Best type of bike for SE Wisconsin- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Best type of bike for SE Wisconsin

    Hi,
    I've been riding John Muir, including Emma Carlin, for several years now. Really enjoy these trails. In your opinion is an "aggressive" hardtail over kill for these trails? meaning slack head angle, etc? Like a GG Pedalhead? Or about right? Or, is a bike like a SC Chameleon a better fit? These flowy trails, but also have some techy stuff with lots of small rocks. I ride a Salsa TJ 2017 with a 68.5 HA now. Looking to go more aggressive. But not full suspension.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    I ride more central and northern WI kind of stuff, but my opinion is a lot of the trendy new geometry is designed for, and best suited to, western type riding. The type of riding where you grind up a mountain for 45min, then its all hi speed downhill with lots of chunkiness. Short little ups and downs typical of WI seems to me more suited to a shorter wheelbase and more moderate head angle. As much as I respect the company, it seems to me guerrilla gravity is the epitome of the long and slack type, and just doesnt seem right for our riding. Everyone has a different opinion though...
    whatever...

  3. #3
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    I think these are two videos that discuss this type of question.

    https://youtu.be/Wf5xWJV_mCs

    https://youtu.be/FLcgeqf6Fjg

    My 2017 Salsa Pony Ruster (per the geo chart) has 68 HA. Honestly, for 90%+ of the Midwest that seems to be just fine.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by steadite View Post
    I ride more central and northern WI kind of stuff, but my opinion is a lot of the trendy new geometry is designed for, and best suited to, western type riding. The type of riding where you grind up a mountain for 45min, then its all hi speed downhill with lots of chunkiness. Short little ups and downs typical of WI seems to me more suited to a shorter wheelbase and more moderate head angle. As much as I respect the company, it seems to me guerrilla gravity is the epitome of the long and slack type, and just doesnt seem right for our riding. Everyone has a different opinion though...
    I tend to agree. I also have a 100m XC hardtail. A little harsh on the back end but good through most of the trails.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by CycleKrieg View Post
    I think these are two videos that discuss this type of question.

    https://youtu.be/Wf5xWJV_mCs

    https://youtu.be/FLcgeqf6Fjg

    My 2017 Salsa Pony Ruster (per the geo chart) has 68 HA. Honestly, for 90%+ of the Midwest that seems to be just fine.
    Real good videos.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by CycleKrieg View Post
    I think these are two videos that discuss this type of question.

    https://youtu.be/Wf5xWJV_mCs

    https://youtu.be/FLcgeqf6Fjg

    My 2017 Salsa Pony Ruster (per the geo chart) has 68 HA. Honestly, for 90%+ of the Midwest that seems to be just fine.
    Just out of curiosity, how do you like the Pony Rustler? The new Rustler has a 150mm fork. Looks good.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpartyinWI View Post
    Just out of curiosity, how do you like the Pony Rustler? The new Rustler has a 150mm fork. Looks good.
    I like it. But I wouldn't have picked it out myself. Explanation time!

    I would not have gotten a Pony Rustler because, until I got the bike, I viewed full squish carbon bikes as dentist chariots and preferred hardtails made with God's Own Metals. Thru a friend, I was offered a chance to ride that bike to see if I would like a full squish bike. I came to like the bike but still thought I would getting something like a Canyon Neuron AL. But... said friend suffers from upgrade-itis and made me a deal on the bike that I literally could not refuse.

    The 2019+ Rustler is different from the earlier Pony Rustler. It went from a 130mm/120mm 27.5+/29 trail bike to a 150mm/130mm enduro(ish) sled.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by steadite View Post
    I ride more central and northern WI kind of stuff, but my opinion is a lot of the trendy new geometry is designed for, and best suited to, western type riding. The type of riding where you grind up a mountain for 45min, then its all hi speed downhill with lots of chunkiness. Short little ups and downs typical of WI seems to me more suited to a shorter wheelbase and more moderate head angle.
    agree 100%. There is one particular steep uphill switchback at Emma carlin (right before the overlook area where it meets connector) that is super difficult on long/slack bikes. Plenty of other situations like this.

    There are some places accessible from the upper midwest that warrant much more aggressive bikes (Copper harbor MI, duluth MN, the Ozarks) but they are few and far between
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpartyinWI View Post
    Hi,
    I've been riding John Muir, including Emma Carlin, for several years now. Really enjoy these trails. In your opinion is an "aggressive" hardtail over kill for these trails? meaning slack head angle, etc? Like a GG Pedalhead? Or about right? Or, is a bike like a SC Chameleon a better fit? These flowy trails, but also have some techy stuff with lots of small rocks. I ride a Salsa TJ 2017 with a 68.5 HA now. Looking to go more aggressive. But not full suspension.

    Thanks.
    I am originally from WI, rode those trails a lot when younger. Moved away to NC 8 years ago. When I come back to visit I ride my Canfield nimble 9 hardtail with 66.7 HTA on those trails and have a blast. Gen 2, so not as long as the new ones.

    Think the key is to get one not as long like the pedalhead. But yes, I think the Chameleon would be ideal for those trails.

    Thou the bike I am most interested in that would probably tear up those trails, but not released yet, talking FS wise, would be the new 2021 Epic EVO, which will NOT have the brain shock supposedly. I would love to do the whole John/Emma trails system on something like that!

  10. #10
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    I moved from SE WI to NorCal in 2018 and my experience aligns with what steadite said.

    My 2015 Scott Spark xc bike with 100mm of F/R travel was perfect in WI. My Trek Slash is awesome in CA. As much as pinkbike reviews and west coast riders love to brag about how awesome their modern geo bikes climb, there's really no denying how slack HTAs are awful for climbing in the flatter midwest.

