When did 29ers get good?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    When did 29ers get good?

    I wasn't mt biking when 29ers came out, I have heard the early ones didn't handle well. I ride a stache now and would like to try a dual suspension 29er. I want to get an older high end bike, how old is too old? It's a second bike for fun.

  2. #2
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    All depends on what you want to use it for/where you ride. If you are looking second hand, a Ripley LS is a good multi purpose bike. Very good all rounder, but would be a under gunned for park riding. Great climbing bike, very playful, can handle some pretty rough terrain as well

  3. #3
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    The first "good" 29er was arguably the Original Santa Cruz Tallboy. Handled well, not like a schoolbus. Released 2009.

    The Tallboy 2 was even better. Haven't ridden the TB3, but a couple of friends have them and they love the bike.

    There are some deals out there on the TB3 since the TB4 just came out.
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  4. #4
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    When they stopped fitting front derailleurs by stretching the wheelbase by 2".
    "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

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  5. #5
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    That is a tough question. Like billb0872 mentioned, it all depends what you are going to use it for and what do you consider good. Like pretty much most mountain bikes over the last 30 years, they have gone through a constant transition to what we have today. Great handling 29ers have been around for a long time now and you would really have to dig to find something bad. It might not have modern geometry, but that is a whole different thing.

    I bought and built up a Vassago Jabberwocky in 2008 and that model had been around for a couple years. I loved that thing and would still be riding it, if I had not cracked the frame a couple years ago.

    A little 29er history Guitar Ted had written about if you are interested. Broken into several parts, with continuing parts under the 2010 Blog Archive on the bottom right side of the page.

    Guitar Ted Productions: Friday News And Views

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    I ride xc, my main trail has some really rocky areas. I'm on a 2017 stache 9

  7. #7
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    First FS 29er I had was a '14 Fuel EX.

    If you're a Trek guy and want a trail bike than I wouldnt go earlier. That's 3 gens back now but it still has many fans for it's design.

  8. #8
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    Somewhere around 2008/2009 in my opinion. I still have one from that era- not as slacked out, short stemmed, etc. as with a lot of what we see today but certainly rideable for most of what I hit on a regular basis.

    My only complaint about the modern frame geometries is the frequency of pedal strikes and chainring hits unless you go 5-6" travel. Bikes with less travel back 10 years ago had plenty of clearance.
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  9. #9
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    The first 29er I rode was custom built Titus back in 200....4? It was good enough for me to want a 29er immediately. If you find some used stuff for sale, particularly local to you, ask folks if you can go for a ride with them and try the bike out.

  10. #10
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    My take: the first good production 29er was the original Kona Honzo (2012). Rider friendly angles, generous top tube, short chainstays, 1x drivetrain. The Process 111 was the full suspension equivalent.

    Before that most 29ers had too long rear triangles with too steep/short front ones. It probably worked for L & XL sizes but the rest felt like you were towing something behind.

    Then everybody tried to incorporate super short chainstays in order to make 29ers fun. Later front triangles got longer, head angles slacker, and here we are now, able to afford having long chainstays again. Most companies finally figured out that it's not about following short/long geometry trends, but putting the rider in the center of the wheelbase.

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    My ‘06 Salsa el Mariachi was pretty darn good. Platinum OX, single speedable. Great handling and comfortable. Kinda wish I’d held onto that frame & fork.

    That said, your Stache is a sweet bike. Awesome handling, 29+ ready, reliable, versatile (single speedable). I ride with a guy who was die hard dual suspension-only. He begrudgingly tried a Stache and no longer rides the squish.

    Unless you want to go maximum-fast on the really chunky downhills and/or do big drops, I’d put the extra money into a sweet new wheelset or suspension fork (if you’re into that kinda thing)...

  12. #12
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    Answers to this question are meaningless until OP clarifies: “good for what”?

