4" or 5" of travel??- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    4" or 5" of travel??

    Hi-

    Lookin get first full suspension bike. Have been riding steel hardtails, aspiring weekend warrior here.

    I finally rode my first FS, a buddy's Spec SJ FSR Comp, and was taken with the added terrain I was able to successfully cover, especially since I dont have the skills I once had now that I am a 39 yo with kids, who has been struggling to get out more than 5-6 times a summer. But I have committed to riding more mtn bike, and into the cooler months, and really enjoyed the hour of my FS ride, the added yippee factor in being able clear parts of trails I couldnt on the HT, or being able to do so faster to keep up with the guys who I ride with who are faster than me (some on HT's )

    So aside from the fact I can't seem to give away my beautiful Rocky Mountain Hammer steel hardtail, (there is one on ebay that listed twice and never got a bid above $300 either time), I am going to buy a FS bike.

    My question is, in addition to considering the 5" travel Spec SJ comp '09, I was also looking at the 4" travel Rocky Mountain Element 50 '09, (both can be had for under $2k) as there is one for sale in my price range at my LBS. I was only able to ride it around the parking lot unfortunately, so I am looking for advise on which bike to buy (or others under $2k).

    You would think 4" of travel would be plenty .... years ago me and my buddies were riding the same technical single track here in New England (RI/CT/MA) on hardtails, I guess just not as fast as we would have with FS. But all 4" travel bikes seem to now fall under "use this if you are XC racing" ... so for all of you that were biking before the FS craze, and actually have skills and enjoy picking the right line ... 4" would do the job for riders like us, right?

    Also, my initial research reveals comments that there would be less maintence/problems with the Element's single pivot design?

    Oh, my riding terrain is moderate to very technical east coast singletrack, 1-4 hour rides ..... no drops (well, maybe some small ones with FS), no trips up ski mountains on lift, no tricks or log riding or whatever it is you crazy kids do now with your bikes these days.

  2. #2
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    Five inches. It's not so much the actual travel, I ride east coast rocks and roots too, it's the geometry. You'll be happier and more comfy on the trail bike end of the spectrum, at 39, then the XC race geometry of most 4" bikes. If you're not actually racing, why not be comfy on your rides?

    David B.

  3. #3
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    Sounds to me like you dont exactly need a FS but perhaps a lighter Hard Tail, possibly even a 29er. I dont see how going FS is going to make you a faster rider if all you do is the typically New England Roots, with no real drops.
    Big Foot Blue KHS XC704r

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbeinct
    Five inches. It's not so much the actual travel, I ride east coast rocks and roots too, it's the geometry. You'll be happier and more comfy on the trail bike end of the spectrum, at 39, then the XC race geometry of most 4" bikes. If you're not actually racing, why not be comfy on your rides?

    David B.

    I also ride rocky rooty trails and Iam on a 5" bike . The plushness of the extra travel as well as the slacker angles really helps to reduce the abuse the body suffers .

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    I agree, a 5" trail bike is the way to go. I'm 37 and could not imagine riding anything less plush anymore (I ride in Western PA and we have mostly rocky root covered trails as well).

    As for bikes, www.chainlove.com has been having a Titus Motolite pop up every day or two for $1600. If you are not familiar with chainlove, they are a website that puts up a different deal every hour or so. They are mostly closeouts/overstocks/last years models/etc. that they sell at big discounts. You can download an add-on for your web browser (download right from the chainlove site) that alerts you when the next item is available for purchase. The Motolite has popped up a couple times this week already (as well as a Titus Racer X 29er).

    Do some research on the Motolite and you will find it is one of the best trail bikes ever. It is billed as a 5" bike that could also be used for XC racing, and I personally think that is a perfect description. It is not an all mountain bike, but can be ridden hard, and it is much plusher than an XC bike, but it still climbs and turns very, very well. It uses the same Horst Link FSR suspension as the Stumpjumper and is one of those bikes that 'just feels right' and does everything well ('jack of all, master of none' saying comes to mind). Titus came out with a newer model called the FTM (Full Tilt Moto) to replace it (same basic bike, just updated), so all the leftover Motolites are being sold cheap.

