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  1. #1
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    Fastest single bike for AZ?

    Contemplating replacing my hardtail for something a little more forgiving given our terrain here. I've generally been a one MTB person, looking to keep it that way until I decide to race Enduro more seriously.

    If you were looking for a bike to race XCM, XCO, and Enduro (in order of importance) and the typical McDowell (gateway/bells/sunrise), SoMo (Natty, Geronimo), PMP, Sedona H's, and Flag fun stuff while not racing, what would you be looking for?

    My short list is Sniper Trail, Yeti SB100, and recently Whyte s120.

    I'm currently on a Honzo carbon with 140mm Pike, so looking for something fairly progressive vs XC slanted.

    Also, any thoughts on whether a 120/120ish bike would be quicker on average in those conditions? My full suspension experience is limited to an Iron Horse SGS DH like 100 years ago when I used to race DH.

    Appreciate the thoughts!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJ40runr View Post
    Contemplating replacing my hardtail for something a little more forgiving given our terrain here. I've generally been a one MTB person, looking to keep it that way until I decide to race Enduro more seriously.

    If you were looking for a bike to race XCM, XCO, and Enduro (in order of importance) and the typical McDowell (gateway/bells/sunrise), SoMo (Natty, Geronimo), PMP, Sedona H's, and Flag fun stuff while not racing, what would you be looking for?

    My short list is Sniper Trail, Yeti SB100, and recently Whyte s120.

    I'm currently on a Honzo carbon with 140mm Pike, so looking for something fairly progressive vs XC slanted.

    Also, any thoughts on whether a 120/120ish bike would be quicker on average in those conditions? My full suspension experience is limited to an Iron Horse SGS DH like 100 years ago when I used to race DH.

    Appreciate the thoughts!
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  3. #3
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    I think you're looking into the right range of 100-120mm 29ers. You could also look at the Evil Following MB, Transition Smuggler, and Ibis Ripley LS.

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  4. #4
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    I'll say that 100mm sucks in Sedona and I wouldn't even try it on South Mountain. Trying to ride a bike like that on SoMo will require some beefy stuff anyway if you aren't going to break it, unless you are sticking to Desert Classic and the mild stuff off it it.

    Racing that wide of a span is not going to end up in any podiums because the bike that does well in both is going to make huge sacrifices either way or just not be enough for the end of the spectrum. Occasionally on a milder Enduro you can get away with 120-130mm, but it's still going to be painful to try and race that bike in expert XC and keep up with the front-runners.

    Nothing wrong with a 120-140mm bike to ride everything, but I'd think about a race-format to specialize in rather than try to do a "jack of all trades". Maybe pick some XC races to "race", but mostly to help keep your fitness for the other discipline.

    IME, you aren't going to ride as wide a spectrum as you are stating on some of those bikes without breaking stuff.
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    A Sniper or SB100 down Geronimo? Have fun with that.

    Personally, I think the “midtravel” 29er is the do-all option. 130-140 rear, 150 front. There’s a ton of great bikes in that space. Probably not going to be winning any XC races on it, though, unless you’re a mutant. But a great option to take on every trail system in the state.
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  6. #6
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    Awesome feedback thank you. Coming from an AM hardtail doing all of those things, would you suspect a general improvement in "experience"? I'm not looking to podium cat1 right now, and ultimately am okay becoming more fit for riding a burlier bike (relatively speaking). I do have suspicion that I'll go full XC in another year, but my racecraft and fitness just aren't there to worry about it I feel. Definitely more slanted toward XC vs enduros, I'll race a couple over a year more just for fun.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJ40runr View Post
    Contemplating replacing my hardtail for something a little more forgiving given our terrain here. I've generally been a one MTB person, looking to keep it that way until I decide to race Enduro more seriously.

    If you were looking for a bike to race XCM, XCO, and Enduro (in order of importance) and the typical McDowell (gateway/bells/sunrise), SoMo (Natty, Geronimo), PMP, Sedona H's, and Flag fun stuff while not racing, what would you be looking for?

    My short list is Sniper Trail, Yeti SB100, and recently Whyte s120.

    I'm currently on a Honzo carbon with 140mm Pike, so looking for something fairly progressive vs XC slanted.

    Also, any thoughts on whether a 120/120ish bike would be quicker on average in those conditions? My full suspension experience is limited to an Iron Horse SGS DH like 100 years ago when I used to race DH.

    Appreciate the thoughts!
    Riding something like Natty: rolling down or through techy sections on a FS frame will be dealt with more smoothly and therefore faster than on a HT frame. However, climbing techy sections on a FS frame can slow you down and even cause contact when the suspension compresses.

    If you are comfy and capable on a HT frame but getting beat up, try a HT frame in steel. The difference is amazing. Yes, it's heavier, but steel offers a much more comfy ride due to it's liveliness.

    Otherwise, any of the FS bikes you included in your OP will offer the relief you desire.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawgzilla View Post
    However, climbing techy sections on a FS frame can slow you down and even cause contact when the suspension compresses.
    Not my experience at all. If by technical climbing, you mean chutes, step ups and ledges like we have here, a properly sagged suspension bike will generally be a superior climber. Exactly because of that compression which allows the rear to track the terrain without bouncing or spinning.
    Just like a raindrop, I was born to fall.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blatant View Post
    "a properly sagged suspension bike"
    I'm glad to hear that you have found that. In my 20+ years of riding HTs and FSs, I have yet to find that in a FS bike. I have to assume that technique plays a role in this, something I am probably lacking in.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawgzilla View Post
    I'm glad to hear that you have found that. In my 20+ years of riding HTs and FSs, I have yet to find that in a FS bike. I have to assume that technique plays a role in this, something I am probably lacking in.
    This is great feedback, thanks all. That's something I've been suspicious of, a place like national you have to climb with a lot of body english on a HT. That said, when I hop on a full suspension bike I don't necessarily feel like it is an improvement. I suspect that is a case of not utilizing the suspension properly given my time spent on a HT though.

