Frick Park: Hardtail or FS?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Frick Park: Hardtail or FS?

    Hi,

    I'm going to be moving to Pittsburgh from Chicago in August. It just so happens I'm going to be living two blocks from Frick Park, so it's time I finally got a mountain bike (currently a cat 3 road racer). My question: for the terrain in Frick Park, should I be looking at hardtails or full suspension bikes? I'd like to race eventually, and I know hardtails are generally preferred by XC racers because of their weight. But then again, I've heard that Frick has some pretty serious downhill sections, and I also have a history of lower back problems. Any thoughts? What do you ride in Frick?

    Thanks
    vimalakirti

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by vimalakirti
    Hi,

    I'm going to be moving to Pittsburgh from Chicago in August. It just so happens I'm going to be living two blocks from Frick Park, so it's time I finally got a mountain bike (currently a cat 3 road racer). My question: for the terrain in Frick Park, should I be looking at hardtails or full suspension bikes? I'd like to race eventually, and I know hardtails are generally preferred by XC racers because of their weight. But then again, I've heard that Frick has some pretty serious downhill sections, and I also have a history of lower back problems. Any thoughts? What do you ride in Frick?

    Thanks
    vimalakirti
    Oh boy...

    There's no easy answer to this question. I should let you know that I've never ridden Frick Park. Having said that though, you really shouldn't base your decision solely on the terrain at one location.

    Pennsylvania's terrain varies from super-technical uber-rocky, to buff singletrack and everything (except perhaps moad-style slickrock) in-between.

    Since it sounds as though you're buying your very first MTB (or, at least, the first in a very long time)...you really need to take some test rides before you decide! And by 'test ride' I don't mean tours around a LBS parking lot. Get in the woods and spend as much time on 'em as you can.

    Having ridden MTBs here (in PA mostly, but also in VT, CT, NJ, MD, DE, NY, etc) for half of my life, I can say with certainty that I prefer a sturdy steel hardtail. I've owned lightweight (and painfully stiff) aluminum and metal-matrix racing frames (Specialized M2), lightweight (and noodly) lugged-steel racing frames (Bianchi Denali RC), lightweight full susp. bikes (Klein Mantra), overbuilt aluminum 'freeride' hardtails (Planet X Jack Flash). I've also spent some time aboard more Freeride/DH-oriented FS bikes (Mt. Cycles San Andreas, World Force VR-1, Dirt Works Monster, etc.)

    Each of these had its own redeeming qualities, but none has proven a better over-all fit for me, my riding style, and the terrain I ride than my Cove hardtail (handjob).

    Unfortunately, that's just me. Your style, preference, back problems and whathaveyou may make riding a hardtail here a positively dismal experience for you. Me? I like to feel that 'connection' with the ground beneath me. I don't care for the muted feedback I get from the rear suspension. The big arguement I get from my FS-riding friends is that I could ride faster, and perhaps longer, with greater comfort and control *if* I went back to riding FS.

    The problem with that argument is that:

    1) I don't *need* to go any faster than I can on my HT.

    2) I'm plenty comfortable on the HT, as long as I run wide (2.3" or greater) tires. I use DH tires and run them at roughly 18 to 20 psi. Squish = good. Even when doing lift-served stuff in VT, I prefer a HT. I just run even bigger tires at lower pressure (Gazzoloddi Jr...10 - 12 psi!)

    There's more I could say, but it's time to go home. The moral of the story is, there's no one right bike for any park. It's got as much to do with you and your preferences as anything else.

    good luck w/ shopping.
    "mmmm....Beeeeeeer." - Homer J. Simpson

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by vimalakirti
    Hi,

    I'm going to be moving to Pittsburgh from Chicago in August. It just so happens I'm going to be living two blocks from Frick Park, so it's time I finally got a mountain bike (currently a cat 3 road racer). My question: for the terrain in Frick Park, should I be looking at hardtails or full suspension bikes? I'd like to race eventually, and I know hardtails are generally preferred by XC racers because of their weight. But then again, I've heard that Frick has some pretty serious downhill sections, and I also have a history of lower back problems. Any thoughts? What do you ride in Frick?

    Thanks
    vimalakirti
    I ride a rigid single speed and wouldnt be afraid to ride it there, but then again, I'm not afraid to ride it anywhere.

