Do it all, XC leaning hardtails?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Do it all, XC leaning hardtails?

    Hello everyone, it's my first time posting in this forum. I'm an ex-roadie who has also done a ton of gravel riding and raced a little CX and XC on the mountain bike. Most of that was in my 20s. I'll be 40 in a couple weeks.

    My mountain bike is the only thing I ride now, and it is basically my one bike. I ride an XC styled 29er and lately I'm finding it is kind of cramped and maybe no longer what I want to be on. I live in the midwest (US) and typically ride to and from the trails (so bike path/road/some gravel). The trails are mostly twisty singletrack, but some short, sometimes rooty/rocky climbs and descents. My city has been growing its in-town trail system and we have some short flow style loops with cool berms, jumps, and other things that I've been having fun on (makes me want a dropper). One to two times a year we visit mine or my wife's family in Dallas and Tuscon. In recent years we've taken some detours to hit up places like Fruita/Grand Junction and Bentonville.

    So I think I'm looking for a hardtail with longer, slacker geo than I've been riding. Maybe reach 450+ (for a large) and HT angles around 67, probably with a 120 fork up front. Carbon (mostly because I still have some of that weight weenie ex-racer thing in me, but I'm not totally opposed to steel or aluminum). I'm open to buying new or used. My list so far includes:

    Santa Cruz Chameleon
    Kona Honzo
    Transition Vanquish

    What am I missing? What am I overlooking? Super curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Don't have opinions on all of what's out there, but I will say that I'm in SE Michigan and I think my Vanquish is such a great choice (I'm sure the others in the category are too). Mine's 24 lbs with chinese carbon wheels, Vittoria Mezcals, GX 11-speed, carbon cranks/bars. It's such a blast, easy and fun to jump, can handle some chunk, and I'm not worried about breaking the frame on bad jumps or rooted sections, since it's a bit beefier than a true XC hardtail.

  3. #3
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    I ride a chameleon and do mostly the type of riding you describe. Bike isnít the lightest but I donít notice it on the trail. I do ride to and from the trail from time to time and it will hold steady around 16mph on asphalt. I tried multiple bikes that I really liked and the chameleon just felt right for me. If I had to do it again I would have went for a higher build spec for the better brakes and fork (the RockShox fork is actually very nice for the price point IMHO).

  4. #4
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    There are a ton of bikes in the trail hardtail category. You would not go wrong watching some Hardtail Party on Youtube.

    I think you should be fine with aluminum. I have a Salsa Timberjack and love it but there are a lot of other bikes like it that have a few more years development behind them. The frame is not the big heavy thing on a hard tail, really. They are budget bikes and have a lot of other budget heavy parts too, especially the fork, cassette, and cranks, and lots of them have big tires and wheels to match that aren't light to make up for the lack of suspension. I also think you absolutely should consider a full suspension bike, unless there is something specific you want to do that the hardtail would be better at (like a trailer, kid seat, frame bag)

  5. #5
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    Awesome responses, thanks guys!

    @acedeuce802, great reply. I have visited my dad's family in the Detroit area many times and I imagine the riding is quite similar to what I've got in east-central Iowa. And to get a solid trail hardtail with GX and some carbon rims to 24 pounds is super cool. I'd love that. A pound or two heavier would be fine, too.

    @jeeper102, it's good to hear your thoughts on riding the Chameleon around town and getting to/from the trails. Obviously that is not the goal of my rides, but I don't want to feel like I'm slogging it out on those sections. I'm also open to a lower spec parts build, with the idea of upgrading over time. But if I can get some nicer things sooner, I'm definitely going to go that route.

    @Darth Lefty, I have considered full suspension a little bit. I've ridden a few over the years, but really not that many. And the ones I've been on, I just don't like that much. For me, getting a hardtail comes down to four things; less cost, less weight, less maintenance, and riding style.

    I wish I could demo a bunch of full suspension rigs and find one that works for me. But my location, and the current pandemic, pretty much make that impossible. The big reason I think I don't love full suspension rigs is before I got my current bike, I spent 10+ years on a rigid single speed (probably should have mentioned that in the original post). I love getting out of the saddle on climbs, coming out of turns, going through rough spots, etc. I am yet to find a full suspension bike that rides the way I'd like it to ride. But I'm sure some are out there, and I'm sure if I could spend some time on one that fits me I could get used to it. But I just don't I want to go in that direction right now.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by akindofbrian View Post
    Hello everyone, it's my first time posting in this forum. I'm an ex-roadie who has also done a ton of gravel riding and raced a little CX and XC on the mountain bike. Most of that was in my 20s. I'll be 40 in a couple weeks.

