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  1. #1
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    From where I sit: 2019 bike testing.

    Simple fact: Bicycles have never been better than they are today.

    As far as categories of bikes for riding off-road, we used to break things into XC, Trials, and DH. Before that you either had a mountain bike (and used it for, um, everything) or you didn't. Nowadays there are additional categories for Trail, All Mountain, and Enduro, plus Slopestyle and Dirt Jump. Where do those fit in, how do they apply to you, and which bike should be chosen for each? Further muddying the waters there are subcategories such as Downcountry, Cross Stuntry, even (swear to god...) SlopeDuro.

    To the end of answering that question for myself I used to attend the annual bike industry trade show every fall. Or at least once they started to have an on-dirt demo where you could actually ride different bikes, on dirt, and feel the nuances of each. Eventually that demo became crazy crowded, such that you'd spend more of the day waiting for a specific bike to become available than you would riding. Sometimes you'd never get a chance to swing a leg over that bike. Eventually I stopped going because I wasn't getting to actually ride the bikes I was going there to ride.

    There are lots of other demo events these days, most of which seem to be afflicted with similar crowding issues, or they're held at places that can handle crowds but you still can't get the bikes you want. Or you finally get the bike you want but the trails are so milquetoast that you can't learn much about it. The last demo event I attended featured manufacturer's reps whom insisted on cramming their hastily assembled propaganda ("this layup is unparalleled in it's ability to be laterally*stiff yet vertically compliant...") down your throat one-on-one while slooooowly installing your pedals and ostensibly tweaking the suspension to suit you.

    For these and other reasons I haven't attended a demo event for a few years. But an opportunity presented itself this fall -- fell into my lap you might say -- which I simply couldn't refuse. Outside Magazine holds an annual event where they test and review 50 of the most highly desired bikes (roughly split half road and half mountain) in an effort to pin down some of the nuances, pick their favorites, and then write about the nuances of the favorites so that their readers can better make their own buying (or not) decisions. This year's test was going to happen in my backyard, on trails that I've been riding and maintaining for better than two decades. Pretty sweet, right?

    It gets better. The test bikes were shipped to my shop in advance so that I could unbox, assemble, debug, and test ride them before the real test even started. How many times does an opportunity like that present itself? Never. Well, for me, once -- and this was it. I took full advantage, riding at lunch or after work (sometimes both) for a few weeks straight, to the extent that when the test actually, finally began my legs were already fried. First world problems!



    The results of the testing are not mine to share. The details on several of the bikes are actually still under embargo for a month or more, so although I wrote individual reviews for 20+ of the mountain bikes, I'm not going to share those now, either. Maybe later. Instead, below I've detailed some big picture thoughts on the minutia that made itself apparent as the test proceeded. Sort of feels like a 2019 'state of the industry', at least from where I sit.


    + + + + + + + + +


    For those of us not racing professionally, for those of us that 'just ride' with our friends, dogs, or solo, it seems the most important metric is not weight, not seat tube angle, not suspension kinematics. The most important metric for many of us is simply how the bike makes you feel while riding, or when the ride is done.

    i can't speak for others but I don't care too much about efficiency or weight on the way up as long as the bike doesn't get in my way when climbing, and as long as it also feels playful on the way back down. Time needed to complete a loop or section is irrelevant. I want to get outside for awhile, get some exercise, breathe fresh air, incinerate a few endorphins in a white hot fire, then return to life with a smile on my face. Riding a lively bike that hops and pops and manuals well is the quickest way to achieve all of the above. Riding something that's .09162% lighter or more efficient yet sacrifices liveliness and playfulness does not put a smile on my face.

    I'm not sure I care about frame material anymore. Suspension quality and tire casing construction can make a more noticeable difference in subjective feel while being much less expensive to employ.

    I definitely care about wheel size -- 29" and 29+ just roll over ledges, roots, chunk much better. 27.5" is dead to me, except for fat tires. It was interesting to learn that 90% of the testers were in this same boat.

    I definitely care about tire size -- bigger and more aggressive is almost universally better for where I live and how I ride. Anything smaller than 2.6" collects dust in my garage, and even 2.6" tires feel too small -- too harsh -- for better than half of the year.

    29+ has some sort of stigma attached. Perhaps related to the fatbikes that paved the way for them. The lone 29+ FS bike in this test was derogatorily (if playfully?) referred to as 'the yoga ball' before anyone had even ridden it. The metamorphosis from laughingstock to legitimate contender took but a few minutes. The first few to ride it came back somewhat astonished: "It's not heavy" they said. "It rides really light, actually", they said. "It is so. effing. smooth!" they said. "I had so much fun!", they said. And after a day of this, the next day the chatter morphed to "If that bike was for sale I'd take it home with me. Now. Tonight".



    One of the testers summed it up perhaps best with "I'm guilty of judging that book by its cover. I was *so* wrong. I want one now. I want one NOW!"

    Crazy, stupid, ridiculous, so-low-that-they're-unpedalable-uphill bottom bracket heights persist. Even on bikes that are ostensibly made to be pedaled up *big* hills. How does one do it -- climb tech trails that is? Ratchet uphill for 2 hours straight?

    I can think of no single gear-specific parameter that has had a greater negative effect on our trails than low bottom brackets. When people repeatedly bash their feet or chainring into rocks and ledges they think not of the welfare of the trail but that of their machine. Bash a rock enough times and one of two things happens: Either said rock gets dislodged and removed, or if the rock is deeply embedded riders just start to go around it. Our local trails now feature hundreds upon hundreds of go-arounds -- to the point that many of these trails are no longer singletrack so much as a series of linked figure 8's. These same trails also now feature hundreds of holes where a rock used to be, but was ultimately dislodged by a barrage of low bottom bracket bikes.

    I wasn't sure that anyone in the industry 'got it' until this test, where testers could be frequently heard discussing how some bikes -- bikes that the marketing machines have made people believe are highly desirable for tech riding -- simply could not be pedaled up anything remotely technical. I fear that it's going to take years and years for the industry to pull its collective head out of its collective ass and slowly start to bring BB's back up into the realm of reasonable.

    Shaped headset spacers. I walked out into the shop just now and noted 4 random road bikes (all from the test) leaning against each other, not one of which could share a stem or headset spacers with any of the others. The only big-picture benefit that I can see to designing things this way is to keep road riders tethered to a certain shop in the same way that they are tethered to prepared surfaces. And that same lack of foresight has recently arrived in the mountain bike world, where 2 of the test bikes featured shaped HS spacers, HS bearing covers, and HS top caps.



    There were two hardtails in the test. I rode one of them, twice. I saw each of them get ridden a total of once after that. Perhaps this is more a testament to the corrugated, blocky nature of the local trails than anything else, but no one wanted anything to do with them -- regardless of wheel size. I saw people reach for FS bikes that didn't fit them, or that they'd already ridden several times, rather than ride one of the hardtails.

    175mm droppers are stupid. Your butt hits the tire before your chest hits the saddle, and sometimes your saddle hits the tire as suspension compresses. I subscribe to the 'if some is good more must be better' credo with lots of things. Bacon and ice cream immediately come to mind. I personally don't see much point in droppers beyond 125mm, and could happily live with 100mm. Perhaps the best evidence for this is that almost no one runs the saddle on their DH bike 7" lower than their fully extended height. 4 to 5" is more like it.



    Electronic shifting is silly. And unreliable. And a solution in search of a problem, creating problems all it's own. I like progress, I like to drink kool aid, and I embrace change when it's sensible and demonstrably better than the alternative. E-shifting simply isn't either.

    Boost spacing is nice, in that at least we're all agreeing on *something* finally. This was the first bike comparo in memory where every MTB used the same hub spacing front and rear. Wheels were swapped between bikes, quickly and easily, for various reasons. Different rotor sizes and cassettes/freehubs meant that not every wheelset was truly quick switch, but getting everyone on the same page with both brakes and cassettes is probably asking too much.

    Crazy low out of the box cockpits. I ride -- as do 99% of my riding partners -- with my handlebars a bit above my fully extended saddle height. Several of the test bikes came with their steerer tubes cut so short that 1.5" to 2" below saddle height was as high as the bars could be set. Some were so low out of the box that I was unable to test-ride them beyond a quick lap around the parking lot, where I was so uncomfortable I immediately returned the bike to the corral and chose something else.

    Bars well below saddle height is a young persons game and sometimes an XC racer's preference. I rode that way for better than two decades, and I have irreparable nerve damage in my neck and hands as a result. It hurts NO ONE to leave steerer tubes a little longer on stock bikes. Those that want a slammed position can still get it. Those that want a more upright position won't immediately be turned off of a potential candidate.

    Gearboxes are coming. They aren't quite 'there' yet because improvements in shifting ergonomics and reductions in frictional losses still need incremental progress. But they're already really good. There's something about being able to take tight lines through chunky right handers without fear of ripping a $300 der off the bike. If someone could figure out a way to run a gearbox on an FS bike and *not* need an external tensioner, I'd probably jump in right now.



