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  1. #1
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    For Northeast Riders- Wheelbase getting too long?

    In looking at MTB frames, does anyone else think new school frames are getting a tad too long in the wheelbase? I get the whole long, low, slack thing but for northeast single track where it's rather tight, the new frames are maybe are not ideal.

    Anyone else out there experiencing this?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgtones View Post
    Anyone else out there experiencing this?
    Assuming you don't need the steepest STA possible you can buy one size down and use a setback dropper to get a shorter bike that fits bigger seated. There are some brands with higher BBs as well if you are not into that either.

    This is what my current bike is - medium GG Smash with a 1" setback dropper. It's still longer than my old bikes by a significant margin, but going one size down keeps things reasonable enough. I also like the higher BB. I can corner just fine and being able to pedal without constant thought to pedal position is nice. Rides great. Fits well. I'm not wishing I was on a bigger size.
    Last edited by vikb; 06-26-2019 at 07:25 AM.
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  3. #3
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    Good point there. I might look at a smaller frame size and setback post. This could accomplish getting a slightly more compact wheelbase since frames are essentially growing.

  4. #4
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    I am located in Northern NJ and I am inclined to agree that for Northeast riding, the wheelbases may be getting a little long and not just wheelbase but some of the reach numbers as well in certain cases.

    I got back into mountain biking after being away from it for almost twenty years and coming from a 26er bike background everything these days are more "stable" but I kind of like the feel of my short WB "snappy" 26'er on my home trails.

    I had been riding my old 26er this last year just to get back into things and did a lot of demo's (both locally and I also went to outerbike bentonville) in preparation for buying a new rig. Just a sampling of the bikes I rode (Yeti SB130/150, Evil Offering, Mondraker Foxy, Jamis Portal and Hardline, Esker Elkat, Pivot Switchblade, Ibis Ripley, Ibis Ripmo, etc )

    I ride a medium and I demo'd a size medium in all of them.
    They were all great but turns out the ones I liked the most had the shorter wheelbase compared to the rest...

    In the 27.5" camp the Esker Elkat was my favorite bike. (46.6")
    In the 29er camp the Ripmo really stood out for me. (47.0")

    most of the others which were still great were usually an 1" longer...
    Offering (47.3)
    SB130 (47.5)
    Mondraker (48.1)

    I was basically planning out my build on a Ripmo when as fate would have it, I ended up getting a Jamis Portal from someone locally that was moving onto something else and was selling it at just too good a deal to pass up.

    Wheelbase on the Portal is 46.2 in the medium. Progressive Geo but not super slack or steep compared to the so called "top dogs" but a few rides in I am really enjoying it. For comparison my brother has an Evil Offering in medium and that thing is awesome to ride but I definitely have an easier time navigating tight technical terrain than he does.

    Two pieces of advice...

    DEMO if you can...and hopefully on your local trails...

    Another good piece of advice I've heard is to stick to brands that are located in terrain similar to your own. They are typically developing their bikes to work well on their home trails. So its funny that by chance I ended up with a bike from a Jersey company for riding my NJ trails.

    As vikb suggested, going one size smaller can accomplish same net effect. For example if I did the Evil Offering I may go to the size small instead of the medium. It would have similar WB and Reach to my Portal, but with slacker HA and steeper STA...I've got the bike bug back so I wouldn't be surprised if I add something else to the stable next year

  5. #5
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    My 2012 SC Blur LTc had a wheelbase of 42.7 inches. My current bike, a 2017 NS Snabb 29er has a wheelbase of 47.4 inches. Almost 5 inches longer! And let me tell you what... I am heaps faster on my Snabb.

    I think it depends on riding style, though. If you're just along for the ride, a long bike may feel a bit unwieldy. But, if you are a bit more "foot out, flat out" then I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the longer numbers.

    For what it's worth, Ibis, Santa Cruz, and Giant have nice trail bikes with more conservative numbers.
    The cake is a lie.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgtones View Post
    ... for northeast single track where it's rather tight, the new frames are maybe are not ideal.

