29 or 27.5+ for Southern Utah?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    29 or 27.5+ for Southern Utah?

    I ride near Sun Valley Idaho which traditionally is XC paradise. So my bikes are a rigid 27.5 and an old Spearfish- a very short travel 29er. There are newer trails being built though, and I've been thinking about getting a more modern & capable bike.

    Anyway, I'm headed to St. George around President's Day to ride....have never been before. I've been watching youtube videos and am a little intimidated. Holy technical. I think it is time for a new bike.

    I am seriously considering an Orbea Occam TR. This is a 130/120 travel trail bike with a 68 head angle and a bit of a XC bent. It is well-suited to my local terrain and riding style while also being adequate for trips to Utah. This bike is designed to be both a 29er and 27.5+, and therein lies the question. Eventually I will have both wheels but given the short time frame, which would be preferable for riding at St. George?

  2. #2
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    Either one will work just fine but it it were ME, I'd ride the 29er but I'm also no fan of Plus size tires. That rock out there has grips for days and pretty much any tire will work. I started out riding out there on a 29er with XC tires and they performed flawlessly. I now ride my 5010 out there with beefier tires to ward off potential sidewall cuts from sharp rocks, etc...

    As far as being especially technical, it's really not for the most part. That doesn't mean you won't get hurt if you ride off the cliff but the way the trails are laid out, something crazy/bizarre would have to occur for that to actually happen. When I shop my friends that don't ride videos of us riding along the cliff's edge, they all think I'm crazy but *for the most part*, everything out there is an Intermediate haven. Grafton Mesa and Flying Monkey would be the obvious exceptions.
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  3. #3
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    The treads around St. George, Virgin / Hurricane, Moab, Fruita, Grand Junction, and Sedona are similar so my advice is the same. I ride a Yeti trail bike now, 67.5 degree HTA, 29er. I frequently demo a bunch of different bikes at Outerbike spring and fall and the Hurricane MTB Festival.

    1) 29ers are better at climbing ledges, and there are many on these trails. They are also better at dropping ledges, especially for intermediates who may not be as agile or experienced on this terrain as advanced riders. In broken rocks, especially climbing, 29ers are more stable.

    2) Wider tires help with sand and there is plenty of sand. I haven't noticed wheel sizes matter but there is probably a little advantage to 29ers.

    3) It doesn't matter what you use on slick rock.

    4) Broken rock is better with a 29er and there is a fair amount of chunk on the trails.

    5) 27.5's are a bit better at agility but there aren't many places in the SW red rock country where you need agility. Higher altitudes with different rocks, more vertical drop, and trail features are good for 27.5's.


    For upper intermediates and low advanced who aren't bombing technical trails Maxxis recommends a High Roller 2 tire on the bow and an Ardent on the stern. I ride 2 - 3 months at these locations and this works great for me. With some Stans in them I never get flats. If you are in lava rock usually, like around Las Vegas, then go with one of the heavier Minion models.

    A bigger issue is the fork. The 2017+ Fox Factory and Performance forks are far safer than anything Rockshox makes. I haven't been off my bike unintentionally for over a year since I installed mine. Same with wife. I'm riding far more technical now. Again, I ride a lot of demo bikes with Pikes or Fox and Fox is far better engineered to get you through the gnar.

    I may be losing my skill at going OTH and landing un-damaged. I used to be really good at it. :-)
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  4. #4
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    Whoa....whoa....whoa....jmpreston. You have plenty of good advice but this post is riddled with your own OPINIONS and have no basis of FACT. Fox better than Rock Shox? There are millions of people here on MTBR that will disagree with you. I personally have a Fox on one bike and a Rock Shox Pike on the other. There is very little difference in the forks as far as performance and for sure, one doesn't get anybody on the bike more than another. If you haven't been off your bike in a year, that's due to your badass skills or maybe luck but most likely because you don't push yourself hard enough.

    Every brand and 99% of MTB tires will work out there. Just because you prefer Maxxis doesn't mean they are the best for everybody. I also use a Maxxis Ardent on my 29er as a front tire and I ride it everywhere from Crested Butte to Sedona to Oregon. The local shop, Over the Edge, runs Continental Trail Kings on most of their bikes so they must think they are pretty good tires for the area.

