right now, but RS usually works quite well.

    Quote Originally Posted by twindaddy View Post
    What about throwing a travel adjust fork into the equation? I hated the old TALAS I had, but that was 5 years ago. They must be better now.
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  22. #22
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    Pivot Les. I've been riding one for a few months now and it handles well going up or down.
    For my riding type the bottom bracket could be higher, but thats a preference thing.
    If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains,
    you're lucky enough.

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    badsmells your question could very well have been posed by myself, and as others have said above I found the answer was the Scott Scale (I got the 910) and the only downhills I really don't like are the really steep ones where the speed is hard to control. Very comfortable frame and a good stable handling bike.

  24. #24
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    Scott Scale and Canfield EPO both immediately came to mind - with a 120mm fork properly dialed in they'd be both really stable and fast.
    Just getting the HTA under 70 fixes an enormous amount of that sketchy downhill handling - running a 70-80mm stem and biasing the frame size to where that stem length is right does a lot for keeping rider center of mass behind the front contact point. Remember, it's easy to keep the rider COM behind the front tire contact patch... until you're going downhill AND using the brakes. Slack bikes build margin there, which is awesome; a lot of the so-called drawbacks in steering precision tend to be rider skill deficiencies that are indirectly fixed with boat tiller stems more than actual handling ills.

    The Reba RLT3 is a really nice lightweight fork, The SID is pricier but those can come with nicer dampers. On a REBA type budget, I'd avoid the Fox32 (the Evo grade of those are noodly and wasteful with mid-range travel, which can make a bike feel sketchy. The Fit4 damped forks are much better, but I'm still partial to a SID at that price. I'd also look at MRP and Manitou in that range - their lightweight 120mm forks (Loop, Marvel respectively) are really great performers but not quite as svelte.

    I'm a big fan of 120mm forks too - with a properly dialed (especially sag/LSC) setup there are no real efficiency losses, but it's a generous improvement in amount of USABLE travel when things get interesting downhill. The taller A2C especially combined with lower BB height on those two bikes mean you're more IN the bike than ON it for those high speed sections.

    Finally, to chainstay length. For XC uses, it's more about keeping wheelbase in check. A long top tube and slack head tube angle with a long fork means the front center grows. To keep the overall wheelbase south of 4', one wants to shorten up chainstays, which also helps a ton with maneuverability and grip while doing technical climbing. There is no free lunch, so high speed stability from the rear isn't as good, but once one has gotten wagon wheels going I hear of very few complaints on a lack of stability - but almost everybody loves the added maneuverability and flickability the short CS's enable.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by badsmells View Post
    How does chain-stay length effect downhill stability, is shorter better?
    Shorter makes a bike easier to maneuver, to lift the front wheel ('manual') and more fun. Longer makes it more stable, but will mean you will plow over things rather than pick your way through them.

    With a hard tail, I'd say you want to be better at picking your lines.

  26. #26
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    Great input thanks all!!!! I like the idea of 120mm fork. I may be naive, but I feel with the right body position I can climb on anything ( fore or aft seat-post adjustment with chin buried on handle bar if needed). Are there forks out there whose lengths can actually be changed on the fly? Maybe a fat but lightweight bulbous tire up front?I don't want to sacficie speed or dampen climbing too much.....Like a post above mentioned, always a trad off!

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    Quote Originally Posted by badsmells View Post
    Great input thanks all!!!! I like the idea of 120mm fork. I may be naive, but I feel with the right body position I can climb on anything ( fore or aft seat-post adjustment with chin buried on handle bar if needed). Are there forks out there whose lengths can actually be changed on the fly? Maybe a fat but lightweight bulbous tire up front?I don't want to sacrifice speed or dampen climbing too much.....Like a post above mentioned, always a trad off!
    Keep in mind that the BB also rises, and the seat tube get a little slacker. Sometimes that is the tipping point that makes a particular bike handle like dog squat, sometimes not.

    Currently, the Fox TALAS is the only fork I know of with on-the-fly travel adjustment capability, and it goes from 140 to 110 on their 29er offering.

    There used to be other forks that could be adjusted (more or less) on-the-fly such as:

    RockShox: U-Turn
    Marzocchi: ETA
    Manitou: Rapid Travel Adjust

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffj View Post
    Keep in mind that the BB also rises, and the seat tube get a little slacker. Sometimes that is the tipping point that makes a particular bike handle like dog squat, sometimes not.

    Currently, the Fox TALAS is the only fork I know of with on-the-fly travel adjustment capability, and it goes from 140 to 110 on their 29er offering.

    There used to be other forks that could be adjusted (more or less) on-the-fly such as:

    RockShox: U-Turn
    Marzocchi: ETA
    Manitou: Rapid Travel Adjust
    Frankly I don't think the talas or other such forks are gonna be better than a 120mm Reba rl or rot with a remote lockout. I feel the same way about ctd, it's too many options otf

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by badsmells View Post
    Great input thanks all!!!! I like the idea of 120mm fork. I may be naive, but I feel with the right body position I can climb on anything ( fore or aft seat-post adjustment with chin buried on handle bar if needed). Are there forks out there whose lengths can actually be changed on the fly? Maybe a fat but lightweight bulbous tire up front?I don't want to sacficie speed or dampen climbing too much.....Like a post above mentioned, always a trad off!
    To build on what jeffj said, on of the things that's changed in geometry lately is companies have finally started *nailing* it. They used to have two-steep head tubes, so it was relatively safe to over-fork bikes. They used to design for long stems, so it was safe to buy one size up and throw on a 40mm stem and rip. Not anymore.