    AM HT are so capable these days that the overall best answer is not immediately clear to me, but again I have to figure a trail-ish 100-120mm bike would be best? Another consideration I've had is feeling like the HT is making me a stronger rider more quickly - any thoughts on the truth of that? I'd say in a physical manner moreso than a technical skills way is what I'm interested in.

  11. #11
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    It’s not reasonable to expect to jump on a suspension bike that’s presumably not yours and likely not properly set up for YOU, and expect it to outperform a bike you’re used to riding.

    Likewise, how you “feel” is often irrelevant. This is the true beauty of Strava. If you want to BE fast and not just FEEL fast, you need an objective data source.

    I’m not poo-pooing hardtails by the way. In certain areas, they’re awesome. It’s been my experience, though, (having owned a bunch of cool HTs) that most riders are going to be overall faster in AZ riding on a suspension bike.
    Just like a raindrop, I was born to fall.

  12. #12
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    I'll be faster overall climbing on a HT just because tech sections never last *that* long and cyclocrossing+climbing on the HT is still going to be faster than the energy-transfer of an FS bike. So if it's the fastest for XC racing, it's a no-brainer, just get a HT. The minuscule amount of time that you lose on that tech climb or tech descent will be made up many times over on the rest of the climb, flats, and the mild downhill.

    The thing is that descending on a hardtail is something I just don't want to deal with anymore, my body just can't take it, and when I have suspension, I want it to work ALL the time, I didn't just get it for the downs, I got it to provide more traction and control, so also for the ups. You can have too much and too-slack of a bike that will make the tech uphills painful, but you can also have too little/none which will also make the tech uphills damn near impossible with lots more stalling. If you want to be climbing up National, it's going to be a hell of a PITA on any hardtail. People do it, but at some point you're trails riding, not mountain biking (IMO that point begins when you start stopping your forward speed completely to "hop").

    The longer the XC race, the more I like having travel and a decently built bike, but this also only goes to a point. It can quickly balloon into a bike that's miserable to climb and stay on for 100 miles, you want to keep it light and snappy too.

    Personally, for enduro, I like having a min of 150mm rear travel for stuff that's going to use full-on DH trails (which most Enduros I've done do). This means tire-rubber that can handle the same trails, although not a full DH-casing. At leas a 150mm dropper. I like it to be able to take a coil or air shock, because of the difference courses where you can leverage the benefits of each. Good sized bars, like 780-800, doesn't need to be the best climber, but needs to be reasonably efficient and not a dog. I'm at 65 degrees or so, which is a line-in-the-sand for me and climbing. I was at around 66 and I liked that, but on the steepest stuff another degree gives a little more confidence. Generally needs to be built to be capable of riding down said full DH trails, which means a weight below 30lbs is unlikely, maybe slightly when running the air shock and XC SPDs, but around 30lbs is usually the lightest you'll see it. Wheel-size for me for this is 27.5. I tried a 29er Enduro, but it was too lethargic at speed, you had to pedal harder to get to the same speed for gaps, etc. This seems to be magnified when you put more DH-orientated rims/tires on the bikes.

    For XC, I like around 100mm of rear travel. I never finding myself wanting more on an XC race, even super-long ones. 100-120mm of front travel, but generally I prefer 100 to keep the bike snappy and allow for quick line changes. I like 29er for this exclusively and feel if you are endoing a 29er at 70 degrees HTA, it's not the bike's fault, it's your fault, as the 29ers roll over stuff so well. Even going to 120mm I notice a big difference in climbing and what you can do on a snappy 100mm XC rig is so far beyond the above Enduro bike as far as climbing, so you do notice when something affects it. The bike is light and it just takes off like a rocket when pedaling, it's hard to get stuck in too high of a gear, because you can always apply power or stand and just power out of it, unlike the Enduro bike. A bit longer stem on this bike, bar width isn't quite as critical, although I like about the same, smaller brakes to save weight, as max-power isn't needed when not on those DH-park steeps. I still like a dropper, but only 120, not necessary to have as much drop and better to save some weight in the process for the overall weight of the bike. Cranks can be lighter. A remote-lock-out system is nice, not necessary, but nice.

    And there are probably dozens of differences I'm not mentioning. My point is these are radically different bikes for radically different purposes. Trying to go "in between" will mean a significant compromise for each. Specializing more towards one end will result in a better riding experience IMO. For the more XCish crowd that occasionally wants to rock SoMo but also wants to put on miles in the high country and other places, a 120mm 29er is probably a great ticket. For the more trail/enduro rider that wants to ride just about everything, including Flag DH trails and do SoMo a little more regularly, probably around 140mm. Either one of these isn't going to be the best enduro or XC racer, but for your general riding, you'll probably have a better time on them. If your only goal is the racing thing, then get the race-tool. Otherwise, strongly consider two bikes. It doesn't have to be two bikes completely opposite, like a full on enduro and full on XC racer, but at least somewhat opposite of each other. Either that or just go the normal time-tested route of building a light hardtail for racing for cheap.
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  13. #13
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    Got to demo a few short travel 29ers on Bug Springs in Tucson this weekend (very chunky) here were my impressions.

    Giant Trance 29 (115 rear/130 front): my favorite. Beat me up a little more than the mid travel 29er I normally ride but was very capable descending, very composed over massive chunk, and confidence inspiring. Also climbed really well. But again, short travel beat me up more than bigger travel so I needed more breaks for arm pump. Would be my choice for your situation

    Ibis Ripley LS (120r/130f): an extremely close second. Was slightly more nimble due tp being a shorter bike ride quality felt similar as did climbing. Only area it gave up anything to the Trance 29 on was steep chunky terrain where the longer giant just felt more confidence inspiring.