    Most high engagement hubs add needless noise and drag. Easy to feel that drag when coasting -- the bike slows as though the brakes are rubbing. Impossible not to hear the added racket, and equally impossible to converse over said racket. I'd love for consumers to see past the marketing and arrive at some sane realization that (for starters) fast engaging hubs don't have to be noisy or draggy. I'd also love to see people recognize that normal and even slow engaging hubs aren't a limiter in technical riding situations. The rider is the limiter -- not the hub.



    We are so lucky with rims and tires these days. 26, 27.5, 29. Skinny, medium, wide, plus, mid-fat, fat, morbidly obese, and everything in between. Carbon and aluminum. Tubeless ready as standard. Supple, high thread count, and reinforced casings with a dizzying number of tread patterns to choose from. If you canít find what youíre looking for within all of those, you are truly a .01%er.



    Maxxis makes fantastic tires and deserves the market domination they currently enjoy. That said, it was also really nice to see other, smaller brands represented and ripping.

    Integrated storage options are taking hold. Anything is better than a big bulbous pack on our very sweaty backs. Putting tools into bottle cages (on frames that are finally starting to prioritize fitting them!), pumps alongside, and tubes or tubeless plugs elsewhere is the minimum going forward. Plus there's a whole slew of good, well designed fanny packs (Hipster satchels? European Carry-alls?!) just hitting the market. For 5+ hour rides you're always going to need something more than the basics discussed above, but for shorter rides it's nice to ride unencumbered.



    + + + + + + +

    I've only been riding bikes on dirt for 40 years, thus I still have a lot to learn. I'm grateful to this crew for the opportunity to be so deeply immersed into bike-nerddom for a solid month this fall.

    Thanks for checkin' in.

  2. #2
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    Nice report. Agree on the shaped headset spacers. I won't consider a road bike with them!

  3. #3
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    Your post gives me warm, fuzzy feelings, it's brilliant in its synopsis of things.

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    You know, Iíve read your posts here over the years. Iíve respected your experience while occasionally finding your tone to be spicy.

    That said, I really do appreciate your experience and overall agree with nearly everything youíve written here. Except the dropper post part. For a tall guy with a long inseam, long droppers are awesome.
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    Awesome post! Looking forward to reading once the test results are published.

    To questions maybe you can provide your thoughts on:

    1. Suspension Travel - any findings related to mixed XCO/Endurance riding? A few of the 2019s are offering 100 and 120 mm options. One bike for a quick 6 mi sprint or a 100 mi endurance grind...is there such a thing?

    2. Live Valve - if electronic shifting is unnecessary, where does this fall? Prices of bikes that feature this technology are outrageous

  6. #6
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    Well stated and perceptive as usual, Mike. Thanks for this.

    The only thing that left me scratching my head is the long dropper thing. Maybe it's my 36" inseam or something indescribable but 125mm of drop isn't enough for me. Yeah, I've tried it. I can enjoy 150mm but 185mm is better. Oh well, there's room for more than one opinion on this. One of my favorite aspects of being a cyclist is that we each build the machine that we like best (or believe we like best, anyway!) -- every choice from frame material to wheel size to drivetrain componentry is up to us. Each has to make his own way. Some things are unquestionably & empirically superior to other similar things but there's also room for individuality and sometimes what works best in XL doesn't translate in XS or vice versa.

    Let nothing I've said here imply that I don't appreciate and enjoy each & every one of your posts. Not gonna deny I'm a mikesee fan boy. Thanks again for your brief look around the corner.
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  7. #7
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    Gearboxes will be a cool thing when they become more mainstream. I wonder how user servicable they will be.

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  8. #8
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    175mm droppers are stupid. Your butt hits the tire before your chest hits the saddle, and sometimes your saddle hits the tire as suspension compresses.
    Depends on how tall you are. I'm 6'5" w/ a 170mm dropper on an XXL 29" bike. I never have issues with the tire hitting my butt or dropped saddle. I have hit my chest with the saddle on rare occasion.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blatant View Post
    agree with nearly everything youíve written here. Except the dropper post part. For a tall guy with a long inseam, long droppers are awesome.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    The only thing that left me scratching my head is the long dropper thing. Maybe it's my 36" inseam
    Quote Originally Posted by jeremy3220 View Post
    Depends on how tall you are. I'm 6'5" w/ a 170mm dropper on an XXL 29" bike. I never have issues with the tire hitting my butt or dropped saddle. I have hit my chest with the saddle on rare occasion.
    I get it. Which is why I disclaimed 'personally' with that statement.

    That said, for every person out there that demands a 175mm dropper there are 3 that are on fixed height posts, just as happy and insistent that that's all that's needed.

    Vive la difference.

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    That was great Mike, thanks for all the work. Of course we would all love to hear your pics and pans on these bikes, so when the moratorium ends perhaps...

    The high bb thing is real, so much so that I wouldn't even demo a bike that was too low for rock crawling. Sure, some folks only ride flow, but that's no reason to make a bike useless for real mountain biking.

    As for dropper lengths, you know I like me a loooong dropper

    Also digging on high bar position, DJ style, my neck gets sore for the same reason as yours: too many years stooped over with your head craned up.

    Any short crank bikes or is that just too pie in the sky?
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    Whats wrong with electronic shifting? Unreliable? Thats news to me.
    "Go soothingly in the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon"

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    Quote Originally Posted by G-Choro View Post
    Awesome post! Looking forward to reading once the test results are published.

    To questions maybe you can provide your thoughts on:

    1. Suspension Travel - any findings related to mixed XCO/Endurance riding? A few of the 2019s are offering 100 and 120 mm options. One bike for a quick 6 mi sprint or a 100 mi endurance grind...is there such a thing?

    2. Live Valve - if electronic shifting is unnecessary, where does this fall? Prices of bikes that feature this technology are outrageous

    1. 110?!

    2. There was one LV bike in the test. Everyone wanted to ride it. Everyone came back sort of confused. It didn't feel magical. Didn't feel great even. Felt like something from 5 years ago -- and something average at that -- as far as suspension performance. My hope is that there was something wrong with it, because no way was that performance worth even a fraction of that amount of $.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    Any short crank bikes or is that just too pie in the sky?

    Not sure on the (g)road side, but I think all the MTB's had 175's with the exception of 2.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DethWshBkr View Post
    Whats wrong with electronic shifting? Unreliable? Thats news to me.

    Lucky you.

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    Thanks for sharing. I most certainly do not agree with a few of opinions you've posted but they are opinions so it's all good. BB heights, electronic shifting, cockpit heights and 27.5 wheel'd bikes to name a few. That being said, you didn't present this as fact, but rather your opinion and you raised some points that people need to be aware of when bike shopping.

    Either way, great time to be into bikes. You used to have to work hard to find good ones, now you have to work hard to find stinkers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Electronic shifting is silly. And unreliable. And a solution in search of a problem, creating problems all it's own. I like progress, I like to drink kool aid, and I embrace change when it's sensible and demonstrably better than the alternative. E-shifting simply isn't either.



    I have no personal experience but reviews seem pretty good, especially in sloppy conditions. Electronic shifting has been on higher end road bikes for awhile now and gets a near unanimous thumbs up.

    Conventional derailleur shifting has been undergoing ongoing refinements and improvements since it's inception so I don't agree that it's a solution in search of a problem. That said I'm perfectly happy with my old 1x10 so in my case I guess it is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    I have no personal experience but reviews seem pretty good, especially in sloppy conditions. Electronic shifting has been on higher end road bikes for awhile now and gets a near unanimous thumbs up.

    Conventional derailleur shifting has been undergoing ongoing refinements and improvements since it's inception so I don't agree that it's a solution in search of a problem. That said I'm perfectly happy with my old 1x10 so in my case I guess it is.
    I don't have any personal experience with e-shifting but through anecdotal exposure I've come to believe it's quite functional. Nearly addictively so according to some. That said, I don't care how well it shifts, I have zero interest in adding electronic componentry to my mountain bike. No batteries & wires, thank you. My human powered, cable-driven shifting system performs perfectly well.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    Electronic shifting has been on higher end road bikes for awhile now and gets a near unanimous thumbs up.

    Most of my experience is with road bikes. There were so many glitches, weirdnesses, dead batteries (even after being fully charged that very morning), and as-yet unresolved issues with these super high end spaceships that I came away wanting nothing to do with them.

    Again, if they were solving some persistent niggling problem with traditional setups I'd welcome them with open arms. But they aren't -- they're just replacing easily solved minor niggles with more expensive and complex variants.

    IMHO the long-range solution is to get rid of derailleurs altogether, regardless of what's moving them left and right. Make a silent, drag-free, 600% range e-shifted gearbox that's effectively zero maintenance and costs ~$1k for the unit -- then you'd have something.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    IMHO the long-range solution is to get rid of derailleurs altogether, regardless of what's moving them left and right. Make a silent, drag-free, 600% range e-shifted gearbox that's effectively zero maintenance and costs ~$1k for the unit -- then you'd have something.
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    Gotta agree, more money, less fixable on the trailside.

    I just got my wife a Pivot Shuttle, great bike, lightweight, lots of bling, but the e shifting was an unnecessary cost that I would gladly swap for GX if it would save me a thousand dollars.

    Let Mike said, I'd rather have that thousand dollars go into a system that gets rid of the derailleur all together.

