First Impressions of Hardtail 29er- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1

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    First Impressions of Hardtail 29er

    I started riding trails last year, after 10 years of using my Specialized (rigid) Hardrock solely on roads. After roughly 30 rides (I'm a little slow in the uptake), I realized that I needed a suspension if I wanted to live another 44 years (stats: 44 years old, 200-205 lbs). I started looking hard for a replacement bike roughly 2 months ago. Initially, I began looking for a full suspension and disc brakes, and I wanted to keep the cost under $1,500.00. I went to four LBS, and found what I thought was the "winner": the 26" Giant Yukon FX. The reviews were good and the bike looked pretty solid. Price: $850.00, but with sales tax, etc.

    However, I kept looking to see if I could find a better deal. As a true newbie, I had never heard of 29ers prior to visiting on the LBS. There, I learned that many trail riders prefer a hardtail 29er to a full-squish 26". However, none of the LBS had hardtail 29ers with disc brakes that came even close to my price range.

    I then began reading online reviews and forums, and started looking more closely at BikesDirect/Motobecane. I should start out by saying that I am not writing as a shill or endorser of this specific product-my goal is to sing the praises of Hardtail 29ers in general. I was able to find a really nice bike in my price range ($995-http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/fantom29pro_SL.htm). Their offering was an aluminum frame (the Hardrock was steel) 29er with Avid Juicy hydraulic disc brakes and a Rockshox Reba fork. The rest of the specs are online. I know that Bikesdirect owns Motobecane, and so their "savings" quotes are somewhat stupid. However, for the price and components, it beat the hell out of anything I could find at my LBS. I'll make it up to my LBS with trueing, tuneups, etc., I guess.

    Decent UPS tracking and e-mails, so that I knew when to be home to sign for the thing. They send an e-mail with links and comments, and I have seen many say that the bike setup takes 20-25 minutes. I am somewhat of a moron with regards to bike construction/repair, and so it took me more like 2 hours. Plus, I had to do some re-arranging after the fact. Thankfully, they have some fairly detailed close-up shots at the bikesdirect site, which helped tremendously when I was trying to figure out what went where. Afterwards I felt as if I knew the bike better than any prior bike. Enough about BD and Motobecane...

    Keep in mind, these things are a matter of perspective. I had been riding trails with multiple roots, man-made obstacles, logs, etc. on a rigid steel bike. My prior experience was that when I went with groups I found myself trailing the others as I got hung up on roots or my wheels got turned by them and I found myself taking unplanned tours off-trail. In the last two months, I had several fun falls. Thankfully I have had some martial arts training and I know how to fall.

    Yesterday (after leaving work early), I took the bike out for its inaugural ride, at the Alum Creek Phase 1 trail in Lewis Center (Columbus), Ohio. I chose this trail (over Phase 2) specifically because it has a lot more roots and I wanted to test the 29" tires and the Reba suspension. Beautiful day-79 degrees and sunny. In the parking lot, I saw an experience rider just as he was hitting the trails. I got my bike down and prepped, and followed five minutes later.

    The differences were IMMEDIATELY apparent. I didn't feel as if I was in a cocktail shaker. And I began to truly appreciate the fact that I chose the Hardtail 29er over the full-squish 26 inch. I could still feel the trail, but I was in control of it. Additionally, the bike was much lighter (at 27-29 lbs) than my steel Specialized Hardrock (450 lbs., or at least it felt like that). I took the first two heavily-rooted climbs with ease. the larger tires sped through the climbs and the front suspension didn't take away too much of my momentum.

    The only limitation I had on switchbacks was my own uncertainty-the bike seemed more than able to handle anything that I threw at it.

    I passed the experienced biker with ease roughly 10 minutes in, and probably finished 10 minutes before he came out. A first for me. The thing was flying. I wasn't stopped or slowed down by roots or obstacles, and my confidence and speed increased as I progressed.

    I was able to attack bridges head-on and with confidence, where before I was always fighting to stabilize my bike after hitting roots leading to the bridges.

    There is one water crossing at Phase 1. The lead-in to it is muddy, the crossing is roughly 3-4 feet wide, and you come out on an upward and rocky slope. I have NEVER made it up the slope before, and last month I actually hit a rock and buried my face in the mud (good for the complexion, but bad for the ego). I don't know of any of my group that has ever made it up that slope after the crossing. But I DID! I didn't even have a high-speed run-up to it, as I didn't know what to expect with the bike and was still "smarting" from my previous fall. But those big tires and suspension had no problem climbing those rocks, without losing speed/traction.

    The trails were fairly empty, and so no one heard my whooping.

    Gear shifting went smoothly. The shifts were much better than my prior grip shifter, and the derailleur shifted smoothly and effectively (even on climbs).