    Pivot Trail 429 (120r/120f): I honestly didn’t like this bike much. It just felt like a bigger XC bike and was not as confidence inspiring in the chunk. It also rode noticeably harsher than the others. Kicked ass at XC stuff though, and climbed every bit as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bronxbomber252 View Post
    Got to demo a few short travel 29ers on Bug Springs in Tucson this weekend (very chunky) here were my impressions.

    Giant Trance 29 (115 rear/130 front): my favorite. Beat me up a little more than the mid travel 29er I normally ride but was very capable descending, very composed over massive chunk, and confidence inspiring. Also climbed really well. But again, short travel beat me up more than bigger travel so I needed more breaks for arm pump. Would be my choice for your situation

    Ibis Ripley LS (120r/130f): an extremely close second. Was slightly more nimble due tp being a shorter bike ride quality felt similar as did climbing. Only area it gave up anything to the Trance 29 on was steep chunky terrain where the longer giant just felt more confidence inspiring.

    Pivot Trail 429 (120r/120f): I honestly didn’t like this bike much. It just felt like a bigger XC bike and was not as confidence inspiring in the chunk. It also rode noticeably harsher than the others. Kicked ass at XC stuff though, and climbed every bit as well.
    Thanks for pointing out the Trance, it wasn't even on my radar and all of the numbers line up with what I think I'm looking for. Sounds like I need to demo a few things. Thinking I will ultimately be doing frame only as my Honzo has good parts and I'm looking to have this bike take it's place.

    Anyone know any local shops (PHX area) that demo Giant bikes?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJ40runr View Post
    ...
    If you were looking for a bike to race XCM, XCO, and Enduro (in order of importance) and the typical McDowell (gateway/bells/sunrise), SoMo (Natty, Geronimo), PMP, Sedona H's, and Flag fun stuff while not racing, what would you be looking for?..

    Appreciate the thoughts!
    If you are racing MBAA (nobody uses XCM or XC terms around here) then the HT is acutally pretty good. I raced MBAA on my SS HT all year. However I will be racing next year on my 23lbs 2018 Epic in Expert (cat 1) division . 100/100 FS (no dropper) I also use that for all the general riding when I don't want to ride single speed and for Long 40-60 mile backcountry races/races. However for Stuff like National and Enduro stuff I have 30lbs 130/125 5010 with a dropper. Have a friend that rides So Mo all the time on his 29 Enduro (160mm) and he does a few MBAA races on it, but is not competitive.

    I personally think a 100/100 bike is all the bike I need if I had just one bike for what I ride 90% of the time, but not ideal for National/Geronimo. I can ride 90% of the other stuff and race competitively.


    So the issue is if you want to race competitively a HT is good, but one with a 140 pike is not. However that bike is fine for National if you are not looking to go fast. I have ridden all that stuff on a old school 26" HT with 100mm fork and rim brakes. It was not fast and I could not ride everything, but alot of that is skill related.

    You really need to decided how you want to ride those trails. Fast or just riding along? Do you want to race competitively or just show up. Where will you ride the most?


    Also something to consider. My new FS bike does not descend technical stuff any better than my SS HT or my older 29er HT. The angles on the bikes are just too similar. So when the trail gets techy they all descend similarly. However where the FS shines is on less techy more chunky trails where the bike absobs the bumps better allowing me to go faster. My 5" trail bike has a slacker head angle and a dropper so I can handle the step tech decesents better. However it does not corner as well as my other bikes and is 7lbs heavier and that takes a toll on climbing performance.

    The real question is where are you riding most now? What are your "go to trails"? What do you want to ride that you can't or feel beat up. If you want to race just race with what you have before you invest in race bike. If you want to be competitive in Cat 1, Cat 2 or even Cat 3 you will want a proper XC bike. If you just want to show up and have fun you can do that on anything.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  16. #16
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    Demo that SB100....you may be surprised at it's capabilities, especially going down.
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    Quote Originally Posted by k2rider1964 View Post
    Demo that SB100....you may be surprised at it's capabilities, especially going down.
    Honestly it hasn't been that high on my list due to the geometry numbers (reach a little short, not quite as slack as I'd ideally like probably), they're not particularly light and obviously cost. Is the infinity link or something else really that great? One of those bikes that just feels better than the numbers suggest?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawgzilla View Post
    I'm glad to hear that you have found that. In my 20+ years of riding HTs and FSs, I have yet to find that in a FS bike. I have to assume that technique plays a role in this, something I am probably lacking in.
    Technique is a huge role in technical climbing and trails like National. I know because I have none...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    If you are racing MBAA (nobody uses XCM or XC terms around here) then the HT is acutally pretty good. I raced MBAA on my SS HT all year. However I will be racing next year on my 23lbs 2018 Epic in Expert (cat 1) division . 100/100 FS (no dropper) I also use that for all the general riding when I don't want to ride single speed and for Long 40-60 mile backcountry races/races. However for Stuff like National and Enduro stuff I have 30lbs 130/125 5010 with a dropper. Have a friend that rides So Mo all the time on his 29 Enduro (160mm) and he does a few MBAA races on it, but is not competitive.

    I personally think a 100/100 bike is all the bike I need if I had just one bike for what I ride 90% of the time, but not ideal for National/Geronimo. I can ride 90% of the other stuff and race competitively.


    So the issue is if you want to race competitively a HT is good, but one with a 140 pike is not. However that bike is fine for National if you are not looking to go fast. I have ridden all that stuff on a old school 26" HT with 100mm fork and rim brakes. It was not fast and I could not ride everything, but alot of that is skill related.

    You really need to decided how you want to ride those trails. Fast or just riding along? Do you want to race competitively or just show up. Where will you ride the most?


    Also something to consider. My new FS bike does not descend technical stuff any better than my SS HT or my older 29er HT. The angles on the bikes are just too similar. So when the trail gets techy they all descend similarly. However where the FS shines is on less techy more chunky trails where the bike absobs the bumps better allowing me to go faster. My 5" trail bike has a slacker head angle and a dropper so I can handle the step tech decesents better. However it does not corner as well as my other bikes and is 7lbs heavier and that takes a toll on climbing performance.