    I'd be very, very cautious about assuming you can do the same sort of shenanigans on frames shipped in the last year or so by major builders, and the last few for some small foreward-thinking shops like Canfield.

    If I were you I'd buy a frame that specs the fork length you want, and listen to the specs.

  30. #30
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    So I'm gonna jump on this thread since I have essentially the same question. I'm jonesing for an HT as currently the shortest travel bike in my stable is a Knolly Warden. Not trying to be a racer and want something slightly slacker/more fun, but I have a burly bike so I don't need this to be a total shredder.


    I actually have a decent bit of time on the Scale and am a fan. The other main contender is the Yelli Screamy. I've ridden one a tiny bit and it seemed fun, and obviously everyone sings their praises for a reason.
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    Quote Originally Posted by laxman2001 View Post
    So I'm gonna jump on this thread since I have essentially the same question. I'm jonesing for an HT as currently the shortest travel bike in my stable is a Knolly Warden. Not trying to be a racer and want something slightly slacker/more fun, but I have a burly bike so I don't need this to be a total shredder.


    I actually have a decent bit of time on the Scale and am a fan. The other main contender is the Yelli Screamy. I've ridden one a tiny bit and it seemed fun, and obviously everyone sings their praises for a reason.
    Are you looking for carbon?

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by laxman2001 View Post
    Not trying to be a racer and want something slightly slacker/more fun, but I have a burly bike so I don't need this to be a total shredder.
    This is your era then. There are a bunch of bikes out now that fit what you describe. In addition to the Yelli (which I own and love), there are other Canfield frames (EPO, N9), the Kona Honzo, Diamondback Mason (often unloaded for very cheap), Transition Trans Am, and so on.

    I've actually really enjoyed my Titus Fireline Evo - 67.7 HTA with a 120mm fork, reasonable stays at 17.1 and, wait for it... Titanium. I have a bunch of 29er hard tails and this one has won me over. You can find these really cheap shipped from the UK. It's a bit longer in the wheelbase than my Yelli, but that hasn't been an issue. The Ti softens the ride nicely and makes for a reasonably light built.

    The other bike I still love is my original version of the carbon Santa Cruz Highball. It's a great "mid point" in that it sits between the traditional XC geo and the newer slack, short CS style. I do run it with a 120mm fork. The newer Highball has a slightly shorter CS and the aluminum builds are relatively affordable.

    So many bikes that it's tough to decide. Just buy one of each like my wife thinks I did
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    Quote Originally Posted by 612 View Post
    Are you looking for carbon?
    Not necessarily, but I'm certainly not opposed to it. One of the other reasons I'm a fan of the Scott is that it has that built in compliance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by twindaddy View Post
    This is your era then. There are a bunch of bikes out now that fit what you describe. In addition to the Yelli (which I own and love), there are other Canfield frames (EPO, N9), the Kona Honzo, Diamondback Mason (often unloaded for very cheap), Transition Trans Am, and so on.

    I've actually really enjoyed my Titus Fireline Evo - 67.7 HTA with a 120mm fork, reasonable stays at 17.1 and, wait for it... Titanium. I have a bunch of 29er hard tails and this one has won me over. You can find these really cheap shipped from the UK. It's a bit longer in the wheelbase than my Yelli, but that hasn't been an issue. The Ti softens the ride nicely and makes for a reasonably light built.

    The other bike I still love is my original version of the carbon Santa Cruz Highball. It's a great "mid point" in that it sits between the traditional XC geo and the newer slack, short CS style. I do run it with a 120mm fork. The newer Highball has a slightly shorter CS and the aluminum builds are relatively affordable.

    So many bikes that it's tough to decide. Just buy one of each like my wife thinks I did
    Yep, will certainly look around. At the same time, I'm not looking for a full on AM hardtail, I do want to be able to climb relatively well, etc. And definitely prefer shorter stays.
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  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by laxman2001 View Post
    Not necessarily, but I'm certainly not opposed to it. One of the other reasons I'm a fan of the Scott is that it has that built in compliance.
    Good to know. I got a breezer thunder team in mid September to race on and absolutely love it. Aluminum frame, rockshox Reba rl (100mm) full xt 1x11 and it has a 69 hta that would probably be 67 or so if you switched the Reba to a 120mm but overall an awesome climbing bike and superb at descending. I added a race face next carbon post for some added comfort as well.

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by laxman2001 View Post
    Not necessarily, but I'm certainly not opposed to it.
    Compliance is one of the reasons I've become enamored with Ti, but going back to your original thread title I'd suggest trying the new Highball. I have friends racing/beating the Highball with 100mm up front and I, along with others, treating it in a more aggressive manner with a 120. SC has always done a good job of building a frame that spans a wide spectrum (IMO) depending on your build.

