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  1. #1
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    Steel HT or FS for XC

    A slight modification on an old question. I do mainly XC riding under rocky NJ conditions. My current ride is a mid-90's giant CFM3 with an old rock shock front fork. I never loved the bike as the long wheelbase makes it handle like a truck in the singletrack and the aluminum carbon frame is harsh (somewhat solved by a suspension seat post). I see all these trail reviews of the places I ride saying you "need" a full suspension. I'm living proof that you don't "need" full suspension unless your doing some serious drops (no me!).

    However, I am looking for something that will take the edge off a bit and handle like a sports car instead of a truck. Maybe I'll get into the XC race scene again but not very seriously. Figure around $1500. Better off with something like a Marin Pine Mountain or a Specialized FSR. For those that have had both (i.e. compliant HT and FS), what are the main differences? Thanks.

  2. #2
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    NJ trails are awesome. I started riding in NJ and now live in VA, where the trails are still rooty and muddy.

    I've been riding a steel hardtail for the last 10 years and the only thing I anticipate replacing it with is a custom titanium or steel hardtail. I did a short stint on a Rocky Mountain Slayer dualie that someone loaned me for about a week. It was alot of fun, very fluid/spongy especially on technical downhills, but the weight and loss of pure pedalling efficiency didn't convert me (granted the Slayer isn't a lightweigth XC FS bike). The biggest difference was the loss of trail feel. I guess you could argue that front suspesion does the same thing in part, but there is something tight and efficient about a hardtail; its more in tune with the trail in a way.

    If you feel really beat up after a session, test ride the FSR. A steel bike will absorb some of the trail chatter and vibration, but its definitely not close to an FS bike if comfort is the main thing you value. An FS bike is smooth. If you value lower weight and efficiency as well as old school feel, go with steel. A steel hardtail transfers the hits, but not the low frequency shock.

    In addition to Marin for steel, check out the Rocky Mountain steel bikes as well as Konas. The RMs have a reputation for good handling.

  3. #3
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    Better off with something like a Marin Pine Mountain

    you said it: "...looking for something that will take the edge off a bit and handle like a sports car instead of a truck. Maybe I'll get into the XC race scene again but not very seriously. Figure around $1500. Better off with something like a Marin Pine Mountain..."

    XC fs are for people that
    like comfort over speed and have much more than $1500 to spend and xc racing is not a high priority

    having said this: specialized fsr's one sweet xc bike. can't go wrong with either. norba xc trails would favor Marin Pine Mountain. Big mountain trails with lots of rocks and roughness, then the fsr to keep you more "fresh".

    personally I think hydro disk brake set is more imporant than having rear suspension (for xc) since a titanium seatpost and tubeless rear wheel setup can soften your hardtail ride.

    go marin pine mt. or go kona colier, now that's a harder question to answer...

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the input. The $1500 comment is a good point. Seems like a can get a really good steel hardtail (non-custom) vs. an ok FS. I've seen some fair deals on ebay but I have trouble trusting some of the "only ridden to church on Sunday" claims.

    Otherwise, it's a question of possibly losing the "soul" of a bike by going FS versus the fact that most people who make the switch seem to like it...

  5. #5
    crash test dummy
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    Cool-blue Rhythm Good question

    Otherwise, it's a question of possibly losing the "soul" of a bike by going FS versus the fact that most people who make the switch seem to like it...
    I've wrestled with the same question quite a bit lately. What answered it for me are two factors: 1) I don't like bikes on the "inexpensive" end of a range, because they inevitably fall apart on me, and 2) I love riding my hardtail, and as you said, excepting gonzo drops I'd need a full face helmet for, I haven't really come up against anything I couldn't ride with a hardtail.

    I will eventually go for a solid "all mountain" full suspension bike, but that will be for a totally different purpose - multi-week tours in Nepal and the Dolomites, or downhilling and hardcore freeride. That bike will probably cost me 3 grand. But for day-to-day XC riding, why waste money on something I haven't felt the need for?

    I just picked up my Kona Explosif frame, and can't wait to build it up in the spring.

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