    The real question is where are you riding most now? What are your "go to trails"? What do you want to ride that you can't or feel beat up. If you want to race just race with what you have before you invest in race bike. If you want to be competitive in Cat 1, Cat 2 or even Cat 3 you will want a proper XC bike. If you just want to show up and have fun you can do that on anything.
    Thank you for the thoughtful response Joe, all sounds pretty spot-on to me. I moved here 2ish years ago now (got back into mtb after a 15yr hiatus maybe 1.5yrs ago). Had never ridden XC previously, but now having tried to ride a lot of AZ am thoroughly addicted to big techy XC rides. I come from a long distance running background so coupling that and my love for DH is kinda a great mix. I suspect AES type races are actually what I'll ultimately most enjoy, but haven't gotten that far in my transition to long tough self-supported rides yet.

    I did Tour of the White Mtns a couple weekends ago and had relative success for my first "real" longer race. Realistically I think my goal is to be a mid-pack Cat1 rider for MBAA races, relatively competitive in up to 100ish mi races, and tough and smart enough to do AZT300 in the next 2yrs. From there I can probably regroup again, it's already been a whirlwind going from never raced XC to podium Cat2 and enjoying all of the amazing stuff AZ has to offer MTB-wise.

    Your notes on the geo are exactly what I am getting at with my search for a short travel, light, aggressive geo rig. I honestly don't feel like I will get much of a benefit in decents if I don't keep or go more aggressive with geo relative to my current Honzo. Honestly if I could exactly match the Honzo on a light, efficient, 120ish/120ish rig I feel like I'd be most happy...I just love it on the descents so much. I ride the damn thing everywhere and it inspires a stupid amount of confidence, even on things like the hogs, hiline and hangover.

    Ultimately, at this point I ain't fit enough to win Cat1 XC, I ain't fast or skilled enough to win enduros, and I ultimately just want to continue to get faster while having the most fun possible. This is why I'm kinda still thinking a do-it-all approach makes sense...I'm not at the point where I'm needing the marginal gains of a true purpose built rig to make the difference.

    The thoughts about FS vs HT for techy climbing are interesting to me, I figure a place like National a trail bike has to be best. But then thinking about the gnarly 1 or 2 steepass sections of the west side of sunrise that I have never cleaned, I feel like a steep XC HT or short travel rig might be the only way I'd make it up! So at my skill level I guess there is no single answer.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJ40runr View Post
    ... I suspect AES type races are actually what I'll ultimately most enjoy, but haven't gotten that far in my transition to long tough self-supported rides yet.

    I did Tour of the White Mtns a couple weekends ago and had relative success for my first "real" longer race. Realistically I think my goal is to be a mid-pack Cat1 rider for MBAA races, relatively competitive in up to 100ish mi races, and tough and smart enough to do AZT300 in the next 2yrs. From there I can probably regroup again, it's already been a whirlwind going from never raced XC to podium Cat2 and enjoying all of the amazing stuff AZ has to offer MTB-wise...

    If this is your goal then a 100/100 FS XC bike is probably the best way to go. I raced at Tour of the White Mtns this year. I have been doing AES for a few years and did the Azt 300 in 2017. I started doing long rides back in 2014 with the Whiskey 50 on my 26" HT. I was not the fastest, but I did finish mid pack. From there I did AES, 24 Hrs of old pueblo 3 times on 4-5 person team, 2 24 Hrs Enchanted forest on teams. Along the way I picked up a 29er - Santa Cruz Highball with 120mm fork. I did alot of riding on that and loved that bike. I started bikepacking and that was my bike for the Azt 300. For 2018 I raced MBAA Singlespeed and won Cat 2 because it was fun, but will be mid pack Cat 1 for 2019 geared 45+. Well I hope to be mid pack. Late last year I was doing the AES Kentucky Camp and getting faster and was not able able to really rest on the descents. Still knock off 20-30 minutes from prior best, but knew I was pushing the limits. Fatigue from pushing the descents hard was catching up. The in December 2017 I demoed a Giant Anthem 29er. Really shocked how well it climbed and how it took the edge off the descents. I had also a 5" trail bike which was fun, but too heavy at 29lbs to race or ride for hours and hours and did not climb great. The Giant opened my eyes to what a good XC FS could do. So I did some more looking around and settled on a 2018 Specialized Epic.

    The reason is that I wanted a light good pedaling bike to take the edge off the rocky descents. This way I could ride them faster or the same speed, but with less effort. The epic is light (mine is sub 23lbs as built) and has a threaded Bottom bracket and 2 bottle mounts inside the frame. These two bottle mounts are key on AES rides where I often carry 100oz of water and 2 bottles. Most other XC bikes don't have two bottle mounts. I know the Giant Anthem did not and I did not like that. Threaded BB.. Love it for easy maintenance. As for the Brain. Yeah I can be a pain, but I have come to love it. Pedals almost like a HT, but also takes the edge off. It is my long distance go to bike. It was the perfect bike for Breck Epic that I did this year. 6 days 200+ miles 32k of climbing. 4-6hrs hard riding each day 90% over 10,000 feet. Light and efficient enough grind up 10-11% 45 minute grades at over 10,000 feet and plush enough to ride the rocky descents at speed. Now it does not descend like an enduro bike, but for any thing "XC" or "trail" the bike is golden. I have however yet to take it bikepacking. My seatbag arrangement on my Highball probably not give me the room I need on Epic. So might need a new seat bag.

    so in the end I am a fan of the newer crop of FS XC bikes. 69.5 ish HA and longer reach. With reasonably skilled hands they can tackle 90% of Az trails. You can always add a dropper to example capabilities. These bikes can be raced in XC or Endurance XC. They can be ridden on "enduro" trails, but racing then in actual Enduro is beyond their capabilities.