    I will agree that 29er's make riding easier but that doesn't mean they are better. I suggested the OP ride his 29er because it was that or a plus sized tire (I hate 'em). If he had a Yeti SB5 or Intense Recluse, I would have suggested that because I prefer 27.5 out there for *MY* riding style. I know everybody else doesn't agree. Then again, with the exception of Grafton Mesa, I don't find the area is littered with big step-ups (or downs) where a 29er is actually needed. Go out on the group ride with the shop on Saturday, look at the bikes that all the best riders are riding.

    We also must ride different trails because I don't know where there is "plenty of sand" either. I must have a different opinion of "plenty" because I think there is very little sane on the whole.
    Last edited by k2rider1964; 01-29-2018 at 12:12 PM.
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  5. #5
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    @k2rider1964.

    1) I mentioned that I'm discussing the SW and there is plenty of sand. Hurricane - St George has less than other places but he will probably try other places. Actually, JEM gets sandy when dry. Plenty on the Goose in places, especially those huge sand traps on White Road!

    2) I said what the Maxxis rep recommended for SW riding and I used that recommendation it works very well. It is actually a common combination that many riders have moved to. OTE Fruita, Sedona, Hurricane, and Tahoe have these Maxxis in stock and use them. Continental doesn't have the range of widths that Maxxis has, at least as of a year ago at Outerbike. I found I prefer Maxxis but I have no real opinion on tires. I gave the OP a solid recommendation so he doesn't have to spend a lot of time figuring out tires. Maxxis are hugely popular on demo bikes and on the trails for a reason. I like them better than Specialized, but I rode those for years and they work.

    3) Basically all MTB recommendations, even by pro reviewers, are based on perception, not scientific research. Not FACT as you insist. However, I test bikes and components on the same trails and hit the same rocks year after year. I test for intermediates and low advanced, which is 80% of the riders per the MTB industry. The pro reviews are pretty much 100% for advanced riders and at higher speeds. The industry recognizes this problem.

    4) I didn't say 29ers are better in general. They have their pros and cons and I mentioned those. Those are the common pros and cons you will find everywhere. I read the only actual scientific test of 29ers vs 27.5 and my recommendations are in line with that one study.

    5) Yes, I'm confident enough in my testing that Rockshox sucks for gnar. Older Fox forks also. I've rode these extensively. The big advantage is that Fox recently started engineering for slow bump roll-over. You don't have to bash the fork into rocks at high speed to get over them. You don't even have to pop-up the front wheel. My favorite rock for testing this is on the Guac and others on the Brand Trails. Also a rock on Holy Cross. HTA's are always in the 67.5 range, trail bikes. That way as many factors as possible are consistent and controlled over years. Sounds almost like scientific testing, heh?

    6) I normally don't recommend plus tires but in Moab, GJ, and Tahoe they are really nice. Try them where they make sense. I wouldn't ride them in Hurricane / St. George though. No need for the extra weight.

    Of course is would be useful if you mentioned your riding style. Notice I did put my advice in context of riding level several times. Most likely the OP isn't at the level of Flying Monkey or Grafton Mesa down.
    MTB blog for US West trails: http://jimprestonmtb.com. Trail analysis videos, bike and component reviews, other stuff.

  6. #6
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    @jmpreston & @k2rider1964

    Thank you for your detailed responses! And take it easy on each other; I got what I needed and its all good!

    Takeaway:

    -I will be OK and (probably) not die if I choose to ride a 29" wheel
    -there is no overwhelming advantage offered by a plus tire in St. George

    Incidentally, I am also a huge Maxxis fan and the Occam comes speced with them (Ardent/Forekaster). It also comes with a Fox 34 which I am really looking forward to. It has to be better than the sad 100mm Reba on my Spearfish.

    Thanks again!

  7. #7
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    Yes, unless you need a bike that moves around a lot under you, agile, the 29er is good. Other than descending the JEM flow trail a plus tire isn't work it there. They are amazing though and demo one someplace like Moab. They climb like a Jeep over gnar.

    See my reviews of the Fox 24 2017 at Intermediate Mountain Biking | Bike and Trails Analyses for Intermediate Riders. I started noticing a big difference between Rockshox Pike and Revelation from Fox in late 2016 with the release of Fox's new models. Suddenly biking was easier and vastly safer. So safe that I'm now riding much of the drop-in to Horsethief Bench near Fruita, and previously that was only a hike, as it is for most people. My wife is riding big stuff she never imagined riding before.