    My mountain bike is the only thing I ride now, and it is basically my one bike. I ride an XC styled 29er and lately I'm finding it is kind of cramped and maybe no longer what I want to be on. I live in the midwest (US) and typically ride to and from the trails (so bike path/road/some gravel). The trails are mostly twisty singletrack, but some short, sometimes rooty/rocky climbs and descents. My city has been growing its in-town trail system and we have some short flow style loops with cool berms, jumps, and other things that I've been having fun on (makes me want a dropper). One to two times a year we visit mine or my wife's family in Dallas and Tuscon. In recent years we've taken some detours to hit up places like Fruita/Grand Junction and Bentonville.

    So I think I'm looking for a hardtail with longer, slacker geo than I've been riding. Maybe reach 450+ (for a large) and HT angles around 67, probably with a 120 fork up front. Carbon (mostly because I still have some of that weight weenie ex-racer thing in me, but I'm not totally opposed to steel or aluminum). I'm open to buying new or used. My list so far includes:

    Santa Cruz Chameleon
    Kona Honzo
    Transition Vanquish

    What am I missing? What am I overlooking? Super curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks.
    Seems like that new Yeti Arc is pretty close to what you're looking for. 130 fork but hey.

  7. #7
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    Good call, La Nada! I was wondering if the 130 and the slightly slacker angles wouldn't be better for more mountainous terrain, but it's just a guess.

    My only concern is new + Yeti is not the most economical.

    But I'm going to look a little closer at it now, ha ha.

  8. #8
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    Do it all, XC leaning hardtails?

    Throwing out another option. I had a Santa Cru Highball (2020) and it was a great bike but was a little sketchy hitting some descents I have here in So Cal. Just picked up a Yeti Arc (new one that just came out) and am loving it. I have a 130 Pike on it and it can tackle any of the downhills I typically ride and is efficient on the climbs as only a hardtail can be. Itís no XC whip tho. The riding position with its steeper seat angle and slacker head angle is a little more upright but for me itís been great.

  9. #9
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    Another plus for the Yeti Arc, thanks Wooly88! After La Nada mentioned them, I spent some time revisiting them this morning, and I was surprised how good the pricing was on their lower end builds. I guess I got it in my head that Yeti was super, duper expensive, but they're quite competitive for a really quality bike.

    However, in my other searchings this morning I found that Transition had a Vanquish demo for sale, in my size, the only one left. I just couldn't pass it up. I pulled the trigger and bought it.

    I'm usually one who researches and hims and haws for weeks and months. This new bike search for me is only about two weeks running, but I feel really good about the purchase. Given the way acedeuce802 talked about this bike, and the others that chimed in about rides with similar geometry, I'm feeling really good about this decision.

  10. #10
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    It sounds like youíre intrigued by a full suspension bike if you could find one that meets your riding style preferences. Have you read/watched reviews of the Ibis Ripley?
    Crashing mountain bikes since 1990.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by akindofbrian View Post
    Hello everyone, it's my first time posting in this forum. I'm an ex-roadie who has also done a ton of gravel riding and raced a little CX and XC on the mountain bike. Most of that was in my 20s. I'll be 40 in a couple weeks.

    My mountain bike is the only thing I ride now, and it is basically my one bike. I ride an XC styled 29er and lately I'm finding it is kind of cramped and maybe no longer what I want to be on. I live in the midwest (US) and typically ride to and from the trails (so bike path/road/some gravel). The trails are mostly twisty singletrack, but some short, sometimes rooty/rocky climbs and descents. My city has been growing its in-town trail system and we have some short flow style loops with cool berms, jumps, and other things that I've been having fun on (makes me want a dropper). One to two times a year we visit mine or my wife's family in Dallas and Tuscon. In recent years we've taken some detours to hit up places like Fruita/Grand Junction and Bentonville.

    So I think I'm looking for a hardtail with longer, slacker geo than I've been riding. Maybe reach 450+ (for a large) and HT angles around 67, probably with a 120 fork up front. Carbon (mostly because I still have some of that weight weenie ex-racer thing in me, but I'm not totally opposed to steel or aluminum). I'm open to buying new or used. My list so far includes:

    Santa Cruz Chameleon
    Kona Honzo
    Transition Vanquish

    What am I missing? What am I overlooking? Super curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

    The Honzo with a 120mm fork even the 2020 and older which were built around 120 are simply to low in the BB IMO. It rides a ton better with a 140mm fork.

    One thing to keep in mind with the exception of the Chameleon a steeper seat tube angle and slacker headtube angle pretty much demands you need a dropper as the bike will not steer well but is meant to be leaned in turns as well steep seat tube angle while sitting can feel very endo prone.

    As others have said the Yeti is probably what you are looking for.

