Comparing my 29SS to my 26HT- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Comparing my 29SS to my 26HT

    I decided to do a little unscientific test this weekend. I took my steel, rigid 29er SS out to compare to it my 26 alum HT at my local singletrack with back to back laps. I rode the SS first and gave myself a 1/2 hr rest to stretch, refuel, and hydrate.

    My SS is a steel jabberwocky with original fork. I run a 2.5 wierwolf on the front and a 2.3 wolverine in the back. The 26 Ht is a older gary fisher wahoo frame with a new manituou minute fork, mix of slx/xt components. Both have the same types of wheels (BWW pure rims to XT hubs). Tires are the same except the 26 ht has 2.3 wierwolves on front and back.

    The course is very flowing, lots of short steep uphills and downhills. Some prarie, some rockgardens, bobcat sled run...good mix of terrain.

    Despite having a seatpost malfunction (bolt loosened up), that I needed to stop and adjust for, I was a full 2 minutes faster on the SS.

    More importantly, the SS was a much more enjoyable ride. Compared to the 26 ht, the SS was smoother, soaked up more bumps in the rear and was just a more pleasant ride. True, I was able to bomb down the hills and rocks a lot faster with the 26ht, but what I made up on the downhill, I lost going up. I noticed that I tended to shift to a much lower gear going uphill on thr 26ht than what I use on the SS.

    Also, while the 26ht took tight turns better, it felt much more "squirmy" and I noticied I was overshooting corners more/ using more brake than on the SS. The front suspension also made hopping over logs easier, but there was nothing I cleared on the HT that i did not clear on the SS. I also noticed I was wasting a lot of mental time before each big hill downshifting and locking out my fork on the HT. On the SS I just went up.

    The "biggest" difference was that on the HT, I kept getting pissed off at my rear derailuer. After every major bump, dip or prolonged coast, my gears would just grind and autoshift until I eased up again. On the stand, the HT shifts smooth as butter...it is only when hammering up hills or after coasting that it has this problem. I was also really annoyed with the second or so of time it took from when I hit my first stroke to when I could feel my rear hub start to turn on the HT.

    Finally, I noticed that when climbing on the HT, I would mentally think of it as a slog....(keep spinning, need to get up hill) while on the SS, I mentally was ready to attack and sprint up every hill as I knew I otherwise would be walking.

    Again....totally unscientific comparison....I don't intend to draw any broader conclusions. But when I try my first race this year, I will be taking my SS.

  2. #2
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    Skankingbiker, is your derailleur hanger slightly bent? That might cause mis-shifts under power.

  3. #3
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    Good little comparison and write up, thanks!

  4. #4
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    The big difference when I ride SS vs. geared is that I have much more fun playing around, jumping onto, over, off of things, throwing the bike around and so forth, care-free. With gears I spend too much time not doing these things. That said, I like gears and have 6 of them on my Cross Check, but for my MTB I choose not to concern myself with fiddly bits.

  5. #5
    CB2
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    Jam Econo
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    I've done similar, but longer term tests comparing a geared 26" HT, rigid SS 29'er, and geared 29'er HT. I found I'm no faster or slower on any of the formats on the terrain I typically ride. I did find I am more fresh at the end of a ride on a geared HT, but it's also not as fun.

  6. #6
    surly inbred
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    I believe that my personal conditions play more of a role in most situations. Food, sleep, alcohol & time of day can dramatically affect the quality & duration of my rides. It's not always the hardware.

  7. #7
    All 26.5" all the time!
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    Funny thing.... I prefer either 26" or 29" SS hardtails to geared/fully suspended bikes of any wheel size.

  8. #8
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    I performed the same "test" several years ago after I built my rigid 29er SS. It was not timed as your rides were, but there was a significant difference. I was puzzled, because my 29 SS was harder, but easier, and faster. My geared 26" GT has been hanging for 2 years.

  9. #9
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    First, I think you need your geared drivetrain fixed up. Whenever I had issues like that, I'd have it adjusted and the issues would go away. The stand is not a sufficient test, you have to ride and stomp on the gears to know. My local mech would always take my bike for a check-out ride before declaring that the gears were working.

    Second, you are comparing a couple of things simultaneously. You might want to try isolating one at a time to understand which factor or factors plays the biggest role in your enjoyment:

    1. Steel vs Aluminum
    2. Rigid vs. suspension fork
    3. Gears vs. SS

    and last but certainly not least:

    4. 29 vs 26

    And that's not to mention geometry. Your description of cornering on your 26er sounds uncomfortable, but something tells me that there are 26ers out there that corner like rockets with thrust deflection vanes. It could be that your 26er is not set up very well for you.

    If you do a little more experimentation, you might be able to enjoy both bikes with some adjustment :-)

  10. #10
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    1. I can definately feel the difference in the steel vs alum on my backside. On the alum Ht, i feel every rock and bump go through the frame up into my seat. While the steel ss isn't bump free by any means, the vibrations are significantly reduced.
    2. The biggest difference in the wheels I notice is momentum.....areas where I just coast through on my SS, I need to start hammering on the 26er.....this is particularly noticable on flowy hills, where I am acutely aware of my timing
    3. The geometry on my 26er is much more "over the bike" than "in" the bike. It is the original GF geo---not the G2. I guess I would put it this way: My 26 Ht feels like riding a bucking bronco......my Jabberwocky feels like piloting a light cycle in Tron.
    4. The main advantages to the suspension for me are being able ot preload before I hop logs and being able to descend at greater speed.
    5. I like your description of "corner like rockets with thrust deflection vanes"---that is exactly how the 26er feels....it turns on a dime, but eats up all my momentum.
    6. Regarding the drive train on the 26..i've had it to 3 different shops last year...all said "the shifting seems fine"...when I told them it shifted under load. I am basically done with LBS unless i need something major like a overhaul of hub bearings......But, its things like constantly having my RD go out of whack that makes me appreciate SS much more. Even when the Rd was working properly, I'd bash it on a rock/tree, whatever, and I would waste half of the ride trying to adjust it on the fly, and the other half getting p!ssed beause i would hear tickety tick tick tick. I am the type of guy that cannot enjoy things if I know something is not right. To me, that is the greatest thing I love about SS. The most that can go wrong is you drop a chain (never happened) or have your wheel go out of true.

    I have not foresaken my 26er completely.....There are a couple trails in particular near me that have so many tight switchbacks at the bottom of hills followed by steep climbs that the SS is just not practical. If you have to come to a near stop and turn 100 degrees before going straight up...you are walking on a SS. Also, I spent a bunch of money over the lst 2 years upgrading the 26er---what was an entry level bike...so I want to enjoy it. It just seems so much work and bother to keep it running smoothley.

    Again, I am not trying to start a 29ers are better than 26ers thread...everyone's experience is different.

  11. #11
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    I ride a SS 26er with squish forks, so I think I have the worst of both worlds in some ways! But I agree with the "over the bike" comment, and I actually like it. I really like riding logs, stunts, and other techie things, and the 26er feels like a big BMX. In fact, one of the reasons I went to SS is that I was bashing the RD when falling off stunts. It's one less thing to worry about, just as you say.

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