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    If you are going to keep the HT, I'd also opt for the 5" bike but I'd go with something in between true AM geo and XC geo. You obviously don't need a really slack bike but you'd probably benefit by having a slacker FS rig and your HT. So basically, look at a trail bike.
    If you are not going to keep the HT, go with either a 4" or 5" bike if you find one you like. The spring curve and shock along with geometry will have a greater effect on the ride than the amount of travel, IMO.

  7. #7
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    Its all about geometry and knowing what you want in that regard is something that only experience can tell you because different riders have different preferences - which is why there is no "set" geometry figures that every manufacturer sticks to for a given amount of travel.
    Sure there are people that can give you some idea (for example: unless racing or climbing VERY steep sections you're not gonna want certain angles too steep) but in general its about what feels best to you. Just for example, I ride alot with a particular friend, and our bike choices for general trail riding couldnt really be more different (I ride a rocky ETSX and he rides a SC superlight) - my rocky feels much slacker, the cockpit is alot shorter (deliberately so, with an inline post and short stem - oh and yes, we're about the same height) because our personal preferences are different.

    From the sounds of it, you're probably going to want 5 inches.
    Not because you necessarily want (or need) the extra travel, but because most manufacturers assume that racers want 4 inches and gear the geometry more towards racers on 4 inch bikes and more towards trail-riding (or light AM) with 5 inches.

    As for finding what kind of figures suit you, all you can really do is try a few different bikes (if possible with fairly different sets of geometry figures) and see what you feel happiest with.
    If that happens to be a stumpy like your friend has then (despite serious, not unjustified, hate for specialised) go for it.

    Vtolds may have a point that you dont *need* a FS, and if you were considerably younger and looking to seriously increase skills/speed or get into racing then I'd probably agree with him - but lets be honest, most riders heading towards middle-age (sorry) aren't looking to race and aslong as you're relatively happy with your skill levels I wouldnt worry too much about going FS.
    However, I think its basically just an argument to keep the hardtail for occaisions where you want it, or for practicing skills as and when you want to. (Lets face it, who doesnt want a suitable argument for keeping nice bikes?)

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    ^but he stated he wants to go faster, being a heavier FS bike wont make you go faster. Yeah it will be easier on the body, but that wont help your speed.
    Big Foot Blue KHS XC704r

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vtolds
    ^but he stated he wants to go faster, being a heavier FS bike wont make you go faster. Yeah it will be easier on the body, but that wont help your speed.

    He stated that he wanted a 4 or 5 " bike , not a hardtail .

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    "Going faster" is often subjective - what feels fastest and what is fastest are often different and without timing yourself down a favourite run (lets be honest, not many riders do that) you might think one is faster when it isnt.
    Since riders of different disciplines, of different skill levels on different terrains will need different kinds of bike, it's also blindingly inaccurate to say something like "hardtails are fastest".
    If you seriously want to argue about that, then go race WC DH tracks on a hardtail? Didnt think so.

    In any kind of noteworthy rockgarden a 5" FS will be quicker than a hardtail (though riding the hardtail through rockgardens many times will increase the ability of the rider to pick better lines - which will make them faster when they come to do it again, whether on FS or hardtail).

    Hardtails are great for skills (which is why I always recommend hardtails to beginners who care about skills and speed), and I really would recommend that the OP keeps his.
    However, for general trail riding a FS is more fun and potentially more manageable as the OP seems to have found out - if he isnt interesting in advancing skills quite so quickly (its not like fullsus doesnt let you improve skills, you just improve a bit slower) and wants a more capable bike through rough sections then I think he is definately on the right track.
    Last edited by EnglishT; 11-04-2009 at 02:15 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vtolds
    ^but he stated he wants to go faster, being a heavier FS bike wont make you go faster. Yeah it will be easier on the body, but that wont help your speed.
    That's a statement that sounds right on the surface, but in fact may not be true. One of the bike mags, I'm pretty sure a German one, did a comparison on XC racers using FS versus HT bikes, same course, multiple laps with each bike. The racers almost all FELT faster on the HTs, but WERE faster on the FS bikes. I am typing this from memory because I don't feel like looking for the source document right now, but I promise you it is out there.