  12. #12
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    Why not go full on XC? XC bikes have come a long ways in capability and your riding definitely sounds like it is ideal terrain for an XC bike. Something like the Specialized Epic HT or the Norco Revolver HT would work really well for you.

    Oh and no matter what get a dropper. Think it as a button that when pressed makes you feel a lot more comfortable.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  13. #13
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    The new 2021 Honzo has great modern geometry, and was already a well-loved frame by many, though I don't think it's available in carbon anymore. It was on my list of bikes (the steel version) before I picked up my Chromag.

    -DS
    2011 Trek Rumblefish II
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  14. #14
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    Thanks for the additional insights and questions, everyone. All interesting stuff to read.

    At this point, I really don't think I want full suspension. It's interesting that multiple posters interpreted that as what I was looking for, though. It's possible I'll end up going there in the future, but for now, I definitely want to stick to the hardtail.

    And I had thought of getting another XC bike. The new Epic and Chisel geometries from Specialized definitely intrigue me. They're longer and slacker than my current bike. And throwing a 120 up front seems like it would get them closer to some of the trail leaning hardtails.

    I think the reason I was ultimately leaning away from those (aside from difficulty of currently obtaining one from my local shop) is that I feel like I'm ready to try something that is a slightly bigger departure from what I've been on most of my mountain biking life. And I think the Vanquish will fit that. We'll see. Hopefully only another week and I'll know more.

    Thanks for the thoughts on STA Bushwackerin PA, I had not heard that before. My old bike was 72.5, and the new one will be 74. Interestingly, that's that same STA the new Specialized hardtails have (the old ones too, I'm pretty sure).

    Thankfully the new bike is coming with a dropper, so experimenting with that will be no trouble. I'm also excited to be able to put my saddle in a more neutral position. I've got it slammed all the way back to stretch out my current cockpit length, and I do not love that.

  15. #15
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    I'm gonna throw a plug for the RSD middle child. with a 120 or 130 fork it'll tick your boxes. And best of all, it's available last I checked. Also look into a Banshee Paradox
    Actual daddy. No actual fatstax.

  16. #16
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    My '15 (I think) F-Si was definitely an XC machine that I didn't even think twice about taking down any (reasonable) trail. It handled amazing. And that was with a rigid post! Add a dropper and I bet it would have been incredible. Sadly, it was stolen. I assume an updated version is probably better?

  17. #17
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    The Chameleon sounds perfect for what you want to do. My buddy has one and it's a quality bike. The bike has a great all-around trail geo that will compliment XC riding just fine, and offers some shredibility if you choose to go there.

  18. #18
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    I'd go Honzo if I was looking for that kind of bike. They are just so much fun. IMO I liked it more then the Chameleon.

    Couple others that maybe worth considering, Karate Monkey (more versatile then a lot of the others IMO), Canfield Nimble 9 or something like the Pipedream Sirius (or if you want something super sweet and have some money to burn BTR) which is a bit more aggressive but IMO a similar travel hardtail should be slacker then a similar travel full sus. So for example a 120mm hardtail should have a more slack head tube angle then a 120mm full sus because the rear of a hardtail does not compress. So as the front of the hardtail compresses the head tube angle becomes a lot steeper.
    Ragley Big Wig, Sunday Soundwave (BMX), 91 Schwinn High Plain (about town bike), Nashbar CXSS (on trainer)

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by 93EXCivic View Post
    I'd go Honzo if I was looking for that kind of bike. They are just so much fun. IMO I liked it more then the Chameleon.

    Couple others that maybe worth considering, Karate Monkey (more versatile then a lot of the others IMO), Canfield Nimble 9 or something like the Pipedream Sirius (or if you want something super sweet and have some money to burn BTR) which is a bit more aggressive but IMO a similar travel hardtail should be slacker then a similar travel full sus. So for example a 120mm hardtail should have a more slack head tube angle then a 120mm full sus because the rear of a hardtail does not compress. So as the front of the hardtail compresses the head tube angle becomes a lot steeper.

    Another vote for the Surly Karate Monkey.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by akindofbrian View Post
    Another plus for the Yeti Arc, thanks Wooly88! After La Nada mentioned them, I spent some time revisiting them this morning, and I was surprised how good the pricing was on their lower end builds. I guess I got it in my head that Yeti was super, duper expensive, but they're quite competitive for a really quality bike.

    However, in my other searchings this morning I found that Transition had a Vanquish demo for sale, in my size, the only one left. I just couldn't pass it up. I pulled the trigger and bought it.

    I'm usually one who researches and hims and haws for weeks and months. This new bike search for me is only about two weeks running, but I feel really good about the purchase. Given the way acedeuce802 talked about this bike, and the others that chimed in about rides with similar geometry, I'm feeling really good about this decision.
    That should be an awesome bike for you. Let us know how you like it.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

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