    Anyone else out there experiencing this?
    Yep.
    Do the math.

  7. #7
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    I think NE riders need to spend time with newer geo before saying they are getting too long. I'm 6'4" so my 2018 XL framed Kona Process 153 is a huge bike. This combined with the tight NE terrain is why I chose 27.5 vs 29 model. I never measured actual height but I need to 'kitty corner' in my 6'6" truck bed to close tailgate. My buddy just bought a 2019 Jeffsey 29er in Large and my bike is quite a bit longer.

    All that being said, I'm on the extreme end of LONG for tight NE trails. I've been riding these trails for 30 years and have been on various FS bikes since 2001. After over a year and 2000+ miles on this bike, it's far superior than any bike I've ever owned. I really don't know if a 29er would be much more of a challenge regarding maneuverability. If I had more open and flowy terrain I def would have gone 29 but I'm really happy with the 27.5 and don't feel like I'm missing out.
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  8. #8
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    I think the wheelbase issue is a bit more complex than typically talked about. I've found that the total wheelbase often isn't as important as where that length comes from. I don't think reach is the main culprit (unless you're really on the wrong size bike). I think HTA, chainstay length, how the bike handles as a whole, and how comfortable you are on the bike are all more important than total wheelbase length. I'll take a longer bike that fits well, feels balanced and holds a line well over a smaller bike with a shorter reach and longer stem.

  9. #9
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    One thing I'll just highlight is that my "downsized" modern geo bike is still several inches in WB longer than the old bike I sold a buddy. So at least if we are talking about the idea of selecting a smaller size in a modern geo model it's not a choice between short and long. It's a choice between long and really long.
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  10. #10
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    My issue is more HTA and BB height. Honestly, for lots of NE riding, a 71 degree head angle can still work, and work well...
    It is the Right of the People to Alter or to Abolish It.

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    Yeah my two hard tails are 45.5" and 47" Wheelbases. The 47" is new school and the shorter bike is still fairly modern but everything is a bit shorter.

    The longer bike is slacker, lower, and longer. It does what it should, descends better and is more stable. However, it definitely makes wider arcs and sometimes I feel it puts me into the woods. I am just skeptical about going with an even longer frame as these new school bikes keep getting longer.

    I do like some of your suggestions of going down a size as long as the reach and stack numbers work. I stand and climb so for me, I don't want my bars in my thighs

  12. #12
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    Vik, how tall are you and what stem length you running on your Med Smash?
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  13. #13
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    I think the long, low and slack movement has gone too far in many cases, and not just for the NE. I live in AZ, where we have a mix of fast open desert and tight technical switchbacks. The fact is, ultra long, low and slack bikes just get unwieldy in certain contexts and are often not very playful.

    But there's a range even within new school geo bikes. For example, the reach on my GG Smash (size large) is 490mm. The Evil Offering and Kona Process I demoed both have reach of about 475mm in size large. Wheel base, BB height and HTA vary like that even among the "new school" geo bikes.

    But, I like moderately long reach, moderately slack HTA (29ers just don't need to be slacker than 66, maybe 65.5) and too low of BB just smacks peddles in the rocks. 13.4-13.6 is plenty low, IMO. Some of these wheel bases these days too... man they're getting long.

    That said, it's always hard to pinpoint because it's how all the numbers, including suspension kinematics etc all come together to make the bike ride a certain way. Then of course there's suspension components, tires, setups....

    I will say its been really interesting demoing a lot of this years bikes. Many are similar on paper, but they ride pretty different.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmj831 View Post
    Vik, how tall are you and what stem length you running on your Med Smash?
    - 5'11"
    - 33" pants' inseam
    - normal arms
    - 50mm stem
    - ~770mm bars
    - 1" setback dropper
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  15. #15
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    I used to ride in the NY/CT/NJ area. I will say that the modern 29ers, despite being more slack in their geometry, seem a bit more agile than the typical XC-oriented 29ers of 4-5 years ago.