    Some bikes to consider are the Epic, Epic Evo, Scott Spark, Santa Cruz Blur, Intense Sniper, Trek Top Fuel, Pivot 429SL, Yeti SB100 The thing is once you go over 26lbs you will start giving up a lot especially in Cat 1.
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    If this is your goal then a 100/100 FS XC bike is probably the best way to go. I raced at Tour of the White Mtns this year. I have been doing AES for a few years and did the Azt 300 in 2017. I started doing long rides back in 2014 with the Whiskey 50 on my 26" HT. I was not the fastest, but I did finish mid pack. From there I did AES, 24 Hrs of old pueblo 3 times on 4-5 person team, 2 24 Hrs Enchanted forest on teams. Along the way I picked up a 29er - Santa Cruz Highball with 120mm fork. I did alot of riding on that and loved that bike. I started bikepacking and that was my bike for the Azt 300. For 2018 I raced MBAA Singlespeed and won Cat 2 because it was fun, but will be mid pack Cat 1 for 2019 geared 45+. Well I hope to be mid pack. Late last year I was doing the AES Kentucky Camp and getting faster and was not able able to really rest on the descents. Still knock off 20-30 minutes from prior best, but knew I was pushing the limits. Fatigue from pushing the descents hard was catching up. The in December 2017 I demoed a Giant Anthem 29er. Really shocked how well it climbed and how it took the edge off the descents. I had also a 5" trail bike which was fun, but too heavy at 29lbs to race or ride for hours and hours and did not climb great. The Giant opened my eyes to what a good XC FS could do. So I did some more looking around and settled on a 2018 Specialized Epic.

    The reason is that I wanted a light good pedaling bike to take the edge off the rocky descents. This way I could ride them faster or the same speed, but with less effort. The epic is light (mine is sub 23lbs as built) and has a threaded Bottom bracket and 2 bottle mounts inside the frame. These two bottle mounts are key on AES rides where I often carry 100oz of water and 2 bottles. Most other XC bikes don't have two bottle mounts. I know the Giant Anthem did not and I did not like that. Threaded BB.. Love it for easy maintenance. As for the Brain. Yeah I can be a pain, but I have come to love it. Pedals almost like a HT, but also takes the edge off. It is my long distance go to bike. It was the perfect bike for Breck Epic that I did this year. 6 days 200+ miles 32k of climbing. 4-6hrs hard riding each day 90% over 10,000 feet. Light and efficient enough grind up 10-11% 45 minute grades at over 10,000 feet and plush enough to ride the rocky descents at speed. Now it does not descend like an enduro bike, but for any thing "XC" or "trail" the bike is golden. I have however yet to take it bikepacking. My seatbag arrangement on my Highball probably not give me the room I need on Epic. So might need a new seat bag.

    so in the end I am a fan of the newer crop of FS XC bikes. 69.5 ish HA and longer reach. With reasonably skilled hands they can tackle 90% of Az trails. You can always add a dropper to example capabilities. These bikes can be raced in XC or Endurance XC. They can be ridden on "enduro" trails, but racing then in actual Enduro is beyond their capabilities.

    Some bikes to consider are the Epic, Epic Evo, Scott Spark, Santa Cruz Blur, Intense Sniper, Trek Top Fuel, Pivot 429SL, Yeti SB100 The thing is once you go over 26lbs you will start giving up a lot especially in Cat 1.
    Very cool, sounds like you've done a ton of the riding I'm looking to do. I'm Chase, I'll have to track you down at a race some time...I'm probably most easily spotted by my ancient tan landcruiser.

    Sounds like your Epic is very much in the same direction of where I'm looking to go, with possibly a slightly more decent-focus. My Honzo is 25ish pounds, I am hoping to build something keeping the dropper, decent meats, and something more substantial than a Fox 32 (probably a 34SC?) while keeping it around 25-26lb. I'm fairly light so can probably get away with some lighter brakes/cockpit/cranks than I currently run too to help.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJ40runr View Post
    ... I am hoping to build something keeping the dropper, decent meats, and something more substantial than a Fox 32 (probably a 34SC?) while keeping it around 25-26lb. I'm fairly light so can probably get away with some lighter brakes/cockpit/cranks than I currently run too to help.
    Hmm Epic Evo is pretty close. Should be able to get to 25-26lbs. Might need to swap the stock handlebar though.

    A FOX Step-Cast 34 Performance Series fork handles suspension duties up front with 120mm of travel and a GRIP damper that has Open, Medium, and Firm modes for every kind of terrain.

    The hand-built Roval Control Carbon wheels feature a modern 25mm (internal width) hookless rim, so you get the low weight, low rolling resistance, and the best possible grip with the 2.3" tires.

    An X-Fusion Manic seatpost brings you some much-needed drop for tackling steep descents, but it also features a zero-offset design that keeps your weight over the bottom bracket for the climbs.

    FRONT TIRE Ground Control, GRIPTON® compound, 60 TPI, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.3"
    REAR TIRE Fast Trak, GRID casing, GRIPTON® compound, 60 TPI, 2Bliss Ready, 29x2.3"

    you could also get an s-works frame set and build your version around it. I bough an Epic Comp and swapped over lots of parts to build my own version.


    I run my Epic with Fox 32 SC, 24mm DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheels and 2.35 Exo Ikon Front and 2.2 XR2 Team rear. I don't run a dropper however. Next SL carbon cranks XX1 1x11 and XTR brakes. My bike is pretty easy to spot. Orange Fork on Black with red accents bike.