    For example, 29ers have been good for XC racing far longer than for DH racing.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by justwan naride View Post
    My take: the first good production 29er was the original Kona Honzo (2012). Rider friendly angles, generous top tube, short chainstays, 1x drivetrain. The Process 111 was the full suspension equivalent.

    Before that most 29ers had too long rear triangles with too steep/short front ones. It probably worked for L & XL sizes but the rest felt like you were towing something behind.

    Then everybody tried to incorporate super short chainstays in order to make 29ers fun. Later front triangles got longer, head angles slacker, and here we are now, able to afford having long chainstays again. Most companies finally figured out that it's not about following short/long geometry trends, but putting the rider in the center of the wheelbase.
    Yeah, there were several landmark 29ers that changed the "rules" around that time. Process 111 was one of them, Specialized Enduro was another. They were still designing for front derailleurs, but finally going to unique solutions, rather than just stretching the stays to 18.5". Then somewhere in the 2014 timeframe they stopped including front derailleurs and that really freed up the designers.

    For hardtails, a "few" had it right for a long time, like the Surly Karate Monkey with it's 16.75" stays, but by and large most manufacturers were "lazy" and just "stretched" the stays of all their 29ers, hardtail and FS, to fit front derailleurs.

    We were stuck for years with goofy 29ers that struggled to get more than 4" of travel and crazy long chainstays. Things started getting good around 2013 or so IMO.
    "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

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  14. #14
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    Good or just not that bad?

    29ers are still a lot of wheel, better for short travel applications, but I stick with 27.5 for the big stuff.

    I’d look at bikes in the last two years, after the longer/lower/slacker generation began.
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  15. #15
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    I don't think it was possible to build a good 'all purpose' 29er until about 2012 or so. If you can't get a gravity-oriented fork and some 900g tires then you're locked in XC land no matter what, and it was senseless for manufacturers to build a frame for components that don't exist. It wasn't until about 2015 that manufacturers weren't intentionally crippling their 29ers, in order to better fit riders' preconceptions. Standout bikes like that enduro or the OG tallboy... they wouldn't be competitive in the 2019 marketplace.

    Honestly i think the stache is a more competent bike than a 4 year old 29er FS unless you're doing marathon riding or you're just a crappy bike handler. That's both kudos to the stache and shade for older 29ers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    Good or just not that bad?

    29ers are still a lot of wheel, better for short travel applications, but I stick with 27.5 for the big stuff.

    I’d look at bikes in the last two years, after the longer/lower/slacker generation began.
    Ha ha ur short.

    But seriously, i agree with you 100%.
    Last edited by scottzg; 12-17-2019 at 11:27 PM. Reason: clarity (not like anyone is ever gonna notice this edit)
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  16. #16
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    What is your budget.
    Are you really considering a 10 year old bike?

    Your question is vague and you are getting comments that span the horizon of bicycles from "they were good in 2009" to "get one that is a couple years old".

    I ride a 2016 29er on all kinds of terrain. I don't know which conditions I ride in that suck and I don't know what bike would be better.

    Find a good bike that isn't falling apart. Look for parts that you can still replace (not out of date technology) and one that fits in your budget.

    Then ride it and enjoy it.
    Also to be considered: a full suspension may not by your "2nd bike for fun" and could easily become your first and foremost go-to bike. Most full suspension bikes are preferable over a 29er full suspension.

    I have no favorite between my Chameleon plus tire 27.5 and 29er FS Stumpjumper. The Chameleon is now a year old, I have about 700 miles on it, and still have at least as many on the full suspension. My bikes get equal love.

  17. #17
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    I wouldn't buy a bike with suspension components more than 4 years old, independent of whether it's a 29er/27.5/26. Exceptions are if I was planning on replacing the suspension anyway. Maintenance on full suspension isn't trivial.

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    How tall are you? How steep are your climbs?

