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  1. #1
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    XC vs AM handling

    Hi all,
    I'm looking at getting my 1st full suspension bike and am looking for feedback on the handling differences between 2 types of bike. 1st is a 27.5 or 29" xc type bike with about 70 degree head tube angle and 120mm suspension travel. The other options lean more toward AM type 27.5" bikes with 150mm travel and slacker steering in the 68 degree area. I'm not asking about specific bikes, just the differences between the two types of platform. I'm 6'2" 250lbs and not that fast or aggressive but wish to be. The toughest trails I will ride are the tech loop at MMP and pass mountain. I also ride Hawes and Lost Dog, Taliesen and I'd like to get out to Gold Canyon too. So, is an AM type platform overkill?
    You all have been a fountain of information to myself and others in the past. Thanks for any feedback!
    I need to ride more...

  2. #2
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    The steeper, shorter travel is more efficient for climbing but not as fun for descending. I went from a steeper, 130mm 29er to a 6" travel 27.5 with a 65 head angle, long top tube and short (40mm) stem on those types of trails, and while I'm never going to win an XC race, it's super fun and confidence inspiring on the way back down. Suspension design and overall weight are good enough these days that you can still climb really well on some pretty aggressive geometry. I can comfortably ride up Mormon and ride back down National with confidence that used to be reserved for downhill bikes. For trails like Hawes, it's overkill but still fun. If you want to start riding faster and more aggressively, no question I'd jump on some new school geometry. (I love cornering and finding fun lines and getting in the air as much as possible. If you're more into sitting, spinning, and grinding out miles at a steady pace, that's another story). I'd aim for around 140, maybe 150mm travel, and 67 degree head angle for most trails around here. That's a pretty good sweet spot. There may be those who disagree around here, but in my experience, once you taste the new stuff, there's no going back.
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  3. #3
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    You need to demo. Pivot runs demos at McDowell. And so does the Singletrack Factory. That hits Ibis and Yeti. They're close to Lost Dog. If you can find a configuration you like climbing/descending that Jeep Trail section....

  4. #4
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    I just went from a XC FS 29 with 100 front and rear to a Trail/Am bike with 160 from and 125 rear. The old bike cornered a little better with a lower center of gravity and i was likely faster in the majority of places. The new bike let's me take lines and obsticals i would avoid before. It is like everything got easier. I started finding new lines on trails I have rode for years.

    I am having more fun on the new bike. I run the rear suspension in the stiffer setting 90% of the time.

    Based on your riding description and that you are coming off a HT, I would recommend going more conservative.

    I have not rode 27.5, but when i moved from 26 to 29 I was way faster and was having more fun. With the type of riding you describe, 29 seems like a good choice. I have not rode the 27.5 though, so what do I know.

    Demo some bikes or borrow bikes at a group ride.

  5. #5
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    The AM platform is going to be more "forgiving" when you make a questionable line choice, the XC rigs will be more snappy when you get on the gas. Modern XC rigs are really shifting geometry so they can work well as a race rig or an everyday bike for the type of riding you've described. Our original Mach4 was very much an XC rig and felt that way on the tougher technical trails like National. The new version isn't gonna win any DH race but I felt comfortable enough to ride all of National with it, including the waterfall. The bigger consideration for you and what you're wanting to do may be durability. At 250 lbs and wanting to ride aggressively, an AM bike may be a better choice since those are generally built for that exact type of riding whereas an XC bike is going to lean more towards smoother riding & racing. Demo, demo, demo! Ride as many different models as possible before buying
    Last edited by kenbentit; 05-03-2016 at 08:20 PM.
    Desert Sunset Calls/Upward, Pain, Perseverance/Welcome Solitude

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by camekanix View Post
    Hi all,
    I'm looking at getting my 1st full suspension bike and am looking for feedback on the handling differences between 2 types of bike. 1st is a 27.5 or 29" xc type bike with about 70 degree head tube angle and 120mm suspension travel. The other options lean more toward AM type 27.5" bikes with 150mm travel and slacker steering in the 68 degree area. I'm not asking about specific bikes, just the differences between the two types of platform. I'm 6'2" 250lbs and not that fast or aggressive but wish to be. The toughest trails I will ride are the tech loop at MMP and pass mountain. I also ride Hawes and Lost Dog, Taliesen and I'd like to get out to Gold Canyon too. So, is an AM type platform overkill?
    You all have been a fountain of information to myself and others in the past. Thanks for any feedback!
    Sounds like a 69 deg 100mm bike would be fine for you. 69 deg is slack enough give some confidence on the steep descents, but steep enough for good handling. 29" wheels will roll over anything. A 150 mm bike will be slacker and heavier and overkill for what you are talking about. After riding a 26" HT for years I have settled on a stable of 2 bikes. Primary is 29er HT with a 120 mm fork. Comes out to about 69deg head angle and climbs great, handles great and descents really well. Even steep rocky drops it handles great, but is 23lbs build so not idea of really hard bashing. However for those days when I want to tackle the nasty stuff fast I just picked up a 125 mm/ 130 mm 27.5 FS bike. This has a 68 deg head angle longer top tube with a short stem plus a dropper seat post. Perfect for really nasty big terrain stuff, but overkill for anything at MMP. It might be faster than the HT at Lost Dog and Taliesen, but only downhill. This bike climbs really well in that behaves nicely on technical climbs, but the suspension and overall weight (30lbs) make it less efficient than my HT. The 27.5 wheels don't roll over stuff as well as the 29in wheels, but with extra cushion I can compensate. I will also say the 5" bike has a significantly longer wheel base as compared to the HT so it not quite as nimble. Do I need more than 125 in the rear and 130 in front? I don't believe so because at that point climbing suffers even more and I don't believe I will try the trails that need that much travel. I have gotten to the point where I want to do some tough terrain, but I don't feel the need to it all. Plus I need a bike that I can ride up the trails to get to the downhills.