    Expensive answers to problems that don't exist are really not the answers I want to spend my money on...

    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Most of my experience is with road bikes. There were so many glitches, weirdnesses, dead batteries (even after being fully charged that very morning), and as-yet unresolved issues with these super high end spaceships that I came away wanting nothing to do with them.

    Again, if they were solving some persistent niggling problem with traditional setups I'd welcome them with open arms. But they aren't -- they're just replacing easily solved minor niggles with more expensive and complex variants.

    IMHO the long-range solution is to get rid of derailleurs altogether, regardless of what's moving them left and right. Make a silent, drag-free, 600% range e-shifted gearbox that's effectively zero maintenance and costs ~$1k for the unit -- then you'd have something.
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    As someone who is newer to the sport (just this fall), this was an interesting read.

    Do you know when the reviews will no longer be under NDA, and also where they will be published? I'd love to give them a read.

    Also, I'm in the market for a new bike (first proper mountain bike, I'm currently using an XC style bike I used for years commuting to work). I was heavily considering a hardtail (27.5+). Any idea why everyone is avoiding them like the plague?

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    I must be one of the few who like the derailleur, I've found them to be simple and very reliable. I have no desire for complex internal gears.
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    I must be one of the few who like the derailleur, I've found them to be simple and very reliable. I have no desire for complex internal gears.

    Zooming out and looking at the big picture, I don't completely disagree with you. Where I live we can't ride in mud, sticks in the spokes (or chain) are a rarity, and if you smack a rock with a der that's rider error.

    My comments were more pie in the sky, if-we're-going-to-rethink-this-let's-not-stop-at-half-baked.

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    If you're new to all this, and want to have fun experimenting and learning, start with a 26" hardtail. Pick one up cheap on your local Craigslist. Ride if for ~3 months, then get a 27.5" hardtail. Ride that for 3 months, then get a 29" hardtail.

    Then go to 26+, then 27.5+, then 29+ -- still hardtails.

    Then go to 26" FS, then 27.5" FS, then 29" FS...

    They're all great at something. Some are better at more things than others.

    Eventually, if you're riding trails and not just commuting, you're likely to see benefits to taller wheels with squishier tires. How far down that rabbit hole you'll go is up to you.

    But since you aren't already predisposed in any one direction, start with the cheapest option (26" HT) and go from there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    My comments were more pie in the sky, if-we're-going-to-rethink-this-let's-not-stop-at-half-baked.
    I agree but I don't think of electronic shifting as rethinking it so much as an improvement over a shift cable. Potentially anyway.
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  26. #26
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    Derailleurs have come a long way in 15 or so years IME. They used to snap off all the time, but now they kind of "tuck under" the dropout and don't stick out nearly as far, they are much stiffer and the whole shifting system stays in tune amazing, like I can ride through mud for 100 miles and still have great shifting-amazing (because I did). I remember back in the 90s our derailleurs would "hunt" all the time, as we took off and installed QR rear wheels, we'd have to re-adjust the shifting damn near every ride, little tweak here and there. Now, that's just gone. Gearboxes are a long way off IMO, chains and gears are just too efficient for it every to really catch on. I could be wrong, but I just don't see that one ever taking off.

    I don't have any want or need for electronic shifting. Maybe it'll work in -20, but I need stuff to work all the time in those temps and traditional drivetrains work beautifully in the cold. I think this is more the "gimmick factor", you push the button and it instantly shifts. It's cool, but is it really making you faster or making the ride more enjoyable? Doubtful. I think mountain biking, it's exposure to the elements, is diametrically opposite of things like electronic shifting. It would make more sense if we were still 2x10 or 3x10, but I'm not going back that way.

    There are some good things going on, but I'd like to see much more development and refinement with suspension. IMO it has a long way to go still. There needs to be a way to actually tune suspension to the rider at the end-user, not little knobs that make the shock harsher or more un-ridable, but actually modify the internal valving in a useful way that makes it so you don't have to bear the compromise of something designed for a 150lb weight spread and with actual high and low speed circuits, vs gimmick "quick range" adjusters that are terrible.
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    "I can think of no single gear-specific parameter that has had a greater negative effect on our trails than low bottom brackets."
    Here in New England, I'm seeing more gouged rock faces and logs than I used to.

    What do you think a minimum BB height is for slow technical trails w/ rocks?

    Maybe 13" (330mm) ?

    Guess you gotta consider rider experience and weight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by client_9 View Post
    Here in New England, I'm seeing more gouged rock faces and logs than I used to.

    What do you think a minimum BB height is for slow technical trails w/ rocks?

    Maybe 13" (330mm) ?

    Guess you gotta consider rider experience and weight.
    And amount of travel and recommended sag and where the bike rides in its travel... Even if more manufacturers would add flip chips to give the option of raising the bottom bracket, it would be helpful.

    Thanks for the insights Mikesee. I just bought a Hightower - first new bike in 8 years. I am amazed at how efficient the suspension is now, and honestly how much safer bikes are then when I started riding. I remember my 2001 Ellsworth Truth with a 72 degree HTA - going over the handlebars was a regular occurrence on that bike. Sure Iím a better rider now, but larger wheels, slacker HTAs and longer wheelbases add up to a less hazardous experience for the average rider. Itís a great time to be in the sport.

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    Thanks for taking the time to post, some great insight.

    Love the part about the droppers, all those "pro" reviews who immediately bag on a frame because it can't fit a 175 dropper for their height always seems ridiculous to me. It always makes me wonder about putting a fork "O-ring" and keeping track how much they actually lower their seat that far down while riding... not just for photo ops!

    I'd bet it's more because it looks cool to have nothing but dropper post showing/slammed insertion!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by stiingya View Post
    Thanks for taking the time to post, some great insight.

    Love the part about the droppers, all those "pro" reviews who immediately bag on a frame because it can't fit a 175 dropper always seems ridiculous to me. It always makes me wonder about putting a fork "O-ring" and kept track how much they actually lower their seat that far down while riding...

    I'd be it more because it looks cool to have nothing but dropper post showing/slammed insertion!!
    Hi stiingya, your comments about dropper length fascinate me because my 185mm dropper is always either all the way up or all the way down, and I use it a lot. Maybe even more than I use my shifter. This might be an exaggeration but maybe not.

    I don't drop my saddle for looks. The terrain I ride is, for the most part, steep up or steep down and I usually need my saddle either under me for climbing support or gone -- 100% one way or the other.

    I guess my fascination with what you've said is that I can't relate to it; this fact makes me think that the type of terrain we (the collective, not necessarily you & me) ride our bikes on must vary quite a bit from one rider to the next. Maybe for some of us the mountain bike is just that -- a bike for riding up & down mountains, while for others "off-road bike" might be a better description. I'm left wondering.
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    185mm dropper and would happily take more. The further the seat is out of the way the better for me. Not a big ice cream guy but yes please on the extra pork belly. I too am looking forward to gear box bikes evolving and gaining more foothold. Not sure on the argument against this.
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    Always enjoyable reading your adventures. Being tall as some of the others around here I also can't for the life of me understand the continuing trend of low cockpits in mountain bikes. This craziness leads to all the spacers/riser bars/angled stems we see at the trail head. Take a look at the updated Pivot 429 trail. The old 429 trail had a stack of 25.7 inches in XL and the update has 24.7 inches. Some progress huh and the Trail is not considered a race bike. Cross another one off the list.

    In general, all of my riding partners and myself ride as you do, more in an upright position, about even the bars with the seat. So for a guy who likes riding more upright, what is your take on how this style of riding "fits" with the "new school geometry" of long and slack? My guess would be that somebody who rides more upright on a "new geometry" bike would choose one-size smaller to compensate the long front-center with the down side of further lower stack.

    Your point on the continuing trend of low BB was smack on.

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    I think BB height depends on the individual and their terrain. One man's too low is another's perfect height. On average, are they too low? I'm not sure. On my 2 LLS bikes, on is not, but the HT is when the 2.8 27.5+ are on, not when 29 is. My solution was 165cm cranks and now it's golden even with huge flat pedals.

    I have 160mm droppers and would not go shorter, nor do I need more. My buds all have 150-170mm except one who has a bike that came with 125mm. It isn't enough on some trails but he is on a tighter bike budget, so is getting by.

    I would choose my LLS steel hardtail over lots of FS bikes today. If they had a Moxie, Pedalhead, Rootdown, Primer, or they like maybe they would have been more popular.
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    Quote Originally Posted by starre View Post

    Your point on the continuing trend of low BB was smack on.
    +1

    So what do you think is a sane range for BB height these days?

    Also wondering why you think no one rode the hard tails...because they sucked or because all the riders didn't THINK they wouldn't be any fun?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    The terrain I ride is, for the most part, steep up or steep down and I usually need my saddle either under me for climbing support or gone -- 100% one way or the other.
    And I ride every one of those trails (unless you've found some new, secret stuff) without any dropper whatsoever.

    As Mike said, vive le difference!
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    Nice stuff, Mike. It's great to read a perspective willing to state that not every current trend is the best idea in the world -- or perhaps that it has gone too far.

    Couldn't agree more on the low BB opinion. Not sure on 29+, but gotta check it again, since my one and only demo was on a HT that weighed 33 pounds (the wheels felt like spinning up manhole covers).

