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  1. #1
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    Favorite < ~$2500 short to mid travel trail bikes?

    Like many people here, I'm in the market next season for a new bike. Also like many, I don't have unlimited money.

    This is the research phase. I'm asking for help here finding/discovering new models I may just not be aware of, as I'm still new to the sport, and just haven't heard of every model out there yet, even though I am actively searching.

    I'm looking for a trail bike, with somewhere in the 120-150mm travel range. Most of the bikes I'm finding in my budget, are 27.5'ers, but I'd like to find more 29'er options to consider as well.

    Preferences:

    • Threaded BB
    • Dropper post
    • < $2500
    • Good geo
    • Fit "larger" tires (2.5 - 2.6in)


    My preferences are just that, preferences. If the absolutely perfect bike comes along and doesn't fit larger tires, or has a PF BB, I'm still going to consider it. But I figure if I'm starting from scratch, I may as well start with what I'd prefer, and then go from there.

    The Whyte T130 S is probably the closest thing to my ideal that I've found so far, that is within budget. Its got a threaded BB, good geo, and 130mm rear\140mm front suspension. It runs $2300, and is close to my max budget.

    Other bikes that I like the look of, but that are a bit out of my price range, are the Transition Scout/Smuggler, and the Santa Cruz 5010. So I'm looking for more bikes like that... but that just cost a bit less. Although a sweet deal on one of the above that brought it down to my price range would also work. I just know thats not particularly likely.

    So, with that in mind, any other recommendations from the group on great trail bikes for the money?

  2. #2
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    Base model Transition Smuggler (in aluminum).

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by pulsepro View Post
    Base model Transition Smuggler (in aluminum).
    If only! Last year the base model smuggler in Aluminum was $3k.

    The smuggler is only in Carbon this year (starting at $4k), they don't have any of the Aluminum models in stock from last year, and their demo model that is available in AL from last year and my size, is ~$3500 .

    I'm absolutely looking for a used model one though. Nothing in my immediate area at the moment.

    But yeah, if another company made a trail 29'er with similar geo/travel numbers as the smuggler, and was in my price range, I'd be all over it. I just don't know of anything like that .

  4. #4
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    There are a few direct to consumer brands.
    YT Jeffsey
    Commencal META

    Maybe a Diamondback Release?

  5. #5
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    Intense is direct to consumer and their 29er Primer base model in black is $2999
    Canyon?
    Do the math.

  6. #6
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    2019 Specialized Stumpjumper Alloy ST 29er.
    Checks all boxes, except for the dropper.
    At $1850, you can add one and still be under budget

    I would rather upgrade the Recon Fork...only weak-link in the Base Alloy model.
    Can you do a Fork upgrade and Dropper for $650?

  7. #7
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    The Ghost brand carried by REI might work - I really like my Kato.
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  8. #8
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    Thanks for the suggestions everyone, this is helping. Like I said, I'm still getting into things, so I haven't been aware of all of the suggestions.

    Never heard of Ghost, will have to look into those some.
    Stumpjumper ST I thought had PF BB, but I was apparently wrong. And yeah, a dropper could be easily added for that price, but unsure of the fork. I guess its time for me to read some more reviews .
    And for some reason the Intense Primer is only show up for me at $3k for one size(m, and I'm a L), and one color. So most of them are out of my price range (unless a good deal pops up). But, thats another model to add to my list that I'd consider used.

    Thanks again .

  9. #9
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    YT Jeffsy 27 AL Comp Lg still available $2500 with free shipping and RF Atlas pedals...RF Turbine cockpit and crank, Shimano SLX/e13 drivetrain, RS Pike/Deluxe RT 150mm f/r, DT Swiss wheels, 100% Awesomeness

  10. #10
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    Trek Stache 29+ hardtail is an amazing trail bike and checks a lot of your boxes. Not sure where you ride though or if you're definitely wanting FS.