    Not much more to note, except for one final test. There is a fairly-substantial log across the path roughly 80% in to the trail (right before the brief road crossing). I had only tried going over that log once in the past, and ended up flying over the handlebars and bloodying my right middle knuckle. I have kept my riding gloves unwashed, as a reminder that I OWED that log. Yesterday was my chance. Came up to the log with decent speed (and half-prepared to do another judo-roll after flying off the bike), and went over it as if it was nothing! More whooping followed.

    Finished the course in record time. It is another beautiful day today. I'm fairly certain that I'll be leaving work early again...

  2. #2
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    Reputation: Eric Z's Avatar
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    very cool. glad you like the 29er feel- i like how someone compared it to fun bmx bikes way back when.

    you're right about the price being killer on the bikesdirect bikes- it's probably worth it just for the components and shock.

    be sure to post some pics!

    enjoy!
    ez
    - 1995 Giant ATX 870
    - 2011 Salsa El Mariachi XL
    - 2011 Kona Unit (singlespeed) XL

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by b8zlbubba
    I should start out by saying that I am not writing as a shill or endorser of this specific product-my goal is to sing the praises of Hardtail 29ers in general.
    (snip)
    Finished the course in record time. It is another beautiful day today. I'm fairly certain that I'll be leaving work early again...
    If you think that experience was good for your 44 year old body, you ought to try a 29"er full suspension.

    BB
    Last edited by BruceBrown; 09-04-2009 at 06:00 AM.

  4. #4
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    Nice review, enjoyed reading it. Its amazing how the 29er can give you confidence to ride over things that you never were able to make it over before or knew better. I found the same thing out when I went from my old Rockhopper to the Windsor 29er Pro. It laughs at the 10" diameter log that threw me to the ground before.

  5. #5
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    Funny, I felt like I could have wrote your story in the first part. That is the exact bike I am looking at and all. I think I am convinced to get that bike now.

  6. #6
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    Nice review.

    One question though... how are you comparing your 29er HT to a FS 26" bike if you've never ridden full-suspension? You said you appreciated the fact that you got your bike over the "full squish"... but you've never been on one. Just sayin'.

    (no problem though- I have both and I enjoy both bikes equally, they're just made for different things)

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by smmokan
    Nice review.

    One question though... how are you comparing your 29er HT to a FS 26" bike if you've never ridden full-suspension? You said you appreciated the fact that you got your bike over the "full squish"... but you've never been on one. Just sayin'.

    (no problem though- I have both and I enjoy both bikes equally, they're just made for different things)
    That is a good question. Not dissing FS 26". What I really liked about the Hardtail 29er was that I could handle the trails but I could still feel them. My assumption (realistic or not), is that I would feel them less (and possibly lose momentum/speed) with additional suspension.

  8. #8
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    Is there a thread on here somewhere with sizing for the BD 29er bikes? I'm 6'1" with 34" inseam and have no idea what size to get as I can't find any locals with these bikes.

  9. #9
    Human Crayon
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    I have a full squish 26 and it went to the shop one day. Couldn't bear to not ride, so I rented a 29'er for a day and I gotta say that I wasn't sold. It did feel cool being able to roll over things with greater ease, but it felt like cheating. One other thing I didn't like was that it didn't feel quite as nimble on slow techy stuff, like wiggling through baby heads and such. But to each their own. In the end it comes down to what the individual likes, so kudos on finding your bike!

    To Superorb - I am 6'6" and rode an XL. Fit me perfect. Not sure how much that helps.
    ..:: sleestak ::..
    [SIZE] Matters [/SIZE]

  10. #10
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    Is it just me, or do all bikesdirect reviews sound remarkably similar?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by b8zlbubba
    I passed the experienced biker with ease roughly 10 minutes in, and probably finished 10 minutes before he came out. A first for me. The thing was flying. I wasn't stopped or slowed down by roots or obstacles, and my confidence and speed increased as I progressed.
    Congrats on your new bike! It's awesome that you have rekindled the fire and can't wait to ride again. I know what that feels like.

    Now, I'm not taking anything away from the merits of the 29-er.

    But how much more experience does the "more experienced" rider have? And what's he/she riding? Finishing 10min ahead or behind?? I can put that kind of gap on my almost non-riding friend at my local trails and I ride 3-4x a week (and I'm a pretty fast rider).

    You're comparing a modern 29-er with a front suspension fork against an old rigid bike?? Am glad you are enjoying the improved mount...but... How do you know that you couldn't have owned the trails on a 26" FS bike? I'd say over long distances, I'm faster on my Cannondale Rush than my 29-er. Mostly because of the comfort allows me to conserve energy. Energy conserved is energy I can use to explode up hills and obstacles.

    But...this is your parade. I'll move my reality cloud away now.

    Enjoy the ride!
    Just get out and ride!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbotron
    Is it just me, or do all bikesdirect reviews sound remarkably similar?
    Its not just you. I've noticed there are a lot of similarities... everyone is happy with their bikes!

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