    Also in your camp on e-shifting. My old fender/gravel bike had it, and the new Checkpoint does not. I don't miss it a lick. Note that my tiny wife with tiny hands LOVES her Di2 and has never had a glitch with it (nor did I).

    Lastly, I've sorta known/followed you for a LONG time. IIRC this might be your first thread without at least one beautiful pic!
    Whining is not a strategy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kosmo View Post
    And I ride every one of those trails (unless you've found some new, secret stuff) without any dropper whatsoever.
    Yeah, I did that for a few years too, my friend. Used cantilever brakes for a time as well, ha ha.
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    I share your same opinions about all the consumer demo events. I've been to a few where I never did get to ride the bike I really wanted to ride. I'd love to have the opportunity test all these bikes like you did. Can you give us an idea of when the embargo will be lifted and we can read the results of the test? I'm really curious to hear everyone's thoughts on the Trust Performance linkage fork.

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    Every time I ride in Moab, Iím amazed at how many rocks are scraped and gouged.

    I was out there last Veterans Day. Iíd go for an easy ride in the morning, literally stopping, drinking coffee and taking pictures. Carrying a backpack with my DSLR, water, coffee mug.

    Every once in a while Iíd take a look at the trail. Iíd see a rock all scraped up and try to figure out how it happened. Iíd go all CSI on it, getting off my bike, looking the distance between my pedal and the rock. I even set my camera up on the mini tripod once and rode into the rock at full speed, pedal down, with 15lbs more on my back than Iíd normally carry, without adjusting anything. Did a couple reps to get the timing down. Looking at the images and using parts on my bike for scale, the closest my pedals came to the rock was just under 2Ē.

    How are people getting their pedals 2Ē closer to the rock? A combination of low B.B., really low tire pressure and super high sag?


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    Quote Originally Posted by 12snap View Post
    I share your same opinions about all the consumer demo events. I've been to a few where I never did get to ride the bike I really wanted to ride. I'd love to have the opportunity test all these bikes like you did. Can you give us an idea of when the embargo will be lifted and we can read the results of the test? I'm really curious to hear everyone's thoughts on the Trust Performance linkage fork.

    Results of the test: I don't know, but I'm sure they'll appear on the Outside Online blog as well as in the print issue.

    Trust: We only got it installed on the last day of the test, so only 5 riders got on it. I got to keep it for a few days after testing ended. We all agreed that something wasn't right with it, so it's currently back at Trust. Might get it back if they determine something needed adjusting. If they say all was right with it, I won't want/need it back as the way it arrived here it is emphatically not for me.

  41. #41
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    Thanks for writing this up, I have been riding about as long as you and share a lot of your views. My comments below;

    150 is my minimum dropper length and have a 180 on one of my bikes. Don't notice a huge difference between the 150 and 180, but I have friends that absolutely need a 200 dropper based on leg length. Those riders can use a longer dropper in a current frame though. On the flip side there is no reason NOT to design for a longer dropper at the frame. You can always run a shorter dropper by preference, but if you want a longer dropper and the frame is not designed for it you are screwed.

    For BB height I have one bike (SJ Evo) with a 328 BB height and 140 rear travel. It is too low, but I get by even on technical ledgy climbs. Most bikes that I am interested in seem to have stabilized around 340-350 mm BB height which works for me. My old Mojo HD was way higher and that bike almost killed me on several occasions (mostly related to wheelbase and reach). Can understand why places like Phoenix or back East need higher, but for the rest of us the current range is pretty good.

    I have a Sram Red eTap road bike and cannot wait for eTap Eagle. Battery lasts for about a month and gives me plenty of warning before running out of charge. No more fishing cables through frames and perfect shifts every time. This is an option and when available, it will be prohibitively expensive so most people will not have it and it is a want not a need. Cable driven RD's are not going anywhere and choice is a good thing.

    High engagement hubs are great and the noise can be tuned with lube/light grease. I find low engagement hubs annoying, but they do not keep me from riding. It all started with King/I9 and from there, noise became associated with quality so companies started adding it artificially. I have noticed lately that even King is packing their hubs with grease to quiet them down.

    Frame material used make a big difference as recently as 3 years ago. Riding an aluminum and carbon Enduro 29 back to back was very enlightening. On the aluminum bike the front and rear wheel would walk side to side making the bike much less precise at speed in the rough. Today my 2018 SJ Evo aluminum (carbon bars and cranks) and HTLT Carbon (carbon frame, wheels, bars, cranks) weight within a pound of each other and there is no noticeable ride quality difference. There is about a $7K difference is the as built price though. I will say there is a significant difference is shift quality from NX to XX1 though.

    29 vs 275? I will not go back to 275, although I have tried many times. As soon as I get on the smaller wheeled bike I can feel it hanging up on every rock and pitching me forward.

    Gearboxes to me are complex and solve problems that don't really exist. If something goes wrong is a $1K issue instead of a few hundred plus the inability to shift under power automatically kills it for me. About the same way you feel about electronic shifting... Ce la vie!

    Love the feedback and can't wait to see what they rode. Noticed the Intense with the articulating fork right off the bat!

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by IPA Rider View Post
    So what do you think is a sane range for BB height these days?

    Also wondering why you think no one rode the hard tails...because they sucked or because all the riders didn't THINK they wouldn't be any fun?

    BB: Different for rigid, HT, and FS. And if FS, amount of travel matters.

    I don't ride HT's anymore (other than on snow) so I can't opine there, other than to say for deep, soft, sledneck-packed snow trails a low BB works just fine.

    I ride FS full-time, in a fairly chunky/rocky/ledgy place. I think 13.75" is minimum on a ~5" travel bike. Put differently, my current 5" travel bike has a 13.75" BB, and that's as low as I'd want to go living and riding where I do.

    Two of the test bikes (one with 160mm travel and one with 170mm) had flip chips that, when in high mode, set the BB at 14.25" and 14.1", respectively. Those felt great.

    No one rode the HT's because on these trails FS is levels more fun and more capable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by IPA Rider View Post
    Also wondering why you think no one rode the hard tails...because they sucked or because all the riders didn't THINK they wouldn't be any fun?
    Also curious. My guess is nobody expects there to be enough progression/differences between models or across years to notice any marked difference from the last hardtail they rode.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VegasSingleSpeed View Post
    Also curious. My guess is nobody expects there to be enough progression/differences between models or across years to notice any marked difference from the last hardtail they rode.
    Maybe they donít, but that doesnít mean that there isnít.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    Maybe they donít, but that doesnít mean that there isnít.
    =sParty

    The last time I got kicked in the balls sucked.

    Times have changed -- some leather shoes are softer due to fancy pre-treatments.

    That said, I'm pretty sure I still don't want to get kicked in the balls.

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    The last time I got kicked in the balls sucked.

    Times have changed -- some leather shoes are softer due to fancy pre-treatments.

    That said, I'm pretty sure I still don't want to get kicked in the balls.



    That's pretty harsh! Getting kicked in the nuts never comes to mind when I'm riding my hardtail
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    The last time I got kicked in the balls sucked.

    Times have changed -- some leather shoes are softer due to fancy pre-treatments.

    That said, I'm pretty sure I still don't want to get kicked in the balls.
    Riding a hardtail in the PNW is only a glancing blow to the nuts.

  48. #48
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    Well done Mike. This is the best read I've had today. I wish more bike articles were like this. I hope we get more details soon.

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    I'm no pro, but I slam my dropper every ride, any downhill where I want to slam and jam/jump and play, get that seat outta my arse! I'm running a 170mm on both of my bikes, would welcome a 190 if I had the capacity.

    Quote Originally Posted by stiingya View Post
    Thanks for taking the time to post, some great insight.

    Love the part about the droppers, all those "pro" reviews who immediately bag on a frame because it can't fit a 175 dropper for their height always seems ridiculous to me. It always makes me wonder about putting a fork "O-ring" and keeping track how much they actually lower their seat that far down while riding... not just for photo ops!

    I'd bet it's more because it looks cool to have nothing but dropper post showing/slammed insertion!!
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    You can put lipstick on an aardvark, but it don't make it a beauty queen.

    They call em HARDtails for a reason, better geo, droppers, and long travel forks help, but at the end of the day a kick in the nuts is a kick in the nuts.

    n
    Quote Originally Posted by VegasSingleSpeed View Post
    Also curious. My guess is nobody expects there to be enough progression/differences between models or across years to notice any marked difference from the last hardtail they rode.
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    I totally agree with you on BB height. I wish bikes with flip chips would raise The BB by 10+mm on most bikes. That way they can at least be more practical in most places.

  52. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Every time I ride in Moab, Iím amazed at how many rocks are scraped and gouged.

    I was out there last Veterans Day. Iíd go for an easy ride in the morning, literally stopping, drinking coffee and taking pictures. Carrying a backpack with my DSLR, water, coffee mug.

    Every once in a while Iíd take a look at the trail. Iíd see a rock all scraped up and try to figure out how it happened. Iíd go all CSI on it, getting off my bike, looking the distance between my pedal and the rock. I even set my camera up on the mini tripod once and rode into the rock at full speed, pedal down, with 15lbs more on my back than Iíd normally carry, without adjusting anything. Did a couple reps to get the timing down. Looking at the images and using parts on my bike for scale, the closest my pedals came to the rock was just under 2Ē.