  11. #11
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    I would take a good long look at the Marin Alpine Trail 7. Itís $2749 retail, which means you should have no problem getting it for ~$2500 from a shop. Looks to tick all of your boxes, but at the longer travel end of the spectrum (150mm). No parts that would need an immediate upgrade: https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/201...alpine-trail-7

    Marin has been putting out some very impressive high value bikes of late, so if the Alpine Trail isnít your cup of tea, check out the Rift Zone and Hawk Hill.


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  12. #12
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    Here you go:

    https://www.canyon.com/en-us/mtb/neuron/neuron-al-7-0

    Not available until spring, but it looks like a great bike for the price.

    The Spectral would also be a sweet bike.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  13. #13
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    the new GT Sensor looks like another awesome entry-level candidate.

    GT Sensor Sport $1900

    https://www.fanatikbike.com/collecti...=8084956938286

    Checks all the boxes, just a bit slacker over the new Stumpjumper ST.

    Easily add a dropper, and stay under budget.
    I would rather swap-out the Recon RL first

  14. #14
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    You have some great recommendations here. If you are willing to consider something used, there are some very nice (less than a year old) rigs out there for less than $2500.

  15. #15
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    The Giant Trance 3 looks like a great bike for the price.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  16. #16
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    You should check out the Norco Fluid FS, it checks off most of the preferences you listed. There are a number of different models/prices to choose from. Norco builds a great bike at an affordable price in my opinion. https://www.norco.com/bikes/mountain...d-fs-aluminum/

    Here is a recent review of the Fluid. https://cyclingmagazine.ca/mtb/first...maller-prices/

  17. #17
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    Thanks for all the responses everyone. Found a few more models to look into.

    And, for what its worth, I am open to looking at hardtails, and used bikes. I've already done a lot of research on the hardtails, and have a model or two already picked out that I think I'd buy if I decide to go that route.

    This thread is part of me doing my research for what I'd get if I decide to go with a full suspension bike. And part of that carries over to used bikes, as I'm still learning about good options, many of which have higher priced models that may be in my budget when they are used.

    Thanks again for the help everyone, and Happy New Year .

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by inonjoey View Post
    I would take a good long look at the Marin Alpine Trail 7. Itís $2749 retail, which means you should have no problem getting it for ~$2500 from a shop. Looks to tick all of your boxes, but at the longer travel end of the spectrum (150mm). No parts that would need an immediate upgrade: https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/201...alpine-trail-7

    Marin has been putting out some very impressive high value bikes of late, so if the Alpine Trail isnít your cup of tea, check out the Rift Zone and Hawk Hill.


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    +1 on the hawk hill

  19. #19
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    You didn't mention if you are a new or seasoned rider. If you are a new to MTB, then make sure you get a bike that fits you. Fit is way more important than almost anything else in a first "real" MTB.
    Good luck with the research, and let us know what you pick!
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by debaucherous View Post
    You didn't mention if you are a new or seasoned rider. If you are a new to MTB, then make sure you get a bike that fits you. Fit is way more important than almost anything else in a first "real" MTB.
    Good luck with the research, and let us know what you pick!
    I'm new to the sport of mountain biking, but I've been cycling a fair bit for years now(commuted sole via bike for ~4.5 years). Also rode a lot as a kid, as well as trail style dirt biking as a teenager. I'd say I'm more of an intermediate rider, but don't make any pretenses about being amazing.

    My current bike is a 7 yr old XC hardtail. I'm about 6'1", and my current bike is an XL (I was sized up). I measured the reach/stack of it recently, and its smaller than the size L's I've been looking at from most brands (419mm reach, but it has a 100mm stem, so the effective reach compared to most new bikes is pretty similar). The stack was ~600mm, so its kind of low, but not that far off. But I'm thinking I'm pretty safe going with a Large from most manufacturers.

    My current plan is to keep looking for used stuff for the time being, as there don't appear to be any sales going right now, and I can't ride as much right now, so no real need to grab a new bike atm.

    Thanks for your help everyone .

  21. #21
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    At 6'1", I would test bikes with 455+ reach.
    As previously stated, don't want to compromise on fit.