    Quote Originally Posted by mlx john View Post
    The first "good" 29er was arguably the Original Santa Cruz Tallboy. Handled well, not like a schoolbus. Released 2009....
    ^^This^^ I'd have to agree. Threw a leg over a dozen niners before this bike and thought meh or worst. There were a few custom Jones, Desalvo, and IF, yes not built for me but still they all handled really awkwardly and my toes got buzzed on most all of them.

    I'm only 5'8" and really dig the bikes of the last 2 years with short chainstays and steep seat tubes. I would not mind even shorter chainstays but I know taller riders think they are too short now.

  19. #19
    Hoolie Ghoulie on Strava.
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    Niners got pretty good in 2009, bikes by NINER were great. I rode a used SIR 9 singlespeed, and moved on to three different NINER ONE 9 frames. Setup with 140 fork it solves alot of geometry issues if that is important to you. Its always fun to pass people DH on $7500 bikes when I am on a capable inexpensive singlespeed. Of course the new bikes in the last 3 years or so are insanely great bikes. As billb0782 pointed out in post 2, it all depends on what you want to do, and what kind of hills you have.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kansas Rider View Post
    I wasn't mt biking when 29ers came out, I have heard the early ones didn't handle well. I ride a stache now and would like to try a dual suspension 29er. I want to get an older high end bike, how old is too old? It's a second bike for fun.
    If you set your criteria as having through axle and boost. . . .
    . . . . . . . .

  21. #21
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    To scatterbrained point, you could spend alot. But check this out, I have a modern Ripmo carbon framed super bike with 42mm wide (external) carbon rims. Stiff enough bike if thats what you like. I USED to have a Flexy Steel NINER SIR 9 hardtail. 9mm QR front axle, 24 spoked wheels w/ 22mm rims, and 32mm stanchion forks. Btm bracket could be pushed an inch left or right, that bike was like a wet noodle. Front tire could be pulled over to touch side of fork (2.25 narrow tires). I am a super fast rider, expert level or more, been riding trails since about 1974. All the talk of stiffness is overrated. Flexy bikes like what I just described are just as fast and accurate, but it takes time to get used to riding that type of bike, and some skill. You dont "point and shoot" as much as "plan and execute", Then correct constantly. Hey, Its a fun type of bike to experiment with. Once the lightbulb goes off, older flexy bikes are super fun. Just get a well reviewed quality bike, for cheap if need be. Dont buy into the stiffness hype for a 2nd bike. But test ride for sure, as the geometry is weird on older bikes (over fork it, and its fine). Buy for fun. Have fun, and keep us posted down the road on your experience.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by justwan naride View Post
    My take: the first good production 29er was the original Kona Honzo (2012). Rider friendly angles, generous top tube, short chainstays, 1x drivetrain. The Process 111 was the full suspension equivalent.

    Before that most 29ers had too long rear triangles with too steep/short front ones. It probably worked for L & XL sizes but the rest felt like you were towing something behind.

    Then everybody tried to incorporate super short chainstays in order to make 29ers fun. Later front triangles got longer, head angles slacker, and here we are now, able to afford having long chainstays again. Most companies finally figured out that it's not about following short/long geometry trends, but putting the rider in the center of the wheelbase.
    I agree with 2012 being the start of 29ers that moved into the mainstream as good handling bikes that were fun to ride. The gen 1 Satori predated the P111 as the full susension Honzo. The Process came later and took the geometry to the next level.

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  23. #23
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    29ers got truly top tier, when their front centers (distance of the front wheel from the BB) got long enough to balance out their longer CS. A lot of manufacturers hit one sweet spot of 435mm CS with 1230mm WB (FC is WB minus horizontal CS). Before this happened, the short CS bikes were the hot ones changing peoples' minds, such as the Trek Stache and the Canfield Riot. There were compromises to get shorter CS though, such as reduced tire clearance (or weaker elevated CS).

    Generally, 29ers were recognized as not being ideal for shorties due to geo issues. Some said they felt like steering a bus. Some XC race teams, like Sho-Air, were nicknamed No-Air. Despite this, people could not deny that the wheel size had advantages, such as getting faster times due to keeping momentum over bumps. Just that they saw undesirable trade-offs that outnumbered the benefits.