    I will say however the brain is love/hate thing. I love it because the bike feels like HT at time. I can stand hammer it like my SS if I want, but when the trail gets rocky opens and gets "plush" at least for HT guy. Some people hate how it feels though so trying before you buy is a MUST.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  23. #23
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    My experience same as yours; ride a ht to get to be better; then go to a bike that likes your ridin style; and that you fit into.
    I went to A Transition Smuggler 29 with 2.5 up front for X ctry; but I use my Switchblade 27.5 with 3.0 front and 2;5 rear; with 1X11; 28 to 42 for So Mo/GC/
    sedona etc. If I had only one, I'd choose the SB...or as SB2 says a 429 if you like 29's...but limited to tire size.
    Cheers.
    TS

  24. #24
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    xxx
    Last edited by RajunCajun44; 10-28-2018 at 01:28 PM.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by big0mike View Post
    Technique is a huge role in technical climbing and trails like National. I know because I have none...
    Same goes for me...I like expensive bikes and blingy bits, but at the end of the day...my bike is better than me.




  26. #26
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    I’ve ridden with Joe. It’s definitely not the bike...

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJ40runr View Post
    Honestly it hasn't been that high on my list due to the geometry numbers (reach a little short, not quite as slack as I'd ideally like probably), they're not particularly light and obviously cost. Is the infinity link or something else really that great? One of those bikes that just feels better than the numbers suggest?
    To me, the switch infinity shines in two areas....it keeps your wheel in better contact on climbs and it reduces chatter when riding over repeated bumps/baby heads, etc...Of course like many others have said elsewhere, the rider is more important than the bike but if Geoff Kabush can win the BC Bike Race on an SB100, it's a very capable bike. https://bike.shimano.com/en-US/infor...xtr-m9100.html
    2019 Yeti SB5C
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  28. #28
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    Honestly, if one's goal is to ride everywhere, on all sorts of terrain, I'd pass up anything with a "brain" and proprietary suspension parts. Too many negatives for being able to ride a wide variety of terrain. Resistance to movement is good to replicate a "hardtail feel", but most people don't buy suspension bikes for that purpose and even in XC racing lots of people stay away from these bikes. A good all-around 120mm-er that relies on good suspension engineering and not band-aids would have the best suspension bump-absorption and maintain traction both downhill and uphill. Again, it comes down to what you want to "specialize" in, it's not going to be possible to build something to excel at both enduro and XC race. You might be able to get something that excells at flatter stuff and bigger mountains without losing too much on either side, but enduro and XC race will take it to the extreme on the far ends of the spectrum.

    I will say at the highest levels of XC racing, upper expert/elite and pro, they do rely heavily on "lockouts" and are able to ride and absorb a ton of impacts, only "opening" the suspension for some of the really nasty downhills. Until you are coming in like top 5 or 10 expert, there is no reason to go this extreme, and it's where you need a competitive-travel and weight bike anyway.
    "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.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Honestly, if one's goal is to ride everywhere, on all sorts of terrain, I'd pass up anything with a "brain" and proprietary suspension parts. Too many negatives for being able to ride a wide variety of terrain. Resistance to movement is good to replicate a "hardtail feel", but most people don't buy suspension bikes for that purpose and even in XC racing lots of people stay away from these bikes. A good all-around 120mm-er that relies on good suspension engineering and not band-aids would have the best suspension bump-absorption and maintain traction both downhill and uphill. Again, it comes down to what you want to "specialize" in, it's not going to be possible to build something to excel at both enduro and XC race. You might be able to get something that excells at flatter stuff and bigger mountains without losing too much on either side, but enduro and XC race will take it to the extreme on the far ends of the spectrum.

    I will say at the highest levels of XC racing, upper expert/elite and pro, they do rely heavily on "lockouts" and are able to ride and absorb a ton of impacts, only "opening" the suspension for some of the really nasty downhills. Until you are coming in like top 5 or 10 expert, there is no reason to go this extreme, and it's where you need a competitive-travel and weight bike anyway.
    Yeah I'm getting closer to accepting that there is no grail bike like I originally described. What I am leaning toward now is building a 21-22lb Sniper with 120/120. I am continuing to appreciate bigger rides and think I'd be happier surviving the descents (which I actually felt like on the top of Bell Pass this am, it's gnarly after the monsoons!) and attacking the climbs. Any thoughts on alternatives to the Sniper for an efficient platform with very progressive geo for light frame? Struggling to find a place to demo a Sniper now, but rode one ~6mo ago and didn't fall in love. BUT this was at Brown's, and I have little FS experience so not unexpected.

  30. #30
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    Airpark bike in scottsdale rents out Intense bikes. They may have a Sniper to try.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJ40runr View Post
    Yeah I'm getting closer to accepting that there is no grail bike like I originally described. What I am leaning toward now is building a 21-22lb Sniper with 120/120. I am continuing to appreciate bigger rides and think I'd be happier surviving the descents (which I actually felt like on the top of Bell Pass this am, it's gnarly after the monsoons!) and attacking the climbs. Any thoughts on alternatives to the Sniper for an efficient platform with very progressive geo for light frame? Struggling to find a place to demo a Sniper now, but rode one ~6mo ago and didn't fall in love. BUT this was at Brown's, and I have little FS experience so not unexpected.
    Well, the local favorite is the Pivot 429 Trail, but honestly there are a lot of good bikes in this class. Devinci Django, Ibis Ripley, the list goes on and on.

    What I would say is target-build around 24-25lbs. Yes, this is heavier than 21-22, but adding a dropper post vastly increases the bike's ability to do downhill stuff. Decently beefy 29er tires around 750-800g also help immensely, plus Arizona rocks will rip tires like Racing Ralphs to shreds, save them for race-day. This allows you to have a bit bigger front rotor, again for more control and fun on the downhills. Still light enough that you can be pretty competitive racing, especially longer races where people tape energy gels to their bikes or load them up with bottles.

    I have a Pivot 429 SL tricked out with a lightweight racing wheelset (rims are 290g each!, DT 180 rear hub) and like that with the racing tires and 100mm Fox 32 SC fork it weighs 22.5lbs. That's pretty damn light.