  22. #22
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    Evo.com has some left over Smugglers for a bargain. Worth a look.

  23. #23
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    +1 for the Whyte T-130.

    I have a 2018. Very playful, nimble, confident and stable. And as you already know, checks off your preferences list. If you want a short chain stay with a longer feeling reach, the T-130 is it. If you ride where it gets wet and muddy, this thing is ready for it, as I've learned since we've received over 70" of rain in 2018 (~30" is normal for us). It makes a great transition from tight and steep technical stuff to fast wide sweeping flow. Jack of all trades. And as I've learned more recently, loves to get off the ground.
    You didn't quit riding because you're old, you're old because you quit riding.

  24. #24
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    So, a used bike locally (2015 Transition Patrol), and then the recent JensonUSA sale on the Kona Process 153 have me really thinking lately.

    Both are a bit more rear travel than I wanted (155mm and 153mm, respectively), but both save me somewhere between $300, and $800 over even the cheapest Whyte T130 (which I think is still my main front runner in my mind). The Jenson deal on the Process is more than the used Transition, but its also Boost, has a warranty, etc. It just has a PF BB, which I was trying to avoid.

    So I'm trying to decide how big of a deal it would be to have more travel than I was looking for, and if its worth giving up on the threaded BB (Process is a PF).

    Any thoughts on that front, just because I'm having a hard time deciding. Thanks all .

  25. #25
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    The Process 153 is a sweet bike, but you need big terrain to match it. Otherwise, you're just lugging around a huge heavy bike. If your terrain justifies the 153, go for it. What about the HeiHei 29er?

  26. #26
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    I live in the greater Seattle area. Bellingham is just over an hr north of me, Duthie is about 45 min away, and Raging River is about an hour.

    So far I've mostly been hitting blue trails, but, it was my first few months riding, so I'd like to progress from there, although its hard to know from here how "serious" I'll get about it.

    I've heard that the area can in general "justify" a bigger bike like the process 153. As I said, its more bike than I was thinking of originally (as I'm not sure I'll be hitting the double black tech anytime soon), but its currently $2k (down from $3k), and as far as value, seems like a pretty good deal, which I guess is why its up for consideration.

    If it was a Process 134, I may have already ordered it :P.

    Thanks for being a sounding board for me. I really don't have many friends locally who ride to bounce ideas off of, so this is helpful.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by ocnLogan View Post
    I live in the greater Seattle area. Bellingham is just over an hr north of me, Duthie is about 45 min away, and Raging River is about an hour.

    So far I've mostly been hitting blue trails, but, it was my first few months riding, so I'd like to progress from there, although its hard to know from here how "serious" I'll get about it.

    I've heard that the area can in general "justify" a bigger bike like the process 153. As I said, its more bike than I was thinking of originally (as I'm not sure I'll be hitting the double black tech anytime soon), but its currently $2k (down from $3k), and as far as value, seems like a pretty good deal, which I guess is why its up for consideration.

    If it was a Process 134, I may have already ordered it :P.

    Thanks for being a sounding board for me. I really don't have many friends locally who ride to bounce ideas off of, so this is helpful.
    Well then, my good friend rides in the exact same area on a Process 153 and loves it. It's a great bike for practically any of our trails. It's a playful bike that will be just fine at Tiger, Duthie, B'ham, etc. Some of our blues may be considered black diamond in other places.

    You should come out and ride with us when the weather gets better.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  28. #28
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    Well, the decision got made even harder, as I realized that Performance Bikes are doing closeout deals at their brick and mortar locations. So I called one up this morning.

    The one closest to me has a Marin Hawk Hill 2 (not three, sadly) in my size for a dang good price. If it was the 3, I may have already pulled the trigger.

    So now I'm trying to decide between a slightly lower spec than I was first thinking (Hawk Hill 2), and a bit larger bike than I was thinking originally (Kona Process 153).

    I'm heading out in a bit to check out the Hawk Hill 2 on the way home from work, so at least I'll be able to sit on this one in person, which is more than I can say for the Kona.