    How are people getting their pedals 2Ē closer to the rock? A combination of low B.B., really low tire pressure and super high sag?


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    My Remedy, I love that thing. Id say high BB.
    Crawls over anything I've been able to throw at it.

    Another bike I own, I believe is a much lower BB. I just cannot get a good feel for the bike, and in one ride we just did, on a very NON technical trail, I counted 23 pedal strikes. The trails are narrow and off camber, and as a result I just kept hitting the pedals!

  53. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    The last time I got kicked in the balls sucked.

    Times have changed -- some leather shoes are softer due to fancy pre-treatments.

    That said, I'm pretty sure I still don't want to get kicked in the balls.
    Mike, your analogy might be fair, might not. Makes me think of a "worst day biking is better than the best day working" philosophy. Personally I have zero interest in riding a fat bike but if my universe was covered in snow 4 or 5 months of the year and fat biking was the only biking I could do, I'd do it. In fact given that as my only choice, I'd embrace it, hell I'd immerse myself in it.

    Here in the Pacific NorthWet the saturated sludge produced by endless rain, abrasive soil and infinite dankness takes a terrible toll on suspension components, drivetrains, bearings and every other part of a bicycle. Just as snow-zoners rush to their fat bikes, around here the winter weapon of choice is a rigid or hardtail singlespeed in order to mitigate the destructive effects of winter riding conditions. Otherwise we'd be buying new forks & shocks, replacing pivot bearings, rings & cogs, blah, blah every spring on our expensive bouncy bikes. I'll do whatever I have to do, even if it's taking a kick in the nuts. Meanwhile I'm going to ride the funnest hardtail I can find, and there are some pretty dang progressive hardtails out there these days. Just takes a different mindset. I surrender to it. Hell, I embrace it.

    Once we surrender, it doesn't feel so much like a kick in the nuts.

    I'm not saying I prefer hardtails to FS bikes. I don't. But I find playing the hardtail game can be fun with the right mindset.
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  54. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldHouseMan View Post
    Riding a hardtail in the PNW is only a glancing blow to the nuts.

    PNW is 180* different from where I ride. Agreed that it's more like a glancing blow. Maybe I should have said kick to the shins?

    In the desert southwest where there is zero organic soil -- everything is hard, hard, and more hard -- riding a hardtail (even a 29+ with 120mm travel up front) is a kick in the balls.

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    Is the bottom bracket height or the clearance of the chainring the most important measurement?

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    B.B. height dictates pedal clearance, chainring is all about gearing ďthneed ď.

    I rarely hit my chainring cuz I run a 26t on a high B.B. bike

    Quote Originally Posted by Dale-Calgary View Post
    Is the bottom bracket height or the clearance of the chainring the most important measurement?
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  57. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dale-Calgary View Post
    Is the bottom bracket height or the clearance of the chainring the most important measurement?

    Pedal clearance is more important than chainring clearance. I can buy a new chainring cheap. But toes (and teeth, and shoulders, and wrists...) are a bit more spendy to replace.

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    If practical, that would be worthy. While weíre at it, lets make it 20mm

    Quote Originally Posted by Cerberus75 View Post
    I totally agree with you on BB height. I wish bikes with flip chips would raise The BB by 10+mm on most bikes. That way they can at least be more practical in most places.
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  59. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    Hi stiingya, your comments about dropper length fascinate me because my 185mm dropper is always either all the way up or all the way down, and I use it a lot. Maybe even more than I use my shifter. This might be an exaggeration but maybe not.

    I don't drop my saddle for looks. The terrain I ride is, for the most part, steep up or steep down and I usually need my saddle either under me for climbing support or gone -- 100% one way or the other.

    I guess my fascination with what you've said is that I can't relate to it; this fact makes me think that the type of terrain we (the collective, not necessarily you & me) ride our bikes on must vary quite a bit from one rider to the next. Maybe for some of us the mountain bike is just that -- a bike for riding up & down mountains, while for others "off-road bike" might be a better description. I'm left wondering.
    =sParty
    For sure your riding skill/terrain is probably far beyond myself. I'm a hack at best! But as far as the "my terrain demands it" arguments; back to the OP's point of most DH bike set up. Heck look at most Rampage bike set up? If the seat and post was in their way of a winning Rampage run I'm pretty sure the Utah desert would be littered with em..

    If your using your dropper more than your shifter it makes no sense that every time you drop it has to be over 7 inches down? The seat doesn't need to be 100% out of the way for every little trail feature. Yet because using a dropper is 2nd nature there's usually no reason NOT to drop the post some constantly. A little out of the way is actually better for a lot of people for tech riding, seated or standing. And there are all kinds of times where something pops up around a blind corner that I don't have time to drop the post all 150mm. But I'll still take a quick squat on that sucka and get the seat a little lower.

    Anyway, to each their own, maybe you had a trials background and any hint of a seat is heresy unless seated climbing! For sure body ergo's, frame size/design, riding style and terrain all play a part. My point wasn't that anyone is wrong for wanting a longer dropper. Just that I agree with the OP that it seems a trend that people are jumping on that IMO is at least "sometimes" more about the trend than actual riding requirements. (I'm guilty of that!)

    AND, you gotta admit that "some" people just do stuff for looks. (also guilty of that!) How many bike pictures do you see with the post dropped when the terrain around the bike doesn't look like there is any reason to have the post dropped...? But it looks cool!

    Have a good one!
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  60. #60
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    Seat post drop is terrain and height dependent.
    On my XC with blue/black trails 150 is overkill. In fact I'm faster when I only use 100mm.
    On my normal 2Xblack trails 150 is no where near enough.
    I'm 6'4" 185-200mm is perfect. I'm sure someone shorter than me will have a very different opinion on the optimum length.
    Making shit harder than it needs to be isn't awesome, it's just...harder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post

    I'd like to see much more development and refinement with suspension. IMO it has a long way to go still. There needs to be a way to actually tune suspension to the rider at the end-user, not little knobs that make the shock harsher or more un-ridable, but actually modify the internal valving in a useful way that makes it so you don't have to bear the compromise of something designed for a 150lb weight spread and with actual high and low speed circuits, vs gimmick "quick range" adjusters that are terrible.
    This is a great point!

    There would be a great opportunity for a bike/shock manufacturer to include a "Push" style of tuning service included with the purchase of a new bike. Especially for a "big box" brand who could afford to have loaner shocks available while the customer sent their shock in for service. Buy the bike, ride it for 2 weeks, fill out a "rider survey", etc. Bring your bike back to the shop, shock gets swapped for a loaner and in a month you get a custom tune!

    OR on the flip side, it's a niche a smaller brand could exploit. GG could try expanding their PUSH association with a custom tune added into the cost of the bike. (already do that with the 11-6) They don't build up bikes and let them "sit" anyway. They build to order, so it seems like it would work well with their business?

    And then in either case offer discounted costing on "re tunes" for the first 1-2 years or something so that if a persons riding abilities/weight changed, or just if they regret the decisions they made the first time they could update their suspension without breaking the bank!

    OR at least, big bike brands should have more than one tune available to swap out for rider weight/intent. When I come into the shop at 250, or when another dude walks in at 140 there ought to be a way for the shop to contact the bike manufacturer and get a different shock tune to swap out for the stock "compromised spread" in a reasonable turn around time.

    OR what if they designed with "hot swap" shim stacks that shops could keep in stock and install in a few hours, etc.



    I guess the flip side of this idea is that I've REALLY hated the suspension set ups I've gotten on a few demo/rentals this year. To the point where if it's an air shock I just take the bike and go if at all possible and set up the sus myself. (Not that I'm any good at it!) But three times this year I sure got stiff as board set ups. Maybe they think at 250lbs it's better that I don't ever bottom out the suspension and break something! One dude up in AF put nearly 38lbs of pressure in my tires!!! WTF...??? Maybe the girl at the front desk put 350lbs in the computer instead of 250lbs?

    Anyway, the point of that little ramble at the end is that semi custom suspension tuning could be a great benefit to the customer, but is also another level of trust that would have to be developed.
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    I think what I take from this is that mikesee has had the blessed opportunity to test all these bikes all at once and it really has let him hone and culminate his thoughts about what works for him, in where he rides, which is what matters most.

    Personally, I can't get away with droppers less than 150mm nowadays however 125mm ones were great when they were first launched, years ago. Maybe we get soft, the more tech is thrown at us? All I know is, my gravel bike has a 125mm dropper post and I've considered on more than one occasions about upping that to 150mm...

    BB height has to be subjective and based on where you ride, I ride mainly, fairly technical and rocky areas, I get so frustrated when I strike something on the trail and even moreso with the people that say it's down to technique. It isn't just down to technique, BB's have gotten too low over the past 3-4 years. I'm glad to see them slowly rising again...

    I have absolutely no experience with electronic shifting, I must say I am watching with interest what Sram do in regard to eTap Eagle. I've told my LBS I'll have a shifter and mech when it launches but it is probably at odds with the things I actually like about mountain biking. The, dare I say it, analogue aspects of it. Heck I've largely stopped logging my rides nowadays, I try and stay away from Strava so I don't see how fast I am at becoming slower! Ha! E gears aren't going to encourage me in the same way an ebike wouldn't.