    If you're not set on carbon (I have to admit to being a bit carbon biased myself), there are some screaming CroMo or Ti deals out there that will change your idea of what a hard tail is supposed to be.
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    I'd add another vote for a SC Highball - I've had a couple of them now, and that frame would be my go-to for a great all-round XC hardtail. Probably one of the most fun bikes I've owned, period - which is saying a lot, considering it was built up as a XC race weapon.

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    I agree that you can climb steeps with a 120mm fork. For more room on the saddle maybe try some of the longer saddles like the Fizik Thar or WTB Silverado?
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    SC makes great bikes and I would for sure put the Highball at the top of my list for carbon hardtail or FS frames. That said, I do think high end steel or Ti would be really bomb proof and have a great feel for a hardtail.
    Quote Originally Posted by twindaddy View Post
    Compliance is one of the reasons I've become enamored with Ti, but going back to your original thread title I'd suggest trying the new Highball. I have friends racing/beating the Highball with 100mm up front and I, along with others, treating it in a more aggressive manner with a 120. SC has always done a good job of building a frame that spans a wide spectrum (IMO) depending on your build.

    If you're not set on carbon (I have to admit to being a bit carbon biased myself), there are some screaming CroMo or Ti deals out there that will change your idea of what a hard tail is supposed to be.
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  40. #40
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    I'd get a Scale, F-Si, Procaliber or Chinese carbon over the Highball.

    The Highball has too long of a HT, too steep a HTA for me.

    The only thing it has going for it is a flashy SC paint job.

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    JonJones summed it up pretty good. I'd add IBIS Tranny and SC Highball to the list. I would also buy a frame only and build it for your needs. Most of the completes have narrow rims and 32mm stanchion forks. I believe those to parts alone will make a big difference. I'm looking for a hardtail 29er now that I will spec with 30mm rims and 34mm stanchion fork.
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  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    I'd get a Scale, F-Si, Procaliber or Chinese carbon over the Highball.

    The Highball has too long of a HT, too steep a HTA for me.

    The only thing it has going for it is a flashy SC paint job.

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    Yep I agree. The HTA, and ST diameter were odd choices on the part of SC. Makes it look like they wanted to limit the bike to Lycra wearing high posters only. What a shame.

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    Quote Originally Posted by expatrider View Post
    Yep I agree. The HTA, and ST diameter were odd choices on the part of SC. Makes it look like they wanted to limit the bike to Lycra wearing high posters only. What a shame.
    I'm a Lycra wearing, non-dropper rider, and as I previously stated, I think it's a disappointment for the XC set as well.

    Plenty of XC bikes that are much more capable than the Highball, and Tallboy for that matter, at technical or fast descending.

    For a company whose longer travel bikes go down much better than they go up, I'm surprised SC didn't apply some newer long, low, slack geometry to them.

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    The Scale and the F-Si per the Scott and Cannondale websites are listed as complete builds. Also those builds(XC light and race orientated) have narrow handle bars and rims and XC light forks that would NOT inspire DH confidence. I'd ONLY consider those frames if they are sold as frame only or I had a use for their XC racing parts. I'm looking at the ProCal for myself and for sure it will be bought as a frame only.
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    The fork on the F-Si is stiffer than anything short of a DH fork.

    But, that's irrelevant, really. Those forks are plenty stiff under their targeted group of riders. Not everyone needs a 120mm fork with 35mm or 36mm stanchions.

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    Death from Below.

  46. #46
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    I have a friend that has an older "lefty fork" on his Surly Karate Monkey SS. It's pretty stiff and he has a I9 hub with a wide WTB rim and fat tires. It's a nice set up!
    Seven Sola fully rigid MTN SS
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  47. #47
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    Since no one has thrown any pics in this thread.... I'll do it
    Here is my 2015 Canfield Brothers EPO service up with a 140mm DVO Diamond
    Last edited by rsullivan; 12-21-2015 at 12:52 PM.

  48. #48
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    Zerouno Ambizione

    Is a customizable HT, you can choose frame colors and components.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFNHeUyLpdg

  49. #49
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    My XC machinecross country carbon hard-tail with excellent downhill handling-12303967_459334160940498_1725024529306251279_o.jpgClick image for larger version. 

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  50. #50
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    Mennecal offers a trail race hard tail with a 100mm fork. You may want t research that.

  51. #51
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    The only thing i can add is when purchasing a fork make sure it has the , 51mm fork offset . I put one on my vertex and it made a difference .
    Dont run a dropper on my XC vertex HT but run one on my dually XC race bike and + 1 for a dropper post. so much more confidence on a descent i i think it would be the single biggest improvement you could make on your descent.

  52. #52
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    I'd love it if the EPO had single speed drops.
    Seven Sola fully rigid MTN SS
    #1⚙️All year
    Seven Evergreen gravel grinder
    #ride4lifefit4life
    Esker Hayduke hardtail

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