    Some people never rode a top tier 26 (e.g. Stumpjumper FSR EVO 26, in my case) to understand why XC 29ers in smaller sizes lacked capability. It's hard for people to cope with losing a power that they once had, such as the ability to be naturally/consistently rad on a well-dialed bike. People just assumed that XC bikes weren't intended to get air, and accepted the fact that they will go OTB often, that it was their responsibility to gain skill to prevent that. Their ignorance to what is now called progressive geo was cute, in how they defended what they were fanbois of, concluding that giving up gravity-capability was a trade-off for climbing efficiency, and being skeptical of anything that tried to claim it had both.

    The short stem trend helped to improve such 29ers, by reducing the front-heaviness of the bike that made it OTB prone. Slackening the bike and overforking also reduced the front-heaviness of the bikes too, by increasing the front center. This weight bias has a hugely underestimated role in bike handling ease, with ignorant folk claiming that riders are never static and can move around on the bike to adjust it. I argue that with good weight balance, a rider can stay relatively static and let the bike pitch up/down over obstacles--you can witness this in videos of elite riders, with how calm some of them look.

    Tall guys were raving about short travel 29ers too, since they seemingly rivaled the capability of long travel small wheeled bikes. Larger sizes had the same CS length as smaller sizes, but longer front centers, making the 29ers less front-heavy, and reaching a balance of 60:40 weight bias (60% rearward) which I argue is dialed for aggressive riding; any more rearward and the front requires weighting to prevent washout in corners (any more forward, and you increase OTB risk). Plus they could brag about how others are overbiked, with how they require less travel to do the same kind of advanced riding.

    That and it took tires a long time to catch up to what was hot in smaller wheel sizes. People were appalled by the thought of rotating weight and rolling resistance. They adopted tubeless, to ditch tubes, yet shunned UST. It was shitty... models like the Minions, and some education by tests that proved that wider tires weren't slower, helped open some up to the idea of 29ers that could compete against standards like the Santa Cruz Nomad.

    No coincidence that once 29ers entered DH racing successfully, that 29er skepticism began to diminish. Geo is still wonky, but the bike of the year picks I've seen so far, such as the one listed at pinkbike, agree with my idea of a good CS to WB proportion for good balance.

    I ride mediums, at 5' 7", and if my bikes were lost, I'd pick this Marin Rift Zone as a replacement trail bike:

    https://www.jensonusa.com/Marin-Rift-Zone-2-Bike-2020


    If I had lofty ambitions, my eyes would be on the Privateer 161 in size 2 (or the Marin Alpine Trail in Med):

    https://www.privateerbikes.com/products/privateer-161

    If you are a different height, I wouldn't recommend the Rift Zone to you, since the other sizes don't have the same balance as the Med, due to the differing WB, but the Privateer balances the CS length on each size. The Forbidden Druid is an option no matter the size/height. If you were shorter, I'd suggest the Arc8 Extra. If you were taller, there are a TON of choices in L, from the Ibis Ripmo, Canyon Strive, most Santa Cruz models, Diamondback Release, Norco Optic, Starling Murmur, etc. If you were XL, I'd suggest the Kona Hei Hei.

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  25. #25
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    For my preferences and my application, when I demo'd 29ers in 2015 or so, I didn't find one I liked. In 2018 or so I liked all of the 29ers I tried.

  26. #26
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    Handling not like a bus is fine, I suspect the Stache will remain my favorite bike. If for some reason I dig the rear suspension I think I would sell it and find a newer one.

    Something like this, I haven't found the geo for it.
    https://wichita.craigslist.org/bik/d...019041436.html

  27. #27
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    There were fun bikes before 2012. I have no recollection of when I bought it, but I had a Lenz Behemoth sometime plus or minus 2010: chainstays under 17"; 68 headtube angle when the bigs were still making 70 headtube angles; bottom bracket close to 14". It was fun and very competent, one of the first of its genre. If you could fine one of those of any year, you couldn't go wrong for a back up bike. Some will be 135, some will follow the wheel spacing evolution.