    Guess we'll see what happens. Personally, I have no idea which one I should go with atm. So maybe seeing it in person will sway me one way or the other.

    Also, Curveball, maybe we can get a ride together later in the year. I'm open to learning more trails/etc, but, I'm a pretty new rider, and don't want to slow people down, as I know how annoying that can be.

  29. #29
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    Hawk Hill is 27.5 I think. At 6'1", go 29er (my opinion of course). Good luck

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by ocnLogan View Post
    Like many people here, I'm in the market next season for a new bike. Also like many, I don't have unlimited money.

    This is the research phase. I'm asking for help here finding/discovering new models I may just not be aware of, as I'm still new to the sport, and just haven't heard of every model out there yet, even though I am actively searching.

    I'm looking for a trail bike, with somewhere in the 120-150mm travel range. Most of the bikes I'm finding in my budget, are 27.5'ers, but I'd like to find more 29'er options to consider as well.

    Preferences:

    • Threaded BB
    • Dropper post
    • < $2500
    • Good geo
    • Fit "larger" tires (2.5 - 2.6in)


    So, with that in mind, any other recommendations from the group on great trail bikes for the money?
    Santa Cruz Tallboy3 with 130-140mm front fork? I see more than a few bike for sale around that price point. 27.5 x 3.0" or 29 x 2.4" is doable with the 29er version. The rear is only 110mm, but you'd never know it when you're riding it.....

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  31. #31
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    Another candidate I came across today:


    Fezzari Peak.
    Checks all the boxes.
    X-Fusion McQueen fork is prob. better then rockshox recon.
    Add a dropper and stay under budget.

    https://www.fezzari.com/all-mountain-trail/abajo-peak

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by pulsepro View Post
    Hawk Hill is 27.5 I think. At 6'1", go 29er (my opinion of course). Good luck
    I would have disagreed with you since I figured that 27.5 is better for our twisting PNW trails, but the new 29ers seem to do just fine here. Probably better for rolling over all the roots on our trails and they don't seem to give up much turning ability these days.

    That's a good suggestion.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  33. #33
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    FYI...

    I picked up my Kona 153 (2018 AL/DL - XL frame in 27.5) for $2300 a year ago through cambriabike.com

    A buddy just got a 2018 YT Jeffsey Comp (alu - L frame in 29") for about the same price

    Both are awesome all-round bikes. If you're good with doing your own setups/mntc there are many great direct deals out there.
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  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by sturge View Post
    FYI...

    I picked up my Kona 153 (2018 AL/DL - XL frame in 27.5) for $2300 a year ago through cambriabike.com

    A buddy just got a 2018 YT Jeffsey Comp (alu - L frame in 29") for about the same price

    Both are awesome all-round bikes. If you're good with doing your own setups/mntc there are many great direct deals out there.
    2 awesome bikes with PF BBs.

    Good news is, more and more manufacturers are slowly switching back to threaded BBs

  35. #35
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    Thank you for the help everyone, I really appreciate it. I thought it would be best to update everyone here, and let you know what I ended up buying.

    I ended up being able to sit on, and briefly ride a 2018 Marin Hawk Hill 2, and a 2018 Kona Process 153 AL/DL 29'er.

    I think if the Marin Hawk Hill that was for sale was the 2019 Hawk Hill 3, I'd have gone for it. But the 2018's were shorter in reach, with a steeper HTA, and they large that Performance Bike had in stock wasn't quite large enough (could have used the extra reach on the 2019). Plus the spec on the HH2 was less than I was hoping for after I sat on it.

    In the end though, I decided to go for the Kona Process 153 AL 29'er from Jenson. Its a bit more travel than I was originally looking for, and has a PF BB. Other than that though, its pretty much spot on with what I was looking for, and the price point is nice ($2k even). It has some parts that are relativelty easy to upgrade if I want to down the road.

    When I learned that you can get a thread through kits for the PF BB's, that's what helped me seal the deal.

    Thanks again everyone .

  36. #36
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    Sweet price, and congrats on NBD

  37. #37
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    Kona makes awesome bikes, enjoy!
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  38. #38
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    Nice!

