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  1. #1
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    New 29er vs old 26er

    So I just bought a new Salsa Horsethief to replace my aging and battered 2001 Santa Cruz Superlight. After 2 hours in the saddle, I hate it! Whatís all the fuss about 29Ē wheels and 1x drivetrains?

    The Superlight handles the twisty Arizona Trail beautifully, while the Horsethief seems to want to straighten out every curve. And I much prefer the 3 x 10 drivetrain. So many more shifting options!

    I feel like Iíve been sucked into the big-wheel single-front-chainring marketing hype!

    And donít get me started on the flats I bought with the bike. Iíll take my clipless pedals back any day!

  2. #2
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    One 2hr ride? Maybe give it some more time to adjust?
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    Maybe it's not the right bike for you, but I'd suggest you give it some time. Learn how the bike handles, and find it's limits (rather, your limits with the bike) and push them. I'd say give it season, and reassess. You're the only one that know how you like to ride, though, so maybe the Superlight is the bike for you (if it still has life).

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcd46 View Post
    One 2hr ride? Maybe give it some more time to adjust?
    Maybe. But I couldnít find a single advantage over the Superlight. I was really hoping the Horsethief would smooth out a section of washboard dirt road with the big wheels, tires & new fork, but it was just as bone-rattling as the old Superlight.

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    Perhaps I should flip the flip chip around to see if it will improve the monster truck handling. It seems like a subtle change, and I canít imagine it making much difference.

  6. #6
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    I'm not sure I've ever been instantly in love with any new bike. I usually ride a bike 200-400 trail miles before deciding whether to keep it or dump it.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgltrak View Post
    I'm not sure I've ever been instantly in love with any new bike. I usually ride a bike 200-400 trail miles before deciding whether to keep it or dump it.
    Iíll persevere, as I probably canít return it. It needs a bit of dialing in, as I had a backache after yesterdayís ride. It does feel like driving a truck when Iím used to a sports car!

  8. #8
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    You've moved what might as well be light years in mtb development.

    What you're feeling is the difference in frame geometry, less so than the other things. You are going to have to adapt your riding style to accommodate that. Long bikes with modern geometry want to be leaned into corners (among other things). I had to make the same adjustments when I went from a bike manufactured in 2003 to one manufactured in 2014.

    Step back from the nastiest trails you ride for a bit and do some mellower rides that just give you time on the bike so you can learn it and get used to it.

    I'll be honest, I HATED 29ers when they first showed up on the market. But once frame geometries started to catch up and they started to be something other than xc race bikes, the wheel size finally started to feel better. I now have a 26er full suspension fatbike and a 29er long travel hardtail with 2.6 meats. I actually like big wheels now.

    I have to wonder, though, did you buy this new bike sight unseen? Did you demo anything even remotely similar? If you hated it after such a short ride, shouldn't you have been able to notice that before you dropped big money?

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    Seems like an odd comparison going from an all out XC bike to an All Mountain bike. Maybe try out a newer XC bike instead. i.e. Spearfish.

    Also, did you adjust the shocks? Preload? Tire pressure? The Horsethief should be a much smoother ride. Big wheels, more travel, long WB. You're just not used to the geometry.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2:01 View Post
    Seems like an odd comparison going from an all out XC bike to an All Mountain bike. Maybe try out a newer XC bike instead. i.e. Spearfish.

    Also, did you adjust the shocks? Preload? Tire pressure? The Horsethief should be a much smoother ride. Big wheels, more travel, long WB. You're just not used to the geometry.
    Shocks & tires all set up.

    Intention was a full-sus bikepacking bike for the Arizona/Colorado Trails that would double as a trail bike to replace the Santa Cruz.

    Perhaps I should have done some more homework first!

    Edit: Spearfish does look like a better fit for the mission!
    Last edited by Hambone70; 06-03-2019 at 09:01 PM.

  11. #11
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    I know a bit how you feel. I went from a 2012 26in tired XC bike (Focus Black Forest 4.0), to a 2018 29in full suspension bike (Kona Process 153) just a few months ago.

    My first outing or two on the new bike there was a lot of adjustments taking place, and I wasn't quite sure what I thought of the new bike. Although, I didn't outright dislike it as you seem to at this point.

    Same thing happened to my friend, who made a vaugely similar change around the same time period.

    What helped me get used to the bike, was to session a trail that had a lot of repetitive turns on it. As has been mentioned, one of the big differences between older bikes and newer bikes, is how they turn. So getting to run a trail with more than a few turns, that you can session really helped me. Perhaps giving something like that a try could help you as well.