    I'm not sure that I would go with a 29er in that area given that the trails used to ride were both tighter and typically had shorter descents than what I ride now on the West Coast. Of the 29ers I've ridden, the Yeti SB100 stood out as a bike with faster handling that would have fit well on the trails I used to ride on the East Coast. It felt pretty stable descending given that it felt pretty nimble in its handling.The new Pivot Mach 4 SL seems to have a similar wheelbase and geometry. The Pivot Trail 429 would be borderline in how fast it steers for East Coast singletrack in my opinion. Generally, given less benefit of 29" for the shorter climbs and descents in the East Coast, I personally would be more apt to get a bike with 27.5" wheels.
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  16. #16
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    YES.

    When I got my 2015 Remedy 29er, I NOTICED the long wheelbase.
    I had a 2014 Fuel Ex 29, and it was a little shorter, and was a handful sometimes. The Remedy, although longer, just didnt care if I was off line like the Fuel.
    But regardless - yes. The wheelbases are getting to be quite the handful in certain areas.
    That said, the fast way to get a long wheelbase around tight twisty stuff, assuming it's really tight? Lock the rear brake and skate it around. I know it's not the best thing to do, but it does make a long bike turn tight...

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by DethWshBkr View Post
    That said, the fast way to get a long wheelbase around tight twisty stuff, assuming it's really tight? Lock the rear brake and skate it around. I know it's not the best thing to do, but it does make a long bike turn tight...
    I have seen a lot of trails I ride are "losing" trees as folks on long bikes with uber wide bars "adjust" the corners/choke points to better suit their machines. Along with the "Strava lines" that straighten out corners.

    To be clear I'm not recommending or supporting that, but I am seeing it happen.
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  18. #18
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    How have riders adjusted their technique for the longer bikes? I recall reading that leaning more as opposed to merely turning the bars is preferred.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post
    I have seen a lot of trails I ride are "losing" trees as folks on long bikes with uber wide bars "adjust" the corners/choke points to better suit their machines. Along with the "Strava lines" that straighten out corners.

    To be clear I'm not recommending or supporting that, but I am seeing it happen.
    That sucks.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikenut316 View Post
    How have riders adjusted their technique for the longer bikes? I recall reading that leaning more as opposed to merely turning the bars is preferred.
    You definitely have to lean the bike into the turns more and maybe keep your weight more forward. The modern geo favors more aggressive riding in general. People who already ride like that will feel at home. People who have been riding for the last 10+ years in a stiffer style will have issues. I think it's going to be a lot more than making a few adjustments for some people. There a lot of local racers who would wipe the floor with me in an XC race but ask them to ride the pumptrack or do some cornering drills and they'll look like a fish out of water. A lot of riders have gotten by with just pedaling and steering around the woods since they started. Those people would need to go to some classes and revisit the fundamentals.

  21. #21
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    I'm not on the newest, longest, slackest bike (a first gen Bronson), but I ride an XL, so the wheelbase is starting to get up there (about 48 in in its current configuration).

    I generally don't think it's a problem on too many trails, but I was riding some old school hiking/biking trails at Wendell State Forest in MA this week and there were a number of places where I would have liked a slightly shorter bike. Now, would a person with better bike handling skills been able to clear those sections on the same bike? Sure. But I did feel a couple of places that I would have done better on a slightly shorter bike for really tight moves.

    That being said, for the majority of my riding, that isn't the case and I'm not worried that my next bike will likely be a 29er with an inch or two longer wheelbase. Even on my ride the other day I would have traded a bit longer wheelbase for a bit more rollover of the every present roots and rock holes.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgtones View Post
    In looking at MTB frames, does anyone else think new school frames are getting a tad too long in the wheelbase? I get the whole long, low, slack thing but for northeast single track where it's rather tight, the new frames are maybe are not ideal.

    Anyone else out there experiencing this?