  4. #4
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    I used to ride there and would suggest you do not need a full suspension bike to ride there. The terrain is not very tough. One thing when riding there, please be considerate of all the other users, you are going to have to put up with lots of hikers, trail runners and people with dogs. And of course no one cleans up after their dog so fenders may be nice and using a camelback instead of water bottles may be the healthy thing to do.

    Don't stick to Frick only, go out to Hartwood Acers, the state forest near Latrobe, and so on. The folks at Gatto's Cycles near Frick will be a good source of riding info.
    http://bicycle.gattocycle.com/site/intro.cfm

    Oh, and as a roadie, don't miss out on the weekly Zoo crits.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by vimalakirti
    Hi,

    I'm going to be moving to Pittsburgh from Chicago in August. It just so happens I'm going to be living two blocks from Frick Park, so it's time I finally got a mountain bike (currently a cat 3 road racer). My question: for the terrain in Frick Park, should I be looking at hardtails or full suspension bikes? I'd like to race eventually, and I know hardtails are generally preferred by XC racers because of their weight. But then again, I've heard that Frick has some pretty serious downhill sections, and I also have a history of lower back problems. Any thoughts? What do you ride in Frick?

    Thanks
    vimalakirti
    I ride a Blur there, but not necessarily because the terrain "calls" for it. That's just what I ride. A hardtail would be fine, so long as you are comfortable riding a hardtail. Don't just get a FS because you are riding at Frick. But do keep in mind that there are other great places to ride in the area that may be more suitable for the FS. Just a quick list of other places:
    South Park
    North Park
    Boyce Park
    Bavington
    Hartwood Acres
    Laurel Valley - stop at Speedgoat and talk with them
    Seven Springs

    And I haven't been yet but heard that Big Bear is great, and Slaty Fork in WV is pretty close. Talk with the local shops about what to ride in the area. Here is a couple:

    Dirty Harry's
    Gatto Cycles
    Pittsburgh Pro
    TRM Cycles

    Those are the 4 that I have gone to. Good luck! Oh, BTW - check out PORC when you get to town. They are a great group, do alot of rides, trail maintenance, etc...Buck up the $20 or whatever and support the local riding club!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by vimalakirti
    ... I'd like to race eventually, and I know hardtails are generally preferred by XC racers because of their weight. But then again, I've heard that Frick has some pretty serious downhill sections, and I also have a history of lower back problems. Any thoughts? What do you ride in Frick?

    Thanks
    vimalakirti
    When I lived in Pittsburgh, which was up until two years ago, I rode a hardtail in Frick Park. There were times when I wished I had a full suspension bike. The terrain has changed over the years and has become more eroded on certain trails, making it a very technical place to ride. They had opened a few of the old trails that were inaccessable prior also. I will suggest an FSR bike, because you will be doing a lot of climbing. And, I will also recommend a full suspension bike because of your history of back problems.

    There are more great trails to ride that aren't too far - Boyce Park was one my favourites and so was Hartwood Acres. You will definitely appreciate a full suspension bike at Hartwood Acres, it has some rocky areas in a couple of the trails.

    I will be in Pittsburgh to visit my folks when I take my vacation next month, and I'm taking my Epic to ride the 'old' trails.

    If you will be living two blocks from Frick Park, you definitely need to go and talk to the guys at Gatto's. They know Frick rather well, 'cause they only have to cross the street to get there.
    Specialized Epic S Works - custom
    Trek XO-1Cyclocross - custom
    Rock Lobster SS- custom

  7. #7
    Mmmm Rocks Good
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    Welcome to da 'burgh

    Welcome to da 'burgh! Frick Park is one of my favorite places to ride and I have been riding there for 6 years now and it still brings a smile every time we ride there. We just rode there this past Wed PM. We had singlespeeders, huckers, jumpers, racer types and trail riders. The variety of riding styles and bikes was large! (we had about 30 people in 3 different groups) So bike type is up to you. I personally ride a 33 Lb FS bike w/5" up front and 6" in the back, but that's my own personal prefference. You are going to enjoy this area because there is so much different types of riding to do here in P'burgh. We do ride year round and we do night rides every week. Contact PORC (Pittsburgh Off Road Cyclists) at: www.porcmtbclub.org for a better look at Frick Park. There are plenty of photos from Frick. When you do get here, PM me and I'll get you hooked up on all the riding you may want to do!

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