    Also, 29'ers have a lot more rotating mass than a 26'er. So doing whatever you can to get that weight down, could help as well (light tires, tubeless instead of tubes, maybe lighter weight wheels?).

    Good luck finding something that works for you .

  12. #12
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    Good job!

    Quote Originally Posted by ocnLogan View Post
    I know a bit how you feel. I went from a 2012 26in tired XC bike (Focus Black Forest 4.0), to a 2018 29in full suspension bike (Kona Process 153) just a few months ago.

    My first outing or two on the new bike there was a lot of adjustments taking place, and I wasn't quite sure what I thought of the new bike. Although, I didn't outright dislike it as you seem to at this point.

    Same thing happened to my friend, who made a vaugely similar change around the same time period.

    What helped me get used to the bike, was to session a trail that had a lot of repetitive turns on it. As has been mentioned, one of the big differences between older bikes and newer bikes, is how they turn. So getting to run a trail with more than a few turns, that you can session really helped me. Perhaps giving something like that a try could help you as well.

    Also, 29'ers have a lot more rotating mass than a 26'er. So doing whatever you can to get that weight down, could help as well (light tires, tubeless instead of tubes, maybe lighter weight wheels?).

    Good luck finding something that works for you .
    Thanks!

    The handling is feeling better after a few more hours on the trails. For some reason, though, my left knee hurts when I ride it, but no pain on the 26er. I suppose it's some kind of geometry issue. And bashing my knee on the concrete a few weeks ago probably didn't help...

    The 1x gearing isn't helping either. With a 28 tooth ring on the front and an 11-46 cassette, pedaling downhill just isn't going to happen. Climbing is all good, though, apart from continuously lifting my feet off the flat pedals after a lifetime of clipless. Perhaps there's a 10-51 upgrade in the pipeline with the original 32 front ring. Or a 2x setup, which I have no issues with.

    Thanks all for the advice!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hambone70 View Post
    Thanks!

    The handling is feeling better after a few more hours on the trails. For some reason, though, my left knee hurts when I ride it, but no pain on the 26er. I suppose it's some kind of geometry issue. And bashing my knee on the concrete a few weeks ago probably didn't help...

    The 1x gearing isn't helping either. With a 28 tooth ring on the front and an 11-46 cassette, pedaling downhill just isn't going to happen. Climbing is all good, though, apart from continuously lifting my feet off the flat pedals after a lifetime of clipless. Perhaps there's a 10-51 upgrade in the pipeline with the original 32 front ring. Or a 2x setup, which I have no issues with.

    Thanks all for the advice!
    Knee pain to me sounds like either a setup difference/problem. I'd wager the new seat tube angle is steeper than on the old bike, so your pedaling position is more "on top of" rather than "a bit behind" the pedals. You may be able to slide your saddle back in the rails a bit, and see if that helps.

    It may also be somewhat because of the change to flats. Clipless pedals help keep more muscles involved in the pedaling, which can help stabilize the knee. I'm wondering if it isn't just potentially your knees adjusting to the change. Or maybe something about your feet not being anchored? I also hovered my feet on the upstroke after changing to platforms, so I know how you feel.

    And yeah, you're not going anywhere fast with a 28 tooth front chainring. I've got a 30 tooth front, and an 11-42 in the back. For the style of riding I do here (long uphill grinds, then pretty good decents), it works just fine. But for pedaling fast downhill, or on long flat stretches, its not ideal. The upside? I've not dropped a chain since I got the new bike.

    A 10-51 with a 34 front chainring would bring your low gearing up a tad. Bikecalc shows that at the same cadence, you'd go from 4.8mph to 5.3mph, but give you another 30% more range on the top end. Again, assuming the same 90rpm cadence you'd gain ~7mph (27mph vs 20mph). Perhaps that would be enough range for you. It would require a new rear freehub though, as the style you have now is has a smallest gear of 11. You could fit a 11-50 without any other changes though.

    Sorry for the long response, but I'm glad you're starting to feel better on the new bike .

  14. #14
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    I went from a Pivot 5.7c to a Yeti SB5c and it took me about 400 miles of riding to adapt my riding (slightly) to get the benefits from the new bike. At the time (2016) that I got the Yeti, I had tried several 29ers and hated them.