    The rest of the components are very light, as in Next SL G4 cranks, XTR brakes, etc. The dropper is a Bikeyoke Revive. I went to pretty great lengths to keep it light.

    Built up for every-day fun on the trail and the configuration I use in 100 mile races, with heavier and slightly wider wheelset (400g rim and DT240), 2.35" tires, 120mm fox 34 SC fork, it's 24.5lbs. It's important to note that it is STILL a very efficient, nimble and crisp handling bike at that weight. Obviously not quite as good as at 22.5lbs, but the point is for everyday riding it's well worth that weight penalty.

    So IME, you aren't going to build up an "all around" FS bike at 21-22lbs. It's just not going to happen and maintain any trail-worthiness. You *might* be able to build an XC FS race bike down to around 22lbs, but realize real-world weights are always heavier than spread-sheet weights. I'm weighing components for my new fat-bike build, everything weighs a few more grams more than listed and that adds up over the weight of the bike, plus the little things you don't think about.

    Most bikes are heavier than you think or the riders/companies claim. An FS bike that weighs 25lbs, ANY FS bike, is pretty darn light. You can make hardtails pretty damn light just due to the frame weight, but with any FS bike, it's not going to be a total featherweight, and if it is, it means it's going to suck at "all terrain" anyway.

    A ~120mm bike should weigh close to 24-25lbs depending on build if you are going all-out, but keeping the trail-worthiness of that amount of travel.
    "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.

  32. #32
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    Also look into Banshee. A bit on the heavier side but really dialed in with the lateral stiffness, and great value. Search the forums for testimonials. I recently switched from a Lynskey ht to their Phantom, overshocked to120mm rear, with a Fox factory 140mm up front. Pedals and corners like a ht, and despite gaining 3lbs on the frame, I cut significant time off my usuals. Loves to be ridden aggressively.

  33. #33
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    Have you ridden a 120/120 FS bike? Did you find the front end low compared to your Honzo with a 140 fork? Do you plan to add something to your new FS to get the free ride feel of the Honzo? I ride a HT with 140 frond end and rode a Trail 429 today and found the front end to close and lower than I'd like.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2wheelsarefun View Post
    Have you ridden a 120/120 FS bike? Did you find the front end low compared to your Honzo with a 140 fork? Do you plan to add something to your new FS to get the free ride feel of the Honzo? I ride a HT with 140 frond end and rode a Trail 429 today and found the front end to close and lower than I'd like.
    Yeah I demoed a Sniper Trail maybe 8mo ago actually. I think my preferences have changed enough that I honestly can't speak to that experience, plus I was at Brown's which I never ride.

    I will say that when I bumped my Honzo 120->140 I also took the spacers out from below the stem and got a flat bar...I don't think actual bar height changed much. That said, the reason the Sniper Trail is attractive to me is that it has very similar geo to the Honzo (from what I can tell on paper at least), and is definitely more "freeride" than most XC bikes.

    Really would like a demo on one again though, torn on L vs. XL too.

  35. #35
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    Wanted to follow up on this as I had the opportunity to do an extended demo of a buddies Sniper XC Elite in Large. Got a quick Mormon/Lower Natty loop in Friday night (ran out of light and have a shitty lamp), did a big McDowell ride yesterday (Dixie Mine->Prospector->Bell->Gateway->Windgate->Bell->Paradise->Lost Dog->Sunrise...a beatdown of tech ups and downs), and did Javalina TH to Buena Vista today. The bike is BADASS! Cannot believe how good it was at everything, basically the exact bike I'm looking for.

    Fastest single bike for AZ?-img_20181117_082932.jpg

    Some misc thoughts:

    I now understand why everyone rides full suspension at this point, damn thing is more capable in every measurable metric than my Honzo I feel.

    I only weigh 145lb now, the frame (and fork) is definitely a noodle. If I weighed more I don't think I could get away with thrashing it through the stuff I did comfortably.

    Coming from a hardtail, I felt the front was overpowered by the rear, would definitely throw a 34 stepcast on (possibly even drop it to 110mm pending how climbing is affected).

    It has a 44mm offset fork, this coupled with a 50mm stem (still damn short) felt awkward to me. Felt like the geo was fighting steering inputs. I put a 40mm stem on and it felt a little better to me. Still felt like the front end kinda wanted to tuck under at times on steeps/rolling stuff (that I maybe shouldn't!), I think a 51mm offset would be more comfortable. They spec the trail builds with a 120mm 51mm offset fork for reference.

    Was not a big fan of the 2.25 Rekons, not sure if that is adjustment period/needing a back-to-back with what I typically ride (2.35 Ikons). Would be tempted to slap some Minions on and rip for fun on occasion.

    I'm not a huge fan of judging a bike by strava segments because so much is at play here, but recently have found my fitness has pretty much leveled so feel I can trust numbers. Basically faster down EVERYWHERE, and faster up in most places. I honestly didn't realize how much I favor "good" lines on my HT when going down, and how limited using your legs as suspension actually is. I suspect that when I fully trust some suspension I would be even faster going down.

    I question if riding a bike like this will make me soft...honestly everything is so much easier it feels like cheating almost. Kinda the same feeling as when I ride by people racing SS. My plan to counter this is going rigid SS with my Honzo to remind me what hard really is.

    Feel like I really need to focus on putting consistent power down and just spinning while seated, shocked at how much even 100mm of travel allows you to just mow over shit. Definitely feel like a bike like this allows one to focus on being fit vs. having technical skills.

    Was worried that a L would feel tight in the cockpit, instead feel like the smaller cockpit allows me to have more control and move around on the bike better. I think this is somewhat related to a slightly longer wheelbase vs. my Honzo. My fear was that I would lose DH confidence, did not feel this way.

    Surprised that the 32 SC, 100mm of travel, and a slammed stem/bar didn't feel terrifying. Actually felt pretty fine.