    No.

    These longer, slacker bikes handle tight NE trails just fine.

    They handle differently and there is a learning curve.

    They _may_ take slightly more work on super tight trails, but everywhere else they far better than old, shorter, steeper bikes.

  23. #23
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    You like downhill speed? Go long low and slack.
    You like being the first to the top of technical climbs? Go steep and a bit shorter.
    You like both? Somewhere in the middle.

    Plenty of great racing XC bikes still available for those that can't seem fit a new geometry bike into their specific trail, but as pointed out already, give it a chance before you bail on the newer bikes. Waayyy more fun in most instances.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post
    I have seen a lot of trails I ride are "losing" trees as folks on long bikes with uber wide bars "adjust" the corners/choke points to better suit their machines. Along with the "Strava lines" that straighten out corners.

    To be clear I'm not recommending or supporting that, but I am seeing it happen.

    That is just terrible.
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    Last year I started looking at replacing my 2001 Raleigh M600 HT. That has a wheelbase of around 41-42 inches I think. I was able to demo a Stumpjumper on my favorite trails. That has a WB of 46.1 (1171 mm) for the Medium. Just felt too long and didn't turn right on the real tight central PA single track. Rode a couple of other 29ers with long wheelbases and even on parking lot tests it was apparent that steering between tight trees would be a problem.

    Ended up getting a Foes Trail Mixer. That's a 97er and is designed for that set up. Got it in medium without a demo ride. Handles the tight trails really nice. I can tell it's longer then my old 26er, but it does turn rather nicely. It has a 44.5 inch (1130) WB.

    Have a Maxxis Ikon 27.5X2.6 on the rear and Mcfly 29X2.8 on the front. That gives me a unsagged BB height of about 13.75". So far I'm really happy with it.

  26. #26
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    I bought a revel rascal for northern NY trails. Itís defiantly long at 48 inches. The first trail I brought it to was very flowy the bike was at home. The next was very tight Singletrack tons of rocks and roots. I struggled a lot. Couldnít make corners that shouldíve been easy. I was very frustrated started working on carrying speed and leaning more. That made it a bit better but then I cut the handlebars down from 800mm to 760mm and everything changed. I canít explain it but it no longer feels like a long bike itís easy to throw around and Iím faster though the tight stuff than I was on my ripley. I donít know if it would work for anybody else but itís worth a try.


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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by autosmith View Post
    I bought a revel rascal for northern NY trails. Itís defiantly long at 48 inches. The first trail I brought it to was very flowy the bike was at home. The next was very tight Singletrack tons of rocks and roots. I struggled a lot. Couldnít make corners that shouldíve been easy. I was very frustrated started working on carrying speed and leaning more. That made it a bit better but then I cut the handlebars down from 800mm to 760mm and everything changed. I canít explain it but it no longer feels like a long bike itís easy to throw around and Iím faster though the tight stuff than I was on my ripley. I donít know if it would work for anybody else but itís worth a try.
    Great point. I'm guessing that the narrower handlebars require less hand movement for a given amount of steering angle. Along with steeper head angles, I do wonder if typical handlebar widths of 580mm back in the 90s and early 00s made riding tight East Coast singletrack easier.
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  28. #28
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    I finally upgraded from a CC FS bike of from 2008, to a new trail bike (Trek ex7). One thing the LBS and I discussed was both the now slacker head angles and longer wheel bases. They seemed to think much of it comes from the demographics of buyers. Good bikes are really expensive now. Bikes are losing sales. The market has many older riders like myself who can afford the prices of the nicer trail bikes. As we non racers get older, we are looking for a more autopilot bike to just get out and enjoy the ride without having to be "on it". My last bike was a 26" with a 71deg head angle. Climbed awesome. But downhills started getting a bit more sketch for me. With this new bike, perhaps the climb is a hair slower. But the down hills are refreshing. Add to this, many folks are now going to lift assisted bike parks from time to time. Just my thoughts.

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