    Last fall, I decided to test drive some of the newer 29er trail bikes and was immediately blown away at how much they had improved. My Yeti was about 26 pounds and the 3 29ers I tested were all about 30 pounds or more, and all 3 were faster climbing than my Yeti - in the Wasatch back area. After about 400 miles on the new 29er, I'm faster on the downhill as well - as timed in Moab.
    I was 1x11 on both the 26 and 27.5, but felt like 1x12 was almost a requirement on the 29er. I'm also using an oval chainring, but that's not for everyone, I suppose.

    Your soreness may be due to different muscles being engaged in a different fashion. Also, moving the bike from being leaned in one direction, to being leaned in the opposite direction, for carved turns does take more effort....or at least force applied in a different way....and may feel slow at first. This will appear as a sluggishness in changing direction until you get it down. It's a little like going edge to edge on narrow skis Vs. wider ones. I had the benefit of easing into bigger wheels, but no way would I go back, and believe me, at the age of 66, I get as set in my ways as anyone!

    Also, going from a 26 tire to a 29 tire gives you much more volume. When you say you've set up the fork/shock/tire pressures, if you haven't backed off of the tire pressures, do so. Give it a try. Reduce them to the point where they're too low and then add back in. Don't be hesitant to experiment a little.

  15. #15
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    Thanks so much to all for the useful info. Itís really helpful.

  16. #16
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    I sold my SC Superlight many years ago in favour of a 29" HT. No doubt whatsoever.
    TS has to many new things going on.
    New bike, new wheelsize, new gearing and new pedal.
    Taht's almost as if he's got to learn to ride a bike again.

    1x drivetrains are great, but you have to choos the front chainwheel to suit your circumstances and abilities.
    29" wheels are better than 26",but you have to be carefull not to use heavy (mostly cheap) rims and tires.
    Flats are a matter personal preference, has nothing to do with the bike or the wheelsize.

    Give it some (more) time.

  17. #17
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    I remember when Gary fisher came out with the 29er. They were slow at everything except going down hill. Felt like a runaway log truck. I thought it was due to my height, 5í7".

    Two years ago I rode a fuel ex in a medium in the parking lot of the bike shop. Kept hitting my knees with the handle bars? Tried a jet 9 on the local trails on a demo weekend. I was in my spdís shoes, the 9 had flats. I was over 30 seconds faster on the loop of 2 miles. I was faster climbing,descending,turning, and just rolling over stuff that I couldnít clear on my 26" fsr xc comp.

    Wanted a trail bike and after lots of research ordered an Abajo Peak. Iím astounded by the difference in technology, geometry, ride, etc. I havenít even swapped the tires to tubeless yet, and it weighs a whopping 3/4 of pound more than my fsr. We have the best riding bikes ever. This coming from someone who said I would never own a 29er.

  18. #18
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    Yep, the Horsethief is feeling better after 10 or so hours in the saddle. Moving the seat back on its rails most definitely helped to reduce the knee pain (thanks ocnLogan). I'm still struggling with flats. After decades of clipless, my feet (especially the right foot) want to lift on every pedal upstroke! I'm also finding that my foot settles with my heel on the pedal rather than the ball of my foot. I'll try a few more rides, but I think clipless is more my thing. It's especially tough to pedal downhill because of the 28 tooth front/11 tooth back gearing. That new XT 12-speed with a 32 tooth front chainring is starting to look like a necessary upgrade!

    I'm tackling the rocky downhills with more confidence now. It is certainly smoother (and more fun) than the Superlight.

  19. #19
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    You bought a new bike after nearly twenty years and you didnít demo?

    Yeah, doing some homework might have been a wise choice.

    29ers are fine, 1x is fine, but you pretty much changed everything all at once, so yeah, itís a mess.

    You need to learn how to ride the new bike, itíll take months, but youíll be a better rider when itís all said and done.

    Have fun, but seriously, donít wait so long to upgrade next time
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BujiBiker View Post
    Two years ago I rode a fuel ex in a medium in the parking lot of the bike shop. Kept hitting my knees with the handle bars? Tried a jet 9 on the local trails on a demo weekend. I was in my spdís shoes, the 9 had flats. I was over 30 seconds faster on the loop of 2 miles. I was faster climbing,descending,turning, and just rolling over stuff that I couldnít clear on my 26" fsr xc comp.
    But the Jet 9 has a lower bottom bracket, man. And how did you time yourself on a demo bike? Did it have a gps? I understand how rabid some people are in defending 29 inch wheels, but don't just make stuff up.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbnInf View Post
    .... how did you time yourself on a demo bike? Did it have a gps? I understand how rabid some people are in defending 29 inch wheels, but don't just make stuff up.
    These new fangled cell phones are great. They actually have GPS receivers that can be used with timing programs like runtastic, Strava, etc. And NO extension cords!