    Overall, love the bike and will definitely be getting/building one. Issue now is that Large grey frames are currently unobtanium with no ETA from Intense. May buy a full build and swap/sell components, like the bike that much.

    Chase
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Fastest single bike for AZ?-img_20181118_111357.jpg  


  36. #36
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    I'm the wrong person to ask. Single speed up Mesquite and down Goat Camp. Ford Canyon too.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Fastest single bike for AZ?-img_20181011_144407935-effects.jpg  

    Ripping trails and tipping ales

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    I'm the wrong person to ask. Single speed up Mesquite and down Goat Camp. Ford Canyon too.
    I need to get over there and ride goat camp, over an hour from me and just haven't gotten there. Supposedly very gnar? Don't hear too much about it.

    And yes, not my kinda bike. Do appreciate a custom frame, but not for me right now.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJ40runr View Post
    Surprised that the 32 SC, 100mm of travel, and a slammed stem/bar didn't feel terrifying. Actually felt pretty fine.
    It's not a 34, but I think a lot of people blame the fork when it's really a good amount of wheel and bar-flex they are feeling, especially wheels, like noodle aluminum rims. I've raced it hard and didn't have any issues.

    I will say though for riding the harder trails like highline and hangover, after the WOR, I would have much rather had a 120 34 SC like my buddy, rather than my 32, there it was out of it's element, but during the Whiskey it was perfect and for all the riding around Prescott.
    "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.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by big0mike View Post
    Technique is a huge role in technical climbing and trails like National. I know because I have none...
    Hah! I miss your articulate posts from my armchair view out West here!👍😎
    Wait whuuut, who did he tell you that!?!?....

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    It's not a 34, but I think a lot of people blame the fork when it's really a good amount of wheel and bar-flex they are feeling, especially wheels, like noodle aluminum rims. I've raced it hard and didn't have any issues.

    I will say though for riding the harder trails like highline and hangover, after the WOR, I would have much rather had a 120 34 SC like my buddy, rather than my 32, there it was out of it's element, but during the Whiskey it was perfect and for all the riding around Prescott.
    I think that's 100% accurate... ultimately the bike will be for everything and I'd rather it be fun on the hilines/hangovers vs. ever so slightly faster with a smaller/lighter fork. Interested to see what 120mm is like, could definitely see dropping the 34SC to 110mm if it doesn't feel great.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJ40runr View Post
    I think that's 100% accurate... ultimately the bike will be for everything and I'd rather it be fun on the hilines/hangovers vs. ever so slightly faster with a smaller/lighter fork. Interested to see what 120mm is like, could definitely see dropping the 34SC to 110mm if it doesn't feel great.
    As a cat1 racer, I definitely felt the hit from going from 100mm to 120mm on the climbs, as in more effort, less ability to conquer the steep ones, etc. 110 would probably be a decent compromise, except for some reason my 34SC isn't quite as plush/well damped as my 32SC. Something I'm going to work on this winter.
    "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.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    As a cat1 racer, I definitely felt the hit from going from 100mm to 120mm on the climbs, as in more effort, less ability to conquer the steep ones, etc. 110 would probably be a decent compromise, except for some reason my 34SC isn't quite as plush/well damped as my 32SC. Something I'm going to work on this winter.
    Interesting thoughts, I've considered just having both and swapping as makes sense, but gut was that I'd gravitate toward one and have no use for the other. After hopping back on my Honzo overforked to 140mm I definitely felt the negatives...makes the idea of a 110 34SC more attractive to me.

    Interesting your 34 doesn't feel as good, I would have expected the opposite. Excited about tuning a FS bike to work well, in a past life did dampers in IndyCar.

  43. #43
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    As an aside,

    Do any of you guys who do both XC racing and long distance multiple-day stuff like AES ever consider the ability of storage on the bike?

    I know the Pivot 429 is a popular XC bike and I've seen it built as a bikepacking/endurance rig as well, but I also felt it's storage was really limited.

    As an alternative, the new Giant Trance 29 seems like it'd be a brilliant do-it-all bike. The XL will build to 27lbs (and thats with heavy-ish DVO products) but the frame is built for more aggressive riding so it isn't a noodle. It's got a big open frame for a nice size frame bag. It's got an efficient suspension design and modern geo right at home with short stems and wide bars.

    Swap out the DVO stuff with a lightweight Fox DPS and 34 SC at 120mm and yea it wouldn't be the most ideal bike for a Enduro, but it'd probably do pretty damn good everywhere else. With a 130mm fork it's a 66.5º HTA, so at 120mm it'd probably still be a decently slack 67º.

    Hell, Giant pretty much offers that bike: "The Trance Advanced Pro 29 2 is $4,300 USD and features a composite front and rear triangle. It has a Fox 34 Rythm fork, Float DPS shock, SRAM NX Eagle 1x12 drivetrain, Guide T brakes, 780mm x 35mm handlebars, Giant dropper post, and Giant's new TRX 1 carbon wheels."
    GIS/GPS Pro using ArcFM for Utility Mapping - Always willing to connect with other MTBers in the industry.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by PHeller View Post
    As an aside,

    Do any of you guys who do both XC racing and long distance multiple-day stuff like AES ever consider the ability of storage on the bike?
    Yes. I do AES and a big factor for me was 2 bottle mounts. My Epic has them on a medium frame. The Giant anthem29 I demoed only had 1 mount. I have never used a frame bag. I did Arizona trail300 using a seat bag, handlebar bag and smallish back pack. I carried 2 bottles in the frame for that and my Epic allows me to do the same. For AES stuff I like 100oz camelback with water and 2 bottles with electrolyte. For more supported long rides I can run 2 bottles and refill at air stations. SWAT box is nice to carry tube, CO2 and multitool on the bottle cage. So no small seat bag needed, but I have room to add one for more gear.


    My Epic


    My 2017 Azt 300 setup.
    Fastest single bike for AZ?-img_1732sc.jpg
    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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