    I do love a high engagement hub but in my years of riding I've gone from wanting the loudest hubs to nowadays wanting as quiet a hub as I can get. I guess as you get older, you don't want to distract from the experience of living and experiencing life? Currently considering Onxy hubs which promise both high engagement and zero drag...

    Don't get me started on frame materials. I have a Pivot Switchblade, which is a lovely bike BUT why does it weigh 3lbs more than my Turner Burner from 4 years ago? I know big wheels and tyres weigh more, but please. The manufacturers seem to over build these days, for the sake of less warranty claims, which I guess kind of makes sense but to me, a carbon bike should be a light bike. My Pivot Les does weigh 21lbs though, but that's the extreme and saved specifically for hot dry, fast laps. I don't buy a bike on how much it does or doesn't weigh though, I can clear a lot more things on a 30lbs AM bike or a steel hardtail than I ever could on my Les. In short I don't care what it is made of these days, I've played with carbon only in the past 4 years or so and I would happily swap for a metal bike given the issues I've also experienced on some of the plastic bikes within that short time.

    I will never go back to small wheels, there is actually no reason to nowadays, at least for me. I have too much fun riding 29ers and 29 plus to consider the poorer rollover of 27.5".

    Again I have next to zero experience of gearboxes, I once considered Rohloff but that was pretty short lived. It would be nice if we could have something light enough to want to run, with zero drag, big range and quiet, reliable shifts without relying on a derailleur that are prone to all their issues, but right now, I'm happy with 12 speed.

    Again these are just my musings, the beauty of life is everyone can have their say towards something.

  63. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by stiingya View Post
    For sure your riding skill/terrain is probably far beyond myself. I'm a hack at best! But as far as the "my terrain demands it" arguments; back to the OP's point of most DH bike set up. Heck look at most Rampage bike set up? If the seat and post was in their way of a winning Rampage run I'm pretty sure the Utah desert would be littered with em..
    You don't need a dropper on a DH bike because you don't need to change the seat height on the fly. It's low all the time (not necessarily bmx low, but significantly lower than XC high post height).


    Look how low Brett's saddle is when he drops in at the start. That's about relatively where my saddle drops to with my 170mm dropper.

  64. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by stiingya View Post
    For sure your riding skill/terrain is probably far beyond myself. I'm a hack at best! But as far as the "my terrain demands it" arguments; back to the OP's point of most DH bike set up. Heck look at most Rampage bike set up? If the seat and post was in their way of a winning Rampage run I'm pretty sure the Utah desert would be littered with em..

    If your using your dropper more than your shifter it makes no sense that every time you drop it has to be over 7 inches down? The seat doesn't need to be 100% out of the way for every little trail feature. Yet because using a dropper is 2nd nature there's usually no reason NOT to drop the post some constantly. A little out of the way is actually better for a lot of people for tech riding, seated or standing. And there are all kinds of times where something pops up around a blind corner that I don't have time to drop the post all 150mm. But I'll still take a quick squat on that sucka and get the seat a little lower.

    Anyway, to each their own, maybe you had a trials background and any hint of a seat is heresy unless seated climbing! For sure body ergo's, frame size/design, riding style and terrain all play a part. My point wasn't that anyone is wrong for wanting a longer dropper. Just that I agree with the OP that it seems a trend that people are jumping on that IMO is at least "sometimes" more about the trend than actual riding requirements. (I'm guilty of that!)

    AND, you gotta admit that "some" people just do stuff for looks. (also guilty of that!) How many bike pictures do you see with the post dropped when the terrain around the bike doesn't look like there is any reason to have the post dropped...? But it looks cool!

    Have a good one!
    Thanks for helping me understand. I've said a hundred times that one of the aspects about cycling that I love most is that each rider is free to create the machine they want and then use it however they like. Mountain biking ain't golf!

    I remember when I got my first dropper post in advance of a trip to Moab back in 2010. I was so unused to riding with a dropper that I forgot to employ it about 80% of the time during that trip. And when I did employ it, I was so used to steering the bike with my thighs that I didn't like the saddle dropped more than about an inch. I had not yet learned how best to exploit the dropper's benefits. I returned home from that trip and sold the dropper.

    Later my friend Ken told me, "You don't just buy a dropper, you have to learn a new way to ride. too. Get a dropper and learn to ride The New Way and you won't have to slow down for corners anymore. The DH guys are onto something and we can learn from them." He was right. I learned to quit steering with my thighs and now I stand whenever I'm not climbing (and sometimes when I am). Whenever I'm standing, the saddle is in my way unless it's down all the way.

    This is what serves me best , anyway. But like I said in my opening paragraph, that's just me. We each make our own way and that's one of the best things about this sport -- there's no wrong way to have fun.

    Cheers,
    =sParty
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  65. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by DethWshBkr View Post
    My Remedy, I love that thing. Id say high BB.
    Crawls over anything I've been able to throw at it.
    The old Remedy 29 is a really REALLY good Swiss Army Knife of a bike!
    Whining is not a strategy.

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    I think dropper post height needs have grown with steeper STA

    For me the height of the dropper needs to drop enough that i can sit on my bike flatfooted when I'm waiting for others or resting. With my short legs and tall bike 150mm works.

  67. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    Thanks for helping me understand. I've said a hundred times that one of the aspects about cycling that I love most is that each rider is free to create the machine they want and then use it however they like. Mountain biking ain't golf!

    I remember when I got my first dropper post in advance of a trip to Moab back in 2010. I was so unused to riding with a dropper that I forgot to employ it about 80% of the time during that trip. And when I did employ it, I was so used to steering the bike with my thighs that I didn't like the saddle dropped more than about an inch. I had not yet learned how best to exploit the dropper's benefits. I returned home from that trip and sold the dropper.

    Later my friend Ken told me, "You don't just buy a dropper, you have to learn a new way to ride. too. Get a dropper and learn to ride The New Way and you won't have to slow down for corners anymore. The DH guys are onto something and we can learn from them." He was right. I learned to quit steering with my thighs and now I stand whenever I'm not climbing (and sometimes when I am). Whenever I'm standing, the saddle is in my way unless it's down all the way.

    This is what serves me best , anyway. But like I said in my opening paragraph, that's just me. We each make our own way and that's one of the best things about this sport -- there's no wrong way to have fun.

    Cheers,
    =sParty
    that mirrors what happened to me - now I can barely ride any trail without one. road and riverside etc fine. the second there any tech, I'm looking to drop my seat.... so it goes!

  68. #68
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    Great writeup!!!!
    As someone who has been away from the Mountain Biking world for 5+ years, I was refreshed to read your perspective on the plethora of categorizations that have emerged in recent years.
    I'm generally cool with seeing progress, but at my core I'm a practically minded person.

    The landscape around Grand Junction is stunning - I used to run Serpent's Tail 3-4 times a week when I lived there. Your ride shots make me miss that area.

    Thanks again for the writeup!!!

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    Late addendum.

    After riding everyone else's idea of bicycle nirvana for the last month and leaving my own bike hanging forlorn all that time, the last 2 nights I've plucked my dream machine off the hook and gotten reacquainted with it.





    2 glorious, golden hour, AHA-I-remember-why-I-love-29+FS-so damn-much rides.





    Testing gee-whiz carbon spaceships with all sorts of buttons, bells, and whistles is awesome and all that, but g'damn am I glad to be back home.

  70. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    After riding everyone else's idea of bicycle nirvana for the last month and leaving my own bike hanging forlorn all that time, the last 2 nights I've plucked my dream machine off the hook and gotten reacquainted with it.

    2 glorious, golden hour, AHA-I-remember-why-I-love-29+FS-so damn-much rides.

    Testing gee-whiz carbon spaceships with all sorts of buttons, bells, and whistles is awesome and all that, but g'damn am I glad to be back home.
    Wait a minute! Ten minutes ago you told us not to get stuck doing the same ol' thang all the time. Now here you go doing exactly that -- returning to your rut.
    =sParty
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  71. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    Wait a minute! Ten minutes ago you told us not to get stuck doing the same ol' thang all the time. Now here you go doing exactly that -- returning to your rut.
    =sParty
    Do as I say, not as I...

    Ahem.

    Butbbutbut -- I stepped outta the rut for a month! And it's such a sweet, smooshy, compliant, capable steamroller of a rut. With 125mm of drop available, whether I need all of it or not...

  72. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    After riding everyone else's idea of bicycle nirvana for the last month and leaving my own bike hanging forlorn all that time, the last 2 nights I've plucked my dream machine off the hook and gotten reacquainted with it.





    2 glorious, golden hour, AHA-I-remember-why-I-love-29+FS-so damn-much rides.





    Testing gee-whiz carbon spaceships with all sorts of buttons, bells, and whistles is awesome and all that, but g'damn am I glad to be back home.
    Now that you have run them for awhile...do the Berg spokes provide the benefit to the degree that you were looking for?