    BTW... a 100mm/100 mm bike at 70 deg can have the fork swapped to a 120 mm resulting in a 69 deg head angle.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  7. #7
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    You guys are great! Thanks all for the detailed responses. Another consideration for going FS is that my knees suffer on those fast rocky down hills on the HT and even more so on my rigid SS.
    I was 270 a couple months ago and continuing to lose weight will help some but the physical damage to my knees will always be a factor.
    I need to ride more...

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by camekanix View Post
    The toughest trails I will ride are the tech loop at MMP and pass mountain. I also ride Hawes and Lost Dog, Taliesen and I'd like to get out to Gold Canyon too. So, is an AM type platform overkill?
    Yes.

    29er with HA of 69-70 and 120 mm is more than enough for the type of riding you do.

    I see people rave about the AM 150 mm 27.5 but reality is that on most trails around Phoenix it's overkill and most people don't have to skills to take advantage of a bike like that anyway.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by camekanix View Post
    Hi all,
    I'm looking at getting my 1st full suspension bike


    and I'd like to get out to Gold Canyon too. So, is an AM type platform overkill?
    No. At 250, you need to be on such a frame. As soon as you get better/more fit, that XC bike the resident dirt roadies are pimping will be for sale.....69 degrees is a piece of shit once you get going.
    Nice KOM, sorry about your penis.

  10. #10
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    No. At 250, you need to be on such a frame. As soon as you get better/more fit, that XC bike the resident dirt roadies are pimping will be for sale.....69 degrees is a piece of shit once you get going.
    Good point, I guess my weight would tax the suspension and other components so beefier bits makes sense even if I don't use it to it's potential.
    I need to ride more...

  11. #11
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    Sounds like a Santa Cruz 5010 or the new Tallboy would be perfect for the riding you describe.


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  12. #12
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    Yeah, what MrWhrlr said. When I was still 230, I bought a Specialized StumpJumper, which was more of an XC bike. I bent rims and seat rails. Ended up spending money to replace parts with stronger ones that would have been stock on my Enduro. Heck, some XC bikes have parts with weight limits, like saddles and what not. Granted my lack of grace while riding could have contributed to broken stuff...
    “Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.”
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  13. #13
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    My main rides are Hawes, San Tan, and Gold Canyon and I want to upgrade from a Bronson to a Nomad so I'm definitely in the AM side.

    But I would reiterate what other people have said, demo any and all bikes you can that your interested in. I had never demo'd a Bronson but it was a really good deal so I couldn't pass it up. I have demo'd the 27.5 Nomad a few times and now know that's what I should have bought. FYI Action Ride Shop has a pretty solid rental fleet. I've never used them but they have Santa Cruz and I heard they have added some others as well now.

  14. #14
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    Yes. Demo demo demo. Don't get caught up in paralysis by analysis. Some frames fit people with longer torsos, etc. All brands make a good bike. Comes down to preference in components (SRAM vs Shimano), and being comfortable. All wheel sizes work, and none of that stuff won't even matter if you aren't comfortable. I don't know what side of the valley you're on, but in the west side, Sonoran has demo programs, and they sell multiple brands. AZ Cyclery does Specialized and they do demos. I think the Trek west side store does too. All 3 of those stores have very nice people there too.
    “Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.”
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by tysonnemb View Post
    Yes. Demo demo demo. Don't get caught up in paralysis by analysis. Some frames fit people with longer torsos, etc...
    Case in point. Both my current bikes were purchase used, but after some "demo" rides. I actually did Demo a couple Pivot's from Sonoran back in January. First time riding 29ers and got feel for sizing. I am 5'7" and rode medium and a small. Found the medium too long in the top tube, but small fit like a glove. The effect was I could not really turn the medium frame really well as it was too stretched out. Looked at the numbers and the Top tube was 1" longer on the medium. So a few weeks later a friend was selling his medium Highball. He is shorter than me by a bit, but I figured if it fit him it might be ok. After adjusting the seat post I really liked the feel, but the reach was too short. Of course he had a really short stem on it. Shorter than normal. That was an easy fix however. So I bought it and swapped to a more normal stem and it fit perfectly.

    Then a couple months later a Large 5010 came up for sale. Hmm large is 1" longer top tube than I was running on the Highball. So I had 50 mm stem laying around and swapped out the 80 mm for the 50. Reach was perfect now, but how would it handle. Well couple test rides in place and was handling just right for what I wanted the bike to do. So doing a test ride is always good to be certain if the feel is what you want. Consider the numbers and then ride it see if you are right.
    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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    I'm in East Mesa and my buddy told me i just missed a demo day out at MMP last weekend but I will keep an eye out and visit some shops. Fortunately I live just a few miles from Hawes and a quick trip on a demo/rental or 4 will tell me what I need to know. Thanks again all for the excellent feedback!
    I need to ride more...

  17. #17
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    Try a Trek Fuel EX: 120 rear and 120/130 front, 68.8 degrees HTA with 120 front, a little more slack with 130 up front. Boost 110/148 too, so it works with plus sized wheels/tires. Seems like a good in "between XC and AM" bike, leaning a little more toward aggro XC.

    Fuel EX 9 29 | Fuel EX | Trail mountain bikes | Mountain bikes | Bikes | Trek Bikes

    Whatever you choose, make sure it's a 29er (or 27.5+) and it has a dropper post.

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