MTB rookie requires advise on choice of bike

Discuss light weight issues concerning mountain bikes & parts.

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by konky

Having been a roadie for many years I want to get into off road riding as well. I'm looking at a getting a high end cross country hardtail. I want something fast and agile but not so bothered about the ability to cover a narrow ultra technical course so thinking a 29er. Comfort isn't high priority. I won't be racing but will enjoy hard, fast. hilly riding.

With my road bikes I do custom builds but in this case I want complete off the shelf.

I like the look of the Specialized S Works Stumpjumper (29er). Specialized would be way down on my choice of road bikes (I currently have a Cervelo R5 and Storck Fascenario 0.6) but thier MTBs look good in my view.

I know bike choice is a very personal affair. I think the S Works has the right characteristics for its intended use and I like its clean looking appearance. But are there better bikes of its type/function and price (around £6K) that would be a better choice?

Any guidance on this would be much appreciated.

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by Kastrup

Instead of advising you to go with X or Z brand i'll much rather tell you which components to look for when checking the all important components list for the various bikes in contention.

First of all you need a bike that fits you. Can't stress this enough. You say you'll be doing a lot of climbing and general standard XC riding. For that i think the single most important thing is going to be a nice set of wheels with some nice rubber attached to them. Carbon rims are slightly heavier compared to some of the really light aluminium rims but they are much stronger and stiffer. Rubber wise i would ask the local riders what their preferences is towards thread, compound, design and pressure.

Next a good fork will enable you to both descent and climb faster than some lower and fork. I have never actually tried either a BRAIN equipped Rock Shox or Fox's equivalent but i hear only good things. Personally my old Fox even without remote lockout will have to suffice until i get the cash for a nicer fork.

Next in line for a nice bike will be a frame specifically designed for the bigger wheels. I am not talking about just making the chainstays longer and calling it a day. For a frame to work with 29 inch wheels you need to look at all aspects of the frame to really get it right. Materials have been discussed numerous times on this forum and there are pros and cons for all of them.

Personally drivetrain never really bothered me. Unless you go real cheap everything shifts just fine and shouldn't hold you back. With that said i would love to try the XX1 stuff as not having to consider which front ring you are on is a pretty big help when the HR is going through the roof.

Brakes - stay away from Avid/Sram. Look up some real life feedback on various manufacurers offering and decide from there. Mineral oil based brakes are easy to service and won't ruing you bike or flooring if you spill some oil.
As for the rest of the bike just get whatever you think looks good and fits your pricerange. As for stems, bars and saddle try some stuff and see what works. Many prefer really short stems and wide bars on a 29er to give it a swifter handling.

Ultimately i don't think you can go really wrong in your pricerange. The bikes in the really high end tends to come with a nice set of wheels which is often where the manufacturers save a bit of cash to meet a pricepoint. If you are already a Cervelo man i would consider Open. Founded by Gerard Vroomen, who co founded Cervelo back in the days, they seem to seriously consider every aspect of a frames characteristics. Also they look damn good!
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by Weenie

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by jekyll man

Further to Kastrups advice i would add.

Look at what are the common bikes being ridden around your locale. There aren't many bad bikes out there nowadays, but theres bad places to use a particular bike. A 6" travel 29er isnt going to be much cop if all your riding will be in tight twisty woods. Likewise a so-cal designed bike doesnt like mud- take note Specialized ;-)

Don't expect the purchase of your bike to be the end of your spending. Better to buy a cheaper bike, and save some cash for when you rip a rear mech off, or after a few grotty rides, you need new brake pads, new chain or stack it and bend your bars, or whatever.

Contrary to what the industry would have you believe, the 26" wheel ain't dead, and won't be for a long time, so if thats the bike that fits your needs best, do it. Don't fall prey to the wagon wheel fashion.

Avid brakes- they are so unreliable, try and steer clear if you can.

My ideal bike, while not perfect would be a 26" wheeled trail bike with about 5" travel and an XT groupset.
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by mattr

Where are you riding? Is it soil based, clay, rocks, roots?

A good number of US bikes have woefully poor mud clearance if you put anything like a decent sized tyre on, IME Specialized are one of the worst *I've* had to deal with. Dragging a clogged up carbon wonder machine along another claggy, clay filled trail is a nightmare and makes you wonder if it was all worth it!
Have a good look at that before you buy, is the bike suited to where you will be riding/what you will be doing.
On that front, maybe look for something a little less hardcore, the proper racy XC hardtails can get a bit tiring after a couple or three hours of concentrating, you can't let up and coast and let the bike bounce over stuff, or you'll end up in the nearest ditch wondering what the hell just happened! (An XC FS would be "better", for a given value of better :wink: )

Also, at £6k you are well into diminishing returns. You might be better off looking at something like £3.5/4k and having spare budget for wheels/tyres (that will probably need swapping) and brakes, many a top end bike has been ruined by some dumbarse in accounts speccing avids on it.
You'll still come in well under 6k and probably end up with a better bike. (And maybe even some spare wheels, and a pair of brakes to stick on eBay!). I did exactly this with my last HT build. Spent around 3k, ended up with lighter bike than the top of the range (nearly 6k iirc) and its better suited to the sort of riding i do.

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by mattr

LOL, too slow.

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by yourdaguy

My smartass answer is to get an Air9 Carbon so that when you inevitably convert to single speeding you will have the right frame (ss world champ last year rode A9C). Seriously, most of the major bikes are pretty good right now, so a lot of your decision should be based on the dealer.
For certain parts stiffer is more important than lighter.

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by limba

One other thing to consider if you're planning on using XX1 - Make sure the chainring you plan on using will clear the frame. A 36/38 won't fit a lot of popular brands.

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by yourdaguy

Or buy the XX! with the wider Q factor.
For certain parts stiffer is more important than lighter.

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by michel2

for what is worth, im very happy with my superfly although, its being replaced under warrenty at the moment.i had a pre sl model and like most pedal the bb bearings didnt fit anymore, the new frame has a press fit system so is ment to be better, will find out shortly !

if i had to spend money on a frame right now i would by the merlin xlm 29 that competitive cyclist is offering, possibly full xtr with a 2014 sid.

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by konky

Thanks for the comments.

I intend to ride on Surrey (UK) trails which I believe are fast and hilly and not too technical. That's why I think a 29er would best suit my purposes. Frame wise I must say I am coming round to the idea of getting an Open. I accept I'm a bit of a marketing man's dream but I want a hardtail 29er that is a top performer but also light, technically interesting, well made and aesthetically pleasing. It seems to fit the bill in those respects. I feel I have that in my no. 1 road bike, a Storck Fascenario 0.6.

Any further ideas from the MTB community would be much appreciated.

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by TheRookie

I like the Trek Superfly family, just pick one for your budget........
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Budget 26" HT build viewtopic.php?f=10&t=110956

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by jpaschal01

I'm in the same boat and ordering an Orbea Alma tomorrow. Racy fast hardtail. Loved the fit for me when I rode it. Have fun shopping!

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by JackWalk

I have a scott scale 35 from 2011 and love it. It is very light and has a really aggressive, racy geometry. Plus it looks awesome. The only bad thing about it were the avid brakes which I quickly changed for shimano.

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by schmiken

Niner, Open, Storck as boutique brands? Canyon for awesome spec for the price.

by Weenie

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by martinSL

In the same shoes here. Roadie and CXer needing to bump up off-road tech skills. We are sponsored by Norco so I am thinking of the ultra-light Revolver 7 series.
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