    Pros & cons besides price and weight?
    "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway" John Wayne

  73. #73
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    Finally, I will be able to ride my bicycle correctly:

    https://bikerumor.com/2018/11/14/gra...-dropper-post/
    Whining is not a strategy.

  74. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by SADDLE TRAMP View Post
    Now that you have run them for awhile...do the Berg spokes provide the benefit to the degree that you were looking for?

    Pros & cons besides price and weight?

    I've been on them -- this same wheelset -- for over a year now.

    At this point I don't need reasons *to* ride and recommend them, I need reasons *not* to.

    Take away price and weight and the main benefit is the quality of dampness they bring to your ride. Similar to dropping pressure from your tires, but without the added squirm, low rolling resistance, and increased likelihood of flatting.

  75. #75
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    Always enjoy reading your posts Mike, this is another good one.
    Denver, CO

  76. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    Always enjoy reading your posts Mike, this is another good one.

    You just like seeing pictures of your bike...

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    Quote Originally Posted by stiingya View Post
    For sure your riding skill/terrain is probably far beyond myself. I'm a hack at best! But as far as the "my terrain demands it" arguments; back to the OP's point of most DH bike set up. Heck look at most Rampage bike set up? If the seat and post was in their way of a winning Rampage run I'm pretty sure the Utah desert would be littered with em..

    If your using your dropper more than your shifter it makes no sense that every time you drop it has to be over 7 inches down? The seat doesn't need to be 100% out of the way for every little trail feature. Yet because using a dropper is 2nd nature there's usually no reason NOT to drop the post some constantly. A little out of the way is actually better for a lot of people for tech riding, seated or standing. And there are all kinds of times where something pops up around a blind corner that I don't have time to drop the post all 150mm. But I'll still take a quick squat on that sucka and get the seat a little lower.

    Anyway, to each their own, maybe you had a trials background and any hint of a seat is heresy unless seated climbing! For sure body ergo's, frame size/design, riding style and terrain all play a part. My point wasn't that anyone is wrong for wanting a longer dropper. Just that I agree with the OP that it seems a trend that people are jumping on that IMO is at least "sometimes" more about the trend than actual riding requirements. (I'm guilty of that!)

    AND, you gotta admit that "some" people just do stuff for looks. (also guilty of that!) How many bike pictures do you see with the post dropped when the terrain around the bike doesn't look like there is any reason to have the post dropped...? But it looks cool!

    Have a good one!
    This is why I actually prefer 3 position vs infinite.
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  78. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    You just like seeing pictures of your bike...
    It does look pretty good
    Denver, CO

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    PNW is 180* different from where I ride. Agreed that it's more like a glancing blow. Maybe I should have said kick to the shins?

    In the desert southwest where there is zero organic soil -- everything is hard, hard, and more hard -- riding a hardtail (even a 29+ with 120mm travel up front) is a kick in the balls.
    I ride in Arizona and love my HT. My 29er HT SS gets alot more miles than my 5" trail bike gets. In fact even my 100/100 FS bike gets the most miles per month does not have a dropper post. My trail bike has one, but gets the fewest miles.

    What I see is that most big bike reviews and industry demos are leaving out people like me. I race from time to time, but I also ride multple times a week. I want a light fast nimble bike. I want one that rockets up climbs and is fast overall. I do want light weight. A good HT bike is really fun. I love my HT, but got a short travel FS earlier to simply go faster on chunky trails. It not for riding on trails I can't do on my HT. I have 5" bike for really nasty stuff, but frankly I don't ride it much since it too heavy and boring for most trails. That bike is 30lbs and my two others are 22-23lbs.

    I can appreciate that not everyone rides like I do, but it seems like very few reviews seem to care. They seem to think only racer weenies like certain things and nobody "cool" want to be racer weenie. Well fact is most riders are not big chunk riders anyway, but they read publications about big travel bikes and think they need one when most of their local trails don't and thus are left dragging a heavy pig of a bike up a hill just to go smoothly down the otherside.

    Just my grip on this.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

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    Well, is there nothing reviewed that works for your needs?

    That would be surprising unless your needs are too broad for one bike to encompass.

    Light, inexpensive, durable: Pick two, as the adage goes...

    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    I want a light fast nimble bike.
    Lrg GG Pedalhead 29/27+
    XMed GG Smash 29/27+
    Lrg Devinci Hendrix 27+ (Loaner)
    Pivot Shuttle 27+ (wife)

  81. #81
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    Well, is there nothing reviewed that works for your needs?

    That would be surprising unless your needs are too broad for one bike to encompass.

    Light, inexpensive, durable: Pick two, as the adage goes...
    I don't know what was reviewed, but it seems little in 100mm or less travel range. Occasionally I see light bike reviewed stand alone, but never a group of 4-5 light short travel bikes including HT bikes. The cloest thing I have seen is comparison of the Giant Anthem Pro29 and S Works Epic from Australia.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

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    I was pretty deadest on my new hardtail being 27.5+ but now idk, you've made me want a 29er


    Wish I had the option to test some out before buying >.< Im sure i'll enjoy whichever option I go with so idk why this decision is stressing me.

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    There are some good discussions on this bike genre in the 29er forum, take a look around.

    My impression, based on searching for a similar bike, is that the current crop of short travel FS bikes is about as good as it's been in a long time, esp the more progressive trail styled bikes.

    Maybe you're reading the wrong reviews?

    Now if you're looking for bikes with less that 100mm, that may be tough cuz few people are interested in that sort of bike; almost getting into the "why bother" realm. A better choice might be a 100mm xc bike with a lockout suspension.

    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    I don't know what was reviewed, but it seems little in 100mm or less travel range. Occasionally I see light bike reviewed stand alone, but never a group of 4-5 light short travel bikes including HT bikes. The cloest thing I have seen is comparison of the Giant Anthem Pro29 and S Works Epic from Australia.
    Lrg GG Pedalhead 29/27+
    XMed GG Smash 29/27+
    Lrg Devinci Hendrix 27+ (Loaner)
    Pivot Shuttle 27+ (wife)

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    What was the tire and rim widths on the 29+ bike that was well received?

    I ride a few times a week on rocky, rooty, twisty central PA single track. Lots of pedaling not much long downhill. I like my Canfield EPO on those trails with midweight 2.35 tires. A new trail system in Hershey just opened that has many yards or trail with fist sized rocks. Big time aerobic workout trails. The best rider I watched was on a 29+ hard tail. I'll never catch that person but I'm rethinking tire width too.

    Also, with trails that require a lot of pedaling in 2,3,4th gears the engagement is more noticeable. But for me the Hope pro 4s seem about right. A little loud but I still sneak up and get face to face with deer. There can be an issue with 4 sealed bearings in a hub. They take months to wear in and loosen up.

    Thanks for the insights!

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    Quote Originally Posted by scycllerist View Post
    What was the tire and rim widths on the 29+ bike that was well received?

    Bontrager XR2's in 29 x 3.0 on Nox Kitsuma 36mm internal rims.
    Last edited by mikesee; 2 Weeks Ago at 08:55 AM.

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    I do appreciate your writeup and your experience is a good read for those that are deciding on a new bike or just general reading to make you think about many of your points.

    I'll agree on the 29 as my brand new bike is much better than my older 27.5" for just about everything as it should be. It also is a bike that I bought to enjoy the downhills more so I 'think' it has a lower bottom bracket but I'm okay with that and I have had zero problem with strikes. It had to be a decent pedalling bike for the uphills as at 50 I'll take all the help I can get in that area. Now here is my question for you, what are some(3?) bike examples that would meet your criteria for bottom bracket height that is also a good climber and all around bike? Lets use 29", longer travel (140m+), and can still climb and is not primarily the bike to choose for the shuttle crowd.

    And lastly I'll respectfully disagree on the long droppers as the more room I have the better/easier the downhills are.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AshBorer View Post
    I was pretty deadest on my new hardtail being 27.5+ but now idk, you've made me want a 29er


    Wish I had the option to test some out before buying >.< Im sure i'll enjoy whichever option I go with so idk why this decision is stressing me.
    Plenty of hardtails out there can be setup as either 29 or 27.5+. You can get a decent 29 wheelset for not that much money--a Bontrager line comp wheelset has 29mm wide rims, 54 POE, and will run you $300. Not the lightest or fanciest but wide and good engagement (than can even be upgraded to 108 POE down the line) to give you a good feel of what riding a 29er wheelset is like. Like was mentioned above--ride both, figure out what you like before you spend a ton of money on something, and then spend some cash on what you know you get on with.

    I basically was in the same boat as you last year--I really thought I wanted a 27.5+ bike. I bought an NS Djambo Evo, set it up 27.5+ and didn't quite get on with it. Tried a friends 29er wheels with it and loved it. Bought myself a nice pair of wheels for it, rode it for a season, and recently switched to a FS 29er.
    Patrick

  88. #88
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dale-Calgary View Post
    I do appreciate your writeup and your experience is a good read for those that are deciding on a new bike or just general reading to make you think about many of your points.