    Really, Fox engineering hit the sweat spot for intermediate and low advanced riders. Whether it matters for guys bombing through rocks with 180mm I have no idea. I know from talking to Rockshox reps that they have no focused on the engineering that Fox has recently done, especially their slow bump rollover work. Rockshox fans can't defend Rockshox for something they haven't even tried engineering.

    By the way, when I sold my Rockshox Revelation on eBay I warned potential buyers that the new Foxes are far superior. It sold anyway. I had to be honest.

    I'm working on the idea that techniques used with earlier Fox and Rockshox forks that are called skills are actually hacks for bad design. That should stir things up :-)
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  8. #8
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    Spent a week this past Nov riding Gooseberry, Wire, Guacamole, JEM, etc. with a 27.5+ full-sus rig, and it was awesome. Several others were also on plus rigs and loved how they performed on the techy moves, punchy climbs and descents, side-hilling on steeper slickrock, etc. typical of the area. The more XC-oriented rides of the JEM network were arguably where they made the least difference, but there was no downside, either.

    And pretty much all the people in our group who were riding "normal" 29ers were talking about getting plus wheelsets, if not entirely new bikes designed for plus, by the end of the trip. The advantages were pretty obvious.

    Btw, I ran a 2.8" DHF with a Rekon in the rear. Great combo.
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  9. #9
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    You can run any bike, any tire, and any suspension in S.W. Utah and you'll have a blast and be just fine. On any given day, all types of bikes are being ridden here. Don't over think it. Just come and have fun.

    JMpreston, your posts are killing me btw.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silentfoe View Post
    You can run any bike, any tire, and any suspension in S.W. Utah and you'll have a blast and be just fine. On any given day, all types of bikes are being ridden here.
    Despite my obvious preference above, this is the bottom line. People have been riding there, and having lots of fun, for a long time. Enjoy!
    "The only way we can truly control the outcome of a ride is not going on it, which is a choice I'm unwilling to make." -K.B.

  11. #11
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    Thanks. One more question: are your rattlesnakes out in the winter?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by gartenmeister View Post
    Thanks. One more question: are your rattlesnakes out in the winter?
    I haven't seen one in a long while. They shouldn't be. No guarantees though

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by gartenmeister View Post
    Thanks. One more question: are your rattlesnakes out in the winter?
    Wait....what? There's rattlesnakes out there? I've never seen a snake of any kind that I can recall on my riding in Utah. I never really thought about it until now....and to think I slept on the ground on Gooseberry Mesa a couple trips back.
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  14. #14
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    Taken on Grafton Mesa in either September or October. I can't remember which. He was pissed!

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  15. #15
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    Remember when you could just go mountain biking, on whatever bike you had?

    I sort of miss those times. Then again I'd probably be out of business...

    OP, bring whatever bike you already have ready to go and ride it. Southern UT is enjoyable on just about anything with 2 wheels and pedals.

    -Walt

  16. #16
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    Great choice on the Occam TR. I rode a bunch of short travel 29ers at Outerbike last year and Occam really surprised me. One of my favorites.

    On the subject of tire sizes, I agree with those that said either size will do fine. And while I will say Iím not a huge fan of 27plus for most dirt riding, I demoed a Ibis Mojo3+ out at Little Creek Mesa last year and it was eye-opening. Plus tires work really well for that type of slower rock crawling that the mesas have to offer. Grip for days and extra cushion for the uneven slick rock.


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  17. #17
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    I'll be out in St. George in March for the True Grit....riding the SS. Most likely with a 2.35 Ikon up front and a 2.2 Ikon out back.
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  18. #18
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    I watched Road Bike Party on Youtube and quickly realized that bikes and components aren't nearly as important as developing my own skills and abilities. If I crash on my bike it's probably my own fault and not my Pike fork.

  19. #19
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    Dang, been riding a RS Pike or Lyrik for more than a decade. I had no idea I was in such danger.

    Now, this fork was dangerous. I recall more than one shearing in half with facial reconstruction the result.

    29 or 27.5+ for Southern Utah?-marzocchi-bomber-forks-48.jpg

    Ride whatcha brought.

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