  28. #28
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    I tried them when Gary Fisher came out with them mass market. It was horrible at my 5’7" height. Didn’t ride a 29er again till 2017. Rode Niner Jet 9. Couldn’t believe it was 29! Tested Fuel ex 8 same year, hated it. Hit my knees in the parking lot just turning circles. Ordered a 29"abajo peak. Couldn’t believe the difference.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by justwan naride View Post
    My take: the first good production 29er was the original Kona Honzo (2012).
    Which was a shameless, nearly exact copy of the canfield yelli screamy. The brothers are still waiting for that check from Kona.

  30. #30
    Nat
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    I was an early adopter and have been on 29ers since 2004. I've had fun since day #1.

  31. #31
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    That is a good question.

    I spent significant time testing a 29er for XC racing fall 2011. After two months decided that 29ers were crap and committed to 26. In fall 2012 tested a 26, 27.5, and 29 for a couple of months again. The 29er felt better than the previous year but the 27.5 felt really good. Fall 2016 tested a 29er again, and it felt really good, switched to 29.

    What I don't know is did the bikes get better or did my idea of what a good handling bike is change.

    I still have a 26inch bike from 2011 that I ride occasionally. According to Strava I use to ride that bike really fast, now when I ride it I am just trying to survive.
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  32. #32
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    Personally if I was going to get an older fun fast 29er dually it would be either a Ripley or an Evil Following.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdundee View Post
    Personally if I was going to get an older fun fast 29er dually it would be either a Ripley or an Evil Following.
    “Older?”

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by evasive View Post
    “Older?”
    Yup, what are the first generations around 2014/2015? I do know they can be had fairly reasonable. To me at least they are the first ones I really enjoyed. My Process 111 was alright but didn't pedal as well and was very heavy. My Tallboy ltc gen one pedaled good but had a major identity crises. I also thought these two where more fun than any of the older Niners I had as well. So yes I consider these older and leaders of the pack for fun 29ers.

  35. #35
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    i don't know when they first became "good", but i was sold after my first ride on a 2007 KHS solo one.

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    The idea that you can point to a date and say "29ers from this time were good" is ridiculous. There have been decent 29ers for 10 years, plenty mentioned above. There have also been terrible ones in that time. Compare Treks's 29er Fuel Ex with Giant's Trance X 29, both from 2013ish. The Fuel was a great bike and would still be a good ride now. The Trance X 29 was an abomination that should never have been made.

  37. #37
    Nat
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdundee View Post
    Yup, what are the first generations around 2014/2015?
    I demo'ed this prototype Intense 29er FS in 2006:

    When did 29ers get good?-moab-2006-009.jpg

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nat View Post
    I demo'ed this prototype Intense 29er FS in 2006:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I was referring to the first generation of the Ripley and the Following, man tough crowd here.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdundee View Post
    I was referring to the first generation of the Ripley and the Following, man tough crowd here.
    Okay, cool. You didn't say that though so I misunderstood what you meant.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nat View Post
    Okay, cool. You didn't say that though so I misunderstood what you meant.
    Yeah it was kinda mixed in and confusing with all the replies.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottzg View Post

    Ha ha ur short.