    I think you'll love it. It's definitely a bike that you can grow your skills into and won't hold you back.

    Be sure to post pictures when you get it.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  39. #39
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    Took my '18 AL 29'er on its first ride yesterday .

    Favorite &lt; ~00 short to mid travel trail bikes?-kona_process_153_al_first_ride.jpg

    I snuck away from from work and took a long lunch yesterday, and only managed to ride for ~35 min (3.5 miles, 600ft elevation gain). Wish I had time for more, but its way better than nothing.

    First thoughts, after coming from a 7 yr old hardtail... is that its way different. Besides the rear suspension, I was also trying to get used to the dropper (which is having issues returning to full height with one lever press. It stops about 10-20mm short after one press, then comes back up on the second), like 120mm wider bars, different shifter setup, etc.

    I'm sure I'll adjust to it. Its just a lot of changes all at once, and literally only one decent so far under my belt to get used to it. But, the upside, is I hit, and cleared every feature on the trail first go... which hasn't happened before, so the results are promising.

    The trail I rode was pretty flowy, with a small jump. I was at ~30% sag on the rear, and 25% on the front. According to the o ring on the shock, I used all the rear travel, twice (I re-set it after the jump). So I'm thinking some volume reducers will be in order back there. I'm just not sure if it already has some, or if I'll have to resort to less sag. I just posted in the Kona subforum, to see if anyone knows offhand if any spares are in there.

    The fork I only used ~75% or so travel, which seems more appropriate.

    Thanks so much everyone for the help. I can't wait to grow into this new bike. Plus, now that I'm not researching bikes all the time, I have so much spare time :P.

  40. #40
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    For the dropper, I'd try tightening the barrel adjuster as a first step.

    Being mail-order, there will probably be a few adjustments here and there to be made to get it dialed.

    Is that Duthie?
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curveball View Post
    For the dropper, I'd try tightening the barrel adjuster as a first step.

    Being mail-order, there will probably be a few adjustments here and there to be made to get it dialed.

    Is that Duthie?
    The trail was Upper Springboard, up in Monroe. Its closer to me than Duthie, so it worked better for a "lunch" ride as it was yesterday. Its a blue flow trail, and is probably one of the more enjoyable trails at Lord Hill.

    I'll have to check for a barrel adjuster. I don't recall offhand if there is one there (its a Trans-X dropper, if that helps). When I first got it, it was way low on air pressure (~120 psi, instead of ~240psi as the manual called for). Just pumping it up to the correct pressure has fixed most of it. But now that its been cycled a few times, maybe I should check to see if its retained pressure.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by ocnLogan View Post
    The trail was Upper Springboard, up in Monroe. Its closer to me than Duthie, so it worked better for a "lunch" ride as it was yesterday. Its a blue flow trail, and is probably one of the more enjoyable trails at Lord Hill.

    I'll have to check for a barrel adjuster. I don't recall offhand if there is one there (its a Trans-X dropper, if that helps). When I first got it, it was way low on air pressure (~120 psi, instead of ~240psi as the manual called for). Just pumping it up to the correct pressure has fixed most of it. But now that its been cycled a few times, maybe I should check to see if its retained pressure.
    Oh that's really cool that you work close to Lord Hill.

    I don't think I've ridden that trail yet. I really need to explore that area some more.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curveball View Post
    Oh that's really cool that you work close to Lord Hill.

    I don't think I've ridden that trail yet. I really need to explore that area some more.
    For a "local" place, Lord Hill is pretty decent, although its not really a "destination" like Duthie. Its got a lot more elevation change than Paradise Valley though, which is the other riding area close by.

    If you ever stop by, I'd make sure you hit Upper and Lower springboard, as well as Goldeneye (into third eye, which actually feels more like the last bit of goldeneye than the rest of goldeneye does...), Wishbone, and then return to the parking lot via Temple pond loop (as long as its relatively dry, otherwise take Ewe tube back to the main trail).