    I know for me I just clean way more stuff on my Motolite than on my Stumpy HT, so I'm guaranteed to be faster the less I have to walk my bike!

    David B.

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    no one *needs* a fs bike, they're just a ton more fun.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandman012
    You would think 4" of travel would be plenty .... years ago me and my buddies were riding the same technical single track here in New England (RI/CT/MA) on hardtails, I guess just not as fast as we would have with FS. But all 4" travel bikes seem to now fall under "use this if you are XC racing" ... so for all of you that were biking before the FS craze, and actually have skills and enjoy picking the right line ... 4" would do the job for riders like us, right?
    I thought this myself when I was looking for my 1st FS years ago and bought an XC FS with what I thought would be a plentiful 3.5" of rear suspension. I know have a 5.5" AM bike that weighs more but the geometry is much more suited to having fun.

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbeinct
    Five inches. It's not so much the actual travel, I ride east coast rocks and roots too, it's the geometry. You'll be happier and more comfy on the trail bike end of the spectrum, at 39, then the XC race geometry of most 4" bikes. If you're not actually racing, why not be comfy on your rides?

    David B.
    1st answer is right on the mark.

    Quote Originally Posted by sandman012
    So aside from the fact I can't seem to give away my beautiful Rocky Mountain Hammer steel hardtail, (there is one on ebay that listed twice and never got a bid above $300 either time), I am going to buy a FS bike.
    I thought long and hard when I saw your classified posting for this bike. I just couldn't justify it on a hardtail when I knew I could invest this into my fully with better results.

    You could do what I ended up doing. I found a frame and swapped all the parts from my Trek Fuel onto it. Granted I still have the old frame kicking around. But you may have better luck selling yours then I did.

  14. #14
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    Thanks for all the responses.

    RE: geometry- My RM Hammer has nearly the same angles as the Element. I have no problems with the Hammer's geo; I'm used to it. The slack angles on the SJ FSR seem appropriate as there is less maneuverability needed, you are likely going faster over the technical stuff, etc.

    RE: Titus Motolite- read up on it, I like that its kind of in between the geo's of the two bikes above. I'd be a little tentative in ordering a bike online though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sandman012
    Thanks for all the responses.

    RE: geometry- My RM Hammer has nearly the same angles as the Element. I have no problems with the Hammer's geo; I'm used to it. The slack angles on the SJ FSR seem appropriate as there is less maneuverability needed, you are likely going faster over the technical stuff, etc.

    RE: Titus Motolite- read up on it, I like that its kind of in between the geo's of the two bikes above. I'd be a little tentative in ordering a bike online though.
    Where are you in New England? I live in SE CT, mostly ride Bluff Point with occassional trips to Arcadia and Big River, you're welcome to take a spin on my Motolite if the size is right (M frame). Might have to swap out pedals, as I use Crank Bros, I realize SPDs are more common.

    David B.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbeinct
    Where are you in New England? I live in SE CT, mostly ride Bluff Point with occassional trips to Arcadia and Big River, you're welcome to take a spin on my Motolite if the size is right (M frame). Might have to swap out pedals, as I use Crank Bros, I realize SPDs are more common.

    David B.
    PM'd ya

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dremer03
    ^but he stated he wants to go faster, being a heavier FS bike wont make you go faster. Yeah it will be easier on the body, but that wont help your speed.
    This has not been the case for me. I went from a 22.5 lb hardtail to a 25 lb FS and my lap times on the local trails are significantly faster. Lap times are also more consistent. Neither bike has cheap components, my guess is it's due to being less beat up over the course of the ride.

  18. #18
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    I ride rocky New England trails on a 5" FS and on a xc HT with a 120mm fork. I've also owned a 6" FS, a 4" FS, an AM HT, and even tried a fully rigid SS for a bit.