  22. #22
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    I think many get hung up on wheel size and overlook the difference in feel between old vs new geo bikes. You're coming from something close to 20 years old...give it time!

    Jan 2018 bout 2,000 miles ago I went from a 2012 SC Heckler (26" and 3X9) to current Kona Process 153 (27.5 and 1X12). By far the biggest difference in this transition was the geo. Totally different feel with the front end way out in front of me but I loved the extra room in the cockpit. Being 6'4" and on an XL frame with bigger wheels makes this Kona is HUGE when compared to my XL Heckler. It's longer than my buddies 2019 Jeffsey 29er (size L). Clearing obstacles with front wheel required a change in technique, tight turns felt totally different, I had to focus more on shifting body fore/aft, and it was also my first dropper. The setup of suspension took a few rides to dial in as well as getting optimum tire pressure (ended up at 18psi front/20 psi rear). The more I rode it, the more I loved it. I really liked my Heckler a lot but I have not ridden it ONCE since getting the new Kona. It's just so much better.

    Combination of big XL frame and tight trails around here lead me to the 27.5 version vs 29. If I was in an area with more open terrain I would have chosen the 29er.

    Regarding 1X, sounds like your gearing may be a bit low for your terrain...I would consider a chain ring change.

    And I've always been clipless too...after 30 years of riding I have no desire to change to flats. It's a preference...if you don't like flats get what you're happy with.
    12 Santa Cruz Heckler
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  23. #23
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    If you like and miss clipless, just put those back on, that might be a significant factor making you feel uncomfortable.
    Give it a little time, I think that after a couple of weeks if you ride the SC again it won't feel as good.
    If you're a reasonably strong climber, you should be able to handle a 32 up front with that rear range. Depending on your crank bolt pattern, front chainrings might be really cheap. I have 32 front, I find I can descend pretty much as fast as needed with the 32.
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    Not getting off the bike four different times for spots I couldnít clear, easily 30 seconds. Making short, steep climbs with switchbacks, couldnít clean before you bet. Not making anything up.

    I ride mtbís for fun, fitness (read getting fit), playing in the dirt, and being outdoors.

    In archery, we call it "better scores through aggressive spending". Half true. Some modern upgrades can make you shoot better scores to a point. Same thing in this sport. I still have a lot to learn about all the new gear. Thatís part of the fun, and being faster, and Iím no where near fast.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    You bought a new bike after nearly twenty years and you didnít demo?

    Yeah, doing some homework might have been a wise choice.

    29ers are fine, 1x is fine, but you pretty much changed everything all at once, so yeah, itís a mess.

    You need to learn how to ride the new bike, itíll take months, but youíll be a better rider when itís all said and done.

    Have fun, but seriously, donít wait so long to upgrade next time
    I'm starting to think there are MANY of us 20 year changers! In 1987 I bought a Ritchey Commando (still have it btw). 4 years later put on a 3" travel Rockshock Fork. Rode it off and on (some epic rides btw) until 2004. Then my surprisingly fun Ibex Asta. My first FS bike. I think there's a bit of history about that company around here. Well, the frame finally cracked as the Asta's all did two years ago. Had a successful back surgery and now actually looking at the Salsa Horsethief too. They have one at our local REI (never bought a bike there). Build is under $3k which is my price point. Thinking the plusher ride of a trail bike will be a nice transition from my prior CC bike.
    So ya, I think a lot of folks end up here after long stretches because it's finally bike changing time!

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hambone70 View Post
    Yep, the Horsethief is feeling better after 10 or so hours in the saddle. Moving the seat back on its rails most definitely helped to reduce the knee pain (thanks ocnLogan). I'm still struggling with flats. After decades of clipless, my feet (especially the right foot) want to lift on every pedal upstroke! I'm also finding that my foot settles with my heel on the pedal rather than the ball of my foot. I'll try a few more rides, but I think clipless is more my thing. It's especially tough to pedal downhill because of the 28 tooth front/11 tooth back gearing. That new XT 12-speed with a 32 tooth front chainring is starting to look like a necessary upgrade!

    I'm tackling the rocky downhills with more confidence now. It is certainly smoother (and more fun) than the Superlight.
    What kind of downhills are you trying to pedal on where a 28x11 gearing isn't tall enough? Almost all the stuff I ride, ~20mph is plenty fast and is technical enough that I don't want to pedal at all.