    And I'm hoping that once I get more used to the bike, and get the suspension setup correctly/etc, that it will feel more natural, and I'll progress a bit faster .

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by ocnLogan View Post
    For a "local" place, Lord Hill is pretty decent, although its not really a "destination" like Duthie. Its got a lot more elevation change than Paradise Valley though, which is the other riding area close by.

    If you ever stop by, I'd make sure you hit Upper and Lower springboard, as well as Goldeneye (into third eye, which actually feels more like the last bit of goldeneye than the rest of goldeneye does...), Wishbone, and then return to the parking lot via Temple pond loop (as long as its relatively dry, otherwise take Ewe tube back to the main trail).

    And I'm hoping that once I get more used to the bike, and get the suspension setup correctly/etc, that it will feel more natural, and I'll progress a bit faster .
    Thanks for the suggestions!
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  45. #45
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    congrats! Enjoy.
    I was gonna stop by and see you, but the Jehovas witnesses came by. When they left I started drinking. Voicemail from Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by ocnLogan View Post
    Took my '18 AL 29'er on its first ride yesterday .

    Click image for larger version. 

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    , I was also trying to get used to the dropper (which is having issues returning to full height with one lever press. It stops about 10-20mm short after one press, then comes back up on the second)
    In case you weren't aware, you need to hold the lever/button until the seat reaches full extension. It will stop as soon as you stop pressing the button.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaXCarp View Post
    In case you weren't aware, you need to hold the lever/button until the seat reaches full extension. It will stop as soon as you stop pressing the button.
    As I'm new to this, I do appreciate the tip, as you never know what people may or may not know.

    In this case though, I was aware.

    The dropper returns pretty quickly from full drop, to about 20-30mm short of full height. At that point, it kind of pauses for a half second, and then if I keep the lever pressed, it does return to full height, it just rises the last 20-30mm travel at about 1/2 - 1/3 of the speed it does for the first ~150mm of travel. If I let go of the lever, and press it again, it rises from the place where it "paused", and then does about the same thing.

    Would bad/weird cable routing do anything like this?

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by ocnLogan View Post
    As I'm new to this, I do appreciate the tip, as you never know what people may or may not know.

    In this case though, I was aware.

    The dropper returns pretty quickly from full drop, to about 20-30mm short of full height. At that point, it kind of pauses for a half second, and then if I keep the lever pressed, it does return to full height, it just rises the last 20-30mm travel at about 1/2 - 1/3 of the speed it does for the first ~150mm of travel. If I let go of the lever, and press it again, it rises from the place where it "paused", and then does about the same thing.

    Would bad/weird cable routing do anything like this?
    Check how tight your seatpost clamp is. If its too tight it can create some binding that looks as you are describing. An easy test would be to completely loosen the seatpost clamp and see if it behaves the same when you operate it.

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by ocnLogan View Post
    Thank you for the help everyone, I really appreciate it. I thought it would be best to update everyone here, and let you know what I ended up buying.

    I ended up being able to sit on, and briefly ride a 2018 Marin Hawk Hill 2, and a 2018 Kona Process 153 AL/DL 29'er.

    I think if the Marin Hawk Hill that was for sale was the 2019 Hawk Hill 3, I'd have gone for it. But the 2018's were shorter in reach, with a steeper HTA, and they large that Performance Bike had in stock wasn't quite large enough (could have used the extra reach on the 2019). Plus the spec on the HH2 was less than I was hoping for after I sat on it.

    In the end though, I decided to go for the Kona Process 153 AL 29'er from Jenson. Its a bit more travel than I was originally looking for, and has a PF BB. Other than that though, its pretty much spot on with what I was looking for, and the price point is nice ($2k even). It has some parts that are relativelty easy to upgrade if I want to down the road.

    When I learned that you can get a thread through kits for the PF BB's, that's what helped me seal the deal.

    Thanks again everyone .
    Congrats on the purchase and sweet deal. I put a Wheels Mfg. thread together PF BB in my Kona Process 111 and it's been dead silent since day one. I highly recommend them.

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