    I'll agree on the 29 as my brand new bike is much better than my older 27.5" for just about everything as it should be. It also is a bike that I bought to enjoy the downhills more so I 'think' it has a lower bottom bracket but I'm okay with that and I have had zero problem with strikes. It had to be a decent pedalling bike for the uphills as at 50 I'll take all the help I can get in that area. Now here is my question for you, what are some(3?) bike examples that would meet your criteria for bottom bracket height that is also a good climber and all around bike? Lets use 29", longer travel (140m+), and can still climb and is not primarily the bike to choose for the shuttle crowd.

    And lastly I'll respectfully disagree on the long droppers as the more room I have the better/easier the downhills are.
    Appropriate BB heights are location dependent. I can't imagine climbing some of the stuff I used to ride in Tucson on a 5-6" travel bike with a 13.2" unsagged BB but I can get away with it just fine in Santa Cruz.
    The glass is twice as large as it needs to be

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    Cool to read such an experienced rider's preferences and notes.

    For sure it's terrain and rider dependent, but especially agree on the BB height issue, and definitely disagree on the dropper length point. Also, dropping a post for style? That's new to me unless you are talking still photos.

    I've only seen one Di2 shifted bike on the trails and the rider was experienced, and greatly preferred the shifting and gave lots of reasons why. If E-tap provides an improvement in my ability to shift under load with no real weight gain, I'm 100% in.

    As far as Fox Live Valve, well they bolted it to low end suspension components on to bikes that don't seem to need it much. At this time there is more to be gained by just buying a great pedaling bike, and adding high quality suspension tuned by Avalanche or the like to optimize performance. That said, it's likely in our future as this is only the first iteration.

  90. #90
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    Having come off of a 27.5 FS that I used to thrash to a 29er I somewhat agree with the OP that 29er is the way to go. I also tend to agree re BB height.

    prev bike was 339 this one is 352. I don't notice an iota of difference in handling / cornering really but I can be much more care free with pedalling where I couldn't before and taking stupid lines without hitting the chain ring etc.

    I haven't raced this bike yet (RM instinct bc edition) but intend to next month. the 29er wheels really do roll better over roots. haven't yet had any traction issues where I would have on the 27.5 and the speed on the 29er is immense. you don't need big straights to open it up either.

  91. #91
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    It's comical how low the BBs have gotten, to the point where you can't "relax" at all and drop a pedal slightly, because you'll snag it, possibly ejecting you, breaking pedals/cranks, etc. The handling is nice at times, but this new feature gets old at times too when the edge of the trail is hard to see and obscured by weeds and the such. Climbing and you go over a relatively small root and your pedal bangs it and you are saying "wtf?, that root was only 2" high!?".
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  92. #92
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    I havenít been to a bike demo in three years which for me is a huge shift. Like you said, bikes have become so good it makes it difficult to find any meaningful differences which kinda took the fun out of reviewing them (It also helps me be content with the awesome bike I have). But if someone were to drop off 15-20 new bikes in my garage for a month or two of testing I wouldnít complain either.

    Good insights on some of the newest trends, Mike.

    I donít care what length dropper post one prefers but I see no downside to shorter seat tubes that will accept whatever dropper post is preferred. Same with shorter head tubes. Itís easier to add spacers (within reason) than try and shorten stack height on a bike with too long of head tube.

    In response to high engagement hubs increasing drag: Two words: sprague clutch. The Onyx hubs are a bit heavy but engagement is instant, they are dead silent, and they spin for days.

    29er vs 27.5? Iím perfectly happy with my puny 27.5Ē wheels... until I ride a 29er (see my introductory statement about bike demos).

    Thanks for the good read, Mike. So few things truly engage me here anymore.


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  93. #93
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    Quote Originally Posted by KRob View Post
    I havenít been to a bike demo in three years which for me is a huge shift. Like you said, bikes have become so good it makes it difficult to find any meaningful differences which kinda took the fun out of reviewing them (It also helps me be content with the awesome bike I have). But if someone were to drop off 15-20 new bikes in my garage for a month or two of testing I wouldnít complain either.

    Good insights on some of the newest trends, Mike.

    I donít care what length dropper post one prefers but I see no downside to shorter seat tubes that will accept whatever dropper post is preferred. Same with shorter head tubes. Itís easier to add spacers (within reason) than try and shorten stack height on a bike with too long of head tube.

    In response to high engagement hubs increasing drag: Two words: sprague clutch. The Onyx hubs are a bit heavy but engagement is instant, they are dead silent, and they spin for days.

    29er vs 27.5? Iím perfectly happy with my puny 27.5Ē wheels... until I ride a 29er (see my introductory statement about bike demos).

    Thanks for the good read, Mike. So few things truly engage me here anymore.


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    I was wondering what happened to you. For what it's worth I enjoyed reading your reviews since it was coming from someone that wasn't an 'insider'.
    OG Ripley v2

  94. #94
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoTone View Post
    I was wondering what happened to you. For what it's worth I enjoyed reading your reviews since it was coming from someone that wasn't an 'insider'.
    Thanks. Yep still around. Just riding and not posting or geeking out over new bikes and bits (much).


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    I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth...
    Isaiah 58:14

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  95. #95
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    PNW is 180* different from where I ride. Agreed that it's more like a glancing blow. Maybe I should have said kick to the shins?

    In the desert southwest where there is zero organic soil -- everything is hard, hard, and more hard -- riding a hardtail (even a 29+ with 120mm travel up front) is a kick in the balls.
    A couple years ago, out of necessity, I rode my hardtail on a week long Moab trip. Itís definitely a kick to the nuts, not the shins, to ride a hardtail in the desert SW.

  96. #96
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    I live in the SW desert and have only ridden hardtails, always a fun time. Ignorance is bliss I guess.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  97. #97
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    Onyx are great, kinda heavy, expensive, but a nice ride. I had three sets, all 150/177, sold em when I got out of fat bikes, switched to DT Swiss which weighs less and works quite well.

    Quote Originally Posted by KRob View Post
    I havenít been to a bike demo in three years which for me is a huge shift. Like you said, bikes have become so good it makes it difficult to find any meaningful differences which kinda took the fun out of reviewing them (It also helps me be content with the awesome bike I have). But if someone were to drop off 15-20 new bikes in my garage for a month or two of testing I wouldnít complain either.

    Good insights on some of the newest trends, Mike.

    I donít care what length dropper post one prefers but I see no downside to shorter seat tubes that will accept whatever dropper post is preferred. Same with shorter head tubes. Itís easier to add spacers (within reason) than try and shorten stack height on a bike with too long of head tube.

    In response to high engagement hubs increasing drag: Two words: sprague clutch. The Onyx hubs are a bit heavy but engagement is instant, they are dead silent, and they spin for days.

    29er vs 27.5? Iím perfectly happy with my puny 27.5Ē wheels... until I ride a 29er (see my introductory statement about bike demos).

    Thanks for the good read, Mike. So few things truly engage me here anymore.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Lrg GG Pedalhead 29/27+
    XMed GG Smash 29/27+
    Lrg Devinci Hendrix 27+ (Loaner)
    Pivot Shuttle 27+ (wife)

  98. #98
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Bontrager XR4's in 29 x 3.0 on Nox Kitsuma 36mm internal rims.
    Obviously a high end build.

  99. #99
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    Informative postóthanks! I have not attended an Inter-Biker or Outer-Bike , or similar event, so very helpful to hear about the challenges being able to ride THE bike that one has targeted.

    Agree that MTBikes have never been better. I hear a lot of claims that a 150-160mm travel 29er can climb as well as the 3-4Ēversions from several years ago. That is amazingóno point in settling (not referring to serious racing bikes though). However, I still enjoy a HT, if for nothing else as a low maintenance muck bike, especially if set up SS, still a niche not a genre.

    Another example of the improvement in bikes, at least for me recently was being able to test ride anEMTBike on my favorite trail. I am riding this thing and pushing it as hard as I can physically and thinking that this bikeís effective limits (including rider) are maybe an order of magnitude greater than what I am riding? Not to derail this thread, but if anything Iíll get my wife one so she is more likely to get out there if she can ride circles around me.


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  100. #100
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    I agree with a lot of your observations.

    -Low BB combined with 175mm cranks is an issue. IDK why so many mfg'ers spec 175s.

    -For hubs I agree you get used to engagement but fast is nice. Project 321 have both fast engagement and very low drag. The low drag is more noticeable than I thought it would be, even vs DT Swiss. Onyx will have a rear hub 1/2 lb lighter vs their current hub soon.

    -For bar height I've found it depends a lot, I liked a higher bar height with my previous bike but my current bike works for me much better with lower bar height. IDK why. Bikes were 27.5" Trek Slash vs 29er Slash. Very different bikes despite both having the same name. I had a hard time cornering w/ the 9er before lowering bar height. However, I wouldn't be surprised if both bikes had the same bar height measured from the ground.

    -Frame material... I'd prefer Aluminum. Too many rocks fly up and hit my bike, alum is cheaper.

    Drivetrain... With Eagle GX having a perfectly good RD for ~$100 I don't worry about hitting it quite as much as I used to. And I'd prefer not to spend big $on gearboxes.

    Bikes are so good these days I don't see the advantage of spending big $ anymore either, I have a Trek Slash 9.9 but have got rid of the carbon rims and cranks, and would probably buy an Aluminum Slash complete bike for about the same price as the 9.9 frame cost if I were buying a new bike tomorrow.

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