    As for the pedals themselves, flats are going to keep you honest with your technique. You SHOULD be using a similar technique with clipless pedals, but a lot of riders don't. Pressure on the pedals is not occurring in purely an up/down direction, but also in the fore/aft direction. Get the pins to engage the rubber of your shoe sideways as well as sinking into it.

    Tip the pedal at an angle, and oppose the angles on the leading pedal vs. the trailing pedal. Especially when doing lots of pedaling, tip the trailing pedal back (dropped heel) and tip the leading pedal forward (point toe) and this will engage the pins sideways. On technical downhills, you can drop both heels and the bike will push up into your feet as it hits the bumps in the trail, keeping you planted. And when you want to get some air, you can oppose the pedal angles the opposite way (point the trailing toe and drop the leading heel) to create a "bowl" that you can use opposing pressure on your feet to keep your feet on the pedals while in the air.

    Also, platform pedals work better with the ball of your foot somewhat forward of the pedal spindle. For that matter, a bike fitter set my clipless shoes up in a similar fashion for my road bike, and I like that better, too.

    It takes some time to practice these things before you can start to use them well.

    For that matter, even if you do prefer clipless pedals in the end, learning to use platforms and be comfortable with them will improve your pedaling and bike control on clipless pedals, too.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    What kind of downhills are you trying to pedal on where a 28x11 gearing isn't tall enough? Almost all the stuff I ride, ~20mph is plenty fast and is technical enough that I don't want to pedal at all.

    As for the pedals themselves, flats are going to keep you honest with your technique. You SHOULD be using a similar technique with clipless pedals, but a lot of riders don't. Pressure on the pedals is not occurring in purely an up/down direction, but also in the fore/aft direction. Get the pins to engage the rubber of your shoe sideways as well as sinking into it.

    Tip the pedal at an angle, and oppose the angles on the leading pedal vs. the trailing pedal. Especially when doing lots of pedaling, tip the trailing pedal back (dropped heel) and tip the leading pedal forward (point toe) and this will engage the pins sideways. On technical downhills, you can drop both heels and the bike will push up into your feet as it hits the bumps in the trail, keeping you planted. And when you want to get some air, you can oppose the pedal angles the opposite way (point the trailing toe and drop the leading heel) to create a "bowl" that you can use opposing pressure on your feet to keep your feet on the pedals while in the air.

    Also, platform pedals work better with the ball of your foot somewhat forward of the pedal spindle. For that matter, a bike fitter set my clipless shoes up in a similar fashion for my road bike, and I like that better, too.

    It takes some time to practice these things before you can start to use them well.

    For that matter, even if you do prefer clipless pedals in the end, learning to use platforms and be comfortable with them will improve your pedaling and bike control on clipless pedals, too.
    I'm curious about this as well. At least the riding I have around here, I'm mostly shifting into the tallest gear or few, to give me something to "push" against when I'm standing and riding down the hill. If I'm in too low of a gear, I inevitably end up throwing in a pedal stroke, and fall flat on my face almost as if I didn't even have a chain anymore. Being in a tall gear while riding the downs has really helped me personally.

    What pedals are you using, and what shoes? I have found that both make a huge difference in the amount of traction that you have. I started out with platform pedals from a 20yr old BMX bike that I had, and some trail running shoes. I've since added 510 freeride shoes, and CrankBrothers Stamp 3 pedals, and the difference is astonishing. My feet don't move around at all. In fact, I have to consciously lift up my foot to re-position.

    Pedals/shoes will not fix lifting on the upstroke though. But the tilting the pedals a bit (toe down) on the upstroke does help with this. You can actually "paw" the pedal like that and get a bit of power out of it.

    I rode clipless for 4-5 years, but I just made the switch to platforms to make sure my technique was good. I noticed I was "cheating" on bunnyhops/etc, so I wanted to stomp out that behavior. Plus, when the going gets rough, its nice to have an easier option to bail/stick down a foot and save it.

    I personally can't stand middle of the foot pedaling, but I know lots of flat pedal guys do it, and like it.

    The upside, is that after a couple more miles/hours, and a few adjustments, you're starting to enjoy it a lot more, so thats good news. And like they said above... if you still hate it after a while, maybe its not for you, which is fine. Hopefully you're even enjoying it now .

  28. #28
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    Great posts on flats technique. Iíll try them out. Currently Race Face Chesters, Five Ten Freeriders. The stock pins donít seem to grip very well. Most of that may be my poor technique!

    The lack of downhill gearing is more to do with roads and dirt roads to/from the trails, and for bikepacking, not technical descents.

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