  11. #11
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    I haven't ridden in WI in quite a few years, but I did grow up in Kenosha...so I am familiar.

    I think the perfect bike would be the new crop of "downcountry" bikes. Starting with: the Salsa Spearfish and Trek Top Fuel would be great (just to keep it local-ish). Maybe the Yeti SB100 or the Norco Revolver.

    You don't really need a ton of suspension...just to take the edge off. And you do need pedaling efficiency. I would also want to test ride any bike with a steep STA. Some have complained that the steep STA hurts their wrist on flat ground...and you'll have plenty of that.

    Just my two cents.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSsteel4life View Post
    I am originally from WI, rode those trails a lot when younger. Moved away to NC 8 years ago. When I come back to visit I ride my Canfield nimble 9 hardtail with 66.7 HTA on those trails and have a blast. Gen 2, so not as long as the new ones.

    Think the key is to get one not as long like the pedalhead. But yes, I think the Chameleon would be ideal for those trails.

    Thou the bike I am most interested in that would probably tear up those trails, but not released yet, talking FS wise, would be the new 2021 Epic EVO, which will NOT have the brain shock supposedly. I would love to do the whole John/Emma trails system on something like that!
    Nice. I was thinking if FS definitely XC type.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by smartyiak View Post
    I haven't ridden in WI in quite a few years, but I did grow up in Kenosha...so I am familiar.

    I think the perfect bike would be the new crop of "downcountry" bikes. Starting with: the Salsa Spearfish and Trek Top Fuel would be great (just to keep it local-ish). Maybe the Yeti SB100 or the Norco Revolver.

    You don't really need a ton of suspension...just to take the edge off. And you do need pedaling efficiency. I would also want to test ride any bike with a steep STA. Some have complained that the steep STA hurts their wrist on flat ground...and you'll have plenty of that.

    Just my two cents.
    Spearfish is right in my back yard too. Don't love the value on them but the reviews are great, and can get discounted I think. Still leaning Hardtail.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by the_joe View Post
    agree 100%. There is one particular steep uphill switchback at Emma carlin (right before the overlook area where it meets connector) that is super difficult on long/slack bikes. Plenty of other situations like this.

    There are some places accessible from the upper midwest that warrant much more aggressive bikes (Copper harbor MI, duluth MN, the Ozarks) but they are few and far between
    Love Emma Carlin.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by the_joe View Post
    agree 100%. There is one particular steep uphill switchback at Emma carlin (right before the overlook area where it meets connector) that is super difficult on long/slack bikes. Plenty of other situations like this.
    I just rode that on my Ripley LS yesterday! That used to be a tough climb on my old 26" hardtail just because its steep and it's twisty. The longer, slacker Ripley LS (which at 67.5 HTA, 1167mm wheelbase, is relatively short and steep compared to new bikes from the past 1-2 years), is a serious chore to get up that section, particularly that first hard left hand turn. I can only really do it by swinging wide to the right before entering the turn, dropping into a very low gear mid-turn (the new Hyperglide+ is amazing), keeping just the right balance of speed so I can make as tight an arch turning as possible without falling over to the inside or running out of momentum. Long story short: its a PIA even on a moderately long/slack bike, but it is doable.

    OK, back on-topic, I think your gut instincts are right for the "ideal" bike for SE WI. I would say a hardtail (steel or Ti, or heck, maybe carbon), with some forgiveness in the rear end, and some higher volume tires (I like 29x2.6) to help absorb all the roots and baby-heads. 100mm of travel up front is all you need, but 130mm can be a bit more fun. There are some nice things about a slacker HTA, I wouldn't be too afraid of something in the 67-68 range, and a longer TT also has advantages, provided it is offset by a short chain stay.

    I've got a buddy (who is a bike engineer) with a Stash and he thinks its about perfect for our local trails.

    I would hesitate on buying a 'bigger' bike than my Ripley LS for use around here. There are some trade-offs and advantages to a 'longer-slacker' bike, versatility and playfulness are two plusses. All of the trails at Kettles are pretty mild and safe, but there are some sections on the trails immediately around Madison with drops, jumps, 'chunder' and steep sections, where a 'bigger' bike is a big advantage.

    But for comparison, I have 'modernized' my old 26" hardtail, now it has 2.8 front, 2.35 rear tires, on ~30mm wide rims, a roughly 69 head angle, I've managed to keep the bottom bracket about the same height, shorter stem, wider bars, dropper post... and its a singlespeed. The thing absolutely eats up most local trails. I ride at Cam-Rock most often and its actually faster than my Ripley up and down on most Strava segments there. I don't think I've ridden it at Kettles since rebuilding it (the climbs at Emma are a bit intimidating for my fat, out-of-shape butt to attempt on a SS), so I'm kinda curious how it would compare with all the rocks and roots there.

    Next year, I'm thinking of building up a Ti hardtail next year to 'bridge the gap" between my the two bikes. So I've given this a lot of thought, but I'm also curious what others here think.
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  16. #16
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    I have been drooling over this lately. I think this would be an ideal option for those trails as well! 67 static HA, 68 Sagged. You could just order the frame and probably swap all your Salsa parts over. Little more aggressive then your salsa, probably way more comfortable frame.

    https://www.stantonbikes.com/product/sherpa-gen-3/

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSsteel4life View Post
    I have been drooling over this lately. I think this would be an ideal option for those trails as well! 67 static HA, 68 Sagged. You could just order the frame and probably swap all your Salsa parts over. Little more aggressive then your salsa, probably way more comfortable frame.

    https://www.stantonbikes.com/product/sherpa-gen-3/
    Good choice. I am thinking an Ibis Dv9 w/29 x 2.6 might also be a good choice - although not the most supple according to reports.

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