    IMO, of all of the bikes I've owned, the 5" FS is the best compromise in terms of speed, control, comfort, and fun. As stated previously, a 5" trail bike is ideal not only for it's travel, but also because they are generally made with slacker, more New England friendly geometry. 4" bikes are mostly racing oriented and steep angled, making riders a little more tentative on the rough stuff. Sure, skills can compensate for a bike's steep xc geometry, but why not get a trail bike better suited to our terrain.

    To the OP - are you selling that Hammer on the Nemba site? Watching yours sit unsold at such a low price is making me think I may have to hold on to my own HT (I was going to sell it as I tend to ride it now only out of pity). It seems like there is no market for HT's right now, so it may be worth waiting until the spring to sell it.

    And, since you're looking for the most bang for your buck, I suggest you give the Giant Trance X's a shot.

    Antonio

  19. #19
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    Antonio-

    Yeah, that's my bike on NEMBA; at this point I'm resigned to just keeping it; I may try again in the spring at a higher price; if it doesnt sell, its a bike worth holding onto.

    So I'm convinced now 5" is the way to go.

  20. #20
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    definitely keep it. there will be times when you'll want to ride a HT and there will be a huge difference between the two bikes that each will have its place.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by sjc115
    I agree, a 5" trail bike is the way to go. I'm 37 and could not imagine riding anything less plush anymore (I ride in Western PA and we have mostly rocky root covered trails as well).

    As for bikes, www.chainlove.com has been having a Titus Motolite pop up every day or two for $1600. If you are not familiar with chainlove, they are a website that puts up a different deal every hour or so. They are mostly closeouts/overstocks/last years models/etc. that they sell at big discounts. You can download an add-on for your web browser (download right from the chainlove site) that alerts you when the next item is available for purchase. The Motolite has popped up a couple times this week already (as well as a Titus Racer X 29er).

    Do some research on the Motolite and you will find it is one of the best trail bikes ever. It is billed as a 5" bike that could also be used for XC racing, and I personally think that is a perfect description. It is not an all mountain bike, but can be ridden hard, and it is much plusher than an XC bike, but it still climbs and turns very, very well. It uses the same Horst Link FSR suspension as the Stumpjumper and is one of those bikes that 'just feels right' and does everything well ('jack of all, master of none' saying comes to mind). Titus came out with a newer model called the FTM (Full Tilt Moto) to replace it (same basic bike, just updated), so all the leftover Motolites are being sold cheap.
    +10! As sjc115 says, the ML is one of the best trail bikes ever.
    First of all, you can REALLY feel the difference between a 4" and 5" suspension. It is sooo much smoother. I have a blur XC 4" and a Titus ML 5". Once I got the ML, I hardly ever ride the Blur. It's pretty good for XC. I've gotten it down to about 26.5lbs. Really nice bike.

  22. #22
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    So I found a local shop that has demo bikes and some trails to ride them on ... going to try out a Santa Cruz Superlight and a 2010 Felt Virtue 2. Thoughts on those 2?

    I got to try out the Titus Motolight (THanks David!), but not any technical terrain, and not with the suspension set for my fat a$$. It seemed fine on the easy fireroad trails I rode, the M felt ever-so-slightly big. I like the idea of getting a bike from a smaller, made-in-America company, but without having a proper go on it, that'll be a tough sell.

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    ^^^ You are most welcome, thanks for the beers! I think a lot of people would agree with you on the ML sizing, seems a lot of people feel in between sizes on it (either S-M or M-L). I feel lucky to fit it great, especially having bought it without a demo.

    The other bike I almost went with was the SC Superlight. It's a proven design, albeit not the newest thing (not that Horst Link is either) and with a shock with propedal available should be a great climber by all accounts.

    I am sorry you didn't get a better chance to demo the ML on some more technical terrain, but if you felt in between sizes than it's very likely not the bike for you, fit being so important. At least now you know.

    Stay in touch, especially through the CT/RI forum or by PM, maybe we can get some riding in together, I'm always up for learning new trails or showing off my home trails, if you wind up around the Bluff Point area.

    Good luck in your search.

    David B.

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