    But seriously, i agree with you 100%.
    6’/200#

    ... and I noticed your edit 🙄
    GG Shred Dogg 27+/29 (go fast!)
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  42. #42
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    Tough to point to one particular year and even bike for that matter. Everyone has a different opinion on when and what based on riding history. It took me until 2014 to step up to a decent 29er that I really liked...the GT Zaskar 100 9r. Never looked back and am starting a 2nd 29 build with a new 17 Fuel EX 9.9 frame. I also own a Stache that I love but wanted another full sus bike since I handed by Zaskar down to my 16 year old! IMO, I would stick with Trek and go with a 16 or 17 Fuel EX any model used. Your call.
    17 Fuel EX 9.9 (in progress)
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  43. #43
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    After my 20" BMX days, I went to 26" MTB.
    Any 26er I rode, always felt a little small. I'm 6'2" with looooong legs.
    I rode a 29er and I felt like Superman. Riding was like floating on air and effortless.
    I went out and got a Trek XCaliber 8 and never regretted going to 29.

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    There are still Following MB and Ripley LS frames available out there. Both solid as the backbone of a great 29er.

  45. #45
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    Loved my 2008 Gary Fissure Ferrous 29er, only issue was the seat tube cracking problem. Went through 3 of them. The geo was really snappy and responsive.
    anything Steel

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    Maybe I'm just weird, but I liked my 2006 Karate Monkey from day 1. Always ran it SS or 1X, so I could shove the rear wheel full forward to get reasonably short CS. I never had issues with how the front end handled, either. Overall, I liked the handling just as much as the 26" hard-tail it replaced. I rode it rigid or with an 80mm fork. It has been retired for the past 4 years after I pulled the wheels from it for a gravel build and then a bunch of other parts for other projects, but I still enjoyed it thoroughly up until then.

    On the other hand, every time I demoed a FS 29er back then, I felt like I was driving a bus, and that remained the case for a long time.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  47. #47
    Elitest thrill junkie
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    Quote Originally Posted by kapusta View Post
    Maybe I'm just weird, but I liked my 2006 Karate Monkey from day 1. Always ran it SS or 1X, so I could shove the rear wheel full forward to get reasonably short CS. I never had issues with how the front end handled, either. Overall, I liked the handling just as much as the 26" hard-tail it replaced. I rode it rigid or with an 80mm fork. It has been retired for the past 4 years after I pulled the wheels from it for a gravel build and then a bunch of other parts for other projects, but I still enjoyed it thoroughly up until then.

    On the other hand, every time I demoed a FS 29er back then, I felt like I was driving a bus, and that remained the case for a long time.
    The KM was an exception early on. Surly gave it real short stays and a fairly relaxed HA (for the time), it rode well and wasn't all goofy with 18.5" stays like most of the 29ers of that time period. It was a long time before anyone made an acceptable FS bike IMO, but the KM was kind of a stand-out in a time when most manufacturers didn't really care to actually "design" a 29er, more just trying to make a bike in the wheelsize that minimized cost (chainstay yoke, stay shapes, seat-tube, etc.). Only problem were those terrible horizontal dropouts.
    "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.

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    The KM was an exception early on. Surly gave it real short stays and a fairly relaxed HA (for the time), it rode well and wasn't all goofy with 18.5" stays like most of the 29ers of that time period. It was a long time before anyone made an acceptable FS bike IMO, but the KM was kind of a stand-out in a time when most manufacturers didn't really care to actually "design" a 29er, more just trying to make a bike in the wheelsize that minimized cost (chainstay yoke, stay shapes, seat-tube, etc.). Only problem were those terrible horizontal dropouts.
    I'm not invested enough to look it up, but i remember the OG XL karate monkey being idiotic. Surly still scales up/down their geo in stupid ways, so it's tough to make generalizations about their models.
    "Things that are complex are not useful, Things that are useful are simple."
    Mikhail Kalashnikov

  49. #49
    Bicyclochondriac.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Only problem were those terrible horizontal dropouts.
    Amen. They were (and mine still is) awful. I have to move the disc caliper to get the rear wheel out. I knew this would be the case, and it was the one hesitation I had about buying the frame. Also, the entire lower half of the dropout essentially IS the derailleur hangar, and it can get twisted, either when the hangar gets twisted or when you go to straighten the hangar out. At this point I don't think I could run the wheel in any position except full forward, because the rest of the dropout is so messed up.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

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